Daily Devotions

What Do R. Kelly and Paul Manafort Have In Common

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Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

Because we become what we think about — and our lives are always a reflection of our standards and priorities.” I love this Kris Gage quote. Don’t believe Kris and me, just ask R. Kelly, and Paul Manafort. You cannot tell me R. Kelly didn’t think, or fantasize, about his actions before he abused others. Paul Manafort is guilty because he thought about money with such single-mindedness that it negatively influenced his “standards and priorities.” These reflections led both men to public humiliation and prison cells.

In Genesis 4:1-8, we learn about two brothers, Cain and Abel. Cain becomes jealous, because he believes God loves Abel’s offerings more than his own. He reflected on the perceived unfairness over and over, until it warped his “standards.” I believe none of us are born evil. We can become people who act with evil intent through years of abuse, or through obsessive thinking that warps our “standards and priorities.”

I doubt Paul Manafort, R. Kelly, or even the biblical Cain dreamed of becoming an anathema. It developed over time, with mistaken or dysfunctional thinking. Today, rather than just point the finger at the obvious sins of others, it is time to reflect on “our standards and priorities.” As bad as R. Kelly and Paul Manafort ended up, they did not start out with this end in mind. No, it took years of dysfunctional reflection that warped their priorities, and diminished their standards to such a degree that those standards became evil. It is incumbent upon each one of us to make sure we are not fooling ourselves, and rationalizing bad behavior. Such dysfunctional thinking leads to bad actions, which leads to destroyed lives. By humbly, and regularly, reflecting on our standards and priorities, we will stay faithful to God and stay out of prison.

Appreciate Foot Surgery?

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O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34)

I had simple foot surgery eleven days ago. It was uncomfortable for a few days, and I was frustrated having to miss church the Sunday afterward, but it was small price to pay to walk without pain. I feel silly even having people know, but having to wear a boot for a month doesn’t go without notice. I share this because my little surgery is another reminder that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. I love walking. It is helps me think. Jill and I often took walks together, but we had to give it up as my pain got worse. Something as simple as a short walk can be taken away at any minute. Rather than gripe when it happens, we should spend more time contemplating what we already have, and appreciating it.

As I was coming out of surgery a few things hit me at once. First, darn, I felt so comfortable, and didn’t want to come fully out of the anesthesia that quickly. Second, I heard a man behind the next curtain. He came out of his surgery after having suffered horribly. His issue was part of a systemic problem he’s had in the past, and will probably struggle with in the future. My foot seemed even more ridiculous in comparison. Finally, the nurse brought my wife into the post op. I was blessed, because I knew I had someone who loved me, waiting. Not everyone has that gift.

The greatest gift of the day was God’s presence. God was in the operating room. God was with the suffering man in the next bed. God was with my wife, who was also struggling with a medical issue, but who wanted to be there, rather than have someone else pick me up. God blessed us with the proper medical insurance, so I could have this surgery in the first place. With appreciation comes responsibility. 

If you have decent medical care, you are blessed. It is important to help others find ways to make affordable medical care available to others, without bankrupting our country. If we could put a man on the moon almost fifty years ago, we can find a way for everyone to get necessary healthcare. We also have a responsibility to nurture our relationships with those we love, and who love us. Our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends are a God-given gift. Love takes time, but is well worth the responsibility.  The same holds true for our relationship with God. God is always there for us, and we need to be there for God as well. With all the directions we are pulled, it is hard to find the time. The nice part is that God is always present; even in momentary thoughts, we can keep God close. Of all the things I have to be appreciative for, I hope God knows how much I appreciate the Divine presence that is with us always.

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