Peace

Today is Monday, December 9, 2019. Peace be with you!

The second week of Advent

Day 22,551

16 days until Christmas!!

Today is International Anti-Corruption Day. “Corruption could be one of the biggest tragedies of mankind for the simple reason that it is ongoing and extremely difficult to combat, forcing the poor into ever more hopeless conditions while the select few in power get ever richer and more powerful.”

We had a good time at the show, yesterday afternoon. However, if you’ve seen Miss Saigon, you know what I mean when I say it is a gut-wrenching tale of tragedy. As far as I could tell, being totally unfamiliar with the show, the performances were quite good, especially the actor who played the sleazy “Engineer.” He was very good at being sleazy. Our next show is not until January, when Hello, Dolly pulls into town.

But, alas, ’tis Monday, and back to work we must go. We feel like we over-did just a bit this weekend. We had fun, but we were exhausted yesterday evening. In fact, I think C was asleep by 8:00 PM!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51.15

Today I am grateful:
1. That C and I were able to do the things we did over the weekend.
2. That the Lord has put it in my heart to praise him.
3. That the Lord turns my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22.29)
4. For the peace that Jesus brings to us.
5. For Jesus as Mediator between God and man.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Psalm 119.18
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
Psalm 86.12
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
Psalm 18.31
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 
And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 
And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Matthew 21.18-22
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. 
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. 
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. 
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. 
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. 
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; 
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!

Psalm 111.2-9

“Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

What is “peace?”

We tend to think of it in terms of the absence of war, or at least the absence of a “major war.”

But the Jewish word “Shalom,” which is typically the Biblical word for “peace,” means more than just “peace.” It can also mean “wholeness,” or “completeness.”

In Genesis 3, that wholeness or completeness, that peace, was broken between God and man, and between people.

When there is hostility between two parties, we often bring in a mediator, whose job is to “restore peace between the two, to bring flourishing back into their lives.” I’m sure you already see where this is going. In order for us to have peace with God (remember, we are talking about wholeness and completeness), we need a Mediator. In Isaiah 9.6, that Mediator was prophesied.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Isaiah 9.6

Jesus used the word peace several times. In one of those, who used it negatively. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10.34) In this instant, I believe the word was truly speaking of peace as the absence of conflict.

However, there are at least three other times, in John, that Jesus promises peace to his disciples. Twice in John 14.27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Then again in John 16.33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, of course, is the Mediator of whom we speak. He is “the one who would stand between God and mankind in order to restore peace, to reconcile our relationship with God.”

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5.17-21

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26.3

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.
Luke 2.7
(The quotes and Scripture readings were taken from 121 Community Church’s Advent Bible reading plan)

Father, thank you for peace. Thank you for the wholeness and completeness and restoration that Jesus Christ brings as Mediator between you and us. Thank you that you did not leave us in our sin, but provided a way for us to escape. Help me to walk in that way today. And help me to be a channel of your peace today.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Like Your Favorite Sweater

Today is Sunday, December 8, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,550

17 days until Christmas!

‘Tis the second week of advent.

Our date yesterday was simply marvelous! The movie (Knives Out) was great fun. I would recommend it to just about anyone. It’s PG-13, with a bit of language, but not pervasive. It’s a great mystery, with tons of humor in it. And the cast was great. We wound up going to Posada’s Mexican Restaurant instead of Saltgrass, for dinner. We couldn’t even find a parking place for Saltgrass, so we just kept on driving. Posada’s was okay, but I didn’t care for their salsa. There was something sweet-tasting in it. Their queso, however was spot on, and my “Primo Salad” (like taco salad, but with “Primo meat”) was delicious. It was a great evening!

As previously mentioned, we will be heading to Bass Performance Hall right after church today, to see Miss Saigon.
We’re getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. The Exchange Church is “gathered” today, meeting at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street in Fort Worth. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.
Psalm 101.1

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship together with my brothers and sisters in Christ (and with all the rest of you who are worshiping this morning).
2. For the gift of music, which we will make this morning, to sing praises to our King!
3. For the ministry of John the Baptizer, who prepared the way for the Lord Jesus.
4. For the encouragement of Psalm 149 to praise the Lord with dancing, tambourines, and musical instruments.
5. For Mary, the mother of Jesus, who said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1.38)

But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88.13
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
Psalm 93.5
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118.23
When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 
What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 
What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 
This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ 
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

John 7.24-28
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! 
Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! 
Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! 
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 
Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. 
Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 
to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, 
to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, 
to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 149

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.

“Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

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

Colossians 3.12-17

These are the characteristics that should be seen in followers of Christ. They should be readily visible, not only by other believers, but by the world, as well. The Body of Christ is damaged when the world sees His followers bickering among each other, or showing hatred toward those who don’t believe like they do.

We are to wear compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience like our favorite clothes. Consider your favorite coat or t-shirt that fits you perfectly and is the most comfortable thing that you have to wear. That is how those characteristics should fit on us.

In addition, we are to forgive one another, just as God has forgiven us in Christ. What complaints do you have against a brother or sister, this morning? Forgive them! It is not an option, it is not negotiable. Remember some of the most frightening words in all of Scripture: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6.14-15)

The thing that binds all of these together is love. Love which is only possible as a gift from God through Jesus Christ. And then the peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. How do we do that? The only way I know is in the next verse, as we allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly. The peace of Christ is not something that comes natural to us. It requires discipline to attain it.

So, this morning, the second Sunday in Advent, may we focus on allowing these characteristics to dwell within us, and to be visible on the outside as well. Wear them like your favorite sweater.

Father, I pray, this morning, that, as I head to our worship gathering, that you would make these characteristics plain in my life. Please help me to wear compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, and help me to allow the peace of Christ to reign in my life. Today and every day.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

Grace and peace, friends.

Take Care, Lest You Forget

Today is Saturday, December 7, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,549

18 days until Christmas!

Today is the 35th anniversary of our first date! On December 7, 1984, a Friday night, C and I went on our first date. It was rather spontaneous, but we still consider it to be our first date. As I was putting on my bowling shoes at the TGIF bowling league that night, she marched up to my lanes and informed me that she and her previous boyfriend had broken up “for good.” It was already obvious that there was “chemistry” between us, but, alas, she was “taken.” But not any more. So after our bowling, that night, we went to the Laser Magic show at the Noble Planetarium in Fort Worth. As we sat next to each other, our hands slowly crept closer to each other, and our fingers finally touched. The rest, as they say, is history. We were married the following October.

We have a busy day ahead. I have a meeting with our pastor and one of the other house church leaders, in less than an hour. Then, C and I are going to see Knives Out at 3:25, after which we plan a nice dinner, probably at Saltgrass Steakhouse. It’s been a while since our first date anniversary has fallen on Saturday. Usually, I just send her flowers at work. But this time, we can actually celebrate.

So with all that in mind, I’d best get a move on.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Attention, all! See the marvels of GOD! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, 
Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee.

Psalm 46.8-9 (The Message)

Today I am grateful:
1. That God put C in my life 35 years ago!
2. That, by his grace and mercy, she is still part of my life!
3. That our Father shows compassion to those who fear him (Psalm 103.13).
4. For Immanuel, God with us.
5. For the Giver, more than for the gifts.

O LORD . . .answer us when we call.
Psalm 20.9
O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.
Psalm 59.9
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 103.13
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 1.22-23
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; 
who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 
in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 
who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15

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.

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 
“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 
and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 
then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Deuteronomy 6.4-12

As we approach Christmas, everyone is thinking about gifts. Children, both young and older, are mostly thinking about what they will get, while parents and grandparents (and others) are thinking about what they will give.

God gives us “gifts” every day. Sometimes we are aware of them, sometimes we are not. Sadly, however, we tend to focus on the gifts, rather than the One who gives them. Part of the “charismatic” frenzy that started a few decades ago was all about the gifts of the Spirit. There has been a lot of misinformation disseminated about God’s “gifts” since then.

One thing I have learned in recent years is that we need to be much more attentive to the Giver than to the gifts. The gifts are great. No doubt about that. He gives me breath and life every single day. But He is who I want to focus on, more than the gifts that He gives.

“Take care lest you forget the Lord, who . . .” Insert your own deliverance or benefit in the blank, there.

Father, always help me remember. When I forget you, the Giver of so many wonderful gifts, may you remind me by your Spirit, that I may always be grateful and never forget.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Least of These

Today is Friday! December 6, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,548

The first week of Advent

19 days until Christmas!!

And we’ve done no Christmas shopping yet!!

Today is St. Nicholas Day. “St Nicolas [sic] Day is observed on December 6th in the West, although in the East Christian countries it is celebrated on the 19th. If you don’t know who St Nicolas is, you’ll more than likely still know of his American version Santa Claus, or the British version of Father Christmas. The latter two give their presents on Christmas Day, but this saint gives his out on the 6th.”

Apparently, C’s axe-throwing party went very well, yesterday afternoon. No one was injured. There were plenty of pictures and a couple of videos. Looks like it was good fun.

We’re definitely looking forward to the weekend. This week does seem to have gone by pretty quickly, which is unusual for the first full week after Thanksgiving holiday. It will be a busy weekend, though. I have a meeting of church leadership tomorrow morning. Then C and I are planning a date tomorrow evening. Sunday morning is our “gathered” worship time, and then we have Miss Saigon at Bass Hall Sunday afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
Psalm 66.5

Today I am grateful:
1. For the gift of new life (friends became grandparents last night).
2. For the awesome deeds of the Lord “toward the children of man” (Psalm 66.5).
3. For the majesty and glory of the name of the Lord.
4. For the blessings of the Lord, with which we can bless others.
5. That the Lord will hide me in the shadow of his wings (Psalm 17.8).

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. 
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,

Psalm 17.7-8
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Psalm 118.25-26
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4.6
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 
but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 
for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 
Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

Luke 20.34-38
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

“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.”

Isaiah 58.6-10

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 40.3-5

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
Matthew 25.40

For the most part, I want to allow these Scriptures to speak for themselves today. Over and over in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, the Lord makes it clear that his heart and passion are for those who are poor and needy, widows and orphans, and the like. He makes it clear that the reason he provides generously for some is that they might share it with others. No one should go without in the Kingdom of God. Those who have much should be sharing with those who have little. But we have a tight-fisted society over here in the West. Brothers and sisters, that ought not be so. Especially those of us who claim to be followers of Christ.

We would all do well to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 25. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” And that the opposite is true a few verses later. “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And our souls should be chilled to the bone by verse 46. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Father, I pray that you would give us generous hearts, especially during this season of the year. May we look upon those we see who are needy and see your face. Open our hands, that we do not hold on too tightly to our possessions, for those possessions have come from you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1:2)

Grace and peace, friends.

Intentional Kindness

Today is Thursday, December 5, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,547

First week of advent

20 days until Christmas!

C has a company outing, this afternoon. They are going to throw axes. Hopefully, not at each other. That’s apparently a new thing around here. Axe-throwing. Personally, I don’t understand the appeal. But I’ve never been an “outdoorsy” type, either.

Saturday, C and I plan to take in a movie. I mean at an actual theater, even. We don’t do that very often, these days. We both want to see the new movie, Knives Out, with Jamie Lee Curtis and a bevy of other stars. Family drama with what appears to be dark comedy. My kind of movie, I think. We may have dinner afterward, somewhere. It’s the anniversary of our first date, and since it falls on Saturday, this year, I decided that we should do something nice, have a date kind of thing.

Today is Bathtub Party Day “‘Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub,’ as the nursery rhyme goes. Today, we might wonder why there were three men in a tub and what their intentions were, but then maybe they were just having a bathtub party. Yup, there’s actually a day devoted to breaking out the bubble bath liquid or your favorite essential oils and drawing yourself a nice warm bath. There’s nothing that’s quite the same as a nice dip in the tub, even if you are normally more the showering type. As for those three men in a tub? Well, we’d like to imagine that they were just celebrating Bathtub Party Day.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Psalm 100.2

Today I am grateful:
1. For the hope that we have in Christ (not the same thing as “wishful thinking”).
2. For the trustworthiness of the decrees of the Lord (Psalm 93.5).
3. For conveniences that we often take for granted. Showers and running water, for example.
4. For paved roads to drive on.
5. For opportunities to show kindness to people.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62.5
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. 
Psalm 93.5
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
Psalm 118.26
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.

Luke 1.26-31
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. 
You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. 
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 
In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. 
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 
your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; 
daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. 
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, 
and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.

Psalm 45.1-11

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.

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

“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)

And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 
Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” 
And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” 
The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” 
Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 
And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” 
And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 
And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” 
Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. 
And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 
Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons. 
And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. 
So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet. 

2 Samuel 9

Today’s reading in Our Daily Bread took me to this passage of Scripture. The author of the reading referred to what she calls “Intentional Kindness.” There is a type of kindness that we tend to practice out of habit. Opening doors for people, allowing folks to change lanes in front of us, and so on. But there is also a kind of kindness that is sought out, it is deliberate. This was the case in this story of David. He deliberately sought out a member of Saul’s family for the sole purpose of showing kindness to him.

As we move further into the season we call Christmas, kindness should be a way of life for those of us who follow Jesus. Actually, it should be a way of life for us all year long. I wrote a song once, about Christmas. I barely remember it today, but there was line in it that said, “Do we only love Jesus for just one day, or do we love him our whole lives long? Then why, pray tell, do we love one another, just when we sing Christmas songs?” This idea was sparked by the absurdity of people at war observing a “cease-fire” for one day, at Christmas. “Okay, we won’t kill each other today because it’s Christmas.”

Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Based on what I see in social media, there is not a lot of that going on, these days.

We who call ourselves Christians should be kind to all people. And we should show “intentional kindness” whenever possible. In other words, not only should we be kind during those random moments of opportunity to let someone get in front of us in traffic, we should also seek out opportunities to be kind. Even, and especially, to those who may mistreat or persecute us.

Father, help me to be a kinder person today. And lead me toward acts of intentional kindness.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Cast Your Cares

Today is Wednesday, December 4, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,546

21 days until Christmas!!

Today is International Cheetah Day. “They are mother natures precision, high-performance machine, designed to do one job and do it with incredible skill and effectiveness. It can accelerate faster than a Ferrari, tearing up the ground from 0-75 mph in just 3 seconds, and comes with a self-grown paint-job that would make the fanciest muscle car blush with envy. That’s right, we’re talking about the Cheetah, and International Cheetah Day celebrates these incredible animals while raising awareness about their threat of extinction.”

I guess we had an Amazon package stolen off of our front porch, yesterday. It says it was delivered at 10:13, and there’s even a picture showing where it was placed. But it was not there when we got home, last night. Fortunately, the only thing in it was some iPhone charging cables, worth less than $20. We don’t have one of those “Ring” door bells with a camera, so we have no idea who took it, or when. Fortunately, there is a 7-11 close to our house that has Amazon delivery lockers. I guess we will set up all Christmas deliveries to go there. As for how I feel about this, it’s just “stuff,” you know. I refuse to allow the circumstance to ruin my day or steal my joy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared,
Psalm 76.11

Today I am grateful:
1. For God’s Word, which gives me understanding and wisdom.
2. For the joy of the Lord, which transcends circumstances and events.
3. For the forgiveness of the Lord, which transcends any guilt or shame that I might experience.
4. That I can cast my cares and anxiety upon the Lord, and he will sustain me (Psalm 55.22).
5. For the “easy yoke” of Jesus Christ (Matthew 11.30).

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! 
Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.

Psalm 119.169-170
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
Psalm 54.6
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Psalm 119.10
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

Mark 3.28-29
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah. 
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. 
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. 
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

(From Daily Guideposts 2019)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55.22

Briefly, because I’m behind and it’s time to go, Rick Hamlin is today’s writer. He relates an instance when his son was working on a project with the deadline fast approaching. His wife kept asking the son about it, his son finally said, “Mom, your anxiety is not making me get it done any faster.” Such wisdom from a teenager, right?

But how true it is! Our anxiety doesn’t help us do anything. In fact, it is sometimes quite the opposite. It hinders us. Have you ever been paralyzed by anxiety? I know some who have. Now, truly, some cases are severe, and require professional help, if not medication. But, for the rest of us, we can do what the Psalmist recommends above. Cast our burden on the Lord.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3.5-6
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11.28

Father, help me to cast any anxiety that I might have upon you today. Help me to step into the easy yoke of Jesus, that he might give me rest. And help me to trust in you with all of my heart and lean not on my own understanding.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Grace and peace, friends.

This Is the Day

Today is Tuesday, December 3, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,545

22 days until Christmas!

It’s the first week of Advent.

Today is Roof Over Your Head Day. It is a day designed to cause folks to appreciate the fact that they have a place to live.

No real news to speak of this morning, so I will head right on in to my devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 95.1-2

Today I am grateful:
1. That I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and clothes to wear.
2. For the decorations of Christmas.
3. For reminders of the expectation of the coming of Christ, both first and second.
4. That this is the day the Lord has made (Psalm 118.24).
5. That God is teaching me contentment.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67.1
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! 
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123.1-2
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
Psalm 7.17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

John 3.16-18
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 
many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. 
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah. 
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Psalm 3.1-5

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

(From Faith That Matters)

This Day is God’s, by Frederick Buechner

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118.24

“It is a moment of light surrounded on all sides by darkness and oblivion. In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another just like it and there will never be another just like it again. It is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.”

The above verse from Psalm 118 is a popular verse. I once worshiped with a pastor who quoted it almost every Sunday morning. Buechner suggests that we might also “weep and be said in it,” as well as “rejoice and be glad in it.” His point, so eloquently made in the first paragraph, “is to see it for what it is, because it will be gone before you know it.” This day, even this moment, is all we have. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow never comes, and it may truly not come, for we are not guaranteed another tomorrow. All we have is now, the present.

Not to be a downer, but what if that moment that you’ve always been waiting for comes and goes, and you miss it?

Today is God’s day. What will I do with it? Will I pay attention to it and what he has planned for me? Or will I simply let it slip into oblivion? In truth, it will probably be a little bit of both, but at least I have this reminder to watch, to look, to pay attention.

Father, I do pledge to “rejoice and be glad” in this day that you have made. Help me to be aware of your presence; help me to know what you are doing around me, and help me to be a part of it.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25

Grace and peace, friends.