He Is For You

Today is Thursday, the twentieth of May, 2021, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,079

Today is Glen Rose day!

We put in our grocery order at Albertson’s last night, scheduling the pickup at noon today. We can’t check in to our cabin until mid-afternoon (I can never remember the time), so there’s no hurry. We’ll get the groceries, and grab a few Subway sandwiches for S. Then we’ll get packed and head on our way.

As far as plans for the weekend, there aren’t any, other than to simply relax and soak in the peace. C went to the library on her way home from work, yesterday, and checked out some books to read. I am in the process of deciding which books to take with me. I’m not going to take the book I am currently reading, called House of Leaves, simply because of the size of the book. It’s a large paperback, on the scale of some kind of school workbook, and is difficult to hold. It’s better read flat on a table. Definitely not hot tub material.

So I’ve chosen a few smaller paperbacks, all spiritual in nature. I’m also charging up my Kindle for the trip and will pick out one or two books to have in the front of my library there. I’ll also probably grab a science fiction paperback by either Heinlein or Williamson.

Of course, I won’t get all of those read, but it’s all about selection.

I’m also charging up my tablet. There may or may not be blogs tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday. No promises. We don’t have wi-fi there, so no lap top. If I do decide to blog, the format will be somewhat different and shorter, too.

I might take my guitar. I haven’t decided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“We live in a stressful world. Jesus urged us time and again not to worry. We try, but it always seems to creep back in. Our prayer time with God is a wonderful time to combat stress.

“This is a reflection of recommitment, of saying that I am not God. This is a prayer of letting go and sitting in the light of God.”

"The poison of stress and worry
drip off my shoulders,
falling into you,
glimpsing the vision,
gaining the perspective of truth,
turning over the reins,
refocusing on love,
basking in the light."
(Daryl Madden, "Refocusing," from On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

I’ve been listening to Rich Mullins more, lately, and thinking about his life, thanks to the True Tunes Podcast and John Joseph Thompson. Lately, this lyric has been speaking to me, from his song, “Brother’s Keeper,” on the album of the same name.

"My friends ain't the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are
And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper"

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that this extended weekend has arrived
2. for the promise of no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain
3. for my Twisted Pine Cinnamon Coffee Cake coffee, which seems especially good, this morning
4. for Your glorious and majestic deeds, Your righteousness which endures forever, and Your provision for all Your creation (Psalm 111)
5. that Jesus is for us

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

EASTER – DAY 47

INVITATION

“Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
(Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

I pause, quietly, to briefly consider my life, where it has been and where it is going. Some pretty deep introspection going on.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
(Psalms 111:1-7, 10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:24-28 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

In this peaceful setting, I quietly linger over these passages, reminding myself that I am in the peaceful and loving presence of my Father. The Holy Spirit makes His presence known to me, filling this space, both inside and outside me.

I am drawn to the word “culmination” in the Hebrews passage. Webster’s isn’t much help, here. They define “culmination” as “the action of culminating.” So I have to click again.

To “culminate” means “to reach the highest or a climactic or decisive point.” That’s one of the definitions, and I believe the one that fits the context of Hebrews 9:26.

Can this be tied in to the Psalm passage, as well? I believe so. The “glorious and majestic” deeds of the Lord most certainly include the appearance of Christ at the “culmination” of history.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”

Our world is full of sanctuaries made with human hands. The Temple was one of those. But Jesus’s sacrifice was not made through one of those man-made temples. It was done in the literal presence of the Father, in heaven, itself. And, unlike the sacrifices of goats and bulls, which had to be made year in and year out, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was done once; once for all.

Back to this word. “Culmination.” At the climax of history, Jesus arrived on the scene. Everything up to that point was pointing to the arrival of Jesus Christ. And everything since looks back to Him.

The Old Testament represents everything that happened before Christ. The Gospels are the story of Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection. Everything after the Gospels points back to that life and the effect it has on our lives.

Jesus Christ is the culmination of all history. Literally, nothing else matters.

Without the context of Jesus Christ, life is meaningless. Seriously . . . what’s the point?

I apologize for the ponderous nature of this entry. I’m struggling to adequately express my thoughts, this morning. This doesn’t seem cohesive. I trust the Spirit to bring it together, but it may not happen before I’m finished, this morning.

Father, I trust in You and Your ways. I trust Your Spirit to teach me all things regarding Your Word, Your precepts, and understanding them. I don’t expect this to occur in a single hour or day, or perhaps not even a single lifetime. I am fully persuaded, though, that, on that great day, when I arrive Home and see You face to face, I will understand everything, even though now, I “see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13). Help me to fathom the culmination of history, to dwell in that moment of the life of Christ, to know Him as best I can, and to embrace Him, His love, His mercy, His life, His cross, His resurrection. I do believe! Help my unbelief!

Jesus,
two little words that mean the world: 
for us.
You are for us,
and all you do,
good Savior,
is for us.
Your birth,
your life,
your death,
your resurrection,
and now your ascension are for us,
for our good.
As you have been for us,
may your people be for others. 
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 46)

BLESSING

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)

As I considered these things, this morning, and the words “for you” came up, I was drawn to a song. It’s quite long; it’s repetitive, not many words, but it is so very powerful. It’s simply called “The Blessing.” I’m going to share it here.

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family
And your children
And their children
And their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you
And beside you
All around you
And within you
He is with you
He is with you

In the morning
In the evening
In your coming
And your going
In your weeping
And rejoicing
He is for you
He is for you

He is for you

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
(Ephesians 1:3 ESV)

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Matthew 19:26 ESV)

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
(Proverbs 11:25-26 ESV)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:16 ESV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

Father, as I consider You, the source of all light, this morning, let me be one who reflects Your light, rather than absorbing it and giving nothing back. I seek true transformation, Lord, into the image of Christ, who is the image of You. Be in me as Christ is in You and You are in Christ. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, the representation of You and the Son. Transform me into deeper degrees of glory. Let me be one who waters, not one who holds back.

Thank you for being for us.

O Lord, give us growth in holiness. Help us to understand holiness, that it is not legalism or abiding by a set of rules, but life in You, in Christ, simply walking in His way, His truth, His life. Uncover the idols in my heart, Father, in all of our hearts, whether it be that habit that we just can’t let go of, or that politician or political party that we put our trust in; bring down those idols, Father!! Forgive us, Lord, and may we embrace that forgiveness in our lives. Then give us the grace and mercy to extend that forgiveness to all around us.

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!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Shalom Aleichem, friends.

Once and For All

Today is Wednesday, the nineteenth of May, 2021, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,078

Tomorrow, we go to Glen Rose for an extended weekend!

The rains continue today, with an 86% chance of rain throughout this day. The high temp is projected to be in the mid-seventies, though, which is not bad. The rain forecasts continue to extend out as far as I can see, which is ten days.

I don’t have much more to write about, so I’ll head on in to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Close your eyes and see,
quiet your ears and hear,
silence your mouth and speak--
cultivating the senses of the soul.

Open your heart,
free your mind,
release your being--
letting prayer happen.

Focus on the pure light of the soul,
let it consume and grow,
let it spread--
connecting with the Supreme Presence of love."
(Daryl Madden, "Senses of the Soul," in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

To preface this poem, the author wrote, “I realized that conversation with God is communication that can’t be defined by the senses that have been defined by science. The spiritual senses are much more important and harder to refine.”

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
(Acts 20:24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1.  for the Good News about the wonderful grace of God
2. that because of our great High Priest, ascended into heaven, we can approach God's throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4)
3. that the blood of Jesus cleansed us, both outward and inward, once and for all
4. for the fruit of the Spirit, which can give us an exuberance for life
5. for the "apocalypse," which really means revealing or unveiling, when we will see our Savior face to face

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

EASTER – DAY 46

INVITATION

"Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

I pause for a moment to quietly reflect on the wonderful grace of God, fully available to all who approach His throne.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm.

The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
(Psalms 110:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
(Hebrews 9:11-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit quietly in this place, resting in the presence of God, I read these passages again, seeking to linger on a particular word or phrase, to which the Holy Spirit directs me.

I land in the Hebrews passage, pondering the idea of Jesus’s sacrifice and work. The “tabernacle” that Christ went through was not made with human hands. And the blood spilled was His own. It was not the blood of “goats and calves,” but He went into the Holy of Holies by means of His own blood, “thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

The effect of animal blood was temporary and outward. It did cleanse, but not fully, and not eternally. That statement in verse 14 is powerful. If the blood of animals could do what it did, “how much more, then, will the blood of Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

The blood of Jesus Christ, perfect in every way, cleanses us outwardly and inwardly, for all eternity! When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it truly was finished, once and for all; for all time, and for all who would become His.

Father, I praise You for this. My gratitude for this truth is unspeakable; words cannot express it, yet I try. I can say “thank you” over and over again. That is all I can do. But wait. Is it? I can live. My life can be an expression of gratitude to You. Not that I can repay You; that is not the idea. It is (my life, that is) an offering to You. Because I have nothing else of any value to offer. Everything that I have comes from You. So I offer it back to You in thanksgiving and praise. All glory to You, Father, as I worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who offered Himself so that I might be cleansed and be able to serve You.

Ascended Jesus,
I often move through my days with a guilty conscience,
an accusing voice that tells me of the evil I have done,
or the good I have failed to do.
Cleanse my conscience by your shed blood,
and strengthen me to serve the living God.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 56)

BLESSING

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.
(Galatians 5:22-23 MSG)

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
(1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
(Revelation 19:7-9 NLT)

Father, as I walk through this day, may it be with the exuberance of life, described by Eugene Peterson in The Message, above. May I live with the wholeness of Christ, in the fruit of the Spirit. May that fruit flow through me and out of me in a way that blesses all around me. I look forward, Father, to that final day of “apocalypse,” meaning the full revealing or unveiling, when we, the Church of Jesus, are presented to Him as His bride, complete and unblemished. What a day, glorious day, that will be!

Lord, this morning, I pray for all governments, world leaders, and needs in our world. May Your presence be felt among them all. May You bring Your blessings on the continent of Antarctica, today, on the few who reside there. Just because it is a barren wasteland with few inhabitants doesn’t mean we should not remember them in our prayers. I also pray for effective government services throughout our land and throughout this world.

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!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

Shalom aleichem, friends.

The Testimony of God

Today is Tuesday, the eighteenth of May, 2021, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,077

TWO DAYS until our much-needed Glen Rose trip. Who cares if it’s supposed to rain the whole time?

Speaking of which, the rains continue in DFW, as well. Currently 63 degrees and cloudy, the forecast calls for a 96% chance of rain, throughout the day, with “heavy” thunderstorms from late morning, through the afternoon. The high is only projected to be 66 degrees. That part is nice, as it got fairly warm, yesterday afternoon, what with all the humidity.

C is working from home today, because she can. There is still no hint of when the pool guy is going to come repair/install our new pool equipment, but you can bet it won’t be this week. Can’t do that kind of thing in a downpour.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

For all humble souls who may stumble across this blog today, I offer this prayer:

"Holy Spirit, enjoy the willingness of these souls
who are precious to you.
Through Jesus Christ I as you to . . .

enlighten their spirit,
enhance their vision,
enrich their hearing,
encourage their heart,
impassion their souls,
empower their beings;

breath on them,
bathe them in your light,
burn in their hearts,
flood them with your gifts;

spring for a new being who
is aware of God's presence,
thirsts for his Word,
seeks his guidance,
serves his purpose,
spreads his love."
(Daryl Madden, "Prayer for the Life in the Spirit Group," in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, to the one who knocks it will be opened."
(Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the gracious promises in those two verses
  • for the growing awareness of Your presence in my life
  • for a growing thirst for You and Your Word
  • for the testimony of God, that He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son
  • that I’m not calling God a liar

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

EASTER – DAY 45

INVITATION

"Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

I pause to quietly reflect on asking, seeking, and knocking, and approaching the throne of grace with confidence.

BIBLE SONG

My God whom I praise,
do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship.

Help me, LORD my God;
save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, LORD, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
may those who attack me be put to shame,
but may your servant rejoice.
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them.
(Psalm 109:1-5, 26-31 NIV)

BIBLE READING

We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
(1 John 5:9-13 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over these passages, I invite the Holy Spirit to draw me, to direct me to words and/or phrases that speak His truth to me, this morning.

I have to admit that the experience of the psalmist in Psalm 109 is almost entirely foreign to me, as I have rarely, if ever, had wicked and deceitful people opening their mouths against me. If I have been hated by any, I don’t recall the experience. I have had supervisors/managers in the past who may not have thought I was worth the money I was being paid, but their minds were usually changed, over the course of time, especially when I took vacation/PTO and it took at least two people to do my job.

But this isn’t about me. As I read the passage from 1 John, it is almost like I am reading it for the first time. This is what I love so much about the precious Word of God. It is, indeed, alive and active, as the writer of Hebrews describes it. But this passage is all about the testimony of God. The Father has spoken, and He has declared it. Eternal life is in His Son, Jesus Christ.

And did you know? If you do not believe this, you are calling God Almighty a liar!

Let’s just sit back and ponder that for a minute, eh?

And I like the way this passage begins. Human testimony, well, it’s okay. But God’s testimony . . . that’s from God, so it’s better. It’s greater. And those of us who believe in the Son have accepted this testimony.

The testimony is simple. In fact, it may be the most simple statement in Scripture. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

That’s it.

And isn’t that all we need?

Father, I praise You for this simple truth. I thank You that You chose me to walk in Christ, to believe in Him and accept this testimony that You have declared. I am grateful that I am not calling You a liar. That’s a frightening thought.

But do I truly live that out? I don’t want to dwell too deeply on that, this morning, because it is a dangerous rabbit hole to go down. But I do need to be more cognizant of how I walk and live in Christ, so that, by my actions, I am not calling You a liar. Keep that in front of me today, Lord, as I walk (hopefully) with you. And, should I encounter any accusers, who would speak evil of me, shut their mouths, Lord. Give them no fuel for their arguments. Vindicate me and my work today.

Loving God,
in upper rooms and downtown condos,
in suburban bedrooms and country churches,
your people wait and pray.
Send your Spirit that I may know the truth reveled in Christ,
that I may believe he is the Son of God and experience life in his name.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 3/4.11)

BLESSING

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever."
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)
Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent. Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies?

Selah

You can be sure of this: The LORD set apart the godly for himself. The LORD will answer when I call to him.
Don't sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.

Selah

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD.
Many people say, "Who will show us better times?" Let your face smile on us, LORD.
You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.
(Psalm 4 NLT)
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighted him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
(Isaiah 53:4-8 NLT)
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”
(Matthew 8:16-17 NLT)

He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.
(1 Peter 2:22-24 NLT)

Father, these readings fill me with both sorrow and joy. Sorrow that my Savior was treated the way He was, and joy for the benefit that we receive from His sacrifice. Balance those in my life today, Lord, that the sorrow does not overwhelm the joy, and the joy does not push away the sorrow. Help me to ponder both truths, both emotions, today.

Lord, I ask, this morning, that You would intensify the calling for us to serve You and follow Jesus into our neighborhoods and workplaces. May we walk with Him wherever we may find ourselves. I pray for the “shalom” and well-being of the communities in which You have placed us. I specifically pray for grace and mercy and strength for all who work in the health care profession.

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!

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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Shalom Aleichem

Today is Monday, the seventeenth of May, 2021, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,076

THREE days until our Glen Rose trip!

We had sous vide cooked steak again, last night, along with corn on the cob, and it was, in my opinion, the best we have ever had. It has to be the meat, because I didn’t do anything different. This time, C picked up two top sirloins and a ribeye (the ribeye may have been accidental). After cooking at 129 degrees for ninety minutes (I increased the time for the corn), that ribeye virtually melted in our mouths. It was amazing. The sirloins were excellent, as well.

I can tell that work is causing a bit of anxiety for me, because of my dream last night. In a rare occurrence of a dream that I could remember (I don’t normally remember dreams after awaking), I dreamed (dreamt?) that I was summoned to the general manager’s desk before logging in at work, this morning. Fearing the worst, I made my way to his desk, only to be told that I was to order pizza for everyone for lunch. But it wasn’t just regular pizza, you know, like Pizza Hut. It was specialty pizza, like Pie Five, or Blaze, or California Pizza Kitchen. Then I had to go find someone who knew from experience what everyone liked. It was very strange.

Not surprisingly, according to my Fitbit, even though I logged seven hours and seven minutes of sleep (that’s a good number for me), it was only 63% below resting, last night. That percentage is normally in the high eighties or even low nineties.

Work anxiety is no fun, y’all. The good news is that this is only a three-day work week for me, because we head to Glen Rose, our favorite place on earth with our favorite cabin, the Cedar House at Paluxy River Bed Cabins. And even though the forecast gives us well over 50% chance of precipitation for all the days we will be there, we don’t care. We’ll just sit out on the deck in our rocking chairs (or in the hot tub) and watch it rain. And if we get some time without rain, we’ll take our canvas chairs down by the river and sit and just watch the river. And read, probably. Or listen to podcasts.

Enough of that. On to what is real and important. No. I take that back. Life is real. The things that we do are real. I don’t want to imply that only “religious” stuff (and I don’t see any of this as “religious,” anyway) is “real.” What follows in this blog is what keeps me centered, so that what is “real” actually matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Here I sit in my own little swamp,
festering in my needs and wants,
stuck in my self-pity and worries,
suffocating in my humanity.

Help me raise my eyes to you.
Pull me from the mud and lift me up.
Bring me to the shore
and let me dive into you.

Allow me to float in your river of grace,
bobbing and drifting in your warm embrace,
feeling the light of your love shining on me,
drawing me ever closer.

I don't ask to be freed from trials and challenges--
only to place them in your control,
always from your perspective,
seeing everything through you.

O Father, you are the way.
Help me focus on you.
Help me just let go
and trust and rejoice in you."

(Daryl Madden, "My Own Little Swamp," in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)
Praise the LORD! How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting!
Sing out your thanks to the LORD; sing praises to our God with a harp.
(Psalm 147:1, 7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for being allowed to float in Your river of grace
  • for pulling my focus away from myself on onto You for a few moments
  • for Jesus’s High Priestly prayer in John 17, praying for our unity
  • that my heart has been steadfast, throughout the decades
  • for Your shalom

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

EASTER – DAY 44

INVITATION

"Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14,16 NIV)

I pause briefly, this morning, to quietly reflect on the grace of God, and how it’s not all about me.

BIBLE SONG

My heart, O God, is steadfast;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, LORD, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
(Psalm 108:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one--I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."
(John 17:20-24 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence, this morning, helped along by the wonderful poetry, above, by Daryl Madden, I linger over these passages for a brief time, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and meditations.

My initial thought is that my heart is not exactly what I would call “steadfast.” It wavers. A lot. But then, I realize, yes . . . it is steadfast. In the long run, in the big picture (how many more clichés can I come up with?), my heart remains steadfast, leaning on the Lord. For over fifty years, my heart has remained steadfast, while I have witnessed childhood, adolescent, and young adult friends fall by the wayside.

Trust me, I boast not in myself or my own ability. Just like Paul, my boast is in God alone, because it is fully His doing that has enabled me to stay strong, to stay steadfast, and to, hopefully, finish this race. Were it not for Him, I would have sat down on the sidelines, long ago, and begun to pursue hedonistic delights.

But here I sit, typing away, reading His Word, focusing my spirit on Him.

I continue to sing His praises, playing “skillfully” (seriously trying to maintain that skill).

As Jesus continues his High Priestly prayer in John 17, He does something remarkable (as though anything He did was not?). He prays for you and me. We are among those who have believed because of the message of the ones who were with Him that day.

Sadly, we seem to be failing in this whole “unity” thing. But here’s the thing. Our lack of unity is not God’s fault, okay? It’s not because Jesus’s prayer didn’t work. Rather, I think, it’s because we tend to get sidetracked (score one for the enemy) by our own concerns.

But if we, as Jesus prayed, walk and live in God, as Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Him (this gets complicated, doesn’t it?), we will, in effect, be one, and be dwelling in unity.

I have found this easier, as I get older. I don’t think the age necessarily has anything to do with it. But I have striven to walk in unity with my brothers and sisters. I have, and continue to, tried to ignore peripheral differences. It’s hard sometimes, especially when those differences are so sharp.

I am in Christ. Christ is in me. Christ is in the Father. The Father is in Christ. The Holy Spirit is in me. And, because the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in me, the Father is also in me.

This is true for every believer in Jesus.

So, even when we don’t necessarily act like it, we are still “one,” just as Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are one.

"We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord;
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord;
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love,
by our love;
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."
(Fr. Peter Sholtes, some time in the sixties)

Father, I pray, along with Jesus, for this unity. Not that we all have to be Catholic or Baptist or whatever. But that we all love one another the way Jesus intended. That we walk in a way that demonstrates that He is in us and You are in Him and You are in us and we are in You. I pray, desperately, that we would set aside differences of opinion on things that are truly not that important, and that we would worship You and You alone; that we would depend on You only for our deliverance, our sustenance, and our salvation. There is no human being who can provide these things for us. And there is no human being who can bring true unity. Only You, through the Son, and by the Spirit, can bring this into being. Work in us, Father. May we allow Your Spirit to dwell within us, that “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Lord Jesus,
in your ascension you brought me into fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the eternal community of divine persons.
May your church be one as you are one, 
God in three persons,
and may that unity catch the attention of a broken world.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 27)

BLESSING

"To him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)
All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT)

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
(John 20:19-21 ESV)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:15 ESV)

Father, I praise You for this “peace,” this shalom, promised and spoken upon us by Jesus. May it reign in our hearts today, in all of us who call Your name.

Lord, give me eyes to see Your work in the world around me, that I might join in with You in that work. I pray for Your care in areas where natural disasters have occurred, as we watch creation groan for its redemption. I pray specifically, this morning, for veterinarians, zookeepers, and others who care for animals in Your creation.

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 you be blessed with safety, with rest, with prosperity, with wholeness, with completion, with fullness, with soundness, with well-being . . . and with peace.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries)

Shalom Aleichem

Grace and peace, friends.

Good Things

Today is Sunday, the sixteenth of May, the seventh Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,075

Four days until our Glen Rose trip!

And the rains have begun. Yes, according to the weather forecast, it is supposed rain (or at least a rather high chance of it) until a week from Tuesday. Which means, of course, that there is a high chance of rain all during our upcoming long weekend at the Cedar House in Glen Rose. But we don’t care. A little rain won’t dampen our spirits (pun intended) as we sit on the porch or in the hot tub, relaxing and reading. We had considered a round of golf one day, but C’s back issues and drop foot problem would have made that not so appealing for this trip.

So, at yesterday’s WW workshop, I posted a 3.4 pound drop from the last weigh-in, which was two weeks ago. We will, of course, miss next Saturday’s weigh-in because we will be in Glen Rose. The next time will be the Saturday before Memorial Day. I have now lost a total of 117.2 pounds since February 8, 2020. And I’m 18.6 pounds away from “Onederland!”

I made my feet take me to the study/studio, yesterday afternoon, where I practiced piano and guitar and singing for a little while, again. I’m still only able to play about one song on the guitar before my fingers hurt terribly. It will take some time to recondition those callouses on my fingers. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen on piano/keyboard. Playing piano is a lot like riding a bicycle. Okay, not really. You don’t move, and you can’t fall over. Well, I suppose you could fall out of your chair or off of your bench.

But I digress. I am still planning to do some kind of “performance,” maybe on Facebook Live. More of a worship set than a performance, at least for this time. I’m not sure when, yet. It will be at least next month, because I want to have the songs down really well before I try it. If this one goes well, I might try one with more of a “pop/rock” feel, maybe some Beatles songs and other songs that I like. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll write some new songs, too. Who knows??

Today, we have our worship gathering at 10:15. I assume we will continue in the Psalms, as we are up to Psalm 27. At some point, though, I think we might head over to 1 Samuel and read some history surrounding Saul and David. I think that would be a good companion study, along with Psalms.

Update. Our worship gathering will not be happening, this morning, as our host is not feeling well. C and S are heading out to give blood platelets. Yes, I included S. I’m as shocked as anyone.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Prayer to the Most Holy Name of Jesus
By St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast!
Yet sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy presence rest.

No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Jesus’ name,
The Savior of mankind.

O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah! this
Nor tongue nor pen can show
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus! our only hope be Thou,
As Thou our prize shalt be;
In Thee be all our glory now,
And through eternity.
Amen.
Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.
Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. 
You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me.
The LORD will work out his plans for my life--for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
Don't abandon me, for you made me.
(Psalm 138:6-8 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the gentle Spring rain that is falling
  • for the power of Your right hand that protects me
  • for Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • for the life that I have, which is good in so many ways
  • that You fill the hungry and thirsty with GOOD things

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

EASTER – DAY 43

INVITATION

"Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to try to refocus my spirit on the Lord, as it seems somewhat scattered, this morning. Father, draw me closer, shut out the distractions, help me to center in on Your great lovingkindness and mercy. Help me approach with confidence, and find this mercy and grace.

BIBLE SONG

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
his love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story--
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
(Psalm 107:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."
(John 17:13-19 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger in the Lord’s presence (and I am with Him, whether I feel it or not), I read these passages again, lingering over words and/or phrases that catch my attention.

We all hunger and thirst. I get thirsty and hungry daily, for physical sustenance. Too often, I don’t recognize that the water (or soda) that I drink and the food that I eat comes from God. I mean, I got it from a box in the freezer, right? But everything in that box came from something that God created, whether it be animal or plant, or even artificial.

But I go a little deeper, here. Everyone also hungers and thirsts, spiritually. Not everyone realizes this, though. Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled and blessed. The writer of Psalm 107 says that the Lord satisfies our thirst and fills our hunger “with good things.”

I’ve always liked that phrase, “with good things.” It’s almost like a tag, of sorts. The thing is, your hunger will get filled. We all make sure of that. But it won’t always get filled with “good things.” Just like physical hunger, there are a lot of not so good things with which we can fill our spiritual hunger. Sometimes, I fill mine with judgment or gossip. I confess that I sometimes even fill it with hate. I am ashamed of those times, trust me, but it happens.

When God is at the center, my hunger will be filled with love and righteousness. My thirst will be satisfied by the Living Water. Bread of Life, Living Water.

Jesus.

He is the ultimate fulfillment of my hunger and thirst.

And He is our sanctification. What is sanctification? There are a number of definitions. Primarily, and in the Biblical sense, it means to set apart as holy. It can also mean to free from sin or purify. Another definition is to cause to be seen as acceptable.

Jesus prays, in His great High Priestly Prayer, that we will be sanctified by truth. What is truth? “Your word is truth,” says Jesus to the Father.

Let’s take this even deeper. The beginning of the Gospel of John says that “The Word become flesh and made his dwelling among us.” That “Word” is Jesus. Jesus, Himself, calls Himself “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Jesus is the Word; Jesus is truth. Not just “truth,” but THE truth.

There are a lot of people in our culture today, talking about speaking their truth. As if to say that my truth can be different from your truth.

There is only one Truth, and that Truth is Jesus. There is only one Way, and that Way is Jesus. There is only one Life, and that Life is Jesus.

I have no truth apart from Jesus. I do not have my truth. I have no life apart from Jesus. I may think that I do, but true life only comes through Him.

Father, I am grateful for Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the Living Water, and the Bread of Life. Help me to realize and act on Truth today. Let my life be wrapped up in Jesus; let me know no other “truth” but Him. Help me to walk in the way that is Jesus, and help me to revel in the Life that is Him. I want my life to be a reflection of Christ, who is a reflection of You. I ask, along with Jesus, that You would sanctify me in Him. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your Truth.

Our Father in heave, may your name be kept holy.
May your kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don't let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom,
the power,
and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
Ascended Savior,
pour out your gifts from heaven and equip me to be your presence here and now;
remind me that you will defend and keep me safe from all enemies.
May that comfort plunge me deeper into caring for creation,
pursuing justice,
doing evangelism,
strengthening human communities,
and serving the common good,
all to your glory.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 51)

BLESSING

"To him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 NIV)

The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
(Psalm 23:1-3 NLT)
The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you."
(Psalm 32:8 NLT)

“The rain and the snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”
(Isaiah 55:10-11 NLT)

Since you have been raised to new life in Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:1-3 NLT)

Father, I confess that I am struggling, this morning, with a number of things. I pray for clarity of thought and mind; I pray for clarity of purpose for my life. I pray for the music to flow in and through me, that I might make a joyful noise to You with my life. Help me to celebrate life in Christ, and fill my hunger and thirst with good things.

Lord, please grant me resurrection hope and joy, this morning. I also pray for the power to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, who is alive forever!

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!

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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Unity Under Christ

Today is Saturday, the fifteenth of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,074

Five days until our Glen Rose trip (and four-day weekend)!

Yesterday turned out to be quite the productive day. After I got the groceries picked up and put away, I took out the trash, did the dishes, and hung up shirts from the laundry. Put away some underwear and socks, too. Then I heated up our leftover Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken for lunch. I had some black-eyed peas with mine, and S had some Lean Cuisine mac and cheese with hers.

I watched the Fantasy Island movie on Starz while I ate. It was pretty good. There was some resemblance to the old TV show, which I didn’t watch regularly, but did see. I know that “The plane!” was said a number of times during the movie. The movie was also a bit more horrific than the TV show was. Probably a bit more bloody, as well. It was fun, though.

After that, I carried my dad’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder to the study and plugged it in. I found a tape and threaded it through, after several attempts to get it right. Sadly, the unit doesn’t work. I’m not sure how disappointed I was, because I think I truly doubted that it would. But there was some hope in there.

The motor won’t turn for more than a second. When play or rewind is activated, it will spin for barely a second and then stop. It would make sound, and I could hear something going through the speakers, so the heads seem to be fine. There might be way to fix it, I don’t know. I’m not going to get rid of it, just yet. Oh, also, I broke off about three feet of one of the tapes, too. Turns out fifty-year-old recording tape is somewhat brittle. Have to be really careful with it.

As I perused the box of tapes, I ran across one that apparently contains a sermon preached by Bro. Don Turner at Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. That has to have been back in the mid-to-early seventies.

After discovering that the tape recorder wouldn’t work, I cranked up my amp and keyboard, took my guitar down off the wall, and played some music. Not a long time, but at least a half hour. I need to work my guitar fingers back up to speed. Why? For my own pleasure, mostly. No other reason, other than to play with excellence and skill before the Lord.

Today, we have our WW workshop at 10:30. I think I will lose in the neighborhood of three pounds since last weigh-in, two weeks ago. I gained .4 at that one. I should be under 220, today, though, which is exciting. Any time we hit a new “decade,” it’s exciting. And I’m edging closer and closer to “Onederland.” (That’s under 200 for those who don’t get it.) C is maintaining quite well. I’m proud of her for being able to shift her mindset from losing to maintaining. That has to be difficult.

The rest of the day, I plan to spend chilling. More music, probably, along with some reading, which did not happen yesterday, and, of course, gaming, either back here on the PC or on the PS4. I’m a little excited, as I just purchased the Mass Effect Legendary Edition for the PS4. I have played the last game of that franchise, but they have combined the whole thing into one game and remastered the whole thing. It’s a Science Fiction space travel adventure . . . great fun!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"A place of beauty
Of vision foretells
One of the drawing
The morning mist dwells

A place in the heart
Of deep longing swells
A needing of love
Where emptiness dwells

A place of heaven
Where earth parallels
In Presence of here
Where the good Lord dwells

A place of being
Of our inner cell
A prayer of connection
Let the Spirit now dwell"
(Place of Dwelling, by Daryl Madden)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
(Psalms 138:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Your steadfast love and your faithfulness
  • for Your Name and Your Word; may they be exalted forever
  • that You will neither fail nor abandon me; there is nothing to fear
  • for the infinite riches of Your grace, lavished upon us
  • that, in Christ, ultimately, all things will be brought into unity, in heaven and on earth

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

EASTER – DAY 42

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:5-7 NIV) 

I pause to quietly reflect on the Name and Word of the Lord. He has so many names . . . focusing on YHWH, “I Am.” You are, Lord! Before Abraham and Isaac, You are. After everything else is done, You are!

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

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.

Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.
(Psalm 106:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, and, to my delight, I find that I can truly do that, in spite of my own mind and its wanderings, I read these passages again. Today, rather than copy and paste from my PC Bible app, I have typed the words out, letter by letter. I find that this allows me to pay more attention to the actual words as I type them. I will try to continue this practice, if time allows during the work week. It helps me be more “present” with His Word. I invite the Holy Spirit to teach me and challenge me.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
    Spirit Divine!
(Open My Eyes That I May See, hymn and music by Clara H. Scott)

The psalm asks a great question. “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?” I attempt to do so, but my feeble attempts fall far short. Can I “fully declare his praise?” How can I, when my mind and heart so quickly become distracted by the attractiveness of worldly things?

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

Are we only blessed if we “always do what is right?” I don’t think that is the idea, here. Certainly, if there is anyone who exists who always does what is right, that person is surely blessed. But I find myself blessed, as well, and I most definitely do not always do what is right. Maybe I do, most of the time. But not “always.”

I can echo the prayer in the closing verses of today’s psalm, though. My heart’s desire is to enjoy the aid and “prosperity,” share in the joy, and sing His praises, along with the rest of God’s “chosen ones.”

There is much, much “good stuff” in that Ephesians passage. But I’m looking for a certain word or phrase that connects with me, this morning.

I’m finding two. First, this idea of “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” What precedes that phrase are the words “redemption” and “forgiveness.” When I stop and ponder that for a minute, I am stopped in wide-eyed-wonder. The riches of God’s grace are limitless, infinite. He owns it all because He created it all. I just stumbled onto something spectacular and marvelous.

God created grace. God invented grace. God is the author of grace.

And because our redemption and forgiveness was accomplished based on those riches, they are complete and final; they are, like His grace, without limit. I am redeemed, perfectly and completely. I am forgiven, perfectly and completely. The record of my past life and sins is erased. They simply did not happen, thanks to the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross.

So why do I still sin?

Sorry . . . that’s a topic for another day, but, as we all know, we still do.

The other phrase is in verse 10, “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” This is part of the ultimate plan, and, frankly, I think that idea is going to be quite uncomfortable for a bunch of people.

I can only imagine the heads of some of my extreme right friends exploding when they discover Democrats in heaven.

I’m only being partially facetious, there.

There will be no politics in glory, friends. We will be neither right nor left, Republican nor Democrat, conservative nor liberal, male nor female, race will be utterly unimportant. While it is painfully obvious that we will never have complete unity in the Church on earth, there WILL be unity in all things when Jesus returns to tidy things up.

And if you’re not okay with that, there is a good chance you won’t be part of it.

Perhaps that is a thought worthy of ponderance, this morning, eh?

Father, setting aside all thoughts of politics, because they only cause trouble, I praise You, this morning, as best I can. I cannot praise perfectly, because I still carry around this “jar of clay,” this “body of death,” and I still walk around in the “country of death.” I long for the day when I am Home; the day when all things, as promised, will be brought into unity under Christ Jesus, our Savior. I praise You that my redemption and forgiveness is based, not on what I can do or accomplish, but on the riches of Your grace, which You have lavished on us. Thank You, Father, for this perfect work; thank You, Jesus Christ, my Savior, for sacrificing Yourself for us; thank You, Holy Spirit, for ceaselessly pointing me in the right direction.

And even though it seems impossible as long as we live on this earth, I pray for unity within Your Church, Lord. I pray desperately that Your people would stop depending on politics and politicians to fix things. I pray that we would completely and utterly stop this ridiculous dependence on other human beings to fix the problems in this world. Only You can do this; true, You do use human beings to do the work, but it is You driving it, and only You can accomplish anything “good.” All glory and praise to You, Lord!

God of faith-stretching wisdom,
I stand in awe before your eternal plan to unite all things in Christ.
May your Holy Spirit be the seal of your promise,
and may my life be directed to the hope of your coming kingdom.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 49)

BLESSING

“Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage.”
(Psalm 27:14 KJV)

"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

Father, it has been noted, numerous times, that the most often stated command in Scripture is “Do not be afraid,” or some variation of this. This brings great comfort to me, because there are certainly times when it seems there is much to be afraid of. Not so much today, though. As I sit in this room, I am comforted by Your presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, dwelling within me. I don’t understand all of this, and will never pretend to. But I believe it, and when my belief falters, Father, “Help my unbelief!” Thank You for the many promises that tell me that You will not, cannot fail, and that You will not ever abandon me.

Lord, in light of the truths presented here, today, I pray for deep care, bold love, and rich community to be experienced within Your Church. May the leaders of Your Church be creative and risk-taking in their ministries to their communities. I specifically lift up all in Your Church who are longing for children. May Your blessing be upon them, Father.

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!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Rejoice and Encourage One Another

Today is Friday, the fourteenth of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,073

SIX days until our Glen Rose trip.

As previously discussed, I am staying home with S, today. I have already made breakfast for her, consisting of eggs, toast, and bacon. I may have had a bit of that, myself.

I placed our grocery order with Albertson’s last night, and it is supposed to be ready to pick up at 10:00 this morning. I like the way Albertson’s does this. I don’t have to pick it up at 10:00. I don’t even have to pick it up by 11:00. I have until 8:00 PM to get it!

For a bonus, our local Albertson’s is virtually right across the street from a Sonic, so I will be going there immediately after picking up the groceries.

We cooked Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken for dinner last night, so we have leftovers for lunch today. Yum. Tonight’s dinner will likely be pizza, made with cauliflower crust.

As far as the rest of the day goes, there are a couple of chores that I should do. Then I plan to plug in my father’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder to see if it works. I may practice music for a bit, as well. I don’t plan on spending the whole day in front of the TV playing on the PS4. There should be some reading, too. Need to do more of that.

But one thing I’m not going to do is “should” all over myself. It is too easy to get all caught up in what I “should have” done. Not going there, today. What happens, happens; what doesn’t, doesn’t.

So there.

One last thing before the devotional. Our pool equipment did not get fixed, yesterday. C worked from home for that purpose, but the guy texted and said that his family had been struck by a stomach virus. At this point, we don’t have it re-scheduled.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
(Psalms 136:1-3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for an extra day off for this weekend
  • for the love and care of family
  • for Your grace and mercy, so undeserved by me
  • for joy that transcends circumstances
  • for true and pure things upon which to meditate

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

EASTER – DAY 41

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NIV)

I pause briefly to consider the holiness of the Almighty, and His grace and mercy towards me.

BIBLE SONG

Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
(Psalms 105:1-5 NIV)

He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 105:43-45 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I linger for a bit, asking the Spirit to guide my meditations and ponderings.

Right off the bat, I catch a connection (perhaps I’m making it up, but I see it, nonetheless) between making God’s deeds known among the nations and singing His praises. In fact, verse 2, which speaks of singing, ends with the admonition to tell of all of His wonderful acts. I believe one way we do this is by singing. When the world hears us singing, and if we sing clearly and intelligently, we are, truly, proclaiming His wondrous deeds and works.

There is also a connection between verse 3, which concludes with “let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice,” and verse 43, “He brought out His people with rejoicing.”

We have much to be joyful about, people of God! And joy comes regardless of circumstance. To reiterate, my favorite definition of joy is “a pervasive sense of well-being.” Everything, no matter what it looks like right now, is going to be alright.

The Hebrews passage is a rather famous passage, which we usually cite to defend the need for “going to church.” But I also see that word “confidence” in there.

Because of the work of Jesus Christ, and His interceding for us, we have confidence. If our confidence wanes, it is because we are placing it in the wrong direction. If I start depending on my own ability or works, my confidence will be quickly shattered.

I can’t. But God, in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can.

And, in Christ, we have confidence to enter “the Most Holy Place.” Remember what happened at the exact moment of the death of Jesus on the cross?

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
(Matthew 27:50-52 NIV)

No more was there any division between God and man. The need for the human priesthood was eradicated. Jesus is our High Priest, and He gives us access to God.

The result of all of this is multi-fold. We cling, we hold fast, to this hope, and, more importantly, we encourage one another! We “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
(Hebrews 10:24 NLT)

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out,
(Hebrews 10:24 MSG)

So yes. We “go to church.” Or we watch it on Zoom, if we can’t go. Or we watch our local church’s broadcast on the Internet, if we are unable to get out. All of this, I am fully persuaded is valid. Nothing can quite replace the human touch, but the pandemic has severely hampered that. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am hungry for hugs again. Some folks are glad that they are no longer expected to hug random people. I’m the opposite.

It’s kind of weird, actually. I’m pretty much an introvert. But I love the touch of another human being. Hard to reconcile those two things. But I don’t have to.

So, let us rejoice; and let us continue to fellowship with one another, and encourage one another towards love and good deeds.

Father, I thank You for the ability to rejoice; I praise You for the mindset of gratitude and praise that You place within me, each day. It usually doesn’t matter where my soul is when I start this thing, each day. By the time I’m finished, I don’t want to leave the room; I simply want to dwell; to live in Your presence and soak it in. But there are things that must be done; people who must be touched. May I be faithful in the tasks that You have set aside for me to do during this day, whatever they may be.

Everlasting God,
I can now be confident:
Jesus' ascension into heaven is a guarantee of my life with you;
and the sent Spirit is a similar guarantee of your life with us.
Both are like rings,
promises of a coming wedding party that I anticipate every week in the church's worship. 
And so I pray,
"Come, Lord Jesus, come."
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 49)

BLESSING

Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
(Philippians 4:8 MSG)

A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 ESV)

For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(Luke 1:37 ESV)

Father, You are my help, You who made heaven and earth. When danger threatens (which, truthfully, seldom happens), I do not look anywhere else but to You. Help me; do not let my foot be moved, You who do not slumber or sleep. Be my shade, be my shelter; keep me staring at the sky, awaiting the return of my Savior.

Lord, put in me the Christlike ability to deny myself and serve others. May I have the commitment to do justice and show mercy. I pray specifically today for those who are refugees. May Your people show them mercy, Father, and compassion, fitting for those who claim the name of Jesus Christ.

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!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Ascension Day

Today is Thursday (pre-Friday), the thirteenth of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,072

Today, the Church recognizes Ascension Day, the day Jesus ascended into heaven, in the presence of His disciples.

Seven days until our Glen Rose trip!

Today is “Friday” for me, because I’m taking PTO tomorrow. It’s the one-year anniversary of S’s cat, Honey, passing away, and I just thought I would take the day off to be around for her.

We have hot water! C found someone that could come fix it yesterday evening, and they had it fixed and were gone before I got home from work. So I had a hot shower before going to bed, last night. And there’s a little less anxiety in my life, this morning. Actually, the hot water heater problem wasn’t causing that much anxiety. But I won’t deny that there was a little bit, and now that is resolved.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"I cannot produce joy.
I cannot produce peace.
I cannot produce love.

This doesn't mean I have no hope --
just no hope in myself.
Transferring the hope to our Lord --
these are gifts from our Father.

I can turn to God.
I can place my requests at Jesus' feet.
I can submit my will.
I can acknowledge and be grateful for these gifts.

And I can share
his joy,
his peace,
his love,
and his hope."
(Daryl Madden, On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
(Psalms 118:1 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for joy, peace, love, and hope, all of which I get from You
  • for Your faithful love that endures forever, even (and especially) when I turn my face away from You and toward my problems
  • for singing and music
  • for the ascension of Jesus Christ
  • for the coming of the Holy Spirit

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

EASTER – DAY 40

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NIV)

I pause, briefly, in this quiet moment, to reflect on joy, peace, love, and hope.

BIBLE SONG

May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works— he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 104:31-35 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:3-11 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of God, I read these passages slowly, lingering on words and phrases phrases that catch my attention. I pray these, along with other things in my life, back to God.

Do I believe that the Lord still rejoices in His works? Why wouldn’t He? I mean, sure His major work, us, has truly fouled things up in this world. But there is still a lot of beauty to behold, and still a lot of good, even in the midst of mankind, the primary “fouler-upper.”

My job, here, is to sing. To sing to the Lord all my life, to sing praises to Him as long as I live. I’ve been working on that a little bit more, lately, as I am fully persuaded that these psalms and Scriptures are not coming into my days by accident. The Holy Spirit is inviting me to sing! So I’m trying to sing more. Hopefully, perhaps I will “sing a new song,” eventually.

I’m also working on the meditation piece a little more, too, hoping that my meditations will be pleasing to Him, as the Psalms consistently hope. This morning meditation is a good start, and I fall asleep meditating on His Word, at night. But there are quite a few hours between those two events, and, truthfully, meditation is lost during a lot of that.

As mentioned yesterday, and above, today is Ascension Day, in the Church. Growing up Southern Baptist, I never even heard of this until I was an “adult,” if that’s what you want to call someone in college. In latter years, I have grown to embrace the various portions of the Church calendar, finding great joy and fulfillment in recognizing some of the special days, especially some of the more-neglected ones, like today.

Why is Ascension Day important? For one thing, had Jesus not Ascended, the Holy Spirit would not have come down. He had to go up so the Spirit could come down. Why? Heck if I know. I’m not God. I just know that this is what Scripture seems to indicate.

So Jesus reigns on high, from what I understand, still in bodily form, maybe even with holes in his hands and side. He sits “at the right hand of the Father,” waiting for that time when He will be sent back to collect His brothers and sisters and take them to the mansions that He is preparing for us.

In the meantime, the Holy Spirit is here, dwelling within each of us, empowering and enabling us to do the ministry that He has given to each of us, according to Ephesians 2:10. What does Acts 1:8 say? We will receive POWER! “Power, power, wonder-working power.” And that’s exactly what those first disciples did in the days and years following that great Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts.

Is it possible for us to do some of those same powerful works? I would like to think it is, and I ponder why we seem unable to do so.

Father, as I walk through this day, may my meditations be pleasing to You. May I sing, from the depths of my soul, let me sing! Let me sing; make me sing; sing for all the days of the rest of my life, however long that may be. And, should it be Your will, give me a new song to sing! And then, Father, empower us! May Your Holy Spirit have His way with and in us! Today and every day, show us Your power anew. Show us Your mighty works; perhaps we have become too complacent and too comfortable in things. Dare I ask for You to shake us up a little?

Most High God,
like the disciples,
I'm left staring at the sky,
mouth wide open in wonder to think that someone like me--
a real human being--
now sits at your right hand,
in glory.
In his physical absence,
comfort me with the knowledge that Jesus has ascended for my good,
governing all things from the heavenly throne.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 46)

BLESSING

Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
(Psalms 147:3 NIV)

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;
(Psalms 34:17-19 NIV)

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV)

Lord, I pray for those who are grieving, today, both for recent loss, and for loss from either the recent or distant past. Everyone has experienced loss of some kind. May You bind the wounds of the brokenhearted today, and ease their grieving hearts. Help us all to grieve in a healthy way, promoting healing to our hearts. May we not stifle our emotions, but embrace them and walk in them, lifting them all up to You in the process.

Lord, I pray, today, for a deeper grasp and understanding of the Gospel. May it permeate every inch of my being, today, and every day. May my experience as an adopted son of Yours be full, today; may I realize every benefit of being Your son. Make my prayer life more passionate, Father, as I pray for people daily. May my love for those for whom I pray be limitless.

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!

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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends!

Trinity Talk

Today is Tuesday, the eleventh of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,070

Nine days until our Glen Rose trip. We’re really looking forward to that. The weather doesn’t look great for the first day (that’s as far as we can see, at the moment), predicting thunderstorms for most of the day. Or at least rain. But the high temp is only supposed to be 75, which would be awesome.

We were both pretty tired, last night, so we didn’t do much besides eat dinner and head to bed. We did watch the SNL with Elon Musk hosting, and he did pretty good, I think. I must admit that, if he had not come out and stated that he has Asperger’s at the beginning (which does not surprise me), I might not have enjoyed it so much. But that explains a lot of his odd mannerisms. Most of the skits were terrible, though, which is not his fault. There were two that were quite good. One was a Mars colony skit, with my favorite Pete Davidson character, and the last skit of the night, which is typically the worst, was actually pretty good, a western setting which pretty much made fun of Elon Musk the whole way through. He seems to have embraced that, though, which made it really great.

As usual, I’m running a bit behind schedule, so let’s get on in to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
(Psalms 108:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a really good night’s sleep
  • for Your steadfast love and faithfulness
  • for the role of the Holy Spirit in communicating truth to us
  • for the intimate relationship between the members of the Holy Trinity
  • for the communion of saints, past, present, and future
"What does God want me to do?
How can I bring peace --
peace of Christ, peace of love?
How can I keep myself out of the way?
Help me see clearly not what I want,
but what you want.
Lord, grant me love."
(Daryl Madden, On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

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

EASTER – DAY 38

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NIV)

I pause for a moment of quiet reflection, imagining God ascending amid shouts of joy and trumpets.

BIBLE SONG

A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD.

Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
(Psalms 102:1-2 NIV)

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD: “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD.
(Psalms 102:18-22 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
(John 15:26-27 NIV)

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
(John 16:12-15 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, in this quiet place, I linger over these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart.

I take note of the heading for Psalm 102. This cry to the Lord is offered up by “an afflicted person who has grown weak.” The unidentified psalmist is pouring his heart out to God.

The beginning of the prayer is only asking that his prayer be heard, asking the Lord to turn His ear toward him; to turn His face toward him. The heading causes me to feel a sense of desperation in that prayer.

Later in the psalm, this psalmist shows a desire for the Lord to be made famous among the people. He desires that this psalm be read by a generation that is yet to appear.

In recent days, I find that, when I pray for someone’s healing or deliverance, I always indicate that I am doing so that the Lord’s glory may be proclaimed. To be sure, I do not desire any recognition (okay, maybe I desire a little) or glory, but want that for the Lord. I want Him to heal a friend so that He will be glorified and His name proclaimed among the people.

Even the “job” of the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is to testify about Jesus! One of my favorite illustrations about the Trinity shows all three of the members of the three-in-one pointing to one another. The Father points to the Son, the Son points to the Father, the Spirit points to the Son, and so on. All three are saying, “Hey, look at Him!”

In the John passage, Jesus begins by saying that the Holy Spirit will testify about Him, and then we must testify, as well.

In addition, as He continues in chapter 16, the Spirit will guide us into truth, giving us words to speak, words that He will get from the Father. Oops. No. The Spirit will get His words from Jesus, who gets them from the Father.

Note what Jesus says: “All that belongs to the Father is mine.” Then it goes to the Spirit, who, in turn, will reveal it to us.

I am deeply warmed and affected when I ponder the relationship among the Holy Trinity.

Father, I thank You for these pictures of You, the Son, and the Spirit, in interaction with one another, and the great love that exists between You all. The concept is, of course, so very foreign to us, to the point that, in earlier days, Your children were accused of believing in multiple gods. Now, people just think we’re crazy. Nevertheless, I will gladly be considered a fool for believing in You and in the Trinity. Help me, today, to allow the Spirit to funnel truth into me, truth that He gets from the Son, who gets it from You. May I receive all that the Son desires to give to me.

Wise and wonderful God,
I don't need to earn a graduate degree in theology;
I don't need to be mystical or even especially moral.
I don't even have to get it all.
Thank you for sending your Spirit to take me by the hand and lead me into all truth,
making me wise beyond myself.
Amen.
(Westminster Confession 1.7)

BLESSING

Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV)

Father, as I walk through this day, give me perspective, a holy perspective, about everything I see and everything that happens. May there be no shame, either on my part, or anyone else’s part, about anything that transpires. Give me, instead, a deep sense of gratitude for everything.

Lord, may You please grant us a love of and commitment to the communities in which You have placed us. Please equip us to serve in unique ways in those communities, setting us apart from the “normal” people. I lift up a prayer specifically for those who are involved in care for children and who work in homemaking.

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!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Sing, Make Music, Ponder, Walk

Today is Monday, the tenth of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter (there are seven, in case you’re wondering).

Peace be with you!

Day 23,069

Only ten days until our much-anticipated Glen Rose weekend.

The weekend was busy, but it was good. After checking out of our Days Inn room in Mineral Wells, we swung by Subway on the way to my mother’s house, to pick up lunch. After eating lunch, we got busy again.

This time, while C put designated items back in the closet, I got some dishes down from the highest shelves in the kitchen. After Mama decided which ones she wanted to keep down, the rest were put back, along with a few from other places.

C made another trip to Walmart to pick up some jeans for my mother, and she also fixed the mailbox numbers at the house. We carried a bunch of stuff out to the car to bring home with us, some of which went directly into our recycling bin at the house. There were about a dozen record album price books that we brought home for recycling, as they would have been too heavy to put in the trash at her house.

I also brought home my dad’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder, which I plan to check out to see if it still works. My mother found a stack of old tapes, some of which were recordings of me and my father, made by my step-grandfather, many, many years ago.

There were few more pictures found.

1984 seminary graduation–Mama, me, and Daddy. We think C took the picture. C and Mama say that was the first time they met.
My father in front of the car, my Uncle Jamie next to it.
C, me, and Mama. March of 1985 at Grandmama’s house. The old well is barely visible behind us.

Well, enough of that. Need to get moving. Back to work, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Amen."
(The prayer of St. Richard of Chichester)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
(Psalms 107:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend
  • that you have redeemed us from trouble
  • for singing and music
  • for Your steadfast love, which endures forever
  • for the possibility of abiding in You, that we may bear fruit

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

EASTER – DAY 37

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NIV)

I pause to consider the steadfast love of the Lord, which endures forever. My spirit sings a psalm of praise in the quiet of the morning.

BIBLE SONG

A Psalm of David.

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
(Psalms 101:1-3 ESV)

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.
No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.
Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD.
(Psalms 101:6-8 ESV)

BIBLE READING

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
(John 15:1-8 ESV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly enjoy the presence of the Lord, I linger over these passages, asking His Spirit to direct my thoughts and meditations.

Once again, singing is emphasized. “I will sing . . . I will make music . . . I will ponder . . . I will walk.”

This seems like a good order of worship, doesn’t it? I remember classes on music and worship from seminary (see graduation pic above). They always pointed to Isaiah 6 as a good “order of worship” example. I don’t disagree with that. But here . . . this psalm begins with singing and music, moves to meditation, which requires reading and teaching on God’s Word, and then finishes with activity. “I will walk with integrity.”

In a sense, the classic evangelical worship service pretty much follows this. When I was growing up, we had a few hymns, followed by Scripture reading and a sermon, and then we left to “walk” in what we had hopefully learned during the sermon/teaching.

I’ve been a student of worship most of my adult life, and it’s one of those things that is simple, yet complex. And sometimes we make it more complex than it needs to be. But too often, we fall into the trap of believing that it is just the music, just the singing. Yet, if we examine Scripture, we find passages such as this:

And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.
(Exodus 34:8 ESV)

By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.
(Hebrews 11:21 ESV)

There is certainly no mention of music or singing, here.

When I am walking in integrity, walking in the “easy yoke” of Jesus Christ, in His Kingdom, my entire life can, and should, be worship.

Segue to the John passage. This is also known as “abiding.” Without abiding in Christ, we can do nothing. We certainly cannot bear good fruit without abiding in Him. There is, in my mind, a great similarity between abiding and worship. Worship is certainly part of abiding, and abiding part of worship. And then there is that famous verse, John 15:7.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
(John 15:7 ESV)

Father, my prayer today is simple. Help me to abide; help me to worship You today, all day, through everything that happens. May I sing, make music, ponder Your way, and walk in integrity.

Creator God,
garden my life -
turn it over,
cultivate it,
and make it ready for gospel seeds to take root.
And in quiet darkness let the gospel do its work,
slow but powerful, 
stirring up life in my heart,
increasing joy,
strengthening all your graces until shouts of new life rise and good fruit bursts forth on the branches of my life,
a life beautiful for you and a blessing to others.
Amen.
(Westminster Larger Catechism 75)

BLESSING

Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalms 139:13-16 ESV)

Father, thank You for these truths. Thank You for the great diversity within the unity of Your Church. We are same, yet we are different. And we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Thank You for the life that You formed for me; may I continue to be what You have designed me to be. And may I draw even closer to You as the days go by.

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!

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.