Worrying in God’s Direction

Good morning. It is Sunday, August 9, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from dictionary.com, is atrabilious. This is an adjective, meaning, “1. gloomy; morose; melancholy; morbid,” or, “2. irritable; bad-tempered; splenetic.” Splenetic? What does that mean? “1. of the spleen; splenic, “2. irritable; peevish; spiteful,” or, “3. Obsolete. affected with, characterized by, or tending to produce melancholy.” It can also be used as a noun, meaning, “4. a splenetic person.” No extra charge for that additional word, today. As for atrabilious, I found the perfect example.

Today is Book Lovers Day. I just got all twitterpated.

We had a pretty good day, yesterday. Yesterday was challenging, at least for an hour or so. After the morning things were all done, we went out for lunch, trying a new place called “Jakes.” The burgers were pretty good, but expensive, and the fries were extra. It was a very tasty burger, though.

After lunch, we hurried to the eye doctor’s office for eye exams. These went very well, I think, and I should, in two to four weeks, have a pair of glasses with bifocals. The upper half is supposed to work for reading music on a stand, approximately arm’s length from my face, and the lower half should be for reading a book, phone, or tablet. The doctor said my overall vision was about 20/30, which is not bad. I elected to not get regular glasses to sharpen that up. My main purpose was to help me read music, and that’s what I’m accomplishing, hopefully.

After the eye doctor was when the challenging moments occurred. We were already late for church set-up, and Stephanie started in on a couple of the “forbidden topics” (these are driving, getting a job, and going to college . . . inevitably, they all surface at once), which created more stress, and almost ended with her being left at home by herself. We got things calmed down, though, and, after going back to the house to let Christi get her car, Stephanie and I agreed that she could go ahead and go up to church with us. However, after the prayer gathering, she was not feeling well, so I took her back home, and went back to church. We had PAT meeting afterward, which is why Christi got her car.

Once again, the pastor gave a really good message. He’s still in the first chapter of Haggai, and this one was all about obedience. He spoke of how we should obey God because he already loves us, not because we are trying to get him to love us. So often, we have this wrong. We get tangled up in legalism, which makes us think that, if we follow the rules, God will love us more. But we cannot do anything to make God love us more, because we didn’t do anything to get him to love us in the first place.

He also spoke of the fact that it is the Holy Spirit, dwelling within us, that enables us to obey. This came from verse 14, which says, And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God. (Emphasis mine) It is God who stirred their hearts to obedience. We cannot just decide we’re going to do better. What we need to be doing is pleading with God, in prayer, to stir us to obedience.

The final point had to do with the purpose for obedience. It is for others’ sake. We need obedience as a witness to the grace and power of God in our lives, so that others can see him in truth.

Today, Rachel and Justin are coming over for lunch and whatever happens after. Games or movies or something. We are looking forward to this.

On this date in 1854, Henry David Thoreau published Walden. In 1892, Thomas Edison received the patent for the telegraph. In 1930, Betty Book made her cartoon debut in Dizzy Dishes. In 1936, Jesse Owens won his fourth Olympic gold medal, making him the first American to win four medals in one Olympiad. On this date in 1945, the atomic bomb, Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki, killing at least 39,000 people. In 1969, Charles Manson followers brutally murdered Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Fykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. In 1974, Richard Nixon’s resignation takes effect. Gerald Ford becomes President.

Today’s birthdays include Adoniram Judson (American Baptist missionary), William Barret Travis (American Alamo figure), Jean Piaget (Swiss psychologist), Ralph Houk (American baseball player/manager), Ernest Angley (American televangelist), Robert Shaw (English actor), Rod Laver (Australian tennis player), Sam Elliott (American actor), Melanie Griffith (American actress), Amanda Bearse (American actress), Amy Stiller (American actress), Whitney Houston (American singer), Deion Sanders (American football player), Eric Bana (Australian actor), Thomas Lennon (American actor), Jason Fraser (American baseball player), Ashley Johnson (American actress), and Anna Kendrick (American actress).

Sam Elliott is an American actor, born on this date in 1944. He turns 71 today. Sam is probably best known for his distinct voice, although he has been in some remarkable films, as well, including Tombstone. In this You Tube clip, Sam talks about that voice.

Trajan, Sharon Tate, Dmitri Shostakovich, Jerry Garcia, Gregory Hines, and Bernie Mac are among notable deaths on this date.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 39-40 and Matthew 16. In Genesis 39, Joseph, having been sold into slavery by his brothers, is bought by an officer of Pharoah, named Potiphar. Joseph finds favor with Potiphar, but one day, Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. When he resists her, she claims he tried to rape her, which gets Joseph thrown into prison. But Joseph also found favor with the keeper of the prison, who put him in charge of all the other prisoners.

In chapter 40, Joseph hears the dreams of two other prisoners, and, by the power of the Spirit of God, rightly interprets them. Joseph had asked the chief cupbearer to remember him when his dream came true, but he did not remember.

In Matthew 16, Jesus warns his disciples against the teachings of the Pharisees and Saducees, comparing it to leaven in bread. In verses 13-20, Peter makes his great confession, upon which Jesus says he will build his Church. As Jesus began to predict his death and resurrection, Peter tried to persuade him that these things weren’t going to happen. But Jesus rebukes Peter, sharply, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (v 23) This is followed by Jesus telling his disciples that they must take up their crosses and follow him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (vv 24-26)

Today’s Psalm reading from Heart Aflame is Psalm 90:12.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

“It is surely a monstrous thing that men can measure all distances without themselves, that they know how many fee the moon is distant from the centre [sic] of the earth, what space there is between the different planets; and, in short, that they can measure all the dimensions both of heaven and earth; while yet they cannot number seventy years in their own case. It is therefore evident that Moses had good reason to beseech God for ability to perform what requires a wisdom which is very rare among mankind. We then truly apply our hearts to wisdom when we comprehend the shortness of human life.” (p 222)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

On page 84, Timothy Keller begins examining a letter written by Augustine to Anicia Faltonia Proba, a Roman noblewoman who was a Christian. She originally wrote Augustine because “she was afraid she wasn’t praying as she should.”

The firs thing Augustine told her is, that before you even know what you should be praying for, or how to pray it, “you must become a particular kind of person.” Augustine says, “You must account yourself ‘desolate’ in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be.” No matter how great our circumstances in this world may be, they can never bring us the lasting peace, happiness, and consolation found in Christ.

This is one of Augustine’s major themes in his theology, that “we must see that our heart’s loves are ‘disordered.'” There are things that should be third, fourth, or lower, in our hearts that are, instead, first, above God. “God, whom we should love supremely, is someone we may acknowledge but whose favor and presence is not existentially as important to us as prosperity, success, status, love, and pleasure.” If we do not recognize these things, our prayers will also be out of order and distorted. In this state, when things like financial problems occur, we may cry out to God, but we are, for the most part, doing nothing more than “worrying in God’s direction.” (I love that line.) In fact, we might even be more anxious after the prayers than before we started.

As Augustine continues, he says that, after we have ascertained the character of our hearts and admitted our desolation, we can begin to pray. What should we pray for? Well, he says, you can pray for what everyone else prays for. “Pray for a happy life.” But, if we have accomplished the first part, what it is that will make our lives happy will have changed! Augustine points to Psalm 27:4. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. It doesn’t mean that we can’t pray for other needs, as identified by Jesus’s Model Prayer. It just means that “if we have made God our greatest love, and if knowing and pleasing him is our highest pleasure, it transforms both what and how we pray for a happy life.”
(pp 84-86)

Father, I pray that you show me my desolation. I have, in times past, been fully aware of it, but it tends to fall into the back of my mind, especially when things are going well. Help me to remember my state before you, outside of being in Christ. I am nothing, Lord, without your Spirit dwelling within me. I frequently allow the things of earth, the “stuff of earth,” to compete with you for my allegiance. That should not be so. What should make my life happy should be you and only you. Make it so, Lord. Please make it so. I pray for the Spirit to stir me to obedience, for I know that there is nothing natural within me that could accomplish this.

I pray for this day. May Christi be safe as she gets the groceries for us and for her mom. I pray for safe travel for Rachel and Justin as they come down from Denton for the afternoon. May we have a joyful time together today. I pray also for good rest this evening, as we prepare for another work week.

May we understand our desolation before the Lord, and not be guilty of simply “worrying in God’s direction.”

Grace and peace, friends.

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