Prayer: History, Forgiveness, and Others

Today is Sunday, February 10, 2019.

Day 22,249

THREE DAYS until Spring Training!!!!

“We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.”
H.L. Mencken, U.S. editor, 1880-1956
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is finicky. It means, “extremely or excessively particular, exacting, or meticulous in taste or standards.” In other words, “cat.”

I got new glasses ordered, yesterday. My distance vision had changed a bit, but my vision for computers/music had not changed enough to replace those glasses. I will still need two pair. The doctor told me that we could combine distance/medium-range/reading all in one pair, but he didn’t seem to think I would like it. And since I already have a good pair for medium-range, I just left it that way. I added the “transition” to the new pair, this time. They change darker when outside.

The rest of the day was nice. I picked up lunch right after my eye doctor, and by the time we ate, it was time to go get the groceries.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. The main worship leader is sick, and, to my knowledge (although he has never told me decisively), will not be there. So Brandon and I will each be leading two songs. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, Texas. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15 AM.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
Psalm 35:18

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brothers and sisters at The Exchange Church.
2. For my brothers and sisters in Christ, all over the world.
3. That the dream I had last night was just that – a dream.
4. For the privilege of praying.
5. For the three lessons involving prayer.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.

(The Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 96:9)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is called, “Prayer Lessons from History’s Wisest Person.” Peterson is speaking of Solomon. I would take issue with that (I rarely do with Eugene Peterson), and say that Jesus was history’s wisest person. Nevertheless, the lesson is a good one.

Keep your eyes open to this Temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My Name will be honored there,” and listen to the prayers that I pray at this place. Listen from your home in heaven and when you hear, forgive.
1 Kings 8:29-30

“In Solomon’s prayer, we can see three areas in which the visible is a conduit for the invisible, and they are areas that we are still involved with today.”

First, is history. Solomon remembers the great acts of God from the past. “A poor memory is a threat to our prayers.” If, when praying, we forget the actions of God in the past, we will likely pray with “small faith and for tiny ends.”

The second thing is forgivness. Solomon specifically prays that God will forgive. “Self-deception and selfishness are threats to our prayers as well.” Too often, our prayers are an attempt to get God on our side, to do what we want Him to do. Peterson says, “the visible church is a check against that. Forgiveness is the turning point in prayer, the transition from seeking our own way from God to yielding our lives to him so that he may perform his will in it.” Remember that line from Jesus’s model prayer. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The third area involves others; foreigners, strangers. “Our prayers are strangled when they become too narrow.” How often do we only pray for ourselves, our familes, and our close acquaintances? We must be more sensitive “to the vast church of Christ and the world Christ is seeking to bring into fellowship with him. The visible church is proof against that, bringing people together under one roof whom you would ordinarily not associate with.”

Our pastor has really driven that home in past weeks. The church is made up of people with whom we would normally not associate. People with whom we otherwise have nothing in common. And we must get along because Christ died for all of us, regardless of race, sex, hobbies, and political persuasions.

Three areas in prayer: history, forgiveness, and others.

Father, may I be mindful of all of these things as I pray, today and every day. Let me never forget Your might acts in history, both my history and the history of Your people. May I always be humble and remember whence I came, the marvelous forgiveness with which You have blessed me. And may I expand the scope of my prayers to the world Church and beyond.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Soli Deo Gloria!


A Thirsty Tongue

“A thirsty tongue is liable to be a murmuring one. When Israel was not satisfied, she tested God with her lips. So with me, and how often I have known this, when I have not been wholly satiated with the water of life in the morning, the tongue is apt to move loosely in criticism of God’s children, His ways of leading, His apparent slowness to provide.” (From The Journals of Jim Elliot, March 6, 1948)

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”~~Erich Fromm
“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”~~William Blake

Today’s WotD, from, is commodius. While it may sound as if it is referring to a particular piece of bathroom furniture (in a Roman form, even? “Marcus, I must visit the commodius!?), it, in fact, means “spacious and convenient; roomy: ample or adequate for a particular purpose.” Perhaps you have a commodius house, or a commodius office at work.

Today is White Chocolate Cheescake Day. Why? Because chocolate!

We had a very nice time at the Irish Festival, yesterday. We drove to a nearby train station in Dallas and hopped on the Dart Rail for $10 ($5 each for two Day Passes). The train dropped us off right in front of the gate of the Fair Park. Parking at the Festival was $15, and we probably would have had to walk a mile to get there from the car. So that was a “win/win” situation. I realized, while on the train, that a $5 Day Pass also provides some people with a pseudo comfortable place to sleep for the day. You never know what you are going to see when you ride the train. The important thing is to not panic and realize that anything you might see on the train is “normal.”

The festival was fun. We heard a lot of good music as we walked around, even though we never really stopped to listen to any for a significant length of time. It was just everywhere. There were also a number of food booths with free samples. We even bought some of the food products, too. We bought some really good jelly/jams, some salsa mix, and some beef jerky for Rachel. Then I got a nice Celtic “Circle of Life” t-shirt and a new hat. I’ll be wearing those to church this morning. The hardest part was deciding what to eat, though. I finally settled on a Scottish sausage sandwich, and some “gravy french fries.” I was disappointed that the gravy was brown, but they were okay. The sausage was okay, but not great. Christi got a patty melt at one booth that was out of this world. She shared it with me. Afterward we bought a funnel cake and a couple of Diet Cokes. The miraculous thing is that we planned it out and didn’t have any of the food/drink coupons left! That never happens!

The one thing that disappointed me is that they didn’t have any Mead this year. The closest thing that had was some apple cider, so I had a cup of that. It was pretty good. But I really wanted mead. Oh, well. Scarborough Renaissance Faire is right around the corner.

This morning, we have our worship gathering at 10:15. Christi isn’t running the Mac today, so we don’t have to be there early. Our church, The Exchange, meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N Beach, in Fort Worth, TX. Come join us if you are nearby.


By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Psalm 33:6-9

“Do words really make any difference?” Eugene Peterson asks. “Does talk ever cause anything to happen?” I doubt that, when he wrote that, he knew that I would be reading this in the middle of one of the strangest and, perhaps, worst Presidential campaigns we have ever experienced; one where words seem trite and meaningless, and, at times, even obscene and insulting. But they are words that are definitely attached to deeds. Empty promises. But the words of God, that’s a totally different story. We have here, “a biblical witness that traces the very world we live in to the word of God.”

“O God, by men who make promises that they never keep and by people who make statements that they do not mean, I begin to treat words as ‘mere words.’ And then I look around at what happens in creation and in salvation when you speak, and I’m ready to listen again, especially to the ‘Word made flesh’ in whose name I pray (John 1:14). Amen.”

On second thought, maybe he did write that during a Presidential campaign!

“A thirsty tongue is liable to be a murmuring one. When Israel was not satisfied, she tested God with her lips. So with me, and how often I have known this, when I have not been wholly satiated with the water of life in the morning, the tongue is apt to move loosely in criticism of God’s children, His ways of leading, His apparent slowness to provide.” (From The Journals of Jim Elliot, March 6, 1948)

Father, I see the truth in what Jim Elliot has written here. I pray that the eyes of my heart would be satisfied in you. May the times that I spend in your word burrow deep into my spirit, satisfying me so that my tongue does not wander into territory that it unseemly. I cannot count the number of times that my loose tongue has gotten me into some kind of trouble. Tame it, my Lord, in the name and power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Examine the Outflow

It is Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Today is “Senior Citizen’s Day.” So appreciate your elders today. Unless you already are one. In which case, I appreciate you! After yesterday, I feel like a senior citizen. I’ll explain later.

On this date in 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state. That means there were only 49 states when I was born. Yes, I’m that old.
On this date in 1911, it was discovered that the Mona Lisa had been stolen. Over two years later, the thief, Vincenzo Perugia, attempted to collect a ransom for the painting and was caught.
On this date in 1987, the movie Dirty Dancing opened. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
On this date in 1920, Christopher Robin was born. Christopher Robin Milne was the son of Daphne and A.A. Milne. The much-loved Winnie the Pooh stories were inspired by Christoper and his collection of stuffed animals. That just made my day.
And, on this date in 1935, it is said that the “Swing Era” began, as Benny Goodman performed at Palomar Ballroom.

Now…about yesterday…Stephanie had been thinking for a while that her and her boyfriend were about to break up. But when it actually happened yesterday morning, she wasn’t quite prepared for it. I don’t remember what time the first call was, but I got a phone call early in the morning, and she was crying, saying that she thought they had broken up and he wouldn’t talk to her. I got her calmed down a little, but then a couple hours later, I checked Facebook on my phone, and saw that he had changed his profile picture to one sharing the space with his old girlfriend. I immediately called Stephanie back and she cried for about five minutes straight. Broke my heart, let me tell you. We talked it through, and I reminded her that she had been saying for a week or so that she didn’t think this boy was the right one for her. But you know how we are…no one wants to be the one who gets broken up with. She started feeling a little better after a while. Oh, and during the first call, I got another call on the work phone, alerting me that one of our drivers’ tractor had broken down. So in the space of about two minutes, there, my whole day fell apart. Or so it seemed. I learned some lessons (or least I hope I learned them) during this day. Shortly after the second call, I got a third call (from Stephanie). It seems a package had come in the mail…a late birthday present that didn’t arrive in time for the birthday. After emailing Christi, I gave Steph permission to go ahead and open it. It was the requested DVD collection of “I Love Lucy” episodes. That just made her day!

After I got home from work, (there was at least one other phone call during the afternoon, but, under the circumstances, I didn’t mind) I took her to Target to buy a portable DVD player with her money from last Christmas (yeah…she still had that). It was a successful mission. Now, it starts to get a little strange. Stephanie had been saying that she wanted a boyfriend who went to our church and that wasn’t autistic (the previous one was also in the spectrum). As we were driving home from Target, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, so I answered it off the car bluetooth. It was a young man from our church, wanting to know how Stephanie was doing. You know, with Facebook, these days, everything gets out there for all to see. When I knew who it was, I switched it over to the bluetooth, so Stephanie could talk to him, too. Within a few minutes, he asked if he could maybe take her out on a date. Wait, WHAT?? Yep. He wants to take her to a Rangers game this Saturday. (If he can get tickets…) We know this guy, and he’s straight up. Now, who knows what will come of this? But you know what? She is pretty much over the old boyfriend, I can tell you that. Stephanie’s walkin’ on sunshine…

Isn’t God good?

Father, I pray that you will show me a glimpse of yourself this morning.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 82. Written by Asaph, this psalm poses some questions from the Almighty.
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment;
“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

It is almost as if Asaph was writing about our day, when the weak are pushed down further and the needy are told to fend for themselves. I pray that the true children of God will continue to rise up and be generous with the resources that God has provided them.

My Utmost For His Highest
Blessed are the poor in spirit… Matthew 5:3

Too often we hear preaching that emphasizes “strength of will, beauty of character–the things that are easily noticed.” We hear this idea of making a decision for Christ, an emphasis that Jesus Christ himself never made. “He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to Him–a very different thing.” There is a “loveliness of the commonplace” that is seen in Christ’s Kingdom. “The thing I am blessed in is my poverty. If I know I have no strength of will, no nobility of disposition, then Jesus says–Blessed are you, because it is through this poverty that I enter His Kingdom.” Understand this…we cannot enter his kingdom as a “good man or woman.” We can only enter the kingdom of God as a pauper!

Know that this true character is always unconscious. “Conscious influence is priggish and un-Christian.” I had to look that word up, “priggish.” A “prig” is “A person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety, especially in an irritatingly arrogant or smug manner.” There is absolutely no room for smugness in the Christian walk!! We can’t waste time looking at what is coming out of us. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38) “If I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord.”

What kind of person has the most influence for the Lord? It is not the one who thinks he does, but the one who is not even remotely aware that he is influencing anyone! “In the Christian life the implicit is never conscious; if it is conscious it ceases to have this unaffected loveliness which is the characteristic of the touch of Jesus.”

So how do I work this? I want to be an influence for God, but if I try to be an influence, I won’t be, because I’m trying too hard, and I’m focusing on the “outflow” instead of the one who produces that “outflow.” Aha. There’s the key, innit? Once again, it all comes down to where we are looking. If I’m looking anywhere but at Jesus Christ, I will lose the perspective. I will cease to be useful. So I don’t worry about whether I am useful to God. I simply follow Christ and do what he asks me to do. What he is asking me to do right now is pray. He has me praying a lot. But I can’t get bogged down in worrying about the influence of those prayers. Sure…I will contact people and ask them how things are going…updates are necessary in order to pray rightly. But I can’t be worried about the “outflow.” Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will produce the outflow. I must simply be faithful and and hope for that “unattended loveliness of the commonplace.”

Father, keep my eyes on Jesus. I pray that the Spirit will not allow me to become distracted by the outflow. Let me trust the words of Jesus when he said, Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Let me allow the Spirit to produce those rivers. I will not look for them. I will not examine what is being produced. I will simply believe in you, trust you, and try my best to be obedient to whatever it is you desire for me to do. When I pray for my prayers to be effective, I am not asking to see results (although, I will not lie, it is always nice to see the results of answered prayer), I am asking to be praying for the desires of your heart, praying your will. God, I pray that you remind me that I am nothing. Let me not focus on myself, but on you and others (let me not even focus on the fact that I am nothing…too much emphasis on that, and I am still misdirected). You bring the outflow, Lord. It is all yours.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi’s day today, that it will not be stressful. I pray that my day will be much less stressful than yesterday. However, I praise you for working it all out yesterday, as I tried to rely on you for strength and direction. I really believe you gave me some wisdom as I was talking to Stephanie yesterday. I pray for her day, too, that she will have a day of joy and peace after yesterday’s heartbreak. Be real to her today, Father. Show her your love!

I will endeavor to focus on Christ today, not on me, not on what I am producing. That is his concern, not mine. Mine is simply to walk with him.

Grace and peace, friends.

Honest Worship

It’s Sunday morning, and we are getting ready to go worship at The Exchange. It will be interesting this morning, because today, they have split into two services. For now, we will continue to go to the 1030 service. If I get to be on a worship team soon, I may wind up going to both of them. That’s okay, though. It will be worth it to be serving.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 16:1-12
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’
3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

I believe this is the second time they had asked him for a sign. This time, before he referred them as an “evil and adulterous generation,” he pointed to the skies. “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red skies at morning, sailors take warning.” Apparently, that old formula has been around a very long time! By the way, it’s always bothered me that The Fixx got it wrong in their song.

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were able to interpret skies, but not the signs of the times. They had all the prophets at their disposal, but refused to see that Jesus was who they were pointing to. Once again, he states that Jonah is the only sign they will be given.

5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.
6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.”
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Again, the disciples seem to have forgotten what Jesus is able to do. They are worried because they forgot to bring any bread. But Jesus isn’t even talking about bread. When he tells them to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” he’s talking about their teachings; those false teachings that carry just enough truth that they are able to permeate the truth with the lies. In Luke 12:1, Jesus called the leaven of the Pharisees hypocrisy.

Isaiah 23
This chapter is an oracle concerning Tyre and Sidon. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor! From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them. (v. 1) The ships of Tarshish will have to find another place to put in, because the harbors of Tyre have been destroyed. Tyre was known for its revelry, as described in verse 7. Is this your exultant city whose origin is from days of old, whose feet carried her to settle far away? In verses 8-9, it is the Lord who has brought about this destruction. Who has purposed this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth? The LORD of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth. According to verse 15, Tyre would be forgotten for 70 years, but then she would eventually acknowledge the sovereignty of the Lord.

Proverbs 6:1-5
1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger,
2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth,
3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.
4 Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber;
5 save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

This is an interesting passage warning us against entering into a contract to guarantee someone else’s debt. Why allow someone else to control your life for another man’s debts? The instruction here encourages doing everything possible, to annul the contract, even going without sleep.

In today’s reading from Grace For the Moment, by Max Lucado, he quotes Romans 12:1 from The Message. (One quick note: The Message is NOT a paraphrase! It is a translation.) So here’s what I want you to do, God help you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. I’ll continue and add verse 2: Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. This, my friends, is what true worship is! “Honest worship lifts eyes off self and sets them on God.” “We can make a big deal about God on Sundays with our songs and on Mondays with our strengths. Every day in every deed. Each time we do our best to thank God for giving his, we worship.” Worship is more than just singing songs in church on Sunday morning! Worship is life! Let me say that again. WORSHIP IS LIFE! If we are not laying down our lives as an offering to him on a daily basis, then we are not truly worshiping Almighty God.

Father, I pray that I might do my best on a daily basis to give you honest, true worship! Let me lay my life down to you every day. Let me not be guilty of only “worshiping” you on Sunday morning. Yes, we are about to go “to church” and sing songs of praise and worship to you; listen to a message; give you prayers and offerings. But if this does not carry on into tomorrow and Tuesday and Wednesday…all the way to next Saturday, then it is not valid worship. I acknowledge that, Father, and I purpose to worship you every day with my life!

I pray for this day, Father. We have some tasks that we want to accomplish, and I pray that they will go smoothly. I also pray that this morning’s worship service will be acceptable to you. Let our songs of praise waft up to you as sweet incense, and let them come from our hearts. Then let us carry them into our lives after we leave the building.

I pray for Stephanie’s first day of school tomorrow. Let it be a great day, Lord, and let her have no anxiety over her first day of new classes. Thankfully, some of the teachers will be the same ones she has already had.

Worship God this morning. And then worship him tomorrow and the rest of the week, as well. Lay down your lives for him…after all, he laid his down for us.

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Forget!

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m the first one up. I actually had to set an alarm this morning, because we are going to go up to the school building where The Exchange meets and help them set up the room at 8:30. Anyone who knows us, knows just how significant this is. I don’t know when I’ve been excited enough about a ministry to want to be somewhere other than sitting in this chair in front of this computer at 8:30 on Saturday morning!

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 15:21-39
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

This is an interesting passage. Jesus was not going to do anything for this Gentile woman because the “wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile was not yet broken down. However, the woman had no presumption of being deserving of the blessing reserved for Israel, but simply hoped to “benefit from the overflow of those blessings” (Reformation Study Bible). Jesus complimented her faith and her daughter was instantly healed. It is also important to note that, when she called him “Lord, Son of David,” that he did not in any way correct her or deny this. She somehow knew that he was the Messiah.

29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.
30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them,
31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

The end result of all of the healing, as it should be, is the glorification of God.

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”
34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”
35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground,
36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

My first observation here (and one that I think has been glossed over in lieu of the bigger story) is that the people had been following Jesus for three days and had not had anything to eat! THREE DAYS!! Jesus commanded such attention that people were willing to go without food for three days to hear him teach and to have their infirmities healed!
My next observation is the…um…forgetfulness of the disciples. (I’m trying to be polite here.) Didn’t Jesus just feed 5000+ people a few days a ago? I mean, I’m not positive of the time line here, but “been there, done that,” right?? And the first thing they say is, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” *face palm* Really, guys? I like to think that I would have grabbed the first sack lunch I saw and run to Jesus with it and said, “Hey, Jesus! Do that thing you did before!” Anyway, everyone was fed, and this time there were seven baskets of leftovers.
A final observation is that Jesus met both physical and spiritual needs. There have been controversies over social gospel ministries for decades. But James nails it in his little book when he told us, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16) If you see someone who is starving for food and all you give him is a gospel tract, there’s not much chance he’ll even read it. But if you give him a meal first, he might hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if you don’t speak it. Actions always speak louder than words. Jesus backed up his words with actions.

Isaiah 21-22
21:1-10 is an oracle “concerning the wilderness of the sea,” which must be a term for Babylon. It ends with the words, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.” O my threshed and winnowed one, what I have heard from the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, I announce to you.
The chapter closes out with an oracle about Arabia:
16 For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.
17 And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.”

Chapter 22 is an oracle concerning Jerusalem, but the city is called “the valley of vision.” Is this sarcasm? For what was once on a hill, has now been called a “valley.” There are vivid images of desolation and destruction in this oracle. Again, I’m not sure of the timeline in this prophecy. The Lord calls for weeping and mourning in verse 12, but instead he finds joy, gladness, and gluttony. The “joy” here is more “revelry;” mad partying, as it were, with the attitude, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (v. 13) Verses 15-25 concern Shebna, who was steward under Hezekiah. Apparently, he had a pride problem and was going to be taken down. In fact, according to verse 17-18, Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, would be installed in his place.

Proverbs 5:15-23
These verses warn against adultery, using metaphors such as Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. (v. 15)
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.

The results of sin can be devastating, and it can certainly have a grip on a person.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Father, I pray today that you continue to strengthen me against sin. Let me never be ensnared by the “iniquities of the wicked.” I pray that I would not be guilty of revelry when you call for fasting and mourning. But I also pray for true joy in my life…the joy that only you can bring. I believe I am experiencing that right now. Even when circumstances are less than desirable, we can experience your joy in our lives, joy that is unceasing and that cannot be taken away.

I pray for this morning, Lord, that the setup will go smoothly and quickly. I thank you for getting us involved in this church and pray that our excitement will continue.

I pray for safe travel for my parents as they come to Fort Worth today, and I pray for a good celebration for Stephanie and Justin’s birthday.

True faith requires that we also remember what we have experienced. When we forget what God has done for us in the past, we tend to lose faith that he will do so again in our present or our future.

Grace and peace, friends!

“Lord, Save Me!”

It’s Thursday morning, around 630. I’m still trying to wake up all the way. It’s been an interesting week, as I shared a little bit yesterday. I still feel that tests are happening, and some pretty cool things have been happening. But perhaps I’m reading too much into things.

I want to share a little more about the vision that the pastor shared with us last Sunday evening. As we met and talked about the worship ministry at The Exchange, he shared some very exciting points with us. I spoke briefly about them Monday morning (I think it was Monday), but I want to expand on that this morning. The reason for the delay was that I thought it would be a good idea to get his permission before I posted it here. The main vision statement is this: I believe that God wants to create a worship ministry at The Exchange that impacts the whole world. Here’s how…
1. By creating a contagious worship environment
–excellence in everything (Proverbs 22:29)
–excellence in music
–excellence in technology
–excellence in stage atmosphere
2. By creating anointed original worship recordings
3. By creating a serious team/family of servant leaders
–excellence attracts excellence
–raising up the next generation of servants
4. By continuously growing in Christ
–daily walk with God
–unity (here, he quoted Matthew 18:15-17 to emphasize the importance of NEVER talking about each other behind each other’s backs!) NO gossip…NO griping

This is both frightening and exciting. If I’m going to be involved in this worship ministry, I’ve got to be ready to work. To work on my skills, and to be prepared when rehearsal times come. One of his final statements was “Practice, practice, practice!!”
I know that some folks might not agree with all this talk of excellence, but I truly believe that when it comes to our worship, we need to be giving the Lord the best we have. That means that if we play an instrument, we need to be playing it excellently. If we sing, it needs to be excellent. And, most importantly, we don’t need to be trying to do things at which we are not gifted.
When I shared with the pastor that I was both excited and scared, he replied, “Scared is a good thing because it means that we don’t want to mess up what God is doing!” Amen, to that.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 14:22-36
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus finally got some time to be alone to pray. They sent the crowds away, full and satisfied, and the disciples got in the boat to head to the other side of the sea. I don’t know what time the “fourth watch of the night is.” The Reformation Study Bible says it’s between 3 and 6am. The wind was blowing the boat around a bit, and all of a sudden, there’s this guy walking across the water toward the boat. “They were terrified.” You think? They thought he was a ghost. But he spoke to them, reassuring them that it was him. Peter got real bold at this point. Instead of jumping in the water (as he did after the resurrection), he asked Jesus to command him to come to him. Jesus simply said “come.” Peter actually got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus!! Do you get that?? We always seem to focus on what happened next! Because he took his eyes off of Jesus, he saw all the turbulence, got afraid and started sinking. But before that, he got out of the boat!! How many of us think we would have gotten out of a boat that wasn’t sinking in the middle of the sea? (Personally, I equate that with jumping out of a perfectly working airplane in the middle of the sky…the only acceptable reason to jump out of a plane is if it’s crashing!) I’m not so sure I would have that much faith. But Peter did. And, I think it’s also important to note what Peter did when he started sinking. He didn’t start thrashing around trying to swim back to the boat. He immediately cried out, “Lord, save me!” It’s my opinion that this is the most important lesson in this passage. We are all going to experience turbulence in our lives. And we will, from time to time, take our eyes off of God and start sinking. But what we do when we start sinking is the key. Do we thrash around trying to save ourselves? Or do we call on the only one who has the power to save us? Peter knew…and Peter did the right thing.
When they got back in the boat, the wind stopped. Just like that. Everyone in the boat said, “Truly you are the Son of God.” I don’t know how big the boat was, but I have a somewhat humorous image in my head of Jesus at one end and all the disciples crowded together at the other end, kind of afraid to get close to him. This had to have been a life-changing event for them.

34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.
35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

As soon as they landed, people recognized Jesus, and it all started over again. The crowds came, simply hoping for a chance to touch his clothing. And when they did, they were healed.

Isaiah 17-18
Chapter 17 begins with an oracle concerning the destruction of Damascus. But it closes out with some drastic prophecy and warning about how it will be when people have forgotten God.
7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel.
8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.
9 In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.
10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
11 though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.

Nevertheless, the Lord still protects his people…
12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples; they thunder like the thundering of the sea! Ah, the roar of nations; they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm.
14 At evening time, behold, terror! Before morning, they are no more! This is the portion of those who loot us, and the lot of those who plunder us.

Chapter 18 is an oracle concerning the land of Cush.

Proverbs 4:20-27
20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

This has long been one of my favorite sections of Proverbs, especially beginning in verse 23. The NIV translates this “guard your heart.” It is very important that we keep a watch on our hearts. Look at the other warnings involved…crooked speech and devious talk should not be allowed, should not even be close to us. We are to keep our eyes straight ahead. We are to pay attention to the path on which our feet are walking, so that our way is sure, not swerving to the right or to the left. If we see evil, we should turn away from it. How often do we do the exact opposite? “Oh, look! What’s this evil over here? Shiny!!”
The precepts of wisdom are “life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.”

Tabletalk Magazine gives some good assurance points in today’s reading, called “Faith and Fruit.” The Scripture base is Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… Our assurance of salvation is grounded in “the person and work of Christ.” I think it’s safe to say that all of us, at some time or another, “wrestle with the existential question of how we can be certain that our faith in the One who saves us is genuine.” Just the other day, I wrote about that “unforgivable sin,” and how we all sometimes wonder if we have committed it. “Individually, we know that we have real trust in Christ if we can find any indication of love in our hearts for the biblical Jesus. Unbelievers hate God and run from Him (Rom. 3:11); therefore, those whom the Spirit has called to the Savior will feel affection for Him, no matter how weak this affection may seem at times.” I believe this to be true, and find it to be great news. If there is any love at all for Jesus in your heart, that’s a good sign, even if it is weak sometimes.

Father, I thank you that “you put this love in my heart!” Even when I have doubts, even when my love for Christ wanes, you are there, and you always bring me back to the right path. I pray that my love for Jesus will remain strong. Let the wrestling be over, Father! Let the fruit of the Spirit manifest itself in my life in proportions never seen before.
I pray that you will help me guard my heart. Help me keep a watch on it so that devious talk, crooked speech stay far away from me. Help me to keep a watch on the path where my feet walk, so that I turn neither to the right or the left. Keep my path straight, Lord. Keep my ways sure.
Let me never forget you, Father! The dangers of forgetting you are terrible. I don’t want to ever have to face those. I pray that the Spirit will always be right there, even if you have to slap me in the face to get my attention. But I pray that that will never have to happen again.
Lord, I pray for the wisdom to know that I always need to keep my eyes on you, especially during times of trouble and torment. Help me to always remember to cry out to you, the one who can save me, rather than trying to fix things myself or save myself. Only you can save me, Lord.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will have a good work day. Keep her job secure. Keep mine secure, as well. I guess there will always be some fear of losing jobs, especially in our current economy, so I pray that you keep us safe in that regard. Let our day be without stress today. I pray for tomorrow, Lord, as Stephanie celebrates her 18th birthday. Let it be a great day!

If there is a spark of love for Jesus in your heart, celebrate that. If that spark is a roaring flame, celebrate even more, and spread it to someone else.

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace Is…

I’m changing the order this morning. As of today, I will be doing this blog first, and then proceeding to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit. I need to stop short-changing myself and God in this devotional blog, so I’m doing it first.
Before I get into the Bible readings, I will say that we heard a most amazing message, yesterday morning, taken from Romans 3:9–22. It was a message about sin. That’s right. We rarely hear messages about sin in this day of hesitation to do anything that makes people not feel good about themselves. But, even so, that was not the purpose of this message. The purpose of this message was…encouragement. Right. No, really. And the main point of the message, that he repeated several times, was “Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” My favorite part of the message was when he completely trashed the popular evangelical comparison of our plight to someone who has fallen overboard from a boat, and someone in the boat throws a life preserver out to us, and all we have to do is grab hold of it and hold onto it. The problem with that comparison is that, over and over again, we are told in Scripture that we are DEAD in sin. The last time I checked, a dead man, floating in the water, has no power to grab hold of anything! And this, people, is why it is GRACE! “Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 2:13-23
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

As soon as the wise men had left their house, God told Joseph to get out of there! This was to protect them from what comes next.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Herod lets his “true colors” come out, at this point. He is furious at being tricked and kills every male child in the country, two years old or under (which is another indication of how old Jesus probably was by the time the wise men got there). Notice that each of the above actions is also a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

This really needs no extra commentary; it is all pretty self-explanatory. But notice, yet another prophecy fulfillment. Oddly enough, the Reformation Study Bible points out that there is no exact OT reference that says that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” The point of this entire passage is that no early king could thwart God’s plan to bring the King of kings into the world.

Amos 7-8
In the beginning of chapter 7, the Lord shows Amos two visions of what is to take place. Amos pleads for the forgiveness of Israel, saying, “O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” In both cases, it is stated that The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD. Did God really change his mind? I’m not fully equipped to answer that. I have always taken literally the statement that God makes when he says that he is not a man, that he should change his mind. But there seem to be instances where he is moved to show mercy, based on the intercessory prayer of someone. Now, I say “there seem to be…” Things are not always what they seem.
Then God shows Amos a plumb line, a tool that measures whether or not something is straight. He tells Amos that the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. (v. 9) Immediately after this, Amos is accused of conspiracy before Jeroboam. He is told by Amaziah to flee and never again prophecy at Bethel. Amos’s response to Amaziah was this: Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land. Don’t ever tell a prophet not to prophecy.

Chapter 8 is a very desolate chapter. It begins with the Lord showing Amos a basket of summer fruit. How weird is that? There is an explanation in the Reformation Study Bible notes that I would not know otherwise. It says that the Hebrew word for “end” sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for “summer fruit.” Any Hebrew scholars out there that can verify this? The prophecy of chapter 8 comes to a head (in my opinion), beginning with verse 9. “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land– not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

All of these prophecies will come true as Israel is destroyed. I can’t help but compare verse 11 with our modern age. We do still have preachers who truly preach the “words of the LORD,” but they are getting fewer. Many preachers preach their own words, sawing and hacking at the Word of God until it is almost unrecognizable. It may not be too long before our own land has a “famine…of hearing the words of the LORD.”

Ecclesiastes 3

I can’t read the first 8 verses of this chapter and not think of that song. The Byrds, Roger McGuinn, and his Rickenbacker guitar. Always wanted one of those…Anyway. (I’m not sure why there are random scenes from “Forrest Gump” in this video.)
The truth and wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is almost staggering. It is true. There is a time for everything under heaven. It takes great wisdom to know when it’s time to dance and when it’s time to mourn. There is a segment of modern society that can’t tell the difference. It’s always time to dance. And the encouragement of verse 8…there will be a time for peace. There really will be.
Verse 11 also tells us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” And that “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” Once again, the “preacher” says that the best thing is for man to “eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.” (v. 13)
Verses 16-22 affirm that all beings come to the same end. All go back to the dust. Verse 21 is interesting. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? It is worth noting that in 12:7, the “preacher” states that the spirit returns to God, who made it.

Father, I think you that everything has its time. I also thank you that you have made everything beautiful in its time. I praise you for putting eternity into our hearts. Especially for directing my own heart to follow after you instead of mindlessly chasing after the things of this world. I do enough chasing after the word as it is. I shudder to think what circumstances I would be in if you were not in my life.
I pray for this world, Lord, and the way your word is treated in it. I pray for a return to true, biblical preaching. I pray that your Spirit would touch everyone who calls themselves a “preacher” and change their hearts so that they stop adding their own words to your words. Let them preach only the truth.
I thank you again, that you have led us to a place where we can worship. Stephanie loves it as well, and that makes us very happy and grateful. I pray now that you help us get “connected” with other believers in this fellowship.

I pray for Christi’s day today. The big project seems to have gone well, but there will be aftermath as they work to tweak things. I pray that she not have to work a lot of extra hours this week. I also pray for rest for all who were involved in the project over the weekend.

I pray for my day at work today. Let this day be smooth, and this week, as well.

I pray for Gina, Lord, Diane’s sister. Their family needs great comfort and healing right now, Father. Wrap your arms around them and hold them tightly. Let them feel your great love today!

Thank you for restoration in friendships, Father.

“Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

Grace and peace, friends.