Into the Deep

Today is Wednesday, the seventeenth of February, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,987

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lent Season. It is also St. Patrick’s Day. In the past, I would try to wear green. But then, it was pointed out to me that, since I am not Catholic, I should wear orange. I’m wearing grey this morning.

I am typing on my PC in my studio, this morning! Yes, our power returned at approximately 2:30 PM, yesterday afternoon. It was slightly comical, actually. Let’s begin, though, with the firewood story.

It was 53 degrees in the house. It had gotten down to 52, but that’s as cold as it got in our house. We attribute this to the fact that our house has always leaned toward the warm side, which makes it tough to cool in the summer. However, after the last 48 hours, I will not ever complain about that again, because I know some folks who had temps in the thirties in their homes.

We had two fake fireplace logs. Yes, we were pathetically unprepared for this. I promise we won’t be caught off-guard like that again. Some good people brought us some firewood. A family in our little church, who lives across the street from the house where we meet and have nights of worship, has a large amount of wood in their back yard. Brandon and Terry, the other two leaders in our church, along with Brent, who lives across the street, loaded up the back of Brandon’s truck and brought a huge amount of wood to us.

So we were able to have a nice fire going. We rearranged the furniture so that our long couch was facing the fire (about five feet away), and C’s recliner was right there at the end of the couch. So we were enjoying the heat of the fire. We had had our lunch. C and S had sandwiches, and I had a can of tuna. We also had cold, leftover Pecan-crusted chicken. I held my two pieces of the first on a fork for a few seconds. It didn’t warm it a whole lot, but gave it a nice, smoky flavor.

All of a sudden, something beeped. Tessie (dog) barked. I turned to look toward where the beep had come from, and said, “What was that?” expecting another smoke alarm failing, or something like that. It didn’t even dawn on me. Then I saw C’s face, and I realized what had happened, just as I heard the sound of the fan from the bedroom. The power was on!

There was a brief moment where we almost wept for joy, but even that joy was tainted by not knowing if it would stay on. We sprung into action. C ran into the kitchen and turned on the coffee maker. I grabbed electronic devices and got them plugged in to charge. I turned the heat thermostat down to 68, as recommended by the PTB’s. I figured we had endured 53, so 68 should be a walk in the park, you know. I went ahead an reset the clocks on the stove and the microwave.

You know what we did next? Instead of jumping on our computers or turning the TV on, we sat back down on the couch and recliner, in front of the fire and enjoyed it a little while longer.

It is now 8:00 AM on Wednesday. The power stayed on all night. I suppose, after I finish my blogging, this morning, I will bring the food in from the back porch. I know that there are still some folks who don’t have power, yet, so we will be praying hard for them, today, and seeing if there is anything we can do to help. There are horror stories on TV . . . icicles hanging from ceiling fans in homes, water raining down from the ceiling of the Fort Worth Hilton, churches completely flooded.

Most of Galveston and the Gulf Coast is without power, as well. It was 23 degrees in Galveston, yesterday, and the beach was white! The winter storm warning spanned the entire state of Texas! It’s going to take some time to recover from this. Yet another chapter in what has been the strangest twelve months of my life.

Obviously, I’m not at work, this morning. We have been told that we are expected to be there tomorrow, if at all possible. We received communication that, if we could not make it in on Thursday, we would be charged PTO. This makes me think that we will not be charged PTO for these three days. However, I’m also not sure we will be paid if we don’t use PTO. That is unclear at this point. So, tomorrow, I will get up and get ready, and see how the roads look. It is only supposed to reach 30 degrees today, according to one weather app, but another says only 27. I don’t think that’s going to be enough to clear things up. We got more snow, overnight, but not a lot in Fort Worth. Denton and northern areas got more.

I’ll move on to the more important part of my morning.

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)

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers.
(Psalms 20:4-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For electricity; for lights, for heat, for COFFEE
  • For wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ; we help take care of each other
  • For conveniences that we often take for granted
  • That we never had any water issues at our house
  • For the season of Lent
  • That through everything that has happened in the last twelve months, if we are truly paying attention, You are drawing us deeper

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

“For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
(Genesis 3:19 NLT)

As we enter into the Lent season, it is important to realize the purpose. It doesn’t have to be joyless, but it is an intentional entering into the suffering of Jesus, through fasting or other forms of self-denial. This is something that is growing less and less popular in our culture.

“The spare and sober nature of Lent is healthy for the heart and true to the gospel, scrubbing away frothy spirituality by calling us to say no to ourselves in order to experience a greater yes in Jesus.”

LENT – DAY 1 – ASH WEDNESDAY

INVITATION

The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
(Psalms 145:8 NLT)

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
(Psalms 51:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come.
(Joel 2:1-2 NIV)

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
(Joel 2:12-13 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

Psalm 51 is always a great confessional psalm, and is certainly a good prayer for the Lent season. “Have mercy on me,” is always a cry worthy of the child of God. “Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Of course, the thing is, post-Jesus, our sins are always cleansed. But the major point of this comes in the next verses. We must be aware of our sin. “I know my transgression,” says David. This is an important perspective as we enter Lent. We have to be aware of our transgressions. This, again, is not a popular sentiment in our culture.

If we observe the season, even in times outside of Lent, we can learn this wisdom from God, “in that secret place.”

The passage in Joel calls us to repentance, to “fasting and weeping and mourning.” It was a common practice to tear clothes in sorrow, but Joel calls us to “rend” our hearts, rather than our clothing. But I love the reasoning for returning to the Lord. “He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

This is the perfect time to consider all of these things. I am looking forward to this Lent season. I seem to be in a better place to observe it, this year, as I feel like I have made significant spiritual progress in the last year.

I believe I have determined what I will “give up” for Lent. I won’t say, here, except to say that it is not a tangible thing; it’s an attitude, something mental/emotional.

Father, even though the season of Lent is not something specifically called for in Scripture, I am glad for the opportunity to embrace the suffering of our Savior and enter into an attitude of self-denial, even if it is for something small and seemingly insignificant. It may not be insignificant for me, though. Maybe it is a part of my life that needs to be permanently eliminated. Give me strength during this forty-day period, and remind me minute by minute of what I have purposed to do (or not do) in my spirit. I am thankful for the inspiration for the season. And I pray for everyone who has purposed in their heart to give something up for this period, whether it be tangible, such as a kind of food or drink or other activity, or something spiritual or mental. All glory to You, Lord!

"Holy God, 
corruption is everywhere.
For too long sin and disobedience has been our master,
ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.
And still today,
I look around and see this sin
that poisons our life.
We're all natural born sinners,
corrupt from conception on.
And I stand among another generation of
such born sinners.
Lord, have mercy.
Amen."
(Heidelberg Catechism 7)

BLESSING

Redeem us from all wickedness, purify us and make us your very own, eager to do what is good.
(see Titus 2:14)”

And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled.
(Ezra 8:21 NLT)

When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail. He went as far as the gate of the palace, for no one was allowed to enter the palace gate while wearing clothes of mourning. And as news of the king’s decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes. When Queen Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was deeply distressed. She sent clothing to him to replace the burlap, but he refused it.
(Esther 4:1-4 NLT)

Then the LORD spoke to Jonah a second time:
“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
This time Jonah obeyed the LORD’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds:
“Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.

When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:1-10 NLT)

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”
(Revelation 2:4-5 NLT)

We are now moving into the text of the actual letters to the seven churches, in Revelation. First up is Ephesus, and the book chapter is entitled, “The Test of Our Love.”

Peterson begins by pointing out the magnificent accomplishes of human beings. Unlike animals, we are not simply content to “fill our stomachs, find shelter, mate, and frolic a little in the sun on occasion.” We build large, impressive buildings, we create huge rockets, capable of traversing thousands and thousands of miles in space, we build super-computers (ironically getting smaller and smaller in size), we accomplish amazing physical feats of athleticism, we create inspirational and mind-boggling art and music, and we have accomplished amazing medical things. We have also learned how to grow food to feed a hungry world.

But, Peterson, opines, the best thing we do as humans is love. “When we are living at our best, with all our energies focused, all our abilities alert and involved, doing what we were created to do, we love.” On the other hand, no matter what else we accomplish, if we do not love, “it is not satisfactory.” Paul addressed this fact in the famous chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians.

The question remains, though . . . “Why don’t we love more? Why aren’t we better at it? Why do we settle for so much less? Why do we get diverted and distracted from a life of love?”

We will attempt to answer those questions as we continue in the book.

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

May the God of your father help you; may the Almighty bless you with the blessings of the heavens above, and blessings of the watery depths below, and blessings of the breasts and womb.
(Genesis 49:25 NLT)

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”
And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said,
“Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”
For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon,
“Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!”
And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
(Luke 5:4-11 NLT)

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-13 NLT)

Jesus told Simon to cast his nets “out where it is deeper.” The fish were not located in the shallow water. When Simon did what Jesus said, they got so many fish that their nets began to tear.

“The blessings of God aren’t found in the shallow waters.”

This is something we all need to hear. Many Christians don’t ever get out of the shallow waters. I have spent way too much time there, in my own life. Recently, though, I have begun to get deeper. And it has a positive effect on my life. It also makes some things that used to be important not so important, any more.

We like to stay by the “shore,” where things are more comfortable. Sure, we read the Bible, but we only see the surface, “the shallow of the Word.” We pray, but our prayers stay shallow, typically dealing only with physical problems. We even tend to stay in the shallow parts of God’s love, which, as the poet expressed so well is so deep that, if we were to write it all down with ink that filled the oceans, it would drain the oceans dry.

“But if you want the blessings of God, you must leave the shallow and launch out away from the shore, away from its distractions, away from the old and the familiar, and into the deep . . . into the deep waters of faith, the deep waters of His presence, the deep of His Word, the deep of worship, the deep of His joy, the deep of His Spirit, and the deep of His heart. That’s where your blessings are waiting to be found.”

And, “miracles so big that your net will break.”

We have spent time, in the past year, wondering why we don’t see some of the miracles that the Apostles did in the book of Acts. Of course, we know that the Apostles, themselves, did no miracles. They were simply channels. Nevertheless, why do we not see such things today. Perhaps because we have not launched into the deep.

The Mission: Launch out into the deep waters of God today. And there let down your net that it might break with His blessings.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Father, I read this, and I think, “I want to go deeper, but I don’t know how to swim” (from a song by Delirious). Is it fear that keeps us from going deeper? It’s like venturing out into the waves of the ocean. It’s fun, it’s exhilarating, but we don’t know where the ledge is, where we take a step and plummet into the depths, over our heads. Well, I think I’m ready to plummet, Father. This week has, hopefully, taught me some things. Last night, as we celebrated having power for the first time in almost 35 hours, we realized that we had made it through, and made it through well. We didn’t break down. We didn’t fight; we didn’t yell at each other; we didn’t EVER despair. We were certainly tempted to. But the whole time, we were focused, thinking, “We will get through this. We are okay.” We kind of just hummed along. It was uncomfortable, but there are others who are more uncomfortable. There are still people without power, and there are some who, just this morning, have lost power for the first time.

Draw us deeper, O Lord, deeper into Your well of the Spirit. Show us how to find the “blessings” that will break our nets. However, may we be seeking You and Your Face and Your Name, more than we seek blessing. I am certainly interested in blessings. But I am more interested in becoming who/what You desire for me to become. I believe You are more interested in what I become than in what I do. During this season of Lent, show me what I need to find in You. Draw me deeper.

Lord, I lift up communities, both local and national, and especially in the areas that are effected by this huge winter storm outbreak. Please restore power where it needs to be restored! We need Your supernatural help, because our governments are inept. I lift up the continent of Africa, today, praying for all general needs that occur in their countries. And I pray for those who work to lobby for justice and peace in our land and in our world.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.