THOSE LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT!… Song of Solomon 2: 15

You may not remember a popular singer of the 1940’s and ’50’s.  She had many hit singles during a long career, and lived to the ripe old age of 94!  One hit song was ‘Little Things Mean a Lot’.  The lyrics were somewhat silly, but the tune very catchy.  Reading this verse from the Song of Solomon, I was humming the tune to myself.

The first time I heard Kitty Kallen sing this song was in Florida, where my brother-in-law played it on his 8-track cassette player.  Unfortunately, many of his 8-track tapes had melted in the heat and humidity of a few Florida summers.  But this one, ‘Little Things Mean a Lot’, was in mint condition!

King Solomon wrote–‘catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom'(S of S 2:15).  Little things.  Doesn’t take much.  As in relationships.  A word poorly chosen.  Something overlooked or forgotten, that seemed small to us yet significant to someone else.  A friend gives us a strange look.  Only one person utters a cutting comment about a sermon I delivered,  and all the good comments(if there were any!) go out the window.  ‘Little foxes…’.  You can think of your own.

What do we do with these ‘little foxes’ and the damage they do?  Solomon says to ‘…catch them…’  How?  I think this is where boundaries in our relationships come in handy.  Making sure we keep away from people who belittle and humiliate us.  Nibble away at us.  Drain us.  Suck the air out of the room.  You know who they are in your life.  Pray, asking the Lord, to help you minimize and marginalize them.   Left…to their own devices.  No longer roaming free, eating away in your vineyard.  Know what I mean?  Or who?

What else to ‘catch them’?   Here’s another side of the same coin.  We can try to think the very best of people.  To step back and not let every little thing bother us.  To give someone the benefit of the doubt.  Many times, I’ve concluded something or other, only to be totally wrong.  Cut them some slack.  I’ve heard this called ‘charitable judgements’.  Giving the benefit of the doubt.  Try it.  I have.  Sure, I don’t like being wrong.  But, it’s far better than ruining a relationship, all for the wrong reasons, some of my own making.

‘Little Things Mean a Lot’!  Watch out for them.  Keep those ‘little foxes’ out.  But step back and make sure that what we think are ‘little foxes’ are truly that.  Sometimes they’re not.  They might be melted ‘tapes’ playing a twisted, messed-up and garbled tune.  So, be on guard.  Be careful.  Watch…

Prayer:  Lord, we need your Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment to identify those ‘little foxes’.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Here’s a challenge for you.  Read the entire Old Testament book of Jonah.  Only 4 chapters.   A measly 48 verses.  Too much to ask?  I think not!  So, go for it!  While serving my second church, I was asked by a local radio station to tape four Bible studies for weekly broadcast.  The topic?   Any Scripture of my choice.  Really?  And me…on the radio?  Very thrilling, indeed!

Let me tell you why.  It was listening to Billy Graham’s radio program, ‘The Hour of Decision’, when I first heard about faith in Jesus Christ.  I responded ‘YES!’ to the invitation.  The message of God’s love was crystal clear to me.  I knew nothing about the Bible.  I was not from a family that often attended church.  God was rarely  mentioned in our home.  And He wanted to be in my life?  I was merely flipping the dial.  News programs?  No.  But the best news I’d ever heard.  Now, years later, I’m on the radio telling others that God loves them as much as He loves me.  All because of what His Son did on the cross thousands of years before.

What should I talk about?  I chose Jonah for my talks.  Why?  I identify with him…the reluctant prophet.  The one who says ‘no’ to God.  The presumptuous preacher, who would rather go as far away from God’s call as he possibly could.  He ships off to Tarshish, when God had clearly commanded him to bring good news to Ninevah, the opposite direction.  As if the Lord was telling you to preach in New York City, and you high tale it to Los Angeles.  That’s Jonah.   Rebellious.  Angry and bitter.

Not only Jonah.  That’s me… sometimes.  You too?  No, never!  This is an amazing story.  Chapter 3 verse 1–  ‘Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time…’   Not giving up on His prophet.  Or letting him off the hook, either.  God puts it right to him to do the tough work of God’s will.   The word of the Lord comes right at Jonah a second time.

There’s that word ‘again’ again!   God gives Jonah another shot at obedience.  I love that thought.  God majors in forgiveness.  He loves to give us His mercy… in spite of all our failures, our flippant and feeble excuses.  He comes alongside…a second time.  A third.  A fourth.  Again and again.  Not giving up on.  Thank God for second chances.  He’s done that for me many times.

Unfinished business for God in your life?   Is there not someone, whom you’ve been avoiding, running away from, who needs to hear the good news of Jesus?  And God says to go back.  Tell them of His love and about His Son.  Will you?  What will we do with God’s second chances?

Prayer:  Lord, for all your love and forgiveness, we thank you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


I was reading the story about the wedding feast.  Reminded me that in April of 1994 (yes, I do know the date!), Sue and I got married and had a lovely reception.  Whoever was filming took pictures exclusively of the food!  Who cares about the people attending, especially that groom and his lovely bride!

Matthew, chapter 22– story of a king’s wedding feast for his son , with people making all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t attend.  Even murdered some of the king’s servants, who came bearing their invitations.  Can you imagine?

The king orders his remaining servants to hit the highways-and-byways inviting anyone they can find.  The high-and-mighty would be replaced by the down-and-out.   Now, let me step back for a moment.  Matthew, who is the only Gospel writer to record this particular parable, is a tax-collector.  Not an endearing occupation listed on one’s resume!

He had two names.  Matthew and Levi.  Lots of people had two names.   I have a few.  My classmates from school days always call me ‘Johnny’.  Relatives say ‘John Adam’.  Lots of men in my family were named John.   If my two names were said together, it helped identify me as the one in trouble!   No high marks for creative naming in our tribe!

Jesus has called lots of people to follow Him.  But a tax-collector?  That raises a few eyebrows!  Can you hear the behind-the-scenes mumbling?

Now, the Bible doesn’t say so, but I can picture Matthew Levi, having godly parents, who would have agonized over this son, who had gone astray.  Levi, one of Jacob’s twelve sons,  founded the priesthood.  They led all worship in the Tabernacle and Temple.  Was not his name a wish and prayer of his parents?  To grow up to be a godly, priestly man?   They would have made sure he received a proper education in the Word of God.  Obeyed God’s Law.  Celebrating all the holy days of the Jewish calendar and the Sabbath.

I wonder if his conscience didn’t nag at him something fierce.  So, when Jesus walks up to his tax-collecting table and asks him to follow Him(Matthew 9:9), there are no excuses given.  Not even a second thought.  Just ‘up and at ’em’ for Matthew Levi with the good possibility of being right with his God.  Yes!

What about that little word mentioned in today’s title?   It’s a tiny one.  Easy to skim over.  Here it is:  ‘again’.  Five letters.  That’s all.  But it makes a world of difference to someone like Matthew Levi.  To you and me.  Matthew writes that Jesus once ‘again’ tells the people a parable(Matthew 22: 1).  As in second chances.  Not giving up on us.   Even to tax-collectors.  God will find a way.  Keep praying daily that everyone in your family will come to know Jesus.  Keep at it.  Don’t ever give up!

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for all your help.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

‘…AND IN CONCLUSION’!… Ecclesiastes 12

Computer problems make this title almost prophetic!  Troubles connecting…annoying delays…possible ‘virus’ lurking inside this infernal machine.  You must know that I am not a computer whiz.  How could you ever tell?!   If it were up to me, I’d be writing longhand. Hopefully, this is not ‘in conclusion’ of my ‘Reflections’ devotional!

Reading the book of Ecclesiastes puts us on a great journey with King Solomon.  Life poses many questions and quandaries.  We ask the big question: ‘why’.  Why does God allow such evil to go unchecked?  Why do God’s people suffer?  Why am I so timid about sharing the Lord, when on most any other topic I can ‘wax eloquent!’ for probably way too long?   Why…why…why?

We all ask these questions, but where are the answers?   I’ve known some well-meaning Christians who thought that they had all the answers.  They seemed complacently satisfied with them.  Glib, superficial responses(or so I’ve concluded) to the strains and struggles of life.  I don’t enjoy being around those people.  Feels like they’re telling me to keep quiet or worse.  Quit bugging them with my infernal questions.

I don’t see it that way.  Airing whatever perplexes me, exercises my faith.  Sees more of life’s depth and width, exposing gaps that only faith in Jesus can fill.  But not those easy answers.  No.  Sometimes we have to admit that we don’t have a clue.  No idea.  I see life through a different set of lenses. See humor in most things.  Not all, certainly.  But quite a few.  That’s me.  But, my humor can be off-putting to some.  As their personalities can be for me.  Regardless, we are told to love one another.  Wish them God’s very best.  Pray for them.  But we don’t have to like them or spend extra time with those who grate us in all the wrong ways.  Do we?  Maybe I should try harder?  Is that what you’re thinking?  Could be.

Solomon tries to find meaning and happiness in his life.  You name it, he tried it.  All to no avail.  So, what’s his conclusion?  I love what he says–‘fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man'(Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Simple words, to-the-point.  Bare-bones.  A skeleton that we are to flesh out through the personality the Lord has given us.  Don’t muck it up with myriad rules and regulations(as the Pharisees did).

Worship the Lord.  Look to Him.  Know His Word.  Keep His commandments.  That’s it.  Live freely-as we were created to be.  Be myself.  As different as I am from you.  And you, from the rest of us.  But, all… ‘in Christ’.  God living through us.  Wanting our obedience, yes.  Reliant on Him, always.  Being who we are.  Knowing whose we are.  That’s the ‘whole enchilada’…see what I mean?!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for making us who we are.  At your feet, we will find freedom.  In Jesus Christ.  Amen.

GOADS ONCE AGAIN!…Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

Recently,  the title of my devotional was about ‘goads’.  Unfortunately, there was  absolutely no reference to them at all.  None!  Can you believe it?  I can!  Actually, I have a good excuse.  My laptop computer experienced three ‘freeze outs’, which goads me!  There’s that word again!  Can be found in Ecclesiastes 12: 11.  Solomon says(not ‘Simon Says’!)  that ‘the words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails–given by One Shepherd’.  Like a goad.  What in the world is that?

It’s a sharp metal point attached to the end of a long stick,  keeping the sheep moving in the right direction.  A shepherd uses a goad to keep the flock together, not wandering off into dangerous places.  We, as Christians, know that the Bible contains God’s love letters.  But some portions seem more like ‘tough love’.  As a goad that pokes us, keeping us moving in His direction.  Out of trouble.  Out of ditches we stumble into with the greatest of ease.

I marvel at my natural ability to fall into some hole of my own making.  Not proud of this.  Not for one moment.  Bet I’m not the only one so ‘gifted’, and I’m no betting man!  The Bible is like a goad, Solomon says.  It tells us to watch out.  Be careful.  There’s more here than good old ‘pats-on-the-back’, ‘all about me’, ‘I’m Okay… You’re Not So Hot!’ stuff.  There are hard words to hear in our Bibles, as well.  Some knuckle-rapping discipline that’s well-deserved.  For ‘…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God'(Romans 3:23).   ‘All’ still means ‘all’ in my book.  No exceptions except for the Lord Jesus.  He’s God in the flesh.  We’re not.  Yes, we’re made in God’s image, but flesh nevertheless.  This is why we need His help, gentle or otherwise.  Often I need a proverbial swift ‘kick-in-the-pants’ from the Lord.  And I find that in the Bible.  Not everywhere.

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16:  ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…’  The Bible comes from God Himself.  Through varied personalities of its human authors.  Containing not only good news but correction.  And rebuking, as well.  Along with training and teaching.  Balanced words.  From His hand to ours.  Not the back of His hand.  No, but the hand that helps us up off the ground of our own foolish making.  Goads may sting a bit here or there.  But they are meant to help us in our journey of life, led by the Good Shepherd of the flock.  Take ALL His words into your heart.  Are you ready?  I think I am.  Still don’t like the pain of that sharp, pointy goad!  It’s okay.  I know whose hand holds it.  Does that not make all the difference?

Prayer:  Help us, Lord.   We need your steady hand.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

GOADS AND ALL!… Ecclesiastes 12: 9-14

Here we are at the conclusion of King Solomon’s wise sayings found in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Not merely his own good ideas.  No.  Much more–the wisdom of Almighty God, found in the pages of the Bible.  Fresh and alive with meaning every time we sit at His feet.  God’s inspired Word… from beginning to end.

In Ecclesiastes 12: 11, Solomon says that these collected sayings are like ‘firmly embedded nails’.  Not easily removed.  Ever try to pull out a nail, set so deep, that it won’t budge?  The Bible resembles those nails.  Strong and firm, binding weighty matters tightly together.

There’s more–verse 10 says that the Bible speaks ‘just the right words’.  His words are ‘upright and true’.   From the Holy Spirit, who authored the Bible, through many different individuals, like Solomon himself.  ‘Just the right words’…’upright and true’.  Wish that could be said of me!  Can’t… by a longshot.  I’ve put my foot in my mouth more times than I can count, and I was never good at math!  May look like my tongue in my mouth; but, invariably, it’s my right foot moving all around, and I’m not even doing the ‘hokey-pokey’!

But one thing I cannot be accused of is this– that I’m highly opinionated.  That’s not me.  We all know some who are…opinionated, that is.   Have to be right.  Know it all.  Unbendable.  Competitive.  Inflexible.  This is an age of highly-opinionated people.  Many of them strike me as overconfident, offensively proud and rude.  I don’t like them.  Could you tell!?

Here’s good news that helps us float above the rogue-waves of sin that are breaking over the land.  The more I think about it, the more I WANT to hear from His Word.  I want more time with God.  More…of His thinking and His plans.  More…of Him!  Plain and simple.  Wouldn’t that be a preview of heaven here on earth?  Sounds good to you, too?  Then, let’s go for it!

Get more into His Word, the Bible.  Open it up, blow off any accumulated dust, write in its margins, dog-ear the pages, wear it out.  It’s your Bible.  Read it… asking for insight from the author, God the Holy Spirit.  He promises to respond if you seek Him, giving Him the time needed.

Wait a minute!  I forgot about those ‘goads’ in today’s title!  But for now, company’s coming!  They will be hungry and must be fed!  Here’s a quick question–hungry for God?  Pull up to the table.  Feast on His Word!  Eat all you want!  Would you pass me some Old Testament, please?!

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for giving us your Word, the Bible.  We love you, Lord, and want more of you in our lives.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY!…Ecclesiastes 11

You remember that song,  ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy!’?   When you read the last four verses of Ecclesiastes 11,  you’ll think that Solomon himself wrote the lyrics!  Verse 9–  ‘Be happy…and let your heart give you joy…’  Told you so!  Wouldn’t we love to see his wish come true…for us?  Be happy…and joyous?  ‘To let go…’ and, as we say, ‘…let God’?  That’s what I want.

But, to be honest, I think it’s at verse 10 where I face trouble.  ‘So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of the body…’  Oh yeah, right!  Easier said than done, old King!  Get rid of worry?  ‘Cast off’–no return policy in effect!  Don’t look back as salty Lot’s wife did?  The older I get, the more I realize that anxieties have become a very bad, but familiar, habit.  Leaving me deep in a fear-rut.  Stuck.  Mired.  Paralyzed.  Only little old me?!

I’ve known many Christians over the years, who seem to focus on their aches and pains, all things negative, harping over past injustices done to them, spinning their wheels going round-and-round with the ‘same old, same old’.  Am I looking in the mirror?.  Or maybe you are?

I remember being the pastor of a church, where everything came crashing down around me.  Being a pastor can be a difficult calling.  Sometimes I wish I was deaf when the Lord called me to that church.  Maybe I was, and He hadn’t called me there at all.  Could be.  There came a Sunday, when it looked so bleak, that I decided to walk out the back door and never return.  The only other option was to be carried out feet first, and that I would not allow.  I prayed.  I cried.  I left.

Maybe you’re in a difficult place right now.  Where you never thought you’d wind up.  Seek to ‘banish’ anxiety and ‘cast off’ fears by praying… like you’ve never prayed before.  Ask others to pray for you.  Those you trust, if there are any.  Pray for wisdom, whether to dig in your heels and see it through.  Or move on,  saying ‘adios’, for God has better things for me!  I don’t know which way you should go.  I sometimes don’t know in my own life.

Pray for God’s discernment.   Then, follow His lead… as best you can.  Even not knowing for sure, even when we make major mistakes deserving massive blame, even then God will lead us to brighter days and sunnier climes.  Ask for His help.  Trust Him… even when it feels like you can only hold onto one of His fingers.

Then wait… for as long as it takes.  How long?  I have no idea.  I’m not God.  That’s why we turn to Him.  He will see us through.  That much I do know…for sure.  So, I can be happy and not worry!   So can you!  But will we?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for your faithfulness.   In your name.  Amen.


Recently, I’ve been bothered by all the extra effort required to praise the Lord.  I’ve asked myself:  why it is so difficult ?  Why not like second nature?  Reading Psalm 36 has helped me to find an answer.

Having to exert extra effort to praise our Lord seems like I don’t mean it.  Even worse, trying to placate God with pious platitudes.  Like He can be flattered–  a sucker for a few sweet compliments.  A push-over for some hackneyed ‘old chestnuts’.

To be honest, that’s not my issue.  I do want to spend quality and quantity time praising God.  I really do.  Reading and spending time today in God’s Word at Psalm 36 has given me some hope.  That I’m on the right track.  Stop berating myself for having these difficulties in prayer.

Do you also find yourself asking more for this-and-that rather than applauding God?  Requests galore rather than raving about Him?  Aren’t you sorry I got two new thesauri for Christmas !?!

In Psalm 36 we find a great chasm between sinful man and holy God.  The first four verses are a litany of evil portrayed.  The life and times of the faithless.  King David, who wrote this poem, is burdened for the ungodly.  The Hebrew  ‘oracle’ means ‘burden’.  The wicked sin with abandon, having no fear of God Almighty.  Their god is their own sinfulness.  Their law is lawlessness.  How do they live like this?  Verse two says that they flatter themselves.  They kid themselves not noticing their own destructive ways.  Blind to the truth. Self-talk… as far from honest as possible.

Here is where I gather a smidgeon of hope.  As a sinner, I naturally don’t want to praise God or really have much to do with Him.  My inclination is to focus on myself or those who can benefit me.  Yet new life comes my way from Jesus.  By grace alone.  By His initiative.  None of my good deeds add up to a holy ‘hill of beans’!

Here’s the hope I see.  Here’s what the Lord has shown me.  Don’t worry.  Won’t be easy.  Stop agonizing.  You’re not there yet.  Keep on… keeping on.  When you don’t feel like it, praise the Lord anyway.  When it feels so wooden and unnatural, praise Him in spite of whatever.  We are new creations, but the old lies close to the surface.  Don’t waste too much time hand-wring, nail-biting, when you get lost in yourself.  The Holy Spirit will knock rather loudly on your door.  Open up and let some fresh air into the dank, dark cells we too often live in.  Got it?  I think I have.  I’ll slip back… but God will lift me up and pull me out.  I’m going to keep at it.  To praise Him.   Join me?  I could sure use the company!

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for making us new creations in Jesus, your Son.  Amen.


I do think that I should be spending oodles and oodles more time praising the Lord.  But, I have to force myself.  That doesn’t seem right.  What catches me off-guard can be found in Psalm 29.  Take a moment now and read this poem of King David.  The message is crystal clear.

This psalm is all about the Lord.  From the very first verse, with angels giving glory to God, to an extended praise of the Creator and Sustainer of all, concluding with a comforting promise of peace which blesses God’s people.  David says in verse two–‘ascribe(give) to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord…’  Then he goes on with images that evoke powerful emotions, attributing all of creation to the voice of the Lord.  God speaks… and it happens!  Seven times David writes that ‘the voice of the Lord’ did such-and-such.  Seven times.  The perfect number.  All creation…in His control.  My life?  Yours?  Yes, again ‘all’ means ALL!

Eighteen times David uses the personal name of the Lord, Yahweh.  Your Bible will capitalize the word LORD when, in the Hebrew, it is ‘Yahweh’, His name.  Eighteen times, David lifts up the name of God.  Can never say it enough.  But not like the ‘Oh my G..’ crowd, saying it so glibly today.  No taking the name of the Lord your God in vain (Deuteronomy 5:11).  That commandment is one I try to honor in my life.  No cursing or using God’s name flippantly.

What about my prayer life?  No, I don’t use foul language in my prayers!   What’s not right is that I have to force myself to praise Him.  I ask many prayers for family and friends, for mission groups that need His help in doing His work,  for peace in this world and the thwarting of political leaders out only for themselves(I have too many to pray for!).  Pray for pastors I know.  All of this comes easy.  But to stop and praise Him?   That’s not so easy.  Why?  Not sure.

But I’m going to keep the pressure on myself.  Until that praise-muscle is well exercised, robust and healthy.  To remember all those wonderful and undeserved blessings I’ve received from His hand.  For who He is and what He does.  For all of us, especially those who know His Son Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Join me? Ready to praise Him?  Let me concentrate a bit.  Here it comes!  ‘Thank you, Lord, for all you are to us and…’

Prayer:  Lord, today we want to focus on you.  To give you our thanks, our praises.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


I must admit it.  Can’t deny it any longer– as much as I’d like to.  No hiding.  Need to bring it out into the open.  What gives?  This sounds serious.  It is.  My prayer life is in shambles.  Too many requests, begging God to act and give me what I want.  After all, I know best!  So I’d like to think!  Seriously, here’s the rub.  Praise needs to be front-and-center in my prayer life.

Why not read those last five psalms?  None are long.   You’ll see what I mean.  Like sturdy bookends, ‘Praise the Lord’, begins and ends each of those soaring songs.  At the very beginning, it’s praise time.  At the very end, it’s all about praise to God.  Nothing less.  That’s what I need.  More praise to the Lord.  More appreciation.  More thanks to Jesus.  More gratitude for the Holy Spirit.

Here’s something that none of us want to be– a phony.  Saying some nice words to God, but actually being manipulative, trying to make ‘brownie points’ with Him, hoping to grab some ‘goodies’ for us.  Know what I mean?  But we don’t want to be sham, counterfeit, self-centered Christians.  Do we?   That’s why I want more ‘hallelujah’s’ in my day…and night.

Hallelujah!  The Hebrew word for ‘praise the Lord’.   ‘Jah’ is the shortened form for God’s name, ‘Yahweh’.  ‘Hallal’ is the verb ‘to praise’.  So, ‘praise Yahweh!’  That’s it!   The Hebrew word ‘hallal’ has a bit of an edge to it.  Yes, it means to praise, but it also carries the connotation of ‘to shine’ and ‘to boast’, to ‘rave about and celebrate’.

That’s where the rub comes in.  Most of praise in this world shines below the clouds.  Rarely above.  Recently we endured a ‘temperature inversion’, as the meteorologists call it.  Where the warmer air above traps the colder air below, giving us dirty air and fog.  Rarely happens, but we had it for almost a week.  Too bad the ‘temperature inversion’ of our selfishness and self-absorption isn’t likewise as rare.   It’s epidemic.  Praise… of ourselves.  Wonderment… at human control over all of life.  What man can do.  Thanks for what money can buy.

God deserves all our praise.  I want to bookend my life with His praises.  From start to finish.   Beginning to end.  Who cares what others may think?  Who cares when we get laughed at and mocked?  Too bad, so sad.  Makes me think– maybe God cares.  Maybe He loves to hear His children singing His praises all day long!  Maybe He matters more than anything else.  No maybe about it.  None whatsoever!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for all you are.  We want to praise you all day long.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.