Grateful For the Past; Confident In the Future

Good morning. It is Thursday, January 1, 2015. New Year’s Day! Happy New Year!

Today’s Word of the Day is “first foot.” I know . . . that’s two words. If you wanna complain, write the Oxford English Dictionary. Anyway, this relevant word of the day means, for one thing, “The first person to cross a householder’s threshold in the New Year.” It can also mean, “The first person met on a journey or expedition; esp. the first person met on the way to church by a wedding or christening party.” I can see how the more superstitious types could place great significance on this.

Today is Commitment Day. That is also relevant to the day of the year. Everyone is making new commitments on or before January 1. Many people call them “New Year’s Resolutions.” Personally, I don’t do that, any more. But I do believe in commitment. I’m a member of the male species that is not afraid of that word. So, with that in mind, I will make some commitments. I commit to demonstrating my love for my wife. That means more than just saying, “I love you,” several times a day. We probably say that a lot more to each other than most people who have been married for almost 30 years. But there are things that I can do, and attitudes that I can improve, that will do a better job of demonstrating that love. I commit to practicing my musical instruments more. For one thing, I have a college band reunion coming up in June. There’s a lot of work to be done before I can play my trombone as well as I did back then. For another thing, I don’t want to tell people that I “used to be a musician.” I am a musician! Therefore, I must practice! Finally, I commit to working on following the mission statement of my church, which is to “love God, follow Jesus, and share the kingdom.”

Our New Year’s Eve was, I’m sure, quite boring, by some people’s standards. But we enjoyed a nice, quiet evening at home, with some delivered Italian food from our favorite local Italian restaurant. We watched The Princess Bride, which I wanted to watch again, because I just finished Cary Elwes’s book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. You can find my review of that book at my other blog. We had a great time watching the movie again, and then found a few You Tube clips to watch, some “behind the scenes” videos, as well as some interviews, including a Good Morning America spot with some of the actors, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the movie. We actually went to bed around 11:30, but were still awake at midnight, so I guess we officially stayed up for the New Year.

Today, there won’t be much activity, as it is cold and raining outside. The current temperature is 32, and it’s raining. It is predicted to be raining all day, and it’s supposed to drop to 29 overnight. I’m a little concerned about driving to work tomorrow morning, but will just have to wait and see what it looks like. Christi has the day off tomorrow, thanks to her work schedule, so she won’t have to worry about that. We do plan to cook breakfast at some point today. That will probably be the most exciting thing that happens, here. And that’s fine with me. I like a nice, quiet, relaxing New Year’s Day.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1958 that Merle Haggard, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison, heard Johnny Cash play his first prison concert. Haggard was 20 years old at the time, and Johnny’s San Quentin concert inspired him and set him on the path that would eventually make him a country music legend, with 38 #1 songs.

New Year’s Day birthdays include my cousin Johnny Vinson, Meryl Davis (figure skater), Paul Revere (Revolutionary war hero), John Smith (explorer), Betsy Ross (flag maker), Xavier Cugat (songwriter), J.D. Salinger (author), Pocahontas (native American), J. Edgar Hoover (FBI), Frank Langella (actor), Lorenzo de’ Medici (Italian statesman), Huldrych Zwingli (started the Swiss Reformation), Hank Greenberg (baseball player), Carole Landis (actress), Rocky Graziano (boxer), Jerry Robinson (Batman comic artist), Doak Walker (football player), B. Kliban (cartoonist), Barry Goldberg (keyboard player), Country Joe McDonald (musician), and Dedee Pfeiffer (actress, Michelle’s sister).

B. Kliban (Bernard), was a popular cartoonist, born on this date in 1935 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was probably most famous for his cat cartoons, although he drew many others, some of which would not be appropriate for a “family friendly” blog. My favorite one is probably this one, which was on a t-shirt that I once had.
Kliban
Kliban passed away in San Francisco, in 1990, after a pulmonary embolism. He had had heart surgery just two weeks before, and was 55 years old.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

To begin with, I will run down my selections for this year’s devotionals, time permitting. Instead of continuing in The Divine Hours, I will begin each morning with a selection from the Psalms, from Heart Aflame, a book of readings taken from the writings of John Calvin. I have read this one before, and seem to recall enjoying it. Plus I like to start with Psalms.

Next will be readings from Daily Guideposts 2015 (you will note that I don’t always include these in the blog), followed by a reading from Knowing Jesus: 150 Reflections On the Life and Teaching of Christ. This will temporarily replace the daily Gospel segments, as most of these readings will be from the Gospels. It will last only about half the year, though, so I will have to find something to replace it at some point. The last thing each day will be a reading from an app that I got on my iPhone, called “Solid Joys,” which is taken from writings and sermons of John Piper.

All of this may or may not take too much time in the mornings, especially during the work week, when I have to skip the history and birthday stuff. I will tweak it as necessary. The main thing for me is the ability to use these tools to pursue intimacy with God in Christ.

So without further ado, here we go.

(From Heart Aflame)

In his own preface to his commentary on the Psalms, John Calvin wrote, “I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, ‘An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;’ for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Here, the Psalmist insists that “it shall always be well with God’s devout servants.” The man who is constantly delighted by God’s word, and meditates on it constantly, will be “blessed.” However, it is important to point out that the delight and meditation must be prefaced by the separation from “the society of the ungodly.” Does this mean that we may never associate with sinners? I think not, otherwise how would we ever share the kingdom with them? There is a fine line between association for the purpose of making disciples and becoming polluted by their company. “It is necessary to remember that the world is fraught with deadly corruption, and that the first step to living well is to renounce the company of the ungodly, otherwise it is sure to infect us with its own pollution.”

We see the progression that the Psalmist writes. I believe he wrote this deliberately. The seduction begins gradually, as, at first, the man walks in the counsel of the wicked. After walking for a bit, he becomes infatuated to the point that he stands still, after which point, he eventually just sits down in “desperate obstinacy.”

But again, simply avoiding the corruption of the ungodly is not enough. We must study God’s Word, that we might more fully obey him. “It is not left to every man to frame a system of religion according to his own judgment, but the standard of godliness is to be taken from the Word of God.” We must also be aware that forced obedience is not as pleasing as the one who loves God and obeys because his “delight is in the law of the LORD.”

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

My verse for this year will be Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In today’s reading, I learned that the Spanish verb, esperar means both “to wait” and “to hope.” We see one as negative and the other as positive. But does God intend for us to wait with our “arms crossed, foot tapping, an eye-roll cued up and ready to go?” Oh, how we westerners hate waiting! But God tells us that if we “wait for the Lord,” we will “renew [our] strength!” This doesn’t sound like arms-crossed, toe-tapping waiting. This sounds like waiting with hope. May I do better at waiting with hope, this year!

(From Knowing Jesus)

In the intro to this book, the author compares our relationship with Christ to his with a girlfriend that he was courting over a long distance. “To develop our relationship with Jesus, we must do what I did when I was courting my girlfriend. I read and reread her letters. I could not get enough of the. Like a dog gnawing a bone, I squeezed every drop of nourishment from her words.” How many of us approach the Gospels in this way? We love Christ, but we are separated from him by over 2000 years! That is the very reason I began reading a portion of the Gospel accounts each day, a short while back. And, with this book, I will continue that trend.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Today’s reading is “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Our Faith.”

The writer of Hebrews joins Paul in comparing the Christian life to running a race. “As Christians pound down the track God has marked out for them, they must concentrate fully on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Since he is the “founder and perfecter our faith,” he is the only one worthy of our complete loyalty and affection. As the founder of our faith, or “author,” as some translations say, he is our leader, our pacesetter, if you will. He is the “perfecter of our faith” because he “finished well.” He did not deviate from the course set before him. “When we look to Jesus, we see the purest representation of authentic faith.” Where we may be in our individual race, the advice is the same: fix your eyes on Jesus, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

The writer of Hebrews also makes an astonishing statement. ” . . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus endured all the torture and shame “for the joy that was set before him.” We have a similar joy set before us; the joy of future grace, of eternal life, of being in the presence of our Savior forever. We will endure rejection by friends and family, turmoil at home and at work, unexpected illnesses, death of loved ones, chronic pain, all of these an more, “for the joy set before” us. But we cannot successfully do this without our eyes firmly fixed on “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

“Remind yourself of all that Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for you.
“What distractions and ‘weights’ do you struggle with in your race of life?”

“Lord Jesus, I confess that I do not focus on you as I should. Help me to think more about you, regardless of my circumstances.”

Today’s reading in Solid Joys is “Grace for the New Year.”

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

“Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.” Think about that statement for a few minutes. When Paul told us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” he didn’t stop the sentence there. He continued with, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

Grace is past, and grace is future. “It is ever cascading over the infinitesimal waterfall of the present from the inexhaustible river of grace coming to us from the future into the ever-increasing reservoir of grace in the past.” Every five minutes in which we live, we receive “sustaining grace flowing” from the future, and we “accumulate another five minutes’ worth of grace in the reservoir of the past.” Our response to grace experienced in the past is gratitude; our response to promised future grace is faith. “We are thankful for the past grace of last year, and we are confident in future grace for the new year.”

Father, as 2015 begins, I pray for more intimacy with you through Jesus Christ. I pray that I might run my race with my eyes fixed firmly on the founder and perfecter of my faith. I pray that I might see the joy set before me as reason enough to carry on, to fight the good fight, and to finish the race. May I draw strength from that “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds me, that has gone before me, and that will go behind me. May I be faithful to lay aside every weight, as well as that “sin which clings so closely.”

I pray for my family, that we might experience fresh grace this year, and accomplish much for the Kingdom. I pray that Stephanie may find a closer intimacy with you during this coming year, and that we might be more faithful to help her prepare for her future.

I pray for The Exchange and all its leaders, that we might be faithful to love you, follow Christ, and share the kingdom, both individually, as well as corporately.

I pray for the remainder of this day, that we might rest well. Thank you for this holiday, and an opportunity to enjoy some rest before the long stretch of the first of the year. I pray that the weather might not prohibit me from driving safely to work tomorrow morning.

Show us your grace. May we be thankful for the grace we have already experienced, and faithfully be confident in the grace that you already have planned for our future.

This was a long one. Tomorrow won’t be as long. For one thing, I simply don’t have time to write this much on a work day. I am grateful to all who read this blog, and hope that you find at least a small bit of hope and grace within.

Happy New Year!!

Grace and peace, friends.

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