When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

Good morning. It is Saturday, August 1, 2015. Welcome to August.

Tough choice for word of the day, today. So tough, I’m not choosing. I’m going to give you both of them! The word of the day from Merriam Webster is skulduggery, a noun, meaning, “underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; also : a devious device or trick.” I’ve always been a fan of that word. The other one, from dictionary.com, is noctambulous. I mean, who couldn’t love that word, right? It means, “of, relating to, or given to sleepwalking.” So let’s see if we can get on with some noctambulous skulduggery, here!

Today is Mead Day. No, not Margaret. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made with honey. It is similar to wine, but much, much sweeter. It is also very difficult to find, being a throwback to the days of knights and ladies of the court. Every year, when we visit Scarborough Renaissance Festival, I make it a point to have a glass of mead. It’s quite delicious, in my opinion. Perhaps I will see if I can scrounge some up, today, but I have my doubts.

I wound up working until just shy of 6:00 PM last night. Christi and I actually got off work at almost the same time, so that turned out okay. She stopped and got our Sonic drinks, and I ordered pizza. We didn’t stay up too terribly late, because she had to get up and go in by 6:00, this morning. But she’s already back home, and everything seems to be working correctly, which is good news.

We don’t have much planned for today, I reckon. We’ll get some lunch, and have our prayer and worship gatherings this evening. Tomorrow, we will go get our groceries, along with some for Christi’s mom and step-dad. Usual Sunday stuff. After that, who knows. Perhaps we will go bowling this weekend. We have decided that we don’t need another activity added to our weekly schedule, so we won’t be bowling in a league, just yet. Beginning Monday, I have band practice again on Monday nights; I have Huddle on Tuesdays; Christi has bowling on Tuesdays (currently over, but they are planning a winter league); Christi has Huddle on Thursday; we have church on Saturday. If we add a bowling league to that already frenetic schedule, we will have something five nights a week. That’s just too much. Maybe after our Huddles are done, we will look into something, but who knows. For now, we will stick to casual bowling on Sunday afternoons, whenever we get the chance.

The Rangers and Red Sox both won again, last night. The Rangers have a three-game winning streak on, while the Red Sox have won two in a row, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. Cole Hamels, newly acquired by the Rangers, will be pitching in tonight’s game.

On this date in 1876, Colorado became the 38th U.S. state. In 1902, the U.S. bought rights to the Panama Canal from France. In 1941, the first Jeep was produced. In 1944, Anne Frank made the last entry in her diary. On this date in 1966, Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, after which he took numerous guns to the Tower on the campus of the University of Texas, where he killed 14 more people and wounded 32 others, from the observation deck of the tower. The tower was closed for a while, reopened and closed again several times, due to suicide jumps, 9/11, and other events. It has been open to visitors since 2004. On this date in 1981, MTV aired its first music video. It was, as is commonly known, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Buggles. I’m not sure when MTV played its last music video. (Sarcasm, there.)

Today’s birthdays include Claudius (Roman Emperor), William Clark (American explorer), Frances Scott Key (Star Spangled Banner), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Dom DeLuise (American actor/comedian), Yves Saint Laurent (French fashion designer), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Tommy Bolin (American musician), Robert Cray (American blues musician), Joe Elliott (English musician, Def Leppard), and Madison Bumgarner (American baseball player). Also born on this date was my granddaddy, D.W. Vinson.

Joe Eliott is the lead singer for the rock group Def Leppard. He turns 56 today, and they are still touring. I think they are going to be playing in the DFW area soon. One of my work associates keeps asking me if I’m going to see them. :-) Here is their hit, “Pour Some Suger On Me.”

Notable deaths on this date include Marc Antony, Calamity Jane, and Charles Whitman (see history notes above).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 30 and Matthew 9. In Genesis 30, we pick up the ongoing tale of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob. Leah has had four children, and Rachel has had none. “Give me children, or I shall die!” she declares to Jacob. Jacob, flustered, says, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” So Rachel gives Jacob her servant, Bilhah. Because that worked out so well for Sarah, you know.

Leah’s sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Through Bilhah, Rachel had Dan and Naftali. Then Leah decided to get in on this act, since she had stopped having children. She sent her servant, Zilpah, in to Jacob. Zilpah had Gad and Asher. After this, Leah conspired with Rachel to get the mandrakes that Rachel had found. Apparently mandrakes had some kind of fertility characteristics. So, then, Leah had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. After this, Rachel had Joseph. That’s eleven, so far. Oh, and there was a daughter in there, who barely gets mentioned, Dinah.

At this point, Jacob starts trying to get away from Laban. It takes some scheming, as we will find out, for Laban was every bit as good a trickster as Jacob.

Rich Mullins wrote a song about this whole ordeal that Jacob went through.

In Matthew 9, we get a truncated account of Jesus’s healing of the paralytic that was brought to a house by friends. After this, Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector, to follow him, and has lunch with him. This gets criticism from the Pharisees, because they really hate tax collectors. Matthew gives us quick accounts of Jesus raising a girl from the dead, healing a woman who had been sick for twelve years, healing two blind men, and casting a demon out of a man who had been unable to speak.

At the end of chapter 9, Jesus gives this instruction to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Today’s Psalm from Heart Aflame is Psalm 89:34-35.

I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David.

(From Solid Joys)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Today’s reading is “Our Weakness Reveals His Worth.”

Our suffering magnifies Jesus Christ’s worth and power. This is God’s design for us. And this is grace, because our greatest joy is to see “Christ magnified in our lives.”

Right before the verse above, from 2 Corinthians, Paul had pleaded with the Lord to remove what he simply called a “thorn in the flesh.” We have no idea what this means. There is never any indication of what this “thorn in the flesh” was. We only know that the Lord refused to remove it from Paul’s life, responding, instead, with the verse that is quoted above. “God ordains that Paul be weak so that Christ might be seen as strong on Paul’s behalf.”

This is one of those things that is seen to be foolish by those who do not believe as we do. But we know that, if we appear to be self-sufficient, God does not get glory. Instead, we get glory. That is not our goal, nor our desire. Remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

So Paul, as he experienced this grace, rejoiced in it.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Living by faith in God’s grace means being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus. Therefore faith will not shrink back from what reveals and magnifies all that God is for us in Jesus. That is what our own weakness and suffering does.”

Father, may my faith not shrink back when suffering is ahead. I have not truly suffered for your sake. I cannot ever say that I have. But I have been weak before men, and will continue to do so, if being weak makes you appear to be stronger. I am surrounded by men who act as though they are strong. I pray daily that all of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ will rejoice in our weaknesses that make you stronger. May we say, along with Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I pray for this day, that you will be glorified in what we do today. May our prayer and worship gatherings be strong in you today. May we lift your name high, both in prayer, and in worship. May we rejoice in you, and may we hear the proclamation of your word, and receive what you have to tell us today.

Your grace is sufficient in all things.

May we rejoice in our weakness, knowing that it makes Christ appear stronger.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Birthdays, Daily Bible Reading, Devotions, Heart Aflame, History, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Solid Joys, Word of the Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Spirit as Intercessor

Good morning. It is Friday, July 31, 2015. Last day of July.

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is mampus. This is a noun, simply meaning, “A great number, a crowd.” An example sentence is given, from Thomas Hardy’s Dynasts, in 1904. “What a mampus o’ folk it is here to-day!”

Today is System Administration Appreciation Day Also known as Sysadmin Day (or SAD, for short), it is a day to shower your IT peeps with love and kindness. After all, where would your business be without them, right?

Today is the day that Christi will be working late because they are migrating some systems tonight, speaking of Syadmins. She said they are appreciating them by making them work all night. :-) I’m not exactly sure what is happening, but the word “migration” was in her description of it. What I do know is that it is the official beginning of the new bowling year tomorrow. Most leagues won’t be starting up for a few more weeks, yet, but the systems need to be in place and working before that happens. The last time I was in a league, I think everything was still done on paper. How the times have changed. The USBC even has a phone app, now, where you can find all your data if you are a member.

Today is also the day that I might have to work late, just like every Friday. It all depends on how much freight we get in today. If it is a mampus, we will likely work late, because all the receiving has to be finished today.

The Red Sox won a game last night. That’s a big deal, lately. The Rangers won, as well, managing to split the series with the Evil Empire. That helped the Red Sox, too. Thank you, Rangers. Also, it is expected to be confirmed today that the Rangers have traded Matt Harrison and five other minor league players for Cole Hamels and a reliever, from the Phillies. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. Hamels recently pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies, who are the worst team in MLB right now. He is also 31 years old, which isn’t exactly young for a MLB pitcher. Sure, Nolan Ryan pitched for something like 27 seasons. But that was Nolan Ryan.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 28-29 and Matthew 8. Genesis 28 begins with Isaac sending Jacob away to Laban’s place, his uncle. I think I misspoke yesterday, saying that he was Rebekah’s uncle. He was her brother, and Jacob’s uncle. When Esau heard Isaac tell Jacob not to take a Canaanite wife, he went and did exactly that, since he was all about not pleasing his parents. Jacob, during his travels, has the “Jacob’s Ladder” dream, in which God promises him the same promise he made Abraham. Jacob names the place Bethel, which means “House of God.”

A lot of time passes in Genesis 29. Laban’s true nature comes out, as he deceives Jacob. Jacob works seven years in order to gain the hand of Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. But on the wedding night, Laban sends Leah in to Jacob, instead of Rachel. When Jacob complains the next morning, Laban tells him that it is against their traditions to wed the younger before the elder, but if Jacob will work another seven years for him, he can have Rachel, too. Jacob eagerly agrees. Leah had four sons, while Rachel remained barren, the reason given being that the Lord saw that Jacob hated Leah.

Matthew 8 begins with Jesus healing a leper. This is followed by the story of the Centurion who came, asking Jesus to heal his servant, but stating that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home. “Only say the word, and my servant will be healed,” the Centurion said, causing Jesus to marvel at his faith. Later, Jesus goes to Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law (the only indication we ever get that Peter was married), as well as many other people who are brought to the house that evening. Several people come to Jesus, asking to follow him, but he actually discourages them, letting them know how difficult it is. After this, as Jesus and the disciples are going across the lake, Jesus calms a storm. The chapter ends with Jesus casting demons out of two men, sending the demons into a herd of pigs.

Today’s Psalm from Heart Aflame is Psalm 89:32-33. It is the continuation of the sentence from yesterday’s reading.

. . . then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes,
but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness.

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

The last time we visited this book, we talked about the Spirit of adoption which allows us to call God “Abba.” There is another way the Spirit helps us in prayer. He is also an intercessor for us, as seen in Romans 8:26-28.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

There is some debate over what the “groanings” are, but Keller states that it is the fact that, even though we know the truth of Romans 8:28, “seldom can we discern what that good actually is. In other words, most of the time, we don’t know exactly what outcome we should pray for.” I have experience this many times, especially when engaging in intercessory prayer. Someone might request prayer for a specific outcome, and I cannot discern in my spirit if this is the outcome they truly need, so I’m not sure how to pray. In these cases, “the Spirit . . . makes our groaning his groaning, putting his prayers to the Father inside our prayers.” He also places within us “a deep, inexpressible longing to do God’s will and see his glory.” As this happens, our Father hears us “praying for what is both truly best for us and pleasing to him.” “The Spirit enables us to long for the future glory of God and his will, even though we don’t know the specific thing we should pray for her and now.”

Father, increase my faith and confidence in this Spirit as intercessor. Help me to know that, even when I don’t know what is truly best to pray for, the Spirit is interceding along with me, putting his prayers inside mine, assuring that your answer to those prayer will be what is best for everyone concerned, most especially for the sake of your glory. So often, I can only pray, “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” I have prayed for what people have requested, but not felt that this was the best outcome for them. In those cases, I believe that your Spirit helps my prayer by interceding and asking for what is truly your will. Give me this confidence when I pray.

I pray for this day, as always, asking for traveling grace in both directions. May your grace fill our day with peace and not stress. However, whatever may come, may we be in tune with your Spirit, and centered on your holiness. I pray for Stephanie, today, that she would know your great lovingkindness. I continue to pray for Rachel’s thesis process, that you would give her confidence to know that she has done a good job and to properly defend her thesis. May your grace and mercy fall on my mother, and I pray that, if she ventures out with friends today, she will have an awesome time.

Your grace is truly amazing and sufficient.

May we all have the confidence to know that, when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us, making our prayers line up with God’s perfect will.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Prayer, Devotions, Psalms, Word of the Day, Holidays, Heart Aflame, Daily Bible Reading | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Unshakeable Faith

Good morning. It is Thursday, July 30, 2015. Pre-Friday. Or Friday Eve, if you prefer.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is grandiloquence. This is a noun, meaning, “a lofty, extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic style, manner, or quality especially in language.” I guess you would say that campaign speeches might be full of grandiloquence.

Today is Paperback Book Day. If it has the word “book” in it, I’m all over it. Anyone who knows me for very long knows I love books. And it just so happens that I finished a book last night, so I need to choose my next one. It just might turn out to be a paperback. Who knows? Just for kicks, here’s a song about paperback books.

Christi has her Huddle meeting tonight, assuming she can get away from work on time. They have some very important projects that they are working on, and the new bowling season begins this weekend.

Yesterday was a stressful day for both of us. Of course, my stress level will probably never be as high as Christi’s. Her’s is coming from an outside source. Mine came from an apparent mistake from a month ago. Since I don’t even remember the situation, it’s difficult to figure out why it happened. Oh, well. As they say, “This, too, shall pass.”

After losing to the Evil Empire 21-5 Tuesday night, the Rangers managed to pull off a win, last night. The Sox, on the other hand, have lost three consecutive games to the Other Sox. I’m pretty sure that, in all three games, the Other Sox have scored at least five runs in the first inning. This is getting old.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 26-27 and Matthew 7. Genesis 26 begins with God extending the Abraham covenant to Isaac. Isaac settles in Gerar, where Abimelech was still king. Isaac, being a chip off the old block, pretended that Rebekah was his sister. Abimelech, being used to this trick by now, didn’t fall for it. At least not for very long. The Lord blessed Isaac, in spite of his deceitfulness, and he became very rich. After a few quarrels over wells, Abimelech comes to Isaac and makes a covenant with him. Isaac then digs a well and names the place Beersheba. At the end of the chapter, Esau takes a couple of Hittite wives, making life “bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”

In Genesis 27, Jacob steals Isaac’s blessing, with a little help from his mother. Isaac, now blind, tells Esau to go hunt and prepare a meal for him, that he might receive the blessing of his father. While Esau is gone, Rebekah takes goats from their flock, prepares the food, and sends Jacob to Isaac, wearing some of Esau’s clothes, so that he smells like Esau. The trick works, and Jacob gets the blessing. The blessing was a very important part of their lives, and when Esau finally showed up with his food, Isaac could not give him the same blessing. Now, Esau has lost his birthright and his blessing, both at the hands of his younger brother (they were twins, but Esau came out first). Esau is very angry and vows to kill Jacob after Isaac dies. At the end, Rebekah is making plans to send Jacob away to her uncle Laban’s place.

In Matthew 7, Jesus is still teaching his disciples. He begins by telling them about judging, and the speck and the log. Then he tells them to ask, seek, and knock. If we desire to receive gifts from our Father, we need but to ask. If our children ask us for bread, we don’t give them snakes. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (v 11) Jesus gives them the Golden Rule next, followed by warnings about false prophets. A bad tree can’t bear good fruits. Not everyone who claims to know Jesus will enter into the Kingdom. Only those who do the will of the Father will enter. He finishes with the parable of the two men, one who built his house on the rock, and the other who built his house on the sand. The house on the rock stood, while the house on the sand fell. A good foundation is crucial to our spiritual lives.

Today’s Psalm from Heart Aflame is Psalm 89:30-31.

30 If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules,
31 if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,

Not sure why the editors chose to stop in mid-thought like that.

(From Solid Joys)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:2-3

Today’s reading is “Suffering That Strengthens Faith.”

One of the main reasons that our faith is shaken by suffering is “to make our faith more unshakable.” Piper compares faith to muscle tissue. When we stretch and strain our muscles through exercise, they get stronger. Our faith is the same. “When your faith is threatened and tested and stretched to the breaking point, the result is greater capacity to endure.”

Be not deceived. Our God will test our faith and stretch it to breaking point in order to “keep it pure and strong.” Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. Paul says that the purpose of this suffering (“But that was to”) was so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God alone. Note the implication of future grace in the phrase, “who raises the dead.”

God values our faith so much that, if need be, he will take away everything else that matters to us. This is a frightening though, and one we must consider when we pray for more or stronger faith. “His aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence that he himself will be all we need.”

God desires that we be able to echo the Psalmist who said, Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Father, at the risk of losing everything, teach me this faith. My heart’s desire is that my faith remain pure and strong. As I continue to struggle with emotion after losing my father, I recognize that, through this, my faith has been, for the most part, unshaken. Sure, there have been moments of doubt, but they have been quickly shoved away by your truth, grace, mercy, and love. Let my faith stay strong in you, Father. But more than that, I pray that anything that might be forcing its way in front of you in my desires, be taken away. I want nothing to take precedence over you in my life.

I pray for this day, that we might have safe passage to and from work. I pray for less stress today, but even if that doesn’t happen, I pray that we might be able to keep our sight focused on you through everything. I definitely had moments, yesterday, where I failed to do that. Remind me, Lord, by your Spirit. May your love rain down on Stephanie, Lord, and may Rachel feel your confidence as she prepares to defend her thesis. I give you thanks for things that have come through for my mother, and pray that you get her through other things that have come up.

Your grace is sufficient, Father. May you be enough for us.

If and when we go through suffering and struggle, we need to remember that God has a purpose for it, to keep our faith strong.

Grace and peace, friends.

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One Primary Purpose

Good morning. It is Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Hump Day. Only two more days in July (after today).

There are some really good words of the day, today, but I’m choosing the one from the Oxford English Dictionary, which is refulgent. Refulgent is an adjective, meaning, ” Shining with, or reflecting, a brilliant light; radiant, resplendent; gleaming, lustrous.” And, I’m not mistaken, it was one of Rachel’s spelling words in the Spelling Bee she participated in, back in Middle School. I remember how we all got a big kick out of her getting that word, because it sounds similar to “effulgent,” which was a word found in a poem, written by William the Bloody (later known as Spike), in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He had written the poem to try to win the love of Cecily. Sadly, it did not work, as she said, “You’re beneath me.” Anyway, here is the first line of the poem:

My heart,
Tis grown a bulge in it
Inspired by your beauty
Effulgent

They called him William the Bloody because of his “bloody awful poetry.”

Today is Lasagna Day! Huzzah for Garfield’s favorite food!!

I had a good time last night, hanging out with my Huddle group. Instead of our normal gathering, at the request of the leader, we all went to Houlihan’s for drinks and/or whatever. Rob, the leader, paid for the drinks, and we just hung out for about an hour and a half. Good times.

Christi finished out her bowling league at work. Her team wound up in second place, she thinks. We’re still looking at bowling in a fall league, but aren’t 100% sure, because they are talking about having a winter league at her work. In case anyone doesn’t know, she works for the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).

Today being Wednesday, we will have the evening to relax together. Tomorrow is Christi’s Huddle night.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 25, Matthew 6, and Psalm 127.

In Genesis 25, Abraham dies and is buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Jacob and Esau are born to Isaac and Rebekah, and Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew.

Matthew 6 continues the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches his disciples to be secretive about their generosity to the needy. Then he teaches them to pray, giving them a “model prayer.” He gives instructions on fasting, laying up treasures in heaven, and finally, concerning anxiety. This passage finishes up with two well-known verses. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Psalm 127
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Today’s Psalm in Heart Aflame is Psalm 89:9-29. That’s a lot of verses, so I will share excerpts.

11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
13 You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
20 I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 so that my hand shall be established with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him; the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
25 I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27 And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

When I see the same verse in more than one source, I tend to believe that there’s something for me to pay attention to. This morning, that verse is Matthew 6:34, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In today’s Daily Guideposts reading, Scott Walker writes of a time when he had been to the dermatologist, who removed a skin lesion from his arm. The doctor was concerned about it, and had it sent to the lab. Since the doctor was worried, Scott was also worried.

On the morning that he wrote this reading, the phone woke him up. Seeing that it was the doctor calling, he said his heart lurched, and his blood pressure soared. The doctor, however, had good news. There was nothing to worry about.

As he takes this all in, several hours later, he finds himself grateful for life. But he’s sixty-two, and realizes that none of us lives forever. There will be a day when the news is not good. In the final paragraph, he says this:

Above all, I affirm that each day I live will be acknowledged as a pure gift, a moment of time that is unique, unrepeatable, and must be savored. Second, I resolve to live each day with one primary purpose: to show love to at least one other child of God, animals included! And, finally, the greatest gift I can offer to God is my heartfelt thanksgiving. For it is simple gratitude that is the most healing medicine known to humankind, and it is thanksgiving that transcends all time and death.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Father, you are certainly good at arranging these readings. How I needed to read this today. For some reason, I have been experiencing anxiety, recently. Sometimes, there is a reason (whether it be good or bad), and other times, I can find no reason for it. But today, I read these words, and I see your purpose for me does not in any way include anxiety. So help me to let it go. I pray for the ability to live this day in gratitude and thanksgiving for the great and wonderful blessings you have put in my life. May I simply be grateful for life, itself, and that I live to carry on another day. May I be sure to show your love to all people today, not just one other, but all of them, no matter what the circumstances. All people need your love, Lord.

I pray for this day, that we would have safe passage to and from work. May you continue to protect Christi from stress and anxiety at work. May you show your great love to Stephanie today. Rachel is close to defending her thesis. Give her confidence in what she has written. She is so good at this, but lack confidence in herself. I pray that you lift her up, Father. Give grace to Mama as she does whatever she needs to do today.

We love you, Lord.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Prayer is Audible Faith

Good morning. It is Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Post-Monday.

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is accouterment. This is a noun, normally, I believe, heard in plural form, meaning, “personal clothing, accessories, etc.” Also, “the equipment, excluding weapons and clothing, of a soldier.”

Today is Milk Chocolate Day. What more needs to be said? If it has the word “chocolate” in it, I’m all in.

I’m already behind, this morning, because I slept through the alarm. Christi had to come in and yell at me to wake me up, almost fifteen minutes later. I think I scared her. Anyway, I need to get moving and get on with the non-persiflage. One thing I will mention is that Rachel has submitted her thesis!! She is steps away from completing her Master’s degree!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

My daily Bible reading for today is Genesis 24 and Matthew 5. I’m going to read those later in the day, however, due to the time.

Today’s Psalm from Heart Aflame is 89:1-8.

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah.
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?
O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 1:18

We have access to God, our Father, through Christ “in one Spirit.” Jonathan Edwards called prayer “the voice of faith.” Keller says, “Anyone with real faith will desire to pray because, through the Spirit, prayer is faith become audible.”

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Romans 8:14-16

The Spirit fills us with confidence in God’s love, rather than fear. The word, “Abba,” is comparable to the exclamation, “Papa!” With this word, we are given a more intimate connection with the Father that the Jews of Jesus’s day did not have. “Abba” was considered too “homely and affectionate” to be appropriate.

We aren’t talking about an “emergency flare” or a “desperate, anxious gamble. The spirit gives believers an existential, inward certainty that their relationship with God does not now depend on their performance as it does in the relationship between an employer and a supervisor.” Our relationship depends only on the “parental love” of our Father, which is promised to us for all eternity. “The Holy Spirit takes a theological proposition and turns it into an inner confidence and joy.” Faith turns into prayer.

Perhaps this is well-illustrated by a part of Martin Luther’s prayer:

Although . . . you could rightly and properly be a severe judge over us sinners . . . now through your mercy implant in our hearts a comforting trust in your fatherly love, and let us experience the sweet and pleasant savor of a childlike certainty that we may joyfully call you Father, knowing and loving you and calling on you in every trouble.

Father, help me to know you daily as “Abba!” May the spirit place this intimate trust within my heart, that I might know this inner confidence and joy that you are truly my Father, and that this relationship depends only on your love for me, not my performance. Thank you for the Spirit of adoption that you have placed in each one of us. May I recognize this daily.

I pray for this day, that our drive to work and back will be smooth and safe. May your grace fill this day for us. I pray for no drama and anxiety for Christi’s day, and that it will be productive for her. May your grace rain down on Stephanie, as we continue to wait for the results of her interviews. I pray especially for Rachel this morning, as she has submitted her thesis! May your grace go before it and pave the way for quick acceptance. Finally, I pray for your grace to fill my mother’s day, that she may know you as “Abba,” today, as well.

Your grace is sufficient.

“Prayer is faith become audible.” I love that line. I often say, in my prayers, that if I did not have faith, I would not be praying, and it is true. The very opening of the mouth and verbally expressing a need to God is faith in action.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Our Father

Good morning. It is Monday, July 27, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is nabob. This is a noun, meaning, “any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person.”

Today is Take Your Houseplant for A Walk Day. I don’t think so. However, it is also Walk On Stilts Day, so what if you took your houseplant for a walk on stilts? Now that would certainly be interesting!

We had a very nice time with our friends, last night. They cooked fajitas, and we had some great conversation, as well as watching their cute kids do stuff. It was a very nice time. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting groceries for Christi’s mom and stepdad, so it seemed like a very full day. There really isn’t much else to report about the day.

It’s back to work today, as the new week begins. Looking forward, August begins next Saturday, and rehearsals for the Southlake Community Band kick off again next Monday, August 3. I’ll be excited to get back into that. I’ll need to get a little practicing in this week. Oh, and Christi will more than likely be working next Saturday, because it is the beginning of the bowling year, and they have software rollouts that will be happening. It’s very important that they be working right.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 21-23 and Matthew 4. In Genesis 21, the promised son is born to Abraham and Sarah, and they name him Isaac. Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away, but God assures Abraham that they will be protected. Abraham makes a covenant with Abimelech.

In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Abraham proceeds to obey, and is stopped at the last minute by God, who then provides a ram for the sacrifice. God makes this promise to Abraham: “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (vv 16-18)

In Genesis 23, Sarah dies, and is buried “in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.” (v 19)

In Matthew 4, Jesus, after fasting forty days and nights, is tempted by the devil. Jesus resists, quoting Old Testament Scripture to him at each temptation. Immediately after this, Jesus went to live in Capernaum, where he began his ministry, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (v 17) He also calls his first disciples, Simon and Andrew, and James and John. His fame begins spreading, and great crowds begin to follow him.

Today’s Psalm reading, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 88.

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah.
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah.
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

God is not called “Father” very much in the Old Testament. But when the Trinity “becomes explicit in the New Testament,” we begin to see God’s fatherhood becoming prominent. “The Father sends the Son to save us from our sins so that we can become God’s adopted sons and daughters (Eph 1:3-10). When we are born again through faith in Christ, we receive the right to be his children and call on him as father (John 1:12-13).” God has sent his Spirit into our hearts, that same Spirit that cries out, “Abba, Father!”

We might hear people ask, “Aren’t all people God’s children?” It is true that, in a sense, God is the father of all people, “in the sense that Henry Ford is the father of the Model T.” But the word father “denotes a relationship of love and care.” We’ve all heard of young people who might say to their physical father, “You were never a real father to me!” Flesh and blood alone, does not make one a father.

There is a certain richness implied by the phrase “children of God.” These are those who have been “adopted into God’s family by grace through faith.” As God’s adopted sons and daughters, we have more than just a legal relationship with God. We are also “personally established in God’s fatherly love.” Because of the work of Christ, “we can run to our Father without fear. We have the most intimate and unbreakable relationship possible with the God of the universe.”

As true children of God, we have access. “We know God is attentively listening to us and watching us.”

So what does all of this have to do with prayer? “Prayer is the way to sense and appropriate this access and fatherly love, and to experience the calm and strength in one’s life that results from such assurance of being cared for.”

Father, as I pray today, may I know this access; may I know the reality of being able to run to you without fear. I thank you that you have chosen me as one whom you have adopted into your “family.” It is a joy to share the Supper each week with other members of this family. I pray for each of us, that we would all know this access and feel this same freedom in you through Christ.

I pray for this day, that our passage to work and back will be safe. I pray especially for Christi today, as the source of her drama is returning from vacation. Give her strength and wisdom, Father, and I pray you would intervene in some way to put an end to the stress and anxiety. May your grace be known to Stephanie today, and show your great love to her. I pray for Rachel and Justin in whatever they find themselves doing today, especially for Rachel, as she is so very close to finishing her Master’s studies. And may your presence be known by my mother, today, as she rests in you.

Father, several people have lost loved ones, over this past weekend. I pray for comfort for these families as they grieve their loss.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we truly know our Father in heaven, through our prayers and through our reading of Scripture. May we know the love he has for us and how much he cares for us.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Prayer and The Trinity

Good morning. It is Sunday, July 26, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is abulia. This is a noun, meaning, “abnormal lack of ability to act or to make decisions.” A good example would be, “Every time my family tries to decide what to have for dinner, everyone is stricken with abulia.”

Today is One Voice Day. This is a day when people all over the world unite to read the Universal Peace Covenant in “one voice.” You can find the Universal Peace Covenant online, by clicking on the link.

I really missed having my devotional time, yesterday morning, but, having to be at work by 7:00 AM would require me to get up even earlier than usual. Am I saying my sleep is more important than my devotion to God? Not at all. I honestly don’t believe that God cares if I miss a day every now and then. It’s my true devotion that’s more important than the ritualistic things I do to display that devotion.

Anyway . . . I had a really great day at work, perhaps the best Saturday ever. When I got there, there was almost literally nothing to do. The evening shift from the day before had completed all the make-ready except for one item, and when I tried to do the make-ready on it, there was a problem which prevented it. So I spent the morning receiving some stuff that didn’t have any kind of time restrictions on it, which made for a pretty relaxing day, since it didn’t matter if I finished or not. But I did finish, with about thirty minutes to spare. And we never got any new UPS or FedEx shipments, either, which made it even better.

I was home before 1:00 PM, had a quick shower, and we went to Fogata’s for lunch. Then we picked up some stuff for the pool party, after which we went up to church. We had a nice prayer gathering and worship gathering. Jacob’s message was difficult, but good. Very stirring. After church, we stopped by Walmart Neighborhood Market for some snacks and went home. The rest of the Pastoral Assist Team arrived not too long after, and we had a great time relaxing in and by the pool in the back yard. Jacob brought pizza, we had our snacks, and we spent several hours just talking and laughing, mostly about movies and comedians. Great times!

Today, we have to get our weekly groceries, and then, I think we are having dinner with some friends from church. Hopefully that will be early enough that we can get some rest before bed-time tonight.

On this date in 1745, the first recorded women’s cricket match took place. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress formed what would eventually become the United States Post Office Department. In 1788, New York became the 11th state of the United States. And, in 1882, Richard Wagner’s Parsifal was debuted at Bayreuth.

Today’s birthdays include George Bernard Shaw (Irish writer), Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist), Aldous Huxley (English-born author), Gracie Allen (American actress/comedian), Vivian Vance (American actress), Jason Robards (American actor), Blake Edwards (American film director), Hoyt Wilhelm (American baseball player), Jan Berenstain (American author), Stanley Kubrick (American film director), Joe Jackson (Jackson 5 daddy), Bob Lilly (American football player), Dobie Gray (American singer), Mick Jagger (English singer), Helen Mirren (English actress), Roger Taylor (English drummer, Queen), Susan George (English actress), Dorothy Hamill (American figure skater), Nana Visitor (American actress), Kevin Spacey (American actor), Sandra Bullock (American actress), Olivia Williams (English actress, Dollhouse), Kate Beckinsale (British actress), and Rebecca St. James (Australian singer).

Wow. There are a lot of big birthdays today. But I’m picking one that my dad would have enjoyed. Going way back to a day when the Dallas Cowboys mattered (in other words, pre-Jerry), and when football was still a man’s game, one of the greatest defensive players to play in the game was Bob Lilly. Lilly turns 76 years old today, born in 1939 in Olney, Texas. Here is a video, highlighting his induction into the Big Country Hall of Fame.

Pope Paul II, Sam Houston, William Jennings Bryan, Eva Peron, Ed Gein, and George Gallup are among notable deaths on this date.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

My Bible reading for today is Psalm 11, Genesis 19-20, and Matthew 3.

To the choirmaster. Of David.
In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 11

Genesis 19 is one of the most tragic chapters in the Bible, in my opinion. The Lord sends angels to rescue Lot from the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The wicked men of Sodom attempted to get the angels out of Lot’s house so they could rape them. Lot actually tried to send his virgin daughter’s out to the men, to try to protect the angels (thanks a lot, Dad??), but the angels struck the men blind. Lot, upon the instructions of the angels, attempted to get his future sons-in law to come with him, but they thought he was joking. And even when it was time to get out, Lot hesitated! The angels had to physically grab him, his wife, and his two daughters, to get them to leave the city. This is a tremendous indication of how much power sin has over peoples’ lives!

The next morning, God rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah, completely destroying them. Lot’s wife, still longing for the life that she had, turned back to look, and was turned into a pillar of salt. After they were safe, Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had sex with him, both becoming pregnant by their own father. The oldest daughter had a son named Moab; the younger had a son named Ben-ammi. Both the Moabites and the Ammonites were enemies of Israel. Once again . . . all could have been avoided if Abraham had simply followed God’s instructions when he left Haran.

In Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah lived in Gerar. Once again, Abraham played the “Sarah is my sister” card, to Abimelech, king of Gerar. When Abimelech sent for Sarah, God set him straight, telling him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist is portrayed, preparing the way for Jesus. Jesus shows up and requests to be baptized by John. John tried to resist, saying that he should have been baptized, instead, by Jesus. But Jesus insisted, saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” After the baptism, we get one of the first real life representations of the Trinity, as the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Yesterday’s reading from Heart Aflame, was Psalm 86:11-17.

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.
Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

“In the word unite there is very beautiful metaphor, conveying the idea, that the heart of man is full of tumult, drawn asunder, and, as it were, scattered about in fragments, until God has gathered it to himself, and holds it together in a state of stedfast [sic] and persevering obedience.” (John Calvin)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Chapter five is called “Encountering God.” Even though we consider prayer to be conversation with God, some conversations can consist of nothing more than exchanging information. “We do not want just to know about God, but to know God, to seek his face and presence.” When we read the words of the prophets in Scripture, we “encounter God in action.”

There is a primary theological truth at work here: “We address a triune God, and our prayers can be heard only through the distinct work of every person in the Godhead.” This triune nature of God can be found explicitly in the New Testament, even though the term “Trinity” is never found in Scripture. Matthew 28:19 is a great example, when Jesus tells his disciples that they are to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We believe it to be important that the word “name” in that verse is singular. While, in our culture, the word “name” might indicate a label or brand, in Biblical times, “it denoted the very nature and being of a person. This means the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all share one divine nature, that they are one being. There is only one God–not three.” But the Father, Son, and Holly Spirit are all equally God.

There are many implications for prayer in this truth. God has within himself “a perfect friendship. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are adoring one another, giving glorifying love to one another, and delighting in one another.” God is “profoundly happy.” Jonathan Edwards argues that the reason God created us (obviously, he did not need anything else to complete his happiness) was to share this incredibly profound happiness with us. Augustine argues that our ability to love one another comes only as an “image of the internal Trinitarian love that we were created to reflect.” So when we pray, we enter into the very “happiness of God himself.”
(pp 66-68)

Father, as I continue this journey in prayer, I want to enter into this profound happiness that exists in you. Let me experience the joy that exists only between you, the Son, and the Spirit. Let me know you more, as I engage in Scripture reading each day. Let me find your presence in the words of the prophets, words that you spoke through them to your people. I desire to be in the center of your holiness, dwelling there, daily, knowing fully your presence and the joy that would come from that. I pray that daily circumstances would not steal my joy. I pray that my frequent inability to resist the flesh and its temptations would not steal my joy. Give me strength, as I continue to pray to you. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

I pray for the rest of this day, as we run errands and fellowship with other believers. I pray also, that we will have some rest, as we prepare for another week ahead. May your sweet grace and mercy rain down on our family, on Christi, Stephanie, Rachel, Justin, and Mama.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we know God’s grace and joy in the Trinity, and may that affect our prayer lives dramatically!

Grace and peace, friends.

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