A Spiritual Sacrifice

It’s Wednesday, the 28th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the fourth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ dwell within your soul, today!

Day 23,666

Four days until 2023.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a rather lazy day around here. C is still off work, taking vacation, and I don’t go back to work until Friday morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The insolent smear me with lies, 
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 
their heart is unfeeling like fat, 
but I delight in your law.
(Psalms 119:69-70 ESV)

O Lord God, we thank you for everything you allow us to see and hear. May our hearts become awake and alive through all we receive so that we await your final revelation and recognize your ultimate will for all people, for all nations and races on earth. Hear us in these days, for we know your kingdom is coming. Your kingdom is before our eyes. Your Word, your help, is coming, and in Jesus Christ light will dawn for all the world. Praise and honor to you for all you do! May we see it all before our eyes so that our expectation of the last days is a living expectation, full of joy and blessing. We want to wait in joy, in love, and in longing for the day that is coming to your glory. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 
Galatians 4:4–5, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for a day of relaxing with not much to do
  2. for our cats; Trixie, Rocky (Rachmaninoff), Luna, Cleo (Cleopatra), and Maggie (Magnolia)
  3. that God sent His Son to redeem us, that we might receive adoption to sonship
  4. for the sufficiency of God’s grace in the face of my weaknesses; “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  5. that the ways of God are perfect, and that He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 18:30)

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
(Ezekiel 43:1-5 ESV)


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

This God—his way is perfect; 
the word of the LORD proves true; 
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
(Psalms 18:30 ESV)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; 
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
(Psalms 19:7-9 ESV)

More thoughts from John Henry Newman on Christmas:

“It is a day of joy: it is good to be joyful–it is wrong to be otherwise. For one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and rejoice in the perfections of our Saviour Christ, without thinking of ourselves, withing thinking of our own miserable uncleanness; but contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His overflowing love. We may rejoice in the Lord, and in all His creatures see Him. We may enjoy His temporal bounty, and partake the pleasant things of earth with Him in our thoughts; we may rejoice in our friends for His sake, loving them most especially because He has loved them.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NRSV)


Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:4-5 NRSV)


What is a “spiritual sacrifice?” I don’t have a deep theological answer to that. But I believe it can be almost anything. What it is not is a physical sacrifice. It is not a literal sacrifice. Jesus Christ is our only literal, physical sacrifice. We need no other.

When I read the 1 Peter passage, I also think of Romans 12.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 NRSV)

We are to be a “living” sacrifice, which means that we stay alive, presenting ourselves to the Lord, “holy and acceptable to God.” How can I become holy and acceptable? Only through Jesus, by walking in His commands. I cannot become holy and acceptable by actions or works. I cannot pray enough to be holy; I cannot confess enough to be holy; I cannot abstain from anything enough to be holy. I can only be made holy by Jesus and His sacrifice for me/us.

The spiritual sacrifice involves what is presented in Romans 12:2, though. It involves not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. It involves discerning what the will of God is, and learning what is “good and acceptable and perfect.”

In short, I suppose it means what Jesus said when He told us that we must take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. That is a “spiritual sacrifice.”

And while those photos that we see, occasionally, of some person dragging a real cross down the side of the road (sometimes cheating by putting a wheel on it), can be moving and inspiring, they are also rather pointless.

That is not what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross. He was not, I assure you, speaking of a literal cross. For goodness sake, He did that FOR us!

But it is also important to note that Jesus was also not talking about something that happens to us, over which we have no control. Usually, when someone says, “Well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” it isn’t. Because usually, they are referring to something that they cannot control or choose. A horrible disease, for example. Cancer is not anyone’s “cross to bear.” You don’t “choose” cancer.

But we do choose to not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world. We can choose to renew our minds through meditating on the Word of God, which is all of those things described in Psalm 19, above.

Another thing that is important is to know that, when we do take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we do it joyfully! Remember what Jesus said about fasting, which is one of those sacrificial things which we can choose to do.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV)

So, yes. Take up your cross. Deny yourself. Make that spiritual sacrifice. Follow Christ.

And don’t complain about how miserable it makes you. Bear the cross joyfully, celebrating Christ in all things.


Father, help us to take up our crosses, whatever it may be for each of us, individually. And help us to do it joyfully, celebrating Christ in our lives. May we never try to draw attention to our “spiritual sacrifice” or our suffering that may come because of it. If I am fasting, yes, I will be hungry. But I should not talk about how hungry I am, so as to draw attention to it.

Help me to always remember the words of Christ, who told us that, if we do those things, visibly, in order to be recognized by men, that will be the extent of our reward. Rather, let us be joyful when we do these things. Let us show the world joy in our relationship with You and Christ. No one wants to be involved with any “god” who is constantly making his people miserable. So why would we act that way?

Teach us joyfulness in all things, Father. Help us to be grateful and thankful in all circumstances, that we might display the life of Christ and spread the good news of the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Revive Us Again

Today is Tuesday, the 27th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,665

Five days until 2023!

Today is my first day back to work at the library since last Wednesday. Then I don’t go back until Friday. I am scheduled off for New Year’s Eve. The library will be closed next Monday for New Year’s Day, but I never work on Mondays. I will be in at my normal time of 4:15 PM, today.

Today’s header photo is taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided, and view more of his photographs!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are good and do good; 
teach me your statutes.
(Psalms 119:68 ESV)

Jesus tells us that God, alone, is “good.” And if we believe correctly, we believe that everything that God does is also “good.” We sometimes call people “good,” but it is only good, relative. No one but God is truly good. Once, when answering the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” R.C. Sproul was quoted as saying, “There are no ‘good’ people.” Perhaps that is a bit extreme, but in comparison to God, none of us can be said to be “good.” When we call each other “good,” we are comparing ourselves to other humans.

Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we come into your presence and ask you to show yourself to us as the true, great, and almighty God, who can shed light into our misery and change it all, letting us find reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. Protect and help us with your mighty hand. Let every country and nation see your grace and see the victory over all sin and injustice. Let your justice come on earth, and let peace fill every heart and show in every life. May all that happens to us serve the good. Help us always look to you, our Lord and God, for you have power to rule everything and to turn everything to its right purpose. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. 
Luke 1:68–69, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that some of our friends are having a wonderful time celebrating Christmas in New York City
  2. that everything that happens to us, in some way serves the good (Romans 8:28)
  3. for the possibility of peace in every heart
  4. for the love of God, that makes us His children, rather than slaves who fear Him
  5. for the Incarnation, the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, 

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
 make his paths straight. 
Every valley shall be filled, 
and every mountain and hill shall be made low, 
and the crooked shall become straight, 
and the rough places shall become level ways, 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
(Luke 3:4-6 ESV)

God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.
(Ephesians 1:5 CEV)

God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father.
(Romans 8:15 CEV)

Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world did not know who Christ is, they don’t know who we are.
(1 John 3:1 CEV)


John Henry Newman writes this on the birth of Christ:

“The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds, became flesh, though remaining what He was before. He became flesh as truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been changed into flesh. He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother’s eye fixed upon Him, and to be cherished at a mother’s bosom. A daughter of man became the Mother of God–to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him what condescension! What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not only a helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were possible to a sinless soul. What were His thoughts, if we may venture to use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite, when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His? What a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man! Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)


Will you not revive us again, 
so that your people may rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NRSV)

What is “revival?” When I read that verse from Psalm 85, I immediately thought of an old hymn, “Revive Us Again,” written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay.

We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

Refrain:
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv'n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav'n. 

Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

In my early years as a “music minister” (that’s what it was called in Southern Baptist life, back in those days), I took part in half-week to week-long meetings that were mistakenly called “revivals.” They were not revivals, I eventually learned. They were evangelistic rallies. The problem is, there usually weren’t very many people at those meetings who needed evangelizing. It was the essence of “preaching to the choir.”

I eventually learned what true revival means. You see, you can’t “revive” someone who has never been “alive.” Paul, in Ephesians, says that, before we came to know Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). I believe that this hymn captures the true spirit of revival, in the last verse.

They whole hymn is a prayer. It is a prayer of praise, primarily, but with the added phrase, “revive us again.” And then, in the final verse, comes the real prayer for revival, as we ask the Lord to fill our hearts with His love, and rekindle our souls “with fire from above.”

This is a prayer by the Church, asking for God to revive His Church, rekindling our hearts with His holy fire. In the fame way, Psalm 85:6 asks for revival, “so that your people may rejoice in you.” Revival is no more for the lost than Revelation 3:20 is an evangelistic verse. But that’s a topic for a different day.

Psalm 85 is also a prayer, as are many of the Psalms. This is fitting, that both this psalm and the hymn are prayers, because true revival will not happen without prayer.

“An extraordinary spirit of prayer, urging believers to labor fervently in their supplications, is a sure sign of approaching showers and even floods of blessing. . . . If there is to be revival–a true, divine outpouring of God’s Spirit–it will correspond with wholehearted prayer and faith.” (Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)

As 2023 approaches, I will be spending some time reflecting on the past few years. That right there is a scary thought. For the most part, I would just as soon forget every year since 2019. And not just for the pandemic. But, as I reflect, I try to keep my spiritual eyes turned on myself, not toward others. It is far too easy to be critical of other people. I struggle with that, and always have.

My reflection needs to be on what I have accomplished or failed to accomplish. And as I look forward to another year of prayer, I will be praying for true revival in God’s people; praying that the Church can step away from nationalism and “patriotism,” and focus on God’s Spirit being active in our lives. But here’s the thing. It needs to begin in me. Hence that bit about focusing more on myself than on others (understand that I’m speaking about reflection and self-assessment, not about loving others, here). And that reminds me of yet another old hymn that says, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.”


Father, I am grateful, beyond measure, for Your great love for us, the love that has given us the right and ability to be Your children, to call ourselves by Your name, and to walk in Your kingdom. However, we get too easily distracted by the things of this earth. I love the old hymn, Father, that tells me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, so that the things of the earth will “grow strangely dim.” Lord, Your Church needs this now, more than ever.

I pray that as a new year approaches, You will send revival to Your people. I pray for a Spirit of encouragement upon us, that we might be encouraged to dwell with You as You dwell with and within us. I pray that we will truly turn our eyes upon Jesus. And let this begin in me, Lord. I have been praying for and hoping for a “love revolution” within Your people, Father. That, too, must begin here, in my heart. I cannot force someone else to love, but I can hope to inspire.

Help us to embrace the Spirit of Christ in our lives, and consider, daily, what He sacrificed in order to come to us. It was more than the death on the cross. We see that as the primary sacrifice, most of the time, but John Henry Newman gave us so much more to think about, as we consider what He left behind to place Himself in the hands of mortal human beings.

Thank You, Father, for this indescribable gift.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me”

Today is Monday, the 26th of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the second day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,664

Six days until 2023!

It is also Boxing Day in Canada, I believe. Thankfully, this has nothing to do with pugilism.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
 but now I keep your word.
(Psalms 119:67 ESV)

Lord our God, our light and our life, in our longing to live by your Word we lift our eyes to you. Let your Word come into our hearts. Let your Word help us to understand our lives and our time, so that we can recognize your leading in everything and gather courage every day in spite of our weakness, sins, and faults. We can still find joy, for your kingdom is coming. We can feel that you are among us, however great the anguish of these times. Let the light of Jesus Christ shine out; let your Spirit of peace and grace come to all nations so that your will may be done. Free people from all their confusion. Release them from their bondage. Make them free for what is good, true, and eternal. May your name be praised among us today and forevermore. Amen.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. 
John 3:16, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that, through God’s Word, we can better understand our lives and times
  2. for the joy of knowing that the Kingdom of God is here
  3. that the Lord has clothed me with the garments of salvation (Isaiah 61)
  4. for the evidence of God seen in His handiwork, creation (Romans 1; Job 12)
  5. that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, 
because the LORD has anointed me 
to bring good news to the poor; 
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, 
and the day of vengeance of our God;
 to comfort all who mourn; 
to grant to those who mourn in Zion— 
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; 
that they may be called oaks of righteousness, 
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
 they shall raise up the former devastations;
 they shall repair the ruined cities, 
the devastations of many generations. 

Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
 foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 
but you shall be called the priests of the LORD;
 they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; 
you shall eat the wealth of the nations, 
and in their glory you shall boast. 
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; 
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
 therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
 they shall have everlasting joy. 

For I the LORD love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong; 
I will faithfully give them their recompense, 
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 
Their offspring shall be known among the nations, 
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
 all who see them shall acknowledge them, 
that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed. 

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; 
my soul shall exult in my God, 
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; 
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, 
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, 
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
 and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, 
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise 
to sprout up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:1-11 ESV)

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;
(Romans 1:20 NRSV)

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you; 
the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; 
and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 
Who among all these does not know 
that the hand of the LORD has done this? 
In his hand is the life of every living thing 
and the breath of every human being. 
Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? 
Is wisdom with the aged, 
and understanding in length of days?"
(Job 12:7-12 NRSV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13-14 NRSV)


The passage from Isaiah 61 is the passage that Jesus read in the synagogue that day that He took up the scroll to read. And after He had read it, He said to those who were there, listening, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
 and recovery of sight to the blind, 
to let the oppressed go free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
(Luke 4:16-21 NRSV)

If this is the Lord’s mission, then it is our mission. Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God, and to love one another. There should never be any question as to how we are supposed to love one another. Jesus tells us pretty plainly in Matthew 25, which, in some ways, mirrors the passage from Isaiah 61. We are to love one another by making sure that no one goes hungry or naked, or that no one feels alone when they are sick or afflicted.

Jesus very plainly tells us that, if we do any of these things to any human being, we are doing them for Him. But He also warns us that if we fail to do them, then we are failing to do them for Him, as well.

Lest we fall into the trap of thinking that the sheep and goats were “saved” based on their actions, we must remember that our actions are proof of what is in our hearts. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commands. I believe that He was simply stating a fact when He said that, rather than trying to convince people to keep His commands. In other words, He was not telling me to keep His commands to prove that I love Him. He was simply stating that, if I love Him, truly love Him, then I will, by nature, keep His commands.

This speaks volumes to what is in the heart. If I have to force myself to give to the poor, out of a sense of obligation or guilt, it’s not the same. If the love of Christ dwells within my spirit, then the actions of love toward others will flow naturally out of me, and not need to be forced.

But won’t there be days when I just don’t feel it? Sure. There will always be days when we are less than our best. I might be having one of those today. We must remember that God looks (I believe) at the “big picture.” He knows what is in our hearts. He also remembers that we are dust. That one is very important to remember. Because of the propitiation of Jesus Christ, and because of that fact that He remembers that we are dust, God is not angry with us when we fail.

You can dredge up all the Old Testament passages about God’s wrath that you want to, if that’s the sort of thing that you’re into. But you’d better be paying close attention. And remember that Jesus told us that we would be judged by the standard by which we judge others. And also remember that those Old Testament passages about the wrath of God are pre-Christ. If we try to point that OT wrath at people we deem to be “sinners” (forgetting that when you point one finger at someone, you’ve got three pointing back at yourself), we are, essentially, ignoring the greatest gift that God has ever given us, the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ by grace.

In short, it truly amazes me that some of the people who have been recipients of God’s grace can turn around and treat others with no grace, whatsoever. What is even more tragic is when this comes from the pulpit of an alleged preacher of the Gospel of Christ.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. He dwells within us. Therefore, we should be about the same business as Jesus Christ. Bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the Lord’s favor.

As 2023 approaches, I pray that, if you are one who makes “resolutions” (I am not . . . I gave that up at least a decade ago), you will resolve to do those things in the name of the Lord. I pray that everyone who reads this will know the grace and peace that comes from Christ, and will, in turn, share that same grace and peace with everyone around them, in some way.


Thank You, Lord, for Your grace. Thank You for the peace of Christ, that we are able to know, and that is with us always. Thank You for Your Spirit, that dwells within us, and enables us to carry on the work of Christ in this broken world.

I pray that everyone who has received Your grace would share it, lavishly, in their own circle of influence, their own little “kingdom.” And I pray that all who stumble across this forum would be able to know Jesus’s love, mercy, and grace in their lives.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
(Matthew 5:9 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.

All Is Well

Today is Sunday, the 25th of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the first day of Christmas.

May the peace of the Christ-child be with you always!

Day 23,663

Seven days until 2023.

It is shortly after 11:00 AM when I begin this, this morning. It really doesn’t feel like Sunday, but it is. As predicted, yesterday, I did not make it to the 10:00 service, this morning. We were up around 8:30, and shortly after 9:00, I believe, we sat down to open all of our presents. I will update my other blog with the results of that, later, today. Hopefully. For now, I must get on with the important things for the day. However, one gift that I am most excited about is a new Bible. It is one that I can carry with me to my new church, because the use the NRSV in their worship services.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, 
for I believe in your commandments.
(Psalms 119:66 ESV)

Because either one without the other doesn’t do a body much good.

Lord our God, you have sent light to shine on earth and have revealed your heavenly power in Jesus Christ, so that in spite of all the darkness and evil we may rejoice because we have a Savior. Reveal your power in our day. Let something be done anew toward the building of your kingdom on earth. Let something draw men’s hearts to you to give them light so that they may thank and praise you for all you have done and are still doing to bring the whole world into your hands. O Lord God, let men be moved by the opening of the heavens. May their hearts awaken and their sadness give way to joy in Jesus Christ the Savior. We are your children who are allowed to wait in expectation for you to set everything right. We can know that even in our troubled times your hand is at work to reveal your will, to make your will plain to all generations on earth, as you promised through Abraham. May your name be glorified, O Lord God. May your name be honored, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 
Isaiah 9:6, RSV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for Christmas; for the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace
  2. for the wonderful morning we have had together, this morning
  3. for the expectation, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, of His eventual return
  4. that our Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon us
  5. that darkness has fallen into the dawn of redeeming grace
  6. for this indescribable gift of God!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

"Glory to God in the highest,
 and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" 

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
(Luke 2:1-20 ESV)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, 
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, 
and thick darkness the peoples; 
but the LORD will arise upon you, 
and his glory will be seen upon you. 
And nations shall come to your light, 
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:1-3 ESV)
The sun shall be no more 
your light by day, 
nor for brightness shall the moon 
give you light;
 but the LORD will be your everlasting light, 
and your God will be your glory. 
Your sun shall no more go down, 
nor your moon withdraw itself; 
for the LORD will be your everlasting light, 
and your days of mourning shall be ended. 
Your people shall all be righteous; 
they shall possess the land forever, 
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, 
that I might be glorified.
 The least one shall become a clan,
 and the smallest one a mighty nation; 
I am the LORD; 
in its time I will hasten it.
(Isaiah 60:19-22 ESV)

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21 NLT)

Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT)


how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
(Hebrews 9:14 NRSV)


I have no deep words of wisdom, today. I simply encourage all to know this Christ, the Savior of the world, the Light of the world, the glory of the Lord, risen upon us, this day.

The Gospel of Christ is that the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, is hear, now, and available for anyone who desires to walk in it.

This baby that we celebrate today became our salvation. Along with the heavenly host of angels, I proclaim, “fear not!”

All is well.


Father, thank You for Your indescribable gift. And thank You for drawing me into Your kingdom, for choosing me to believe, even before the foundations of the earth. Not only did You choose me (and all who would come to believe), You arranged my circumstances so that I would choose You. As I noted, from yesterday’s verse in Psalm 119, You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord!

Saying “thank You,” seems hardly appropriate. May I live my life in such a way as to draw people into Your kingdom. May I demonstrate to people Your great love for all, as I follow the commands of my Savior to love You and love people. May I show them that there is nothing to fear, and that, indeed, in Your kingdom, all is well. In fact, in Your kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Today is Saturday, the 24th of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today and always!

Day 23,662

Tomorrow is Christmas, and today is the last day of the Advent season. Beginning tomorrow, it will be Christmas season for, I believe, twelve days (there really are twelve days of Christmas), after which we will begin the season of Epiphany. I might not have the exactly right, as I am certainly no expert on the Church calendar.

Today will be moderately busy after a not-busy morning. This afternoon, some of us will attend a Christmas Eve service at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine. Then, at 6:00 PM CST, we will get on a Zoom call with R and J and open their Christmas presents while they open ours. We decided to do that tonight, so that we don’t have to worry about what time anyone wakes up tomorrow morning, and we will just have our Christmas together tomorrow.

The church is only having one service at 10:00 AM tomorrow, so I don’t know if I will make it to that one. I wish everyone who stumbles across this space of grace a Merry Christmas, or happy whatever you celebrate/observe at this time of year. May your days be filled with grace.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, 
according to your word.
(Psalms 119:65 ESV)

This is one of those verses that resonates well with me. The Lord has dealt well with me, and I praise Him for this.

Lord God, our Father in heaven, you have sent us the Savior, who was born to bring great joy to all people. Glorify your name, we pray. Give the world the peace you alone can give, the peace that wells up in our hearts. Let your favor rest on us so that we may hold out under our sufferings on earth. We need your loving help to remain inwardly steadfast until everyone can be reached by the message, “Be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

But the angel said to them,
 "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord"

...Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 
Luke 2:10–11, 13–14, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for that host of angels, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”
  2. for the peace that Christ, alone, can give, that dwells in our hearts
  3. for the Gospel message; help us to reach the world with it
  4. for that perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4)
  5. for the generous acts of giving that permeate the season, all because of our “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17)

"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; 
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 
to give knowledge of salvation to his people 
in the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God, 
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the way of peace."
(Luke 1:76-79 ESV)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 
(1 John 4:18 NRSV)

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:7 NRSV)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NRSV)

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17 NRSV)


“Come, let us return to the LORD; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
(Hosea 6:1-3 NRSV)


One of the things that makes Christmas so special is the infant; the baby Jesus. For some, I’m sure, the sentimentality of the season is overbearing. But let us consider it from another perspective.

Tonight and tomorrow morning, we will sing with the angels who appeared in the sky over the shepherds. We will celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. Never mind when it actually happened. Why is that even important?

We celebrate the birth of a baby. Not just any baby, though. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, God Almighty stepping down into humanity as a frail, vulnerable child.

And in this child it is easy to see that perfect love of which John speaks; the perfect love that casts out fear. Who could possibly be afraid of a baby?? Yes, we know that, in time, Jesus Christ will return as victor, and set things right. The “Day of the Lord” will not be a pretty sight. I shudder to consider that day. But, for now, we look at a baby, and we feel no fear, none whatsoever.

And here’s the thing. The love of God, the pure love of God, the perfect love of God does cast out fear. I am not able to love in that way. My love is imperfect; my love of God is far from perfect, as is my love for any human being. Even my love for my wife, my daughters, and my mother is far from perfect.

But God’s love is perfect. And if we truly embrace that love, there is absolutely no reason or cause for fear at all.

Why else would the most oft-repeated command in the Bible be some form of “fear not??”

Consider this:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 NRSV)

You know what is included in “anything else in all creation?”

My sin!

My sin cannot separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, because it is gone! It is erased! It is as though it never happened. Even the sins that I have yet to commit are erased and forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

There is nothing to fear in Christ Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear.

As I consider this, this morning, I realize how foolish we are. How chronically unbelieving we are, as human beings. A few days ago, I talked about the resurrection of Lazarus. I believe that this happened, according to the Biblical record. I do believe. I also believe in what I am writing today. Perfect love casts out fear.

Yet, why is it so difficult to live as though I believe these things? Why is my faith still so weak? Why do I still catch myself worrying over petty things, or even over things that may not be so petty? Do I believe that God has things well in hand? Do I believe that God loves us with a perfect love? Do I believe Romans 8:38-39??

Once again, I find myself in the shoes of the father of the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9.

“I believe; help my unbelief!” 


Father, I believe. You know my heart. You know my flesh, too, and, according to Your Word, You remember that we are dust. Once again, I find great comfort in that particular passage, because I find myself floundering in faith, so often.

Your perfect love casts out fear. Help me to embrace that perfect love in my life. Help me to walk as though I believe this, and to walk without fear in my life. May Your Holy Spirit remind me daily, that Your perfect love casts out fear. May Your Spirit dwell within me in power and strength, giving me the faith to embrace the truth of what Jesus did for Lazarus, knowing that there is nothing that is too hard for You; there is no struggle in my life that is beyond Your strength; there is no difficulty that I could encounter that You cannot bring me through.

Thank You, Lord, for the baby Jesus, the perfect image of how we have nothing to fear. As we observe this Christmas, this “silent night, holy night,” may we participate in the dawn of redeeming grace, and know that perfect love that casts out fear. May we know it as deeply in our souls as is possible. Changer our lives, Father; change our hearts.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Let It Be

Today is Friday, the 23rd of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.

It is Christmas Eve Eve. 🙂

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,661

TWO days until Christmas!

It got down to either 9 or 10 degrees, last night, depending on which app I look at. At one point, the windchill was, close to, if not below -10. It was very windy all day, yesterday. Today will be a little better, eventually. It is currently (at 9:30 AM) 14 degrees, with a windchill of -2. Winds are currently blowing from the NW at 14 mph. It should reach a high of around 25 today (again, depending on which app you look at). The windchill advisory goes until noon today.

I’m not at work, as the City of Hurst gave us this day as a holiday. We were all pretty surprised, as we were expecting Saturday (Christmas Eve) and Monday for Christmas, since Christmas falls on Sunday, this year. But we got today, as well. We are all very glad about that, considering what the weather did.

I would also like to gladly report that our power stayed on all night. Apparently, there were some scattered outages, as I know of one family in Fort Worth whose power went out overnight. I don’t know the cause of it, though.

The only time I plan to leave the house today is to get Sonic drinks, and I don’t have to get out of the car for that. So I shan’t wear anything but pyjamas today. Warm ones.

Time to stop scrolling Facebook and start scrolling Scripture!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;  
teach me your statutes! 
(Psalms 119:64 ESV)

Interestingly, when I read that verse, it made me think of an old hymn called “God Is Working His Purpose Out.” It wasn’t ever sung in the church where I grew up, but I learned it many years later.

Lord our God, our Father in heaven and our Father on earth, our Lord and our Ruler, we thank you that to this very day you have guarded and guided us and delivered us from great need. We praise you with hearts full of hope as we continue on our pilgrimage. For Christmas Day is coming with its message of hope that we may somehow bring honor to you in spite of all hindrances, mistakes, and sin, in spite of all death and the horror of dying. We know that you hold us in your hands. With your help we can look ahead, and again and again we may take a small step forward and live to the praise and honor of your name. So be with us now and bless us. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you to always do and say what is good. 
2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the joy of the season
  2. for the guidance and guarding of the Lord in our lives
  3. for the love of God and that, in His grace, He has given us “unfailing courage and a firm hope”
  4. for the faith and selflessness of Mary
  5. for the admonition to deny self and engage in the “fast” of God’s choosing, which is to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke,” “to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh”

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 

And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 

And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." 

And Mary said, 
"My soul magnifies the Lord, 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
 For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, 
and holy is his name. 
And his mercy is for those who fear him 
from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm; 
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones 
and exalted those of humble estate; 
he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and the rich he has sent away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, 
in remembrance of his mercy, 
as he spoke to our fathers, 
to Abraham and to his offspring forever." 

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
(Luke 1:26-56 ESV)
Is such the fast that I choose, 
a day for a person to humble himself? 
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
 and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? 
Will you call this a fast, 
and a day acceptable to the LORD? 

"Is not this the fast that I choose: 
to loose the bonds of wickedness, 
to undo the straps of the yoke, 
to let the oppressed go free, 
and to break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry 
and bring the homeless poor into your house; 
when you see the naked, to cover him, 
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, 
and your healing shall spring up speedily; 
your righteousness shall go before you; 
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; 
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' 
If you take away the yoke from your midst, 
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 
if you pour yourself out for the hungry 
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, 
then shall your light rise in the darkness 
and your gloom be as the noonday. 
And the LORD will guide you continually 
and satisfy your desire in scorched places 
and make your bones strong; 
and you shall be like a watered garden, 
like a spring of water, 
whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:5-11 ESV)

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
(Romans 8:18 NRSV)


For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NRSV)

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
(Matthew 16:19-24 NRSV)

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
(2 Corinthians 2:14 NRSV)


Let’s talk about Mary, this morning. (It was morning when I started). There’s something about Mary, to borrow a 1998 movie title.

I’m not Catholic. So I don’t “venerate” Mary, nor do I believe that she was sinless. I don’t believe the Bible tells us that. Jesus was the only person who ever lived a life entirely without sin.

Nevertheless, Mary should hold a very special place in our hearts, and in our “theology.” It is probably that she was barely a teenager when this happened. We really don’t know how old she was, but I have seen estimates of anywhere between 12-16, with the majority being on the lower end of that range.

Teen pregnancy. How would she have been regarded in the twentieth or twenty-first century?

Nevertheless, Mary, when given the news, essentially said, “Okay.” I have visions of Pete Davidson’s “Chad” character on SNL, who, no matter what was said to him, responded with a somewhat nonchalant, “Okay.” Now, I realize that Mary was anything but nonchalant. But she was accepting.

Look at what she said at the end of the angel visit.

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:38 NRSV)

Mary, in that moment, became the “fragrance” of which Paul spoke in that verse in 2 Corinthians. And she was the ultimate spreader of that fragrance.

She had no thought for herself, or her reputation, at least not that we see. She did go spend a few months with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy, as she would give birth to the Baptizer. Side note: It must have been pleasant to be there with Elizabeth during the time when Elizabeth’s husband couldn’t talk.

Hahaha!!

Mary also became that person of which Jesus speaks when He says that whoever wants to follow Him must take up their cross and deny themselves. Mary did just that. She denied herself, possibly earlier in life than anyone else in history. Not only did she have no regard for her future or her reputation, she risked disgrace for her future husband, who, had an angel not visited him, would have divorced her even before they were married. And she had to endure watching her son be crucified.

And us? We complain when there are too many cars in the drive thru. Me, I get completely bent out of shape if the Internet quits working, or if the Subway app won’t let me order ahead.

The lesson we all need to learn from Mary is in what she said to the angel. “Let it be to me according to your word.”


Father, I praise You for Mary. I have no idea what place she holds, next to You. I hope she has a place of honor in heaven, though, because of her sacrifice, her willingness to set herself completely aside in order to bring our Savior into the world. I thank You for the example she gave us of complete surrender, of saying, “Let be to me according to your word.”

So, Father, every time something doesn’t go the way I think it should, or if something doesn’t work right, let Your Spirit remind me, sharply, if necessary, of those words of Mary, and how she acted in total surrender and selflessness. Make me to remember the kind of life she had, especially the last few years of the life of Christ. Make me to remember that this adolescent girl wound up having to watch her grown son crucified for the sins of the entire world, for people about whom she knew nothing, and likely cared nothing.

Father, we are so wretchedly spoiled, and I am right there at the top of the heap of spoiledness. I live in a society that is used to getting everything instantly. Even at what I consider to be a “median income,” our household income is more than fifty times the average global income. In short, I literally have nothing to complain about. Help me to remember this, and how blessed we are, here.

You have given us generous hearts, and I love that. Make them even more generous. I haven’t yet gotten to the point of inviting a homeless person into my house, yet. Granted, I don’t have a place for them to stay or sleep, but I could feed them.

At this time of year, two days before Christmas, I pray that You would make us aware of some need that we could meet with the resources we have set aside to do just that. I would love to empty that account before the end of this year.

And Father, let it be to me according to Your Word.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

“Presence Changes Everything”

Today is Tuesday, the 20th of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,658

FIVE days until Christmas!

Christmas is going to be strange, this year. As previously mentioned, our Christmas Eve celebration with C’s sister and family has been postponed until sometime in January, due to health concerns (S had Covid, and sister’s husband is having shoulder surgery today, I believe). And Christmas falling on Sunday is always different. I do plan on attending a Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran church, probably at 3:00 Saturday afternoon. S has actually said she wants to attend. They are only having one service on Sunday, at 10:00, but I don’t know if I will make it or not. It kind of depends on what time people get up and about and what time we get presents opened.

We’ve got the menu all planned out for Christmas, and I have the groceries set up to deliver this afternoon. We’ll be having ham, green bean casserole, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, sopapilla cheesecake, and teacakes. Maybe some rolls, too? Probably. That’s a lot of food for only four people. On Christmas Eve, we will have tamales that I bought from one of our librarians.

I believe I am waiting on one more present to wrap, and it is supposed to arrive tomorrow. A number of presents have also been delivered to our oldest daughter’s home in Indy, and we will have some kind of Zoom-ish call with them on Christmas morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
(Psalms 119:61 ESV)

Lord our God, thank you for bringing us into glorious day. Let the rays of your grace, the grace of Jesus Christ, shine into our hearts so that we are truly born of the Spirit and serve you as your children at all times, also when hard days come. Through your might and your revelation pry us loose from all earthly things. Pry us loose from worries and from pleasures. We are your children, O Lord God. We come before you, our Father in heaven, and you will accept us so that we may be a people who prepare the way for you. May all the words you speak be a blessing to us and make us joyful in expectation for the day of Jesus Christ, which has begun in power and glory and will bring power and glory when all is fulfilled according to your merciful and perfect decree. O God, your children entreat you, “Accept us. Hear us. Set the light aflame in our hearts for the coming of your great day!” Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

This is the one about whom it is written: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you." 
Matthew 11:10, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for John the Baptizer, and all who have gone forth, preparing the way
  2. for the Word of God, constantly revealed in our hearts
  3. for the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord
  4. for the presence of God in my life; it changes everything
  5. that God Almighty, who dwells in a high and holy place, also condescends to dwell with us who are contrite and lowly in spirit (aka not proud)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:1-3 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)

"Come, everyone who thirsts, 
come to the waters; 
and he who has no money, 
come, buy and eat! 
Come, buy wine and milk 
without money and without price. 
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, 
and your labor for that which does not satisfy? 
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, 
and delight yourselves in rich food.
 Incline your ear, and come to me; 
hear, that your soul may live; 
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, 
my steadfast, sure love for David."
(Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)
"Seek the LORD while he may be found; 
call upon him while he is near; 
let the wicked forsake his way, 
and the unrighteous man his thoughts; 
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, 
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
(Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven 
and do not return there but water the earth, 
making it bring forth and sprout, 
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
it shall not return to me empty, 
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
(Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

As the Father has loved me, 
so have I loved you. 
Abide in my love.
(John 15:9 ESV)
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 
(John 11:21, 32, 44 ESV)

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
(Isaiah 57:15 ESV)


Take a good look at that last verse from Isaiah. God Almighty, “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy,” dwells in the “high and holy place.” He dwells in a place none of us can reach.

But He also dwells “with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,” and, in that dwelling, seeks to “revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

What beautiful language, here; how encouraging and comforting!

This is the essence of humility. God, high and lifted up, whose name is Holy, will condescend to dwell with those who are humble. Not with those who are proud. We all need to hear this lesson.

Then, see the words of Jesus. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Do you have even an inkling of an understanding how much the Father loves the Son?? Is it possible for us humans to even begin to comprehend the love that abides in the midst of the Holy Trinity??

Jesus loves us with that love!

I really had to stop and ponder that for a few minutes.

What does His presence mean for us? Consider that. If we are humble in heart, contrite in our presentation before Him, He dwells with us. It is true, of course, that God is present with us, with all of us, regardless of our state of heart. God is everywhere, all at one time, so He must be. But this “dwelling,” of which Isaiah speaks, is different. You can be “with” someone, but not dwell with them, not abide with them.

Mary and Martha needed that dwelling. But they had allowed their grief and worry to overwhelm them. Both of them complained to Jesus about His absence. Jesus, being God in human form, was not able to be everywhere, all at one time. “Lord, if You had been here, our brother would not have died!” they complained. At least they had that confidence about them. They had the sincere belief that, had Jesus been present, He would have healed Lazarus before he died.

But Jesus had bigger things in mind. He had a bigger lesson to teach.

Shawnelle Eliasen wrote what may be, in my opinion, the best Guideposts reading I have ever read. As she closes this reading out, after discussing Mary and Martha, and their reactions, she says:

"I often succumb to worry over my loved ones or over a tough circumstance I can't see the end of. My soul cries like a babe needing comfort. When I'm so disturbed that I'm distraught, I can be sure that I've not practiced being in the presence of Jesus.
"He brings hope. He works in ways I cannot fathom. Trusting the presence of Jesus is training myself to receive peace. . . .
"Presence changes everything."

And so it does.


Father, I praise You for Your presence. I pray that my heart will be contrite and my spirit of a lowly nature, that You would dwell with me. May I be not proud, Father, as I truly have nothing to be proud about. The only things that I would be able to boast of have come from You. Your presence truly does change everything, as Mary and Martha found in in a huge way.

May we know this presence, Father. Not just know about it, but experience it and dwell within it, ourselves. Help us to abide in the unfathomable love that Jesus describes, that love that is present in the midst of the Holy Trinity, and with which Jesus loves us. And help us to know the resurrection that comes from knowing and loving You. Jesus brought Lazarus forth from the grave. Help us to believe this and never forget it. Perhaps that is one thing that is truly worthy of “never forget,” unlike most things we are determined to “never forget.”

Now, when I am tempted to be distraught, or to allow worry to consume me, remind me of Your presence; remind me that the presence of Jesus resulted in a resurrection; remind me that Your presence changes everything.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Cheerful Giver

Today is Monday, the 19th of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.

The peace of the Lord be with you always.

Day 23,657

Six days until Christmas! I need to wrap some presents today. I suppose someone should get some stocking stuffers, too.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

When I think on my ways, 
I turn my feet to your testimonies; 
I hasten and do not delay
 to keep your commandments.
(Psalms 119:59-60 ESV)

Dear Father in heaven, we hope in you and in your promise, which we hold in our hearts as our most precious possession. Protect us when times grow hard. May your Spirit come. May your Spirit constantly reveal your Word and give your promise to the hearts of many so that they may share in the hope, the faith, and the struggle for the great day. On that day we will be allowed to rejoice, exulting with all people because your salvation comes for the whole world. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
 it was like a dream! 
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! 
Then the other nations said about us, 
"The Lord did great things for them." 
Indeed he did great things for us; 
how happy we were! 
Psalm 126:1–3, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for Christmas week
  2. for my cats; Luna is “helping” me write this
  3. for the hope we have in the promises of God, held dearly in our hearts as our most prized possessions
  4. that God loves a cheerful giver
  5. for the resources (blessings) God has given us, and for our willingness to share those with others

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
(Colossians 2:8-10 ESV)


But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:3-4 ESV)

A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
(Proverbs 18:16 ESV)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)


And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
(1 John 5:14 ESV)


Giving is always a touchy subject in the church. Who among us doesn’t feel hesitant when the preacher decides to preach on “stewardship?” Recently, the Lutheran church I have been attending had their yearly pledging of “Time, Talent, and Treasure.” It was mentioned in each of the Sunday morning services leading up to the big day (November 6, I believe), but not over-emphasized, in my opinion. And this church does things a little differently than what I am used to seeing. They don’t set the budget for next year until the pledges come in.

Most churches set the budget, then start begging for the money.

Now, I have no idea what the budget for this church looks like. It’s not a Baptist church, so there is no “business meeting” where everyone votes on it. I’m sure it is available, though. I have noted that this church is really big on community charity. More often than not, there are people hanging out in the fellowship hall (I don’t know what they call it, so that’s what I’m calling it), putting meals together after the morning worship service. We participated in their Angel Tree, buying gift cards for some of the local elementary school students. They sent boxes home for people to fill for those same schools. We didn’t get one, because, by the time we got to where they were handing them out, they were all gone.

C and I have not yet decided what our giving is going to look like, here. For the past year, we have been putting our “tithe” money aside in a special account, and have doled it out whenever needs were brought to our attention. This has enabled us to help numerous people and organizations. But I do want to begin to contribute to this church. Of course, we are not officially “members,” yet, and I’m not sure what that’s going to look like. I don’t know if C will want to be. And that’s not the topic of today’s writing.

There is one, really.

The topic is motivation for giving. Jesus told His disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount, that their giving should be so secretive that the right hand didn’t even know what the left hand is doing. He used extremes like that more than once. For example, that time He told His listeners to cut off their hands or poke out their eyes if they caused them to sin.

To better understand the verses that were quoted, let’s take a look at the first verse of the chapter.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:1 ESV)

The key phrase, in my opinion, is “in order to be seen by them.” And look. Jesus didn’t say, outright, “Don’t practice your righteousness before other people.” He said “Beware,” and then qualified that with “in order to be seen by them.”

Motivation is key.

I mean, later, He says that we should let our light shine, right? So that others would see our good works (did I talk about this yesterday?) and glorify our Father in heaven!

I once knew a man who took Matthew 6:3-4 so seriously that he only gave his church offerings in cash, anonymously. He also never declared his charitable giving on his taxes. More power to him, but I think he’s missing the point of Jesus’s teachings.

It’s all in the motivation. One time, I was in a gathering, a worship service put on by a prison ministry at a church that I wound up being worship leader at for a while. A lady who owned a local furniture store was brought up on stage and recognized for her contributions, her charity. I don’t know if she was a Christ-follower or not, but I suspect that she wasn’t. Her chest stuck out and she got all puffed up in pride as she was recognized. I’m not being critical of her, mind you. But she got her reward, right then. According to Jesus, if that is why we give, that will be the extent of our reward.

Whereas, if we give more privately, or give with the intent of our Father in heaven being glorified, He will reward us “in secret.”

So, to me, the bottom line, here, is not whether to give, publicly. It is the motivation. If I give publicly in order to be recognized publicly, that will be all the reward I get. But if I give publicly, so that God will get glory, or, even better, give privately, so that He will be glorified, then my reward will be much more satisfying, and much longer-lasting.

Don’t blow the trumpet when you give. Don’t convert all your dollars to quarters so your offering makes a lot of noise when you put it in the “coffer.”

And, for heaven’s sake, don’t give reluctantly. Give whatever you have decided in your heart, and do it cheerfully, not “under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

And that, my friends, is why I never like sermons that try to guilt people into giving.


Father, I cannot thank You enough for the blessings with which You have blessed our family. And I also am so very grateful for the heart of generosity that You have given us. I would even go so far as to pray, now, that You would make us aware of some need, during this holiday season, as we have a good bit to work with, right now.

On that note, I continue to pray for the peace and comfort of all that I know who are grieving and mourning the loss of loved ones, right now. Some of them have not been unexpected, but a few of them have been totally unexpected, which makes the sadness even worse. Nevertheless, having loved ones, friends and/or family members pass away during November and December changes the perspective of holidays forever. I do pray that You would be especially present to all of these, and may You raise up saints all around them, that they might sit with them and share in their grief.

Help us all to have more of a giving spirit, and may we all be more concerned that You get the glory for our generosity, and not that we get recognized.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Let Your Light Shine

Today is Sunday, the 18th of December, 2022, the fourth Sunday of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,656

Seven days until Christmas!

And our house is Covid-free! S tested negative, yesterday morning. They did it a day before we had planned, and I am glad. I got the news while I was at work at the library, and the rest of my day was fantastic.

Nevertheless, the family Christmas Eve celebration will remain postponed until early January, some time. I might suggest New Year’s Eve, but C and I will discuss that first.

Today’s header photo is from Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the provided link.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I entreat your favor with all my heart; 
be gracious to me according to your promise.
(Psalms 119:58 ESV)

Lord our God, our Father, out of reverent silence comes the praise that is due to you, O God in Zion. It is right for us to praise you and to keep our promises to you. People everywhere shall come to you, for you answer prayer. Protect us your children in the task you have given us. Watch over us so that we can serve you in the right way and receive from you the gifts we need in order to go toward your kingdom and witness to your name. Help us on every step of the way. May our lives be entrusted to your hands, and may we always find our strength in you, our God and Savior. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; 
to you our vows will be fulfilled. 
O you who hear prayer, 
to you all men will come.
Psalm 65:1–2, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that God hears and answers prayer
  2. for the strength that I find in Him and His presence
  3. that, though we, like sheep, all went astray, the Lord laid our iniquities on Christ Jesus; by His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53)
  4. that darkness cannot overcome the Light
  5. that our home is Covid-free

Surely he has borne our griefs 
and carried our sorrows; 
yet we esteemed him stricken, 
smitten by God, and afflicted. 
But he was pierced for our transgressions; 
he was crushed for our iniquities;
 upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 
and with his wounds we are healed. 
All we like sheep have gone astray; 
we have turned—every one—to his own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him 
the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)

If I take the wings of the morning 
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me, 
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
(Psalms 139:9-10 NRSV)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:5 NIV)

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 NIV)


Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”
(Judges 13:8 NIV)


Jesus said, at different times, recorded by different people, both, “I am the light of the world,” and “You are the light of the world.”

There are, of course, different definitions of “light.” When I looked it up, the first definition that came up was, “the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.” Okay, that’s interesting.

Next was, “an expression in someone’s eyes indicating a particular emotion or mood.” Probably not applicable in this case.

But the third one? “Understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment.” Very interesting.

“I am the light of the world.” “You are the light of the world.” In John 8:12 (“I am the light”), the word for “light” is “phos.” It means, “to shine or make manifest;” “luminousness;” “fire, light.”

It turns out that Matthew 5:14 uses the same Greek word.

I find it interesting that Jesus makes both statements. How does that work? Pardon me while I think “out loud,” here.

If we begin with the premise that Jesus is the light, and that if we follow Him, we will never walk in darkness, and we will also have that same light, then we become the light of the world, as well. We take on His light. Or, I suppose, it could be said that He shines through and in us.

In an oversimplification, it might be said that He hands over the light to us, but I don’t see that as quite accurate, because He is the light, and, therefore, cannot hand the light over to us.

I have to come to the conclusion that this is a great mystery. I’m looking up some other verses that deal with this meaning of light.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV)

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
(Ephesians 5:13 NIV)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
(Ephesians 5:8 NIV)

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
(2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV)

“Everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” That NIV translation is interesting, because the other main translations say something to the effect of “everything that is illuminated becomes visible.”

I’m not helping myself here. Haha.

The mystery is this: When we begin following Christ, becoming believers in Him, He becomes light within us. God, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, dwells within us, becoming our light and making us the light of the world.

Jesus left this world, physically. He is no longer here in bodily presence, but only spiritually. We are His “body.” The Church is the Body of Christ. Therefore, the Church, and each individual within, is the light of the world, because we embrace the light of the world.

And, frankly, our job is not to understand this. Our job is simple. “Let your light shine before others.” Why? Not so that we can be noticed and boastful. “That they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” It’s all about the glory of God.


Father, help us to let our lights shine. Help us to understand that “letting our light shine” does not consist of trying to blind people with it or forcing it into their lives. That kind of behavior will not cause people to glorify You. Jesus encourages us, nay, commands us to let our light shine, so that people will see our good deeds. To me (and I will always entertain the notion that I might be wrong), those good deeds are the kinds of things that Jesus talked about in His story about the sheep and the goats; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and in prison, working to free the oppressed, caring for widows, orphans, and refugees, things like that. Things of which it may be said, “Whenever you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.”

I also believe that letting our light shine consists largely of following that “Golden Rule” and treating people the way we would like to be treated.

In short, Lord, letting my light shine means love; loving You and loving others, and doing it visibly, not from behind the curtains. Once again, though, intent is everything. If, by doing a good deed, I am seeking any kind of recognition other than Your glory, shut me down, faster than instantly. I don’t want to be guilty of that.

May You be glorified in Your Church, Father. May people see the Light of the world through us.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Grace and peace, friends.

How Can I Love?

Today is Saturday, the 17th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.

May you know the peace of Christ, and His presence, today.

Day 23,655

Eight days until Christmas!

Due to circumstances involving the health of various people in our family, our Christmas Eve gathering has been postponed until January. C’s Covid test from the doctor’s office came back negative, so that’s good news. And it seems that the coughing is somewhat better, as I don’t recall any spells during the night, last night.

It’s my Saturday to work at the library, so I will be in there at 9:30, this morning. Next week, I only work two days, Tuesday and Wednesday. The library is closed Friday, Saturday, and Monday, for the Christmas holidays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The LORD is my portion; 
I promise to keep your words.
(Psalms 119:57 ESV)

Lord our God, we thank you that you have given us the light of life, that we can now learn how to live, and that through your great grace we may understand life in direct relationship with the Lord Jesus, who was crucified and who rose from the dead. Grant that the power of Christ may be made visible in us. Grant that his life may become our life, that we may leave behind all doubts and anxiety, even though we are often surrounded by darkness and night. Keep us in your Word. Let your will hold sway over all the world, for your will must be done in heaven, on earth, and down to the lowest depths. Let your will be done on earth as in all the heavens. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eyewitnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. 
1 John 1:2, Phillips

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the light of life, Jesus Christ, the life that “appeared before us,” of which John and His fellow disciples were eyewitnesses; the light that dwells within us, today
  2. that, because of this Light, we can, at least partially, understand our own lives, in relationship with Him
  3. for the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding
  4. for love; God’s love for us, our love for Him, our love for one another
  5. that our God is able to do abundantly far more than all we could ever ask or imagine

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
(Philippians 4:4-8 ESV)

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
(2 Corinthians 9:6 NRSV)


Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
(1 John 4:7 NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
(Romans 12:10 NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:3-6 NIV)


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
(Ephesians 3:14-17 NRSV)


How do we accomplish this thing called love? Even the musicians know that there is something supernatural about love.

Are you ready for the thing called love
Don't come from me and you, it comes from up above
(Jerry Lynn Williams)

We cannot do it on our own. I dare say that the majority of us know this, by now, from experience. Who among us doesn’t have family members who stretch their capacity to love to its very limits?

Yet we are commanded to love one another. In fact, Jesus tells us, quite bluntly, that if we do not do this, then we do not love Him, and we do not love God. And not only are we commanded to love one another, we are commanded to “honor one another above yourselves.”

Wait. I not only have to love this person, I have to put them ahead of me???

I am a human, a jar of clay, made out of dust. I cannot do this. Not only can I not do this, the society, the world, in which I live encourages me to do the opposite.

I think Paul has some good news for us, though.

First, he assures us that we have not been left alone, and that God will finish what he started in us. When we became believers in Christ, the Spirit of God began to dwell within us and He began to work. And, out of the riches of His glory, He strengthens us in our inner being with power through that Spirit, so that, what? We may be rooted and grounded in LOVE!

Andrew Murray says that every believer should wake up with these words on their lips: “My Father will strengthen me today with His power as He is strengthening me even now in my inmost being through His Spirit.” (The Believer’s Daily Renewal, quoted in Power in Prayer) In addition, he says that “we are to be content with nothing less than the indwelling of Christ by faith, a life rooted in love and strengthened to know more of the love of Christ.”

Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, dwells within us, daily. This is not negotiable. This is something that we truly have no control over, if we are true believers in Christ. It is a plain and simple fact. He is here. He dwells within me.

My role in this is to acknowledge and accept this truth and walk in it, daily. What I can control is my response to it. I can, in fact, ignore His presence. I know this from experience. You probably do, too, if you are honest with yourself.

Can I be aware of His presence 24/7. Not likely, because I do sleep during some of that. However, Frank Laubach believed that we could be aware of His presence by forcing our minds to be aware of Him at least once a minute, during our waking hours.

Trust me, I have not come anywhere close to accomplishing this, but I do believe it to be possible. I believe it because I also believe Dallas Willard’s claim that we, as human beings, have the unique ability to control what we allow our minds to focus on. We can direct our thoughts. Furthermore, we have the possibility of taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10).

This is how we love. This is how we can obey the commands of Christ to love one another, to put others before ourselves, and to love Him unconditionally. This is how we surrender.

“We bow to God the Father in the name of the Son. We ask Him to strengthen us through the Spirit for one purpose: that Christ may dwell in our hearts. The whole heart becomes the scene of the blessed operation of the Trinity through the inner and outer life. As our hearts grasp this truth, we give glory, through Christ, to Him who does more than we can ask or imagine by His Holy Spirit.” (Murray)


Most Holy Father, I ask for this very thing, today. I am finding myself more and more cognizant of Your presence, lately, and I am embracing this. I’m still frail and feeble, and still have moments where I fail. But I feel stronger in You. I feel more capable of love. Help me to keep working to set myself aside in favor of others, in all areas of my life. All areas.

Gayle Sayers famously said, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, I am third.” I would amend that middle part to say “everyone else is second.” I believe that is what You want from us, from me. I cannot control what anyone else does or says or thinks or believes. I can only control me, and I want to allow You to do that.

So strengthen me, Father, through the Spirit, in my inner being, that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith, and that I may be rooted and grounded in love.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NRSV)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
(Philippians 4:23 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.