Extravagant Love

Today is Sunday, the nineteenth of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,474

Today is Father’s Day, so I wish a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I hope you are able to love on your kids today, and spend some time with them. Some of us will have to love some of our offspring from afar, and that’s okay, too. My father, of course, has been gone for seven years, now, and is still sorely missed. But he is more than fondly remembered for the love that he showed and care that he gave.

Today is also Juneteenth, but that holiday will be observed tomorrow. Since it was finally made a federal holiday last year, most banks will be closed, as well as the post office. I’m not sure about the library where I work, but I don’t ever work on Mondays, anyway.

The Rangers game was terrible, yesterday. Taylor Hearne did not have his best stuff, and they lost 14-7. It was actually quite a bit worse than the score indicates, too. But today’s another day. They are 31-34 for the season, still in second place, nine games out of first. They are also still four games out in the Wild Card race. They will play Detroit again today, in Detroit, at 12:40 CDT, with Dane Dunning taking the mound to try to win the series.

Almost as if the two teams are joined at the hip, the Red Sox also suffered an embarrassing loss, yesterday, losing to the Cardinals 11-2. They are now 35-31 for the season, still in fourth place, 1.5 behind Tampa and 14.5 behind the You-Know-Whos. They have another game with St. Louis today.

The Yankees have the highest everything right now. Best record, 49-16, highest run differential (+144), and longest win streak (nine games). Massive sighs. The Athletics have the worst record, at 22-45. The Nationals, though, have the worst run differential, at -115, as well as the longest losing streak, at eight games. The Rangers’ run differential sits at zero, today, and the Sox are at +45, after losing by nine runs, yesterday.

In the PWBA, the top 30 are currently in the fourth round of qualifying in the U.S. Women’s Open in South Glens Falls, NY. After three rounds, the top thirty were, in order, Cherie Tan (Singapore), Jordan Richard, Lindsay Boomershine (I like her name), Shayna Ng (another Singapore bowler), Shannon Sellens, Stefanie Johnson (from Texas), Erin McCarthy, Hui Fen New (Singapore), Shannon O’Keefe, Danielle McEwan, Rocio Restrepo, Birgit Noreiks (Germany), Liz Johnson, Daphne Tan (Singapore, Cherie’s sister), Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine), Verity Crawley (England), Missy Parkin, Bryanna Cote, Kerry Smith, Kayla Bandy, Clara Guerrero (Columbia), Chelsey Klingler, Sydney Brummett, Breanna Clemmer, Olivia Farwell, Hope Gramly (also from Texas), Jenny Wegner (Sweden), Diana Zavjalova (Latvia), Jen Higgins, and Josie Barnes.

This morning’s round will cut to the top 24, who will bowl in match play one round this evening, and two rounds tomorrow, to determine the top five, who will be on the live TV broadcast Tuesday night.

We aren’t going to church, today, as C has not been feeling well. She does not have Covid, though. Just some kind of cold or allergies, or something.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, O great and almighty God, we thank you that you have given us the Savior, in whom we can become united and have peace on earth. May he, the Savior, work powerfully among us. May your Spirit come into people’s hearts so that they learn to acknowledge you as their leader and their God and to rejoice in their lives, which are intended for eternal life. Bless us through your Word and through all the good you do for us. Constantly renew and strengthen us in faith and in patience through the grace you send us. Remember all the peoples who should become yours in the name of Jesus Christ. May they all confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the honor of God the Father. We praise you for the promise you have given us of a wonderful new day of help for all. We praise you that you have created all people to recognize their true calling and their way to salvation. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that unfailing love and unshakable covenant of peace from God, our Father
2. for the love that I had from my earthly father for all the years he was with us, and that he did his best to train me up in the love of the Lord
3. for the faithful love of my two wonderful daughters
4. for the extravagant love that our Father in heaven has lavished upon us
5. for the equality of all people in Jesus Christ (the reality is not necessarily realized, but it is still the reality . . . the ground is level at the foot of the cross)

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
(Mark 4:30-32 NIV)


The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is extravagant. You have to look pretty extensively to find that word in any version of the Bible. It occurs a single time in the NLT, in Revelation 18:3, in reference to the sins of the Great Babylon. It does not appear in NIV, ESV, or KJV.

However, Eugene Peterson likes the word, apparently, and it occurs multiple times in The Message. This particular verse is featured in today’s reading.

I’ll make a list of GOD’s gracious dealings, all the things GOD has done that need praising, All the generous bounties of GOD, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant.
(Isaiah 63:7 MSG)

And what a word to describe the love of God for us. Extravagant! There are, of course, many other words that have been used, over the years, to describe God’s love. Frederick M. Lehman may have said it best, in 1917, when he wrote the song, The Love of God. In the chorus (or refrain, if you prefer, he wrote:

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
the saints’ and angels’ song.

And then, the last verse, one of my favorite hymn verses of all time:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
and ev’ryone a scribe by trade;
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry;
nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.

He doesn’t use the word “extravagant,” but it certainly fits.

Father, I praise You for Your extravagant love. Your love split seas and rivers in half, crumbled walls, even made the sun move backwards. Your love created things out of nothing, and miraculously fed your people with food from heaven. And then, when we thought it couldn’t get any more extravagant, Your love died for us, and then rose from the grave so that we could live in eternal glory in Your Kingdom. Extravagant, indeed. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.


So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
(Galatians 3:26 NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NIV)

Father, today, I pray for racial equality in our land, and throughout the world. If we truly believe the words of Paul in Galatians, let us strive to make things better for all people, because we see all people as equals in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross! And it is back to Your extravagant love that has provided this truth for us!


Eugene Peterson continues writing on the Sabbath. He makes a bold claim: “Keeping the Sabbath is easy: we pray and we play, two things we were pretty good at as children and can always pick up again with a little encouragement.”

He calls praying a “great act of freedom in relation to heaven.” Through prayer, we exercise our “bodies and minds in acts of adoration and commitment, practices of supplication and praise, and ventures of forgiving and giving.”

He calls playing a “great act of freedom in relation to earth.” Through playing, we “exercise our bodies and minds in games and walks, in amusement and reading, in visiting and picnicking, in puttering and writing.”

Easy, he says, yet we, in our society find it so hard. Part of the reason for that is that our culture doesn’t encourage us to keep a Sabbath. In fact, if anything, it is out to steal it from us. For many of us (and I have been fortunate in this respect, for most of my adult life), we are expected to work our jobs, seven days a week. Many people find themselves unable to attend worship services because of the demands of the job, as accomplishment and profit are king in America.

And the bottom line, says Peterson is that “after a few years of Sabbath breaking, we are passive consumers of expensive trash and anxious hurriers after trash pleasures.”

Ouch. Explicitly descriptive, but truthful.

“We lose our God and our dignity at about the same time.” And this is why Peterson encourages us to keep a Sabbath. “Guard the day. Protect the leisure for praying and playing.” And for those of you who think you are too mature to “play,” I give you this:

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson, except for the nose-thumbing)

Father, I praise You for the Sabbath. I thank You for the command that we have a day to rest, a day to pray, and a day to play. I realize Your command said nothing about playing, but I find myself in agreement with Peterson, whom I respect deeply, and trust just as deeply. I pray that You would remind all of us, frequently, that we need to take a day off to pray and play, a day off from the hustle and bustle that this culture demands from us. I also pray that, not just on the Sabbath, but all days, that You would help us to demolish the very concept of “hurry,” as it steals from us in many ways. You are not in a hurry. Why should we be?

Sometimes I find myself in a hurry to be Home. I also need not do that. Help me to live the life that You have planned for me, at the pace You have planned. I do pray that I will accomplish all that You have for me to do, and that I will reach and inspire all that You have for me to reach. May my presence in social media platforms be one that shows love and forgiveness to all, and inspires all to know the kind of gratitude that we should have toward You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


I realize Mercy Me changed the meter, but I’m okay with that.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Love that Comforts and Provides

Today is Friday, the eighth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign within you, today!

Day 23,402

Today is a very special day. It is my mother’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Mama!! I love you!

I’ve already been out and got flowers and donuts to help the celebration, and we plan to have Freebirds today, at some point, probably for dinner tonight. C also made a strawberry cake for the occasion. Yum!!

My first Thursday at the library was a good day. It was a lot busier in the Computer Center than a typical Friday, which helped the day go by faster. I had a couple of patrons that needed extensive help, and I was able, for the most part to get them what they wanted.

I literally have nothing else on my agenda for today, other than going out to pick up the Freebirds (and Sonic drinks of course) later. Oh, and watching the Texas Rangers opening game, later, this evening, as they open the season in Toronto.

In baseball news, the Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Mets, Reds, Astros, and D-backs, won their opening day games. The Red Sox/Yankees and Mariners/Twins games were both postponed and will hopefully happen today. Everyone else is scheduled to play today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
Oh give thanks to the LORD; 
call upon his name; 
make known his deeds among the peoples! 
Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
tell of all his wondrous works! 
Glory in his holy name; 
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually! 
(Psalms 105:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the lifelong instruction and wisdom of godly parents
2. the comfort that God gives us in our sufferings and afflictions; comfort with which we can, in turn, comfort others
3. the love of God that results in His provision for our lives
4. the things I can learn from studying my past experiences
5. that God gave me a brain and the ability to use it

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
(Deuteronomy 10:12-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “comfort.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days.”

We all have difficult days. Some of us have more difficult days than others, seemingly more than our fair share of them. There are some good words in 2 Corinthians about comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The word appears a few more times in 2 Corinthians, as well. God comforts us, why? Not so that we can just feel better and not be sorry for ourselves. It is so that we can, in turn, comfort others.

The Bible is very clear, throughout, that this life is not all about me, and is not for me to benefit. Yes, I do receive benefits from the Christian life. But it doesn’t stop there. I’m not like the Dead Sea, that is all receiving and no giving. Anything I receive, I should be, in some way, giving away. The phrase “pay it forward” comes to mind. We cannot pay God back. That is simply impossible. But we can “pay it forward.” We can take the comfort which God gives us in our sorrow and in our difficulties and comfort someone else who has experienced loss or is having a bad day.

“God often redeems our sufferings by equipping us and giving us opportunities to extend comfort to others. Sometimes we do that in person by sitting or crying with a struggling or heartbroken friend, but always we can pray for God’s comfort to visit them.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 
And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 
And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
They said to him, "Twelve." 
"And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
And they said to him, "Seven." 
And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" 
(Mark 8:14-21 ESV)

When we re-read these miracles of Jesus, what is our intent? Is it just to refresh our memories? That doesn’t seem to be the case here, with Jesus and His disciples. He wants them to dwell on the two particular miracles of which He speaks. “For they had already forgotten or had failed to see their central revelation – the eternal fact of God’s love and care and compassion. They knew the number of the men each time, the number of the loaves each time, the number of the baskets of fragments they had each time taken up, but they forgot the Love that had so broken the bread that its remnants twenty times outweighed its loaves.”

Jesus warned them against the teachings of the religious leaders, teachings which would have us believe that God withholds blessings based on legalities; teachings that resemble those of today’s “religious leaders.” Finally, the disciples did understand. “He who trusts can understand; he whose mind is set at east can discover a reason.” The lesson here was that God cares for His children, and will provide for their necessities. And it is love that is the driving force of this provision.

You see, the disciples were failing to trust. Look at verse 16. They discussed among themselves the fact that they had not brought any bread. After all that they had seen Jesus do. “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of His Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in. The lesson of them was that help is always within God’s reach when His children want it.”

All too often, we, as humans, remember the loaves but forget the Father, even as, in our theology, we “forget the very Logos.”

The care the Father has for us is care for the day (see Matthew 6). “The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years – in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”

“The moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.”

(All above quotes from Creation in Christ, by George MacDonald, referenced in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

The Spiritual Discipline being highlighted, here, is that of study. That may sound odd, as we normally consider study to be a discipline that involves books and reading. However, Jesus has called His disciples, here, to study, dwell upon, and learn from their experience. We should do the same. It is worthwhile to look back upon our experiences and learn from them. We can learn much, both from experiences when we felt God moving in our lives, and experiences when we felt far from Him.

Here is another nugget from Eugene Peterson: “The Christian faith does not turn us into robots who are conditioned to behave in moral ways by reflex. The Christian faith does not lobotomize us so that we don’t have to think through anything. Jesus said, ‘Learn from me’ (Matthew 11:29). He intends to shape our minds, inform our intelligence, and mature our judgment so that we can understand and participate in the meaning of new life.”

The disciples were so fortunate to have that in-person experience with Him. We, on the other hand, must learn these things from a distance.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I thank You that You have given us brains and the ability to think things through, and that You do not expect us to be pre-programed robots, conditioned to behave in certain ways. While I am expected to surrender my “rights” and walk according to the words and steps of Jesus, I still have the ability to make decisions and think about things. Those decisions are not always the right ones or, perhaps, not the best ones. But I am still me because You did not use cookie cutters to create us. If that were the case, all eight billion of us would have the same DNA, wouldn’t we?

I am grateful for Your work in my life, and that I can and should look back on my life and study it and learn from it. It is not a looking back, like Lot’s wife, where I regret that I have left some things behind. That is looking back and longing. I prefer to look back to learn, to learn from the times where I can see Your hand at work, and to learn from the times where I ignored Your hand and went my own way. It turns out that Your love and compassion for me worked through those times, even.

I am also thankful for that love and compassion that drives Your provision for Your people. We are quick to be able to quote the numbers, how many people were fed, how many loaves the little boy had, and how many baskets of food were left over. We like to memorize statistics. But we miss the point when we do that. With only a couple of fish and some loaves of bread, the miracle would have been just as powerful if fifty people were fed. The numbers are not the point. Your love, compassion, and overwhelming provision are the point. The same love that dropped manna from the sky for Your people, Israel, who were also quick to forget Your love and compassion only days after they had seen the miracle of the Red Sea parting and their enemies’ chariots drowned in the same sea.

Forgive us for being so quick to forget, and help us to remember to study; both Your written Word as well as the past events of our lives. I thank You for people like George MacDonald, Eugene Peterson, Richard J Foster, and Emilie Griffin (and others) who have written so that we can more easily remember.

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.

Free From the Law–Oh, Happy Condition

Today is Thursday, the seventeenth of June, 2021

The peace of God be with you!

Day 23,107

Three days until Father’s Day

We made it through our first night without C. She landed in Vegas at around 10:15 PM, last night. The flight was delayed just over an hour. Of course, that is only 8:15 in Vegas, I believe. I’m not sure what time her first bowling squad is, today. She will have three games with her team, then three games in pairs and three games in singles. At least I think that’s how it goes. I know there will be at least six games, spread across today and tomorrow. Then she will get back to DFW at around 9:30 PM CDT, tomorrow night, barring flight delays.

S and I are not sure what we will have for dinner tonight. There is a good chance that it may wind up being Applebee’s, as they are kind of on the way home, and it’s an easy stop, with their curbside pickup.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Think of all the emotions that consume our thoughts: worry, fear, anxiety, anger, pride, and hurt. What good do these bring us? What do we do with them? Do we hold on to them, let them fester? Or do we look at them and ask what is triggering them? Do I need to let go of that?

O Lord, please help me let go.

Let go of bitterness,
let in forgiveness.

Let go of worry,
let in peace.

Let go of fear,
let in hope.

Let go of pride,
let in selflessness.

Let go of hurt, 
let in love.

Let go of hurriedness,
let in this moment.

Let go of indifference,
Let in compassion.

Let go of property,
let in generosity.

Let go of this false self,
let in my true self.

Let it go,
let you grow.
("Let It Go", by Daryl Madden, in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

I think my favorite couplet in there is “Let go of hurriedness, let in this moment.”

For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me and plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
(Psalms 31:13-16 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that "my times are in your hands."
2. for C's safe arrival in Las Vegas, last night.
3. that, though You are high and exalted, You look kindly on us who are lowly.
4. that Your love endures forever, and You do not abandon the work of Your hands (Psalm 138).
5. that we are free from the law, oh happy condition!

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 4 – DAY 5

INVITATION

“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”
(Deuteronomy 33:12 NIV)

At this moment, I pause, considering all of the negative emotions that flood my soul, each day. By Your grace, O Lord, I will not allow those to fester, but will let them go, and let in the opposite grace from You.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.
(Psalms 138:1-3 NIV)

Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.
The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.
(Psalms 138:6-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
(Galatians 5:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, high and lifted up. I read these passages in His presence, asking the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts, meditations, and prayers; direct me to truth for my day.

I am drawn to the second part of Psalm 138, that part that speaks of God being high, exalted, yet He lowers Himself to care for us. Though He is great, He cares for the humble. Though He is mighty, He cares for the weak. That’s us, y’all. The trouble is, we believe ourselves to be exalted, mighty, and strong.

Nevertheless, the Lord condescends to care for us, to love us, to show compassion on us. And His love endures forever.

The Galatians passage for today begins with a bang. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Freedom.

That’s a word that has been thrown around and abused a lot in the past year. There are many people in the world, especially in Western culture (I pick on Western culture a lot, I realize, but that’s where I am, so that’s what I see), who believe that “freedom” means you can do whatever you want. Sadly, a lot of those people are “conservative evangelical Christians.” I find this puzzling.

I find it puzzling because, as Christians, we give up our “rights.” We surrender them, not to a government, not to other people, but to our God, in Jesus Christ. Instead, we seem to think that this relationship with the Creator gives us more rights. I am utterly baffled as to where we come up with this.

The “freedom” of which Paul speaks is regarding the law. Pretty much the entire letter to the Galatian church is concerning the appearance that they are sliding back into legalism, beginning to follow the law, after having been set free from the same.

Today’s passage uses that word “circumcision” a few times. But it’s not really about circumcision, is it? It’s about trying to follow the law. And circumcision was a big point of contention in the early church, because the Jewish Christians thought that that was a thing that must be insisted on.

But Paul disagrees. He even goes so far as to tell them that if they do get circumcised, then they have to follow the entire law to be saved.

Let’s move forward a few thousand years. Let’s talk about dancing, drinking, playing cards, viewing “R-rated” movies.

I once served as music minister at a church where I heard the preacher boldly proclaim from the pulpit, “I condemn any Christian who watches an R-rated movie!”

I didn’t stay at that church very long, but that’s not why I left. There were other reasons that I won’t go into here.

He condemns. In the face of Romans 8:1, this pastor condemns those whom Christ does not. In case you need a reminder . . .

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 NLT)

So in our day, drinking alcoholic beverages, watching R-rated movies, whatever . . . these are the modern day equivalent of circumcision. These are things that the most conservative of evangelicals would say that you can’t do and be a Christian.

Now . . . let’s go back to my statement about freedom not meaning you can do whatever you want. Because it doesn’t. Paul has a lengthy discussion in Romans about this, concerning things that might make my brother stumble. So what does that mean? It means that if, by consuming an alcoholic beverage, I cause a rift with my brother, then I will not consume that alcoholic beverage. At least not where he can see it or know about it.

“Freedom” means that we are not bound by the legalistic requirements of the law. And if we start insisting that Christians must abstain from things like alcohol, R-rated movies, dancing, playing cards, smoking (hah!), or whatever, the we must also insist that the entire law be kept in order to be saved.

And we all know (or at least we should know, if we read our Bibles) that this is

impossible.

Paul makes a very bold statement in verse 4.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
(Galatians 5:4 NIV)

I could keep writing about this all morning. But then I would be late for work. This reminds me of an old hymn, which, oddly enough, I don’t remember singing very much, if at all, at Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. I honestly couldn’t hum the tune, at least not past the first line. But the words are beautiful. This is one written by that master of hymnody, Philip Paul Bliss.

1
Free from the law—oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.

(Chorus)
 	Once for all—oh, sinner, receive it;
Once for all—oh, doubter, believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
  Christ hath redeemed us once for all.
2
There on the cross your burden upbearing,
Thorns on His brow your Savior is wearing;
Never again your sin need appall,
You have been pardoned once for all.
3
Now we are free—there’s no condemnation;
Jesus provides a perfect salvation:
“Come unto Me,” oh, hear His sweet call,
Come, and He saves us once for all.
4
Children of God—oh, glorious calling,
Surely His grace will keep us from falling;
Passing from death to life at His call,
Blessed salvation once for all.

Father, I praise You that I am free from the law. Yet my freedom has boundaries, because it does not mean that I can do whatever I please with no consequences. What it does mean, though, is that there is, therefore, now, no condemnation for me, as I am in Christ Jesus. Now, as I walk in this freedom, help me to consider the brothers and sisters around me. Help me also to consider the non-believers around me. In fact, may I consider all around me as more significant than myself, releasing any so-called “rights” to You, that I might totally live in humility and grace before You, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

Mighty God,
remind me today that faith is a verb,
an active trust in Jesus.
I don't want a coffee-table faith that's mostly display,
a Sunday-only faith that's limited piety,
or a bookish faith that only lives in my head.
Give me a faith that lives and breathes and walks out the door into everyday life,
carrying with it joy,
peace,
and love for all,
always trusting in what Jesus has done for me.
In his name,
amen.
(Westminster Confession 11.2)

BLESSING

[May you be] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:11 NIV)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8 ESV)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
(John 15:9-10 ESV)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

Father, these Scriptures continue to impress upon me that which You have already given me. Help me to be a loving person, abiding in Your love, keeping Your commandments (those two big ones), and being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to others, as You have forgiven me. All glory to You, through Christ and by the Spirit.

Lord, may I grow in holiness today. May You uncover any idols that I might be hiding in my heart. May I know, fully, Your forgiveness, and be willing to extend that, fully, to others in my life.

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!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

But Still He Loved Me

Today is Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,958

Jumping right into the devotional today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, 
I have sought you. 
I became weary and I labored. 
O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and 
never to cease seeking you. 
Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance.
 Give me the strength to seek you, 
for you help me to find you and you have more and more 
given me the hope of finding you. 
Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. 
Preserve the first and heal the second. 
Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. 
Where you have opened the door to me, 
welcome me at the entrance; 
where you have closed the door to me, 
open to my cry; 
enable me to remember you, 
to understand you, 
and to love you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 14

INVITATION

The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
(Psalms 118:24 NIV)

BIBLE SONG

A prayer of David.
Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
(Psalms 17:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
(John 1:43-51 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

The connection between these two passages is stunning. The psalmist writes, “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.” (Verse 3) Then, in the passage from John, Jesus speaks of Nathanael as “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (verse 47).

Of whom can it truly be said, “”My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled?” (Psalm 17:5) I don’t feel that I could honestly declare that. At least not in totality. My feet are still on His paths. But I have most definitely stumbled, and there have been days/weeks (months?) when my feet weren’t anywhere close to the paths.

Yet He has continued to love me. I was reminded of an old choir solo/anthem that I have loved for years. “But Still He Loved Me.” I tried to find a decent video of it on You Tube, but didn’t find any that I liked. The song is from the perspective of one of the soldiers who participated in the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. After everything this man did to Him, at the end, “but still He loved me!”

Nathaniel. A little sarcasm in his response to being told that Jesus was from Nazareth. Not that there was anything wrong with Nazareth. Nazareth, you see, was simply an insignificant little town. Pretty much nothing came from Nazareth, good or bad.

Nathaniel, resting under the fig tree. Jesus saw him there, even before Philip told him. Jesus probed his heart, just like the psalmist wrote, and found no deceit in him.

And then, when Nathaniel proclaims the truth before Jesus Christ, Jesus tells him, “You will see greater things than that.”

The psalmist prays for the Lord to show him the wonders of His great love. He then proclaims, “you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.”

Father, I praise You that, because of the work of Jesus, when You probe my heart, You find it to be clean from sin, because Jesus, by His sacrifice, has erased my past. I thank You that You have and will continue to show me the wonders of Your great love, and that You have saved me with Your righteous right hand. I take refuge in You, my God! I hide in the shadow and shelter of Your wings. What can man do to me? And, in spite of that past, which Jesus erased, You still love me!

"Living God,
your knowledge of me is infinite
while mine of you is tiny.
The mysteries of your being and your ways
are always beyond me.
So in humility and reverence,
help me to rest content as a follower of Jesus.
Give me the loving trust to learn
what you show me in your Word
without going beyond those limits.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession 13)

BLESSING

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
(Romans 8:15-16 NIV)

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
(John 14:1 NLT)

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 NLT)

The Hebrew word for climbing or going up is aliyah. It is also the word used to describe the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as well as when the Jews returned to land of Israel in the mid-twentieth century. The Aliyah.

But this word has spiritual meaning as well. What is our Aliyah?

“Your life. Your entire life is the Aliyah. Your life is a journey, but in God it is to be an upward journey . . . an ever higher ascending. How do you do that? The same you you ascended the mountain. Every day you will be given choices. Every choice will give you the chance to go lower, to stay the same, or to go higher. Choose the higher path, even if it’s harder, take the highest step . . . let each of your steps be higher than the step before it, each of your days be higher than the day before it. And you will end up walking on mountain heights . . . and your life will be an Aliyah.”

This reminds me of what a former pastor, Joel Engle, called “the one-percent grade.” The level of the increase is not so important, as long as we are, in our lives, making progress and going higher.

The Mission: Today, choose the higher step, the higher act, the higher ground, the higher path in every decision. start making your life an Aliyah.”

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Father, teach me to go higher. Today, as I walk through this day, on this journey, show me the higher path, the higher action, that my life may truly be an Aliyah!

Lord, I pray, this morning, that the Church of Jesus Christ will flourish, in our land, and in this world . . . everywhere. I pray for all of Your followers who are musicians and artists, that their talent would be multiplied and that grace would flow from their fingers and voices, from their pens and paint brushes, and whatever else their medium of choice. And for those who have made it to retirement, or are close to that point in their lives, may You show them the next step in their ministries for You. I longingly look forward to that day, myself!

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.

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

It’s Sunday morning. Kind of a sticky, humid morning outside in Fort Worth. Yesterday brought a measure of success on the apartment hunting. They found a place that looks very nice, and got their application in, along with a deposit. If accepted, they can move in in late July, perfect timing.

A funny thing happened while they were gone, though. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the car alarm on Rachel’s car started going off. And going off. And going off. It wouldn’t stop permanently. It would stop…for about five minutes, then it would go off again. After about an hour of this, (and an unsuccessful attempt to get into the car with a coat hanger) I finally called a locksmith. The locksmith got the car open, but that didn’t stop it. Apparently, if you get into the car by any other than “proper” means, the lock buttons on the doors still won’t work. So, the locksmith had some pliers and we unhooked the battery. Problem solved, at least for now. When they got home, Rachel unlocked her car, we reattached the battery cables, and found that, if you simply lock the car using the button on the inside, it doesn’t activate the alarm. It will probably need to be looked at, eventually, but for now, it’s okay.

It wasn’t a good night for baseball. The Rangers continue their amnesia concerning scoring runs. Apparently, they have forgotten how. And the Cubbies took revenge on the Red Sox, at the expense of Matt Albers who forgot how to throw a strike. The Sox were leading 3-1 going into the 8th inning. The Cubs scored 8 runs in the 8th inning. Albers never got an out. 31 pitches…no outs recorded. I believe that is the season record.


For the record, Harold Camping was already disqualified as a “prophet” because he was wrong in 1994. As I previously stated, the Biblical standard for a “prophet” allows no mistake. EVER. If anyone continues to listen to this man, the pretty much deserve what they get. I really don’t pity the man who gave up his life savings to advertise yesterday’s “rapture.” However, I believe his loss should be on Camping’s head. In the words of Jesus, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” It’s not exactly the right context, but I truly believe the concept applies in this case.


Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
John 10:22-42
This passage contains some very strong truth. Verses 27-30 say, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” At this statement, the Jews, once again, pick up stones to throw at him. What does it say about a group of people that’s always wanting to throw rocks at someone they don’t agree with? Today, we don’t throw rocks. We just throw words. I guess I’m as guilty as the next Pharisee, though. Anyway…Jesus teaches eternal security in this passage. No one can snatch me out of his hand. My salvation is secure. I don’t see how anyone can believe that they can lose their salvation. That goes directly against the teachings of Jesus.
Even the Jews recognized that Jesus was making himself equal with God. It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (v. 33) There’s always a debate concerning the deity of Christ. The Jews heard and understood that Jesus was equating himself with God. One of the definitions of a “cult” in modern society is an organization that denies the deity of Christ, yet claims to be “Christian.” This would include Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with others.

2 Samuel 17-18
In chapter 17, the saga of Absalom continues, as he gets conflicting advice, from his friend Ahithophel, and from Hushai, the guy that David sent into Absalom’s camp as a plant. Absalom chose to follow the advice of Hushai, and Ahithophel went and hanged himself. Hushai sent spies to warn David of the plan.
In chapter 18, the battle is about to get under way. David gives very explicit instructions in verse 5, And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom. In verse 9, Absalom was riding, and his head was caught in a great oak tree. The first part of the verse says “terebinth” in my Reformation Study Bible. All the other ESV translations I found online say “oak.” At least we know, it was a tree. The text does not say that his hair got caught in the tree. I have always been taught that this is what happened. It seems likely that is what happened, because it was well-known that he only cut his hair once a year. Either way, he was caught, hanging in this tree, when one of David’s men found him. Here is the subsequent conversation between that man and Joab. And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king’s son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’ On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him. Joab will pay dearly for this mistake later in his life.
Two runners wound up going to tell David of the news. The first one arrived with news of the battle, that all was well, and that they had won. However, he had no news of Absalom. The second one arrived. And behold, the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “Good news for my lord the king! For the LORD has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.” And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Thus ends the tragic tale of the beautiful Absalom. David loved his son, in spite of the treachery and betrayal. Perhaps this is a good picture of the Father’s love for us.

Psalm 100
Psa 100:1 A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Psa 100:2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Psa 100:3 Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Psa 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psa 100:5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

This Psalm involves responding to certain facts about the Lord. First we are to shout to the Lord, making a joyful noise before him. Why? Because he is GOD! He has made us and we belong to him! We are the sheep of his pasture, which implies caretaking on his part. Secondly, we are to enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise, giving thanks to him and blessing his name. Why? Because the Lord is good! His steadfast love endures forever. His faithfulness endures to all generations. I wrote a song from this Psalm, called “Make A Joyful Noise.” I don’t have it in a digital format, or I would post it here. I need to work on that, I guess. So we respond to God with shouts, singing, praise, and thanksgiving, because of who God is, and because of what he is.


Father, I will make a “joyful noise” to you, for all my days. As long as I have breath, I will sing your praises. I will serve you with gladness, whenever you give me the opportunity and the place to serve you. I will come into your presence with singing. You are my God. I belong to you, and it is you who have made me. You have made me what I am. I did not make myself. I am one of your sheep, and I will rest in your pasture. I will enter your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise! I will give thanks to you and bless your name! You are good, and your steadfast love is amazing to me. It endures forever and flies in the face of everything that I have ever done. And you are faithful, even when we are not.
I am grateful for the words of Jesus in John 10 that assure me that no one (including myself) can ever snatch me out of your hands. Your grip on me is eternal, and there is nothing that I or anyone else can ever do to change that. I praise you for this, Father, and it gives me great joy for living.
I thank you for the examples of great love that are shown in King David’s life. He gave us a great picture of your love in the way he dealt with people. His love for his son Absalom was unmatched. Even though his life was sought, both by Saul, and then by Absalom, he would never raise a hand against them. My you grant me the same kind of love for others in my heart.
I pray for this day, Lord, that it might bring rest to us. Get us ready for another week of work. Inhabit our hearts so that we might go forth into this week joyfully, and prepared to serve you in whatever way you give us.
I’m thankful that Rachel and Justin found a place to live yesterday. I pray that the application will go through without any problems. I also pray that you grant them part time jobs to have while they continue to go to school. I wish them both the best success.
I pray for Stephanie’s last two weeks of school. Let them continue to be good. And I pray that she will continue to pass all of her classes.


If you are in Christ, you are in Christ eternally. Nothing can be done to change that. (Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if you believe that!) That, in itself, is a great reason to make a joyful noise to the Lord!