Today is Wednesday, the twenty-first of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.
May the peace of Christ reign in your heart!
The Autumnal Equinox occurs tomorrow!
My personal and baseball news can be found at my other blog, today.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.
(Deuteronomy 13:4 ESV)
Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for sending down powers from on high into our earthly life. We thank you for sending us a higher nature in which we can live for others because we are living by what we receive from you. May we be simple, childlike, and trusting. When anyone despairs of himself, show him the way to the Savior so that he can find trust. Show to us the way of trust, trust for ourselves and for all people, because it is your will for all to receive help. Amen. (Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
(John 7:37-38 NIV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the wonderful words of life we get from Jesus
- for the Living Water
- for the higher nature that God gives us, that we might live for others, as we live by what we receive from Him
- for the strength and power I get from the Word of God
- that I am blessed because I have believed without seeing
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31 ESV)
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Jesus simply appeared in a locked room full of disciples. Did He walk through the wall/door, or did He simply appear? I find it hard to believe that the phrase “the disciples were glad” does the situation justice. For starters, I envision something more like this:
After the initial shock, I have to believe that awe and wonder would have taken over. “Glad” somehow doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word.
I can’t deny that I have always been troubled by verse 23.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
(John 20:23 ESV)
So the word translated “forgive” is aphiemi (G863), which does carry the meaning of forgive. However, the second word translated “forgiveness” is krateo (G2902). This word carries more of a meaning of holding on to something. The KJV translates that verse like this:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
(John 20:23 KJV)
The NLT and NIV are identical for this verse.
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
(John 20:23 NIV)
I rather like Peterson’s rendering, because it lends itself to the ambiguity that I’m experiencing, here.
“If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
(John 20:23 MSG)
Contextually, I think we have to consider the phrase that comes immediately before the verse, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” as Jesus breathes on His disciples. Jesus is putting some heavy authority on His disciples, here; authority which is seen in events such as the encounter with Ananias and Sapphira, later in Acts.
Oddly, Thomas wasn’t with the other ten, that day. We are not told why, so it’s not important. What is important is his reaction. Now, lest we be too hard on him, pay attention to the passage.
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
(John 20:20 ESV)
It wasn’t until after Jesus displayed the wounds in His hands and side that the disciples were dais to be “glad.” Thomas essentially demanded the same proof. Plus, he also implied that he thought the other ten were delusional.
Jesus’s response to the whole thing?
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 ESV)
That’s me. If you are a believe in Christ, that is also you. We are, according to Jesus, Himself, blessed because we have believed and not seen. This is faith, the gift from God that we have received, not of our own works, lest we should boast.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:22-26 ESV)
For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.
(Psalms 18:39 ESV)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. (Psalms 46:1-3 ESV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
(Ephesians 6:10-18a ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
“Strength for the battle.” God has given me, through His Word, strength for the “battle.” I have yet to be in a physical battle. However, I have encountered many battles in my life which were not physical. At least not in the sense that shots were fired or blows dealt out.
David probably was referring to actual military conflicts, since he was king. But we read that verse, today, and can take comfort in knowing that we have the resources we need to fight our own battles.
There’s a popular worship song called “Surrounded.” Michael W. Smith has a popular recording that is, essentially, just the two choruses of the song, with no verses included. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there are verses. Surprisingly, the verses are taken from Psalm 23.
"There's a table that You've prepared for me In the presence of my enemies It's Your body and Your blood You shed for me This is how I fight my battles." (emphasis added)
That’s verse 1. Verse 2 goes like this:
"In the valley I know that You're with me And surely Your goodness and Your mercy follow me So my weapons are praise and thanksgiving This is how I fight my battles."
The rest of the song is a bit repetitive for my taste, as it simply says, “This is how I fight my battles” over and over, with a bridge in the middle that says, “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.” Good words, though. I’ll share a video of the song . . . it’s long, though, and there’s this stranger person that’s kind of “dancing” over to one side.
“This is how I fight my battles.” How? Through the Word. Yes, it talks about the body and blood of Christ, at the “table,” which, to us, is what we call The Supper, or the Lord’s Supper. But it is through the Word.
In that verse from Hebrews, the word “word” is the Greek logos. The same Greek word is in the first chapter of John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
(John 1:1-4 ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14 ESV)
Peter tells us, in one of my favorite passages of his, that we have everything we need to live our lives.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)
All of this comes through the Word of God, which is Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate.
Shawnelle Eliasen, one of my favorite Guideposts writers, wrote today’s entry. She writes, “We can’t choose what comes against us. But we can be prepared.
“When we spend time in His presence, His truth makes us strong. it changes our perceptions and reactions and how we persevere. He makes us bold. Unafraid. We become conquerors.
“The Word is our weapon of war.”
It is easy to look around at the unrest and troubles in the world, right now, and be afraid. If I take my eyes off of the Word of God, I might get fearful for the future of my own country. But, in reality, this “country” is utterly irrelevant. The man-made divisions of this world are, to a great degree, what have caused most of the “battles” in history.
God is not interested in that. I fully believe that. He is interested in us living for His glory, and in living for His glory, we live for others, as well. And we are, if we would but avail ourselves of the resources and provisions, fully prepared by being in His Word.
This is how I fight my battles.
Also, just a reminder that the “word” without the “Word” is pretty much useless. “In the life of a Christian, one of the deepest lessons to learn is that the Word without the living God avails little; that the blessing of the Word comes when it brings us to the living God; that the Word from the mouth of God brings with it the power to understand and to obey it. Let us learn the lesson that personal fellowship with God in secret can make the Word life and power for us.” (Andrew Murray)
Father, there is a lot here, today, but I want to focus on Your Word in my prayers. It is through Your Word, both written and the spiritual Word of Jesus Christ, by which I am prepared for “battle.” I have no idea what is coming my way in the future. But I will not be afraid of it, nor will I worry about it, because I know that You are with me. You have prepared a table for me, and on that Table is the Supper, the body and blood of Jesus. It is through this, through the Word, that I will fight my battles.
Help me to remain in Christ, to remain in the Word, and the Word to remain in me. I pray that I will never forsake this Word, and know that this Word will never forsake me or let me fall. I may stumble; I will stumble; but Your Word will pick me up and sustain me. Through Your Word, I have been given everything I need for life and godliness. I need not ask for anything else, I need not desire anything else. Forgive me when my desires stray from this path.
I pray for all the saints, Father, that we might mimic the early disciples, as they met together, by devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teachings, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!