Category Archives: Devotions

Goal setting and planning

Goal setting and planning!

This may come as something of a surprise, but there are very few people that I can’t get along with. Some I have to work harder to be in concert with, others present opportunities to be with without any trouble at all.

For years I’ve divided people into two groups, “dreamers” and “doers.” In a recent YouTube post a young couple announced they had come to realize this recently and that it made a major difference in their marriage. Take a look at your friendship circle and see if you can see this in others as well as your close personal relationships. My assessment is that if there are two dreamers nothing gets done, and if there are two doers life is incredibly boring. 

I add another dimension to this notion that I believe is based on the advice of Scripture. Goal setting and planning are essential because they are based on certainty!

Here then, is the rub. With rascals trying to govern my life and the affairs of the world, and the ravages of fire, wind and disease are howling and destroying on so many fronts, it is really hard to set meaningful goals and to lay plans to achieve them. It’s like playing chess. Moves and counter moves need to be properly thought through in order to win. Add to this the matter of incalculable risk, and flawed thinking and you have a description of the melieux of daily living as it unfolds within the unbelieving world before us. 

What makes life so difficult these days is the uncertainty of the future.

What Jesus was teaching the people and especially the religious leaders at His time was that their actions showed lack of resolve and goal setting because of the uncertainty in their lives. The people were impressed by Jesus’ miracles and his wise discourses, but they did not hear his main message much less believe it: On the third day he would suffer and die for the sinful imperfections of the world. The ultimate goal was secure in Him, he was and is the only Savior from sin and all the brokenness of mankind. Everyone’s sin for all of time was/and is to be forgiven in him.

Taking a stand for Jesus these days is increasingly difficult. What is more, planning one’s life of witness, recruitment and teaching the Gospel is seen as undesirable, more than that, unacceptable. 

On the basis of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and total victory, however, you and I may be both “dreamers” and “doers.”  So the advice from our Lord is not an insurmountable notion, but a joyful exercise regardless of politics, calamity or disease.  Luke 14:28 For which of you, if he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, everyone who sees it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish.’

The victory of Jesus presents the only real basis for planning with Confidence. 

COVID-19 thoughts

As I was reading recently I came upon two words or concepts that I think are being overlooked today as we struggle with Covid-19. “Brothers’ keeper,” and “Russian roulette.”

Before I talk about them I need to review some very basic facts that answer the question: what is COVID-19? Remember, as you think about this matter of a pandemic that is life threatening there are too many parts to the discussion to include all of them in such a brief devotion or meditation such as this.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to spread from person to person through droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. It may also be spread by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes. … Some people may not have any symptoms but are still able to spread the virus. Most people with COVID-19 recover without needing special treatment. But other people are at higher risk of serious illness. Those at higher risk include older adults and people with serious medical problems, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weak immune system. Serious illness may include life-threatening pneumonia and organ failure. Research is being done to treat COVID-19 and to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2-19. As of today (9-10-2020) there is no preventative vaccine. 

(https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/covid-19)

For me my activities are mostly about “buying time.” To reduce the possibility of infection until the development of a vaccine. This  is best accomplished by following the guidelines that are designed to reduce contact and spread of the deadly disease.

It would, therefore, seem inappropriate to gather in groups and have group activities that enable an easy spread of the virus. Not only should I follow the guidelines drawn up by the medical professionals but I should try to help and encourage others to curtail such activities that would facilitate the spread of the virus. Is it my responsibility to be concerned about the well-being of my fellow citizens? “Am I my brother’s keeper.”

The answer is “yes.”  In John 4 we read; “18 The one who fears is not made perfect in love.19 We love because he first loved us.20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Loneliness draws people together. So do customs, convenience, entertainment, religious activities, traditional education methods, rallies, parties, etc. Even if you become a part of social gatherings it’s like playing Russian Roulette. It will take only one incident to expose, spread, infect you and/or me with the COVID-19 disease. May we exercise wise judgement in all things, but especially in matters of faith. God bless!

The Nagging Nonsense of Satan

The other day I was having a visit with someone I know quite well.  It was one of those conversations that had evolved from superficialities to the core questions of our daily current events. 

I would describe her as one who is struggling with the “nagging nonsense of Satan.” Both she and I had shared the details of the world, the natural calamities, the virus pandemic, the terrible and vicious activities of social unrest, and to be sure the concerns we both have over the political mess that is gripping us these days, and the uncertainty that lies ahead for our children and their children. Our list went on and on until we were mentally exhausted and our spirits were drawn down and depressed.

I call this the “nagging nonsense of Satan,” not to trivialize any of it, but to make clear that I firmly believe that that’s what all these things are. Individually or collectively they are real issues that are designed by the devil to have us lose our focus and take our eyes and lives off the absolute reality of God, His grace, His mercy, and His sure promises of peace and eternal joy through Jesus Christ.

In the middle of all this frustration and fearfulness, I am drawn by the Spirit of God to consider what He has revealed to all people in the pages of sacred scripture. May I take you to the story of Joshua in the bible. It’s the sixth book Of the Old Testament. May I encourage you to read chapter 1. PLEASE!

Joshua followed after Moses’ death as the leader of God’s people. God instructed him to rally God’s people and to prepare to begin the march across the Jordan River to occupy the land God had promised them. To allay the fears of the people, the young, the old, the mothers and children, the leaders, the soldiers and all who would make the journey God gave and repeated the advice that we have to share and which we need to take to heart. They are words of promise and encouragement: “Be strong and be courageous.” To be able to take comfort from these words we must remember that God kept all of his promises to Joshua and His people. He kept the promise to send a Savior as well! You and I can take refuge in the reality of God’s love and mercy as we look to Jesus. Now recite to yourself John 3:16. God bless!

Pray In The Spirit

Greetings everyone, may this day be a blessing to you and may you in turn be a blessing to others.

“Drop in phrases” always make me question if they are appropriate or just filler material. Let me explain.

In a recent conversation I heard the phrase “pray in the spirit” used several times. I immediately thought there was something a little unclear or that the phrase didn’t say enough for it to be clearly understood. This was especially so since the phrase was uttered along with the advice to “pray in the Spirit for an hour and surely the Lord would answer that prayer and things would get better.”

The bible uses the phrase in three different passages; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 6:18; and Jude 20.

May I encourage you to look these passages up and read and think about them. Please!

The problem with understanding what the Spirit of God intended for us to learn and to apply rests in the many ways that the Greek words “pray in” can mean. If we look at the references it becomes clear that it’s not the words that we are using but the matter of what we believe and are told and/or have been taught. Prayer is to be an expression of what we know from the Scripture and believe in our hearts. 

Yes, I want peace. Yes, I want racial equality. Yes, I want healing for all who are sick and/or suffering. Yes, I want the Gospel to be freely proclaimed throughout the world to every generation. In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” The Spirit being spoken of is The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who was and is and will always be together with the Father and Son. We are to pray as He leads us. We are to pray according to His plans for us  and others in every regard.

As we itemize our prayers and make specific requests we make them with the full knowledge that our will does not always line up with the plans and will of God. So, we follow the example of Jesus when he prayed on the Mt. of Olives Luke 22:42: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 

It cannot be better expressed than it is in the words of the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy will be done.” “Praying in the Spirit” is not an ambiguous drop in phrase. It is an encouragement to be humble, trusting, and sensitive to the needs of others in the name of the Triune God. God bless you and me as we pray in the Spirit!