Refined Like Silver

Today is Saturday, May 23, 2020, in the sixth week of Easter. Peace be with you!

Day 22,717

Memorial Day is the day after tomorrow.

I had a nice day off, yesterday. I was even a little productive. After my morning blog (not to be confused with “morning jog.” I don’t run. If you ever see me running, you should probably run, too.), I cooked brunch for us, then headed to the grocery store, mask in hand. I put it on when I got there. Unlike a few people I see, I do not wear my mask in the car. What’s the point of that?? It’s been a while since I have been to the grocery store, as C usually does that during these work at home weeks. It hadn’t changed much, so I didn’t have much trouble finding things. Except for the things that weren’t there. Weird things. Like asparagus. Why was there no asparagus? There was no frozen cut okra. I had to buy a couple packages of whole okra to be cut up for one of our recipes. There was no Buddig lunch meat (our favorite brand), but I was able to get some similar Kroger brand. I also couldn’t find a “cherry” variety of any of our favorite soft drinks. No Cherry Coke Zero, no Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper. Fortunately, I have about a half box of Cherry Zero left, and a whole box of Cherry Diet D.P. I didn’t look at Pepsi. Ick. Oh, and there was no Sprite Zero at all. But that happens, occasionally, even without pandemics. There also weren’t very many grapes. I think there might have been, like, maybe five bags. I bought two of them.

The toilet paper aisle was full. I bought some anyway. I almost passed it by, but there was this voice in my head (I should probably get that checked out), saying, “Buy some anyway.” There are still signs on the aisle stating that customers are limited to one package. A little too late for that, if you ask me. But you didn’t, so I’ll move on.

I’ll be leading our Scripture portion of the virtual worship gathering tomorrow. I haven’t nailed down the exact Scriptures, yet, but I think I’ll focus on prayer. I have gotten to a point where I believe that prayer might actually be the most important thing we do. For a long time, I thought that worship was the top priority. And the two are so closely connected that it may be impossible to separate them, in terms of importance. But prayer, being intimate communion with God, is vastly underrated in our churches today. For sure, one of the passages will be what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6. No doubt, there will be something from Psalms, as there are quite a few prayers in there. Sorry . . . I seem to be thinking “out loud,” here.

There are no plans that I know of today. We have our WW virtual workshop at 10:30. I guess that’s a plan, isn’t it? Then we will have our traditional Saturday morning “brunch” of eggs and accessories. The rest of the day is wide open. We had thunderstorms, last night, and there is a slight chance for more this afternoon.

Oh! I just remembered a “plan.” Our former pastor’s grandfather turns 91 today! They are planning a “drive-by” birthday parade for him between 6:00 and 7:30 this evening. I’m sure we will participate in that!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
(Psalms 105:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the privilege (and responsibility) of prayer
2. For the miracle that You hear our prayers and respond
3. That, when You allow “bad things” to happen to me, You are refining me, like silver (Psalm 66)
4. For the encouragement that comes from our brothers and sisters, in Christ
5. That You have preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping (also Psalm 66)

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!
(Psalms 27:7-9 ESV)

But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?
(Psalms 76:7 ESV)

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 ESV)

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:44-49 ESV)

You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
(Psalms 91:8-13 ESV)

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

“Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep me, I pray, from all things that may hurt me, that I, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him. Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
(Psalms 66:6-12 NIV)

Do you see what the psalmist does, here? He praises God for allowing “bad” things to happen to him and the people of God. “God is seen as present in every one of the sufferings that are listed in these verses.” In the midst of the afflictions, God “preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping” (verse 9).

But, indeed, “God allows them in order to refine us into something precious, great, and beautiful (verse 10).” What appears to be “rough handling” from God is always grace, no matter how difficult it seems, at the moment.

This is difficult. I know it well. I confess that I have said, verbally, “God has abandoned us.” It was a difficult time, perhaps one of our more difficult times. And, yes, I said that. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, however, I knew in my heart that it was not true. Because God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us. And God will do what He says He will do.

“Lord God, let me know deep down that when I suffer, even if it breaks your heart to see me so, you have allowed it, in infinite love and wisdom, because it is profitable for me. Amen.”
(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Yes, Lord, You are always working to refine us and improve us and ready us for our eternal home in Your kingdom. We walk in Your kingdom, now, and joyfully so. But there will be an eternal place for us in the new heaven and new earth, and I am waiting with great anticipation for that day. So do whatever You need to do with me in order to prepare me for that. I will accept whatever comes my way as being part of Your plan for me. Forgive me for times when I think and even say that You have forsaken or abandoned me, because that has never happened!
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us of Your grace!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.