As We Go Forth . . .

Today is December 31, 2016. New Year’s Eve. Last post of 2016.

Quote of the Day

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Word of the Day

Toodle-ooInformal. goodbye; so long. Sometimes shortened to “Toodles!” We will happily bid “toodle-oo” to 2016 tonight.

Besides being New Year’s Eve, today is also Make Up Your Mind Day. I think that’s fitting, since I, personally need to make up my mind about several things. For example, I will complete four different devotional books this morning. I need to make up my mind which ones to begin tomorrow. I can’t wait until tomorrow morning to decide that. Many people will make up their minds about resolutions today. Good luck with that. And, if you doubt the necessity of making up your mind, just remember this horribly over-used cliche: “Not to decide is to decide.” Ugh.

As already stated (twice, I think), today is New Year’s Eve. I suppose the celebrations are already underway down under. Some celebrations may have already begun in the States. Who knows? It’s not even 10:00 AM yet, as I write this, but some people don’t need much inspiration to “celebrate” (read that as “get drunk”). Personally, I need more coffee. I’ll be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

I mentioned resolutions, above. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions any more. I stopped doing that years ago. I think they’re silly. I do, however, have some goals. What’s the difference? Resolutions are like impulsive promises. We make them, and then a month down the road, we’re all, “What was I thinking??” Goals are just that. Something to strive for. If I meet them, good. If I don’t, I haven’t necessarily failed. But the point is, I haven’t “broken” anything.

My goals for 2017 are a combination of physical and spiritual. In the physical realm, I do hope to lose some serious weight. I need to be healthier in diet and movement. I also hope to practice more on trombone and keys, and, hopefully, get my guitar-playing skills back up to snuff. Spiritually, I want to seriously hit the spiritual disciplines hard in the next year. Spiritual formation; the classical disciplines, and maybe some that aren’t so “classical.” I need to work on some much more than others. As someone who has spent a large part of his life involved in worship, I seem to have lost my way a little bit in that area. So worship needs to be stepped up. Meditation and contemplation need work; chewing on the Scriptures that I read each day. Confession . . . perhaps I need to find a group of guys that I trust enough to form a confessional group. Silence and solitude . . . who has time for those, any more, right? But we need them in our lives. How can we listen to God if we can’t be alone and quiet? Bible study . . . I have to somehow carve out time in my life for more of this. I’m great on devotion, but light on actual study. And the church we attend doesn’t do “Sunday School” or any incarnation of that organization. Compassion and humility . . . moving right along . . . Various forms of prayer, and last, but certainly not least, fasting, a discipline that has been all but lost in contemporary Christianity. So I have a lot of work to do, next year. The important thing is to realize that it all doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. There are 365 days to do this. Of course, I had better not wait until December to begin, either.

56 days until the first Spring Training game.
93 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Psa 55:16-17  But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.

Psa 70:1  Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!

Psa 65:4  Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

Psa 103:20  Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Psa 150  Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

“The Psalter concludes in a connonade of praise: booming salvos of joy shake the air with ‘artful thunder’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Merlin’). Every means (eight instruments are listed) is put to use for the great end. Every creature is enlisted as a voice in the climactic chorus.”

“‘Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever’ (Ephesians 3:20-21, Jerusalem Bible). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Isa 52:12  For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

“At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays.” I can think of no other year that this is more true than 2016. If we ponder for too long the sorrows and anxieties of 2016, we may not enjoy God’s grace as much as we should. Nevertheless, the Lord allows our memories “to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future.”

“The Lord will go before you,” Isaiah 52:12 promises. He will also be our rear guard, which, in human physical terms, is impossible, isn’t it? But nothing is impossible with God. He surrounds us with his great love and grace, and watches over us from the future and the past.

What this does is give us the ability (if we trust in the grace of God) to focus on the present, on that day we call “today.” Chambers finishes the year with this:

As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.
Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.

Father, let me take these words to heart as I look toward tomorrow and the next 365 days. As I have been praying privately for several weeks, now, I ask you to help me make 2017 the best spiritual year of my life, so far. Help me to be faithful to work the disciplines, so that I might place myself in position to be mightily used by you. Help me to achieve the goals that I set, not for personal gain or boastfulness, but so that your great name might be glorified in all things.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

How Can We Be Troubled?

“When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him.”

Today is Saturday, December 24, 2016. Christmas Eve!

Quote of the Day

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” – Dr. Seuss

Word of the Day

Wassail – to drink to the health or success of; toast.

Today is Eggnog Day! I’ve already had some, this season, and I’m not sure I have any that is still good to drink. Who knows? I may brave the grocery store today, just to get some more. I do love eggnog. It’s especially good with some brandy added.

As I’ve already mentioned, today is Christmas Eve. The house smells wonderful, and the cooking will begin soon. C’s sister and her husband will be here, this evening, around 5:00 PM, as well as C’s niece and boyfriend. Hopefully, R & J will make it, too. We are planning turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn casserole, pies, and who knows what else!

Tomorrow, we are going to Mineral Wells for Christmas with Mama. We plan to spend Sunday night and come back Monday. We’ll have more of the turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, and so on. I might make a sopapilla cheesecake, if I can squeeze in some time in the oven. It’s pretty booked for the day.

63 days until the first Spring Training game.
100 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

December 24–The Eve of the Nativity

Psa 57:8  Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!

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

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.

Psa 31:24  Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Luk 1:67-75  And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Psa 40:6-8  In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Psa 146:5-10  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

The word “blessed,” translated “happy” in some translations, is used at least twenty-five times in the Psalms, according to Peterson. In Psalm 1, it is the first word. This occurrence, in Psalm 146:5, is the last one. “It is one of the great and characteristic words for describing a person who centers life in God and experiences salvation by faith.”

“Lord, I thank you for the wide margins of happiness
that border the story of faith.
Your kind command ‘be of good cheer’ is easily obeyed
when I find your love in all my making and my growing (Matthew 9:2; 14:27; John 16:33; KJV). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Col 3:3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The security of the life “hidden with Christ in God” is simpler than we want to make it. We speak as though it is the most difficult, “precarious thing,” when in fact, it is secure, “because it has Almighty God in and behind it.” It is more “precarious . . . to try and live without God.” Chambers says that, if we are truly born again, “it is the easiest thing to live in right relationship to God.” This is what Dallas Willard refers to as the “easy yoke.” We make it much harder than it needs to be, and I am “chief of sinners” when it comes to that.

We tend to see walking in the Spirit as a great mountain top that is difficult to attain. Once we get there, though, by God’s grace, we find that it is not a peak at all, but “a plateau where there is ample room to live and to grow.”

Chambers says, “When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him.” This is a heavy statement. Because, don’t we all doubt? Does that mean none of us has truly “seen” Jesus? His commands are not burdensome. “Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus says. If we have truly seen him, how can our hearts be troubled, how can we doubt him? His words are real. Being a disciples means putting the words of Jesus into practice in our lives and finding them to be true.

Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Father, I want to truly see Jesus! I believe that there are times in my life when I have “seen” Jesus, but the memory fades, the reality fades, and I begin to doubt again. My heart is less troubled than it used to be, these days, but I still find my self troubled about things, especially things that I have no control over. Which is most things. Calm my heart; untrouble my spirit. Teach me to always see and know the truth that, in Christ, my life is hidden in you, and there is nothing to doubt; nothing to be troubled about.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

It’s A Matter of the Will

Today is Thursday, December 22, 2016. Only three days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“Love is when he gives you a piece of your soul, that you never knew was missing.” – Torquato Tasso

Word of the Day

Crepuscular – of, relating to, or resembling twilight : dim; also, occurring or active during the twilight.

Today is Date Nut Bread Day. It’s pretty much all I can find for December 22. All you Seinfeld fans, just hang on for tomorrow.

We had our Secret Santa gift exchange yesterday. My person seemed to really like the sausage/cheese box I gave. How can you go wrong with snack food, right? I received a box of Kenneth Cole “Mankind” fragrance stuff. It has a tube of hair/body wash, “eau de toilette” spray, and a tube of after shave balm. Not sure what I’m going to do with the after shave balm. If you’ve never seen my picture, I’ve had a beard since college.

Nothing much going on today. Except that we are taking our pastor’s parents out for dinner tonight. We’re going to our old standby, Haufbrau steakhouse.

C had fun at her leadership team event, last night. They went to this place called the Red Door Escape Room, in Southlake. It sounds like a fun place that we need to take R & J to. They put your team in a room, and you have to solve a series of puzzles to “escape.” There’s a time limit, though. If you don’t solve all the puzzles in time, you disappear forever. Oh, wait. That’s not right. They still let you out. Apparently, only 33% actually solve all the puzzles. C and her group were in a “Once Upon A Time” themed room. That sounds like so much fun to me!

65 days until the first Spring Training game.
102 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Thursday in the fourth week of Advent

Psa 95:6-7  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice,

Psa 90:12  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psa 18:2-3  The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psa 101:6  I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me;

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Psa 145:14-21  The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

“The diversities of God’s goodness find root in the varieties of human need. Every discovered mercy in God finds application in human want. And every realization of human desire is an invitation to grace.” Beautiful words by Eugene Peterson. No way I could adequately paraphrase.

“Father in heaven, I find my desires and needs an index to your will and promises.
What I long for and require is what you bring to me in your steadfast love.
Purify my desires and satisfy my being with the salvation in Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Joh 6:44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

“When God draws me, the issue of my will comes in at once.” Chambers says we should never “discuss when anyone when God speaks.” What he means by this is that our belief is an act of the will, and any kind of intellectual discussion is pointless. Do not misunderstand. We are to love God with our MINDS, as well as with our hearts. But the action of belief is not based on intellect. “Will I dump myself down absolutely on God and transact on what He says?”

It is a surrender of the will. We do not surrender to “persuasive power.” Rather it is “a deliberate launching forth on God and on what He says until I am no longer confident in what I have done, I am confident only in God.” It is, as they say, “blind faith.” And it must be an act of the will. The growing of the intellectual understanding comes after this.

Father, I praise you because you have been working this in me, this year. I have seen the importance of believing the words of Jesus as much or more than believing in Jesus. Thanks to the writings of some other people that you have place in my life, this year, I am understanding this more and more. I pray that you continue shaping my will to the point that all of my confidence is willfully placed in you and your Word, and none of my confidence is in me or anything I have done or can do. Help me to completely surrender.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Grace and peace, friends.

Let Us Be One

Today is Monday, December 12, 2016. Thirteen days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

Word of the Day

Thrasonical – boastful; vainglorious.

Today is Gingerbread House Day. I’ve already seen a few really nice gingerbread houses. We made one a couple years ago, from a kit that we bought. I’ve never tried to make one from scratch, though. It seems like it might be fun to try sometime.

Yesterday was a tired day, but it went pretty well. The worship gathering went well, but I botched a few chords in “Breath of Heaven.” That was especially disappointing, because during rehearsal, I nailed it. Go figure. We’re supposed to do that one again on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, we still haven’t quite nailed down what we are doing for Christmas Eve. We are pretty sure we will be going to Mineral Wells on Christmas day, and maybe spending Sunday night there. That’s all still up in the air, as well, though.

Tonight, I don’t have band practice, but C has a gathering with some of the ladies from our church. Perhaps I will make some peach ice cream in the ice cream maker C won at the Christmas part, Saturday night.

75 days until the first Spring Training game.
112 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Monday in the third week of Advent

Psa 103:20-22  Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psa 115:1  Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

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

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Psa 142:5-7  I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

Right on the heels of proclaiming that no one takes notice of him, David proceeds to state his confidence that, when he is delivered, he will be surrounded by the support of the community of faith. “God’s acceptance and embrace are very often expressed through welcoming words and supportive acts in the community of the people of faith.”

“Lord Jesus Christ, be at my side at the moments I feel isolated and alone. Use my sin-induced loneliness to prepare me for a faith-created community. Lead me to brother and sisters in faith who share a common need and express a shared devotion. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Joh 17:22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.

What is personality? Chambers defines it as “that peculiar, uncalculable thing that is meant when we speak of ourselves as distinct from everyone else.” Like an island in the ocean, there are depths of personality that are deeper than even we, ourselves, can grasp. Only God can fully grasp each individual personality.

After this point, Chambers launches into some vague psychology that I’m not convinced is 100% accurate, as he differentiates between individuality and personality. It certainly isn’t biblical stuff, but I do get what he is aiming for. The main point, with which I do agree, seems to be that we cannot reach the full potential of our personality until we allow it to be merged with Jesus. When we become captivated by the love of Christ, our personalities merge and we become one, even as Christ and the Father are one. “If you give up your right to yourself to God, the real true nature of your personality answers to God straight away.” We become emancipated from always having to insist on our rights, and we are transfigured. “The transfiguring element is love, personal devotion to Jesus. Love is the outpouring of one personality in fellowship with another personality.”

Father, I see the truth of this reading, and pray for that merging of personalities. This has been in process for decades, now, and I pray for it to continue as I grow in Christ. While each of us is distinct from one another, let us all be one in Jesus. Help me to keep considering that my rights have been forfeited, voluntarily, to you. Let that be right in front of me all day, today, as I go through this Monday workday.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

Is Individuality In the Way?

Today is Sunday, December 11, 2016. Fourteen days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion?” – William Lloyd Garrison

Word of the Day

Fillip – to strike by holding the nail of a finger against the ball of the thumb and then suddenly releasing it from that position.

Today is International Mountain Day. It says one of the ways to celebrate is to “head out to your local mountain.” Um . . . I live in north central Texas. What’s a mountain? Instead, I will celebrate by listening to a Mountain.

We had a great time at the USBC Christmas party last night. The best part was when C won an ice cream maker from the door prizes. The food was good, but the company was better. We sat with some great people at our table. The DJ was okay, but we never got on the dance floor. We left around 10:15, before they drew names for the “big” prizes, where were three 32″ TVs and a 16 gig iPad Air, or whatever it’s called. The catch was, if your name got called for a big gift, and you had already won something, you had to make a choice; either keep the gift you already had, or surrender it for the big prize. We don’t need a TV or an iPad, so we left before they gave those away. While we were in the parking lot, C got a text from one of her associates, saying her name had been drawn for one of the TVs. Hahaha!

We are tired this morning, of course, but getting ready for our worship gathering. I am nervous about “Breath of Heaven,” but as long as I keep my focus, it should go fine. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth. The gathering begins at 10:15.

76 days until the first Spring Training game.
113 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Sunday in the third week of Advent

Psa 146:1-2  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Psa 141:3-5  Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Psa 115:1  Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psa 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Luk 2:33-35  And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Psa 142:1-4  A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer. With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.

“Trouble does its best work when it drives us to God.” When we discover that others either cannot or will not help us, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we also discover that God can and will assist us. “That we are abandoned by others is not the last straw so much as the first step to realization that God is our help and salvation.”

“In the empty places in my life, devastated by broken promises and vacated by faithless companions, come, Holy Spirit, as Companion and Comforter. I will use my times of trouble to receive the help that only you can give. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Mat 16:24  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

“If we mistake individuality for the personal life, we will remain isolated.” What does it mean to deny myself? Individuality must go, “in order that the personal life may come out and be brought into fellowship with God.” The traits of individuality are “independence and self-assertiveness,” two things that we have to dispense with if we are to follow Jesus and walk in the Kingdom of God.

If I find that I cannot believe, it is because “individuality is in the road.” If I cannot be reconciled with my brother, it is because I am holding on to individuality. What is it that causes us to be offended by the least little thing? It is our individuality. In order to come into perfect union with our Father, we must be willing to give up our right to ourselves. We must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus.

Father, this something that plagues me consistently. I have struggled with this for years, and I continue to do so. I do believe that we are making progress, but it is still an issue, as I find myself being overly judgmental toward people, being offended by certain things, or simply not wanting to interact with other believers at all. I pray for your Holy Spirit to continue to chisel away at this husk of individuality until my personal life can shine through and walk in unity with you through Christ.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Grace and peace, friends.

Faith in Experience v. Faith in the Gospel

Today is Saturday, December 3, 2016. Twenty-two days until Christmas.

Quote of the Day

“They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.” – Bil Keane

Word of the Day

Jackelope – A mythical animal depicted as a hare or rabbit with horns and said to exist in parts of North America. (I confess I am surprised to see that word in the Oxford English Dictionary!)

Today is Disability Day, also known as International Day of People with Disability. “The aim of Disability Day is to encourage a better understanding of people affected by a disability, together with helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of disabled people, as well as raise awareness about the benefits of integrating disabled persons into every aspect of life, from economic, to political, to social and cultural.” It is important that we recognize, as well, that not all disabilities are visible. In fact, many are not. The scope of this day ranges from Autism to Down Syndrome to Multiple Sclerosis and more. If someone is not acting the way you think they should be, there may be more to the story than you know. In fact, it is likely that there is always more to the story than we know.

The main thing going on today is the Night of Worship that is happening tonight. We have this event at the house of some of our church members. He and his wife came up with this idea a few months ago, and we have been doing it pretty much monthly every since. The potential for blessing is tremendous, and we pray for God to meet us there, and anoint those who are involved in the musical side of things, the hosting side of things, and the technological side of things. What we desire is for God to “show up” and do whatever he wants to do. I’ll be going to the house at 2:00 PM for practice, a little earlier than usual, because we have a guest playing and singing with us tonight. We’ve never played with her, so the leader wants to have a little extra time so we can practice together leisurely.

Our worship gathering is, of course, tomorrow morning, and our pastor will continue in our Christmas series. And we are actually singing three Christmas songs tomorrow morning! They are all contemporary, though. None of the traditional Christmas songs.

C’s step-dad seems to be doing well. He is now breathing on his own, with no help from the ventilator. He was scheduled for a dialysis session this morning, as he still had a lot of fluid. But things seem to be looking good.

84 days until the first Spring Training game.
121 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Saturday of the first week of Advent

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. Psalm 46:8

O LORD . . . answer us when we call. Psalm 20:9

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. Psalm 59:9

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:13

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:22-23

A Psalm of David. O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; 
  who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 
  in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 
  who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 
  They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 
  Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 
  I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 
  Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:19-24

The fact that God sees all and knows all does not strike me as intrusion, making me want to hide from him. Rather, it causes me to look at him as a companion. I welcome his knowledge of me and find it comforting. “God’s knowledge of me and his presence with me bring understanding and freedom.” For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

“Lord, I see through a glass darkly; I am full of obscurities and shadows. You are the light of the world. Show me what I am in the light of your love so that I may find myself in your way and in your salvation. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. 1 Corinthians 2:4

“If in preaching the Gospel you substitute your clear knowledge of the way of salvation for confidence in the power of the Gospel, you hinder people getting to Reality.” We must be rooted and grounded in our faith in God when we proclaim any knowledge. Our faith must not be in our knowledge.

Once we are rooted in this “Reality,” we cannot be shaken. “If your faith is in experience, anything that happens is likely to upset that faith; but nothing can ever upset God or the almighty Reality of Redemption; base your faith on that, and you are as eternally secure as God.”

I can speak from experience to the truth of that statement. I have been in both situations. When my faith is in my “experience,” the least little thing that happens can shake it. But when my faith is in God, in the “Reality of Redemption,” I am unshakable. Unfortunately, I seem to vacillate between the two.

Father, help me to stay in the place where my faith is in you and your Reality, rather than the experiences that I have gained from you. Let my faith be in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than in any knowledge that I might have. My knowledge is faulty. You are not. I must not have faith in anything that is faulty.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace, friends.

One Way

“There is only one way in which I can get right with God, and that is by the Death of Jesus Christ.”

Today is Thursday, December 1, 2016. Welcome to December. Twenty-four days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” – Blaise Pascal

Word of the Day

Thaumaturgy the performance of miracles; specifically : magic

Today is Eat A Red Apple Day. I probably won’t be doing that, as we currently do not have any apples. I might eat a banana, though. Which isn’t close at all.

C is already on her way up to the hospital, this morning, hoping to get a visit with her step-dad before he goes into surgery. The surgery is scheduled for 7:00 AM. It’s going to be risky, due to his already frail health, but they have to try to fix his elbows and knee. Those of you who are pray-ers, please lift him up.

I neglected to mention, earlier, that we are getting free lunch at work, today. Somewhere around three weeks ago, our site passed the 1000 day mark of safety, having no lost-time accidents. So management is rewarding us. We are having BBQ brought in.

86 days until the first Spring Training game.
123 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62:5

Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. Luke 2:26-31

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
  even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 
  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
Psalm 139:7-12

“God cannot be avoided.” We cannot run away from him; staying away from church does not keep us out of the sight of God. Ignoring him will not make him go away. “Always and everywhere, he is the one with whom we have to do.”

“God, when I am lonely, I want you to be close to me but feel you are far away; when I am guilty, I want you to be far away but can’t escape the sense of your presence. My feelings, I know, have little to do with the reality of your presence. Thank you for being with me to bless and not condemn, to comfort and not accuse, even in Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. James 2:10

This is a very important concept for us. “The moral law does not consider us as weak human beings at all, it takes no account of our heredity and infirmities, it demands that we be absolutely moral.” This is a truth that many fail to understand. For those who are not believers in Christ, yet somehow manage to believe in God, there is a prevailing notion that they can possible be “good enough” to get to heaven. The idea is that if their “good works” outweigh their “bad works,” they will make it. The law of God does not allow for this.

As James so aptly points out, here, if there is one failure, just one, all is lost, there is no hope. “I, a guilty sinner, can never get right with God, it is impossible.” As Paul says, in Romans 7:24, Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

“There is only one way in which I can get right with God, and that is by the Death of Jesus Christ.” We cannot obey our way to perfection. The thing is, though, Jesus, himself claims his yoke to be “easy.” Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Step into the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. It is the only way to “get right with God.”

Father, I praise you that you have drawn me into this life. I know that I still experience daily failures, sometimes hourly. But I also believe that I am covered by the blood of Jesus, and that, through his life and death, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have been set right with you and are kept right with you. It is not a license to do as I please, and I pray your forgiveness for when I slip into that way of thinking. Draw me further in, teach me the disciplines that are required to live this life, and enable me to do so.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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. (John 15:4)

Grace and peace, friends.

Humility or Defiance?

Today is Wednesday, November 30, 2016. Last day of November. 25 days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence.” – Thomas Hood

Word of the Day

Soporific – causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull awareness or alertness

Today is Stay Home Because You’re Well Day. Hah! I wish!

As usual, there isn’t much to talk about on Wednesday morning. Middle of the week, everything is pretty much as usual. We did hear that C’s step-dad will be having surgery tomorrow morning (Thursday) at 7:00 AM. They are hoping to do the surgery on all of the broken arrows, if he is able to endure that.

87 days until the first Spring Training game.
124 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared. Psalm 76:11

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! 
  Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.
Psalm 119:169-170

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. Psalm 54:6

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! Psalm 119:10

(From Praying With the Psalms)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 
  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:1-6

This was one my father’s favorite psalms, and is also one of mine.

Let us make no mistake. It is God who seeks us out first, not we who seek him first. “God makes the first move; he understands our being and is conversant with our most personal inner life.” If we truly understand this, it should remove any panic from our faith and any anxiety from our hope. “All our works can be response and all our words praise.”

“‘I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true; no I was found of Thee’ (Anonymous, ‘I Sought the Lord’). Amen.”

I am reminded of the popular bumper sticker from the seventies. I had one on my car. “I Found It!” it said. Little did I realize that this was incorrect. I did not find God (or salvation). He found me. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:10

“The way we continually talk about our own inability is an insult to the creator.” Seriously, we should examine some of the things we say that we think sound humble. “Oh, I’m no saint,” you will hear people say. Perhaps you have said it, yourself. What that really means is, “No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me; there are chances I have not had; so many imperfections in my brain and body; no, Lord, it isn’t possible.” It may sound humble, but it’s really “an attitude of defiance.”

We should be concerned with what sounds humble before men. “Never bother your head as to whether what you say sounds humble before men or not, but always be humble before God, and let Him be all in all.”

Father, I pray for this kind of humility in my life. Let me not be guilty of defying your ability to save and sanctify me. I am a saint, by your grace and by the blood of Christ. My sin is washed away (even those sins which I commit anew every day), and I am growing closer and closer to you. Maybe not very quickly, but still growing closer, and that is a testament to your grace and power. The ability that I do have has been given me by you. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace Cannot Be Earned Or Won

“We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without it.”

Today is Monday, November 28, 2016. Twenty-seven days until Christmas.

Quote of the Day

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” – André Gide

Word of the Day

Vicissitude – the quality or state of being changeable.

Today is French Toast Day. Some people really like French Toast. I’ve never been crazy about it, myself. I would just as soon have pancakes or waffles.

Yesterday was a mixed bag. We had a good worship gathering in the morning, then stopped by Slim Chickens for lunch, a place we had never tried before. It was pretty good, basically, just chicken tenders and “wings.” (Ever since I discovered that “boneless wings” are just chicken nuggets, I have seriously believed that they should not be allowed to call them “wings.”) They serve up dinner boxes with three to five tenders, a side of your choice (they have mac and cheese, which is good for S), two dipping sauces, and a drink. It was pretty good; better than Chicken Express. I don’t think it’s a place we will go very often, though, as we are not frequently in the mood for chicken tenders.

After finishing season 2 of iZombie on Netflix, we started looking at some of those genealogical DNA tests that you can get. After doing some research, I think I’ve decided that they may just not be worth the money. They can’t really pinpoint what country your ancestors are from, just “European” or “Asian” or “African,” basically just what continent. We are already pretty confident that my father’s ancestors are European, so what’s the point in paying $60-200 to find that out? Also, we read that the Ancestry DNA test is frequently wrong. And since I’m almost 60 years old, I don’t really care to know what diseases I might get. By this time, if I’m going to get them, I’m going to get them. “Que sera sera,” as it were.

We closed out the weekend with an unexpected hospital visit, as C got a call from her step-dad’s daughter. It seems that her step-dad dreamed he could walk and tried to get up out of bed, which resulted in him falling (he had a leg amputated a couple years ago). In mid-fall, he realized what was happening and tried to catch himself, which resulted in two broken elbows and a broken knee. We visited with him for a bit, and he is in fairly good spirits, all things considered. There will be surgeries, but when and how many at one time is yet to be determined.

89 days until the first Spring Training Game
126 days until Opening Day

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Psalm 71:8

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. Psalm 71:17

This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.  Psalm 118:23

(From Praying With the Psalms)

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 
  and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. 
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
Psalm 138:4-6

Our praise should not be kept private; it is not a hobby to only be indulged in at home. Praise is “a public affirmation, a powerful witness to God’s ways and a celebration of his goodness.”

“‘Mighty God, while angels bless Thee, may a mortal sing Thy name? Lord of men as well as angels, Thou art every creature’s theme. Lord of every land and nation, ancient of eternal days, sounded through the wide creation be Thy just and endless praise’ (Robert Robinson, ‘Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee’). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

. . . and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . Romans 3:24

“We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without it.” Until we arrive at a point where we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are destitute, God can do nothing with us. If we believe that we are, within ourselves, sufficient, we will receive nothing from God. We must realize our spiritual poverty, and only then can we receive God’s gift of grace. It cannot be earned; it cannot be won.

Father, I praise you for this truth. I am nothing without you. In the words of Horatius Bonar, in How Shall I Go to God, “It is with our sins that we go to God, for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own.” You have taught me this over the past couple of decades, and to this, at least, I have listened and learned. I am supremely grateful to you, Father, for your salvation, and all that you have given me. I still have much to surrender in my life, so I beg you to keep working in and with me, teaching me to walk in the Kingdom, joining in the easy yoke of Christ.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Fundamentally Disconnected

Today is Sunday, November 27, 2016. Twenty-eight days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“Study the past, if you would divine the future.” – Confucius

Word of the Day

Soliloquize – to talk to oneself. Boy, do I do that!

Today is Pins and Needles Day. Believe it or not, this day started in 1937 to commemorate the opening of a Broadway musical play by the same name. It was produced by Ladies Garment Workers’ Union. Here’s the only song I can find on You Tube from the musical.

We didn’t do a whole lot yesterday, but we did get the grocery shopping done. We also went to a local business to get some Christmas decorations. They didn’t have any dated ornaments, so we bought a couple of new things there, and then wound up going to the one store we knew would have some dated ornaments, Pier One. We found one there, along with a couple of nice smelly things.

This morning, we are getting ready for our worship gathering. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 Beach Street, in Fort Worth. The gathering begins at 10:15.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today is the first Sunday in Advent

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Psalm 111:1

. . . that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. Psalm 83:18

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. Psalm 71:14

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Psalm 118:22

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Of David. 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. 
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
Psalm 138:1-3

“The soul that praises God develops sinews of strength. Without praise our spirits become anemic and flabby. Praise stretches us to respond to God at full capacity and gives heartiness to faith.”

“Mighty God, in the same way that some develop their bodies in calisthenics and games, I will develop my soul in worship and praise. I don’t want any part of my life to be weak resignation; I want all of it, by your grace, to be strong affirmation–a firm yes to your Yes to me in Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

If I focus on the Cross of Christ, it does not make me interested only in my own holiness. Rather, I become “dominantly concentrated on Jesus Christ’s interests.” Jesus did not cut himself off from society. In fact, he was so in touch with the “ordinary world” that people accused him of being a “glutton and a wine-bibber!” Even so, “Our Lord never allowed anything to interfere with His consecration of spiritual energy.”

If we consciously cut ourselves off from things in order to store up spiritual power, we are counterfeiting consecration. Jesus prayed not for us to be taken out of the world, but, rather, that we would be kept from evil. “We are to be in the world but not of it; to be disconnected fundamentally, but not externally.”

Father, help me to be just this; disconnected fundamentally, but not externally. I cannot shut myself off from the external world, and, for the most part, in recent years, I have not attempted to do so. But I must stay connected with you through Christ, and this is the difficult part. It is truly a challenge to stay connected with the world, yet consecrated in you. May your Spirit enable me to do so, and may that be accomplished through remembering to worship and praise you daily, consistently.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.