Today is Wednesday, the 8th of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always!
It has been thundering since late last night. It is milder, this morning, but last night, between 10:00 and 11:00 PM, it was quite loud. It has been raining for most of that time, as well, pretty heavily, at times. It has slowed down for the moment, though. I’m hoping it will stop by around 10:30 AM, because I have to take S to see her therapist at 11:00.
That’s pretty much the only thing I have to do today, until choir practice, this evening. I’ll be cooking Beefy American Goulash (from Emily Bites) for dinner, tonight, which will result in having a couple of leftover servings, which will be nice for tomorrow’s lunch. This has become the family’s favorite, I do believe.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Go away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. (Psalms 119:115 NRSV)
Dear Father in heaven, you are among us and we can call you Abba, dear Father. In the joy of being your children we want to lay our lives into your hands to be made good and happy. Care for us like a shepherd pasturing his flock so that we can have community with one another. Help us to realize that you have many children here and everywhere, and that again and again you take a child by the hand saying, “You are mine. I am caring for you.” We thank you that your eyes watch over all the world. We thank you that your rule is over all humankind and will bring good to all people, wherever they may live. May this happen soon through our Savior. We call to him, “Lord Jesus, come. Come soon! May your hand keep us all close to the Father in heaven.” Amen.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:14-17 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the rain we have received overnight, into this morning
- that the Spirit bears witness with my spirit, that I am a child of God
- that I am able to praise the Lord, both on musical instruments, and with my lips and my tongue
- for new mercies each morning; “great is Thy faithfulness”
- that the Lord does NOT take sides in human arguments; The Lord is on HIS side
Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my honor, and comfort me once again. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have rescued. All day long my tongue will talk of your righteous help, for those who tried to do me harm have been put to shame, and disgraced. (Psalms 71:18-24 NRSV)
Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:13-15 NRSV)
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV)
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." (Lamentations 3:22-24 NRSV)
Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. (Psalms 118:5 NRSV)
I’m seeing a couple of different things, this morning, and I’m going to try to bring them together. I may or may not succeed.
First and foremost is the passage from Joshua 5. This has stood out to me for a number of years, now, especially as I grow more and more weary of the political morass in this nation. There is a very important truth that we need to understand, here. God is not on anyone else’s side! God is not on the Republican side; God is not on the Democrat side; God is not on the Tea Party side. God is on God’s side.
Joshua mistakenly assumed that the angel he saw was on one side or the other. The angel quickly set him straight. “Neither,” he said,” but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Now, it may appear, from subsequent events, that the Lord was on Israel’s side. But that is only because that action was part of the Lord’s plan to accomplish His own purpose.
I have seen, all too often, humans from one persuasion or another, declare, “God is on our side!”
No. He is not. But if you happen to align yourself with God’s side and purposes, it may appear that He is. Rather than deciding on a “cause” and begging God to support your cause, it is better to ascertain what God’s “cause” is and join up with Him. That is one of the few positive things I brought away from the old “Experiencing God” study a few decades ago. We need to be looking to see what God is doing around us, and join in.
Instead, we all too often decide what we want to do and expect Him to join us. That ain’t gonna happen, folks. Unless we get “lucky” and what we decide to do is what He is already doing.
Now, on a positive note, we see that His steadfast love never fails and that His mercies are new every morning. In His mercy, He remembers that we are dust (this has become a favorite concept of mine, of late), and so when we start this silliness about God being “on our side,” He is patient with us, I believe. But He also reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (or generosity), gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
If we strive to exercise those qualities in our lives every day, we should wind up on the right “side,” which is God’s side, not any other human’s side. But if we find that we have inadvertently taken up with the wrong side (which is anyone’s side but God’s), we have the assurance that, when we cry out to Him in our distress, He will place our feet in “a broad place.”
So consider . . . which side are you on?
Father, I thank You that You do not take “human sides,” but that You are on Your side. I pray for the wisdom and strength to always be on Your side. It is so very easy to become swayed by human arguments and policies and “causes,” when, in fact, Yours is the only “cause” that is worthy of my support. And I believe that cause to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which tells us that Your kingdom is here, now, and available for all to join in.
I pray that You will give me the ability to show this kingdom to all around me. I pray that You will, by the power of the Spirit, enable me to display the fruit of the Spirit in my life, at all times. There are pieces of that fruit that I struggle with, mightily. Patience is one of those. Self-control and gentleness are others. Goodness/generosity, I do pretty well at, I think. I’m not too bad with the joy and peace parts, either, usually. But when my anxiety gets the better of me, those suffer, as well.
But it all starts with love. I don’t think it’s an accident that “love” is mentioned first. So help me love, Father, always. And that has been a major prayer of mine for a while, now, as You continue to drive me toward that kind of love for You and for others. Our world needs a Love Revolution, Father.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 146:1-10 NRSV)
Grace and peace, friends.