Today is Saturday, January 9, 2021.
Peace be with you.
Either I’ve got a serious case of allergies going on, or I have a mild cold. Since the only thing seemingly affected is my nose and face, I’m thinking it is allergies. My nose was running like a sieve, yesterday. And I sneezed quite a bit. No coughing or respiratory issues, though. And, most importantly, no fever. Plus I can still smell and taste, so I think I’m okay. My coffee tastes wonderful, this morning.
I slept with some essential oil called “Breathe” on a cotton puff behind my CPAP machine, last night. Believe it or not, the stuff smells a lot like Vicks VapoRub. Boy, does THAT bring back some memories!! My mother used to rub that on my chest when I was sick. And we had one of those vaporizer thingies. Good times.
We have our WW Workshop, this morning, at 10:30. For reasons, I cannot ascertain at this moment, I’m not losing weight, right now. It’s weird. I know it will turn around, though. It is doubtful that I will make my 100 pound mark, this morning. At this point, I’m just hoping I don’t gain again! Whatever happens, I will not allow it to ruin my day. I know I’m still doing the right things, so it will turn around.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (The Prayer of St. Francis)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)
Today I am grateful:
- For Your grace that has appeared, offering salvation to all people
- That You did not discriminate between peoples when You offered that salvation
- That it is by grace that I am saved, and by grace that I am able to stand
- For the story of the Gospel, which I can “preach” to myself over and over, in order to bring encouragement to my faith
- That You have been working in me to remove attachments to the physical world
Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
EPIPHANY – DAY 4
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. . . . The appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Titus 2:11, 13 NIV)
BIBLE SONG: PSALM 7:1-5, 8, 17 (NIV)
LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands—
if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe—
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.
Let the LORD judge the peoples. Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.
I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.
BIBLE READING: ACTS 15:5-11 (NIV)
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION
The phrase that speaks loudly to me, this morning, is “He did not discriminate between us and them.”
There is a deep lesson to be seen here. The opening verse, the “invitation” into these meditations, corroborates this thought. Paul, in his letter to Titus, said that the grace of God has appeared, offering “salvation to all people.”
When God sent Peter to speak to Cornelius, the floodgates opened up. Suddenly, the message of the Gospel was open to everyone, not just the Jews!
Do you remember Simeon’s prayer in the Gospel of Luke?
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-32 NIV)
Before Jesus had taken a step or even been able to stand up on His own, it was prophesied that He would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” And now, here in the book of Acts, this is coming to fruition.
I think it is safe to say that the majority of us who are believers, followers of Christ, in the United States of America, are probably Gentiles. There are some Jewish Christians among us, as well, but most of us are probably Gentiles.
Were it not for the fact that God allowed Peter to go talk to Cornelius, were it not for God showing Peter that vision of the sheet and the unclean animals, where would we be today?
It is the fact that “He did not discriminate between us and them” that has given us salvation!
The last verse of our reading from Acts sums it up perfectly.
“We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
(Acts 15:11 NIV)
So, where am I going with this? I’ll tell you. In light of these truths, these indisputable facts, how dare we act in any way that is discriminatory in our day and age!
We, as believers in Jesus Christ, as those who claim to follow in His steps, have no room for discrimination of any kind. By grace we have been saved, and by grace we must live. If we act with hatred toward any group of people, if we act as though we are superior to any group of people, we are walking in a way that says we have forgotten the grace that was shown to us.
And believe me when I say I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else. I struggle with this, perhaps as much as anyone. Not so much in the realm of race, mind you, but there are other areas where I sink into the pit of thinking I’m better than another group of people because of this, that, or the other. It is simply not true; a lie from the devil, himself.
The title of my blog has been, from day one, “Reveling in the Overflowing Grace of God.” (At one point, I did change the spelling of “reveling.”) It is by that grace that I am saved. It is by that grace the the Gospel came to us Gentiles, in the first place. And it is utterly and completely by His grace that I was born into a country and into a family where it was possible for that Gospel message to reach my soul.
I have done nothing, and continue to do nothing to deserve this.
There’s an old song by the late Keith Green, called “Grace By Which I Stand.” The chorus goes like this:
Nothing lasts Except the grace of God by which I stand in Jesus I'm sure that my whole life would waste away Except for grace By which I'm saved
Father, I praise You for the grace by which I stand. I thank You that You sent Peter to talk to Cornelius, and that those leaders had those meetings, and agreed that it was okay for the Gospel to reach the Gentiles, and that the burdens of the Law would not be placed upon them. Thank You for Peter, Lord. Now, may I walk through my life in the same way, leaning so heavily on this grace that I dare not treat any other group of people with disdain or hatred. We are all, when it comes to sin, indeed “in the same boat.” And none of us has a way out, other than the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ. So, whenever I begin to feel superior to that coworker who is so obnoxious and rude, please let Your Spirit remind me, whether by nudge, shove, or smack up side the head, that we are all the same, and all in need of Your great, overflowing grace!
"Jesus Christ, light of the world, as the Magi came from far away to bow down and worship, gather your church from every place. Never let your church be bound, confined, or limited to certain places or persons, but always ready to receive those who seek to worship you, and whom you are seeking. Amen." (Belgic Confession 27)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV)
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
(Hebrews 12:3 MSG)
So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe.
(Hebrews 3:1 MSG)
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
(Hebrews 12:2 MSG)
I confess that I may have briefly taken my eyes off of Jesus, earlier this week, but only for a moment. He IS the centerpiece, the cornerstone.
I’ve been learning quite a bit from this book, which my mother gave me for Christmas, last year. In today’s reading, I learn the Hebrew word for heaven, which is shamayim, and the Hebrew word for earth, which is aretz.
It is noted that any Hebrew word that ends with “im” is plural. Therefore, the word for “heaven” is plural, while the word for “earth” is not.
“That which is earthly is singular. That which belongs to the physical realm is finite. Everything that is physical is limited. That’s why, no matter how much of the earthly realm you get, no matter how many earthly possessions you possess, it can never fill you or bring you completion.”
In short, a life focused on the physical is a life of limitation.
While we cannot escape living in the earthly realm, we don’t have to live of it. “You must deal with earthly things, but you don’t have to fill your heart with them. Set your heart on that which is heavenly. Fill up your heart with that which is spiritual. For heaven is shamayim, and shamayim has no limitation. And, therefore, a heart filled up with that which is spiritual and that which is heavenly . . . becomes unlimited.”
“The Mission: What are your possessions? Today, let go. Free up your heart of its earthly possessions. And fill it up with the spiritual and heavenly.”
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:9 ESV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)
Father, You have worked in me, over the past decade or so, to lessen my attachments to the physical things. I am not one who is typically caught up in material goods. There are aspects of the physical life that still hold on to me, though, from time to time. Help me to truly be “in the world, not of it,” however cliché that sounds. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You and on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith.
Father, I pray for all communities, throughout our land. May those of us who are believers rise up in those communities and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, thereby bringing the Gospel to them. Today, per the suggestion from my devotional book, I lift up the continent of Australia, and ask that Your Gospel would be fruitful in that place, that it would be freely preached, and that You would open the ears of the people to hear it. I also lift up all military personnel and peacekeepers, especially right now, during this time of political turmoil, such as I have not seen for at least five decades. I also pray for the family of the Capitol police officer who was killed in Wednesday’s violence. May You bring them peace.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.