Values

Today is Saturday, the 7th of January, 2023, in the second week of Christmas.

I pray that the peace of Christ will enfold you, today.

Day 23,676

There are 46 days until the beginning of Lent.

As this year progresses, I intend to find that this daily blog contains more Scripture and prayer and less “talk.” We’ll see how that goes.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

May my heart be blameless in your statutes, 
so that I may not be put to shame.
(Psalms 119:80 NRSV)

A preacher friend and I shared a little joke, yesterday, around a serious prayer request. Yesterday’s “Wordle” was “belie,” a word that I don’t think I have ever used. This preacher, who also plays every day, put a prayer request on my daily Facebook post. “Pray that my behavior doesn’t belie my devotion to Christ.” After saying, “I saw what you did there,” I asked him to pray the same for me. This morning, I added the above verse to my response.

By the way, “belie” means, “(of an appearance) fail to give a true notion or impression of (something); disguise or contradict.”

Dear Father in heaven, accept us as your children, whose lives are under your protection and who turn to you for strength. In the midst of all the struggles and temptations in this world keep us certain of your love and goodness. Grant that we may help your name to be honored on earth and your salvation to spread over all the world. May we help that the hope you have given us brings light and strength for our own lives and for all whom you love in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Arise, shine, for your light has come, 
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 
See, darkness covers the earth 
and thick darkness is over the peoples, 
but the LORD rises upon you 
and his glory appears over you. 
Nations will come to your light, 
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 
Isaiah 60:1–3, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the light that has come; for the glory of the Lord that rises upon us
  2. for the Word of God, that so strongly influences my prayer life
  3. for the abundant goodness of God
  4. for promises of answered prayer; how much better it is when we agree on what we are praying for
  5. for the motivation of God’s Holy Spirit, which eliminates selfishness

O sing to the LORD a new song;
 sing to the LORD, all the earth.
(Psalms 96:1 NRSV)
With my whole heart I cry; 
answer me, O LORD. 
I will keep your statutes.
(Psalms 119:145 NRSV)

Father, I would pray for this to be true. I cannot truthfully claim that I cry out to You with a “whole heart,” but it is my desire to do so.

Glory to You, Lord God of our fathers;
You are worthy of praise;
glory to You.
Glory to You for the radiance of Your holy Name;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
Glory to You in the splendor of Your temple;
on the throne of Your majesty, glory to You.
Glory to You, seated between the Cherubim;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
Glory to You, beholding the depths;
in the high vault of heaven, glory to You.
Glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
(TeDeum)
Righteousness will go before him, 
and will make a path for his steps.
(Psalms 85:13 NRSV)
Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." 
(John 6:32-33, 51 NRSV)

Father, give me this day my daily bread.

O how abundant is your goodness 
that you have laid up for those who fear you, 
and accomplished for those who take refuge in you,
 in the sight of everyone!
 In the shelter of your presence 
you hide them from human plots; 
you hold them safe under your shelter 
from contentious tongues. 
Blessed be the LORD, 
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me 
when I was beset as a city under siege.
(Psalms 31:19-21 NRSV)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Divine Hours -The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
(Matthew 18:19-20 NRSV)

If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
(John 14:14 NRSV)

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
(Acts 1:14 NRSV)


My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.
(Galatians 5:16 MSG)


The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
(Genesis 32:22-30 NRSV)


People are more important than property. Forgiveness is more important than property. Forgiveness is better than revenge. Worshiping God is more important than impressing our neighbors.

These are the “values” that we need to be building as we follow Christ. These are values that go along with Jesus’s two commands. They give us direction and purpose.


Father, I praise You for Your Word, which both inspires me and convicts me, daily. I thank You for the way in which it leads me into prayer, each day. I also thank You for giving me both mind and spirit to comprehend what Your Spirit is telling me, through Your Word.

I pray that, more and more, we, Your children, would find ourselves in agreement in matters of prayer, that we would have more effective prayers. Help us to assist in bringing about Your kingdom on earth, as we pray that Your will be done, and Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give me a unified heart, that I might cry out to You and give praise to You with a whole heart. Help me to walk with You like Enoch walked with You. Your Spirit is reminding me of this man, multiple times a day. Yes, I realize that Jesus is my ultimate goal and example, but I can’t get away from the very brief bit about Enoch in Genesis.

Finally, I ask that You would guide us toward a complete lack of selfishness, that we might consider people more important than property, as well as more important than getting our way. May we consider, as Paul tells us, all other people to be more significant than ourselves. May we be less concerned with keeping up with or impressing our neighbors than we are with loving our neighbors. And help us, dear Lord, to forgive. Let us never have thoughts of revenge, and remember that Your Word tells us that vengeance belongs to You.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Grace and peace, friends.

Like Spokes in A Wheel

Today is Tuesday, the 3rd of January, 2023, in the second week of Christmas. It is the tenth day of Christmas.

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

Day 23,672

Three days until Epiphany.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let your steadfast love become my comfort 
according to your promise to your servant.
(Psalms 119:76 NRSV)

Lord our God, we thank you that we may go to meet you with open hearts, with jubilant faith, and with this joyful shout, “God’s salvation is coming! Through Jesus Christ day is dawning on earth for all nations.” Stay with us and help us. Send us your Spirit to strengthen us, especially in times of trouble. Let all nations come before you. Let us tell all peoples, “Be comforted. The salvation of our God, who is also your God, is coming. In this salvation we will rejoice together forevermore to the glory of our God.” Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’” 
Isaiah 62:11, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the steadfast love of the Lord, that has become my comfort in all things
  2. for the salvation of God, through Jesus Christ, in which day is dawning on all peoples
  3. for the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve
  4. for the potential of prayer, and that God listens to us
  5. that our lives are not to be compartmentalized into “sacred” and “secular;” it is one life, lived before God. Give “Caesar” what is his, and give God what is his.

Love the LORD, all you his saints. 
The LORD preserves the faithful, 
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
(Psalms 31:23 NRSV)
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; 
you are my God, I will extol you.
(Psalms 118:28 NRSV)
Our help is in the name of the LORD, 
who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 124:8 NRSV)
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." 

He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said. 
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 
John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." 
This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. 
(John 1:19-20, 23-28 NRSV)
When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, 
Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion. 
The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back. 
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. 
Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? 
O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs? 
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob, 
who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.
(Psalms 114:1-8 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; 
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
(Psalms 46:10 NIV)
Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; 
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love 
and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.
(Psalms 26:2-3 NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)


“Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”
(Matthew 22:21 MSG)


“If you are right with Him you will inevitably be right with all your fellow-creatures, just as if all the spokes of a wheel are fitted rightly into the hub and the rim they are bound to be in the right positions to one another.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible)


There was a time in my life, when I would only listen to “Christian” music. That’s what I called it, and people still call it that. There was this one time, I even had a copy of the “Christian Yellow Pages,” a directory that only included businesses that were run by alleged Christians.

I don’t do that any more. For one thing, I have come to believe that the adjective, “Christian,” should only be applied to human beings. Because only human beings, entities with a soul, can be “Christian.” The word, itself, first used as a derogatory designation for followers of Christ (Acts 11:26). I have heard it said that the word meant, “little Christs,” but I can’t find any official evidence of this.

But I digress. That’s not what this entry is really about.

I’m talking about the compartmentalization of our lives. We shouldn’t do it. Period. We don’t have a “sacred” life and a “secular” life. We have a life, and it is all to be lived under the authority of the Holy Trinity. Everything that we do, every act in which we participate, can be an act of worship.

I believe it was Brother Lawrence who found that he could worship God while washing dishes and doing kitchen chores. He wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God, in which he talks about things like that.

We do say that our citizenship is in heaven, and that is true (Philippians 3:20). And we eagerly pursue the prize/inheritance that awaits us, there. “But this passion for the unseen in no way detracts from their involvement in daily affairs: working well and playing fair, signing petitions and paying taxes, rebuking the wicked an encouraging the righteous, getting wet in the rain and smelling the flowers.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Where Your Treasure Is, quoted in God’s Message for Each Day)

Perhaps Paul said it best.

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 3:17 NRSV)


Father, I pray that I will be able to live my life in this way. As a follower of Christ, I believe that it is imperative that I do everything in the name of Christ, for the glory of You, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This means that, even when washing dishes or cooking a meal for my family, I am acting in Your Name, and I am performing and act of prayer/worship. This means that when I am out and about, in public, interacting with people, other human begins, with souls, created in Your image, I must treat them as such; I must do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to You through Him.

Help me to keep this at the front of my mind, and to remember that getting short or snarky with people is not acceptable, as a disciple of Jesus. It also means that I will consider others to be more significant than myself, as we are commanded to do by Your Word. Help me to be “right” with You, in order that I will be “right” with all of my “fellow-creatures.”

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

"O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Divine Hours -The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen."
(The Divine Hours - The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

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.

Endings . . .

Today is Saturday, the 31st of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the seventh day of Christmas, and it is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2022.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,669

We have some casual plans for this afternoon/evening. The family people who were supposed to come Christmas Eve will be showing up around 4:00 PM today. We plan to order out, rather than having everyone cook a lot of stuff. I believe we’re having Italian food. Last big meal for us, as at least three of us plan to get back on the proverbial “wagon” tomorrow. I might watch some college football today. TCU plays Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. Winner will take on the winner of the Peach Bowl, either Ohio State or Georgia, for the “national championship.”

As I finish today’s devotional, I am finishing four more books for the year. I’ll be starting new ones tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your hands have made and fashioned me; 
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
(Psalms 119:73 ESV)

That may very well become my verse for 2023. What a great prayer.

Lord our God, thank you for letting your light shine every day of every year. Thank you that we may always lift our eyes to you, whose right hand will bring true order to everything, even in difficult times. Give our hearts the strength to be faithful in this age, the strength to glorify you. For you remain, no matter what happens on earth. You are our God. You have sent us the Savior and we can draw close to you. Your promise to us stands firm, the promise that your day with its truth and justice shall come, to the honor of your name. May many people turn their hearts to you; may they worship you and call to you for help, to the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, 
and the heavens are the work of your hands. 
They will perish, but you remain; 
they will all wear out like a garment.
 Like clothing you will change them 
and they will be discarded. 
But you remain the same,
 and your years will never end. 
Psalm 102:25–27, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the unchangeable nature of God; everything around us will perish, but He remains, and His “years will never end”
  2. that our hearts have the strength to be faithful in this age
  3. that, because of our Savior, we can draw close to the Father
  4. for endings and new beginnings
  5. for the potential of seeing “extraordinary things” in our lives (Luke 5)

When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—”I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
(Luke 5:22-26 ESV)

Thus says the LORD:
 "Heaven is my throne, 
and the earth is my footstool; 
what is the house that you would build for me, 
and what is the place of my rest?
 All these things my hand has made,
 and so all these things came to be, 
declares the LORD. 

"But this is the one to whom I will look: 
he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."
(Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)

This is too much, too wonderful— 
I can't take it all in!
(Psalms 139:6 MSG)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

You make known to me the path of life; 
you will fill me with joy in your presence, 
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalms 16:11 NIV)

It’s the last day of a year. It’s a day that is famously viewed as an ending, giving way to a new beginning.

So there is some good advice, here, for looking forward. “Be strong and courageous,” Moses said to Israel, at the end of his life, as he handed off leadership to Joshua. He then said the same words directly to Joshua. “Do not be afraid or terrified.” This is good advice for us as we look forward to another year.

I don’t have a lot of confidence that 2023 is going to be any different than 2022, as far as the world goes. There is so much fear in the world, right now, and I don’t see it going away, especially in the USA, because there are people who are driving the fear. Most of, if not all of, the fear is driven by misinformation. “Fake news,” if you will, from both sides (which is, of course, assuming that there are only two sides).

For those of us who choose to put our faith in God, rather than men, all of this is meaningless. There are more important things to be concerned with than who the next President is going to be or whether an ex-President is going to be indicted for his crimes. In fact, there are more important things to be concerned with than the future of this country. I realize that this comes as a shock to some people.

“Be strong and courageous.” In a way, this is very similar to the command most often repeated in Scripture, “Fear not.” This, I believe, is the Word from God for us as we look toward another year of political chaos and health crises.

If we keep our eyes on our Creator, and on the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we truly can exclaim, along with the psalmist, “This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in!” Or, to put it another way, “Wow!”

It would also do us well to consider some of the closing words of the book of Isaiah: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” There is a great need for more humility in our land, and more people who tremble at the Word of God. And I’m not talking about human interpretations of the Bible, either.

Finally, I find it fitting that the last Scripture I read, this morning, happened to be one of my favorite verses in Psalms. Psalm 16:11.

You make known to me the path of life; 
in your presence there is fullness of joy; 
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

As we look toward another year, let us remember this. Let us remember to have courage, to “fear not,” and let us remember that it is God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, our Father in heaven, who makes known to us the path of life. Let us remember that, in His presence, there is fullness of joy, and that, at His right hand, there are pleasures forevermore.

When your joy is threatened, when you are not experiencing “pleasure,” stop. Just stop. Quiet yourself, quiet your soul and spirit. Meditate on His Word, and remember whose you are. Get back into an awareness of His presence, and back on the true path of life.


Father, in some ways, I am glad 2022 is coming to an end. Thank you for endings that lead to new beginnings. On another level, of course, I am also aware that today is just another day, as is tomorrow. It is only our mindset that makes these days “special.” The reality is that every day is, in itself, a “new beginning,” and we don’t have to wait until December 31 of next year to plan to do things better.

Nevertheless, as we embark on whatever adventures 2023 will bring our way, help us to focus on You; help us to have faith in You; help us to take our eyes off of corrupt politicians (most of them, regardless of labels), off of the health crises around us (but still remaining cautious and responsible), and keep them on You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I look forward to beginning 2023 in worship with Living Word Lutheran Church, in the morning. I pray that there are things that I will do better in 2023. I pray that my prayers will be better, more effective, stronger, and more faithful. This requires me, of course, to be more connected with You, so let me do that, Lord. Help me to live like I believe.

I do believe! Help my unbelief! And help my occasional apathy!

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Be Ready

Today is Friday, the 30th of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the sixth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you, always!

Day 23,668

There are two days left in 2022. It is “New Year’s Eve Eve.”

We may or may not have plans for New Year’s Eve. We may have someone over, but that has not yet been determined. I’m not working, though, so it will be a nice, relaxing day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The law of your mouth is better to me 
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
(Psalms 119:72 ESV)

O Lord God, in exultation our hearts go out to you and your revelation of heaven, your revelation of the Spirit, who can fill our hearts so that we remain steadfast throughout our earthly life. It is still dark on earth. Sin and death hold sway, but we stand unafraid and seek repentance. In spite of all our failures we look to you and know you are our Savior. You send us Jesus Christ in your own glory. The world will be filled with light. Everywhere on earth, even among those who do not know you, the sincere-hearted will come to acknowledge that you, the Father of Jesus Christ and our Father, are God over all the world. You will show your glory to all people so that they may come to you, worship you, and walk in the light, to the everlasting glory of your name. Amen.

And Mary said: 
"My soul praises the Lord 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. 
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me – 
holy is his name." 
Luke 1:46–49, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for hope — no matter how dark things seem to get, there is always hope
  2. that Jesus is my savior, in spite of all my failure (hey, that rhymes!)
  3. for quiet mornings with coffee
  4. for new beginnings, as a new year approaches
  5. for the hope of the ultimate “new beginning,” which will last for eternity

"For behold, I create new heavens 
and a new earth, 
and the former things shall not be remembered 
or come into mind. 
But be glad and rejoice forever 
in that which I create; 
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, 
and her people to be a gladness. 
I will rejoice in Jerusalem 
and be glad in my people;
 no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping 
and the cry of distress. 
No more shall there be in it 
an infant who lives but a few days, 
or an old man who does not fill out his days, 
for the young man shall die a hundred years old, 
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 
They shall build houses and inhabit them; 
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 
They shall not build and another inhabit; 
they shall not plant and another eat; 
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, 
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 
They shall not labor in vain 
or bear children for calamity, 
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, 
and their descendants with them. 
Before they call I will answer; 
while they are yet speaking I will hear. 
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; 
the lion shall eat straw like the ox, 
and dust shall be the serpent's food.
 They shall not hurt or destroy 
in all my holy mountain," 
says the LORD.
(Isaiah 65:17-25 ESV)

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
(Matthew 25:13 NRSV)

I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
(Psalms 69:3 NRSV)

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.”
(Luke 12:35-36 NRSV)


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3-9 NRSV)


singing, “We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”
(Revelation 11:17 NRSV)


As 2023 approaches, there is much anticipation of better things to come. In fact, for the past three years, there has been an air of hope for things to get “better,” as each new year’s day approaches. But have they?

The image that comes to mind, as I consider national and world events, over the course of the past few years, is that of a snowball barreling down the side of a mountain, unstoppable, crushing everything in its path.

My, isn’t that uplifting.

It has become evident to many of us (perhaps not to all, yet) that things are never going back to “normal.” Whatever that is.

In spite of all of this, though, and in spite of my mindset, which might appear to be somewhat cynical to some, I see hope for the future. But that hope is not for the planet, as it is, currently. That hope is for the new creation described by Isaiah, and then later by John the Revelator. God proclaims that He is creating a new heaven and a new earth. The images that we get from both of those sources is stunning and stirring. There are images of an eternal day, where it never gets dark again. In fact, according to Revelation 21:23, the sun or moon are no longer needed, because “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

But here’s the thing. None of us has a clue when that is coming. Oh, sure, there are people who think they have clues. I have no confidence in them, though. Just recently, for example, there arose a great hubbub because the Euphrates river was drying up.

The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
(Revelation 16:12 NRSV)

“It’s going to be soon!” people cried. Never mind the fact that none of the things that are supposed to happen before that have happened yet. Also never mind the fact that Revelation is not meant to be interpreted literally. But, hey. If you insist on interpreting Revelation literally, then at least do it the favor of keeping things in the right order.

Here’s the thing. We don’t know when Christ is returning. According to Jesus, even He didn’t know!

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
(Matthew 24:36 NRSV)

So if Jesus, Himself, doesn’t know when He is returning, I certainly don’t know, and you certainly don’t know. We aren’t clever enough to figure it out, either.

But what we can do is be ready. Just like those wise virgins at the wedding in that one parable, we can have our lamps trimmed, with plenty of oil, and be ready. I used to have a t-shirt (back in my college days) that said, “Are you ready?” and referenced Luke 12:40. One day, I wore that t-shirt into a store, and a guy who worked there asked me, “What does Luke 12:40 say?”

I had no clue. How embarrassing.

But you can bet that I have known since that day.

“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Luke 12:40 NRSV)

I can’t say that I have lived my life, since then, in a constant state of readiness. I like to think that I am ready. But what if God’s plan was complete, and I’m engaged in some “less than holy” activity? I’ll be surprised, won’t I? I mean, I’ll be surprised, anyway, but this would be the worst kind of surprise. We’ve all heard the phrase “caught with your pants down,” right? Or something similar. I dare say we don’t want to be “caught with our pants down” when Jesus returns.

It reminds me of that line in the Paul Simon song, “Call Me Al.” It’s in the second verse:

A man walks down the street
He says, "Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention
And, whoa, my nights are so long
Where's my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who'll be my role model
Now that my role model is gone, gone?"
He ducked back down the alley
With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl
All along, along
There were incidents and accidents
There were hints and allegations

“What if I die here?”

Have you ever been in a situation where, if you died there, unexpectedly, it would be a terrible embarrassment to you and your family?

I have decided that a great “rule of thumb” for life is never go anywhere or do anything where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead.

And I believe that is, in a way, the spirit behind Jesus’s admonition for us to be ready. Because we don’t know when He’s coming. If we knew, we could, you know, wait until the last minute to prepare, and it seems that a lot of us are doing that, anyway. But we don’t know when that “last minute” is, so we’re likely to be caught unready, like the foolish virgins in that same parable.

The picture that is presented to us is so beautiful! The new heaven and new earth is such a beautiful picture that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to be part of it. I don’t know what we will look like. I don’t know what kind of “bodies” we will have. I don’t know if we will recognize each other as our former identities on earth. But I know it will be beautiful, it will be eternal, and it will be Home.

So I want to be ready. Pants up, arms wide open, lamp trimmed and full of oil, wide awake.

I will say that this went in a totally different direction than I was anticipating.


Father, I praise You for the visions of Isaiah and John, visions that give us such hope for our future in Your kingdom. I pray that You would help us to be ready for the return of Christ, as we do not know when it will happen. Help us, when tempted, to recall the words of Jesus, admonishing us to be wise, wide awake, and ready, so that we are not taken by surprise when that day comes.

It is too easy to become complacent, because of how long it has been. We are tempted to be lazy; we are tempted to not be diligent in prayer and worship, because we fall into the mindset that we have plenty of time to get “caught up” in these things, even though getting “caught up” in prayer is a laughable notion.

Father, You are our everything. The Holy Trinity is our essence of life, our water, our food; everything we need in this life, You have given us. You are our Creator and our Sustainer. To whom else would we turn, Lord? Please keep us awake and diligent. Please keep us ready.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

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.