On Praying for Kings and Presidents

Today is Sunday, the eleventh of April, 2021, the second Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,040

39 days until our next Glen Rose weekend

It’s another chilly morning, today, currently 50 degrees. But it’s going to be warm, as the projected high today is 84. There is virtually no chance of any rain today. The week ahead, though, looks to be cooler, with temps falling into the upper fifties by next Saturday. There is a decent chance of rain on at least four of the days in the coming week.

We had the most wonderful day, yesterday. After everyone arrived, we exchanged the birthday gifts, and decided on Mesquite Pit for lunch. I splurged a bit, point-wise, with a two meat plate of chopped brisket and sausage. I figured the meal to be somewhere around 20 SmartPoints, which may or may not be accurate. I had “Cowboy beans” (pinto beans) and green beans for my sides, which are typically zero points. I have no idea how they cook them, though, so who knows?

But the afternoon was great. After lunch, we just sat and talked and never left the dining room table. I even forgot to go get Crazy Water. By the time I remembered, they would only be open for about twenty more minutes, so I didn’t bother. I still have close to eighteen liters, which will last me over a month, so I’m good. It was so good for us all to be together (less S, of course, but she called while we were there), and we elected to be mask-free in the setting, as all of us but Mama have had both vaccines, and she has had one. I know it meant the world to her, and it felt like more “normal” times.

Our church, as previously mentioned, is not meeting, this morning. I’m still not 100% sure if I am going anywhere. I stayed up late and got up early, as I find it difficult to sleep past 6:30 AM, for some reason. Depending on what time I finish the blog post, and how energetic I feel . . . I may or may not try to go out. C is actually working (from R’s old bedroom), so she’s probably not going anywhere.

S and I will have our normal Saturday night burgers tonight, as I had used up all but one of my daily points, yesterday, and wasn’t that hungry for dinner. My usual Sunday night dinner of tuna and black-eyed peas will have to wait until another time.

The Texas Rangers lost another game to the Padres last night. They started out ahead, scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the second. They were actually ahead when Jordan Lyles left the game, after 4.1 innings. But, sadly, as has been the story for so many years, the bullpen was not able to keep the lead. The Padres won 7-4. Wes Benjamin was tagged with the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers are now 3-5 on the season, sitting in fourth place in the AL West, 2.5 games out. They will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Mike Foltynewicz starting for the Rangers. Hopefully, he will have better command than his previous outing.

The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, have taken first place, and have now won five games in a row! They beat the Orioles again, last night, 6-4, scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning, on a wild pitch and a single. Matt Barnes, as the pitcher of record when the runs were scored, go the win, and another Matt (Andriese) got a save by holding off the O’s in the bottom of the 10th. The Sox are 5-3 on the season. They will play again today, in Baltimore, at 12:05 CDT. Nick Pivetta will start for Boston.

The LA Dodgers currently hold the best record, at 7-2, not surprisingly, as they are widely projected to possibly repeat as World Series champions, this year. The Pirates of Pittsburgh currently hold the worst record, along with the Marlins of Miami, at 2-6. Neither of those is much of a surprise, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation:
Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
(The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter)

Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.
I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long, for everyone who tried to hurt me has been shamed and humiliated.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating family and birthdays
  • for the opportunity to pray for our president and other elected officials; may I be more faithful in doing so
  • for the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, given to us by Christ
  • for the victory that is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ
  • for the music we have, with which we sing and play Your praises

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

EASTER – DAY 8

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I pause to quietly reflect on the “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

BIBLE SONG

Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.
(Psalms 72:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
(John 20:19-23 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, this morning, I reread the passages, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in, looking for words or phrases that speak to me.

I am immediately impressed that the first four verses of Psalm 72 are a good prayer to pray for national leaders. Whether your country has a king, queen, dictator, or president, this is a good prayer to bring before God on their behalf. We pray for God’s justice to be enacted through our country’s leaders. We pray that our country’s leaders would “judge . . . people in righteousness.” We pray that our country’s leaders would defend the afflicted and the needy, and crush all oppressors.

I have to confess that I have always struggled/puzzled with the passage from John. Not the part about Jesus appearing in their midst in a locked room, as that is told in multiple Gospel presentations. He also gives them bodily evidence of His promise that, wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He will be in their midst.

It’s verses 22 and 23 that give me pause. Not that I don’t believe them. I’m just not quite sure I completely understand what is happening. First of all, the Holy Spirit doesn’t make His grand entrance until Pentecost, in Acts 2. Did the disciples/apostles get a sneak preview, an advanced empowerment? I suppose that is entirely possible. Jesus breathed on them. The Greek word is emphusao, which means “to puff” or “to blow at/on.” The word for Spirit is the well-known pneuma, which literally means “a current of air,” or “breath.” Jesus breathed life onto His apostles, empowering them to move on to the next phase of their lives/ministries.

The second part that I have struggled with is the bit about forgiving sins. My understanding, and commentaries that I see seem to be in agreement, is that only Jesus/God can forgive sins or not forgive sins. So, while this looks like Jesus was giving the apostles authority to actually forgive sins, I don’t think that is the case. The thing is, I might be wrong. It happens quite a bit, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I simply admit that I don’t quite grasp the meaning of this verse. One commentary says that Jesus essentially, with the granting of the Holy Spirit, gave the disciples discernment to tell when people were truly forgiven or not forgiven, and the authority to make the proclamation as such. Without a doubt, it is this kind of authority that caused Ananias and Saphira to be stricken dead on the spot when they attempted to deceive the Church with their little contribution game in Acts.

Father, I will join the psalmist (Solomon, allegedly) in praying for Your wisdom and righteousness to be granted to our president and all other elected leaders in our country. I pray that they would all join together (not an impossible idea) to judge the people in righteousness, to defend the afflicted, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressors. May Your glory be seen in all our land, Father. I also pray for wisdom to understand what is happening in this passage from John. It is not something that will break my faith if I don’t quite get it. It is not something that is essential for me to understand. I will accept on faith that the disciples understood what was being said and what was happening, and that they acted on it. That is enough for me.

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.

Jesus,
friend of sinners,
your resurrected life is not  a private experience or a soothing metaphor but a stubborn public reality.
May your well-attested resurrection impel me to openly announce the outrageously good news - 
that sins are forgiven through what you have done when the gospel promise is received in true faith.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 84)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

He is not here; he has risen!
(Luke 24:6 NIV)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
(Matthew 28:5-6 NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
(Revelation 2:18-20 NIV)

It’s been a while since I had time to delve into John’s letters to the churches. I’m continuing, this morning, with the letter to the church in Thyatira.

After giving them some praise and encouragement, Jesus moves on to the issue He has against this church. There is a person who is in the congregation, leading them astray with false teaching. Jesus names her “Jezebel,” to compare her to the Old Testament person of that name. And perhaps that was really her name. I suppose it is not necessarily wrong to assume so.

The Old Testament Jezebel was “the most notorious evil woman in Hebrew history.” She was the wife of King Ahab, who was one of the weaker of Israel’s kings. Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was a priest of Astarte. “Astarte was the Phoenician equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus.” This religious system was so grossly immoral that it “encouraged gross sexual immorality under the cloak of piety.”

Jezebel (OT) may have even been a priestess of Astarte, herself. To add to her evil works, she killed all prophets of Jehovah that she could get her hands on. “Ahab did not possess the moral conviction or stamina to withstand her.”

It is almost as though her spirit has been reincarnated in this person addressed by Jesus. She was having some success in seducing disciples of Christ “to indulge in immoral practices.” Her teaching included believing that matter was evil, so sins of the flesh could be indulged without damaging the spirit.

I’m going to quote an entire paragraph, here, because I feel it is important to understanding.

“Jezebel’s answer to the Christian’s conflict with the world was to eliminate the conflict by assimilating the differences. Instead of refusing to participate in what was evil, she taught that the Christian must assimilate all the evil and thereby redeem it. Any examination that we undergo must include an examination of our relation to society. And in particular here, business society. We cannot exclude such a major part of our lives from the probing, searching gaze of Christ. Our tendency is to assimilate, to take on the coloration of those with whom we work – our employers, our companies, our associates. But Christ’s command is that we should differentiate.”

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

Father, may we be careful to not assimilate the practices of evil into our churches, today. But may we also be discerning as to what is truly evil and what is not. Like Your apostles, give us Your Holy Spirit, that we may discern what is worthy and shun what is not. May we not fall into the same trap as the Christians in Thyatira. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, please grant Your church resurrection hope and joy, this day. Give us, like the apostles, the power of the Holy Spirit, along with the discernment, and help us share the Gospel with our communities, in the power of the Spirit.

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!

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

Grace and peace, friends.