Good morning. It’s Saturday, January 19, 2013. It’s about 1130am as I begin this.
Today is “National Popcorn Day.” I’m definitely down with that. I’m sure I will have some of that most wonderful food today. It could be argued that popcorn is my favorite food of all. I eat it with many, many things, usually in lieu of chips. My usual choice is a 100-calorie bag of Jolly Time low fat. I find that it is better than Orville’s Smart Pop, and much cheaper.
Yesterday was an okay day. Minimal stress at work, but didn’t make it the gym last night. I plan to get up there later today, after I practice for tomorrow worship celebration. I guess I’m the “regular” keyboard player at The Exchange, now. Oh, and I stayed up really late playing WoW, last night.
I’ve lost 9.8 pounds this week. 8.6 since the “Biggest Loser Challenge” weigh-in at work.
(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1568, King Phillip II of Spain imprisoned his eldest son, Don Carlos, in his own room. The legends vary, but most say that Don Carlos was normal until he fell down some stairs at the age of eighteen, “severely cracking his head in the process.” As he lay blind and delirious, his despairing family resorted to seeking a miracle from God. They brought the “mummified body of the holy Fray Diego” from a nearby monastery and placed it beside Carlos in his bed. (REALLY??) He actually began to recover, but “all reports agree that before long it became clear that he was mad.” Over the next few years he “revelled in sadism and suffered periods of manic and murderous fury.” He even was said to have attacked the Inquisitor General, and attempted to escape to Germany. It was after all this that his father resorted to turning Carlos’s room into a prison. “All doors and windows were nailed shut and no one but his jailers was allowed to speak to the Prince. Carlos was never seen again in public.” On July 24, the announcement came that Carlos had died. The story given by the king was that Carlos had attempted to kill himself several times and finally succumbed to a fever. “In all probability Carlos died of slow poisoning on his father’s orders.” Because otherwise, the mad prince would have inherited the throne. And we couldn’t have that, now could we?
Today’s birthday is Edgar Allen Poe, born on this date in 1809. I don’t have to tell you who he was, do I?
Oh, and…go Ravens!! Beat the Patriots!!
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! Psalm 27:7-9
“O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship may give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (From The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle)
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you during this time of scripture reading and devotion.
Today, I’m reading Isaiah 20.
1 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it—
2 at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
3 Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush,
4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.
5 Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast.
6 And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?’”
This is one of the stranger passages in Isaiah, stating that Isaiah, at the command of God, walked naked and barefoot for three years! The message that was sent was given in verse 4. In the same way, the king Assyria would lead Egyptian and Cushite captives. The idea was to show the futility of placing hope and trust in men.
Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Testifying About Jesus.” The scripture reference is Acts 10:34-43.
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,
35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),
37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed:
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,
40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear,
41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
(Keep in mind, I am still in the middle of the section called “The With-God Life.”) “The central theme of the book of Acts is the forward thrust of God’s activity in history.” Luke gives us a very deep and detailed account of our life with God in this book. “It is here that we see God’s aim of forming an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the very center.” The church, nay, the Church is established in the pages of this book. Those who had the gift of evangelism were sent out into the world with the good news of “God’s love to all humanity.” Miraculous transformations in people are seen, not the least of which is indicated in the passage quoted above. This is the same Peter who ran away, tail between his legs, from a handmaiden who asked if he had been one of those who followed Jesus. See the boldness with which he speaks now! The Church, in the book of Acts, becomes “a blessing without equal.”
Does the Church continue to be a “blessing without equal” in our world today? I know that there would be many who would loudly proclaim that she has not. And I might not argue with them. But it all depends on which “branch” of the Church you are looking at. Unfortunately, the ones that draw the most attention, the ones that make the most noise, seem to be the ones who have forgotten the meaning of the words grace and mercy. They seem to be on a mission, but not the right mission. They seem to be on a mission to get rid of all the evil by eradicating sin. But the Church’s mission is to create worshipers, to create disciples. And disciples should be about the business of creating more disciples, not bothering about politics, and so on. I don’t have time to continue on this soapbox. But I will say that there are parts of the Church that are still doing a fine job of being a “blessing without equal.” They just don’t make the evening news.
How does all of this fit into the subject of “The With-God Life?” The Church is our main means of experiencing this life. There are many who believe that they can “experience God” without the Church. I no longer believe this to be true. Oh, sure, you can experience a little bit of God without the Church. But when the body of Christ meets together, when the community of faith joins together, there are hundreds of personalities that are merged together with the personality of Jesus Christ, and there is nothing that equals the communion that happens at this point. God is experienced in ways that cannot even be described. It is truly supernatural and cannot be experienced solo.
Father, today, my prayer is for the Church, the Body of Christ. I pray that she might truly be “a blessing without equal” in our world today. I know that there will always be false prophets out there, who will lead portions of your people astray. I pray that you would remove those people from their “thrones” of judgmentalism and send true prophets to teach your people the truth. I pray that your Church in the world today would be a dispenser of your grace, not a dispenser of “ungrace,” as Phillip Yancey calls it. I pray that the true message of the love of Jesus Christ will flourish and prosper in your Church, worldwide. I pray that you would supply the needs of your children in the Church. I pray that we, your Church, would live holy lives, by the power of Jesus Christ in us. I pray that we would have consistent, joyful attitudes. I pray that we, your Church, would be praying people. May we truly “pray without ceasing!” I pray that we would increase in love for each other! That’s a tough one for us, much of the time, as we seem to be very concerned about those motes in everyone else’s eyes. I pray that you would glorify yourself through your Church. I pray that you would give us wisdom, teach us your ways, that we may walk in your truth. And I pray that your people would be generous with the resources that we have been given by you.
I pray for the remainder of this day. May our errands (grocery shopping, and so forth) go smoothly, and may my practice time be productive and efficient. I pray that we will get some good rest later today, and that I will have a good workout this evening. May you fill us with your grace and wisdom today.
I will do my part, for as long as I live, to make sure that my little corner of the Church continues to be “a blessing without equal.”
Grace and peace, friends.