Today is Thursday, the 1st of December, 2022, in the first week of Advent. The last month of the year.
May the peace of Christ dwell within you, as we approach the celebration of His birth.
24 days until Christmas!
Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site to see more of his wonderful photography!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (Psalms 119:40 ESV)
Father, it is only in Your righteousness that I can have life! You are the source, You are the center of all things. I love Your Word. You overwhelm me.
Lord our God, we thank you for letting hosannas rise from people’s hearts and for letting us cry out to you all the more fervently in dark times. Help us, O Almighty God, and help your king, Jesus Christ, to his final victory. For he shall be victor, bringing grace, peace, life, and victory for all that is good, on earth as in heaven. He shall be victor at all times in our lives, enabling us to keep faith in trouble, fear, and need, yes, even in death. Hosanna to the victor, Jesus Christ, the victor you have chosen! O Almighty God, proclaim him on earth. Let all the people know he is on his way, to the glory of your name. Amen.
Say to Daughter of Zion, "See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Matthew 21:5, 9, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- for the Word of God and His righteousness that give me life
- for the grace, peace, life, and victory that Jesus brings and will bring on earth as in heaven
- that the whole law is fulfilled in “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14)
- for the season of Advent; the season of hopeful waiting
- that the Lord leads me in right paths, that He directs my steps; may I be faithful to follow that leading
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:1, 6, 13-15 ESV)
Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalms 147:1-7 ESV)
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; (Psalms 96:11 NRSV)
he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. (Psalms 23:3 NRSV)
then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
(Genesis 2:7 NRSV)
The human mind plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 NRSV)
The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
(Isaiah 58:11 NRSV)
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
(Romans 8:5-8 NRSV)
What is the “lesson” for today? I confess that there are some days when I look at the conglomeration of Scriptures presented by my various devotional sources and scratch my head. Then I simply try to listen, to hear the Spirit and what He might be saying to me.
That passage in Romans has always troubled me. Not because of whether I believe it or agree with it; that’s not an issue. It’s because I find myself edging into carnality way too often, which causes me anxiety.
However, Andrew Murray (yeah, him again) made a statement that helps and comforts me. “A love of prayer is one of the marks of the Spirit.” (From Living a Prayerful Life, quoted in Power in Prayer)
I think that we harm ourselves, emotionally and spiritually, but getting too caught up in the debate as to whether we are “carnal or spiritual.” It is similar to those who are constantly doubting their salvation experience.
I remember, as a youth at Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, Texas, there was this guy who walked down the aisle several times a month to “rededicate” his life. I get it, of course, we all want to be found sincere and faithful in our faith. And the beauty of being “Protestant” (I realize that there are those who think that Baptists are not “Protestant,” but the truth of the matter is, you are either Protestant or Catholic, so if you aren’t Protestant, you must be Catholic, and Baptists are definitely not Catholic), is that we don’t have to constantly be verbally confessing our sin to a priest.
I’ve heard stories about Martin Luther, the father of Protestants, and his struggle with confession. I don’t have a source, right this minute, but it is said that he would go to confession, leave the booth, get out of the room, and remember something else and go right back to the booth to confess some more. The stress and anxiety caused by this has to be unbearable.
I remember being told, in some Baptist churches, that, if I had unconfessed sin in my life, God wouldn’t hear my prayers. That is nothing more than typical religious manipulation and guilt-mongering.
But I digress.
Back to the anxiety caused by debating oneself concerning spirituality or even salvation. The very fact that one is debating the issue with oneself is a good sign. The carnal person wouldn’t care. The carnal person would not be grieving over his own sin. I know I do that. And, as Murray stated, I do love prayer. I love God’s Word, and I love prayer.
I do confess that I allow a lot of earthly things to cloud my vision, sometimes, and I am far too easily distracted. Or maybe, even as C.S. Lewis said, I am “far too easily pleased.”
Modern technology, while possessing no evil (or good, for that matter), inherently, does have the capacity to derail us and distract us, frequently. I can’t tell you how many times I have been distracted or delayed in the writing of this blog by seeing (1) on the Facebook tab, or a little red dot on the email tab, indicating that there is a new email to look at. I have my best success when I totally close those tabs and wait until I’m finished writing to look at them.
This doesn’t make me “carnal.”
To be carnal is to have one’s mind set on the things of the flesh. That’s all one thinks about. And, as I previously stated, that person wouldn’t even debate the matter with himself. He would simply do whatever he has his mind set on, which is things of the flesh.
If one is struggling with it, one is probably in pretty good shape, spiritually. We can all do better, of course, right? I know I can. But if I were carnal, I wouldn’t even be interested in “doing better.” I would be content to dwell in my sinful state.
Father, I thank You that You have placed within me a love of prayer and a love for Your Word. I confess that my mind is not always united in this. I find that my attention is divided, all too often. So I pray that You would help me to conquer this by Your Spirit, giving me the ability to shut out what doesn’t matter, at least for an amount of time that would allow me to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, in the realm of the Spirit.
I also pray that You would help me control my own mind, as brother Willard says we can do. When “carnal” thoughts come into my mind, help me to shut them out with Your Word and Your Spirit.
And even more importantly, help me to know that it is You who works the changes in us, when we need to be more disciplined and spiritual. Help me to persevere in prayer and in faith.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.