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.

No One Living Is Righteous…

Today is March 13, 2013. Christi and I are officially on vacation for three days!! Woot!

Today is Ear Muff Day. Apparently, they were invented on this day in 1877. Well, it is 46 degrees right now, with a projected high of 68. I shan’t be needing any ear muffs today.


We had a wonderful time with our lifehouse last night, as it was our last meeting (at least as an official lifehouse). We had barbecue, two kinds of cake (Christi made a birthday cake for me, more on that in a minute), and talked about everything from food to music to TV to movies. As far as I could tell a smashing time was had by all. We are all moving on to other spiritual “adventures,” still with The Exchange, but in a different type of group. We will be starting up a new, more discipleship-intensive, group called “Huddle” in a short time. Lucky us, we still have the same leader! (Who, I hear has recently joined WordPress, and I will link you up as soon as I know where he is.)

After lifehouse, Stephanie and I decided to go work out! Yes, we went to the gym at 10pm last night. We both worked hard on the elliptical, Steph for 45 minutes (her longest workout yet) and 521 calories, and me for 50 minutes and 668 calories. I’m really glad for those last two calories. 😀

Today, there’s no telling what we will do. It is, after all, my birthday. The best part of it will be that I get to spend it with Christi and Stephanie, doing whatever we choose to do. We just might get a pedicure. Yes. I said, “Pedicure.” One thing that I did arrange for Monday night, for my own birthday present, was three tickets for the Red Sox/Rangers game on May 4, in a luxury suite at Rangers Ballpark!! It includes a chicken fajita buffet, as well!

The first thing I will do, though, as soon as I’m done with this (and open my birthday presents), is head over to my work place for my weekly weigh-in for the Biggest Loser contest. As of this morning, I’m 4.4 pounds down from last week’s weigh-in. Also, notice, I’m weighing in before all the celebrating! I may have to fast the first three days of next week…


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1958, I was born. But 53 years before that, in 1905, Mata Hari made her first stage appearance as an exotic dancer. Her assumed name was “a Malay term for the Sun, literally meaning ‘eye of the day.'” Her real name was Margaretha Zella, born and raised in the Netherlands, but later moved to Java with a “mean and dissolute husband whose beatings and philanderings eventually drove her to divorce.” She returned home, almost 30, but was unable to find another husband or a suitable job, so she moved to Paris. She invented this “mysterious new identity,” and claimed to be from India. She also claimed to be the daughter of a temple dancer, raised in the “service of the god Shiva.” As she aged, she “earned her keep more as a demi-mondaine than as a dancer.” That means a woman supported by a wealthy lover. She “found dozens of rich partners, including celebrities such as a Rothschild baron and Giacomo Puccini. At this time, on the eve of the First World War, she also began her career as a spy.” The details are murky at best, but there is speculation that, at one point, she was a double agent for both the French and the Germans. In late 1916, the French intercepted a coded message and became convinced that she was a double agent. They quickly brought her to trial and “convicted her in a travesty of justice that was held ‘in camera’ and during which the defence could not cross-examine witnesses.” She was quickly found guilty and sentenced to death. On October 15, 1917, a little more than 12 years after her opening stage dance, she would be led to the courtyard of the Parisian prison at Vincennes. She is alleged to have said to the attending nun, “Do not be afraid, sister. I know how to die.” “Refusing a blindfold, she faced the twelve riflemen confronting her and blew them a kiss before the fusillade ended her life.”


Today’s birthday is…ME! In departure from my normal routine, I shall name many others with whom I share this birthday. Not all of them, though. That would be too many, and I’ve never heard of at least half of them. So here we go. Sharing my birthday of March 13 are: Pope Innocent XII (1615), L. Ron Hubbard (really??) (1911), Al Jaffee, of Mad Magazine fame (1921), Neil Sedaka (1939), William H. Macy (1950), Fred Berry, “Rerun” in What’s Happening (1951), Dana Delaney (1956) Linda Robson, an English actress, is the only one listed in the same year (1958), Kathy Hilton, yes, those Hiltons (1959), Adam Clayton, bassist for U2 (1960), Will Clark, baseball player (1964), Annabeth Gish, actress (1971), Johan Santana, baseball pitcher (1979). That seems to be all that I recognize readily. Out of all of those, I think I’m most happy to share a birthday with Al Jaffee, William H. Macy, and Dana Delaney. I’m least happy about having to share my birthday with L. Ron Hubbard. He is, after all, responsible for the fake religion that has sucked in hundreds of Hollywood celebrities, Scientology.


But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay! Psalm 70:5
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. Psalm 71:5-6
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

Father, I pray that you show me something of yourself this morning; something that I may take with me throughout this day, looking to you for everything I need.


Today, I’m reading Isaiah 32:9-20.

9 Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech.
10 In little more than a year you will shudder, you complacent women; for the grape harvest fails, the fruit harvest will not come.
11 Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones; strip, and make yourselves bare, and tie sackcloth around your waist.
12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine,
13 for the soil of my people growing up in thorns and briers, yes, for all the joyous houses in the exultant city.
14 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks;
15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
19 And it will hail when the forest falls down, and the city will be utterly laid low.
20 Happy are you who sow beside all waters, who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free.

There is a warning in this passage against becoming complacent, followed by the blessings that come from a land dwelling in righteousness. Those blessings are peace, quietness and trust forever.


Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Teach Me to Do Your Will.” The scripture reading is Psalm 143:1-2, 10.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Note the phrase, “no one living is righteous before you.” The psalmist does recognize God’s people as righteous, but their righteousness is completely “overwhelmed by the sense of God’s holiness. Spiritual maturity holds the two at once–genuine faithfulness, on the one hand, and a vision of God’s ummatched holiness, on the other.” Regardless of how righteous, faithful, or holy, we might think we are, “no one is completely righteous before God.” So, as this psalm leads us, we confess, we show sorrow, and then we ask for help from our Father to make good on our commitments. I am challenged to make those last couple of phrases in today’s passage, personal, praying them to God in my own life.
Lord God, reading your word only reminds me of how far I am from being righteous. I make the wrong choices; I put myself and my desires before the needs of others and before what you want for my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistakes, Lord. Please forgive me and continue teaching me to do your will. Amen.~~quoted from the book.


Father, I do, indeed, recognize that no one is completely righteous before you. I have sinned many times in my life, and will, no doubt, continue to fail. When I do, prompt me immediately by your Spirit, and then help me to live according to your Word, abiding by the precepts and learning to do your will. Teach me to do your will…let your Spirit lead me on level ground. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth! Unite my heart to fear your name!

I pray for this day of celebration. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it is just another day. It has taken the 364 before it to make me a year older. Today, I am only a day older than yesterday. But it is our custom to attach great importance to the anniversary of our birth. Perhaps my mother should get the gifts… Bless our time together on this day, Father. May your will be done in our lives, and may we glorify you in all that we do. I pray for the rest of our weekend, as well, that it will be restful and rejuvenating.

I also lift up a prayer for our friend, Josh Copeland, who is in Nicaragua on a mission trip. Keep Josh and the others that he is with safe through this, and may they have great success in their mission to bring Christ to other people.


None of us is truly righteous before God. Let us recognize this, and then entreat him to assist us in living according to his ways.

Grace and peace, friends.

His Resurrection Destiny

Good morning! I wish everyone a joyous Resurrection Sunday! It is Sunday, April 8, 2012. I also wish my mother a happy birthday, today, along with her twin brother, my Uncle Buddy.

We had a good worship celebration at The Exchange, yesterday, in spite of some initial technical difficulties. Setup yesterday morning was a challenge. We arrived and the trailer had not been unloaded. I have to confess that we both got a little “carnal” when we saw multiple people inside setting up chairs, when they could have been unloading the trailer. Sometimes people just don’t think. But we got it done, and I kept reminding myself that I’m doing this for Jesus. The worship band sounded magnificent yesterday evening, though, with Terry Guilliams doing a wonderful job on vocals on “God Is Alive,” with his wife Summer, singing harmony. It was beautiful! And we had a special guest with us yesterday, Scotty Hansen, Stephanie’s current best friend. She enjoyed that immensely, and everyone was very, very friendly to both of them.


Father, I pray that, on this day when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you would show me something that would not only inspire me to live this day looking to the Risen Christ, but that you would give me something to inspire my life, going forward. Not just for today, but for the rest of my life.


My Utmost For His Highest

Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? Luke 24:26

These words were spoken by Jesus to the two disciples that he met on the road to Emmaus. “Our Lord’s Cross is the gateway into His life: His Resurrection means that He has power now to convey His life to me. When I am born again from above, I receive from the Risen Lord His very life.” The Resurrection was his destiny, and fulfilling that destiny gave him the right to make us children of God.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he entered into a new life, one that had not been before. This means that we are “raised to His risen life, not to our old life.” If we are in Christ, the life that we are now living should not be the same as the old life. “The Holy Spirit is the Deity in proceeding power Who applies the Atonement to our experience. Thank God it is gloriously and majestically true that the Holy Ghost can work in us the very nature of Jesus if we will obey Him.” Do you get that? It is the desire of God to work in us the nature of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit! May it be so in my life.


The Bible Panorama

Luke 9:37–62; 1 Sam. 10–12

The part of the Luke passage that I’m focusing on this morning is when the disciples were arguing among each other who was greatest. Rather than simply rebuking them for their self-seeking foolishness, he brought a nearby child over to his side and said, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (v 48) This turns the principles of our society upside-down. This is a consistent teaching of Jesus…if we want to be great in his kingdom, in the eyes of the Lord, we must be one of the least. He who serves is greater than he who rules. This goes against every fiber of my fallen nature, for I want to be the GREATEST! Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali once called himself “The Greatest.” Have you seen him lately? He’s not the “greatest” anything. He can barely move. We should beware of ever thinking that we are the greatest at anything. “He who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

There are a couple of things to note in the chapters in 1 Samuel. After Saul is anointed king, some people oppose him and refuse to acknowledge his kingship. After he wins a major victory, his supporters want him to have the dissenters put to death. He refuses to do this, desiring peace, and wanting the day to be marked solely for the victory attained. Later, in his farewell speech, Samuel calls the people to accountability, reminding them of the evil they have done by insisting on having a king. But he also tells them that if they continue to follow and serve the Lord in repentance, he will bless them. There are also warnings of the consequences for pursuing evil and idolatry.


Father, on this Resurrection Sunday, I pray for the risen life of Christ to be formed in me. I pray for a spirit of obedience to allow your Spirit to work in my life this resurrection. I fear, at times, that my current life resembles my old life too much. Is there a difference in me? Do I effectively life out this “resurrection life” in my own life? I need your grace. I need your Spirit to empower me. I need to be obedient to what you tell me. May your grace and mercy flow over me this day as I try to allow the Risen Christ to reign in me.

I pray that I might be able to be a dispenser of your grace in this world. I was just reading another blogthat talked about what our purpose is, or discovering what that purpose is. What is my purpose? It is not to be a great musician. It is not to be a great songwriter. It is not to be a great worship leader. What did Jesus say? I must not seek to be great. Rather, I should seek to be servant. This blog writer said “Dear everybody, I love you.” What greater purpose than to seek to love? This is not contradictory at all to the message of Christ. In fact, it is most complementary to the message of Jesus. We are to love our neighbor. And who is our neighbor? Everybody! Father, help me to love. Help me to show grace. Give me the ability to shove aside all selfishness and prejudice, NAY! Not “shove aside!” Kill! Obliterate! May all selfishness and prejudice and “ungrace” be completely destroyed in my life! There is my purpose, Father! To love and show grace. Let your grace and mercy overflow in my life.

I pray for this day, Father. Give us a safe trip to Mineral Wells and a good visit with my parents. I also pray that Rachel and Justin will be safe as they travel to Mineral Wells from Denton.

I pray for our friend Bridget, who was experiencing early labor yesterday. The baby is not far enough along. We pray for your intervention and protection on the mother and the baby. I also continue to pray for our friend Tommy, who lost his brother this weekend. Comfort him and his family with your wondrous love.


“HE IS NOT HERE! HE IS RISEN!”

Grace and peace, friends.