No Grounds for Boasting

Today is Monday, September 12, 2022, in the 24th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart today!

Day 23,559

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his photo site at the link provided.

The weekend was pretty uneventful for us. C and I did make it to our church gathering, yesterday morning, which went pretty well. We picked up food from Lone Star BBQ for lunch, on the way home (and Sonic drinks, of course), watched an episode of the old Avengers TV show (with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel), and the rest of the day was pretty much rest and relaxation.

It was a beautiful day, outside, starting out somewhere around 65 degrees. When we walked outside to head to our house church, it was simply wonderful out there. The high only got to 83, yesterday, although, in the sun, it felt hotter than that. That was one degree below the projected high.

Today’s high is predicted to be 86, with no rain expected. The record high for today’s date, in 2011, was 100. The average high for this date is 89.

I haven’t updated baseball in a bit, as I tend to let time get away from me. However, I have no time restraints today, at all, so here goes. The Texas Rangers managed to win a game, yesterday, beating the Blue Jays 4-1. Martin Perez got the win. The Rangers are now 60-79 for the season, 29.5 out of first place, and 18 out of the Wild Card race. They remain in fourth place in the AL West. Their WCE# is six. Seattle is the only team not eliminated from division contention. The Rangers are a half game behind the Angels. They have 23 games remaining.

The Red Sox managed to string two victories in a row, against the Orioles. They crushed them Saturday, winning 17-4, and had a pitcher’s duel, yesterday, winning 1-0. The only run was scored in the top of the first inning. The Sox are 69-72 for the season, still in last place in the AL East, still 4.5 behind Baltimore. The division E# is 6; they are 16 games out of first place. They are 10 games out of the Wild Card race, and the WCE# is 13. They have 21 games remaining.

Albert Pujols has 697 home runs, passing A-Roid, yesterday, to be alone in fourth place for home run totals. That was a definite landmark, as the closest active player to him is Miguel Cabrera, who has just over 500, and is in 27th place, over all. Nellie Cruz, in 39th place, has 459. The next closest active player is Giancarlo Stanton, in 80th place with 373. Pujols, 42 years old, will likely retire at the end of this season. I am rooting for him to make it to 700. If he could hit 18 more, he would pass Babe Ruth. With only 21 games left, that is unlikely.

The Dodgers have become the first team to clinch a playoff berth. No one should be surprised at this, as they have a MLB leading 96-43 record. With 23 games left, they could still break the season win record. But they must win 21 of those 23 games. Honestly, having already clinched a playoff berth, and only three games away from clinching the division, I doubt they will be struggling to break that record. The Nationals are still on the bottom, with 49-92, two games behind the Athletics. The Tigers, Pirates, Athletics and Nationals are all eliminated from any possible playoff contention.

The Phillies and Guardians both have three-game winning streaks going. The Nationals and Twins both have three-game losings streaks. The Dodgers passed 300, now having a +310 run differential, and the Pirates are on the bottom with -214. The Rangers have -14, and the Red Sox improved to -33.

The Rangers have a double-header set of make-up games in Miami today. They play at 12:10 CDT and 6:10 CDT. Boston doesn’t play today, and begins a series against the Yankees tomorrow night.

Football season has begun, and I don’t care much about that. Dallas lost their first game to Tom Brady, but their defense performed pretty well, holding the Bucs to only one touchdown. Final score 19-3. The bad news is that Dak Prescott was injured in the fourth quarter, and the offense already looked terrible. My favorite NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens (for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with football), beat the Jets 24-9.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Ruler over the world, whose longing is to see your thoughts and your will in all peoples, we come before you and ask that we may find strength in your Word and never cease to hope for the coming of your kingdom. Even when the world storms and rages, even when earthly kingdoms rise up against each other and everything seems dark, even then be present. Let your kingdom go quietly forward, to the honor of your name. Help us come closer to the goal Jesus has shown us, closer to the time we wait for, the day of his coming when all shall be made new and good through your power, through your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains...And the gospel must first be preached to all nations...Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 
(Mark 13:7–8,10, 13 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the strength I get from God’s Word and the hope for the coming of His Kingdom
  2. that when I seek the presence of God, He makes known to me the path of life
  3. that I am in Christ because of God the Father
  4. that Christ has become, to me, wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1)
  5. that I do not have to wait until I am “perfect” to enjoy God’s presence

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. . . . Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

"If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me."
(John 14:15, 21, 23-24 ESV)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
(1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV)

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)

He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
(Psalms 18:33 ESV)

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:30-31 ESV)


“Him,” in that passage from 1 Corinthians, is God. Because of God we are in Christ, who became all of those things for us. We have no grounds on which to boast. We don’t even have any ground on which to stand, outside of the grace of God.

We are admonished to seek the Lord, to seek His face continually. This is not an easy thing to do. While His presence is always here, we are not always aware of it. I must direct my mind and heart to be seeking His face more often.

But in that presence, then, He shows me the path of life; there is fullness of joy; there are pleasures forevermore. He sets me securely on the Rock, on the high, flat place.

And here’s the thing; a beautiful thing, in fact. “This life is meant for the sinful and weary, for the unworthy and the impotent. It is a life that is the gift of the Father’s love and a life that He will reveal in each one who comes in childlike trust to Him.” (Andrew Murray)

We do not have to wait until we are “perfect” to begin to enjoy this life. We can begin walking in this Kingdom now, immediately!

“Come and yield more fully to God’s way of holiness. Let Christ be your sanctification. Not a distant Christ to whom you look but a Christ who is near, all around you, in you. Not a Christ after the flesh, a Christ of the past, but a Christ who is present in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not a Christ whom you can know by your own wisdom, but the Christ of God who is the Spirit within you.” (Murray)

This is the Christ who bids us love Him and keep His commands, keep his word. His commands are not burdensome, unless we attempt to do them in our own strength. Then they are impossible. But, if we abide in Him, if we seek His face continually, we can do those commands, which are, once again, summed up by

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:29-31 ESV)

and

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

and

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)


Father, I praise You for bringing me into Christ Jesus. You have guided me for my entire life, longer than I can remember, as I have walked in Your Kingdom. Not perfectly. Not even close. Yet I am still here, still walking. There are days when my walk is a struggle, because I try to step outside of that “easy yoke,” and walk in a direction that is not pleasing to You. Yet You never leave me or forsake me; You never stop loving me. Not only that, but Your love never changes; it does not grow smaller when I stumble, or when I choose badly.

I have no grounds to boast, outside of You. It is because of You and Your providence that I am in Christ, and that I have an inheritance waiting for me. I have nothing that You did not give me. I have no righteousness that Jesus did not provide, nor any sanctification or wisdom outside of Him.

You have revealed Yourself to me, through Jesus. You. through Christ and the Holy Spirit, have made a home in me. All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Now, help me to seek Your face more faithfully and consistently. I am too easily distracted, “far too easily pleased.” Forgive me when that happens and always draw me back to You.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


“Most blessed Father, I bow in speechless adoration before the holy mystery of your divine love. Forgive me that I have known and believed in your love so much less than it deserves to be known and believed. Accept my praise for what I have seen and tasted of its divine blessedness. Accept, Lord god, the praise of a glad and loving heart that knows it can never praise you enough.” (Andrew Murray)

Grace and peace, friends.

Living and Active

Today is Monday, the fourteenth of February, 2022, in the sixth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,349

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day to all the people who recognize it. I hope you have a good time today.

C continues to work from home, and is still not feeling well. Something seems to be going around (not Covid-related, as far as we know, because everyone who is suffering from this has gotten negative tests), though, as I know of at least two other people (not in the immediate area) who have not been feeling well. So far, I’m fine. I’ve tried to not get too close to C, since she has been feeling unwell.

Monday is my normal day off. I actually slept until after 8:00, this morning, which is not normal. I have a couple of household things to get done today, and I plan to straighten up my study, a bit. I want to get it looking better, and more conducive to actually making some music. I also would like to get in some reading, as well. I’m currently in the middle of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. I’m still trying to figure out what it is really about. It has some great elements of humor in it, and maybe a murder by poisoning?

I think the Rams won the Super Bowl. Of course they did, because I wanted the Bengals to win. But not enough to watch the game or any part, thereof.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that the Word of God is alive in me
3. for the admonition and potential to "stir up one another to love and good works"
4. that, as we gather together, we strengthen one another
5. for the day when God will be acknowledged as King over all the earth
“I have never put my hope in any other but in you

Can I speak those words to God? Truly? That question reminds me of yesterday’s prayer word. “Almost.” Maybe I could say “I have hardly ever put my hope in any other but You.” Or, “I have almost never put my hope in any other but You.”

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
(Acts 13:46-49 ESV)

I can’t identify at all with the Gentiles in this passage. The question is asked, “Do you remember the word of the Lord being spoken to you for the first time?” Of course, I don’t remember that. I grew up in church. I was probably at church as soon as my parents could safely take me out of the house. Which, in the fifties, was probably sooner than it is, these days. I’m a “lifer.” I was on the “cradle roll.” I feel relatively certain that the Word of God was spoken to me before I could comprehend what it was.

So, no. I don’t remember. And, to be honest, I can’t ever remember a time when I celebrated that I was able to hear that Word. Because it has always been a privilege in this country. These Gentiles in Acts rejoiced because they had previously been excluded from any possibility of hearing God’s Word. I can only imagine what it must be like for a people in some remote area of the world to be able to read God’s Word in their own language for the first time.

You bet I have taken this for granted, as have most of God’s people in this country, especially here in the “Bible Belt.” But here’s the thing. Just because we have had it readily available, and in large amounts, doesn’t mean we have always read it correctly.

You see, there’s this verse in Hebrews. Two of them, actually.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)

And because this is true, every time I read the Bible, any part of it, there is potential for me to “see” something that I have never “seen” before. And, praise God, this has been happening quite a bit in the last decade, and, perhaps, even more so, in the last few years. I rejoice, kind of like those Gentiles, every time the Holy Spirit reveals something “new” to me. It’s not really “new,” is it? Because it’s always been there. But my understanding is ever new, because the God with Whom I have to do, and to Whom I must give account, is always doing something new.

And because of this growth, which, truthfully, doesn’t look like this:

but more like this:

, perhaps I can come closer to saying that “I am currently not putting my hope in any other but You.”

(From Pray As You Go)

Today’s prayer word is “shelter.”

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
 He will cover you with his pinions, 
and under his wings you will find refuge; 
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 
(Psalms 91:1, 4 ESV)

This is not brick and mortar shelter, although, in some cases, He does provide this for us. This is more of a spiritual shelter, a place to find refuge, a hiding place. Over and over, the Psalms describe our Father as a place where we can run and hide. What are we hiding from? It’s different things for different people, and that is one of the beautiful things about God. Yes, He is one God, but He is also many things to many different people. When we get weary of the hate that we see in this world, all the pain that we see around us (which, unfortunately, is necessary for us to sometimes be in the middle of), and the negative news that we are bombarded with, we can run to this shelter, and simply rest in His presence for a while, regaining strength, renewing faith and hope, so we can go back out and continue whatever work He has given us to do.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV)

. . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV)

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
(Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV)

Father, I praise You and look forward to that day when You will be King over all the earth. What a day, glorious day, that will be! However, I do not look forward to that day in arrogance, as some do. I do not look forward to seeing any of Your enemies destroyed. I would rather see them all become part of Your Church and acknowledge Your glory and beauty along with the rest of us.

I thank You for the strength that comes in numbers, as we gather together as Your people. Not strength as in power to be in control or anything like that, but strength to prevail in righteousness, in right living, and in doing the things that You have called us to do; strength to love one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves, strength to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, release the oppressed, and help the downtrodden and immigrants who need our help. Help us to be more generous with the resources You have given us.

I also praise You for the shelter we can find in You, when we are filled to the brim with the hatred we see in the world, the frustration of people who claim to be following You, but still, for some reason, don’t seem to filled with love for their fellow man. Shelter where we can hide and rest when we feel all used up, when we think we can’t do any more, when our strength is dried up. But we also need to utilize this shelter together. Shelter isn’t just for me to go hide alone, although I am free to do that. Shelter is where two or more of us can gather, as well. When our little “church” gathers in the home where we meet, we are, in a sense, sheltering under Your wings. Thank You for this, Father.

And I praise You that Your Word is alive, and growing within me, by the power of Your Spirit. My growth isn’t always steady. Sometimes, I fail and fall. But You pick me back up and put me back on the path so that I can grow some more. I thank You that, in all the years I have been reading and hearing Your Word (and, yes, please forgive me for when I take this privilege for granted), I can still find truth and beauty in it, sometimes things that I have never noticed before.

I pray for Your Word and truth to continue to be shared and grow in our world today, just as it did when the book of Acts was written. May You go before us and prepare the hearts of men to hear Your Gospel truth. And then equip us to share it in love, and, as best we can, keeping our person opinions and politics out of it.

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

What a Day that will be! 

No more cold nights—in fact, no more nights! 
The Day is coming—the timing is GOD's—
when it will be continuous day. 
Every evening will be a fresh morning. 

What a Day that will be! 

Fresh flowing rivers out of Jerusalem, 
half to the eastern sea, half to the western sea, 
flowing year-round, summer and winter! 
GOD will be king over all the earth,
 one GOD 
and only one. 

What a Day that will be! 
(Zechariah 14:6-9 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Spirituality On the Fly

Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of February, 2022, in the sixth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,348 (the number of days since I was born)

Today’s header photo is by Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his other photos at the link provided.

It’s a little humorous. I’m sitting here trying to decide what to type. S and I had a good appointment at the eye doctor, yesterday. Her eyes had changed a bit, one more than the other, so we are getting new glasses for her. Mine, on the other hand, had changed hardly at all. In fact, one eye was pretty much exactly the same. So I’m not getting new glasses. However, I have possession of my prescription in case I need new glasses within the next year. S’s will be ready within the standard seven to ten business days.

It’s a big weekend for some. The Super Bowl is today, between two teams that I would consider “underdogs.” If it weren’t for the commercials, I’m guessing that not nearly as many people would watch the game. Some folks, though, just as in baseball, love the sport so much that they will watch a football game, regardless of who is playing. I’m not even that way with baseball. I love a couple of teams, and I do love the sport, but if neither one of my teams is playing, I’m simply not that interested. As for football, it would be impossible for me to care any less than I do. I did indicate, yesterday, who I hope wins, though, so I supposed I could possibly care slightly less.

And tomorrow is the big day pushed by greeting card and candy makers, world wide. It is Valentine’s Day, the day when a bloody massacre is celebrated by being romantic.

Wait, what?

Never mind. As I stated yesterday, C and I hardly even acknowledge that the day exists.

Speaking of C, I think she might be feeling better. She has been coughing less, and has slept pretty well the last couple nights. So well that I think she is still in bed at 10:00.

Speaking of 10:00 AM, we are not having our worship gathering, this morning. Good thing, I guess, since I haven’t even started the “spiritual” portion of the blog. The host’s daughter is at a Disciple Now event at a church close to them, and they are going to attend the service at that church, along with her. I think they were inviting any of us to tag along, or giving the option to Zoom. But since C wasn’t feeling well, I said we would just stay at home, this morning.

That’s enough personal rambling, I think. I’ll be talking to Mama later today, as I typically call her on Sunday afternoons. I’m sure there will be discussion on when she might be coming back over here, and, of course, we are ready whenever she is. We have also ordered a new bed, one just like the ones we got for S and for Mama’s room, except it is a “split King” bed. Split so that C and I can adjust the settings independently of one another. Ours should arrive by this coming Friday, and won’t be, hopefully, interrupted by a winter storm.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Christ, on our behalf,
before the presence of God,
appeared, once for all.
(Inspired by Hebrews 9:23-28)
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. 
Be not wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 
It will be healing to your flesh 
and refreshment to your bones. 
(Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am not wise in my own eyes, but I seek the wisdom of the Lord
2. that I am learning to not lean on my own understanding (which, admittedly, is sometimes quite lacking)
3. for the easy yoke and light burden of following Jesus
4. that God remembers that we are dust
5. that the Holy Spirit works in real time

The prayer word for today is “almost.” I find that interesting. “Almost” is not a word that can have many meanings. It is pretty single-minded. It means the same thing as “nearly.”

This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalms 118:24 ESV)

Admittedly, this verse is speaking about the verses immediately preceding it.

The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone. 
This is the LORD's doing;
 it is marvelous in our eyes. 
(Psalms 118:22-23 ESV)

It is most definitely a good thing to rejoice in that day, the day that Jesus became the “cornerstone.”

But is it wrong to consider every day that I live as “the day that the Lord has made?” And is it wrong to “rejoice and be glad in it?”

I think not.

How does this go along with the word “almost?” In the context of the reading for the day, written by someone identified only as “Roberta” (I confess that, in my mind, this is a flaw in the concept of the book, because it makes me doubt the authenticity of the stories contained, therein), it means that we need to be sure and make time to do whatever we feel the Spirit leading us to do, and not be “almost followers” of Christ.

I’ve been there. There are plenty of times when I have “almost” followed what Jesus was, I believe, telling me to do. And when that happens, “almost” is synonymous with “not.” In other words, “almost” doing something is the same thing as “not” doing it. Period.

We’ve heard it said, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” “I almost helped that hungry, homeless, jobless person.” No. I didn’t help. There is really no such thing as “almost.”

There is no better illustration than sports for this concept. Almost winning is losing. I once read somewhere, “Second place is first loser.” Now, of course, this is balanced out by phrases such as, “The best thing in baseball is winning the World Series. The second-best thing in baseball is losing the World Series.” So “losing” is not always the worst thing that can happen. But it’s still “losing.” “Almost winning” is “losing.”

So, “almost following” is “not following.”

I think I explained this for way too long.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
(Luke 10:27 ESV)

It does occur to me that the concept above could be taken to such extremes that life would be meaningless (or at least futile). The above verse is at the heading of today’s Daily Guideposts reading. Contained in the reading is the content of a church’s revised mission statement.

Connecting All to Christ. Would others know that I follow Jesus if they spent time with me today? Did I thank God today? Did I extend Christ’s kindness today?

To Become Healthy in God. Did I actively seek ways to grow spiritually today? Did I obey the teachings of Jesus today? Did I open my life to be changed by Christ today?

And Courageous in Love. Did I see every person as a child of God today? Did I make someone’s life better today? Was Christ my priority as I used my time, talents, and treasures today?”

I’m not going to bother pointing out the grammatical inconsistencies with those three points. I would have, though, had I been on their “committee.”

While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those questions, trying to live one’s life by those three components and their sub-questions would surely lead to a life of legalistic frustration. I do not believe this is what God wants from us. I mean, Jesus told us to come to Him and find rest! He said His burden is light and His yoke is easy! When well-meaning people work so hard to come up with “mission statements” like that above, they create heavy and hard burdens for people.

Yes, I need to intentionally grow, spiritually. I need to be thankful every day (I, personally, do that on a daily basis in this blog, and I post those points of gratitude on social media, as well . . . not to show people how “spiritual” I am, or how holy I am, but, hopefully, to inspire them to be grateful and positive about life, as well). I need to always try to see people as God’s children and extend kindness.

But there are going to be days, like yesterday, when I fail to do that. I had an encounter with a grocery delivery person yesterday that did not go well. It ended okay, but my reaction was probably not great. I’m not going into details, but it wasn’t really the delivery person’s fault.

But here’s the thing. We can’t go through life beating ourselves up over things like that. We are going to mess up. There are going to be days when we “almost” win; when we “almost” follow Christ (meaning we simply just fall short). And Jesus knows this. He will not be surprised (and, more than likely, not disappointed, either, considering that He already knows all of this, right?).

For he knows our frame; 
he remembers that we are dust. 
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in that little verse.

So have I just contradicted myself, today? I don’t think so. I think what has happened here (and I quite enjoy when it does), is that I have worked through something, IRL (in real life), or in real time. I think I learn more when this happens. I’m not just regurgitating things that I have learned or believed for most of my life. Rather, I am thinking through some concepts “on the fly,” as it were. And I believe that the Holy Spirit works in this process.

Father, I thank You and praise You, first of all, that You remember that we are dust. You, above all, are aware that we are imperfect creatures. Not because You created us that way, but because, at some point in the existence of humanity, we chose to take that step of disobedience that made us so. But the point is that You are aware of this. Therefore, You are not surprised when we “almost” succeed at following You and Your commands.

I pray that You help me to not be an “almost follower.” But I also pray that concepts like those written above do not become legalistic measures that lead us down a path of futility and anxiety. Help us to embrace the easy yoke and light burden that Jesus spoke of when He invited us to follow Him. We have made ourselves weary; we have burdened ourselves with heavy loads. Jesus is trying to lighten that for us, and we seem to mess it up, constantly, by trying to create more rules and more burdens and heavier loads to “follow.” We seem to have learned nothing from the Pharisees, it turns out.

Thank You for Your compassion and understanding. I thank You for Your wisdom, too, and the admonishment/encouragement to not lean on my own understanding, but to seek Your wisdom and trust in You with all my heart, and to love You with my whole being. Life would be so much easier if we could simply succeed in those “little” things.

In these tumultuous times, Lord, I pray for “peace, love, and understanding.” I pray that Your people could step back from opinions that might be, in large part, irrelevant, and love, not only one another, but our neighbors, as well, unconditionally, the way that You love us. We need a love revolution, Father.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Heal Us, O Lord

Today is Saturday, the twelfth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,347

Today’s header image is by Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his lovely photography at the link provided.

Sometimes, I look at the year and shake my head in disbelief. 2022. I remember, as a child, trying to calculate how old I would be at the turn of the century, in 2001. And yes, the new century/millennium started in 2001, not 2000. I’m not even going to argue with you about it. You’re just wrong. Anyway . . . and now, it’s 21 years beyond that.

We were preparing our tax return, the other day, and C needed to know when my driver’s license expires. 2030. What?? Geez.

I think about the technological advances I’ve seen in my lifetime. I consider that today’s youth/teens have never known anything but primarily digital music, or streaming television. Then I think about the advances my parents’ generation has seen.

I remember the first handheld calculators (there was a factory in my home town, by the way). I remember when cassettes and 8-tracks became big, then when CDs obliterated vinyl. By the way, vinyl has been outselling CDs in recent years . . . it’s made a comeback, because people have realized that it actually sounds better than digital music.

But here’s the thing. I’m not stuck in the past. I have embraced the new technology, as much as I can. I confess that I never quite figured out “SnapChat.” But I have ventured into TikTok territory. You can find me here, if you want. I get mildly amused, and a little sad at all the Facebook posts I see from my generation; you know the ones. There’s a picture, perhaps, of an old-school car dimmer switch, on the floorboard, and the question says, “Who remembers these??” And a bunch of my contemporaries all jump on and say, “ME!!” What I take away from this is that they feel a sense of superiority about it.

Whatever.

Enough of that. It’s 2022. Wow. You have heard it said, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” I have learned that the second two thirds of that sentence are unnecessary. Time flies. Period.

It was, as usual, a great day at the library, yesterday. Someone brought donuts. Some of them were heart-shaped. Yes, because, as I have just realized, Valentine’s Day is Monday! C and I don’t even really acknowledge Valentine’s Day. It’s not really a thing for us. We don’t buy cards or flowers or candy. Well, we buy candy, but not just for that day. We’ve been buying way too much candy, these days. I will say, though, that we have enjoyed the temporary availability of chocolate covered cherries.

Today, S and I have appointments at the eye doctor. It was supposed to be S and C, but C has some kind of bronchitis or something, and doesn’t feel up to going, so we switched the appointment to me. I’m due for a checkup, anyway, so I’ll do it today. That’s at 12:20.

The rest of the day is wide open. I have a small grocery order scheduled to be delivered between 2 and 4 this afternoon. I’ll likely cook burgers for S and me, tonight. C has already said she doesn’t want one.

It’s colder today. The A/C was on, yesterday, because the temp was supposed to reach 77 degrees (and probably did), but today, the high is, like, 47 or something. So the heat is back on, this morning.

That’s all I got. Oh, wait. The Super Bowl is Sunday. I hope the Bengals win. The only reason I have for that is that I heard their quarterback loves to play chess and has an autographed copy of The Queen’s Gambit. I couldn’t tell you his name, at the moment, if my life depended on it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Genuine Prayer, by Daryl Madden

Oh Lord, my need
As day begins
In helping me
Be genuine

My mask, remove
My soul, reveal
Oh Lord let me
Be truly real

And with my friends
Our heart to share
Be vulnerable
And fully here

Oh, let me live
As You see me
A human of
Humility

Whose joy is found
With greater view
A life of grace
Through love of You!

Please check out more of Daryl’s wonderful poetry at the link provided.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 
For fear has to do with punishment, 
and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 
We love because he first loved us. 
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; 
for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen 
cannot love God whom he has not seen. 
And this commandment we have from him:
 whoever loves God must also love his brother. 
(1 John 4:18-21 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the challenge presented in those verses above
2. for the reminder that everything I think, say, or feel, and everyone I meet, has to do with God
3. for the promises of healing (but not always the way we think or desire)
4. that, through all the years and experiences of my life, "I still believe"
5. that God doesn't change like our weather

The prayer word for the day is “heal.” Here is a word that typically only has one meaning. The scripture reference may not seem to have anything directly to do with healing, but let’s take a look at it.

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
(Matthew 22:32 NIV)

The writer of today’s reading cites three different instances where he knows of someone who was miraculously healed. He names “Cheryl,” “Tim,” and “Deb.” Then he goes on to say that, sometimes, he prays to the God of “Cheryl, Tim, and Deb.”

Jesus’s point in that statement (He was responding to a trick question by the Sadducees) was that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not dead, but eternally alive. And not only alive, but physically and spiritually healed from anything that might have afflicted them, while on earth.

I prayed for my dad’s healing for years. He was afflicted with a rare muscular disease called Inclusion Body Myositis, in the Muscular Dystrophy family. He passed away from this disease on April 12, 2015, almost seven years ago. Was my prayer not answered? My prayer was answered, I will confidently say. It was not answered in the way I preferred, because I’m a selfish human. But it was answered in the best way. Yes, I miss my dad. But I believe, confidently, that he is 100% healed. I don’t know what heaven will look like, as we only have glimpses. But I believe that my dad’s muscles are strong and healthy in his “glorified” body, so he has been healed.

Sometimes, people are healed on earth. I also am a firm believer that I will be on this earth until God doesn’t need me to be here, any more. As long as there is a job for me to do, here, I will remain. When that time is over, He will bring me Home.

In the meantime, I will pray for peoples’ healing. Just because my dad wasn’t “healed” in the way I wanted, doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to believe in God’s ability to heal people. In the words of Michael Been and The Call, “I Still Believe.”

"But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And the grief
Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, I still believe"

(From Pray a Word a Day)

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson addresses something that I have struggled mightily with. In the chapter on Zephaniah, entitled “Seek God’s Right Ways,” he talks about how some of us tend to look for a “religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people. We want to go to God for comfort and inspiration when we’re fed up with the men and women and children around us.”

Ouch.

That hits me right between the eyes. You see, I don’t like “people.” And that dislike has gotten even more severe in the last few years. Between the political division and the pandemic (much of which produced even more political division), I am simply fed up with “people.” But Peterson pointedly reminds me that this is not right. I can’t be that way. I mean, how can I obey Jesus’s command to “love one another” if I can’t stand the people I’m supposed to love??

I love this one statement that Peterson makes. “Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.” This doesn’t mean that every conversation has to include something about God. But what it does mean is that my mind and spirit need to be in tune with this fact and consider that every person that I come in contact with . . . okay . . . how to frame this. I remember Dallas Willard saying something once. I can’t remember the exact quote or even where it was, but he said something to the effect that we need to treat every person as though Jesus is standing between us.

So if I meet someone while I’m at the eye doctor today, and have any kind of interaction, whether positive or negative, I need to act as though Jesus Christ is standing between us; He is in the midst; He is paying attention to the interaction, which means He is listening to what I say about that person or to that person; He is even hearing what I’m thinking about that person!

So if that doesn’t chill your bones, I don’t know what will.

Sounds like I need some “healing,” huh?

Never-changing God, I’m so fickle. I admit it, I confess it. Sometimes, I’m a hypocrite, too. I admit that, as well. I preach love for one another, but then I don’t want to have anything to do with people, in general, because, as Peterson has observed, I just don’t like people very much. They annoy me, they frustrate me, and I don’t understand why they think the way they do.

Heal me, O Lord! I know I’m not right about everything. I may not be right about much of anything. But I do know one thing that I’m right about, and that is that I’m supposed to love You with every ounce of my being, love my neighbor as myself, and love my brothers and sisters the way Christ has loved us. So help me do that.

Take that annoyance and remind me that You are present between me and those other people, all the time. That everything I think about them (even if I don’t speak words) goes through You, because You are aware of it all. Before I think something, let Your Spirit stop me and remind me that the person of which I am thinking is created in Your image, and might just be one of Your children, as well. Remind me that there is always something about their lives that I don’t know, don’t even have a clue about. Release me from judgmentalness! Just chisel that fault out of me. Cleanse my heart and heal me.

I’m grateful for all You do in my life, and pray that this will continue. Just keep teaching me Your ways, that I may walk in Your truth, and in Your kingdom. May my feet be guided down the path of righteousness, true righteousness of faith, based on the words and actions of Jesus, not on some man’s legalistic interpretation of Your Word.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

A Prayer for Unity

Today is Tuesday, the eighteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,322

Only five days until Hamilton!

I’ve piddled a bit too much, this morning, and found myself with barely an hour to get my devotional in. It wouldn’t matter, but I have to go pick up my new CPAP machine, this morning, at 11:00 AM. I figure I will probably stop by Subway afterward, for lunch for C and S (and their dinner, as well), since C is working from home, this week. Then I get to work at the library from 4:15-8:15, this evening.

The Rams pounded the Cardinals 34-11 last night, so the divisional rounds are set. Saturday, the Bengals will play the Oilers Titans, and the 49ers will play the Packers. Honestly, I don’t care at all about either of those games, other than I find that I cannot root for Aaron Rogers after his fiasco behavior regarding Covid vaccines.

On Sunday, the Rams will play the Buccaneers and the Bills will play the Chiefs. I’m rooting against the Buccaneers and for the Bills. But I really don’t care. I probably won’t watch any of the games.

I can’t help but wonder . . . if the Super Bowl winds up being the Bucs and Packers, will it be the lowest-watched Super Bowl in TV history? At least half of the country hates both quarterbacks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Restore My Being, by Daryl Madden

Into your Presence
I come before
In my humanness
A time to adore

With shoulders of burden
Of stress that I store
It all melts away
Poured out on the floor

And worries and fears
As I start to pray
For by your grace
They all drift away

The greatest of all
Through the mercy of You
For all of my sins
Are washed away too

To restore my being
Of blessing to find
Gives this broken soul
A taste of the divine

A lovely prayer to begin my morning. Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

"My soul rests, my soul rests, in your embrace
My spirit sings, my spirit sings all your praise."
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, 
and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 
And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 
And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 
how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 
And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." 
(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t recall ever hearing of this before, but I believe it is significant and something important for which to be praying.

Right now, there doesn’t appear to be much unity in the realm of Christianity. In the reading from Mark, the religious leaders are criticizing Jesus and His followers for “doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath.” This sounds a lot like yesterday’s reading, where they were criticized for not doing “religious things.”

So Jesus is criticized for not being religious enough. Legalism abounded in His day, just as it does today. Even today, in the midst of “Christianity,” there is a way of thinking that says, “You can’t be a Christian and ___________.” But truly, Jesus knows nothing of this way of thinking. According to Scripture, there is only one way to be a “Christian” (by the way, that word only occurs three times in the whole Bible, and none of those describes how to be one), and that is to be a follower of Christ.

The modern “church,” just as the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, is quick to be critical. This surely accounts for the division in the church, especially in America. I can’t speak for other countries, but the “church” in the United States (perhaps even the “Church”) is as divided as the nation is, pretty much 50/50. It’s very sad. There is a severe shortage of “love one another.”

The thought, in the reading, that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around, leads me down a path of realization that the law has a purpose, but it is not the purpose that many people try to use it for. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of all. Scripture is clear that the law’s intent was to point out our flaws and shortcomings, not to be followed jot and tittle.

As we pray, we need to be praying for unity within the Church of Jesus, the Body of Christ. We need to stop being so judgmental and critical of one another (I have been guilty of this, myself, and it is something I have struggled with mightily over the past years). We are all only human, we are made from dust, and we are far from perfect, all of us. We will make mistakes, and none of us has a corner on the market of “truth,” or what is wrong and right. We all have our own opinions about things, but those opinions, in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant. Our job is to love God and love people. Those are the two commands upon which the entirety of the Law and Prophets hinge, according to Jesus, Himself.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to be aware of the time of prayer that is being called for, for unity in the Church. I pray that we can somehow manage to set aside our differences of opinion (largely on things that are not of eternal significance) and love one another. I pray that some can stop being critical of others for not being “religious” enough, and I pray that the other half can stop being critical of those they deem to be “too religious.” May we all simply follow Christ, doing the things that He said and did, and love one another, doing whatever needs to be done for “the least of these.”

Help me to find some time to be quiet and reflect as this day continues.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock,
 in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my strength, my rock, and my fortress
2. for the possibility of unity within the Body of Christ; I believe it is possible
3. for the privilege of prayer, and the responsibility, as well
4. for times of quiet and reflection, during the day
5. for the blessing of my life and family
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Fixers

The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.”

Good morning. Today is Monday, the seventeenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,321

Six days until Hamilton!

We had a nice gathering, yesterday, for our house church. There were six of us in person, and two on Zoom. We only managed to get through one Psalm (52), but had some good discussion, and great fellowship. I really feel that we are closer to what the first century church did at their gatherings, anyway. We talk about our lives, read some Scripture, and pray together. Occasionally, we also break bread together. One thing I’m missing, though . . . we haven’t taken the supper in a while. I need to bring that up.

C is working from home, this week. She still doesn’t feel great, but feels better than yesterday. We feel like that terrible wind on Saturday blew in some junk or stirred it up in the air. Not even a hint of fever, for any of us, though. I’m sneezing and sniffling a bit, this morning, but have felt pretty much fine for a few days.

There is nothing much on today’s agenda. Tomorrow, I have an appointment to pick up my new CPAP machine, at 11:00 AM. Once I get that and get it set up, I may be looking at changing doctors. C’s doctor has moved from the clinic he was at, along with a couple other associates. I may be switching over to them. I haven’t decided, yet. It’s a lot easier for me to find time to visit a doctor’s office, these days, so they don’t have to be real close. Their new office is on South Main in Fort Worth, close to the “hospital district,” about twelve miles from my house. That’s not too bad, and is about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the time of day.

All the wrong teams won, yesterday. The Buccaneers blew out the Eagles, the 49ers beat the ‘boys, and the Chiefs beat the Steelers. I’ll probably be rooting for the Bills from this point on. It feels like rooting for the end of the world, though, so I don’t know. The Cardinals and Rams play tonight, and I literally could not possibly care less who wins that game.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 
And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins." 
(Mark 2:18-22 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are being criticized for not doing “religious things,” such as fasting. They are being compared to two different groups, neither of which had much in common. It is worth noting that Jesus, in His response, refers to Himself as “the bridegroom,” and seems to indicate that his “taking away” will be of a violent nature.

As I read this, I consider the idea of “religious things,” and how I feel about them. There is certainly nothing wrong with ritual. I’m somewhat a fan of it, actually. I am drawn toward church settings that employ ritual and liturgy, even though the current setting that I attend does not. I have not, however, ever been able to get a firm grip on the ritual of fasting. I have fasted before, but not on a regular basis.

But when ritualistic things are done “religiously,” without focus on the object (i.e., the “bridegroom”), they are meaningless. Ritual for the sake of ritual is worthless.

I will confess that I have never quite understood the examples of the cloth and the wineskins. I get the technical descriptions and understand the truth that, if you patch and old garment with a piece of new material, and then wash it, the new material will shrink, and destroy the work that was done. And I understand that fermenting wine swells, which would burst a wineskin that had already been stretched out.

What I’m not sure of is how this applies to people and their relationship to Jesus and the Father. I’m looking at some commentary at the moment, in particular by Alexander MacLaren, and it says that, “The attempt was made to keep Christianity within the limits of Judaism; it failed, but not before much harm had been done to Christianity. Over and over again the effort has been made in the Church, and it has always ended disastrously,-and it always will.” This makes sense, and I can see, as the New Testament progresses, that similar disagreements arose, especially concerning things like circumcision.

I would welcome any other thoughts or suggestions regarding this. And as we, as the opening song suggests, turn our eyes upon Jesus, may the things of the earth truly grow strangely dim.

(From Pray As You Go)

I find it interesting that, in Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson takes four chapters to go through the book of Job. Today, I’m in the third of the four, which deals with Job’s “friends” who come try to “fix” him, during his suffering.

And who among us has not experienced something similar to Job? The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.” I actually love that last sentence!

And, you might notice, these people are usually full of “advice” from God’s Word! They tend to play “fast and loose” with biblical quotations. The question is, though, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they’ve said their piece?”

Many of the things that Job’s “friends” said were “technically true.” But it is that “technical” part that spoils them. “They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle.” And here is how Job defended himself:

Then Job defended himself:
 "I've had all I can take of your talk. 
What a bunch of miserable comforters! 
Is there no end to your windbag speeches? 
What's your problem that you go on and on like this?
 If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. 
I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. 
But I'd never do that. 
I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse!
(Job 16:1-5 MSG)

“The book of Job does not reject answers as such. There is content to biblical religion. It is the secularization of answers that is rejected – answers severed from their Source, the living God, the Word that both batters us and heals us. We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.”

And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, 
holding everything in common. 
They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.
(Acts 2:44-45 MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: 
Love one another. 
In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—
when they see the love you have for each other."
(John 13:34-35 MSG)
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives 
and splashes over on everyone around you, 
just as it does from us to you.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 MSG)

Father, as I turn my eyes toward Jesus, this morning, I pray that my focus may stay sharp. By this point in my life, I am surely an “old wineskin,” but have I been fully stretched to my maximum capacity? I think not. I believe there is still room for me to be stretched, and You continue to do so, as each year goes by. I pray to You, constantly, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. And just when I think I’ve got Your way figured out, You take me a little deeper and show me something that, while it may not be “new,” it is new to me. I pray that I will continue to be receptive to that wisdom and knowledge, as it comes.

I also pray that I would never fall prey to the temptation to be like Job’s friends. We all think we’ve got all the answers, and it is very easy to sit around and instruct someone who is suffering, to tell them why they’re suffering, and what they did wrong to get there. When, truthfully, we have no idea whatsoever. I pray that, when I encounter suffering in others, I would have the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it. I also pray that I might have the wisdom to not “say” at all, but to merely sit and listen, or simply be with the person, sitting in silent support. May we not be guilty of citing chapter and verse without having Your mind and heart on the matter.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Father, I pray for continued work in the area of racial reconciliation. We seem to have moved tremendously backward in recent years, and, sadly, driven largely by people claiming to be followers of Christ! May it never be, Lord! Help us, Your people, to be compassionate people who fight for the equality of all men, especially considering how we have been graciously given the salvation that began with Israel! Were it not for Your compassion and Your equal treatment of all people, we “Gentiles” would be permanently lost! Oh, how we seem to have forgotten this. God have mercy on us and help us!

Finally, in the spirit of yesterday’s readings, I invited Jesus to intervene and intercede in our world today. Jesus, please bring forth healing. We beg You to eradicate this plague from our world, and I pray that Your people would demonstrate more willingness to stop thinking selfishly and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Today I am grateful:

1. for the salvation that has been granted us and made available to people from every race, tribe, tongue, and nation
2. for people who know the mind and heart of God and can truly be helpful and compassionate to those who are suffering, without trying to "fix" them
3. for a mind and heart that desires to see equal rights and treatment for all people
4. that God continues to stretch me with new understanding of biblical concepts
5. for the mind and heart to be more devoted to God than to religious things
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, 
standing tall in his bright presence, 
fresh and celebrating— 
to our one God, 
our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master,
 be glory, 
majesty, 
strength, 
and rule before all time, and now,
 and to the end of all time. 
YES. 
(Jude 1:24-25 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Inviting the Lord

Today is Sunday, the sixteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,320

Seven days until Hamilton!

As threatened predicted, it was 27 degrees when I got up, this morning. It is already up to 30, by this writing time, and supposed to get up to 56, later this afternoon. All of that wind, yesterday, must have stirred up some serious stuff in the air, though. I’m feeling better this morning than I did last night, but C has some coughing going on. No fever, not even close, for either one of us. My eyes were itching like mad, yesterday evening, but they are better, this morning.

I’ll be going to the house church gathering, this morning, but C will stay home and probably get on Zoom. I don’t have a lot of time, though, so this may actually not get finished until this afternoon.

The football playoffs have begun. Yesterday, the Bengals beat the Raiders, and the Bills beat the Patriots. The first one, I had no opinion about, whatsoever. The second one, though, I’m glad the Bills won. I have at least one friend who is predicting that they win the Super Bowl. I’m thinking that can’t happen, though. The Bills, like the Vikings, don’t win Super Bowls. If they do, the end might be near.

Today, I’m cheering for the Cowboys (yes, the Cowboys) and the Steelers. As for the Eagles and Buccaneers, can I root for a tie? Or for both of them to lose? I can’t bring myself to cheer for either team. I also have no opinion concerning tomorrow night’s game between the Cardinals and Rams.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Trust in Him and do not fear.
The peace of God will protect your hearts. Alleluia.”

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 
And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
(John 2:1-11 ESV)

Notice the setting of this, the first recorded miracle that Jesus did. It is a wedding, a celebration. It is a social event, “the coming together of family and friends.” Who among us has not been involved in a setting such as this? It is, in fact, somewhat ordinary.

Notice the invitation. Amusingly, it may seem like more than in “invitation.” Mary seems to be almost demanding that Jesus intervene in the situation. The question is, how often do we feel this need in our world? How often do we actually invited our savior to intercede “into even the simple needs of the day?”

I find this to be an excellent question to ponder. Sure, we pray. We ask the Lord for big things, to heal people from pancreatic cancer or leukemia or Covid-19. I will say that I frequently give thanks to the Lord when I make it through a “stale” green light at an intersection. But how often do we ask for the help of our Lord for simple things, the basic needs of the day? Or, as in the case of this wedding, an even seemingly frivolous thing. They were running out of wine. The only consequence this could possibly have is that the party might be less than stellar!

Here’s another good question to ponder. “Do you take time to acknowledge the Lord’s generosity when you experience it?” As stated above, I do, sometimes give thanks for seemingly insignificant things. But I’m not terribly consistent about that. Yes, I have a gratitude list every day. But it often focuses on “big” things, “religious” things, like salvation, grace, mercy, and so on. The unfailing, steadfast love of the Lord. You know . . . things like that. Occasionally, you will see me be thankful for things like coffee and grapes.

How often do we acknowledge the basic generosity of the Lord in our lives? The Bible says that He is good to all and that He even makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

There may be a temptation to say, “Well, that was Mary, His mother, who asked that. Of course He is going to do that for her!” My response to that is to say that I am His brother. I am an adopted brother of Jesus Christ, a sibling of the Son of God. And, He loved me enough to die for me. Why, then, would He not answer my invitation to intercede in my life and in my world?

It is always good to remember, though, that little line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(From Pray As You Go)

Still, I know that God lives—
the One who gives me back my life— 
and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. 
And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— 
see God myself, with my very own eyes. 
Oh, how I long for that day! 
(Job 19:25-27 MSG)

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 18:19 NIV)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV)

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
(Acts 1:14 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. the calming effect of the purring cat who is sitting in front of me
2. my coffee
3. for modern technology that allows us to communicate and minister to one another over long distances, virtually instantly
4. for the love and care of the community of saints
5. that I have the ability to invite Jesus into any situation in my life

Father, I am so grateful for the things listed, above. I am especially grateful, this morning, for the thought that I can invited Jesus to intercede in the simplest areas of my life. If I see a need in this world, all I need do is ask Jesus to intervene. And, if it lines up with Your will, something will happen. That’s where my faith needs to line up. That’s where my confidence needs to rest.

The world is full of questions, right now, about where You are, if You exist, and why there is so much evil in the world. I don’t need to focus on those questions, because I don’t have the right answers, or at least not answers that would satisfy the people asking the questions. I need to focus on loving You, loving my neighbor as myself, and loving the saints as You have loved us. Thank You for all of Your gifts and blessings. Thank You for stretching us when we need stretching. I do believe; help my unbelief. All glory to You, through the son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Better Country

Good morning. Today is Monday, the tenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ reign in your spirit.

Day 23,314

Thirteen days until Hamilton! So far, it is still on.

So it’s back to a more “normal” week for me, this week. I only work two days at the library, this week, tomorrow evening, and all day Friday. Unless, of course, I get “summoned” to work an extra shift, like last week. At this point, I don’t really have any major plans. There are household chores to do, which I usually try to get done on Mondays. For example, I am currently vacuuming the floors while I type this, thanks to the new robot vacuum we got for Christmas. That saves me some time, but it also cuts out some steps that I usually get on Mondays. So there’s definitely a tradeoff, there.

I need to leave the house for a few minutes, later, as I have a couple of packages to pick up at a nearby Amazon Hub locker. I also want to get some more reading accomplished. So far, I’ve already finished three books, this year! In the interest of full disclosure, however, two of those were started last year.

We had a good time at our church gathering, yesterday. There were only four of us at the house, but there were three more on Zoom. We had some good discussion that started on Psalm 51, but kind of went all over the place. I think we plan on starting to look at either First and Second Samuel, or the life of David, soon, to go along with our readings in Psalms.

We had a good lunch from Applebee’s, after which C went up to CVS to pick up some scripts for S, and I called Mama. We had a nice conversation, in which I talked more about football than I have the whole last year. Haha. The Dallas Cowboys have made the playoffs again, with one of the best seasons they have had in quite some time. But the interesting thing about yesterday is how many of the playoff spots were still up in the air for the last week of regular season play. I may or may not watch any playoff games. I’m not much of a football fan, and haven’t really rooted for the Cowboys since Jerry Jones hired Barry Switzer as the head coach.

And with that, I think I have written more about football than I did all last year.

We lost two more celebrities, yesterday, one of which was a big shocker. Bob Saget, most famous for Full House, was found dead in a Florida hotel room. He was only 65 years old. At this point, no cause of death has been announced. Not too long after we learned of that, it was announced that the actor who played Dobie Gillis, Dwayne Hickman, had also passed away. He was 87. This is starting to look like 2016, which I unaffectionately refer to as The Great Celebrity Massacre of 2016. As we know, the 2022 list actually started on 12/31/21 with Betty White.

I guess I should get into the devotional for the day, as it is after 9:30 already.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Enough, by Daryl Madden

In this lonely world
Life can be so tough
Sharing of Your love
Am I good enough?

Life can be exhausting
Each day the road is rough
In helping all the broken
Do I do enough?

Trying to be holy
Sometimes I have to bluff
In living out my faith
Do I believe enough?

I say I don’t ask these
But that is just fluff
But when I do
Say, enough is enough

Asking the wrong questions
Dealing with this stuff
For all I need to know
That Jesus is enough

I love this, because I believe that we do, indeed, spend too much time worrying about whether we are “enough,” or if we are doing “enough.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Do what GOD tells you. 
Walk in the paths he shows you: 
Follow the life-map absolutely, 
keep an eye out for the signposts, 
his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; 
then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.
(1 Kings 2:3 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is sovereign; even when it doesn't look like it, even when everything seems to be "off the rails," God is sovereign and ruling
2. for the gospel proclamation that the Kingdom of God is here, now
3. for the promise of a "better country," a heavenly country
4. for my partner in life
5. for my church family, who also serve to help strengthen me, as we bear one another's burdens
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; 
repent and believe in the gospel."
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. 
(Mark 1:14-20 ESV)

It is believed by many (and I tend to be one of them) that the entire Gospel of Jesus is presented in that one sentence in verse 15. The time has come, the opportunity is here. The rule or reign of God is near, at hand. Jesus commands us to think differently and put our trust in this good news.

The kingdom is here, it is now. It has been here ever since Jesus set foot on the earth. It is not something that we are waiting for, when we die. We are walking in it now.

It is also worth taking note of who Jesus went to first. He did not come on the scene and immediately seek out the “preachers,” the “religious” people. He went to the everyday workers, the fishermen. Truthfully, I have been a part of both scenarios. I spent a large part of my life being “religious.” The older I get, the less “religious” I am. I’m trying to be more ordinary. There is value in the ordinary, the daily work of the ordinary people. This is where the true work of the Kingdom takes place.

The question is asked, as I listen to today’s Pray As You Go presentation, “What would be your response to the Lord’s call, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people”?

I would love to think that I would have followed Him, just as Simon and Andrew did. We are told that they left their boats and equipment immediately and began following Jesus. But, truthfully, I cannot really answer that question. What is worth pondering, this morning, though, is, is there something that I need to abandon immediately in order to follow Him more fully?

Today, in Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, I get to the reading that encompasses First and Second Kings. The main thrust of this reading is the sovereignty of God. This is one of the major truths of everything we read in the Bible.

God is Sovereign.

He rules. “Not only in our personal affairs but in the cosmos. Not only in our times and places of worship but in office buildings, political affairs, factories, universities, hospitals–yes, even behind the scenes in saloons and rock concerts.”

Sure. It doesn’t always look like it. “Most of us are knocked around much of the time by forces and wills that give no hint of God.” But remember the title that is given to Jesus: King.

How do we manage to live in this, “in a world that is mostly either ignorant or defiant of it?” We allow our minds and imaginations and behaviors to be shaped “by the reality of God rather than by what is handed out in school curricula and media reporting.” And Peterson believes the books of Kings to be invaluable resources in this realm.

In the story, which begins, actually, in the Samuels, we know that the people having kings was not God’s idea, but theirs. “Since they insisted, he let them have their way.” However, in that allowance, He did not abdicate His sovereignty. In fact, He was not even delegating sovereignty to those kings. They were supposed to represent His sovereignty.

As we know, this did not ever work very well. But what we do see is that, “in the midst of the incredible mess these kings are making of God’s purposes, God continues to work his purposes and uses them in the work–doesn’t discard them, doesn’t detour around them; he uses them. They are part of his sovereign rule, whether they want to be or not, whether they know it or not.”

Hezekiah at least had an idea of this.

And Hezekiah prayed—oh, how he prayed! 
GOD, God of Israel, seated 
in majesty on the cherubim-throne. 
You are the one and only God, 
sovereign over all kingdoms on earth, 
Maker of heaven, 
maker of earth. 
Open your ears, GOD, and listen, 
open your eyes and look. 
Make all the kingdoms on earth know 
that you are GOD, the one and only God. 
(2 Kings 19:15-16, 19 MSG)

Speaking to the Assyrians through His prophets, God says this:

Did it never occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action, Using you as a doomsday weapon, reducing proud cities to piles of rubble, . . .
(2 Kings 19:25 MSG)

“The books of Kings provide a premier witness to the sovereignty of God carried out among some of the most unlikely and uncooperative people who have ever lived.”

I love that quote! Because it directly lines up with who we are, as well. We are pretty unlikely and mostly uncooperative people, I think.

These are the words that David spoke to Solomon, as David was about to did:

Do what GOD tells you. 
Walk in the paths he shows you: 
Follow the life-map absolutely, 
keep an eye out for the signposts, 
his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; 
then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.
(1 Kings 2:3 MSG)

They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:16 NIV)

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 
'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “partnership.”

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

The devotional book only cited verse 9, but I can’t just quote that verse without the other three, as they complete the thought. Specifically that line at the end of verse 12, that, on the surface, appears to be confusing. Wait . . . I thought we were talking about two people, not three!

But if you consider that God is the third strand of that cord, it completes the truth. I am not very strong alone. With a partner, a collaborator, I am stronger, and if God is in the center of it, we are unbeatable.

Ultimately, my wife is my partner. I am stronger with her. We have overcome obstacles in our thirty-six years together; obstacles that would have been impossible without God in our midst.

Father, like the people referred to in Hebrews 11, I long for that “better country.” I make frequent references in this forum to “Home,” and that is what I long for. However, that longing is not so strong that it makes me of no use in this life. I am not “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.” But neither am I completely entrenched in the things of this world. I won’t deny that there are some things of the world that I enjoy. But if Your plan was to bring us all Home today or tomorrow? You would get no complaint from me!

I embrace Your sovereignty, and have for many years, now. The longer I live, the more understanding I have concerning this idea of sovereignty. We are not robots. You do not control every single thing that I do. At least I don’t think You do. I have a measure of “free will” within the confines of Your sovereignty. But You are working Your plan, as we can clearly see throughout the pages of Scripture, and You are using ordinary people like us to do it. The pages of the books of Kings show us this. What a mess! Just like the pages of the book of Judges! We talked about this in church, yesterday morning, about how messy we are, but we are still loved by You and You still use us in Your kingdom. We are very grateful for this, and honored and humbled to be a part of Your story.

I thank You for my wife, Lord, for the partnership that You put together over thirty years ago. She is more than I ever deserved and I am so grateful for the love that You made between us. Thank You for Your hand in our lives and our family. I pray that You continue to direct us all through this life, and embrace Your promise that we need not fear because You are right here with us, all the time.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Oh, How I Love Your Word

Today is Tuesday, the second of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,245

Ten days until C’s birthday!

It seemed like a busy day, yesterday. Part of that was because I didn’t finish yesterday’s blog until after noon. Then I went to the grocery store, but right after I got home, C texted me to tell me that S had a prescription ready at CVS. So I went back out to pick that up. Then, I had lunch, at a little after 2:00 PM. I had already started washing the bed linens, earlier, and they were dry not too long after that, so I had a little time to relax before I needed to put the sheets back on the bed. Then I swept the floor, and by the time I finished that, it was time to start cooking dinner, because C was on her way home.

Today, there’s not a lot to do. I work this evening, 4:15-8:15, so I’m planning to cook “lunch” at around 2:00 or so, planning to have it ready to eat by 3:00. Then I’ll have a light snack after I get home from work. I don’t have to work tomorrow or Thursday, so I may stay up later tonight.

Nothing else is planned. Oh, and C is working from home today, her normal day to do that.

The World Series continues tonight at 7:00, in Houston. The Braves lead the series 3-2.

I realize that I haven’t (and don’t usually) said anything about football. I’m not much of a football fan, and it’s still baseball season. But the Dallas Cowboys are 6-1, so far, this season! Granted, they are in one of the worst divisions in the NFL, and they are the only team in their division with a winning record, but they have played some pretty good teams, along the way. While I don’t actively root for the ‘boys, I have some good friends who do, so I wish for their happiness. Dallas plays Denver (4-4) this Sunday afternoon.

Today is Deviled Egg Day. I do love those, but I likely will not have any today.

The word for today is busk, “to entertain by dancing, singing, reciting, juggling, etc., on the street or in a public place.” I was familiar with the word, but did not know that it included activities other than singing or playing an instrument. Makes sense, though.

Today’s quote is from e.e. cummings, American poet. “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

Birthdays on November 2:

Daniel Boone, American frontiersman, 1734-1820. 
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (Let them eat cake), 1755-1793
James Knox Polk, 11th U.S. President, 1795-1849
Warren G. Harding, 29th U.S. President, 1865-1923
Burt Lancaster, American actor, 1913-1994
Ray Walston, American actor (My Favorite Martian), 1914-2001
Jay Black, American pop singer (Jay and the Americans), 1938-2021
Stefanie Powers, American actress, (Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Hart to Hart), 1942 (79)
Keith Emerson, English musician (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), 1944-2016
J.D. Souther, American singer/songwriter (Heartache Tonight, New Kid in Town), 1945 (76)
Carter Beauford, American drummer (Dave Matthews Band), 1957 (64)
k.d. lang, Canadian country singer, 1961 (60)
David Schwimmer, American actor (Friends), 1966 (55)
Jay Black is the singer
Keith Emerson on keys

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

All have received gifts;
Use them to serve each other,
As stewards of grace.
(1 Peter 4:10)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
(Psalms 118:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the gifts that You give
2. for opportunities to use those gifts
3. that we can count on Your guidance, forever
4. for Your Word and all of its benefits to my life
5. for the strength found in relationship

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FOUR – DAY THREE

INVITATION

that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
(Psalms 48:14 ESV)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to reflect on Your great and wonderful gifts, and Your constant guidance, always available to us, forever.

BIBLE SONG

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
(Psalms 119:97-104 NIV)

BIBLE READING

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
(Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 NIV)

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I become more aware of God’s loving presence, I read these passages again, looking for anything in His Word that has caught my heart’s attention. Is there a command to be obeyed? Is there comfort to be savored? As I meditate on these things, I pray them to God and rest in His presence.

The first thing that catches my attention is the first verse of the Psalms passage. “Oh, how I love Your law!” I like the way Peterson paraphrases this, so that we aren’t using the word “law” literally.

Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed; I reverently ponder it all the day long.
(Psalms 119:97 MSG)

There are several different words used to describe God’s Word, throughout Psalm 119; law, commands, statutes, precepts, word. All of those could be defined, as Peterson does, “all You’ve revealed.”

I have been a Bible reader since before I was able to read. That may sound contradictory, but remember, people were reading Scripture to me before I was able to read. I have loved “God’s Word” as long as I can remember. Even through the darkest parts of my life, some of which were of my own making, it was always the Bible that drew me back to the path. Sure, His Holy Spirit is involved, no doubt. But even He drew me back via the precious Word of God.

Do not mistake me . . . I do not “worship” the Bible. I worship the God who revealed Himself through the Bible. But I do love the Bible, just as the psalmist who penned Psalm 119 did.

The Word of God, rightly applied, gives us more wisdom than anyone around us; our enemies, our teachers, our elders, even. It helps us stay away from evil paths. Or, when our feet have strayed onto an evil path, it gently maneuvers us back. It teaches us to hate those evil paths.

One of my favorite passages regarding God’s Word is found in Psalm 19.

The revelation of GOD is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of GOD are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of GOD are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of GOD are plain
and easy on the eyes.
GOD’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of GOD are accurate
down to the nth degree.
God’s Word is better than a diamond,
better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
better than red, ripe strawberries.
(Psalms 19:7-10 MSG)

The Teacher, in the meantime, continues to find everything to be meaningless, “a chasing after the wind.”

Father, I know that not everything in life is meaningless. Many of the tasks, however, in which we constantly find ourselves engaged, are truly a chasing after the wind. This is true; it is known. Many of those things, though, are, more or less, harmless, in the big picture. What is not meaningless is relationship with You, which we are able to enhance and grow through a healthy attitude toward Your Word. I praise You for Your Word, in which You have revealed Yourself further to us. I say “further,” because You have, in fact, revealed Yourself quite extensively through nature and Creation, to those of us who are looking at it wisely. But the revelation of Yourself through Scripture, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit, is invaluable and priceless, worth more than pure gold, sweeter than pure honey (or strawberries). I love Your Word, Father, I do. Thank You for placing that love of it in my heart at such an early age. Thank You for placing people in my path, people who cared for me and loved me and read Your Word to me and taught Your Word to me. I cannot thank You enough for those blessings.

I pray that You would continue to give Your people a love for and commitment to the communities in which we have landed. I pray that You continue to equip us to serve in unique and effective ways.

"Everlasting God,
I shop for pleasure,
looking to consume happiness;
I hustle for meaning,
striving to make a difference.
But the more I consume the less I enjoy,
and the harder I work the more life slips out of my reach.
Help me understand the simple truth that none of my work or worry,
nor any of life's pleasures,
does any good without Your blessing.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 ESV)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
(1 Peter 4:9 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV)

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:21 ESV)

I want to take a moment to boast (I don’t normally do this kind of thing) about the relationship that my wife and I have. That whole passage from Ecclesiastes 4 is worthy of visiting.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

I feel like we have been lifting each other up, constantly, for over thirty-six years, now. And, since my retirement, this has even been enhanced more. When we discussed the possibility of me taking early retirement, I heartily agreed to become, more or less, a “house-husband,” taking care of menial household chores, on my days off, while C continues to work full time. For the record, it is still roughly four years until she is eligible for early retirement. But I have gladly taken on tasks such as laundry, sweeping floors, keeping dishes clean (which I helped with a lot already), trash removal, and things like that. I have tried to keep the house somewhat neat, and it has been quite rewarding for me. I don’t hate it at all. Because I am doing it out of love for my wife.

There are different ways to describe a marriage. The Ecclesiastes passage may not even be describing marriage, per se, but simply a good partnership. But that’s what marriage is, right? Most definitely a “good partnership.” Some say that one plus one, in a marriage, doesn’t make two, but makes one. I don’t disagree with that, but I would also entertain the thought that one plus one equals infinity, because I believe that we two together are infinitely stronger than one of us alone. And when Jesus is in the middle of us, it is infinity times infinity. “A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped” (The Message).

Father, I praise You for this relationship, and look forward to what You are going to continue to do in our midst, in the years that we have left.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
(Ezekiel 36:22-23 ESV)

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Give Ear To My Words

Today is Monday, January 6, 2020. Epiphany. Peace be with you.

Day 22,579

Epiphany, celebrated every January 6, is the day that commemorates the visit of the wise men to Jesus. Since the wise men were not Jewish, the day also acknowledges Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles.

We had a pretty good day, yesterday. Our church meeting went really well, I think. We didn’t get to all of the Scripture readings that were on the schedule, but we had some great discussion around the first one, which is what delayed us from getting to the second one. I know that our pastor is okay with this, because what kept us from getting to the second reading was important stuff.

The most moving moment of the morning was when we asked the question of who anyone knew that was an inspiration as far as getting through suffering. The first people that were mentioned were folks who were in the room with us. To me, that was very significant. Eventually, we got to people like missionaries from centuries ago, and people like that. But the first people on our minds were people who are in our lives, and people who worship with us. To me, that exemplifies community, which is what we are after.

We stopped at Subway for lunch, then spent the afternoon watching TV and then I got to play on the PS4 for a while.

As for my physical issues, the arm is much better! I have more freedom of movement, so I believe I will be able to drive. I think I can get through work, but I will have to remember to not make any sudden, jerky movements with that arm. The finger, however, isn’t really any better, yet. It doesn’t hurt constantly, with the splint on it, but when I take off the splint, it is still quite swollen, and I can’t bend it very far. That last joint won’t bend at all, on its own, currently. It’s only been two days, though, and it was traumatized much worse than the arm was.

Some quick NFL scores, because it was a weekend of upsets. On Saturday, the Texans beat the Bills 22-19 in OT. The Titans stunned the Patriots, winning 20-13. Then yesterday, the Vikings upset the Saints, 26-20 in OT. And the Seahawks beat the Eagles 17-9. So next weekend will see the Titans take on the Ravens, the Texans against the Chiefs, the Vikings versus the 49ers, and the Seahawks against the Packers.

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

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

Psalm 103.1-2

Today I am grateful:
1. For a good time of worship with our church group, yesterday morning.
2. That my arm seems to be healing up quickly and well.
3. For a new week of opportunities to serve God and others.
4. That our God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise.
5. That our God has committed himself to be our God and to love us unconditionally.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 16.1-2

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18.1-2

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51.7

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1.9-11

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. 
O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. 
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. 
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! 
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;

Psalm 65.1-5

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

(Agnus Dei)

“Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
Hebrews 13.1-3

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2.11

A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.
Isaiah 60.6

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 
saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2.1-2

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. 
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. 
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. 
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 
You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

Psalm 5.1-6

Reading through the Psalms brings out the fact that many of them begin with what we consider a lament–that is a cry “for help from deep within. This is uncensored prayer, straight from the heart.” Even when we cannot find the “words to express our anguish, we can lay our requests before God.” God desires that we come to him “for refuge from our grief, fear, and pain and not to dull those emotions with amusements and distractions.” Those “amusements and distractions” may promise blessing and/or relief, but seldom deliver, at least not permanently. Our confidence should be in this God who “told Moses that he would faithfully commit himself in love to us.” I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6.7)

Prayer: “All-knowing Lord, you see what is in my heart. All-powerful Lord, I don’t have the power to accomplish what needs to be done, so I spread out my requests before you. All-wise Lord, I know you hear and will act–but I know also I must wait on your wise timing, and so i will. Amen.”

Father, as I read this “morning Psalm,” I do, indeed, lay out my request before you. My sacrifice is a sacrifice of prayer and praise, and now I will watch to see what you will do. Thank you for being all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise. Thank you for your commitment of love to us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.” Job 5.8-9

Grace and peace, friends.