Justified

Good morning. It is Saturday, February 28, 2015. The last day of this wretched month. Also, 37 more days until Opening Day.

Today’s word of the day is pantoglottism. This is a noun, simply meaning, “Knowledge of all languages.” That is a lot of knowledge.

Today is World Sword Swallower’s Day I bet you didn’t know that was a thing. FYI though, I don’t plan on trying that.

I’ll just come right out and say that the drive home from work yesterday was nothing short of terrifying. At around noon, they finally came around and said we could leave if we wanted to. They made us use PTO for the rest of the day, but that’s a different story for a different time. So I left work at around 12:30 or so. I got home at 2:15 (there was a brief stop at a Sonic drive-in along the way, but that was less than ten minutes). My GPS (I use the Waze app), took me to some very strange places. Of course, I had told it to avoid highways, because I had no idea what they were going to look like. For the most part, the drive was not dangerous, but there were a few places that scared the ever-loving daylights out of me. One of those was when the GPS took me across Fairway Blvd in Grapevine, which runs right alongside the lake. It was a completely straight stretch of road, about a mile or so long. There was a rut of slushy tracks down the middle of my lane, and about a thousand cars coming the other direction. The only other vehicle close to me was the one behind me, that obviously thought I was going too slow (I hit 40 at one point on this road!). The road is also elevated. So on my right side was a small railing and about a forty foot drop down to the lake. As cliche and cheesy as this may sound, at one point, I literally said, “Jesus, take the wheel.” (That is in no way, shape, or form, an endorsement of that song.) There was one other spot where I was crossing a major street that didn’t have stop signs, and I experienced difficulty getting traction about halfway across. There was another vehicle coming from the side, but about 100 yards away. It was quite tense. Both Christi and I were exhausted by the time we got home. It took her just as long to get home from Arlington as it did me from Carrollton.

We slept until 10:00 AM again this morning, so it will (and already is) be after noon before I get finished with this. At this point, we are still planning to have our prayer and worship gatherings, this evening, beginning at 4:45. The street outside our house is solid ice, but I hear the main roads are better and safely navigable.

It was on this date in 1993 that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian facility in Waco, Texas. They had a warrant to arrest the leader, David Koresh. In the initial raid, four ATF agents and five Davidians died, and a 51-day standoff began. The ordeal ended tragically as the facility burned, killing most of the people inside. The ATF claims that the fires were deliberately started by the Branch Davidians, and the few survivors claim that the fires were started by the bureau, either by accident, caused by the assault, or deliberately.

Today’s birthdays include Bugsy Siegel (gangster), Milton Caniff (cartoonist), Zero Mostel (actor), Charles Durning (actor), Hayden Fry (football coach), Gavin MacLeod (actor), Joe South (singer/songwriter), Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Bubba Smith (football player/actor), Mercedes Ruehl (actress), Bernadette Peters (actress), Gilbert Gottfried (comedian), Cindy Wilson (B-52s), John Turturro (actor), Dorothy Stratten (actress), Rae Dawn Chong (actress), Patrick Monahan (lead singer/Train), Rory Cochrane (actor), and Ali Larter (actress).

Joe South was an American singer/songwriter, born on this date in 1940. He passed away in 2012, at the age of 72. One of his more famous songs, “Rose Garden,” was actually more popular by country artist, Lynn Anderson. She actually won a Grammy award for this song, and Joe had two Grammy nominations for the song. The most popular single that he recorded was probably “Games People Play.” He had many songs recorded by other people, including this song, recorded by Deep Purple.

Here is Joe South’s version.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
Psalm 19:7

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “Finally and Totally Justified.”

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Romans 8:33

Paul could have answered his own question with, “No one! We are justified!” But instead, he says, “It is God who justifies.” The emphasis, here, is on the one who acts, rather than the act, itself.

In our world, the acquittal of one judge might be overturned by one who is higher. Let’s say a local judge acquits you. The governor is higher; he might overturn that decision. And if the governor acquits you, the emperor might overturn it.

When Paul says, “It is God who justifies,” he is pointing out that, above God, there is no higher court! So when God acquits me and calls me righteous, there is no appeal; no one can overturn it; no one can bring further charges against me. “God’s sentence is final and total.”

“So hear this, all who will believe on Jesus, and become united to Christ, and show yourself among the elect: God is the one who justifies you. Not a human judge. Not a great prophet. Not an archangel from heaven. But God, the Creator of the world and Owner of all things and Ruler of the universe and every molecule and person in it, God is the one who justifies you.

“The point: unshakable security in the face of tremendous suffering. If God is for us, no one can successfully be against us. If God gave his Son for us, he will give us everything that is good for us. If God is the one who justifies us, no charge against us can stand.”

Father, my praise for your justification is hardly enough. I can type words here all day long, and it’s not enough. The fact of of our justification in Christ Jesus is truly more than we can fully comprehend. Yet, I can comprehend it enough to be grateful and praise you for it. I thank you that there is no higher judge or court that can condemn what you have called righteous. How you are able to call me righteous, I still grapple with. Nevertheless, I believe and accept it. You have called me righteous in Christ Jesus. Now I pray that you help me to fully apprehend this truth. Help me to live in that righteousness, day by day, minute by minute. May that righteousness in the life of Christ govern how I react in every situation and circumstance, that I might be faithful to share the kingdom every day.

I pray for the rest of this day. As we attempt to get out to our worship gathering, I pray for safety for all who get out on the roads today. I pray that there will be a decent showing tonight, for this important event in the life of our band of believers. Regardless of how many show up, though, I pray that your name will be lifted high and glorified in all that happens.

This is great news for us, O believers! And a word that we would do well to remember. Justified!! We are fully justified by our Father, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There is no one higher; no one who can accuse; no one who can appeal; no one who can bring any charge against us! Justified!!

romans 8 33

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Birthdays, Devotions, History, Holidays, Prayer, Psalms, Solid Joys, Word of the Day | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jesus and Judas

Good morning. It is Friday, February 27, 2015. 38 days until Opening Day. One more day in February.

Today’s word of the day is nescient. Another word that can be an adjective or a verb. As an adjective, it means, 1. ” Ignorant. Freq. with of,” 2. “Agnostic; (asserting that mankind is) incapable of understanding the ultimate constitution of reality.” As a noun, it means, “An agnostic. Obs. rare.”

Today is Polar Bear Day. And a right fine day for that it is, too.

Polar Bear Day is a great segue (not “Segway”) into this section. It seems that February is going out with a bang, so to speak. the current temperature is either 31 or 27, depending on which source you look at. It’s supposed to snow, either starting at 8:00 AM or right now, again, depending on the source, and continue snowing until around 4:00 to 5:00 PM, after which it is supposed to become freezing drizzle. All night long (cue Lionel Ritchie).

I’m going to work after I finish this. Will I get home tonight? Only God knows the answer to that one.

Prayers would be appreciated for Christi’s family. Her step-dad fell out of his chair several times over the past few days. One of their friends wound up taking him to the ER yesterday. He frequently needs to have fluid pumped from his stomach, and is on regular dialysis, as well. At one point, they were saying things “didn’t look good” for him. The friend kept calling Christi, telling her that someone needed to go stay with her mom, and, at one point, insinuated that she wasn’t doing anything to help. That kind mad Christi just a little bit angry, so she called the guy back and let into him. He has no clue how much Christi has done for them. And Christi’s niece always has an excuse for why she can’t go over there to help, except for on the first of the month, when they have money. She’s the biggest mooch I have ever known. She always says, “We’re family, we’re supposed to help each other,” when she needs something. But apparently that only goes in one direction. We are currently paying for her phone service. I think I’m going to stop doing that very soon. Anyway, things got better. Don got out of CCU and was doing better, and someone was found to go stay with Carol (someone who has been there before and knows the situation). But Christi was emotionally drained by the time we got home, so we just chilled for the rest of the evening.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:2-6

(From Knowing Jesus)

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
John 6:66-71
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Matthew 26:20-25
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
Matthew 26:47-50

Today’s reading is “Jesus, Magnanimous to His Betrayer.”

(That means “very generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival.”)

Have you ever been betrayed by someone? How did you handle it? Do you know someone who has been betrayed, perhaps by a child, spouse, pastor, or co-worker? How did they handle it? “One word sums up their feelings: pain, not ordinary pain but intense pain, bitterness, frustration, and anger.” Did they forgive? Some may have, but probably not quickly.

The Bible tells us constantly to look to Jesus. When we do, we see his reactions to Judas’s betrayal of him, and we are both astonished and rebuked. “It is a mysterious puzzle, and we simply cannot put all the pieces together.”

The first question is, “Why did Jesus choose Judas in the first place, since he knew in advance that Judas would betray him?” Was this to be the ultimate example of hypocrisy for us? Or perhaps a warning? “Did Jesus choose Judas to show us the perfidy lurking in our own hearts?” (Perfidy means “deceitfulness, untrustworthiness.”) Even worse, “Are we all potential betrayers of Jesus?”

Who among us would choose a spouse or board member if we knew they would betray us? As we fall on our faces before Jesus, admitting that we just don’t understand, we must also search our hearts for “any hints of betrayal and confess those times when we have betrayed our Lord.” By the way, if you think you have never betrayed Jesus, please stop reading this and go on living your fantasyland life.

There’s another question, here. Why did Jesus call Judas “friend” at the hour of his betrayal? It’s right there in Matthew 26:50. We probably would have screamed “Traitor!” at him. If you have known someone who has betrayed loved ones, or have been betrayed, yourself, it is doubtful that the word “friend” was on your lips at the time.

“So when I look at this snapshot of Jesus, not just in Gethsemane but throughout his three years of fellowship with Judas, I see only a vast chasm between Jesus and me.” I have to confess that I still harbor hatred and anger toward some people who have treated me wrongly over the years, rather than “tenderness and forgiveness.” Oh, sure, there are some instances that are, as they say, “water under the bridge,” and I rarely think of them. When I do, it is almost with a wave of the hand, to disregard it. But there are still others that still raise my hackles and cause my stomach to hurt.

“Jesus is so different from me. He handled betrayal with patience and forthrightness during his work and at his last supper with his disciples.” He never flinched. The author of this book says that Jesus kept the door open for Judas to repent. I suppose that is technically true, but don’t believe it was ever in the cards. But that’s not the point of this reading. The point is to say that Jesus “set the highest standard for all who profess to be his followers.”

Father, sometimes I look at Jesus and am almost discouraged to the point of giving up. I see a standard that I cannot possible meet. But that’s the point, isn’t it? We cannot attain the level of Jesus. That’s why we need him in our lives. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can, at least partially, be the kind of person Jesus was/is. I can forgive others when they wrong me (at least 490 times for the same offense, right?). I can love people who would otherwise be unlovable. The problem is that I’m not this way most of the time, even with the help of the Spirit. So I pray for more help; I pray to be more like Jesus. Teach me to walk the way he walked. Teach me to love unconditionally and forgive when necessary.

I pray for this day, Father. If I may be so bold, I would pray that the snow and freezing drizzle be held off until after the afternoon rush hour. Nevertheless, may your will be done on earth as in heaven, and teach us to be accepting of whatever comes our way. Teach me, most of all, not to worry about this stuff, especially things that I have absolutely no control over. May your grace take us to work and home safely today. I pray for your grace and mercy in Stephanie’s life. I pray for Don and Carol, that you would bring peace to them, and physical healing, as well. Also, I pray for peace in this situation for Christi.

Your grace is most definitely sufficient.

Take a look at your own reactions to when people do you wrong, then notice how far away we are from Jesus. This is a humbling exercise. But that’s right where we need to be, isn’t it?

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Holidays, Knowing Jesus, Prayer, Psalms, Word of the Day | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Look Up!

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, February 26, 2015. 39 days until Opening Day! Also only two more days in my least favorite month of the year. Oh, February, how I loathe you . . .

Today’s word of the day is bezzie. This one can be a noun or an adjective, and has several meanings. As an adjective, it means, “Esp. of a friend: best; favourite. Freq. in bezzie mate.” As a noun, it means, “In pl. A person’s most respectable clothes; best clothes.” For example, “Why aren’t you in your Sunday bezzies?” Also, as a noun, “A person’s favourite or closest friend; a best friend.” Now, this is confusing. I guess if you drop the “mate,” then bezzie becomes a noun. “You’re my bezzie!”

Today is Chili Day. And a great day for it, too. However, we will be having “Mexican soup” tonight. That’s just what we call it. It’s a home-concocted crock pot recipe. It has chilis in it, but can’t technically be called “chili.” Oh, and, by the way . . . I’m extremely opinionated about this; no beans in my chili, please. Real chili has more meat and no beans.

As it turns out, hardly anyone showed up for work Monday, and not a whole lot more on Tuesday, which made me feel a lot better about missing those two days. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t come in both days. I probably was the only one who had already scheduled both of them off, though. They were surprised to see me yesterday morning. My drive to work was fine, with only one spot that was kind of scary. This morning should be even better (except there will probably be more traffic), as it is currently 37 degrees. There is a chance of snow, later in the morning, but the afternoon high will be back around 37, so there should be no problem of accumulation.

Christi has her Huddle tonight, and the men’s Huddle has been assigned some “homework,” that being to go sit in a public place somewhere, e.g. Starbucks or some other coffee shop, and pray for the people we see in there for about an hour. Interesting assignment. I may go do that while Christi is at Huddle tonight. We’ll see how I’m feeling. It would, of course, be the ideal time to do it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:12-14

(From Heart Aflame)

Today’s reading is taken from Psalm 19:1, which is quoted above. (The devotions in this book do not have titles, other than the passage of Psalms being considered.)

As we look at this Psalm, we see that it is split into two parts. The first part speaks of the glory of God, manifested in creation. The second speaks of the glory of God, manifested in his Word. In verse 1, “he only makes mention of the heavens; but, under this part of creation, which is the noblest, and the excellency of which is more conspicuous, he doubtless includes by synecdoche the whole fabric of the world.”

Hold on. What? “Synecdoche?” I had to look that up. It means, “a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole.” So, we believe that David is speaking of all of creation when he says, “The heavens declare the glory of God . . .”

“When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will learn also to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general, but even in the minutest plants.”

We see, in the heavens, that they proclaim the glory of God “by openly bearing testimony that they have not been put together by chance, but were wonderfully created by the supreme Architect. When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendour which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident prrof of his providence.” We learn much from God in his Word (which is discussed later in this Psalm), but even if he never said anything about himself, the heavens and all creation cry out, not only his existence, but the works of his hands.

“As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.”

My pastor, who was my good friend before he was my pastor, loves to look up, and this is why.

Father, I praise you, just as I try to do every morning, for your wonderful creation! I love how it speaks of your glory, and how it proclaims your handiwork! I, too, love to look up, but I don’t look up as much as I should. Lead me, Lord, to gain more of you from your creation, both from the heavens above, as well as from the earth below. Help me to see you in every little thing, every blade of grass, every leaf and flower, even those pesky bugs that crawl around. All of creation proclaims your glory, Father! I pray that more people would see this and know of you. But may we also know your Word, and the glory of you that is proclaimed even more clearly therein!

I pray for this day, that our passage to work and home will be safe and smooth, and that our work day will, in some way, glorify you. I pray that we will lift you high and exalt you as we work today, in some way sharing your Kingdom with those around us. I pray for the ladies’ Huddle tonight, as I will throughout the day, as you remind me. I pray that their relationships grow toward you, as well as toward each other. Teach them, as you are teaching all of us, to be and make disciples of Christ. Show us Jesus, and in doing so, show us yourself. I pray for Stephanie, as always, that you would show your great love to her, and give her wisdom and understanding. I also pray for here cousin Jennifer, who just lost her job, yesterday.

Teach us your way, that we may walk in your truth. Also, I pray that you fill us with joy and peace, that we may abound in hope.

When you go outside today, look up!! Look up and see the heavens that declare the glory of God. And then look down, look around. Be aware of creation!

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Heart Aflame, Holidays, Psalms, Word of the Day | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

You Are Greatly Loved!

Good morning. It is Wednesday, February 25, 2015. 40 more days until Opening Day!

Today’s word of the day is particeps criminis. At first glance, I though this might have something to do with grammar. (That was a joke.) It is a noun, meaning, “An accomplice or partner in crime; an accessory.”

Today is Clam Chowder Day. Make it New England Clam Chowdah, please. None of that red Manhattan stuff for me, thank you very much.

I’m going to hurry through this a bit. I’m trying to go to work this morning, and it appears to be snowing in Carrollton. It did not snow all night, as the initial predictions stated, which is a good thing. In fact, it hasn’t snowed here, at all. The current weather conditions claim that it is mixed rain and snow, but I don’t see any snow. At any rate, I’m going to try to hit the road by 6:30, to give myself a little extra time. The temperatures are all above freezing, still, so there shouldn’t be any huge problems, except for maybe some bridges.

Yesterday was a nice day, but I didn’t get a lot accomplished. We had a good Huddle meeting last night, though, with only one guy missing. We talked about John 15:1-6, where Jesus talks about abiding in him, and that without him, we can do nothing. Good discussions.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation—
the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me,
who delivered me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you rescued me from the man of violence.
For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.

Psalm 18:46-50

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “You Are Greatly Loved.”

. . . among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Ephesians 2:3-5

Three times, the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel to tell him he was greatly loved.

At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
Daniel 9:23
And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.
Daniel 10:11
And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Daniel 10:19

But we, O beloved brothers and sisters, are also greatly loved! “God himself says to you, ‘You are greatly loved.'”

As stated in the verses from Ephesians, quoted above, we were, by nature, “children of wrath,” just as all of mankind. “But God . . .” Those are two of my favorite words in all of Scripture! “But God . . .” Where would I be today, if it were not for, “But God?” But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— And, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9)

This should be at least as good as the voice of an angel. God, himself, telling us, right there in his word, that we are “greatly loved!”

Oh, my Father! How wondrous is your great love to us! I am in awe, this morning, of that great love, seeing as how I never deserve it. I am a sinful creature, still finding myself running off after whatever appears to be shiny on the horizon, forgetting that I am “greatly loved,” and chasing after things of this world. Forgive me, O Father! By the blood of Jesus Christ, you have accomplished that very thing! I will revel in the amazing grace that you have lavished on us for all of my days! Let me never ceased to be amazed, Lord. I pray that I will not grow lukewarm over your love and mercy.

I pray for this day. Please give us safety as we travel to and from work today. I pray that road conditions will not be harsh this morning. I pray for Christi’s day at work, that it will be a good day, and that mine will be, as well. I pray that things will not be too backed up from my two days off this week. I pray for Stephanie today, that she will be a recipient of your great love, and that she will feel it upon her.

Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name!

Hear the words of your Father in heaven, this morning! YOU ARE GREATLY LOVED!!

Grace and peace, friends!

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Why Do We Believe?

Good morning. It is Tuesday, February 24, 2015. 41 more days until Opening Day.

Today’s word of the day is hoghenhine. This one is an odd historical legal term, meaning, “A person who has stayed in a household for three nights, and so becomes the legal responsibility of the host; a member of a household; a dependant.”

Today is Single Tasking Day. More and more research is showing that multi-tasking is actually quite inefficient. It seems that when you multi-task, you don’t focus well on any of the tasks. So it’s better to single task.

Well, I’ve decided that I’m going ahead and using one more day of the PTO that I already had scheduled for this week. Christi went to work this morning, and got there with no problem. She said there was one bridge that was kind of scary. The thing is, it hasn’t gotten above freezing yet, and isn’t projected to until later today. The other problem is that it is supposed to snow tonight, starting at close to midnight. But it is supposed to get up to almost 50 degrees on Wednesday, so that should not be a serious issue. I plan to go to work tomorrow and cancel the rest of the vacation, which will be needed, eventually, when my mother’s cataract surgery gets rescheduled.

On this date in 1868, Andrew Johnson became the first President to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. He would later be acquitted by the Senate. There have only been two impeachments in our history, and both were acquitted.

Today’s birthdays include Wilhelm Grimm (the Grimm Brothers), Winslow Homer (artist), Honus Wagner (baseball player), Chester Nimitz (Admiral), Marjorie Main (Ma Kettle), August Derleth (writer/publisher), Abe Vigoda (actor), Michel Legrand (composer), Barry Bostwick (actor), Edward James Olmos (actor), Rupert Holmes (singer/songwriter), George Thorogood (singer/guitarist), Debra Jo Rupp (actress), Steve Jobs (Apple), Paula Zahn (journalist), Eddie Murray (baseball player), Beth Broderick (actress), Michelle Shocked (musician), Billy Zane (actor), Mitch Hedberg (comedian), Mike Lowell (baseball player), and Bronson Arroyo (pitcher).

Mitch Hedberg was an American comedian, born on this date in 1968. His style and delivery were unique. At one show, he was said to have laid on the stage during part of his delivery. Sadly, he died of a drug overdose in 2005. One of my favorite jokes of his in the following clip. “One time a guy handed me a picture and said, ‘Here’s a picture of me when I was younger.’ Every picture is of you when you were younger!”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me.
As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me.
Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.

Psalm 18:40-45

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “God Opens the Heart.”

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Acts 16:14

Why do some believe and others do not? Every Paul preached this happened. Somehow, some of us, who were “dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) believe, yet others do not.

There are some answers why some do not believe. Some people “thrust it aside” (Acts 13:46), finding the message of the gospel to be “folly” and being unable to understand (1 Corinthians 2:14). Also, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:7)

There are those who hear and reject the gospel who “hate the light” and will not come to the light, “lest [their] works should be exposed” (John 3:20). According to Ephesians 4:18, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” The truth is available to them, but “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

But this doesn’t answer the question of why some do believe. All of us are in the same condition, initially. In the book of Acts, we get the answer in three different ways. The first is that they are appointed to believe. Acts 13:48 says, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

Another way of answering the question is to say that God has granted repentance. Acts 11:18 says, “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'” Until God grants repentance, we are unable to do so.

Finally, in the passage quoted above, we see one of the clearest answers as to why some believe. God opens their hearts. Why did Lydia believe? “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

Father, I thank you for opening my heart! I could never have believed, had you not done this in my life. Your grace in my salvation is amazing! I pray that you continue to open hearts all over the world as we go into the world to share your Kingdom. Make us faithful to be Jesus for the people in our lives, but we pray that you would open their hearts when we go out among them. Without your grace to grant repentance and open hearts, our message is nothing but a shouting into the wind. May we always remember that it is not the message that we bring that saves. Yes, there is power in the Gospel, power unto salvation. But it is your power that unlocks the heart and grants repentance, so that when our message, our ministry, reaches their lives, they are open to believe. Teach us, Father, keep teaching us!

I pray for this day. I thank you that Christi got to work safely, this morning. I pray for clearer road conditions tomorrow, as I attempt to drive to work, as well. I pray for the rest of the week, as we work, and that the weather would not get bad again. I pray for Christi’s day, that she would have a good work day. I thank you for putting her in my life. I pray for Stephanie today, that you would show her your great love in her life.

I pray for our Huddle gathering tonight, that it would be glorifying to you as we try to learn how to be and make disciples.

Everything about our salvation is a gift from God. We need to remember this. It is all grace.

Grace and peace, friends.

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The Spirit of Glory and of God Rests Upon You

Good morning. It is Monday, February 23, 2015. 42 more days until Opening Day. Good thing, too, because it’s sleeting outside this morning.

Today’s word of the day is outrecuidance. Say what? “/ˌutrəˌkwiˈdɑns/” N. “Excessive self-esteem; overweening self-confidence; arrogance, presumption; conceit.” Yeah. I’ve known people like that.

Today is Curling Is Cool Day. I’ve always thought curling was fascinating. You do know what I’m referring to, right? Here’s a clip of some fantastic curling shots.

It’s certainly a good day for it. I think I could do some curling outside on the street right now.

Well, here’s the scoop. I was, as you know, supposed to be in Mineral Wells, this morning, to drive my mother back over there to Fort Worth for her cataract surgery. At about 3:00 PM yesterday, she called and said that she had decided, based on the severity of the weather forecast, to cancel the surgery and reschedule it later. The doctor apparently called her late last night to discuss it, saying he could possibly reschedule for Tuesday afternoon, but wasn’t certain. She wisely told him that we would have to be able to nail it down for sure, so they agreed to reschedule at a later date. As it turns out, it sleeted some last night, around 9:00 (maybe earlier). There was little to no precipitation from 10:00 until about an hour ago, when the sleet started coming down pretty hard. In fact, we had “thundersleet” this morning. Or so I’m told. I never heard any thunder, but reports state that it was around 5:00 AM, which is thirty minutes before our alarm goes off.

Since I already had PTO scheduled for today, you can bet I’m not getting out to drive in this stuff. They already aren’t expecting me at work, so there’s no need to call, either. Christi was going to try to go in to get her computer and come back home. Right about the time she was about to step outside was when it started sleeting the hardest. She came back in the study and said, “This is stupid, isn’t it?” I agreed. She is comfortably snuggled up in her recliner.

It was on this date in 1983 that the Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to buy out and evacuate the town of Times Beach, Missouri. The town had become contaminated by Dioxin, and was the worst recorded incident of Dioxin contamination in history. Some reports have the town being evacuated as early as December, 1982.
times beach

Today’s birthdays include Samuel Pepys (diarist), George Frideric Handel (composer), William L. Shirer (historian), Elston Howard (baseball player), Peter Fonda (actor), Johnny Winter (musician), Patricia Richardson (actress), Ed “Too Tall” Jones (football player), Howard Jones (singer), Tom Bodett (“We’ll leave the light on for you”), Bobby Bonilla (baseball player), Aziz Ansari (actor/comedian), Emily Blunt (actress), and Dakota Fanning (actress).

Johnny Winter was an American singer/producer/guitar player who also happened to be an albino. Johnny’s younger brother, Edgar, is also albino. Johnny was born on this date in 1944, in Beaumont, Texas. He was found dead in his hotel room “two days after his last performance at Cahors Blues Festival in France on July 14,” 2014. (Wikipedia) It is reported that the cause of death was emphysema and pneumonia. Here is a clip of Johnny performing “Be Careful With A Fool.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.
For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.

Psalm 18:25-39

(FromSolid Joys)

Today’s reading is “The Hour of Unusual Threat.”

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1 Peter 4:14

“Many Christians in the world today do not know the life-threatening danger that comes with believing in Christ. We have gotten used to being free from such persecution.”

As a result of this, our initial reaction to such persecution is anger. “But that anger may be a sign that we have lost our sense of being aliens and exiles.” Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11) Have we settled in too much to this world? Do we not feel homesick for Christ, as Paul did? But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . .

Perhaps we need this reminder from Peter: Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12) How many of us have considered how we might fare, should we find ourselves in the face of ultimate persecution, when that gunman has us in his sights and asks, “Are you a Christian?” The initial verse from 1 Peter, quoted above, is a strong word of hope, which should encourage us. If (and when) that hour of persecution comes, Peter gives us encouragement that “the Spirit of glory and of God” will rest upon us. “Doesn’t that mean that God gives special help in the hour of crisis to those who suffer because they are Christians?”

This is not to say that God is not present with us in other sufferings. It is to say that, when we suffer in the name of Christ, for the cause of Christ, suffering because we are Christians, there will be a special “resting” on us, of “the Spirit of glory and of God.”

We have not yet been truly persecuted in this country. Not being allowed to put the Ten Commandments on the wall of a courtroom or in the school room is NOT persecution! Having your head chopped off by ISIS . . . that’s persecution. We have known nothing of that in this country. Perhaps we will, someday. The Bible seems to promise it. When it comes, we should not act surprised, or even angry. According to God’s Word, we are supposed to welcome it, and consider ourselves blessed. I’m thinking the American Center for Law and Justice won’t be much help at that point.

Father, I pray for the Church in the U.S., that she will get homesick for Christ. I pray that we will get back to considering ourselves “strangers in a strange land;” aliens, sojourners, foreigners. Our citizenship is in heaven, not in this world. This is one reason, Father, that I don’t get too terribly caught up in politics or even patriotism. Yes, I support my country. I pay my taxes. I pray for the leaders. But it is not my home. I am a citizen of heaven first. I pray that we would brace ourselves for imminent persecution, the real kind. I pray that when it comes, we will, as Paul and Peter tell us, consider ourselves blessed, not rise up in anger and outrage and call a lawyer. There is still so much that we don’t understand, Father, myself included. Teach us your ways and, by your Spirit, help us walk in your truth.

I pray for this day, as we sit at home. May your grace rest upon us, as we rest. I pray for safety for anyone who is out there. News reports have over 50 injury accidents in the Dallas area, including one fatality in the city where I work. May your hand of mercy rest on people who are out there. I pray that tomorrow will be better, that the ice will dissipate, that we might be able to drive safely to work. In the meantime, may we take advantage of the opportunity to rest and abide.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Stay Close To the Word

Good afternoon. It is Sunday, February 22, 2015. 43 more days until Opening Day. Welcome to the Weekend Edition!

Today’s word of the day is pribble. Isn’t that just the cutest word? It means, ” A petty or pointless dispute, a squabble; trivial or nonsensical speech or writing; squabbling, quarrelling; idle chit-chat.” It is frequently used in tandem with “prabble.”

Today is Be Humble Day. That is certainly a challenge. It’s also tricky, because if you think you’re humble, then you probably aren’t.

The reason it is afternoon is that we slept late today. Quite late, in fact. We woke up at about ten minutes to 10:00 this morning. It felt very nice, too.

My day at work, yesterday, went pretty well. We got finished with everything at around 2:30, so I was home in plenty of time to make to our prayer and worship gatherings. Those both went pretty well, too. There were a couple of people at the prayer gathering who aren’t usually there. The message last night was more along the lines of what our mission is at The Exchange. The purpose was, as there will be an opportunity to relaunch our membership next Saturday, to let people know, “This is what we are about. If that is what you fell called to, then please join us.” I firmly believe that Jacob would rather have ten people who fully agree with the mission and purpose of the church than 50 people who are somewhat noncommittal.

After the gathering, we had burgers for dinner, and watched this week’s episode of Backstrom, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite TV shows. It’s very interesting, because one of the police people that works with Backstrom is a part time preacher, and they seem to present his faith in a positive light. Backstrom, himself, is an avowed atheist, and continually makes fun of him, but the show itself seems to present him in a good way.

I just talked to my mother, and she will be calling the hospital tomorrow morning to cancel the cataract surgery. There is still a 90% chance of sleet, beginning at 11:00 tonight, and not ending until about 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Since I already have PTO scheduled, I will not be going to work tomorrow, unless the ice just doesn’t happen. If that should happen, I will go ahead and go to work and cancel the PTO for the week. If it ices over, I will stay home tomorrow, and try to go in Tuesday, in which case, I will cancel four days of PTO.

It was on this date in 1980, in Lake Placid, New York, that the United States hockey team defeated the Soviet Union hockey team in the Olympics, 4-3. The US team would go on to defeat Finland for the gold medal. The USSR team had won the gold medal in six of the previous seven Olympic Games.

Today’s birthdays include George Washington (president), Arthur Schopenhauer (philosopher), Edna St. Vincent Millay (writer), Dwight Frye (actor), Robert Young (actor), Sheldon Leonard (actor), Robert Wadlow (tallest human ever), Don Pardo (TV announcer), Charlie Finley (sports entrepreneur), Paul Dooley (actor), James Hong (actor), Ted Kennedy (politician), Sparky Anderson (baseball manager), Oliver (singer), Julius Erving (basketball player), Kyle MacLachlan (actor), Steve Irwin (Croc hunter), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), and Drew Barrymore (actress).

Dwight Frye was an American actor, born on this date in 1899. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Renfield in the classic Bela Lugosi Dracula movie. Alice Cooper memorialized him in his tribute, “The Ballad of Dwight Frye.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

Psalm 18:21-24

(From Heart Aflame)

As we look at the portion of Psalm 18 quoted above (verse 21-24), we see some words that might, on the surface, give one pause. David makes claims here, that, if we just read the words, we know are not true. “I have kept the ways of the LORD,” he says. Well, we all know that David, at times, “fell into sin through the weakness of the flesh.” Most famously, the whole ordeal with Bathsheba immediately comes to mind. The the key is that “he never desisted from following after godliness, nor deserted the service to which God had called him.” We have to read deeper than the surface of the words. In the end, no matter how many false judgments men may make against us, God will vindicate our character.

How did David maintain his faithfulness? We find that in verse verse 22: “For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.” As Calvin says in his commentary, “he always applied his mind to the study of the law of God. Whoever, therefore, would desire to persevere in uprightness and integrity of life, let them learn to exercise themselves daily in the study of the word of God; for whenever a man despises or neglects instruction, he easily falls into carelessness and stupidity, and all fear of God vanishes from his mind.” It is important for us, if we are to stand our ground and remain faithful to that which God has called us, to read, study, and meditate on God’s Word on a regular basis.

I’m currently reading an outstanding book on prayer, by Timothy Keller, called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. In this book, Keller, by way of Calvin, Luther, and Augustine, insists that, before we can adequately pray, we must read and meditate on Scripture! It is true for prayer; it is true for living our lives. Therefore, let all of us who would be faithful to Christ, be sure and keep our eyes upon the “law of God,” which is simply another way of describing the entirety of Scripture.

Father, I thank you for the Bible. I thank you that you have given me a love for your Word. However, I must confess that I do not love it enough. I pray that you give me even more love for reading, studying, and meditating on your Word. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. I have felt so much of this in recent days, and it is marvelous. But I desire more. I don’t ever want to be satisfied with what I have, in terms of faithfulness and devotion to you and Christ. Make me even more a student of your Scriptures and teach me how they apply to my life and to prayer. Increase my faith, increase my love for you and your Word, and increase my fervency in prayer.

I pray for the remainder of this day. May we get some good rest. I pray for Christi, because she is out doing some errands right now. I pray for her safety. If the weather does what is predicted tonight and in the morning, I pray that, if she tries to go to work, you will keep her safe. I truly pray that the weather might not wind up as bad as predicted. But if it does, please keep people safe out there. I pray for Stephanie, as she has a toe that is currently infected. Please bring healing to that, that her pain will be lessened. Teach her about you and your love for her.

I thank you for bringing a successful liver transplant to Craig, a friend of a fellow Red Sox fan in North Carolina. I have seen his family giving praise to you, and that warms my heart. Thank you for hearing the prayers of people close to him.

Your grace is sufficient.

David stayed close to the Word of God, and it kept him faithful. Yes, he stumbled, but he never turned away from his Lord. We would do well to heed his example and hold the Word of God close to our hearts.

Grace and peace, friends.

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