God loves you no less

man kneeling at a church pew

I had started a technology company and had a handful of employees. I had bootstrapped the company – no venture capital. At this point, the company was about four years old. I had expensive professional employees. Most held advanced degrees. 

We’d experienced steady growth. Never once during those four years had I missed a payroll. God always provided.

One day, close to a payroll, I went through the company’s financials. It looked grim. Even if I didn’t draw a paycheck, there just wasn’t nearly enough to do a partial payroll. All of my cash was tied up with “work-in-progress.” I was deeply concerned, but God had led me to start this business, and He’d never failed me.

On the morning of payday, my company’s cash flow was the worst I’d ever experienced. Realizing this was a watershed moment for the company, I rushed to my church’s office. I asked the pastor and everyone there to join me in prayer for God to overcome this moment that otherwise would harm my staff and crush the company. We prayed. God provided. The payroll was fully met that day.

God Loves You No Less

This crushing financial event in my life is why I relate so strongly to King Hezekiah’s actions when an invading force conspired to crush him and all of Judah. But God miraculously saved him and his people from destruction. 

Look at what King Hezekiah did when he heard the threat: Isaiah 37:1 (ESV), “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord

I didn’t tear my clothes or put on sackcloth, but I tore my heart and humbled myself before Father God, and I went to the house of the Lord. 

God loves you no less than me. When you are “hard pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8),” and all seems lost, tear your heart, run to your church, gather Godly people around you, and pray. God will hear, and you may see inexplicable events unfold, for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).

Photo by Sam Rios on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/spiritual-heritage/

You Need a Log

a small pond surrounded by trees

In the wilderness of Shur, the Israelites had no water. At Marah, they had water, but it was bitter (poisonous); so that they could not drink it. 

We find this account in Exodus 15:23-25 (ESV): When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

God Leads us to Bitter Waters

There’s a great lesson (probably several) in this brief passage of Scripture. God often leads us to “bitter water,” not to be cruel but to use us for change.

Moses and all of Israel arrived where God led them, but what they found was unsuitable for them or anyone. Immediately all of the Debbie Downers began complaining. Wow, if you’ve ever been in a leadership role of any kind, you know how “helpful” whining and complaining is to solving problems!

We’re There for a Reason

Nevertheless, God put His people there for a reason. And He will do the same for each of us. Why? Because God chooses to use His children to affect change; to transform bitter waters into sweet waters. We are well equipped for these assignments because the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He intends to use us to point people to Jesus.

No, we don’t walk around with blessed logs that we’re to through into bitter situations (there’s a lawsuit). What God does is show us the tool, the instrument of change, the “log” that He has prepared to transform situations, problems, people that are poisonous into something wholesome, healthy, and refreshing.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic, don’t join the complainers but pray, seek God’s will, ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the “log” that is needed and then act in faith and watch God work. When once you’ve experienced this, you will desire God to lead you to the next crises; well, maybe not, but you’ll sure be ready!

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash 

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/angry-people/

Victory

College wrestlers

I am so thankful for every way God has provided for myself and my family. In His great mercy and grace, He allowed me to work in many different roles. One particular memory I have is from when I worked as an executive.

The marketing VP and I held a meeting to figure out how our company was going to price a new product. We included several people from different departments to help us make the best decisions that we could.

At one point during the meeting, someone asked us why we could make pricing decisions. That person considered “price” as sacrosanct (i.e., hallowed or untouchable). My response was, “One of the responsibilities Frank* and I have, and one which we take very seriously, is to establish the prices.” 

Victory in Jesus

As Christians, we rightly focus on Jesus as our Redeemer. However, the victory Jesus won through His birth, sinless life, death, burial, and resurrection is even more significant than just the salvation available to us through Him. Please read this passage of Scripture:

Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 (ESV, emphasis added)

Think about it. Do you remember the “prince of Persia” that tried to stand in the way of God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer? (Daniel 10:13) Gone! Remember the devil that has deceived so many people since that day in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:1) Gone! And death, I hate death, finally death “the last enemy” will be destroyed. (1 Corinthians 15:26) Gone!

All these victories, and countless more, are the job of Jesus. They are part of His job description! Jesus, our victor, brings complete success and delivers all that to God the Father. Christ’s victory makes me think of that old song. You know the one:

Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/a-good-ending-to-your-story/

Rust

Rusted old car in the woods

My grandpa was a carpenter for the North East Oklahoma railroad. Their inside joke was that they worked for NEO (any old) railroad.

Since he was a carpenter he had carpenter stuff in his garage. I once found a bucket full of rusty old nails in there. They were probably new when he put them there. But when I found them he had been retired for quite awhile and any time he had he spent fishing so the nails no doubt stayed in that bucket until he passed and someone else cleaned out his garage.

Nails forged from iron will remain iron for as long as this world exists, if they are protected. But exposure to corrosive elements and iron transforms into rust which is corrupted iron; iron which has no strength and cannot be used for the nail’s intended purpose.  

Evil Can’t Exist Without Good

Evil can be compared to rust on an iron nail. Just as iron rust can’t exist without iron so the corruption of evil can’t exist without good. We find in Genesis 1:31 (ESV), “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good….“. Only when God’s good came could evil come forth and cause corruption.

As I mentioned previously, a rusty iron has no strength. Similarly, evil in a person steals their moral strength, making them weak and unable to do what is right. Also, a rusty nail can’t be used for its designed purpose. So, too, a person corrupted by evil is unable to fulfill God’s purpose for them. 

No Fear of Rust

Yes, corruption is active all around us but as Christians we are as protected iron for we have this promise in Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV): “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus has immersed us in grace and peace, sealing us with the Holy Spirit. While we live in this corrosive world we need not be afraid of its rust.

Photo by Brandon Molitwenik on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/asymmetrical-living-in-a-lopsided-world/

My Stress

two white haired old men playing chess

There is good and bad stress. Today I’m writing about bad stress.

“Stress alters your body. 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (WebMD) “Stress has both physical and emotional effects on our bodies. It can raise our blood pressure, increase our breathing rate and heart rate, and cause muscle tension. These things are hard on the body.” (MedLine Plus)

Nerve cells and dendrites. Source: Pixabay free

Dr. Cheryl Conrad, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, believes that chronic stress can have significant negative consequences on brain plasticity and resilience and may be a factor in depression, anxiety, PTSD and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Jesus Speaks Peace

I believe the reason Jesus’ first response to people often was “peace” because lack of peace alters the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. (This is your brain on stress)

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with stress. The “why” is not germane but I will say it is perhaps the most difficult issue I’ve faced. Through this time I can testify that Jesus has given me peace in my spirit.

An interesting side-effect of this spiritual battle I find myself in – yes, the root of bad stress is often spiritual – is that my hair has turned white almost overnight; not all of it, but nearly so. That’s fine. As an adopted child, grafted into the lineage of Jacob, I am resting on Isaiah 46:3-4 (ESV)

Isaiah 46:3-4

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;

even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

I assume white hair qualifies for “gray” :).  This passage is for everyone that has received Jesus, even if you don’t have grey hair! Receive the peace that God speaks to us through this passage in Isaiah. Be at peace.

Photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/insecurity/

The Fifth Sparrow

Sparrow

Watching sparrows – When I look out the window in my study, I see an elaborate vine on the top of my wooden porch. Though I don’t like this vine, I love to watch the vast array of birds that visit, with some making their summer homes there.

I’m not an ornithologist or even a card-carrying bird watcher. Sadly, I couldn’t tell you if I’m looking at a wren or a sparrow. Nevertheless, I enjoy watching God’s creation busily working to follow their inborn nature. Their work refreshes me for none of these creatures are capable of evil. Only the fallen progeny of Adam can, and gleefully do sin. But I diverge from this good news from Jesus which He communicates to us through His beautiful creation, the sparrow.

Sparrows

Luke 12:6 (NIV), “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

Matthew 10:29, 31 (NIV), “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Jesus tells us that two sparrows sell for a penny, yet five sparrows sell for two pennies. Sparrows are of such little value, at this time in history, that if you buy four, you get one free. So, God highly regards a life that the world says is devoid of value.

Peace

Verse thirty-one of Matthew, chapter ten, is an anchoring promise for us. We see two marvelous declarations from Jesus. Jesus says, “So don’t be afraid.” Someday I may try to count how many times the Bible records Jesus saying, “Don’t be afraid” or “Peace, be still.”

Fear is the go-to tool the enemy in his fight against the saints of God. From hero’s like Abram (i.e., Abraham) when, in Genesis 15:1, the LORD says, “Do not be afraid, Abram.” to Jesus speaking to His Apostles in John 6:20. … “It is I; don’t be afraid.” And, here in Matthew 10:31, we are told, “don’t be afraid.” From these statements we know two things. One is that people become afraid; even anointed heroes become fearful. Secondly, no matter what may befall us, we should rest in Jesus.

You Are Valued

Also, and perhaps more surprising, we have Christ’s promise to us in Matthew 10:6, “…you are worth more than many sparrows.” God values us even when the world sees no value in us – two sparrows for a penny and five sparrows for two pennies. The fifth sparrow is of no value to the world. But God switches around the world’s economy. Here, Jesus says we are worth more than the fifth sparrow because that fifth sparrow is among the number of “many sparrows“; “yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” (Luke 12:6).

So, don’t be afraid of how this world values you. In fact, don’t be afraid at all. Many of us may be the fifth sparrow, the one that is of no value in the economy of this world, but we know God has not forgotten us so we will not give in to fear.

Photo by Will Bolding on Unsplash

You may like:
https://rockexcavationservice.org/safe-is-not-the-same-as-assured/

Eyewitness News

Several years ago the HuffPost ran an article titled, “Is the Bible Literally True? No, of Course Not!”, written by Dr. Steve McSwain. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/biblical-literalism_b_4966852).

It is heartbreaking to read Dr. Steve McSwain’s article, where he tries to reconcile his disbelief in the veracity of the Bible while still claiming that there is value in it. That’s like stating the November 23rd, 1963 report in “The Dallas Morning News” of President Kennedy’s assassination is worth reading but should it be taken literally true? No, of course not!”

The Apostle’s were eyewitnesses to the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Please read the following excerpts from the first chapter of Acts.
Acts 1:22b (NIV), “For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Acts 1:12-13 (NIV), “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.

Acts 2:6-11 (NIV),When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.

Acts 2:32 (NIV), “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

In each of these passages, it is evident that from the very beginning of the Church, it was essential to keep things real, to use eyewitnesses, and to provide details that witnesses naturally include in their accounts. As examples, we have reports of “a Sabbath day’s walk,” “parts of Libya near Cyrene, visitors from Rome and both Jews and converts to Judaism,” and “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:6 (ESV), “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

You believe President Kennedy was assassinated, yet you weren’t there. The films from that event may be helpful, but they certainly aren’t conclusive.  No, you didn’t witness the assassination, yet you believe because you have read first-hand accounts as well as testimonies from trustworthy people.

The Bible is far more trustworthy than the “Dallas Morning News”, in part, because there are more eyewitnesses, more trustworthy people, distributed across a much more extended period of time, all of whom attest to the same thing: God is real, Jesus did what the Bible says, the Holy Spirit has been poured out, as promised, for believers.

Here’s my thought for today. If I have no anxiety in saying to anyone, in any social setting, that President Kennedy was assassinated shouldn’t I be the same way with the ministry, miracles, and mediation of Jesus?

There are too many voices in our society that say, without apology, “Is the Bible Literally True? No, of Course Not!” We need more voices in our society that state, without apology, “Faith in Jesus is the only way for anyone to end up in heaven.”

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

Coup D’ état

I have chronic pain so, for fun, I Googled “top 10 worst pains”. I won’t go through the list but one pain on this list I’d never heard of is a “spinal headache.” Just the thought of that makes me hurt.

So, being on such a fun scavenger hunt, I Googled “top Bible verses.” Did you know there’s a top 100 Bible verses list*? And, of course, there is a top 50 list, a top 10 list and so on. Who are these people that have nothing better to do than compile these lists? I’m old, sick, and retired, and I don’t have time to make these lists!

Anyway, while scanning through this top 100 list, I noticed that verses from the book of Romans showed up quite often. That had me worried about today’s devotional. Diving further in, I discovered that the twelfth chapter of Romans showed up twice in this list. Now I was getting nervous. Thankfully, those verses are Romans 12:1 and Romans 12:2. Whew, we’re looking at Romans 12:21 today. You’ve probably not read that one. 😉

Romans 12:21 (ESV): Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Being on a roll, I looked at over a dozen Bible translations and paraphrases and all of the ones I checked used the words “evil” and “good.” Digging a bit deeper, I checked the definitions the salient words of this verse.

Overcome means succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty) – defeat (an opponent); prevail. – (of an emotion) overpower or overwhelm.
Evil means morally bad – causing harm or injury to someone – profoundly immoral and malevolent.
Good means that which is morally right; righteousness. – well – of high quality – correct or proper.

This verse is thrilling! We, as Christians, have been given a mandate, a commissioning, to overcome evil with good. We are to instigate a coup d’ état against evil.

Now, coup d’ état means “a blow against the state” and satan is the prince of this world (John 14:30) so through using “good” we can strike a blow against the prince of this world. We can overcome satan’s power by the power of God. We know this because Jesus said in Luke 18:19 (ESV), “…No one is good except God alone.”

So, we succeed in defeating, overpowering, overwhelming things that cause harm or injury to someone or are immoral or malevolent (i.e., evil) by doing morally right things, by righteousness, things that are well, of high quality, that are correct or proper (i.e., good).

The picture I see when I read this short verse is this: When a CO2 fire extinguisher is used to put out a fire, the CO2 replaces the oxygen that fuels the flame. CO2 starves the chemical combustion (i.e., fire) by replacing the oxygen, which is its fuel. Likewise, good starves evil by replacing the morally evil things, the things that cause harm, that are immoral things with morally right things, correct things, proper things, that are of high quality, thereby starving the evil until it is extinguished.

God’s Word is so fantastic. Even an eleven-word verse can profoundly change how we live.

A good ending to your story

There’s an old sermon that, no doubt, has been preached by hundreds of preachers. It asks the question, “What have you done with your dash?” Of course, the preacher is referring to the dash that will be on your tombstone, the time separating your birth date from your death date.

Today, I’d like us to consider our arc instead of our dash. There are six main arcs in storytelling, as identified by an A.I. program. These six arcs were derived from the analysis of nearly 2,000 works of fiction and what happened to the protagonist.

The arcs are.
1. Rags to Riches (rise)
2. Riches to Rags (fall)
3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
4. Icarus (rise then fall)
5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

These six story arcs for fiction exist because they have been distilled from the actual lives of people. We may be fully committed to Jesus and still live an Icarus life. We may have great successes early in our lives and then lose it all during the later years, before we leave this Earth. That does not mean we failed God.

On the other hand, if our Icarus life is a moral one where we lived for Jesus early in our lives but then became complacent or bitter in our later years, then we need to switch stories. We need to jump from our arc to the Man in a Hole or Cinderella arc. With the help of Jesus, we can do that! And, that’s my point for this devotional. We are not “locked in” to a disastrous life of immoral addiction. And, yes, I’m addressing Christians.

We were all conceived in sin (Psalms 51:5). However, a severe problem Christians have is that many have held onto “pet” sins after they were born again. If, as Christians, we keep hidden sins, if we allow addictions to remain in us, if we long for the world, then we are destined to have a bad ending to our story. Sin is death, and it kills whatever it enters.  

I’m not writing about sins that are easily purged. I’m writing about sins that we’ve claimed 1 John 1:9 hundreds of times yet, still, those sins keep coming back.

Now here’s the Good News!

If we change, Jesus will change the ending of our story.  If we pray a plea like Psalms 51:10 (ESV), “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” or 1 John 1:9 (ESV), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And, we apply self-control and disciple to our lives our Lord will change us, and we will have victory over those sins.

We all want a good ending to our story, and no one wants that more than Jesus. Seek Him. Ask Him. Obey Him. And your arc will be beautiful.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

%d bloggers like this: