Tag Archives: devotional

I’ve Been Tozered

A couple of weeks ago I started reading a new devotional every morning. It is a compilation of writings from A.W. Tozer, and it is meant for the Christian leader.

To be honest, I have been convicted by some of the things that I have read.  Today’s entry alone gave me reason to pause and consider my own carnality.  In the devotion entitled Faith Dares to Fail, Tozer says:

The man who is elated by success and cast down by failure is still a carnal man. At best his fruit will have a worm in it.” Believe me, there are times when I get down.

But it was yesterday’s devontion that stood out the most out of all the ones I have read recently. In Greatness Has Its Price, Tozer uses painful analogy to point out one reason why most Christians (and churches) are pitifully inadequate and effective, the power of the Holy Spirit aside:

The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big-league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men and easy chairs. Success is costly.”

Yet, even though we are told to “be ye holy, even as I am holy,” we treat our faith like a weekend leisure activity, never caring much about the eternal outcome, only the present pleasure of half-hearted activity and even less commitment. Need proof?

  •  How many verses of scripture have you memorized “that [you] might not sin against God”?
  •  Is your commitment level to a local sports facility more than your commitment level to a local assembly of believers?
  •  Do you brag more about your child’s batting average than his boldness to tell others about Jesus?
  •  When’s the last time you ever voluntarily did any Bible study outside of what was spoonfed to you in church?

Is there any wonder the church, along with most of its members, is weak?  We’ve forgotten what it means to “be sober and vigilant.” We’ve become lazy and insubordinate soldiers in the army of our God,  yet spend millions in research to determine why we’ve lost ground to the Enemy.  We’ve even traded our powerful pulpits for motivational ministries that adjust our “easy chairs.”

Maybe it’s time we take our faith seriously – because the One to whom we will answer to does.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Faith

Walking or Riding?

A Familiar Story

If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. And if you remember that, you may also recall that the apostle Peter was the one who walked on the water with Jesus – until he began to look around.

But if you don’t remember the story, here it is as found in the NIV version of Matthew 14:25-33.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Familiar Pictures

Now that you are familiar with the story, have you ever seen paintings or illustrations depicting this passage of Scripture? Of all the ones I have ever seen, Jesus is usually portrayed as a calm, sad-looking, and often effeminate water-stroller. Peter is always some scruffy-looking, heavy-as-stone fraidy-cat.

Then what about those waves? In all the depictions of this story, how high are the waves? Usually they are no more than just a few inches high around the Lord and his bobbing disciple, Peter.

Well, I am here to challenge the common perception based on these fallacious (that means stupidly wrong) paintings.

The Waves

I am not a seafaring man like my friend David Welford, but I would bet even he would say that 6-8 inch waves would have been NO problem for some experienced fishermen. What ever frightened Peter, once he looked around, had to have been more than a ripple on the surface.

Consider how the Bible described what was happening to the boat in Matthew 14:24: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” Do kiddie pool waves toss a boat? No, but real waves do.

In stead of tossed, other translations use words like buffeted, beaten, and battered. The New Living Translation says that “a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” It would seem to me that the disciples were facing a life-or-death struggle, not inconvenient weather.

The Wacky Request

People often belittle Peter for his “lack of faith.” They think less of him because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But who on this earth that is not currently on anti-psychotic medication would actually ask a UWG (Unidentified Walking Ghost), “If it is you, compel me to do something totally irrational and dangerous, OK?” What kind of crazy question was that?

I believe there is more to this story than we have been told. Why didn’t Peter just ask Jesus to come a little closer? Why not just ask Him to get in the boat and take a load off? What would have caused Peter to think of leaving the boat?

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was doing looked like fun.

Wave Riding

The next time you look out over a stormy sea capable of sinking a boat, try to find the smooth spots. The paintings that show the Savior walking delicately over glassy H2o in the middle of a gale are unrealistic.

My guess is that Jesus was doing more than simply walking. He was having fun! He was probably surfing without a board. It is possible that He was going up and down…up and down…up and down…smiling the whole time. That’s when Peter said, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come out there with you…that looks like fun!”

Seriously, just stop and think about it. Here was a storm that was beating up a boat and wearing out the crew; waves that were anything but small; a boat full of panicking people; and a Man walking on water. Peter must have concluded that if there was going to be any place to be, it was with Jesus, riding the waves.

With Jesus

We can’t help the fact that storms come. But if there is any lesson to be learned from this story it is that the worst possible place to be can be the safest and most peaceful, as long as our eyes are on Jesus and we are walking with Him.

Does it make sense? No. Is it irrational? Maybe. But as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can ride atop the tallest tsunami, admiring the view.

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Filed under Faith, Struggles and Trials, Uncategorized, worship

Overtaken vs. Granted

If you’ve been around this blog for more than a few years, maybe you’ve noticed that I have been going to the archives and bringing back some older posts. It’s not that I have writer’s block; it’s just that I don’t have as much time as I’d like and there is a lot of good stuff packed away in over 1,000 posts.

Some stuff is worth repeating, don’t you think?

Anyhoo, here’s something from 2014, and it’s still true…

Scary Things

There aren’t many of things that scare me now that I am an adult. However, as a child I lived in dread of a lot of things. I was afraid of vampires, clowns, Russians, and girls with cooties. Now I know that vampires can be killed with a good flashlight (the handle part, that is) and Russia is less of a threat than China, I think. However, clowns and girls are still a problem.

On the other hand, I used to love to fly in airplanes, drink from unwashed soda cans and public water fountains, and drive sports cars at ungodly rates of speed down curvy mountain roads. Now, as an adult, I know that it takes a long time to fall from 30,000 feet, germs are everywhere, and deer have a habit of walking in front of good drivers.

But the biggest thing is that most of the scary things in life are either in my mind, or avoidable. I have no fear of them eventually catching up with me. If killer bees get too close, I’ll just move. The wicked, however, have no such hope.

Gonna Getcha

The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. – Proverbs 10:24

I like the way the NIV translates the first part of this verse, “What the wicked dreads will overtake him…” This proverb is telling us that the wicked are running from something, while the righteous are running to something. And more than that, whatever the wicked are fleeing from will eventually catch up.

What do the wicked fear? What will eventually overtake them? A few things come to mind: being alone, pain, loss, falling, and death.  Huh…coincidentally, all of those will be present in hell. Go figure.

Gonna Grant It

But for the righteous…the ones who know every good gift is from God, the ones who know grace can’t be earned…their desires will be granted.

Amazing, isn’t it? What does the righteous desire? To be loved. To be healed. To have treasure that won’t decay. To be caught up. To have eternal life. Wow! Everything that heaven will bring!

But there’s one more thing: the righteous will welcomed into the presence of their greatest Desire – Jesus.

Don’t run from Jesus. Run to Him. Make Jesus your desire.

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Filed under Christian Living, Faith, Life Lessons, Theology

How Badly Do You Want to Be Loved?

Jingles (not the bell kind)

Do you ever catch yourself singing commercial jingles for no apparent reason? Well, when I am driving, bored, and a little (or a lot) sleepy, I tend to start singing songs I learned as a child. In particular, one song is tops on my repertoire

The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song.

Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / That is what I’d truly like to be ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / Everyone would be in love with me.

First appearing in 1965, this song has become boiled, grilled, steamed, fried, and even micro-waved into our memories. But recently it struck me…what in the world am I saying? Am I so desperate for the attention of others that I would be willing to become an unhealthy food source?

The Need for Love

There are many hurting people in the world who would wish for nothing more than someone to love them. They go to great lengths to be prettier, richer, more popular, or even more “available” – all to find love. But do you really think it’s a good idea to wish you were a hot dog?

What most people don’t know is that there was a second verse to the Oscar Mayer wiener song. In the 1965 commercial a truly intelligent boy quickly understood the true ramifications of the song’s wish and sang the following:

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener / That is what I’d never want to be/ ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / There would soon be nothing left of me.

Sing it, brother! You tell ’em! Why would anyone want to be a hot dog? Do you really want to be loved so badly that you would sacrifice your humanity and allow yourself to be eaten? It’s not worth it, people…believe me!

The lyrics to this song could be re-written to expose what people are really saying. “Oh I wish I was something else instead of human / A tube of meat is what I want to be / I’d gladly die alone in boiling water / If you would only say that you loved me.

in potLook, there is no reason to want to become a hot dog (you might get eaten by one). Really, there is nothing to be gained by having your body boiled or grilled on an open flame; covered in chili, relish, mustard, and onions; then chewed repeatedly until you’re swallowed by someone who will forget you an hour later (unless the chili upsets them). Stay human. It’s better that way! 

You ARE Loved!

Ironically, someone did become something He was not in order to die for love. The big difference is that He was God and became Human, not a hot dog. And what’s more, He didn’t die to be loved – He died because He loved. His name is Jesus, and He died for you.

“For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16 KJV

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 NIV

You are VERY loved!

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Filed under Food, General Observations, salvation, Uncategorized, Witnessing

Daily Devotions: Definitions and Suggestions

How would you define “doing your devotions?”

What is it, exactly?

Honestly, I am a preacher/pastor who has a difficult time doing my “daily devotions.” Frankly, I am even unsure the term “devotions” is actually appropriate. Something about it often strikes me as magical, prescriptive, or simply religious.

You see, I’m the type of person who sorta recoils from scripted religious stuff; I don’t even like responsive reading in church! Whenever a preacher says “Repeat after me…” in a sermon, I usually don’t. Therefore, when I go into a Christian book store like Lifeway and see shelves of “devotionals” and devotional aids – many written by the most popular authors of the day – I feel like I’m being pandered to, the object of some Nashvillian marketing team.

Whatever happened to the promise from Jesus that the Comforter would come and guide me into all truth (John 16:13)? What about the discernment of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14)? Do I need the products of publishing elites to draw me closer to the Lord? Do I really need to read the polished words of some slick conference speaker to better understand the Word of God? Of course not.

But there does need to be some regularity of personal conversation with my heavenly Father. There needs to be regular communication with Jesus. How else could one develop a personal relationship with Someone if they never spent some one-to-one time together?

But again, how does one do it without it becoming mechanical? How does one keep it from becoming routine? How does one do it without letting someone else do all the work? How does one do it without it becoming just one more thing to check off the list?

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to regularly spend time with God; yet, you may have some way that works best for you. Would you mind sharing it?

 

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Brethren, Pray for Us!

This Morning

image

C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

This morning (July 7) I picked up my cell phone and made use of a little app, the digital version of Charles Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening devotional.

The entry for this morning was based on the words from 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brethren, pray for us.”

The impact of this short morning devotional was twofold. First, it comforted me with the knowledge that someone else gets it, and that someone out there is encouraging people to pray. But secondly, and even more importantly, the items for which Spurgeon encourages prayer stood out as areas in which this preacher struggles – and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Please take moment and read this, if it’s not already part of your daily devotional material. I added spaces for readability, but note the parts I made bold.

“THIS one morning in the year we reserved to refresh the reader’s memory upon the subject of prayer for ministers, and we do most earnestly implore every Christian household to grant the fervent request of the text first uttered by an apostle and now repeated by us. Brethren, our work is Solemnly momentous, involving weal or woe to thousands; we treat with souls for God on eternal business, and our word is either a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and it will be no small mercy if at the last we be found clear of the blood of all men.

As officers in Christ’s army, we are the especial mark of the enmity of men and devils; they watch for our halting, and labour to take us by the heels. Our sacred calling involves us in temptations from which you are exempt, above all it too often draws us away from our personal enjoyment of truth into a ministerial and official consideration of it. We meet with many knotty cases, and our wits are at a non plus; we observe very sad backslidings, and our hearts are wounded; we see millions perishing, and our spirits sink. We wish to profit you by our preaching; we desire to be blest to your children; we long to be useful both to saints and sinners; therefore, dear friends, intercede for us with our God.

Miserable men are we if we miss the aid of your prayers, but happy are we if we live in your supplications. You do not look to us but to our Master for spiritual blessings, and yet how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers; ask then, again and again, that we may be the earthen vessels into which the Lord may put the treasure of the gospel. We, the whole company of missionaries, ministers, city missionaries, and students, do in the name of Jesus beseech you, ‘BRETHREN, PRAY FOR US!'”  – C. H. Spurgeon

Pray for Me

If you have a pastor – and I hope you do – please pray from him. Pray for your teachers, your ministers, and your missionaries; they all need it.

As much as ministers like to portray themselves as “just one of the people,” or “just like you,” there is a difference. The difference is not in quality, but in responsibility. Ministers are no “better” than the people they serve in the name of the Lord, but they are certainly more in danger of spiritual (even physical) attack. We have a real Enemy, and we ARE at war.

So, please, pray for your spiritual leaders.

But if, for some reason, you have no one else to pray for, PLEASE pray for me! 

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Filed under Christian Living, community, ministry, politics

Trust the Lord, Not the Liar

Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. – Psalm 40:4

Homework Helper

Just a couple of weeks ago I was helping my youngest daughter with her history homework. For one particular assignment she was required to read some stories from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, specifically those having to do with the Inquisition. Because of her dyslexia, my reading the stories aloud to her made things go a lot quicker.

As I read aloud the injustices and tortures inflicted upon those who had (or were even accused of having) any disagreements with the Catholic church, one thing became glaringly obvious: the people needed to read the Bible for themselves.

Haley and I took the time to discuss the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, how corrupt church leaders could even coerce kings and queens to obey them, even to the point of watching innocent teenage girls being burned alive. It was amazing the amount of fear the world experienced, all because it thought the ability to read and understand God’s Word rested in the hands of a few.

How different things would have been had the people been able to read the Bible for themselves.

Who Do You Trust?

In this verse David speaks of how the man who makes the Lord his trust is “blessed,” or genuinely happy, as opposed to the one who puts his trust in proud and deceived men. Yet, millions of people today put turn on their televisions, sit in pews, or pop in the teaching DVD’s of masterful manipulators who claim to have a special revelation from God. Where have all the Bereans gone?

Blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord, not priests, politicians, potentates, power players, or prognosticators.

Blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Word of the Lord, not the self-help books of Oprah and the myriad of television evangelists.

Blessed is the man who places his trust, his faith, and his hope in the Lord, not those who claim to have special knowledge, special revelation, or a new gospel.

Blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord and holds ever other beings feet, whether human or angelic, to the fiery, unchanging, life-changing Truth of the inspired Word of God.

Those who place their trust in men are subject to fall for the same old lies and manipulations of the greedy, selfish, egotistical, power-hungry rulers of the past – and there’s nothing “blessed” about that.

“…let God be true, and every man a liar…” – Romans 3:4

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