Love Beyond Reason

Today is Tuesday, the tenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,434

Yesterday seemed a little busy, but not terrible. I got C’s oil changed and filled up her car with gas, as planned. I also got several loads of laundry completed, and then cooked chili for us for dinner, last night.

Mama and I watched most of the Texas Rangers game in NYC, but they lost, 1-0. It was obviously a very close game. Both pitchers pitched well, the Yankees pitcher flirting with a no-hitter. In the end, the Rangers got 2 hits and the Yankees only got 3, but they were able to plate the run. John Gray, the starter, did pretty well, and was not pegged for the loss. The Rangers are now 11-16 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Athletics, who broke their losing streak yesterday. The Rangers begin a series with the KC Royals today at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Boston Red Sox did not play, yesterday. That’s good, because it meant they didn’t lose. Hopefully, the rest did them some good, and they can maybe refocus and win a few. They face the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta tonight at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees are back on top of MLB, with 20-8 record, being the third team to have 20 wins. The LA Dodgers (19-8) are only a half game behind them. The Cincinatti Reds have a win streak! They have won TWO IN A ROW! They still have the worst MLB record, at 6-23, but they are only 2.5 games behind the Tigers. There are now only three teams who have yet to win 10 games; the Reds, the Tigers, and the Royals. Let’s hope the Rangers can keep that true for the Royals. The Astros continue to hold the longest win streak at 7, and the Tigers now have the longest losing streak, at 6. The LA Dodgers have, by far, the biggest run differential, at +70, while the Reds have the biggest negative at -74.

It’s Tuesday, so I work tonight, from 4:15 to 8:15, at the library. It’s my “heavy” week, so I will also be working tomorrow and Thursday, have Friday off, and work Saturday. I think there might be plans for C and Mama to go to Mineral Wells on Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, bless us who have become united in our hope in you and in our expectation of your help on this earth, where people live in all kinds of foolish ways. Bless your Word within us. Grant us your Holy Spirit to restore life and gladness to our hearts, even in grief and suffering. Grant this not only in the distress of the whole world, but also in our own lives as long as we remain on this earth. Let signs be seen on every hand that you help us and give us a strength we can rely on. You help us in all circumstances every day, every year, ever anew. For this we thank you and praise your name. Amen.
(Today's daily prayer from Plough)
Trust in the LORD and do good. 
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 
Commit everything you do to the LORD. 
Trust him, and he will help you. 
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, 
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:3-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the safety that I feel in the presence of God
2. that, in Christ, there is no difference between any of us; we are all equal in Him
3. for the hope of the full realization of my salvation, my inheritance in heaven; may I wait patiently and confidently
4. that God cares for us more than He cares for the birds of the air; this should give us great confidence in Him
5. for the various platforms of social media that are available to spread the positive message of the Kingdom of God; I pray that people would stop using them to do harm and spread harmful words

Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
(Job 40:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “differences.” Author Tom Robbins is quoted as saying, “Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.”

In many ways, everyone is different. According to science, everyone has a unique DNA string, with very few exceptions. In many ways, we are alike, as well. Everyone has at least one doppelganger in this world.

While Mr. Robbins has a good point, all too often, we focus too much on the differences. Much ado is made about the differences between, say, male and female. And there are people out there that are proud of their difference. Some people want to be known as outside the norm.

But here’s the thing. According to the Bible, in the eyes of God, there is no difference. No, that doesn’t mean we are made out of cookie cutters. It doesn’t mean that we are rolled out like doughnut dough and run through that machine that cuts out fifty doughnuts that all look exactly the same.

What I mean by this, and what I believe Paul meant, is that, in Christ, we are all equal. It has been said, and I have quoted this here, before, that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Here’s what Paul says:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28 NLT)

Here is another passage that brings the same kind of message:

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

Where the NLT says “no matter who we are,” the NIV says, “there is no difference.”

So, yes, let us celebrate differences, as long as we are looking at them in a positive light. As soon as you use “differences” as a way to place yourself ahead of someone else or make yourself feel more important than someone else, you have crossed a line into sin. Because, here’s another word from Paul:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for the differences in all of us that keep things interesting. But I pray that we not use differences as a way to discriminate against others. It makes me sad that I see a lot of that going on, these days, and, at times, even using Your name as an excuse. That ought not be, Father. I pray that Your Spirit would intervene in these cases and change hearts and minds to view everyone as equal under Your gaze. This, I believe, falls under Your command to love one another. So, please help us to do that. May we embrace differences, but not use them.

King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.”
(Daniel 4:1-3 NLT)

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
(Romans 8:24-25 NLT)

This is the essence of hope. We are looking forward to something that we do not yet have, and we wait. Sometimes not so patiently, and most definitely, not always confidently.

If I’m being honest (isn’t that a strange phrase? I mean, shouldn’t we always be “being honest?), I do not always wait patiently. If my wife would read that statement, she might fall on the floor laughing. I do believe I’m getting better, though. Confidence is another thing entirely.

I’ve always had this problem. My faith is not an issue, when it comes to what I believe God can do. I’m just not always confident that He wants to or He will. So I wait, sometimes not patiently, and sometimes not very confidently.

But there are things that I am both patient and confident about. One of those is the “future grace” (a John Piper-ism) of my inheritance in “heaven.” This is something that I hope for, because I do not yet have it. In one sense, I do have it, because it is, I believe, set aside for me. But in a more tangible sense, I do not yet possess it, because I cannot see it or experience it.

So I hope. And, even though I have been “saved,” I do have salvation, I am also still waiting for salvation to be fully realized. I long for the reality of this, yes, with all my heart. But I wait. Patiently and confidently. And that changes the way I look at the world.

Father, I thank You for this hope that I have. For if I was not confident of my eternal inheritance, I would have no hope. And, frankly, I do not see how anyone can survive, in this world, without hope. My hope in Christ is what allows me to look around me and see all the trouble and still keep going. That hope is what keeps me from despair. And that hope is also what keeps me from chasing after “causes” that are not relevant to Your Kingdom. Help me to walk more confidently and patiently in that hope, Father.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
(Matthew 6:26-27 NLT)

Here is something that addresses that struggle that I have with confidence in my waiting. In The Place of Trust, Martin Luther also addresses this, and, quite handily, puts us to shame as he speaks of the birds being our “schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men.”

Finally, he says, “Now, since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and of casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more. Thus this is an excellent illustration that puts us all to shame. We, who are rational people and who have the Scriptures in addition, do not have enough wisdom to imitate the birds. When we listen to the little birds singing every day, we are listening to our own embarrassment before God and the people. But after his fall from the word and the commandment of God, man became crazy and foolish; and there is no creature alive which is not wiser than he. A little finch, which can neither speak nor read, is his theologian and master in the Scriptures, even though he has the whole Bible and his reason to help him.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

I find this both amusing and shaming. Amusing because of the way Luther presents it to us, but shaming, because it is true. Any amount of worry that I might experience falls to the ground when I consider the truth of Jesus’s words. And, when I acknowledge the truth of those words and embrace it, the weight that is taken from my shoulders is immense. We have no excuse, my brothers and sisters, to worry about anything. We have ever reason to live like the birds. Not that we don’t need to work for our living, because that is our lot in life. We need to do that for which we were created. The birds can do that for which they were created, and the Lord takes good care of them. We have our own purpose, and when we are walking in that purpose, we will have all that we need.

Of course, “need” is the operative word in that sentence.

Father, I thank You for the truth of these words, and I thank You that they arrived on the heels of a brief discourse about my struggles with confidence. There will always be doubt in my mind when it comes to certain prayers that I lift up. I don’t know if it is Your will or plan to heal someone from a disease. I don’t know what You have in store for someone who is suffering or struggling with something. But I do know that You are there with us, and that everything we do, we do in Your presence. I also know that You love us beyond measure and beyond human reason.

If we could fill the ocean with ink and make the sky a parchment, and attempt to write Your love on that parchment, it could not contain all the words, and it would drain the ocean dry. Help me and help all of us to embrace this love, this love beyond human reason, and to live our lives in confidence that You will care for us like You care for the sparrows.

These words from Eugene Peterson, to a large degree, sum up the way I feel about my presence here, and on other forms of social media.

“My first and continuing pastoral purpose in this pulpit is that you confess Christ personally. As a pastor, I have never wanted to be a moral policeman. Your morals are not that interesting to me. I am not interested in rewarding you when you are good or punishing you when you are bad, nor as a pastor have I wanted to gather large crowds here for religious entertainment. It makes little difference to me whether there are many or few in this place. Religious crowds are the easiest crowds to gather. But increasing the number of people under one roof has never been a conspicuously successful way of involving people in what is essential. The pastoral act that is central to me is to introduce God at his personal best (Jesus, the Christ) to human beings at their personal best.

“That is exactly what I hope happens here each week. I don’t want merely to tell you about this great story I have been reading in this book (the Bible); I want you to meet the Author. And he has told me that he wants to meet you–to involve you in a new story he is making. I can arrange the interview.

“Do you see why I have little interest in entertaining you with gossip about God? Do you see why I have little interest in lecturing you about what kind of life you ought to lead? There is something far more interesting and more to the point about introducing you personally to the personal God so that you no longer talk about God but to him. I long for you to confess Christ personally and get in on the new creative work that God is writing: the story of your salvation.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Obviously, I’m not a pastor with a pulpit. But I am a person with a forum, a form of media that I use to proclaim a message. I might be guilty, at times of “lecturing,” but that is only because I desire to see people doing what Jesus commanded us to do, which is to love God and love people.

One thing I do not do is beg for followers or try to manipulate people into following me. That is something that I find quite annoying on TikTok and other social media platforms (YouTube, as well, although, at this point I do not have a YouTube channel), the constant begging and trying to attract followers. I couldn’t care less what that number is. Oh, sure, I’ll admit that it felt good to see that I now have over 1000 followers on WordPress, but that is not my intent; that is not my purpose. That just means that there are that many more people who will be introduced, in some way to Jesus.

My favorite part of the piece by Peterson is the bit where he says he wants people to be talking to God, rather than talking about Him. And that is why I include my prayers in this blog. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to not only think about, meditate on, and contemplate God and the Scriptures, but I want to also encourage people to pray.

Father, I thank You for this platform that has been provided, and the freedom I have to express my beliefs on said platform. I thank You that this goes out all around the world, and that it is available for people to see almost anywhere. I do realize that there are exceptions to this, because of various circumstances. I pray for this blog to reach people for Your kingdom, for Your “cause.” I believe with all my heart that Your cause, the Gospel of Christ, is the only cause worth following and fighting for. I pray that someone will read these words, today, and get a glimpse of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that they might being to experience Your love beyond reason.

I don’t even have to know about it. I send out these words with the confidence that You will work through them. I have the same confidence in Your Word, because You have said that Your Word will not return to You without serving its purpose. I also pray that You would, as far as it serves Your purpose, “redeem” all forms of social media, that they would be used for good and not harm. All praise and glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

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