Here we go with another Sunday morning devotional blog. Christi and I had a very nice time last night. Things have been so hectic and stressful lately, especially for her, so we just decided to be selfish last night and have ourselves a nice date. We hadn’t had a good date night in a long time, so we did that last night. Our date consisted of driving to Grapevine and playing pinball at the Texas Pinball Festival for about two hours, followed by a very nice dinner at Saltwater Willy’s (topped off, of course, with their most excellent Key Lime Pie). The funny part (it’s funny now…it was very frustrating at the time) was trying to get to Grapevine. The powers that be in the Texas Highway Department are apparently smoking crack. Big time. Hwy 121 is completely closed at the William D. Tate exit. They kept closing lanes, one at a time, from the left over, so traffic was moving very slowly. People were going the wrong way down entrance ramps to get off the freeway, driving across the grass to get to the frontage roads…it was crazy. Then once we got off of that, all the diverted traffic was taking several different routes to get through Grapevine (oh, and as we drover over the closed section of 121 on an overpass, we saw that the southbound side was also closed off!!), so the road we needed to take to get to the hotel where the festival was taking place was also backed up, because that was the main way to get to Hwy 121 on the other side of Grapevine. Of course, there is major construction going on around westbound 114, also. So, the highway department has effectively cut Grapevine off from the outside world. Pretty amazing. Fortunately, I can get to work without driving on any of those roads! To go home, we went north from the restaurant (which is right in front of Grapevine Mills Mall), through Flower Mound, and headed west to Hwy 377, then south to home. The trip from home to the festival took approximately 2 hours. We got home, using back roads, in less than an hour. We didn’t let it ruin our evening, though. We had a marvelous time (in spite of the guy who wouldn’t let anyone else play “Tempest;” I swear…he was playing it when we got there, ignored the fact that we were waiting behind him to play, and was still playing it when we left). The way the festival works is, they have a room full of pinball machines, and a few video games as well, and you pay $15 dollars at the door for a wristband. You can play all the pinball you want at no extra charge. They had brand new machines, and they had old machines, so old that you still had to push the second plunger to place the ball in the track to shoot it onto the playing field. I remember those from my youth, but just barely. Those old style machines still use mechanical, rolling number scoreboards. I even got to play the old “Captain Fantastic” machine, with Elton John on the scoreboard! It was great fun! And so relaxing for us.
Anyway…I guess I should get “serious” now…
Today’s Bible readings:
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit (this is stated in other accounts), declares that Jesus is “the Christ.” (v. 29) This chapter also contains one of Jesus’s most difficult teachings. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (v. 34) Why is it so difficult? It’s the “denying self” part. Anyone who has tried it knows how hard that is. There are also a lot of misunderstandings about what “bearing that cross” means. I’ve heard people say “Well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” when, in reality, what they are speaking of is something over which they have no control. What Jesus is speaking of is a conscious choice! Things we have no control over might be more along the lines of the thorn in Paul’s flesh. But they are not “our cross to bear.” Taking up my cross means to consciously choose the path of Christ; to deny myself pleasures in life that might be seen as sinful, or even that might not be sinful, but might distract me from the path that Christ wants me to walk. Have I done this? In some ways, maybe so. There are a lot of things that I don’t do because of my faith in Jesus. But I still have a long way to go. I’m not sure that I have truly “taken up my cross.” Maybe I take it up and then put it down again. I’m not very consistent, that’s for sure.
Continuing in the instructions about false worship, The Lord decrees that anyone caught engaging in idol worship was to be stoned to death. But there had to be at least two, preferably three witnesses before it would be considered a legitimate accusation. And long before it ever happened, God gave Israel laws concerning the kings that they would have. Instructions are given for provision for the Levites, for they did not get an inheritance from the land. They would have the cities of refuge, and would be provided for from the tithes of the people.
3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
In many manuscripts, this Psalm is combined with Psalm 42. Note the recurring theme of depression, as well as the repeated verse in 43:5. It corresponds with verses 5 and 11 of Psalm 42. In spite of his depression, however, he remembers that God is his refuge and protection and asks for his guidance into truth.
(From Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington)
In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. (Psalm 31:20)
Dennis Jernigan suggests spending time today in meditation about what it means to be in the “presence of the King.” “Find your identity and your destiny in the presence of the King today.” And what better way to do that than seeking his presence as we worship him today?
(From Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers)
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
“As long as you hate your enemy, a jail door is closed and a prisoner is taken. But when you try to understand and release your foe from your hatred, then the prisoner is released and that prisoner is you.
“Perhaps you don’t like that idea. Perhaps the thought of forgiveness is unrealistic. Perhaps the idea of trying to understand the Judases in our world is simply too gracious.
“My response to you then is a question. What do you suggest? Will harboring the anger solve the problem? Will getting even remove the hurt? Does hatred do any good? Again, I’m not minimizing your hurt or justifying their actions. But I am saying that justice won’t come this side of eternity. And demanding that your enemy get his or her share of pain will, in the process, be most painful to you.
“May I gently but firmly remind you of something that you know but may have forgotten? Life is not fair. That’s not pessimism; it’s fact.”
(From Grace for the Moment, by Max Lucado, March 26 evening reading)
Father, I am once again short on time, due to my lack of discipline. I pray that you help me with this, so that I don’t have to shortchange myself by running out of time to pray.
I pray that you help me heed the advice of Max Lucado regarding loving my neighbor and forgiveness. You know that I still struggle mightily with this, but there is nothing so mighty in my life that your power and might cannot destroy. So I ask you to destroy any bitterness toward anyone that might still be lodged in my spirit.
As we go to worship this morning, I ask that you make your presence known to us. I seek your presence; I seek your face today. Let the words that we sing speak to my heart as they declare your majesty and glory. Let me be so intimately aware of your presence in my life and the sacrifice that you made for me.
I lift up a special prayer this morning for Bridget Binion. Dear Father, I pray that you will be very close to the hearts of her and her family, as their baby was born prematurely and did not survive. What broken hearts they must be suffering right now, I can not even begin to imagine, Father. They need your presence more than anything right now, Lord! Comfort them with your Holy Spirit as they grieve.
Life is not fair. And God never promised “fair.” But we must heed his command to love our neighbor…even if they are our “enemies.”
Seek his face today.
Grace and peace, friends.