Month: July 2019

Observations

After recently visiting New York, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, as well as other States, I’ve collected some scattered observations which I’d like to share with you.

  • Most drivers think turn-signals are warning lights.
  • Most drivers don’t text while they drive; they drive while texting.
  • I’ve concluded that more Christians bring their pets to work than bring Jesus to work.
  • While on my trip, I received more help from niche culture groups than any other discernible group. More often, they seem to act on their concern for others. Ouch!

Paraphrasing a Christian musician that’s gone on to Glory:

If you become a Christian in Pakistan, your parents will stone you.
If you become a Christian in India, your parents will disown you.
If you become a Christian in China, everyone says they’ve never known you.
If you become a Christian in America, telemarketers will phone you.

Survey Says!

From a national survey, the percentage of Americans that identified themselves as Christian:

  • 86% in 1990
  • 81.6% in 2001
  • 78%  in 2012
  • ??? in 2020

From what I saw, heard, read, and observed, we have allowed society to cast Christians as either a bunch of wealthy executives paying unfair wages while supporting anti-social legislation or poor illiterates that just don’t know any better. With 2+ billion people in the world that claim to be Christian, I’m sure there are many Christians between those two extremes.

Each day of our vacation I let the problems of that day wash past me like the waves in the Atlantic that washed past my son while he stood on the Rhode Island shore. Every wave was unique in its depth, duration, and pattern. Yet each was easily discernible as a wave.

Problems are like waves. Countless problems have come before my son stood on that shore and countless more will come after he leaves. So, as Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV)

I have tried to teach my kids that worry is worthless. Deal with the problems you’re facing today but don’t wish what might have been and don’t leave Jesus out of what will be. God is the “I AM”. As He is, so then should we be.

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tl;dr

I wish people would tell me these things. I guess tl;dr is a “thing.” We have become so flooded with information and requests for our time that we no longer have the bandwidth to bother with long articles. So much so that editors and readers alike don’t bother reading lengthy documents.

Now, I admit that many of my devotionals would be lengthy, with just half of the word. But, there’s a big difference between what I write and what Charles Finney or Charles Spurgeon wrote. Nevertheless, what these people have written would now all be marked tl;dr by their editors.

So, when we stand before Jesus and give an account of what we did with our lives, will He open our Bibles and find someplace, like Psalms 119, where we penned tl;dr (Too long; didn’t read)?

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Sounds like a fish story to me!

Fish Story:
Tom: I caught the largest fish of the day.
Fred: Really? When did you start fish’n?
Tom: I was in my boat by 4 am and fished until noon. You know, Bob, this might be the best day of fish’n I’ve ever had.
Fred: Well, I went this afternoon, and you didn’t ask me what I caught.
Tom: Oh, well, I didn’t want to embarrass you, Fred.
Fred: Well, what did you catch?
Tom: Now, Fred, it’s only right that you tell me yours, first.
Fred: Oh, I don’t mind, Tom. I caught a 17” Walleye. I’m gonna be fry’n it up for supper. So?
Tom: A Walleye! Wow, Fred, I was just talk’n about Bluegill. I nabbed me a 5” Bluegill.

Truth Needs Both Facts and Context

The facts are never enough to know the truth. You must have the context along with the facts before you can discern the truth. Many times in life, we may be tempted to present the facts of a problem or event to our spouse or boss or friend in a way that exonerates us or casts doubt on someone else. This change of context is what we read in Acts 23:26-27. Claudius Lysias took the facts of Paul’s arrest and changed the meaning to make himself look like he did everything correctly. However, if we read Acts 22, we will see that what Claudius Lysias wrote in his letter to Governor Felix did not agree with what happened.

Acts 23:26-27, 
Claudius Lysias,
To His Excellency, Governor Felix:
Greetings.
This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen.

The only thing more difficult than telling the truth is explaining a lie.

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On The Road

I’ve been on the road with one of my sons for about a week now (which is why I can’t see well enough to write this letter. It will clear up once I take my pills and get ready for the day,

Anyway, my son blessed me by taking me to Rhode Island; one of the two remaining States which I’d not visited; Hawaii now being the remaining State and one my wife and I hope to visit in the next couple of months.

When I was a young man, I never imagined that I’d visit all 50 States. Slowly, over time, they started racking up. By the time I hit 30 States, I began thinking about visiting all of the States.

My new job at that time involved a lot of travel, which cut my bucket list down quite rapidly. So, I began thinking about making it to all of the States in our Union. And now, my son has started his bucket list for visiting all the States in our Union.

This trip has been a great father/son trip, which has helped us grow closer together and to understand how each of us thinks. For example, I learned that I’m a dinosaur in the eyes of millennials.

Though our politics are miles apart, our love and respect are closer than ever. I wish I could spend time like this with each of my kids, but they all have hectic lives, so it just doesn’t happen.

During this trip, we have seen thousands of people, most demonstrating the worst of humanity. However, there have been a few people that have shown me genuine compassion. And, usually, they were people I wouldn’t have guessed they would be kind to me – guys with dreadlocks, people covered in tattoos, young people that are judged to be too self-absorbed even to notice me, yet these were the folks that went out of their way to be kind and considerate towards me.

The Lord has reminded me again of Isaiah 1:17-18 (ESB), “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

God seeks out people that He can reason with. May we always be those people.

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Angry People

My son and I are on a mini-vacation. Yesterday, the man behind us at a gas station became angry when my son went into the store to pay for the gas while our car was at the pump.

This left us “hogging” a pump which made the driver behind us so upset he came up to my car to yell at me. I was in the passenger seat. I lowered my window and listened to his complaint. As he then stormed off, I said a quick prayer and hobbled back to his pickup truck.

He lowered his window, and I began by apologizing. He said the apology didn’t help. So, I just started talking to him. I accepted the fault, understood the impact to him of our selfishness, and continued to absorb his understandable anger instead of reflecting it at him.

Ran Out Of Steam

Rather quickly, he ran out of steam and began to become more congenial. By the time my son got back to our car, the driver had forgiven us and wished us a good day. I thanked Jesus on my way back to our car, and we drove away with everyone reasonably happy.

Jesus said, in His sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) We are all called to be peacemakers. And, there is a big difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.

Yes, my son and I were inconsiderate, and that was wrong. The anger of the driver behind us was justifiable. So, as much as I wanted to, I could not ignore the problem. I was going to be either a peacekeeper or a peacemaker.

Don’t Mollify

A peacekeeper is a person that mollifies angry people. There is often little value from peacekeeping because they work to suppress hurt feelings. By sealing a person’s anger, the peacekeeper may achieve short-lived success, but eventually, that anger will come out. And, the more prolonged anger is suppressed, the more bitterness and fury will be manifested. Anyone that receives this explosion of rage probably has had little to do with causing the anger.

Jesus didn’t call us to be peacekeepers; instead, we are to be peacemakers. The peacemaker’s role is difficult, but a part each Christian is called to do. It’s our job to tenderly “lance the boil” of anger, hatred, and bitterness. These harsh emotions evaporate like frost on a field when they come out of their darkness into the Light of God’s glory.

It is our job to gently open the wound so that it can receive the treatment it needs by the Holy Spirit, and then we suture the damaged tissue so healing can be completed. Accordingly, if you haven’t done so already, add peacemaker to your Follower of Jesus job description.

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Tell Me

I’m traveling today! One of my sons has blessed me by taking me on a mini-vacation for no reason other than he wanted to bless me. Indeed, I am blessed. “Son, are you up for this trip?”, I asked. He said, “I am if you are.” I took that as a challenge, so we’re on the road.

Currently, we’re in some mountains, and they are gorgeous. Luke 19:40 (ESV) keeps going through my mind: He [Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” That’s how I feel. If I remain silent, then surely the very rocks of these mountains will cry out. And, Psalms 8:9 (ESV) keeps bubbling up: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Even here where there are no houses or farms, the name of the Lord is majestic!

Notice the way I am writing to tell you of my gladness. This way of writing is grammatically called “first person.” There’s a good reason for this; I am seeing and experiencing these things, so I’m “speaking” to you. You are more likely to join in my gladness when I write in first-person. It would be rather sad if I wrote, “Traditionally, it is said that some experienced joy when they traveled through mountains.”

With Great Joy

So, with great joy, I declare that I don’t have to regurgitate traditions to you. The Holy Spirit is bursting within me because I am personally experiencing, right now, these blessings.

This desire for first-person communication is what people want when we or they bring up Jesus/God in our conversations.

People want to know if Christianity is working for us and how it works. They want to know because there is a need for God in every unsaved person. So, a first-person account is what God wants us to give people. Their need is our opportunity to tell the wonders of Jesus in our life.

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Spain or bust!

Ro 15:28 (NIV), “So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.

How amazing it is to me that Paul speaks of going to Spain. Because of the Roman empire, there was the Pax Romana, Roman Peace, which enabled people to travel in relative safety. God surely used the Roman Empire as a tool.

Evangelists, as well as everyday Christians, moved throughout the empire, spreading the good news of Jesus. The very thing that was corrupt, wicked, and built by man was used by God as a vehicle to transmit the Gospel of Jesus!

The pagan Roman empire became the Holy Roman empire because Christians shared their good news with pagans. This shows that God does change the hearts of whole nations and even empires.

God can and does use whatever He pleases for the fulfillment of His will; even us!

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It will be okay

It will be okay. I know. I have a bunch of kids. God blessed my wife and me by spacing most of their births apart by several years. But, just for His fun, we finished off our family with unplanned twins. I’m sure God got a big kick out of that! Although I do have to say that the twins were and are a great blessing to our family.

One of my “Dad” sayings is that the teenage years are for parents so when the time comes for their little bundle of joy to leave the nest, the parents say, “Bye!”

I commend you to God and to the word of his grace

Still, parents are concerned when they send their naive child out into this world filled with evil. I’m sure this is how the Apostle Paul felt when he left the church at Ephesus for the last time. Paul called the Ephesian elders to him and taught them. And, in Acts 20:32 (ESV) Paul says, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

A Biblical mechanism is at work in Acts 20:32. Depositum fidei is the Latin term for this mechanism. Our Christian translation for depositum fidei is “substance of faith” or “treasury of revelation.” However, the implication is a bit deeper. Depositum fide stems from ancient estate and trust law and probably has something to do with “good faith” or “earnest.”

“Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers” states, “Teachers are to “commit” the truth they have received to others (2Timothy 2:2), and the truth so committed is the depositum fidei which they thus hold, as it were, in trust (2Timothy 1:14).” Therefore, Scriptural truth is the “substance of faith” or “treasury of revelation.” This truth from God abides within teachers. And they hold this “trust” to place, engraft or implant God’s truth in people who are sanctified (i.e., set apart for God).

Quick and Powerful

As for “the word of grace, which is able to build you up” this is undoubtedly the same “word of God, quick and powerful” of Hebrews 4:12.

So, Paul was saying to the Ephesian elders that even though he would not come back to Ephesus. And the Ephesian church was surrounded by evil people with the desire to rip apart their infant church, they would be okay. For, the church had the presence of God, and they had the word of God’s grace which in itself contains life to build up their church and to give them an inheritance in the kingdom of God.

It will be okay. For every Christian child, friend, loved one, or missionary that launches out or is left behind, we “should together share the conviction that each of us is safe because God and the ‘word of His grace’ will go and remain with us.” – MacLaren’s Expositions

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New Every Morning

Lam 3:22-24 (KJV), “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

I often claim this passage during my morning prayer time. God’s compassion does not fail. At one time or other things and people will fail us just as we will fail others. Only Jesus is perfect. We know this, and Hebrews 5:9 confirms it: “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” knowing this, “therefore will I hope in him.”

From Laminations comes this beautiful hymn which we’ve sung so many times. I pray that our Father will show it to us with fresh eyes.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.


Refrain:
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.


(Refrain)
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

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I Love Words

If you’ve read my devotionals in the past, you know I love words. Perhaps my favorite word puzzle is that the English language has the words “to,” “two,” and “too.” However, it’s impossible to write the sentence, “There are three toos (sp) in the English language. We don’t have a word for the combination of those three words.

Anyway, words are fun, and words also carry power. As we see in the New Testament, Jesus tells us, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV) and “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew 12:36 ESV) Why would careless words matter unless every word we speak matters?

Sensitivity to Verbiage

So, it’s evident that for our good and to please God, we need to watch what we say. Surprisingly, we find sensitivity to verbiage regarding an aspect of Jesus observed by all the writers of the New Testament. The New Testament never refers to Jesus as the Redeemer.

Why might you ask? Probably because the writers of the NT books, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, did not want Jesus coupled to the nationalistic view the Jews held concerning the coming Messiah-Redeemer. So, Jesus is never referred to as the “redeemer” (lytrotes [lutrwthv”]) in the New Testament. However, the theological concept of Jesus as our Redeemer is evident in the NT. For example, in Romans 4:25 (ESV), we find, “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Filling Our Speech With Fluff

Therefore, as we’ve seen, how we use words is very important. I heard a preacher say that one of the things that make our prayers ineffective is that we fill our speech with empty and contradictory words. We say things to our kids like, “Be careful” instead of “Be cautious.” Do we want our kids to be full of care, or do we want them to be safe? Or, do we greet someone by saying, “Hi, how are you?” But we have no expectations or intent to hear their honest response.

If we fill our thoughts and speech with contradictions and foolish words, then why would we expect God to believe what we say to Him? If we want our prayers to be acceptable to God, we need to obey what Jesus said, and we always should say what we mean and mean what we say.

Good News

Simply by being watchful and truthful in our thoughts and words, we can be closer to God, and our prayers will be more acceptable to God. I would say that’s good news!

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