Cliff’s
Notes
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 July 23, 2020:  Clair de Lune Psalm 23:4   Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   I have talked to many people with anxiety disorders or people who are afraid of the unknown. People struggle with this at some point in their lives. It isn’t a mystery why many of them turn to depression or substance abuse or sleep depravity or. Human beings have a reason to be anxious. In fact, we have the ultimate reason to be anxious because we are incredibly vulnerable and we know that we will inevitably die. How can anyone not be anxious under those circumstances? We have so many reasons to drown your consciousness in alcohol or “live life like there is no tomorrow.” Certain substances and behavior take the affective edge off of the tragedy of life.  Fear is closely related to anxiety. Both of them, often times, come hand-in-hand.  Abraham is self-aware and we can see it in Genesis 22. Yet despite knowing the danger of losing his son, he moves forward. Imagine, every step grows heavier and heavier as you draw closer to the place where you would take your own son’s life. That is actually the appropriate response in the face of understanding what constitutes life. If you are naive and move forward, then you have no courage. There is no honor in naivety; in closing your eyes and not seeing what is there to stop you or what dangers you might apprehend. To be alert existentially, to be completely self-aware of your limitations and of the pain that awaits you, then to move forward into the unknown anyways is one of the secrets of living a good life. Clinical literature is quite clear that when a person wants to control their anxiety or fear, they have to pinpoint exactly what it is they are afraid of. What happens after this, in order to overcome, they have to accept what is happening or going to happen. Then the individual can’t become less afraid, they must become braver. When you become less afraid you think the world isn’t as dangerous or your perception isn’t accurate. This leads to another bout with fear anxiety later on down the road when it manifests itself again. But when you become braver, you see what is exactly happening and then realize that you can respond to this voluntary challenge and thrive.  If a stressor is put on two different groups of people and one group takes on this stresser involuntarily and the other purposely sees it as a challenge; the group that chooses to not see the stress tends to shrivel up and recede into a dark place. The group that takes on the stress will teach himself to view all of what life throws at you as another challenge. These people have a realistic interpretation of their environment and can start taking steps forward to better their own circumstance and deal with it, resulting in a positive emotion with each victory. Each step a person takes, they have more of a chance of moving forward into a position that is better than where they came from.  There is nothing pleasant with moving into an unknown future or a future that consists of pain. We have all lost loved ones and or struggled financially or have lost hope in civilization to choose the seemingly obvious and altruistic path. You aren’t judged by each scenario you are put into, you are only accountable with the choices you make in your circumstances. Be like Abraham and have enough faith to keep moving forward. Even if it seems risky, your view on life will continue to morph into a challenge with a positive outcome rather than hopelessness. Each day looks brighter. The nights where you wake up early and can’t sleep while your mind is trying to rationalize what is happening to you will cease to exist. Observing courage in yourself will help you stable yourself in this life. Continue picking up your cross daily and follow Christ, one day at a time. Then, instead of a future of inevitable pain, you will see a future of existential freedom and eternal security.
 July 16, 2020:  Chopin Nocturne Matthew 16:24-25  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.     I want to take a different approach to this verse. People who feel like they are a victim are right. They are a victim but they are victimizers too. Everyone is a strange mix of victims and victimizers. Lots of terrible things happen to people that are not justifiable. Illness sometimes strikes people entirely random. We are thrown into an existence of a consequence of you purely being born, both spiritually and biologically. You were born into sin because someone before you has sinned. Existentialists referred to this in the 1950’s saying you are put here with a certain set of conditions; predisposed with strength and weaknesses. But this goes along with unfairly distributed privileges as well, or what some people refer to as lucky or unlucky. This is an arbitrary nature of existence, but you cannot allow those sorts of things to define you. It is not that useful strategically.   When you are playing a card game, you are dealt a hand of cards. What cards you get is entirely out of your control, so what do you do? You play the hand given to you the best you can. Are all the hands equal? You can’t have a better strategy than using the cards in front of you. Making decisions for another person guessing their cards won’t do you any good. What good is it strategically to say to yourself, ” If only…..” Playing your cards doesn’t even have to necessarily be a winning strategy. People don’t always win. Sometimes people lose. Sometimes people lose painfully and unjustly. But this isn’t the point. The point is you can’t play anything else but what you have.  It isn’t so obvious how privilege and victimization is distributed. If you take someone who is doing quite well, you generally wouldn’t have to scratch the service much until you realize they have had one or more profound tragedies in the past and the present. Vulnerability is built into the structure of existence. If you start to regard yourself as an unfairly victimized victim, you end up resentful, angry and hostile. Strategically you are playing a bad game. It is better to play with the cards you are dealt. You have no better protection from oppressors or random tragedies than this.   What if Christ is referring to your feeling of unfair and unjust suffering as “the cross?” What if you are supposed to pick up that deep, seemingly solemn pain and continue to move through life making the best you can? Imagine the life you can have. Your perception will always continue to improve as you learn. It is similar to what I wrote in the devotion a few weeks ago- you are accountable for the life God gave you. You are accountable for the exceedingly difficult choices you make every day. Try this week to see where you are as a reference point and take a step forward to better yourself. Let God handle the rest. If you get hit hard, realize what happened but keep moving. The moment you blame others or civilization for your lot then you are playing a losing game. There will not be a happy ending. Take up your cross and chase after your dream in life. Take up your cross and follow Him.  
 July 9, 2020:  In My Life Be Glorified      Galatians 3: 28,29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave now free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.     Your food for thought today is something that Americans have wrestled with the last few years though apparently self-evident to most people of age and wisdom. I can’t quite figure out why postmodernists have made the canonical distinctions they have made: race, ethnicity, sexual proclivity or gender identity. These are four dimensions in which they say people vary. But there are many more dimensions. In fact, given that there is an infinite number of ways of interpreting the world, there is an infinite number of dimensions which people vary. Then postmodernists would ask why would some of those views be privileged over others? This is needed to sustain their modern ideologies, but they can’t say it aloud because it marginalizes people.      Here are some ways people can differ: intelligence, temperament, geography, historical time, attractiveness, age (the young have health, the old have wealth), health, gender( men and women have the advantages; men are physically faster and stronger, women live about 8 years longer etc..) athleticism, education, and wealth.. then postmodernists throw in race and subjective gender roles. But this leads us to a problem, what if you have a black woman. Now you have two dimensions of marginalizations. Then you can take it even further, what if you are rich, unintelligent, female with a black father and white mother. How do you treat them? Intersectionality theorists came to the rescue but they will eventually come to an irrational conclusion. They don’t understand that the logical conclusion to intersectionality is individuality. The individual is the ultimate minority, which is what the west has discovered juxtaposed to marxism in Europe and the East. Think to yourself if these people are referring, rather to privilege, to majority privilege. If you are Chinese, living in China, are you privileged or are you the majority privileged? If white people are privileged then shouldn’t they have it easy in China? If I were to go there now, I would need to find a job and learn Chinese to be able to live a wealthy life. If you were to break it down, wouldn’t it mean that if I wanted to be “privileged”, wouldn’t I have to adapt to the culture?      The Bible states that if you are a born again Christian then you will be treated the same as one of His own. This concept means there is only one factor that really makes a difference in one’s life and that is his salvation. Christians should be helping the poor and neglected, they should care for people who are distraught or in pain even if they are rich. Christians should encourage an individual whether their gender, race, or natural proclivity. Jesus talked to the lady at the well even though she was Samaritan, a small taxcollector, and a poor widow with disease. Christ never discriminated, rather treat an individual according to the intentions of their choices they have made. God does take this rather seriously. I will leave you with one last passage. After you read it, think of how you treat another person, when you see someone in need, think how you can help them looking past the apparent features. You will live a better life won’t be taken advantage of or swayed so easily by the humanities.  James 2:1-13      My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ” You sit here in a good place,” While you say to the poor man, ” ‘You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? LIsten, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him.
 
 

 July 2, 2020:   Give Thanks:     1 Timothy 6:3-6  –  If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to Godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of a corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain.  The famous ideological story for those in poverty:  The poor are poor because they are oppressed (with no consideration given to their characteristics as individuals). But the poor are poor for many reasons. Corruption, addiction, poor mental or physical health, lack of education, unwillingness to work (as conscientiousness is a normally distributed trait), narcissism, psychopathy, social upheaval, economic downturns, natural disaster- the list is virtually endless, and the cause cannot be laid simple-mindedly at the feet of insufficient and corrupt social structure; even though it is insufficient, compared to what we would like; even though it is corrupt, compared to what it could be. But some perspective and some gratitude is in order.  The Accepted Ideological story for those with wealth:  The rich are oppressors (with no consideration given to their potential competence and productivity and desire to improve the lot of those around them and to mentor and lead and to strive for self-improvement and to compete and cooperate in a fair and just manner and to accept additional responsibility and to solve complex problems and to take extreme entrepreneurial risks and engage in philanthropy and to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren).  How is this possible? How has western civilization come to this? It isn’t biblical or logical which is ironically what our values as a country are predicated. In Timothy, it states more than once to avoid such chatter and mindless bickering with others about matters that are out of your control. Being “poor” (whichever line you draw to define the word) or being ” rich” is not a sin or an evil position. Individuals who have more or less are equally constantly subjected to temptations pulling them away from God’s will and perfect design.   2 Timothy 2:20 – In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument of  noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  This verse is not read as much as the former but comes from the same book. Being rich gives you the ability to bless others. They just need to stay focused and noble in his works.  We each are responsible for what we know. God judges us accordingly. Stay focused on your own choices and concern yourself less with others not knowing of their personal vices or struggles in their lives. Live your life well in contentment and God will use you to bless others whether your current circumstance is ideal or less ideal in current social ideology (keyword- ” content”). God trumps your financial position!

 June 18, 2020:   Bind Us Together:  1 Timothy 2:2…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.   As Christians, we aren’t to isolate ourselves from the world in which we live. We are part of society, and we share in its difficulties, problems, and hopes. One of the most awful elements, I think, is the idea that individuals should be defined in terms of their group identity. This is one of these weird inversions that’s so characteristic of this chaotic state that we’re in.  When people originally started fighting against unfair discrimination, the initial idea was to eliminate the proclivity for people to be categorized according to their group identity, because that was interfering with everyone’s ability to view them as a competent individual. But that got flipped, probably in the 70s after the Soviet state self-evidently was revealed as a catastrophe. That got flipped so that the world was turned into one group against another- a power struggle. Then, the social justice warrior types started categorizing everyone according to their ethnic or sexual or racial identity, and made that the canonical element of their being. The Bible has much to say about our social responsibility. The Old Testament prophets condemned those who ignored the poor and exploited the weak. As Christians, we know human society is affected by sin, and any effort to improve society will always be incomplete and imperfect. We will never build a utopia on earth.  All of these things you hear, these days, like “white privilege” for example, are variants of collective guilt. I pick your “blood” identity and then I make you a guilty member of that category, and then you and the rest of the guilty members of that category are judged as a unit. It’s murderous, pushed to its extreme.  But, we must do all we can to alleviate suffering and to strike at the root causes of injustice. Racial prejudice, hunger, and violence. We are to work for a peaceable life and human dignity for others. Why? Because God loves this suffering world. Jesus saw the crowds and ” was moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36).  Christ is concerned about the whole person. Do we share His concern for the individual?

June 11, 2020:   Holy – to be set apart.  What an awesome way to describe our Creator and Savior. There is no one or nothing that can come even close. God defines moral and distinguishes between good and evil, as the late Ravi Zacharias always said, He is the lawgiver. What He says is good… is good. Romans 14:17 ” The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  With all the Holiness and power that God manifests in the universe, God adds the great power of forgiveness. To the great power of forgiveness God adds the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the source of power who meets our need to escape from the miserable weakness that grips us. He gives us the power to be truly good, as we yield ourselves to Him, the definition of Holiness.  If we are to live a life of sanity in our modern world, if we wish to be men and women who can live victoriously, we need the two-sided gift God has offered us: first, the work of the Son of God for us: second, the work of the Spirit of God in us. In this way God has answered humanity’s two great cries: the cry for forgiveness and the cry for goodness.  As a friend of mine has said, ” I need Jesus Christ for my eternal life, and the Holy Spirit of God for my internal life.” He might have added, ” so I can live my external life to the fullest.” True virtue is filling our capacity, being Holy with Christ in a world living for themselves. 

June 4, 2020:  Forever  1 Timothy 4:15 – Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  I love this verse! I’m going to talk about laziness. I see it definitely becoming more difficult to pick up from such a relaxed lifestyle and start being ambitious with our ministries like we once were. Try this exercise with me. It works for my students and I used it at university. Close your eyes and think of all the things you do in an average twenty-four-hour day. This includes sleeping, eating, working, shopping, watching television, surfing the internet, etc. After listing, think of the time you put into each item.. you may need a piece of paper. Now look at your list and see how much of your time is used for things that really aren’t important or may even be morally or spiritually harmful. Now think of what you could do to replace that activity. Did you know that you can learn a language enough, in 6 months, to carry on a light conversation with just 15 mins a day of practice? I will ask when I see you how many people have learned new languages in this time off.. Think about replacing an activity with exercise. Exercise doesn’t take long either. Imagine reading a book, or making phone calls or studying the Bible or praying just a little.. bit.. more. Over some time, you could accomplish quite a bit!  We all need to relax, and I’m not suggesting all entertainment is harmful or bad- not at all. But how much of your spare time is simply wasted? Then ask yourself, in perspective, How much time did you give to God? Remember: Satan doesn’t need for us to fall into gross sin in order to defeat us; a large dose of laziness will do the trick just as well. Put Christ first in you life, and then commit every hour of the day to Him. Don’t put it off till the next day thinking you have forever. Forever is a long time; we can’t even comprehend. So don’t use up the time you have on senseless distractions.

May 28, 2020:  Here I Am to Worship   Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.   Jesus regarded His followers as a select company of men set apart from the rest of the secular world. His followers belonged to something far greater. Many of the religious groups of His day were worldly and unspiritual. There were 5 main groups, the Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, Zealots, and followers of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately followers of Jesus were not the most popular back then. The other groups publicly paraded their religion to impress the people and government while privately using their influence and power for selfish gain, dominated by pride, ambition, greed, and falsehood.  Jesus told His followers that they could not have their light shining while sinking to the rest of the world’s level. It was only by abiding with Christ and living under the ruling power of the Holy Spirit that their light could pierce through the world’s darkness. That was the only way to be a proper influence and salt to mankind.   Each of our influence on society and people around us is directly correlated to our likeness to Jesus Christ. It’s impossible to elevate others to a higher level that we haven’t gone before. All we should be doing is our best and God will handle the rest because, Praise God, He has already gone before us and done the impossible. The first-century Christians out-thought, out-lived, and out-loved their neighbors, and by their example of purity and compassion attracted thousands of others to the Christian faith. Napoleon Bonaparte stated, “…the Christian movement was the only movement spread so quickly, not by conquering or on the shoulders of a large army, but by love and compassion.”  Do others see in your life the light of Jesus? Do people walk away from you a better and happier person? Pray for Jesus’ light in your life!   Today’s song is Here I Am to Worship. I want you to focus on the words of the verse while you pray. “Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness, Opened my eyes, let me see. Beauty that made this heart adore You, Hope of a life spent with You…”

May 21, 2020:  My Chains Are Gone     Psalm 145:8   The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.    It’s interesting during a economic lockdown, people are hurting financially or completely stressed out as they see their life in front of them with much less uncertainty. Yet in the midst of this, certain selfish people are taking advantage of the ones being hurt. Motor theft is up 11% and homicide is up 4% (mpcd.cd.gov.) Imagine what the world would be like if God were only a God of love, who never judged evil or tried to stop it. Evil men could carry out their plans without fear. God would not be there to judge or to make it right. Hedonistic individuals would be rampant without fear of accountability. Now imagine what the world would be like if God were only a God of Judgment, who punished us every time we did anything selfish or wrong, completely disregarding our intentions. If God were like this, none of us would have a chance! Sometimes, however, God does correct and discipline us- not because He hates us, but because He wants us to turn from the destructive path we are on. If you are a parent, you love your children, but at times, you need to discipline them for their own good. In a far greater way, God loves us, so He also disciplines us when we need it for our good. The Bible says, “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline. Do not be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens” Hebrews 12:5-6.  This week”s song is My Chains are Gone. When God corrects us, it is because of His love. If He blesses us, it is because of His love. God is Love, but there are two parts to that gracious love. Embrace both of them and stand strong. Know that if you are corrected, you belong to Him!

May 16, 2020:  10,000 Reasons to Bless the Lord     There are so many reasons to praise the Lord. Every morning, wake up and think about all the great things God has either allowed you to have, or the struggles He has brought you through. It really is quite amazing over, the period of one’s life, how many times you need Him, He pulls through. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. In the midst of the Lord’s Prayer are these familiar words: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11.) They remind us that we are dependent on God for everything, and He is the giver of every blessing. Some people may say, ” Why should I pray for my daily bread? I can take care of my own needs!” If they don’t say it out loud they certainly act it. If it weren’t for God’s love and grace, you wouldn’t have anything. We need to pray this every day, because we need to be reminded to trust God in everything. This prayer reminds me also of Jesus’ words: ” I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger” (John 6:35.) Thank God for all His gifts- especially Christ, the greatest gift of all.  Bless the Lord. 

May 7, 2020:  I Will Rise     Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.   Have you noticed that you can seldom argue a person into the Kingdom of God. Logical arguments help people understand what they believe and further strengthen their resolve and faith, but rarely does it help them to actually cross the line into eternal security. The real reason for disbelief in God usually has nothing to do with logic. Instead, the real reason usually has to do with a person’s emotions, feelings, and will. In other words, people tend to choose not to believe in God, mostly because they want to live their own lives without accountability or conviction. Just to admit that God exists means becoming humble and realizing your place in the hierarchy of the Trinity, celestial beings and heavens; spoiler alert..it’s pretty low… When in conflict with someone who is not saved, whether seeking a life with purpose or not, chances are you will do better showing God’s love with as much gentleness and sincerity as possible. Actions most often speak louder than words. Rise to the occasion and make sure others see Christ in you!  Today’s song, by request, is “I Will Rise”. Listen to it and think. This song often gets stuck in my head. I hope it gets stuck in yours while you pray.

April 30, 2020  Sheep May Safely Graze    As America starts to slowly open up, the time when we all can make music again seems so close. We can almost grasp at it. May 4th marks the first phase, perhaps we will only be a few weeks behind. This weeks devotion is titled Sheep May Safely Graze. It is actually the title of the piece I’ve been working on and recorded for everyone. It is a very peaceful piece of music, by Bach, that you will like.  Hebrews 2:18 Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.  All of us has gone through a broken heart. All of us has been disappointed in life, acting as if life is a living entity that decides to treat us unfairly. This struggle that we are going through together is no different. It certainly doesn’t seem fair. Some of you have lost their jobs or money in some way and some of you are actually making a lot of money right now. It doesn’t seem fair seeing as a pandemic has no mind of its own. Looking back in life we have realized some of our situations have turned out for the better, some have not. Some of the situations could have been avoided, some were bound to happen. I want to encourage you to look at this situation differently. I want to put the two parties I listed before, those who are doing well because of the pandemic and those who are losing, juxtaposed to each other. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Paul states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” It’s important to understand that our comfort is only in existence because God allowed it or directly caused it. From understanding that we see that our comfort isn’t entirely of our own doing. So perhaps if God can comfort us, maybe we can comfort those who are being hurt now. This passage from Paul suggests a new insight into suffering: our trials can equip us to comfort others in their trials. Think to yourself, has God blessed you through the pandemic, and if so, is there someone that you can comfort in return. Listen to this music and think for a bit, then put it into actual. Try calling someone today or tomorrow that possibly doesn’t have a family in all of this to entertain them while they are home or make light of this situation. Try praying for specific individuals that God has placed on your mind. Listen to this piece while you thank God for your comforts and ask Him to show you others that you can help in return.
April 24, 2020  There is None Like You   There is none like You. No one else can touch my heart like You do, I can search for all eternity Lord And find, there is none like You.   Being Useful  Romans 8:14 – As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. We are children of God which separates us from the rest of the world. While the rest of the world is panicking, we will continue to grow and better ourselves. One of the first keys to being useful for God’s kingdom is humility. Pride cuts us off from God and from other people. It’s easy to say that you make mistakes but if you find yourself talking like you are always right, you’ll actually find yourself making a fool of yourself and will not be of any use to God. Pride deceives us into thinking we can do God’s work without His power. You can work as hard and smart as you possibly can, but if God isn’t in it, you will find yourself plateauing and people will notice that your work isn’t producing any fruits. When we rely on the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to be incredibly effective in our workplace and in our own home. I promise you, it will not even feel like work. You will sleep better and laugh more with your friends and family.  There is another key to being useful and that is faith- faith that God is sovereign and that He is at work, even if we can’t see it. Habakkuk complained to God about evil people always seemingly winning at every circumstance. Maybe even in this pandemic you may realize how some people seem to being gaining more power or certain businesses gaining more benefits and money. God replied to Habakkuk, ” I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told to you.” Habakkuk 1:5   God is still at work now amidst all the pessimism an frustrations of today. He alone is sovereign, and that is why we can trust Him even when it there lurks a seemingly existential darkness outside your door. I challenge you to continue to grow in Christ and as a person during this downtime. Don’t be left behind by others taking advantage of this time. We will be back better and more effective than ever soon.