It’s Saturday morning.

IT’S RAINING AT THE BICKLEYHOUSE!!! (At least it was when I started writing this…)

Oh, thank you, Jesus!! No storming…not pouring…just a slow, steady rain…the perfect kind. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a while.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 12:1-21
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”
3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The beginning of this chapter is all about the Sabbath. Jesus and his disciples went through some grainfields on the Sabbath, they got hungry, so they picked some grain. Since the Jewish religious leaders had manufactured several thousand mini-regulations about the Sabbath, they said that Jesus’s disciples were “doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” Apparently reaching down to pick some grain was “work.” I don’t know how tall grain grows…they may not have even had to reach down very far. But Jesus asserts himself as “lord of the Sabbath.” He also quotes from Hosea 6:6 when he says “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” The Sabbath controversy continues…

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue.
10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”–so that they might accuse him.
11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

In this event, Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees. He declares that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The religious leaders, as is so often the case, have completely missed the meaning of the Sabbath. Was this the beginning of their conspiracy? They are now trying to figure out how to get rid of this threat to their authority. So much of the religious leaders’ misunderstanding transferred into our own legalistic society. I remember growing up, when there were laws prohibiting what could or could not be bought on Sunday. Honestly, I don’t know if these “blue laws” had any religious beginnings or not, but it seemed silly that you couldn’t buy a pair of pantyhose on Sunday. And furthermore…Sunday isn’t even the Sabbath, is it? I remember riding with an acquaintance once on Sunday after church, and we saw someone mowing his yard. “I wish people wouldn’t do that,” he said. How did we even get to a point where we considered Sunday equal with the Sabbath? I’ll be blunt here…we don’t observe the Sabbath, and I don’t believe we are supposed to. However, I also don’t believe that people should work seven days a week. People need rest. Even the earth needs rest, as evidenced by the Lord’s commands about not planting a field once every seven years. We all need rest. But is one day more significant that any other? I don’t believe so. I don’t even believe it matters what day we worship. In fact, we should worship, in some way, every day! There is no Biblical standard that says we should worship on Sunday. It was simply chosen as a day of worship because Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. Moving on…

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all
16 and ordered them not to make him known.
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Jesus sort of went into hiding for a bit after this. He kept ministering to people, but would not let them speak openly about him. Matthew says that Jesus is fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah (42:1-3), which declares that Jesus will become a hope to the Gentiles (the actual text in Isaiah says “nations” rather than “Gentiles”). I don’t know about you, but this Gentile is glad that Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

Isaiah 8
This passage begins by speaking of a coming invasion from Assyria. Because the people refused the gently flowing stream, equated with the Lord and his provision, then the rushing might river of Assyria would sweep over them. In verses 11-15, Isaiah is given some instruction that we would all do well to follow.
11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.
13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Honor the Lord as holy, and he will be your sanctuary. He will be a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to those who are opposed to you.

During the time that the Lord would be “hiding his face” from Israel, they would begin to seek the aid of spiritists and mediums. “Should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (v. 19) It never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who will visit or consult “psychics,” but will not even darken the door of a sanctuary or lift up a pray to Almighty God. People will believe that the dead can speak to them, but will not believe that El Shaddai, who lives, can come to their aid! The result of these days, for Israel, was “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.” (v 22)

Proverbs 3:11-18
The first part of this passage tells us not to despise the Lord’s discipline, because that means he loves us. Then he says that gaining wisdom is better than the profit gained from gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.

Wisdom, which is seen as more precious than riches, can bring you riches, as well as reputation!
Today's reading from Fascinating Facts of the Faith talks about a “controversial, sold-out, talented, blunt, gospel singer” who “absolutely refused to accept the spiritual status quo. His sermons set to music plowed a new course for what Christian music could be.” His name? You may have already guessed it…Kieth Green.

I’ll never cease to be amazed at how this young man could talk and play the piano like that at the same time!

I wish these two videos had been together…the first one segues straight into the second one.

Keith was raised Jewish, but became spiritually restless. He ran away from home, “looking for spiritual fulfillment,” which led him to experimentation with “drugs, eastern mysticism, and free love.” He met Melody when he was nineteen. They started exploring things of faith together, and were married at twenty. After exploring everything else, Keith finally turned to Jesus and opened himself to Christ. “Christ revealed himself to Keith in a deep and profound way.” Afterward, Keith and Melody began to open their home to drug addicts and rejects. His music was powerful and direct, just as the two examples above. But it was also reflective and worshipful, in the case of “O Lord, You’re Beautiful,” and “Your Love Broke Thru,” co-written with Randy Stonehill, who actually stayed at his house for a while during those days.
Keith’s life was tragically cut short (at least in human terms…I’ve no doubt that he died exactly when he was supposed to) in 1982, in a plane crash on their property in Lindale, Texas. His wife, Melody, still carries on Last Days Ministries.

Prayer from The Valley of Vision


Most High God,
The universe with all its myriad creatures is yours,
made by your word,
upheld by your power,
governed by your will.
But you are also the Father of mercies,
the God of all grace,
the bestower of all comfort,
the protector of the saved.
You have been mindful of us,
given us a goodly heritage–
the Holy Scriptures,
the joyful gospel,
the Savior of souls,
We come to you in Jesus’ name,
make mention of his righteousness only,
plead his obedience and sufferings who magnified the law both in its precepts and penalty,
and made it honorable.
May we be justified by his blood,
saved by his life,
joined to his Spirit.
Let us take up his cross and follow him.
May the agency of your grace prepare us for your dispensations.
Make us willing that you should choose our inheritance and determine what we shall retain or lose, suffer or enjoy;
If blessed with prosperity may we be free from its snares,
and use, not abuse, its advantages;
May we patiently and cheerfully submit to those afflictions which are necessary.
When we are tempted to wander,
hedge up our way,
excite in us abhorrence of sin,
wean us from the present evil world,
Assure us that we shall at last enter Immanuel’s land where none is ever sick,
and the sun will always shine.

Father, I was especially drawn to the line in the above prayer that asked you to “excite us in abhorrence of sin.” I must admit, I’ve never thought of it quite that way. But wouldn’t that be wonderful? If you would make us excited to abhor sin? We all know we are supposed to avoid sin and temptation, but there are always things that are more attractive to us…things that we ought not say or do that we actually like saying or doing. But if we could be led to abhor those things, and actually be excited about it! That would be most amazing. So yes, Lord…I pray that you would excite me in abhorrence of sin! Wean me from this evil world. I so look forward to entering Immanuel’s land, where no one will ever be sick again, where the sun will always shine (but it won’t be 109 degrees every day), where there will no longer be any temptation to distract us. What a glorious day that will be!
I thank you for the legacy that Keith Green left behind, Father. I thank you for the songs that he wrote that still inspire countless people. Thank you for putting it into his heart to challenge us to be more like Jesus.
I pray that as we live our lives, we would not fear the things that many people fear. Let our hope and trust be in you, and you alone. Let us not seek the advice of men (especially dead men), but seek your face when we need guidance. I pray that I would honor you as holy, Lord, and let you be my sanctuary.
I pray for that wisdom that is more precious than jewels. I don’t care so much if I get riches. Sure, they would be nice, but I just want to have your wisdom in my life, so that I know that what I am doing is what you want me to be doing.
I thank you for the teachings and example of Jesus, Lord. I thank you that he is Lord of the Sabbath, and that we don’t have to be afraid of the traditions of men, but to simply be obedient to your commands and precepts. I praise you for the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ.

Lord, I pray for this day. Thank you for the rain!!! It is beautiful, Father! We cannot thank you enough for it.

I pray for the party today. I pray that it will be a successful celebration for Stephanie’s birthday, her friend’s birthday, and for the group of kids going back to school in a week. I also pray for this school year, Lord, that it will be the best year ever for Stephanie. Right now, our goal is to see her walk across the stage to get her high school diploma next year. In order for that to happen, she needs to be in better control of herself this year. I pray that you would help her to do that.

Thank God for the rain, today. Seek his wisdom rather than riches.

Grace and peace, friends!

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