“We Open Our Hands and Receive”

“We become aware that we are in the presence of a reality that cannot be used, cannot be packaged, cannot be grasped on any other terms than are given to us by God. We open our hands and receive.”

Today is Saturday, August 19, 2017. Day 21,709. It is S’s and J’s birthday!! Happy birthday!!!

Quote of the Day

“1. Never tell everything at once.” ~ Ken Venturi, Ken Venturi’s Two Great Rules of Life

Word of the Day

Theine ~ caffeine, especially in tea.

Today is Humanitarian Day. There were ten different choices for today’s “holiday.” I chose this one because I believe the world could use more humanitarianism right now.

C and S had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon. They kept sending me pictures of what they were doing, from Lunch at Martha’s Mexican Cocina, to the place where they got mani/pedis, to the cupcake shop. After I got home from work, we went to a local hibachi restaurant. We waited over an hour for a table, and the service and food were only okay, but we still had a good time. You can check out my review on Yelp. After dinner, we stopped at Sonic for drinks (of course), then ran through the Krispy Kreme drive through for some donuts for this morning’s breakfast.

While all of this was going on, the Red Sox were beating the Yankees (after falling behind), 9-6. This puts them five games up in the AL East.

Meanwhile, the Rangers lost to the last place team in the Central Division, the Other Sox. 4-3, with the go ahead run being an inside the park round trip on the relief pitcher’s first pitch. So the Rangers fall back to one game below .500, 14.5 behind the first place Astros, but didn’t lose any ground in the wild card race, because the Halos and Yanks both lost, as well.

In a little while, we will pack up a few clothes and head to Mineral Wells to visit with Grandma, spend the night, and go to church with her tomorrow. Not sure when the grocery shopping will get done.

Oh, and one last thing. I will not be doing a blog entry tomorrow. I don’t plan to take my laptop to Mineral Wells with me.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:3
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. 
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5:11-12
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:11
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Matthew 13:33
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!

Psalm 146:5-10
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Psalm 23:1-2

(From Practice Resurrection)

Today, we look at the third of the seven verbs that Eugene H. Peterson highlights in Ephesians 1:3-14. This verb is destined.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:5-6

Please note that the above reference is from the English Standard Version. There is some disagreement, across translations, as to where the words “in love” belong. King James Version places them at the end of the previous sentence, as does Peterson, in The Message. The New International Version agrees with the ESV, as does the New American Standard Bible. The New Revised Standard Version, however, agrees with the KJV and The Message. So, who knows? It’s not really relevant to this discussion, anyway. Moving on . . .

The words “destined” and “chosen” are very similar and, perhaps, even synonymous. Both words show us that our lives are not random, they have intention. “We are not a swarm of bees buzzing in and out of a hive, not a colony of ants following a scent in and out of an anthill.” God chooses and he destines. But they are not quite synonymous.

The word “destine” is, of course, included in the word “destination.” “God notices, identifies and chooses us. But that generalized choice now gels into an appointment that is congruent with God’s choice.”

The Greek word for “destine” is prooridzo, which “derives from the noun ‘boundary’ (oros). Literally, it means to set a limit, to mark a boundary.” What this tells us, is that, “When God destines, he marks out the boundaries in which we live the purposed life to which he appoints us. We aren’t set loose in the cosmos to find our place and way in it as best we can.” It is evident that there are many people out there who believe that we are, in fact, left alone to figure out our own way. Sadly, some of these even claim to be followers of Christ. But this being chosen is not abstract. “It develops into a relationship that is mutual and reciprocal.”

There is also much mystery involved in this idea of destining. “The moment we recognize that virtually everything that has to do with God takes place previous to our knowing anything about it, it becomes obvious that since we are not gods ourselves, we are forever unable to totally comprehend this ‘everything.'” These are very important truths that Peterson is laying out for us, here. He gives us two effects of this: first, “it absolutely demands humility — we don’t know enough to either protest or approve.” Second, “adoration is spontaneous. We become aware that we are in the presence of a reality that cannot be used, cannot be packaged, cannot be grasped on any other terms than are given to us by God. We open our hands and receive.”

Over the decades, many have still worked at “decontextualizing and depersonalizing” the word “destined,” or “predestined,” trying to create a sort of “blueprint” theology that wants to determine “the way we will live our lives in each detail. Some even go so far as to say that the blueprint actually determines the eternal fate, salvation or damnation, of each and every purpose who has ever lived.”

Concerning this idea, George Eliot once said, “The dunce who can’t do sums wants to solve the problems of the universe.”

The problem is that none of us has the blueprint. So all of the guessing, “over study Bibles in churches and over pitchers of beer in saloons,” is nothing more than squandered speculation. “The blueprint version of predestination wreaks havoc in too many lives. It is not a satisfactory formula for growing up in Christ.”

Now, anyone who has known me for very long knows that I have been a pretty staunch “Calvinist” for several decades. However, I prefer not to use that term, any more. I prefer to say that I believe in the “doctrines of grace.” I still pretty much subscribe to the “TULIP” model, but I certainly appreciate Eugene’s perspective on this. And I find myself largely in agreement with him. I used to lack humility in this area. That is no longer true (don’t misunderstand . . . I am in no way, shape, or form declaring how humble I am). I find that I agree that we don’t have the blueprint, and that trying to definitively declare anything in this matter is dangerously speculative. We are, indeed, as Eugene says, “forever unable to totally comprehend this ‘everything.'”

To further clarify this, Peterson tells us that Markus Barth says that this passage in Ephesians, rather than hinting at determinism, has a tone of “adoring rather than calculating.”

“The God who destines/predestines cannot be depersonalized into a cosmic blueprint — even if the blueprint has ‘God’s will’ inscribed on it and a host of angels are energetically making sure its specifications are being enacted in each and every life on planet Earth.”

Father, I do give you praise for choosing and destining me. Thank you for putting me in a place with boundaries, so that I don’t have to wander around in mystery, trying to find my place in this world. I also thank you for pulling me back from a place that lacked humility regarding these things. How dare I believe that I had put you in a theological blueprint box!! I praise you that you don’t fit in any boxes!! Keep teaching me about yourself, and about this wonderful entity that we call “church.”
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.

Chose

Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017. Day 21,706. Only THREE MORE DAYS until S’s and J’s birthday!!!!!!!

Quote of the Day

“There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement.” ~ E. B. White

Word of the Day

Paludal ~ of or relating to marshes; produced by marshes, as miasma or disease.

Today is Rum Day. What else do I need to say?

Tonight is our regular bowling night. Hopefully, we will do better than we did Monday night. And hopefully, my knee will not be in agony after it is over. There has been a day between, so maybe it will be okay. Otherwise, I’ll be taking a lot of Ibuprofen tonight.

The Red Sox blasted the Cardinals 10-4, last night, as Porcello actually got another win. The Yankees won, too, so the Sox maintain their 4.5 game lead in the AL East.

The Rangers also did some blasting, beating the Tigers 10-4 (how weird is that?). The Astros also won, so no gain, there, but the Angels lost, so the Rangers are now only two games out of the second wild card spot.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

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

Psalm 103:1-2
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14
The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
Psalm 12:6
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:64
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 12:33-34
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church

(From Practice Resurrection)

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Ephesians 1:4

Today’s verb is “chose.”

Most of us have memories in our lives of not being chosen for something. I wasn’t chosen for the high school baseball team. I wasn’t chosen for the junior high basketball team. Sometimes, we are the last one chosen in a recess kickball game (which may be worse than not being chosen at all). We might be not chosen for a job, or not chosen for a spouse. When we are not chosen, it sends a subliminal message; “I have no worth, . . . I am not useful, . . . I am good for nothing.”

We don’t take this lying down. We might counter by borrowing an identity, living vicariously through a sports team or political cause. Some “develop the persona of a bully who breaks decorum and rules, compelling notice even though it gets us expelled from a classroom or club or saloon.” Some people dye their hair purple, or get a well-placed tattoo.

All of these strategies do accomplish getting noticed, but they don’t last.

“Against this background, common to all of us, of not being noticed, being ignored, being dismissed as of no account, being indistinguishable from the background, the verb ‘chose’ is a breath of fresh air: God chose us.”

“And yes, God chose us.” And it wasn’t some last-minute thing, either. Look at the verse. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” “We are in on the action, long before we have any idea that we are in on the action. We are cosmic.”

Father, thank you for choosing us, for letting us know that we have some value to you. Let us not get arrogant about that “value,” because the only reason we have any value is because you gave it to us. And let us live in such a way as to be worthy of your choosing. Not so that we can get you to like us or love us more . . . that is impossible. But so that we can be closer to you, walking in your kingdom as a follower of Jesus Christ; participating in his “easy yoke.”
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.

Blessed

Today is Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Day 21,705. Only FOUR more days until S’s and J’s birthday!!!!!!

Quote of the Day

“The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, ‘Is there a meaning to music?’ My answer would be, ‘Yes.’ And ‘Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?’ My answer to that would be, ‘No.'” ~ Aaron Copland

Word of the Day

Ululate ~ to lament loudly and shrilly.

Today is Relaxation Day. Which is totally unfair. I guess I can relax tonight.

Our bowling didn’t go so well, last night. I finally got my average in the last game, with a 164, but my first game was 131, and my second was 141. Not horrific, but still well below my average, which was, as of last night, 157. We get to bowl again tomorrow night. As I struggled, last night, I kept thinking, “Only two more weeks!” Hahaha. I do love bowling, but this weeknight stuff is hard for us.

The Red Sox lost to their previous manager, Terry Francona and the Indians, last night. The Yanks won, so the Sox are back at 4.5 up, still in first place.

The Rangers beat Detroit 6-2, and the Astros lost. They are 14.5 games out, in fourth place. Still 3 games back of the second wild card spot, because the Yankees and Angels both won. The Angels are on a six game winning streak.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;

Psalm 136:1-3
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 
Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

Psalm 86:1-2
The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. 
Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest.

Psalm 50:1-3
The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.”
Psalm 132:11

(From Practice Resurrection)

Yesterday, I mentioned the seven verbs that Peterson highlights in Ephesians 1:3-14. Today, we examine the first of those; blessed.

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

We can see right away that the word is used in two completely different ways. The first is an adjective, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The adjective “characterizes God, who blesses as he himself is blessed.” The second is the verb, “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” The noun “blessing” describes our our experience with God. “What God does comes out of who God is. And what we receive from God is who God is.”

We do not divide God up into parts. “God is who he is. We don’t figure God out. We don’t explain God. We don’t define God. We worship God who is as he is.” We are always guilty of trying to explain or define God, though, aren’t we? And it truthfully cannot be done, not in human words, anyway. So it is best to simply accept God as who is is, who does what he does out of who he is.

We also should not presume to try to tell God how to be God. “When we worship God, we let God be God.” Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, MY God wouldn’t (fill in the action you don’t like)!” Don’t do that. Just don’t. As the Psalmist said, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

But we begin our journey with “blessed.” God is blessed, he blessed us with spiritual blessings.

Father, you allow us to “bless” you, but not in the same way that you “bless” us. You bless us out of who you are, and I praise you for that. Forgive me for when I try to “figure you out” or explain you. You are God; you do whatever you please, and that is your right and privilege, because you are God, and we are not. Thank you for your blessings! Help us to recognize them more fully and often, that we might not complain or grumble so much about other things.
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.

Seven Verbs

Today is Monday, August 14, 2017. Day 21,704. Only FIVE days until S’s and J’s birthday!!!!!

Quote of the Day

“It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear.” ~ Douglas Adams

Word of the Day

Iconoclastic ~ attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions, etc., as being based on error, superstition, or lack of creativity.

Today is National Navajo Code Talkers Day. To learn more about this, check out this link.

We had a lovely day with R and J, yesterday. After give J his gifts, we all went to Mexican Inn for lunch. Then we came back home, and after much debate and discussion, decided on watching a Patton Oswald stand-up comedy special. Oh, and we had red velvet cake (that C made) and ice cream, too.

This evening, C and I have to go bowling to make up for last week’s Wednesday night games, which we skipped because our teammates were out of town. Then we bowl again on Wednesday. Hopefully, my knees can handle it. Our last official week is next Wednesday, the 23rd, then we have a fun night on the 30th, where prizes will be awarded (I’m not thinking any of us will get any), and there will be what is called a “sweeper.” This is a one-night event in which all bowlers contribute to a prize pot, which is won by the highest scores.

I think school starts in our area tomorrow. So traffic will be a little heavier, going forward. This means I need to be more efficient with my time in the mornings, so I can get out of the house on time.

The Rangers lost a close game to the Astros, yesterday, but they won the series. Nevertheless, the Silver Boot record is now 5-8, in favor of the ‘stros, and the Rangers are back to 15.5 out, still in fourth place. They play Detroit tonight.

The Red Sox beat the Yankees 3-2 in ten innings, winning that series 2-1, and increasing their lead over the Yankees to 5.5 games. The Sox play Cleveland tonight.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
Psalm 96:9
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 80:1
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 50:2
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

Isaiah 61:10-11
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! 
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:1-8
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.
The Gloria
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer

(From Practice Resurrection)

In the days to come, we will be looking at seven verbs that Eugene Peterson has highlighted from Paul’s long sentence in Ephesians 1:3-14. Blessed, chose, destined, bestowed, lavished, made known, and gathered up. “Seven verbs, each one detonated by God, verbs that fill the sky and illuminate the earth with God’s ways of working among us.”

Father, continue to teach me what it means to be part of your church. Take away my desire to be isolated from people. Infuse me with a desire to be around my brothers and sisters in Christ, both giving to them and receiving from them. Make us more willing to receive from you when we worship you. Help us to see you working and be willing to join you in that work. Take away our penchant to start working on our own and then hope you will bless that work.
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.

Consigned To the Sidelines

Today is Sunday, August 13, 2017. Day 21,703. Only SIX DAYS until S’s and J’s birthday!!!!

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 
Psalm 98:1
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Psalm 139:17
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24
Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 
fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 
Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 
Young men and maidens together, old men and children! 
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. 
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the LORD! 

Psalm 148:7-14
Grant to me, Lord, I pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that I, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week

(From Practice Resurrection)

After the initial greeting of Ephesians 1:1-2, Paul begins with God. The Bible story begins with God, way back in Genesis. John, when writing his Gospel, begins with God. Our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not, begin with God.

But “We have short attention spans. Having been introduced to God, we soon lose interest in God and become preoccupied with ourselves.” Feelings, emotions, families, jobs, health, friends . . . all of these things “muscle their way to center stage,” and God is “consigned to the sidelines, conveniently within calling distance to help out in emergencies and be available for consultation for the time when we have run out of answers.”

How many times have you heard it said, in life-or-death health situation, “We’ve done all we can. It’s in God’s hands now.” As if it weren’t in God’s hands the whole time.

Also, this state of mind is also found in faithful church-goers. It’s not exclusive to people who do not attend church. We feel that we don’t need God for the everyday things like driving to work, cooking dinner, taking out the trash, washing the dishes, cleaning up the dog’s “accidents,” and so on. We need him for the big things, but the rest of life, we’ve got this.

And this “usually adds up to a workable life, at least when accompanied by a decent job and a good digestion.” But it is not “the practice of resurrection, it is not growing up in Christ, it is not living in the company of the Trinity.” And if we continue in that state, we will “never arrive” at what Paul calls “the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)

Father, I thank you that I have not consigned you to the sidelines. At least not every day. I confess that there are days when I am guilty of doing that, but, in essence, my life does revolve around you. I have experienced live without immersing myself in the presence of the Trinity, and I have experienced live walking in the Trinitarian presence, and I can say without hesitation that the latter is infinitely better. So, each day, may I wake up in your presence, acknowledge that presence before my feet touch the floor, and may I walk in that presence all day long. I pray that you, through your Spirit, and by the blood of Christ, will help me to grow up into the fullness 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.

It’s Not A Small World, After All

Today is Friday, August 11, 2017. Day 21,701. Only eight more days until S’s and J’s birthday!!

Quote of the Day

“A motion to adjourn is always in order.” ~ Robert Heinlein, Lazarus Long: Time Enough For Love
The Quotations Page

Word of the Day

Nimbus, a noun, meaning, “a cloud, aura, atmosphere, etc., surrounding a person or thing.”

Today is Play In the Sand Day. Oh, how I would love to do that!!

It’s finally Friday! It seems like this week has dragged on. Of course, it has been the same length as any other week, hasn’t it? I’m not sure if the floor people will finish today or tomorrow. They have about 3/4 of our bedroom and the study to finish. The most challenging part will probably be moving our bed. Everything is looking very nice, though. We are very happy with the choice we made for the new floor.

R & J are coming over Sunday, so we can celebrate J’s birthday this weekend. Next weekend, for S’s birthday, we will be traveling to Mineral Wells on Saturday, spending the night, and attending church with Grandma on Sunday. It’s what S wants to do, so that’s what we will do.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. 
Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

Psalm 68:34-35
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 139:23-24
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Psalm 80:3
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 
Psalm 119:15
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 
You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 
for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:33-37

(From Practice Resurrection)

Moving into chapter 3, “God and His Glory: Ephesians 1:3-14.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love . . . [this] is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:3-4, 14

“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” ~ Frederich Buechner, Godric

In the original Greek text, the “201 words beginning with ‘blessed’ (1:3) and ending with ‘glory’ (v. 14)” comprise a single sentence! One scholar even referred to it as “the most monstrous sentence conglomeration . . . I have ever met in the Greek language” (Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3, The Anchor Bible). But Peterson says, “Paul is playful, extravagant, and totally engaging as he tells us what is going on in this God-created, Christ-saved, Spirit-blessed world into which we have been born and are now growing up.”

Somehow, in our little lives, we have managed to reduce the world into nice, comfy places in which we feel cozy. “Sin shrinks our imaginations.” But we truly cannot afford to allow this to happen if we are going to really grow up in Christ. Our world is massive, and “If we calculate the nature of the world by what we can manage or explain, we end up living in a very small world.” (Cue Disney music.)

Hah! I know what you’re going to be humming all day, now!

As Eugene Peterson describes Ephesians in language that only he can muster, he says, “Ephesians plunges us into ocean deeps, and we come up gasping for air.” I love this.

Father, take me into your depths as I continue to read this book. Expand my imagination, that truly has been shrunken by both sin and laziness. Open my eyes, my heart, and my soul to see the vast expanse of the world in which I live, that I might truly understand its nature, and more importantly, the nature of this thing we call “church.”
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.

Gifts In Community

Today is Saturday, August 5, 2017. Day 21,695. Fourteen days until S’s and J’s birthday!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is consuetude, a noun, meaning, “custom, especially as having legal force.”

Today is Mead Day! I’m a huge fan of mead! Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage, resembling wine, but heavier, and honey-based. Hence, it is very sweet and thick. It’s also quite hard to find. Each year, when we visit Scarborough Renaissance Festival, I make sure to grab a glass at one of their beverage sellers.

I had to work late, yesterday, but only until about 5:30, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last two Fridays. We had a nice evening at home, just eating our dinner and watching TV. Then I played Fallout: New Vegas for a little while on the Xbox 360. I think I might be getting close to finishing that game.

The Red Sox pulled off a win over the Other Sox when Mitch Moreland hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning. They are now three games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The Rangers didn’t fare so well, losing 8-4 to the Twins. They are in fourth place in the AL west, 18 games out. They are only 4.5 games out of the wild card spot, but if they continue to play just below .500 ball, they aren’t going to make it this year. And with the mediocre pitching they have (made even worse by dumping Yu Darvish for virtually nothing), it’s not likely to get better.

Today, we have some preparation to do, in order to get ready for the floor people to begin on Monday morning. C bought some plastic totes to start putting stuff in, especially from shelves that will need to be moved. Some shelves won’t have to be unloaded, as they will slide easily. Others, such as the cabinet full of records in our bedroom, certainly won’t slide and will have to be emptied out.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 
sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

Psalm 66:1-3
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:22
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92:4
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

John 14:27-28
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

(From Practice Resurrection)

It’s been a while, but I’m getting back to this book, as I am close to completing chapter 2. This chapter focuses on part of Ephesians chapter 4. Paul is instructing us that we need to grow up, to come to maturity, in Christ. One condition of growing up is that we “take up responsibilities commensurate with our strength and understanding.” In order to exercise these responsibilities, we have to have received the Spirit of Christ, which he sent to us at Pentecost, ten days after the Ascension.

We grow up in “a profusion of gifts.” Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8) Jesus, upon ascending to the right hand of the Father, has launched his rule by giving gifts. These gifts “turn out to be ways in which we participate in his kingly, gospel rule.”

Whether we realize it or not, we understand the language of gifts. We begin as a gift. “We don’t make ourselves. We don’t birth ourselves.” And immediately after we are born, we begin getting gifts. Food, clothing, shelter, all of these things are gifts to us from the beginning of our lives. Paul even says, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?” (The Message) Eventually, all of these gifts begin to develop and mature into strengths and responsibilities. This begins in what we know as adolescence, one of the more awkward periods of our lives. But awkward and turbulent as it is, it is the time when we begin to grow into adult responsibilities, using the gifts that we have received, thus far. It is when we begin to learn to exercise the gifts in community.

Paul begins to list gifts. In Ephesians 4:11, he lists five: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. “These are gifts that equip us to work alongside and in company with Jesus.” They are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (v. 12). “We are being invited into a working relationship in the operations of the Trinity.”

One thing is important to understand, and I find that I have agreed with Peterson for many years on this. “Too often the gifts have been understood individually, conferred on us to be used as we have willingness and aptitude and inclination.” Peterson flat out says, “This is wrong.” As we remember that the work is the work of the Trinity, and we are invited to be fellow-workers with Jesus, Peterson says, “Any one of us, at any one time, may be given any of the jobs. We are in on this together. This is not specialty work–this is the community at work.”

Paul lists gifts many times in his letters. No one list is definitive. No one list names all of the gifts. John Stott has counted at least twenty distinct gifts in the writings of Paul. Some are very noticeable and dynamic (if you watch carefully, you will see that these are the ones highlighted by the more “charismatic” fellowships), while some are quite unsensational, such as doing acts of mercy. “The diversity of gifts adds up to a unity of function. There can be no rivalry among either gifts or the gifted.” That last sentence is so very important, and we fail at it so often. If we begin to see ourselves being jealous of other peoples’ giftings, we are completely out of sync. And, yes, I have been there, so I can speak from experience. If I’m looking at someone else and judging whether or not they deserve that gift or whether they are “doing it right,” I am absolutely wrong! I am focusing on the wrong things, altogether. We must be together, we must be for each other, and if someone has been given a gift by the Spirit, we should be encouraging.

I will say that we can’t rule out the possibility that someone might think they have a gift that they don’t really have. That’s a different topic that won’t be covered here.

“What Paul insists on is that everything we do in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit is an obedient exercise of some aspect of the work of the Trinity that we get in on as we become mature enough to do it.” We must never think that we are doing it on our own, in our own power, or that we are the originator of these gifts. Remember Paul’s words in Corinthians. “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

Father, I pray for the spiritual sensitivity to be aware of the giftings that you give me, and the assignments that you give me as I live in community with other Christ-followers. May we all be the same in this. All of us are, at any given time, gifted with different gifts, strengths, and responsibilities. Likewise, we all have different weaknesses. May we recognize these and know that all of us together can make a cohesive unit that can operate with great efficiency and productivity in your Kingdom. Let us be for one another, encouraging one another in the diversity of gifts that we have. And let us never get arrogant about our gifts, but humbly acknowledge that you are our Source for everything.
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.