Any Ol’ God Will Do?

Titus 2_7_8_Any Ol God Will Do

He’s a Congressman from my area and claims to be a Methodist preacher.  But when called upon to open the 117th Congress in prayer, he raised eyebrows with these closing words: 

“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names by many different faiths.  Amen and a-woman.”

Most of those who reacted to his prayer made comments about the addition of “a-woman” after amen.  The Congressman later claimed it was a “lighthearted” way of acknowledging the diversity within the room.  Forget the fact that “amen” is Latin for “so be it” and has nothing to do with gender at all.

Yet what most people didn’t note was this Christian preacher uttering a prayer in the name of Brahma.  He seems to believe that Brahma is simply another name for the Judeo-Christian God, Yahweh.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Instead, Brahma is the “creator god” of Hinduism.  According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, “In the beginning, Brahma sprang from the cosmic golden egg and he then created good and evil, and light and dark from his own person… Brahma had several wives, the most important being his daughter Sarasvati who, after the Creation, bore Brahma the four Vedas (holy books of Hinduism).

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Hatched from a cosmic golden egg, creating evil from his own being, married to his own daughter… Does this sound ANYTHING like the God of Scripture?  No it does not. 

I understand diversity within the public square, and it would be one thing if a Hindu Sadhus had uttered such words.  But a self-proclaiming preacher of the gospel?  There’s a reason Paul commanded Titus to be a model in all things – especially as he taught with integrity and purity (Titus 2:7-8).  In that moment, the man who should have represented God first, attempted to appease men.  He failed at both.  What about you?  Are you sending a clear message about Christ to the world? –Dave

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Rest for the Weary

Sunday_Matthew 11_28_Rest for the Weary

Weary? There’s one place to find true rest.

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Holy Donuts

Hebrews 13_2_Holy Donuts

Sleep just would not come.  I was restless because I had an early morning appointment with an auto mechanic.  Knowing nearly nothing about cars, I always fear getting taken by a huckster.  Sadly, I failed to remember Jesus’ words about worry doing no good, so I stayed awake most the night.

In the morning, I dragged my sorry self out of bed, downed a cup of coffee, read some Scripture, and thought about what to eat for breakfast.  It was then that Matthew Kelly’s concept of “Holy Moments” (which we discussed last time) came to mind.  In that moment, I asked God what I could do to bless someone else as I headed to the auto shop.

His answer was almost (almost) audible.  Here is the idea that I sincerely believe He placed in my head.  “Dave, you’re their first customer of the day.  Stop at the bakery and pick up some pastries for the staff at the shop.” 

Please understand; I’d never been to this mechanic’s shop before.  I didn’t know a soul.  But I knew it was a “mom-and-pop” business with a small staff, so I decided to be obedient and get some treats on the way. 

Friends, you would have thought I had walked in the door with a bag full of money!  The smiles on all their faces were priceless.  The owner of the place came out of his work bay and insisted on making a cup of coffee for me as I joined them for breakfast.  And before I knew it, all fear I had of getting ripped off that morning vanished.

All it cost me was a few extra minutes and a few extra dollars.  Small investments with big results – all because I invited God to create one Holy Moment as I headed out the door.  God has called us to be holy, and holiness comes one moment at a time.  What holy moment can you create today? –Dave

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

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Holy Moments

1 Peter 1_16_Holy Moments

Author Matthew Kelly asserts that the heroes of the faith didn’t live holy lives as much as they strung together “holy moments.”  Like you and me, they had days where they were successful in following God, and other days that were complete failures distorted by selfishness and worldly desires.  The key to living a godly life Kelly contends is to focus on creating holy moments.

So what exactly is a “holy moment?”  Here’s Kelly’s definition:

“A holy moment is a moment when you open yourself to God.  You set aside what you feel like doing in that moment, and you set aside self-interest, and for one moment you simply do what you prayerfully believe God is calling you to do…  A holy moment is a moment when you are being the person God created you to be…bringing the most good to the most people…

Kelly places such emphasis on these isolated moments because he suspects far too many Christians have concluded that the command in 1 Peter 1:16 – be holy, because I am holy – is not possible.  If we believe holiness is impossible, we’ll cease trying, and in the end our life won’t be much different than the world around us. 

But once we experience the success in small moments of holiness, we see that it IS POSSIBLE, and we’re better prepared to make another holy moment at the next decision point of the day.

Holy moments don’t have to be huge, world-changing events.  In fact, most of them will go unnoticed.  Responding gently when you want to scream is a holy moment.  Allowing someone else to have the last piece of dessert is a holy moment.  Mowing the neighbor’s yard, giving a friend a listening ear, visiting a resident in the local nursing home, giving a widow a ride to the doctor – all holy moments.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about it all, until I tried it… That story next time!

Until then, have you given up on holiness because of past failures?  If so, ask God to help you create one holy moment today! –Dave  

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Jumpin’ Jurors

Proverb 18_17_Jumpin Jurors

Imagine you’re a juror in a bank robbery case.  The defendants are seated, and the judge invites the prosecutor to open the trial by presenting his case against them.  Two people roughly resembling the defendants were caught on security footage, and a car matching a vehicle registered to one of them was seen in the area.  Lastly, both defendants made uncharacteristically large purchases in the days following the heist.

After 30 minutes of presenting their case, the prosecution rests, and the judge gives instructions to the jury.  You and the 11 other jurors are dismissed to decide the case.  Less than an hour later, you find the defendants guilty.  Case closed, right?  What’s wrong with this scenario?  Take a moment and think about it before reading on.

A key ingredient was missing from the trial – did you catch it?  There was no cross-examination, and the defense had no opportunity to plead their case.  Had they been granted the opportunity, you would have learned that both defendants had air-tight alibis, the car used had been stolen, and the large purchases were for items they’d been saving years to make.

Sadly, the scenario above is played out frequently when we listen to only one side of a story before jumping to conclusions.  Accepting extreme views on people or events, and spreading stories about them without taking the time to check sources and verify information, is a form of an “unfair trial.” 

God’s Word says a lot about being wise.  And wisdom frequently involves looking at things circumspectly, realizing there is more than one side to most stories.  For example:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17, ESV)

Friends, it’s easy to get caught up in passionate causes.  But let’s remember to act as jurors in each case – making sure we’ve heard from both sides before casting our vote.  Are you willing to slow down and research a topic thoroughly before reaching a conclusion? –Dave

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2020 Christmas

Matthew 16_14_15_2020 Christmas

2020 was a different sort of year.  So it stands to reason that our observations of Christmas were different as well.  For the first time ever, I was in no group larger than four people. 

The days immediately around Christmas were spent with my wife and our two daughters.  A few days later, I went to see my parents and just one brother.  It was different this year – different, but not bad.  With smaller numbers, I was able to spend more time with each person.  It was cozier and more intimate this time around.

And in many ways, a smaller more personal celebration of Christ’s birth is appropriate, for Jesus is a personal Savior.  Yes, He was born and He died for the masses, but He was born for you as well.  He took the shame and guilt of your sins (and mine) on the cross in order to save each person. 

While health officials discouraged large gatherings, Jesus preferred smaller, personal interactions with His followers too.  In Matthew 16, Jesus asked His disciples who the people said He was.  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (v.14).”  Then Jesus moved away from the big crowd dynamics and made things incredibly personal by asking:

But what about YOU?  Who do YOU say I am?”  (v. 15, emphasis added)

Friends, Christmas really isn’t about the birth of a baby.  It is about God choosing to leave His throne in heaven in order to live among men.  His purpose was to personally seek and to save the soul of each individual.  That’s a personal transaction between each person and God.  It is not, cannot be done in mass.  It’s a personal choice to begin a personal faith with a personal Savior.

There’s a time and place for large gatherings to celebrate God’s blessings.  But there’s also a time and place to begin a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ.  What about you?  Have you done so?  –Dave 

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Big Hands

Isaiah 40_12_Big Hands

The news had talked it up for weeks.  So on the evening of December 21, 2020 my daughter and I went in search of the “Christmas Star.”  It really wasn’t a star at all, but the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.  For the first time in approximately 800 years, their orbits would make them appear close to one another from Earth.

To be honest, I was initially under-whelmed.  I guess all the hubbub had exaggerated my expectations.  I was expecting to see that “Star of Wonder / Star of Light / Star of royal beauty bright.”  You know – the star hovering over the nativity scene on so many Christmas cards.

Instead, what we saw was what looked to be an ordinary star with a second, smaller star nearby.  It wasn’t until we got back into the car to warm up and I read further information about these two planets did the magnitude of what we were seeing sink in. 

On that night, Jupiter and Saturn were just 0.1 degree apart, or about one fifth of the diameter of the full moon.  So from our vantage point, they appeared to be only a hop, skip and jump apart.  Yet even at their nearest, they were still over 500 million miles from one another!  And perhaps even more amazing was that without the aid of binoculars or a telescope we were gazing at Saturn, a planet 1.0062 BILLION miles away!

In that moment, we gained a new appreciation of how vast our God truly is.  With simply a word, He spoke all things into existence.  He created galaxy upon galaxy, with planets separated by billions of miles, yet they all fit within the palm of His hand (Isaiah 40:12).  No wonder Scripture repeatedly asks “Who is like You, Lord?” (e.g., Exodus 15:11).

Friends, if the hands of God can hold all His creation, those same hands can hold you too.  Though you are a single grain of sand, He still cares for you. –Dave

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand? (Isaiah 40:12)

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Now, Don’t Forget!

Hebrews 13_15_16_Now Dont Forget

As I age, I better understand my daughters’ elementary school teacher who frequently said, “My memory is what I forget with!”  While “forget” typically means failing to recall something once learned, Scripture includes a second type of forgetting.  For example:

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)

As the writer of Hebrews ended his book, he included the words above.  After all he’d written about faith, he throws in the little reminder – “Don’t forget to put that faith to good work.” 

In this case, I don’t believe we’re being told to recall specific good deeds that we had intended to do but forget because of completing priorities.  In other words, the passage isn’t saying, “Now, you signed up to take a meal to the Johnsons on Saturday, don’t forget!”

Instead, this type of forgetting deals with never allowing thoughts of goodness toward others into our minds at all.  The risk for each of us is to become so consumed with our own schedules, wants, and needs that we don’t build in any “buffer” of time, energy, or income to do good or share with others. 

God’s message?  Give some thought to how you can bless others with what you’ve been given.  The passage indicates that such actions are ways to praise God, profess His name, and please Him.

Have your forgotten to include caring for others in your routine?  What changes can you make to please and praise God in this way? –Dave

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For Times of Trouble

Sunday_Psalm 9_9_Stonghold in Trouble

These are definitely troubling times – run to Him!

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Trust and Sacrifice

Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord. (Psalm 4:5)

Psalm 4_5_Trust and Sacrifice

This single verse from King David contains two clear commands:  1). offer the right type of sacrifices; and 2). trust the Lord.  Under the Old Covenant, God’s children were required to offer all kinds of sacrifices at various times to cover numerous situations.  The person who wanted to be in right standing with God did their best to comply with all the requirements of the Law.

Today, that type of sacrifice is no longer required by God.  However, He still encourages sacrificial attitudes and actions from His followers.  For example, we simply cannot fulfill this command from Paul without frequent sacrifice:

In humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

To place the interests of others ahead of our own requires that we sacrifice our own wants and needs.  We can’t love one another, serve one another, and meet the needs of one another without giving in a sacrificial manner.  This brings us back to the second command in our opening verse.  While we can trust the Lord in situations that don’t require sacrifice, we cannot be sacrificial without trusting God.

Only if we truly believe God will meet our every need will we dare take from our own resources and share with others.  Only if we believe that the Lord sees our every action will we give with our right hand in a way that our left hand can’t see.  Taken the other way, the smaller our trust in God, the smaller our willingness to sacrifice – whether we’re talking about our time, talent, or treasure.

When was the last time you’ve done something truly sacrificial?  What does your willingness to sacrifice say about your level of trust in God?  Want to grow your “trust muscle?”  Flex it through selfless sacrifice and watch it grow!  –Dave

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