Building with Love

Today is Saturday, the twenty-third of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul, today!

Day 23,508

We almost got a break from the heat wave, yesterday, but as we know, “almost” only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons. It hit 100 in my area (at least the closest airport . . . my app said 101 at around 4:30 yesterday) to make our 27th day of triple digits and seventh consecutive. There was no rain. Today’s forecast calls for 101 with little to no chance of rain. July 29th (next Friday) remains the next forecast day below 100.

It’s my Saturday to work, so I’ll be at the library from 9:30 to 6:15, today. Since we don’t start until 9:30, we only get 45 minutes for lunch on Saturday, which is still more than I got at my old job, so that’s fine.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Oakland Athletics, 5-4, last night. This makes Texas 42-50 for the season, still in third place in the AL West. They are 19 games out of first place and eight games out of the Wild Card race. They play Oakland again, tonight, at 8:07 CDT.

Apparently a fake Red Sox team took the field, last night at Fenway Park, and lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 28-5. The fiasco included an inside the park grand slam home run. I have no words. The Sox are now 48-46 for the season, dangerously close to dropping below .500. They are in fourth place in the AL East, only a game and a half ahead of the Orioles. They are 16.5 out of first place, and three games out of the Wild Card race. The three Wild Card spots are currently held by Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Seattle.

The Nationals continue to have the worst MLB record, at 31-64. Seattle finally lost a game, so the current longest win streak now belongs to the LA Dodgers, at six consecutive wins. The KC Royals and LA Angels are tied with four straight losses. The Nationals also remain in last place for run differentials, with -158. The Rangers dropped to +6, and with that ridiculous loss, the Red Sox have dropped to +5.

And, while we weren’t paying attention cases of COVID-19 have crept back up around 100,000 per day in the United States.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you have revealed to us the name Jesus Christ, the name of your Son, who leads us to you as your children. May your hand be plainly seen over all the suffering and dying people of our time. May your hand soon bring in a new age, a time truly of God and of the Savior, fulfilling what has long been promised. Watch over us this night. Bless us. In suffering, continue to uphold us with your mighty hand. In grief, may your name still be honored. May your kingdom come, breaking into all the evil of the world, and may your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us. 
(Acts 4:12 TEV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my cats; may I be as good a person as they think I am
2. for the Kingdom of God, available now for all who want to walk in it
3. that God will never leave or forsake us
4. that it is perfectly okay to let God know when I feel forgotten or abandoned
5. that, when I am tempted, there is always a way of escape; God will not allow me to be tempted beyond my ability to resist

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)

This does not say, “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” That is a false statement, made up by humans. What it does say is that everyone is tempted, and there’s always a way out. “I had no choice,” is never a true statement.

"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
(1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV)

The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is build.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
(1 John 4:16 ESV)

I’m intrigued by this, a little. The word “build” can be found in Scripture over a hundred times. Almost 150, actually. Yet we don’t get a verse that includes it. And the reading itself only includes a form of the word (“building”) in the first sentence.

So I’m going to improvise. It’s a good word, I believe, to be included in our prayers. We are constantly trying to build something (I’m talking spiritually, here). The material we use will dictate the efficacy of what we build. The foundation must that of Jesus Christ, otherwise the building will fall. And here are some words from Paul:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
(1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ESV)

So we must ask ourselves . . . are we building with wood, hay, and straw, or are we building with gold, silver, and precious stones?

There is another meaning to the word, as well. Paul admonishes us to “build up” one another. I think the KJV uses the word “edify.”

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
(Romans 15:2 ESV)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)

So here’s the thing, as I attempt to tie all of this in with the Scripture verse included at the top. We know (or should know) the love God has for us, and we know that “God is love.” Therefore, we need to abide in this love, and, as we abide in this love, it should be automatic that we love one another and build one another up in Him.


I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
(Psalms 42:9 ESV)

I have no idea why the Sons of Korah felt compelled to write this. It comes in the middle of the Psalm that begins with the phrase that was made into a popular worship chorus decades ago, “As the deer . . .” But the psalmist doesn’t stop there. He (they?) finishes up with verse 11.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
(Psalms 42:11 ESV)

No matter how bad things look, God has not forgotten us. I have felt that, before, I won’t deny it. I have stood in my living room and declared that God has abandoned us. But that wasn’t true statement, and it didn’t take long for Him to demonstrate that.

God has promise to never leave or forsake us (again, the reason I don’t like the song, “Reckless Love”). He loves us with an everlasting love. And when we feel, as the psalmist did, in Psalm 42, that He has forgotten or forsaken us, it is perfectly fine to pray a prayer like this one:

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
(Psalms 25:16-17 ESV)

And then, it is good to remind ourselves of Psalm 42:11, quoted above.


Father, I am so grateful for Your love, and that I have knowledge of this love. I don’t fully comprehend it, I don’t believe anyone truly does, at least no one who still walks on this planet. I do believe that when I finally see You “face to face,” I will comprehend it, and it will blow my mind. But, for now, I can say that I am grateful for that which I do not fully understand. I know that, without Your love, I would cease to exist.

I thank You that I can pray what I feel to You, and You will not chastise me for it. You may correct me, and certainly I would hope for that. If I am feeling something that isn’t right, and I acknowledge it to You, then I fully expect You to set me straight, and I would accept that joyfully. Because when I do acknowledge those feelings to You, they come out of a place of great frustration and aggravation, and are more questions than declarations.

I’ve been experiencing such feelings lately. I am frustrated with the shape of things on earth, right now, especially in the country where I live. You know my frustrations, so I don’t need to air them here, again. I pray for resolution and unity. I pray for Your children to be able to obey the commands to think of others as more important than ourselves, and to not seek our own good, but the good of our neighbors. In short, help us to love others as Christ (You) have loved us!

I pray that I would build with gold, silver, and precious stones, rather than wood, hay, and straw. Even so, though, I rejoice that my name is written in the Book of Life, and, even if what I build is destroyed by the consuming, purifying fire, I, myself, will survive.

Even so, please come soon, Lord Jesus!


Let us go forward quietly, forever making for the light, and lifting up our hearts in the knowledge that we are as others are (and that others are as we are), and that it is right to love one another in the best possible way – believing all things, hoping for all things, and enduring all things.…And let us not be too troubled by our weaknesses, for even he who has none, has one weakness, namely that he thinks he has none, and anyone who believes himself to be so perfect or wise would do well to become foolish all over again.
(The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, Daily Dig, from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Stop the Fighting

Today is Friday, the twenty-second of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts today!

Day 23,507

We didn’t get our below-100-day, yesterday, as our high was 102. Better than the previous few days, but still higher than we hoped. And there was no rain, at least not in our area, in spite of a 46% chance early in the day. I know that some areas did get some rain, but we didn’t. Today’s forecast shows our next chance of a two-digit high being a week from today, at 99. I’ve noticed, though, that these forecasts change multiple times during the day, so who knows?

C and I have gotten tickets to a musical show for Sunday afternoon. One of my library associates is in musical theater and has a part in a show called “Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown.” We are looking forward to seeing her perform. There may be some other library folks there, but I’m not sure.

Not much on my plate for today, other than resting up for tomorrow’s eight-hour shift in circulation.

Oh. I almost forgot. The Rangers won their game with the Marlins, yesterday, 8-0. So, after one post-All-Star game, they are 42-49 on the season, in third place in the AL West. They are eight games behind Seattle, who is second, and eighteen behind the cheaters, who are in first. They are seven games out of the Wild Card race, which I do not expect them to make. While the team has great potential, they just still seem too mediocre for playoff contention. They begin a long run on the west coast tonight, in Oakland.

The Red Sox have their first game of the second half today, with the Blue Jays, at 7:10 EDT, in Boston. Hopefully, they can bounce back from the pounding they got from the Evil Empire. They are 48-45 on the season, in fourth place in the AL East, 15.5 out of first, and two out of the Wild Card race.

Normally, I would be happy that the Evil Empire lost a double-header, yesterday, but it was the cheaters who beat them, so . . .

The Washington Nationals have the worst MLB record, at 31-63. The Seattle Mariners carry a fourteen-game win streak into the second half, and the Miami Marlins are working on a four-game losing streak. The Nationals also have the worst run differential, at -149. The Rangers are at +7, and the Red Sox, after losing so badly to the Evil Empire, are at +18.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

If We Could Only, by Daryl Madden

If we could only feel
How much God loves us here
We would live our lives
Without any fear

If we could only sense
How much that we are blessed
We’d focus on His grace
Without worry or stress

If we could only see
His immense beauty
How grateful we would live
Our lives joyfully

If we could only know
What God does prepare
The impact we could make
Through His love to share

If we could only trust
Our view, be heavenly
Start living here right now
What waits eternally

God, I only know
Through Spirit you, endow
It is your great joy
Revealing them right now

Such truth and wisdom here. I wonder why it is so difficult for us to know these things. I feel like I do pretty good, some days, but there are others when my vision is cloudy. Lord, please keep my eyes open to see Your great love for us and Your marvelous grace and blessings toward us.

Please visit Daryl’s site at the link provided above.


Lord our God, we thank you that we may be your children and that we may hope in your Spirit. Your Spirit rules us as people whom you want to draw to yourself, as people who may serve you in their lives here on earth. Grant that we may be childlike, so that your Spirit can rule us more and more and what is good may come to many people in all places. May many come to know that their lives are not merely temporal. May they realize that they can live and act in you, and through you may experience the good that is to come to all nations on earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom 
(Luke 22:28–30a NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I may someday eat and drink at the table of the Lord in His Kingdom
2. that in Him, I live and move and have my being
3. that my faith is actually evidence of the reality of unseen things
4. that my enemy is not flesh and blood; I have no fight with any human
5. that I can live life without fear because of the knowledge of the love that God has for me

Here’s a verse I needed to read today.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12 NLT)

I don’t care which “side” you’re on, politically or otherwise, if we can’t stop demonizing one another, not only is this nation doomed, but the “church” is going to see some drastic reduction in both membership and influence. The influence is already waning rapidly. People in the world are fed up with the hypocrisy they are seeing coming from “religious” leaders. The recent SBC scandal is “just another brick in the wall” that is being built between the church and the world.

Don’t misunderstand me. The true “Church” (capital C) is fine, and she will prevail. Jesus will see to that. And I will confess that I’m not terribly concerned about the nation. I’m more concerned about the church (small c) and the image that it doesn’t seem to care that it is portraying.

We are not each other’s enemies! While there is some truth to Pogo’s statement that “we have met the enemy and he is US,” that is simply a statement that says that we tend to be our own worst enemy. But this verse above speaks truth. People are not my enemies! Now I’m not one who goes around looking for a demon around every corner. I’m not obsessed with “spiritual warfare,” although I do acknowledge that it is a thing. But my enemy is not the person who believes differently than I. And if I believe differently than you, I am not your enemy! I certainly want what is best for this country and for the world. But I want what is best for everyone in it, not just the people who think like I do.

I am so fed up with all the hatred, ridicule, and mockery that I am seeing from all sides! It is so disheartening, and this morning, up until I read that verse that someone else highlighted on the YouVersion app, I was just about ready to quit, just give up. Our society has lost the ability to have rational discussion.

But I’m not giving up. I’m not quitting. I’m going to continue trying to obey those two commands.


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is between.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

I really like the way the NLT puts this.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
(Hebrews 11:1 NLT)

I like that they use the word “reality.” And perhaps I’ve never noticed this, but have you ever thought of “faith” as “evidence,” itself? Usually, we think of finding evidence for our faith. But the writer of Hebrews tells us that our faith is, in fact, evidence that these unseen things, this “reality” exists!

I’m going to have to chew on that one for a bit.

But back to this word, “between.” Many people are in a “between” time in their lives. Sometimes I think I might be, but I’m not sure what I’m between. Yes, I just retired, not quite a year ago (it was at the end of July, 2021). And maybe I’m still sussing out what is next. That’s right, it’s been a whole year, and I’m still working on that. I have this really cool job at the library to supplement my SS. Best job I’ve ever had, I can still say that. I love these people more than any with whom I have worked. There are possibly a few exceptions to that, but in general, it is true.

I do think that I might be close to a time when I stop just enjoying the fact that I don’t have to work forty hours a week, and have free time to do stuff around the house, cook meals, do laundry, and stuff like that.

So, yeah, maybe I’m between. And I’ve been seriously “between” before, like in 2010 when I was without a job for three months. That was slightly scary.

And it is in those between times where the reality of Hebrews 11:1 comes into play. There are some other verses that would be helpful in times like that.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act.
(Psalms 37:3-7a NLT)


But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
(Acts 20:24 ESV)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV)

For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
(Romans 15:18-21 ESV)

Up there is another answer to the disheartedness (I don’t think that’s a word) I was feeling this morning. And maybe, just maybe, if the rest of the church (small c) could have that same mind (which is, by the way, the mind of Christ, according to Philippians 2), things would look vastly different.

My life is worth nothing outside of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and my mission to proclaim it. Of course, there are a lot of different points of view as to what that means. The way I see it, the Gospel of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is here, now, and available to anyone who desires to walk in it. And if we are walking in that Kingdom, following Jesus and His words, guess what.

We will love one another as Jesus has loved us.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' 
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
(Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

Father, thank You for speaking to me, this morning. Thank You for that friend who highlighted that verse to get me started today. Thank You for reminding me that we are not fighting against flesh and blood. Well . . . we’re not supposed to be fighting against flesh and blood, which leads me to the next thing.

Please, Father, please! Intervene in Your Church and stop the infighting, and help us all to see that other humans are not our enemies. There are people from all political perspectives in Your Church, and we must unify under the umbrella of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and display the love that He has had for us, and the mercy and grace that You show us daily. Our real enemy must be having a heyday, right now.

Thank You for the faith that is evidence of things unseen. I thank You that You have all things worked out, already, that You have, even yet, prepared good works, beforehand, that I might walk in them. I pray that You guide me toward those works, that I might fulfill the purpose that You have for me. Just like Paul (no, I’m not really comparing myself to him), I believe that my life has no purpose or value outside of that Gospel (I see my roles as husband and father and worker to align with the Gospel), and that I have no “rights” outside of what I get from You.

Give us all the mind of Christ, Lord, that we might show the world what Your true Church is really supposed to look like.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Confess Your Own Sins

Today is Thursday, the twenty-first of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts today!

Day 23,506

29 days until S turns 29

The skies teased us, yesterday evening. As I was driving home from my day at the library, the sky was dark with clouds, teasing of rain. While one of my HS friends (who lives in Denton) posted a picture of some light rain later in the evening, we saw none in my area. I will say that it felt slightly cooler, since the sun was hidden. Nevertheless, the high temperature hit the projected 109 degrees, for our twenty-fifth day of triple-digit temperatures. The current streak sits at five days.

We were hoping for a break today, but this morning, the projected high for today is 102. The positive in that is that there is also a 46% chance of rain in today’s forecast. In the next ten days, the first day that is projected to be below 100 is Saturday, July 30.

Baseball resumes for at least two teams today, as the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins play a “make-up” game. One game. The other two are scheduled later in the season.

Since it’s Thursday, I’ll be at the library Computer Center today, 11:15-8:15. The taco soup is in the crockpot.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, our souls long for you and for your glory, for the day when it shall be said, "All is accomplished! Now your kingdom comes. Now your day appears. When we look back on all that has happened to us, everything becomes clear." We thank you that we can live without fear, again and again refreshed and renewed, waiting for the good you give on earth. Show us the way we have to go. Grant your blessing in our hearts so that in need and death, in fear and distress, we may always have light and strength. You are our salvation, Lord our God. From you comes the salvation of our souls. We trust you today and every day. We praise your name, and in you we hope for the day you hold in readiness for the whole world, the day when light will dawn in every heart. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; 
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 
Even the sparrow has found a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, 
where she may have her young – 
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; 
they are ever praising you. 
(Psalm 84:2–4 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the constant refreshing and renewing that comes from the Lord
2. that I can live life without fear ("can" being the operative word, there)
3. for light and strength and salvation
4. for connections in life, that enable us to work together to do great things
5. for a sense of humility, especially before the Lord, that enables me to confess my own sins and shortcomings

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-3 ESV)

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8:8-13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is connect.

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” ~ Mother Teresa

Connections are inevitable. I’ll confess to you a “secret” (tongue firmly planted in cheek, there, because it’s not really a secret to anyone who knows me). I don’t really like people.

But here’s the thing, and it kind of shocks me. I just had a conversation, last night, with one of my library friends, who was gushing over my ability to connect with people in the library. I’m deeply humbled by her assessment of me, and explained it away because I’m in the environment of my dreams in that place. I mean, it’s a building full of books, for crying out loud! And, for the most part, I’m having conversations with people about books (sometimes music, but mostly books).

But here’s the thing. Going back to where I said I don’t really like people. I still believe in trying to be kind to people. and, as I said, connections are inevitable. Unless you live as a hermit in a cave, somewhere, and are able to completely survive on your own, connections are inevitable. By the way, I don’t know one single person who could survive without anyone else. Not one. I’m sure there are some out there, but I don’t know them.

If you believe you are one of them, I will prove you wrong.

“Connecting with other people can provide new knowledge and understanding,” says the writer of today’s reading. Not only, as Mother Teresa said, are there things you can do that I cannot, there are things that you know that I don’t know. This is yet another reason that we all need one another, and that is so very important that the Body of Christ stop being so ridiculous and get unified.

We have a mission on this earth, which has several parts. And believe it or not, the most important part, according to Jesus, Himself, is NOT telling everyone you meet about Jesus! Yes, I’ve actually met people who say that the Bible says that we are supposed to do exactly that.

It doesn’t.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know what Jesus said is the most important part of our mission.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)

Making disciples, of course, is also an important part of the mission. But honestly, if we can’t manage to love one another as Christ has loved us, we aren’t going to do (and we aren’t, as it is easy to see) a very good job of making disciples.

We seem to be just a tad too busy pointing out other peoples’ sins, at the moment. I wonder . . . does that make us feel better about ourselves?

It’s possible that I’ve strayed a little, here. We were talking about connections. But in order for us to be connected and do those “great things” that Mother Teresa spoke of, we have to “get together.”


Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
(James 5:16 NIV)

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
(Jeremiah 29:12 NIV)

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
(1 John 5:14 NIV)

As James writes to believers, he tells them to confess their sins to one another. What does he not tell them to do? He does not instruct them to “confess” the sins of everyone else!

I’m applying this principle to something I said above, about how “Christians” seem to be too busy pointing out the sins of others.

James says we need to confess our own sins. I need to be concerned about my own sins, not the sins of the person across the street. It hurts my soul to see how much enjoyment some folks have in pointing out the sins of others. There is almost a sense of glee about them. Again, I suppose it makes them feel better about themselves. But that’s been a problem with people forever, I guess. In order to feel better about ourselves, we compare ourselves with someone else, but we just make sure we aren’t comparing ourselves with someone, you know, better than us.

And then we wonder why God isn’t answering our prayers . . .

I’m reminded, her of something Paul said in 1 Corinthians, which I have been reading through, lately.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
(1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV)

And that, coupled with what Jesus tells us,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:1-5 NIV)


Father, I pray for the Body of Christ. As recent years have gone by, I have watched it being splintered by politics and politicians. It hurts my soul to see this, because I love the Church. I have always loved the Church. You have deepened my understanding of who/what the Church truly is, over the years, as well as deepening my love for her. I have come to believe that one cannot love Jesus without loving His Bride. Jesus loves the Church. If I say I love Jesus and don’t love the Church, I am a liar.

I pray desperately for unity. The division is horrific. Sins that have been covered up for decades are coming to light and “mega-churches” are being brought down because of sinfulness and abuse. “Leaders” are being discredited right and left, and the world watches while the “church” (small “c”) crumbles. But Your Church is alive and well, Father, I truly believe this.

I believe massive pruning is happening, as You said it would. And, just as it would hurt if I cut off one of my own limbs, it is painful to experience and watch. Help us, Father! Give us the strength to survive and thrive in Your mercy and grace. I pray that the ones who are making the most noise would be silenced, and that real truth would prevail.

Help us to love You and love one another. Help us to stop being so eager to point out the sins of others, when Your Word tells us exactly the opposite. Help us to take care of our own “bodies,” as well as Christ’s “Body,” and teach us how to leave the judging to You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.


"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

Grace and peace, friends.

May the Good in Our Hearts Bloom

Today is Wednesday, the twentieth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,505

Thirty days until S turns 29.

The heat wave continues, and it’s not just in Texas. In fact, the world is, quite literally, burning. There are wildfires in Texas and California, that I know of. There are also fires in Europe, where temperatures are reaching record highs. DFW reached a high of 109, yesterday, just shy of the predicted 110. Today is predicted to be 109, as well. For a little bit, it looked like tomorrow would be below 100, but this morning, the forecast for tomorrow shows a high of exactly 100. I’m still hoping.

We still desperately need rain, as do many other areas. The last day DFW had recorded rain was June 3. This, of course, is recorded at airports, so there may have been pockets of rain in some areas last Thursday, but not where I live.

I don’t have much else, this morning. I need to get moving, because it’s my early day at the library, and my shift begins at 9:15.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, you want to be our God and you want us to be your people. Give us the inner integrity and the power to discern and reject what does not come from the heart, so that everything may be genuine among us. Then no lies and deception will creep in, and honesty and goodness will flow from our hearts to the glory of truth, to the glory of the gospel and the great hope you give us through the gospel. Guard our hearts. Protect the good that is planted in them, that it may grow and thrive and bear fruit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. 
(Jeremiah 32:38–39 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that there is good planted in our hearts; may it grow and thrive and bear fruit
2. that God desires us to be His people
3. for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
4. for flowers and the inspiration that we can get from them
5. for God's ability to do miracles and answer our prayers

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
(Amos 5:18-20 ESV)

Whenever I read this passage, it gives me pause in thinking about how eager some folks are for the return of Christ. I have stated before how I long for Home. And I do end my daily prayers with “Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.” But there is a sobriety to that prayer, and I don’t pray it flippantly or even, necessarily, eagerly. Because I understand that the second coming of Christ is going to be a dark and dreadful day for much of humanity.

And I will also admit that there is much that I don’t understand about Biblical prophecy and its fulfillment. Much of Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed. Enough that there are even people known as “preterists” who go so far as to believe that all Biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled.

I don’t fall into that category, because if that were true, what are we doing here? Why are we still here?


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is flower.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~ Lady Bird Johnson

There is truth to that statement, and “flower” can be a verb, as well as a noun. Initially, when we see the word “flower,” we think of something like this.

But “flower” can also be a verb, and pretty much means the same thing as “bloom.” Hope blooms where flowers grow, is the statement by Lady Bird.

I like to think of something else, though, when I consider the word “flower.” I like to think of what Jesus said about faith and anxiety, about how much we worry about things that aren’t worthy of it. I’m going to use Peterson’s translation.

All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
(Matthew 6:28-33 MSG)

When I start worrying about things, I need to, as a popular song once said, “stop and smell the roses.”


I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
(Psalms 118:17 NIV)

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
(John 5:8 NIV)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

I believe in the power of prayer. If I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t pray. But some of my brothers and sisters and I wonder, at times, why we don’t see the kind of results that people in biblical times saw. I’m not going to get into a lengthy philosophical discussion, here (partially because I don’t have time), but I will say that I do still believe. I believe that God can heal and deliver, because He is all-powerful. My questions have never been about the ability. My questions are about the willingness. I know that He can, but will He?

There are many of us praying for rain and relief from the heat wave. And we believe.


Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)

Let us not mistake what Paul is pressing on toward. He is not striving to get everything out of this life that he can get. He is striving, pressing on, toward “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

“God has done the decisive act in Jesus Christ. God calls us. He calls us to be his; he calls us to be in relation to him; he calls us to know him. The upward call is not the call to make the most of ourselves, to get the most out of life, and to give it the old college try. We are talking not about a task but about faith.”

This call is about what God wants us to get out of Him. This call does not diminish us. “His call does not distract me from my essential being but confirms it. His call does not diminish my core identity.

“His call establishes it.”

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


Father, I confess that time is short, this morning, and I must get on with things. But I will pray, still. I thank You for the flowers and how they teach us of Your love and care for us, and teach us that anxiety and worry are things that should not concern us. Please keep teaching us these things, especially during these challenging times.

Father, I pray for everywhere that is on fire, right now. Please send rain and cooler temperatures to all places that are in danger right now. I pray for the forecasters to be wrong. I pray for rain to come out of nowhere to drench the burning wildfires in our country and in other countries across the world.

I pray that Your upward call will reign in us, and that our faith will grow, increasingly, and be strong. I pray for the good that is planted in our hearts to bloom and grow, that it will thrive and bear much fruit.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Now you've got my feet on the life path,
 all radiant from the shining of your face. 
Ever since you took my hand, 
I'm on the right way.
(Psalms 16:11 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Adventure Time

“There are days when the world is bright with meaning and every bird and flower a witness to the glory; we dance and sing with the innocence of animals. But those days are then snatched by the starless nights when the dark has seeped into our souls and we cower in fear and despair, pulling the covers over our heads.”

It’s Tuesday, the nineteenth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,504

I got all the things accomplished yesterday. It was quite productive, and turned out pretty well. I wound up only needing one new tire (for now), and I have to say, I love the company where I get my tires done. We have been going to Hamm’s for quite a while, now, and they are honest, reliable people. They could have easily sold me four new tires, yesterday, but told me that the other three tires were okay for now. They showed me the bad one, so I’m confident that that was what I needed.

I got the oil changed pretty quickly after that, as well. I was home, with Sonic drinks, shortly after noon, which isn’t bad. Turns out mid-morning on Mondays is a good time to do things.

I haven’t updated the weather, here, lately, so I’ll do that, today.

It’s hot.

I’m still keeping my spreadsheet going, and found a website that helps me keep up better, because Reliant’s app is always at least two days behind. So the highest temperature, to date, was yesterday, when it hit 110 (that’s 43.3c for those reading anywhere but the U.S.). It is projected to be that hat again today.

We did have two days, last week, that did not reach 100, so that streak ended at ten days. The current streak is at three. We have had 23 days, now of triple-digit temperatures. The ten-day forecast calls for another 110 degree day tomorrow, followed by temps closer to 100 for the rest of the visible forecast. That gives me some hope that it might drop below 100 somewhere in there.

As for rain, there is virtually no chance in the next ten days, with one day having a 21% chance (and that depends on which weather site you look at – Wunderground only gives a 15% chance for that day).

It has still not rained since June 3.

But even bigger news is the European heat wave, right now. It hit 40c yesterday, in London, and airports are shutting down because the runways are melting. Many people there do not have A/C. At least, in Texas, we expect it to be hot.

It’s my busy week at the library, so I’ll be working tonight, tomorrow, Thursday, and Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we rejoice that we may be called your children. In our weakness we ask you to shelter us in your hands. Strengthen us in the hope and faith that our lives will surely go the right way, not through our strength but through your protection. Grant that through your Spirit we may come to know more and more that you are with us. Help us to be alert in our daily life and to listen whenever you want to say something to us. Reveal the power and glory of your kingdom in many people, to the glory of your name, and hasten the coming on earth of all that is good and true. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, when I am weak (and acknowledge that weakness), in Him I am strong
2. that His grace is sufficient
3. for this journey, this "adventure" of faith, trusting that life in God's Kingdom is far better than I could ever imagine
4. for the community of saints; oh, how we need each other!
5. for the mystery of resurrection and the adventure it brings us

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!
(Amos 4:13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is adventure.

“Adventure is not outside man, it’s within.” ~ George Eliot

Adventure. It is defined as, “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” As a verb, it means, “engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.”

You won’t find the word anywhere in the Bible, but that’s okay, because we don’t just pray words that are in Scripture.

Admittedly, some folks are more adventurous than others. We have had adventures in Mexico, some more fun than others. We ziplined, we drove a Hummer, we held a baby crocodile, we had a snake around our shoulders, we rode four-wheelers through the jungle. We even rode a bus to Walmart.

“Adventures” can be fun. They can also be dangerous and risky. People have lost their lives attempting adventure.

I suppose the journey of faith can be described as an adventure. In this journey, every step is a step into the unknown. Someone once described faith as walking up to the edge of the light and taking one more step. But, in reality, walking in faith is never knowing what is coming next.

Now what this truly means is that every human being on the planet is walking in faith, whether they know it or not. Who or what that faith is placed in is a different story. But everyone who takes a step forward or gets in a car to drive or ride somewhere is acting in faith.

I am on a journey of faith, walking in God’s Kingdom. I trust in Him, in His reality. I trust that things in God’s Kingdom are far better than I could ever imagine, no matter what I see in the world around me. And let me tell you, the world around me doesn’t look very promising, right now.


Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
(Matthew 26:36-38 ESV)

When Jesus was approaching the most traumatic time He would experience while He walked on earth, He brought His best friends along. He expressed His heart to them, His trouble and sorrow.

Jesus. The Son of God. God incarnate. Needed His friends.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 ESV)

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
(John 15:15 ESV)

Jesus calls us “friends.” He does not call us “servants.” The old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” How often do we stop to think that He also considers us “friends?”

If Jesus, God incarnate, needed His friends around at this most important juncture of His life, how much more do we need each other?


In this life of adventure, Peterson chimes in (although he doesn’t use the word). “There is a lot we don’t know. There are days, many of them, when we don’t know what is going on. Events tumble out randomly, it seems. . . . There are days when the world is bright with meaning and every bird and flower a witness to the glory; we dance and sing with the innocence of animals. But those days are then snatched by the starless nights when the dark has seeped into our souls and we cower in fear and despair, pulling the covers over our heads.”

Try to imagine what Peter and John must have felt when they stood in front of an empty tomb, not yet comprehending what had happened. “Not only was the body gone from the tomb, but the meaning was gone from their lives.”

They had such high hopes. Jesus, when He was alive, “had convinced the two men that their lives had purpose, that it was worthwhile to live, that everything fit together in a design of salvation, and that love was possible.”

And now, not only was the living Jesus gone, so was the dead Jesus. But in the midst of this mystery (adventure?), “They spotted a clue. They used their heads. they followed the clue. And it led them to resurrection.

“There are clues everywhere, still. It is up to the curious to pick them up, follow them, make the correct deductions from them, and live before the mystery of life in a believing faith.”

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


Father, this life is full of adventure, but those adventures are not always fun or enjoyable. In fact, we seem to be in the midst of an adventure that I would just as soon end. But it continues, and so must we. I pray for the faith to continue to walk in Your Kingdom, and to continue to believe that things are far better than I could ever imagine, and far better than they seem.

I praise You for the resurrection, and for the “clues” that we still have around us. Help us to not get bogged down in circumstance; help us to see that “reality” is not necessarily what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears. Rather, give us the faith to be able to see and hear what is truly reality in Your Kingdom.

I pray for unity within the Body of Christ. We need each other more than ever, and yet we are terribly divided over issues and “causes” that are not necessarily relevant to the Kingdom. Help us to remember that the only “cause” worthy of our attention is the cause of Jesus and love. I believe it’s okay to support a cause, but if that cause divides brothers and sisters in Christ, then please God, give us the sense to step back and re-think it!

I continue to pray for relief from this heat wave, which now is affecting more than just Texas. I pray for people in Europe who are experiencing unusual heat, right now. Give them relief, as well. I also pray for rain in our area. The forecast doesn’t give much hope, but You are the God of hope, and control things that the forecast can only guess about. I pray for relief, Father, and I know that I am not alone.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus! Come and set things right, and take us to the place You have prepared for us, that where You are, there we may also be.


Grace and peace, friends.

On A Pale Horse

Today is Monday, the eighteenth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul today!

Day 23,503

Sorry if yesterday’s entry seemed a bit truncated. I needed to get finished so we could get on our way to the race track. Yes, we spent our Sunday watching the horse races at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. We had a wonderful time. It was just C and me, as we had a day long “date,” which we dearly needed.

For the first time, we got a table in the dining area of the park, which is a level higher than we usually sit. It included a buffet that went on through the seventh race (out of nine). The buffet included breakfast food, as well as lunch food. There was bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy, brisket (the brisket was marvelous), beef tenderloin, smoked sausage, a pasta bar, fried fish, and a number of other items, including Blue Bell ice cream, cookies, cakes, and pies. Needless to say, we both ate too much.

As for our “winnings,” we didn’t do terribly. We aren’t exactly “high rollers,” and kept to $2 bets, mostly on two horses per race. I splurged and added a third horse on race eight. So my total output was $38. I won $36.80, so I was only down $1.20 for the day (not counting tips to the young lady who came around and took our wagers). I actually won $12.80 on one race, when horse number seven placed and I bet on her to place.

C didn’t do quite as well, but won on more races than I did. We both won something in the final race, so that was fun.

Today will be busy-ish. I have a tire that has a very slow leak in it, so I’m going to take the car to a local tire shop and see if it can be repaired. I know I’m dangerously close to needing a whole new set of tires, but I don’t know if I will have to do that today. I also need to get the oil changed on the car, as well, so I will try to do that today, since I have the whole day off today. There are some household chores that need to be done today, as well.

I haven’t updated baseball in a few days, but the Rangers got swept by the Mariners, in a four game series, losing the finale, yesterday, 6-2. That puts the Rangers at 41-49, still in third place in the AL West, three games ahead of LA. But they are 8.5 behind Seattle, and 17.5 out of first place. They are 7.5 out of the Wild Card race.

After winning Friday’s game 5-4, the Red Sox lost badly to the Evil Ones, 14-1 Saturday, and 13-2 yesterday. They have dropped to fourth place in the AL East, now at 48-45. They are 16 games out of first place, and are now two games out of the Wild Card race.

Today is the Home Run Derby, and tomorrow night is the All Star Game. The Sox don’t play again until Friday, and the Rangers have a weird makeup game with Miami on Thursday night. I’ve been trying to figure out how they have a makeup game from before the season started, but I guess it might be to make up games canceled by the pre-season lockout.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for being among us as our Father, for letting us be your children on earth. We thank you that as your children we can find life in spirit and in truth. Grant that each of us may find how our lives on earth can be lifted up by your Spirit. Your Spirit can bring us what we do not possess, so that our daily work, all our striving and struggling for the outward things of life, may be pervaded by what is higher and greater. Your Spirit can keep us from falling into base and petty ways, from getting lost in earthly experiences which do not last, no matter how much they demand our attention. We thank you for all you have done for your children. Continue to help us, that we may serve you every day in gladness and gratitude. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. 
(John 4:23–24 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is my Father
2. that by the Spirit, the outward things of life, all the striving and struggling, can be pervaded by what is higher and greater
3. that God's plans for me are perfect
4. for Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, and the Light of the World
5. that, as long as the Lord has work for me to do, I'll be around

The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is plans.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
(Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

We all make plans, right? Sometimes we plan things way in advance, weeks or even months. We have rarely planned something out beyond a year.

But those plans don’t always come to pass. I can count on one hand the number of times we have had to cancel vacation plans, but it has happened. There was this one time that a global pandemic kind of threw a wrench in the works.

But God’s plans are never thwarted. His purpose prevails. And if our plans don’t mesh with His, then it is ours that will change, whether we like it or not. I am reminded about a “preacher story” about a ship and a lighthouse.

But we can take confidence in the fact that God’s plans are greater then ours, and that His plans are not only perfect, but they are also better for us in the long run.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15 NIV)


So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
(1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV)

There’s another aspect to making plans. There are times that when we make plans, we think we are “all that.” We think we are something special.

I’ve been on staff in a number of churches, during my life. Many’s the time when the pastor felt like we should be doing something, so we did something. It wasn’t necessary God’s leadership. In fact, it seldom was. It was humans making stuff up because we just thought we should be doing something. And then we pray for God to bless those plans.

There’s just something backwards about that way of working. One thing that I took away from a Bible study, many years ago, that I liked. The thing I liked . . . not so much the Bible study. It was called Experiencing God. It was a big fad for a few years, to the point that there was even an Experiencing God Bible. (You can still get one if you’re so inclined.)

Anyway . . . the thing I took away. Henry Blackaby said that we should look around to see what God is doing, and then join Him. I rather like that philosophy. Instead of coming up with our own thing (reinventing the wheel?), why not join in with what God is already doing?

But, you see, we like to think of ourselves as “special,” as a “big deal,” so we try to be clever, unique, and inventive. This, I believe, is folly, for it is only God who makes things grow, according to Paul.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 NIV)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
(John 6:35 NIV)

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." 
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?" 
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
(John 4:10-14 NIV)

Eugene Peterson’s reading for today, in On Living Well, is called “A Good Death.” This seems oxymoronic or counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But that is only a recent development in society.

“Until about a hundred years ago, all pastoral practice was directed toward preparing people for it – for living in the expectation of a good death.”

The secular culture in which we live instead attempts to avoid death or insulate us from it. But it can’t. I don’t know how many books I could find or products that are on the market that make claims of being able to “reverse aging.” This, of course, is preposterous, and impossible. While some products might be able to make you look younger, they cannot make you younger. There is no Fountain of Youth.

“Death is still one of the elemental mysteries of our existence.” According to Peterson, attempting to avoid it “diminishes us.”

This makes me think about the many Old Testament people who died, and the ways in which they died. When Jacob (Israel) died, at the end of Genesis, it is said that he was “gathered to his people.”

When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
(Genesis 49:33 ESV)

That’s a “good death” if I ever saw one.

Don’t get me wrong. Death is still the result of the work of the enemy. But, as noted a few days ago, it’s not the end. It’s a gateway for us, because (at least until Jesus returns) it is how we get out of this plane of existence. It is how we are transitioned into our final reward.

But here is where we talk about plans again. I can plan all I want for this “good death.” And who wouldn’t love to die like Jacob did, almost on schedule? But I don’t know what’s going to happen today or tomorrow or the next minute. I can plan, yes. And there is nothing wrong with planning. James even said (and I paraphrase), “Sure, go ahead and make plans, but be sure and say, ‘If God says so, too.'”

I won’t pretend to be ready. I’m weary, and I’m longing for Home. But, if I’m honest, I’m not quite ready to leave this life. And, as long as the Lord has something for me to do, here, I won’t. In fact, I am a firm believer that I cannot die until He is finished with me, here.


Father, I thank You for the work that You have for me to do, here. Right now, I believe that work is the work of love. It used to be worship; then it was prayer, for a while, and I think prayer is still a part of it (certainly worship is, as well, but that has changed somewhat). Now, it seems that my primary work on this earth is loving and showing how to love. This is challenging, because I’m still learning how to do it, myself. And I actually love this work of love. It could even be said that I “love love.”

I thank You for the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, and the Living Water, Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are nothing. None of my plans are worth a plug nickel without the presence of Christ in them. Without the support of the Holy Spirit, I can do nothing of any worth. And nothing I do has any inherent worth in and of itself. In short, without You, I am nothing. And I am perfectly okay with that, and don’t feel that this is a matter of self-esteem.

As for my own plans, I pray that, whenever I do make plans, that I will always be open to Your changing them. I will certainly pray that Your blessings would be upon them, but I would prefer that my plans match up with Yours. That being said, I do pray for success in today’s ventures, and that Your will be done in all that I have to do, today.

I also pray that You would relieve C’s pain today, as she is experiencing quite a bit in her shoulder. Please touch her body with Your healing touch. Also, I pray desperately for relieve from the heat wave, and for rain in the area.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Simplify

It is Sunday, the seventeenth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart today!

Day 23,502

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, light of humankind in Jesus Christ, full of joy and trust we ask that we may have access to your almighty power, your power against all darkness, sin, death, and bondage. May we feel close to your almighty power. Hear our weeping, for we are and remain your children, to whom you have promised redemption and deliverance. Together we hold fast to this promise and stand before you saying, "We are your children in Jesus Christ the Savior, whom you have sent to us." Hear your children. Bless us each one, and bless us as one people, allowed to serve you in the misery of our world. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn. 
(Isaiah 61:1–2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the power of God against all darkness, sin, death, and bondage
2. for promised redemption and deliverance through Jesus Christ
3. for the discipline of simplicity; may I continue to improve in that
4. for my morning coffee
5. for chances to have some alone time with my wife

"Obviously, while I love all, I must, like Christ, have a special love for the poor. At the last judgement, we shall all be judged by the treatment we have given to Christ, to Christ in the person of those who are hungry or thirsty, who are dirty, wounded, and oppressed."
(Don Helder Camara, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
(1 Kings 18:21 ESV)

Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, "Israel shall be your name," and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, "Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time." And they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time." And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. 
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God." And Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape." And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.
(1 Kings 18:30-40 ESV)

Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is simplify.

“Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

This is a word that goes right alongside yesterday’s word of balance. Our society is also way too complex, between all the doing, and all the acquiring. The reading only addresses the physical things, like all the latest technology that we seem to think we have to have.

I used to think that I had to keep up with musical technology, and have the latest gadget attached to my keyboards and what-not.

But the simplification goes beyond just the physical, as well. We also need to simplify our schedules. Many people, especially with younger children, seem to be going, going, going, all the time, with barely time to stop and breathe.

It is no wonder that we are a nation that is direly in need of therapy.

Perhaps if we worked to put God first, the other things would either fall into order, or, perhaps, many of them would fall away completely, when we discover that we don’t need them at all.


Father, I pray that that You continue to lead me down a path of simplicity. I know that I am pretty wrapped up in today’s technologies, but I try to use them for good, and to proclaim You throughout the world. I pray that my words reach ears (and eyes) that are open to Your Spirit and attuned to Your grace, that they may be drawn into Your Kingdom, that we may walk together.

I pray for this nation, that our society might find a way to balance and simplify itself. I also pray for the region in which I live, that we might have relief from this heat wave, and please, Father, send some rain to us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Between Being and Doing

It is Saturday, the sixteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart!

Day 23,501

Hooboy, it’s been a busy day, already today! I was about two thirds of the way through my devotions, when C called me. She had gone out to look for some new chairs (I don’t even want to go into what caused that) and wanted me to come help her pick out a couple. So I left the house, and we bought two identical rocker/recliner chairs to replace some older wingback chairs that the cats had shredded. We got them home, and they are set up, and the old chairs are in the garage.

And I’m exhausted.

There wasn’t a lot that happened, yesterday. I had groceries delivered, and I cooked Chicken Taco Rice Skillet for dinner. I highly recommend this recipe. It is delicious, and my family loves it. I add more chicken to it, a total of two breasts (boneless/skinless), and I also use a cup and a half of the brown rice. The rest of the recipe is done as called for. Very tasty!

The Texas Rangers bullpen didn’t exactly blow the game, yesterday, but they were set to change the pace of the game. They started out behind 4-0, and had worked their way to within a run, when, in the top of the eighth inning, with two outs and a full count, Jose Leclerc surrendered a grand slam home run to Julio Rodriguez. Final score, 8-3, Mariners. The Rangers are now 41-47, but still in third place in the AL West, a good 3.5 ahead of the Angels. They are 16.5 out of first and 5.5 out of the Wild Card spot.

On the other hand, the Red Sox beat the Yankees!!! 5-4, in extra innings, when Xander Bogaerts scurried home on a wild pitch in the top of the eleventh inning. The bullpen held off the Evil Empire, and the Sox broke their losing streak. They are now 48-43, in third place in the AL East, 14.5 out of first place. There is a two-way tie for the third Wild Card spot, between Boston and Toronto, now. Tampa has the first spot, and Seattle moved into the second one.

The Washington Nationals have fallen into the worst MLB record, now at 30-62. The reason for Seattle being in the second Wild Card spot is that they currently have the longest win streak, at twelve games. Hopefully, the Rangers can bring that to a halt today. The poor Nationals also have the longest current losing streak, at eight games. They also have the worst run differential, at -150. The Rangers are still in the positive, but only +4. The Red Sox are currently at +42.

I want that coat!!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, as your children we stand before you and lift our eyes to you. We are poor, needy people, often wretched and tormented. Let your eyes rest upon us. Grant us the help we need. Bless us when we gather in the name of Jesus Christ, that we may be a people who learn to serve you on all the paths we follow, even if it proves bitterly hard. Give us true faith for every moment. May we have joy and confidence that you are with your children, that you remain with them forever, until the great time of redemption when we will rejoice with all past generations and with all who are living today. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. 
(Micah 7:7–8 RSV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, when I find myself in darkness, the Lord is my light
2. for the joy and confidence that comes with being God's children, especially when circumstances come that threaten those things
3. for the promise, in John 14, that Jesus is preparing a place for us, that we will always be with Him
4. that God knows my thoughts and my words, even before they occur
5. for the Holy Spirit, who intercedes when I don't know exactly how to pray

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:5 ESV)

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
(John 14:1-3 NLT)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is balance. There’s a quote from Maya Angelou, who was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.”

Balance is a tricky word/concept. However, in general, it is a good thing. I believe (and I am not alone) that our society is so far out of balance that it is in severe danger.

The technical definition of balance is, “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” But, of course, in this context, we are not speaking of weight distribution. We aren’t trying to walk a tightrope between two tall buildings, here.

On the other hand, we do want to “remain upright and steady.”

A second definition is, “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” The example given is work and relaxation. This is closer to what we are looking at today. Ms. Angelou cites patience and passion. The writer of today’s reading speaks, as the definition, of a balance between work and rest/play.

Guess what! The world will not stop turning if you rest or play for a bit! And, as Christians, we are not expected to be “Jesus Jr.” With tongue slightly in cheek, I believe, she writes, “God didn’t create me to be a human doing, but a human being.”

Back a few years ago, C and I did this thing in our church that we called “Huddle.” For the most part, I didn’t like it, I’ll be honest. It employed a technique called “Life Shapes,” which I thought were mostly trivial and irrelevant. Scriptures were taken out of context in order to fit the shapes that were used.

But there was one shape that I came away liking. It was the “semi-circle.” This semi-circle was positioned with the round side down, and a pendulum was envisioned in the middle of the straight line at the top. As the pendulum swung, one side was designated as “work” and the other side designated as “rest.” They were also called “fruit” and “abide.”

The point of the semi-circle was to illustrate that, in order for us to be effective disciples, the pendulum had to be free to swing to both sides in equal measure. Balance. If all we do is work, if all we do is attempt to bear fruit, without ever resting or abiding, we will experience what is known, in the business world, as “burnout.”

It is my firm belief that a Christian should never experience burnout. But it happens, because we get out of balance, and think that we should be working all the time. That is not what Paul meant when he said “pray without ceasing.” Even Jesus, the Son of God, God incarnate, needed time to rest (while we don’t see any records of recreation or “play” in the Bible, I firmly believe that there must have been some times of levity with His disciples).

I guess we think we’re stronger than Jesus?

I will note that the one issue I had with the semi-circle idea was that we should always be abiding. We don’t stop abiding to bear fruit. But there’s no such thing as a perfect analogy, is there?


In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.
(Romans 8:26 CEV)

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.
(Psalms 139:1-4 ESV)

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
(Isaiah 65:24 ESV)

There is no language barrier with God. There are times when words fail us. I have frequently prayed that I don’t have the right words to express to God what I am feeling. But that’s okay, because He is able to see into my heart and know exactly what it is that I am trying to say. Even when I do think I know what to say, He knows what I mean, if I happen to get it wrong.

Nothing I say or do is a surprise to God. I believe it can be inferred, from Psalm 139, that the Lord also knows my every action before I do it. So nothing surprises Him. When I stary off the path and sin, He isn’t sitting there, exclaiming, “Oh, no!! Look what he did!!! What are we going to do now??”

That brings me great comfort. It also is comforting when we apply this principle to prayer, because, as Isaiah says, He has the ability to answer us, even while we are still speaking, or before we even call on Him. And I believe it’s not too far-fetched to think that He will answer a prayer that we don’t even know we need to pray.

So how does this fit in with the idea of “balance?” I think I can make it work. In our prayer lives, we need to balance speaking with listening. We also need to balance speaking with meditation or contemplation. There are times, in prayer, when it is better to simply sit and contemplate our Father in heaven, to whom we are praying. As we do this, we gain a better understanding of who He is and what He does. I have long understood (I didn’t always) that prayer is more than just asking God for things.


GOD, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. 
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. 
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. 
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure. 
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. 
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:1-6 MSG)

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

“We badly distort what it means to be a human being if we think about life only in terms of solving problems or accomplishing tasks. In the areas in which we are most ourselves, life doesn’t work like that.”

I have struggled with this problem since retirement, and only a couple weeks ago did I realize that my life does not consist of “doing things” and “accomplishing tasks.” I don’t have any deadlines.

At the same time, though, I do not sit and do nothing. I work at relationships; I do tasks around the house, cooking meals, doing dishes and laundry. I play music whenever I am so inspired. Nothing is “one and done” in this life.

The same thing applies to our spiritual life. And this is something I addressed the other day. “We don’t solve the problem of life by getting right with God, merely circling the date of our conversion on the calendar, and giving testimony to our faith. There is an incredibly rich world of grace and mercy to explore.”

Once again, we need balance. We desperately need balance between “being” and “doing.”

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


Father, I pray for more balance in my life. I do believe that my unbalance may be more on the “being” side than the “doing” side. So help me find things to do that will be good for me, in terms of balance in this journey of my life. Guide me as I continue to explore Your “incredibly rich world of grace and mercy,” and help me to exhibit that fruit of the Spirit to everyone who comes in contact with me.

This, of course, put a burden on me to do my part, even when it’s an unsolicited sales/scam call on my phone, or a person who comes to my door trying to sell me solar panels. While I don’t need to try to “evangelize” every one of them, it does fall on me to be kind to them. It also applies to people who have different philosophical/moral/political points of view than I.

I thank You for the truth that You know all there is to know about me, even down to everything that I’m about to say, think, or type. You also know everything that I am going to do, even before I do it. Sometimes, I wish You would fill me in, so if I’m about to do something stupid, I could maybe not. But, as I move forward in the journey, hopefully the stupid acts will be fewer.

I pray for my own life, that there would be a healthy balance between work and rest/play, but that I will always be abiding in You, and Your Word abiding in me.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


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

Grace and peace, friends.

Low Hanging Fruit

Today is Friday, the fifteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,500!

I realized yesterday that this song mentions every day of the week. Of course, I knew that, but hadn’t really thought about it, as I think about songs for each day of the week. But it’s still my all-time favorite Friday song. As well as uncharacteristically “happy” for a Cure song.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, grant that we may find the power of your Spirit so that we may live on a higher level, no longer controlled by our lower natures but strengthened to take up the battle of life. May we be children of the Spirit and may we walk in the Spirit. Guard us against carelessness and keep us joyful and courageous. Help us and counsel us on all our ways so that we may honor you and testify that you are our God, our true help. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
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 with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 
(Isaiah 61:10 RSV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the power of the Spirit, manifested in us (when we are walking in Him)
2. for the garments of salvation and robe of righteousness; may I wear them faithfully
3. my cats (Cleopatra, Luna, Trixie, Rachmaninoff (Rocky), and Maggie)
4. for the fruit of the Spirit; may I be faithful to produce it and place it within the reach of others
5. that death is not the last word, as demonstrated by Jesus with Lazarus

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
(1 Corinthians 3:1-4 ESV)

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men.
(1 Corinthians 3:18-21 ESV)

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
(1 Kings 16:29-33 ESV)


The word for today, in Pray A Word A Day, is fruit.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 NLT)

The book only included a phrase from verse 10, the bit that has the word “fruit” in it. I chose to include verses before and after that, to provide better context.

When we are walking in the knowledge of God’s will, living in His spiritual wisdom and understanding, we are “good fruit” bearers. We are also filled with joy and gratitude, as verses 11-12 indicate. And, throughout this, we will grow as we learn to know God better.

I believe the “knowledge of God’s will” is tied in with those two commands I keep harping about. But what is “fruit?” Different people define it in different ways. To some people who only think about evangelism, fruit only means new believers. But the different translations of this passage give us more understanding. The NLT, cited above, calls it “every kind of good fruit.” The NIV, which I also like, here, says, “bearing fruit in every good work” (emphasis mine). The ESV renders it identically to the NIV.

I also believe “fruit” to be consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

And, as we walk in the Spirit, doing the good works (prepared in advance for us to walk in, Ephesians 2:10), we bear the fruit of the Spirit. And I really like the way today’s reading expresses the idea.

“God’s Word says followers of Christ are fruit bearers – the kind who make an effort to place His love and loyalty, His kindness and forgiveness, His peace and joy within reach of others. Flavorful fruit for all to savor.”

I think that nails it! We need to make our fruit His fruit, accessible to others! It seems to me that too many people are trying to keep it just out of reach. Maybe even hoarding God’s fruit. Well, we all know what happens when we hoard fruit, right?

That doesn’t look very appetizing at all, does it? Well, maybe if you are wanting some banana bread.


Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Here’s another verse that tells us something that we can do to “fulfill the law.” We’ve seen the one, Romans 13:8, that tells us that loving one another fulfills the law. Of course, carrying one another’s burdens is most definitely one way to love one another, isn’t it? It is also a way to demonstrate good fruit.

And here’s the thing. One way we make this fruit accessible to others is by bearing the burdens of not just people within the church. Yes, we are supposed to love the saints with an even more intense love (the way that Jesus loves us). But we are also supposed to love our “neighbors” as ourselves, and I believe that Paul’s command to bear one another’s burdens overflows into that realm, as well.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
(Romans 15:1-7 ESV emphasis mine)

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(Galatians 5:14 ESV)


Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
(John 11:25-27 ESV)

These are the words of Jesus to Martha, shortly before He raised Lazarus from the dead. Why did Jesus do that? We do not know. I’m sure preachers have made up answers to that question. It makes for great sermons. But it is pure speculation.

The only thing we know is that Jesus did say, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And then, when He prayed (out loud, specifically so others could hear Him), He said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

So maybe He brought Lazarus out of the tomb so that others could see the glory of God. That’s a reasonable guess. Another reasonable guess is to demonstrate to us that death is not the final word. All of Lazarus’s family and friends believed that his life was over. He had been buried for several days (Martha was afraid he would stink). But Jesus demonstrated to them that Life is the final word.

We are all born and we all die, eventually. We’ve all (probably) seen it happen at least once. I watched my father die. Sort of. By the time I got there, he was only “living” because a machine was breathing for him. I fully believe that his spirit was long gone.

There are people in this world who believe that death is the final word. Frankly, I don’t understand the way they lived. If I believed that there was nothing after this life, I would live the most hedonistic life possible.

But Jesus surprises us “with life at the very moment we think death is the last word. Birth is no surprise, nor is death, but life – life when we think the story is over, life when we think family and friends and job are played out – is always a surprise.” (Eugene H. Peterson, On Living Well)

The “circle of life,” doesn’t end with death. We are born, then we die, and then, we live.

As Code of Ethics sang in “Satellite Babies,” “Death is not end for my satellite babies, if you place your trust in me.”


Father, I praise You and Jesus and the Holy Spirit that death is not the final word. Yes, I believe that, and I don’t care if anyone thinks me a fool for it. As Michael Card sang, I will gladly come be a fool for you. I pray that we might walk in this life, this life that, through Jesus is the final word. I have placed my trust in Him for many decades, now, and I look forward, with great anticipation, to when that trust will be finally rewarded. Sure, there are things that I don’t quite understand correctly, and I also look forward to having those things straightened out. None of us has it all quite figured out, no matter how much we think we do.

Help us, Father, to be low-hanging fruit, so that the world might be able to see Your grace and mercy, Your love and compassion, Your forgiveness and salvation, fully demonstrated. As I walk through this world, may love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control be the defining pieces of my personality. May I demonstrate in my life the full fruit of the Spirit.

I struggle most with patience, and sometimes kindness, although I believe I have gotten much better with that in recent years. I’m not sure which one of those parts of the fruit that judgmentalness counteracts, but that’s the one I typically need most help with. And it seems that that judgment tends to be pointed more toward those who claim to be part of the Church but are not, themselves, demonstrating that fruit. Give me more patience in that realm, Father.

Help me to keep my eyes open as to ways that I can help bear another’s burdens, and in this way do my part to fulfill the law of Christ in this world.

I thank You for music, for all the songs that have been written that bring me such joy in my life. I always hope that I might write more, so I pray that You would send some my way. Not that I might be “famous,” for I’m pretty sure that ship sailed a long time ago. But just so that I might sing a new song in praise of You and all that You have done in my life.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Breathtaking Vistas of the Holy”

The primary means of expansion of the ‘civilization’ of God in a ‘barbarian’ world is not by lecturing people in the truth or coercing them to be good. It is by establishing communities of imitation, worshipping congregations where we simply live the common life – but in God’s way.” (Eugene H. Peterson, On Living Well)

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart today!

Day 23,499

I’ve started a spreadsheet to chronicle the weather. I found out that our electric billing provider’s app shows me the high temperature for each day. So, to catch everyone up, our first day of 100+ temperature, for 2022, was June 11. The average first day of 100 in DFW is July 1. Up through yesterday, we have had 20 days of 100+ temps, and 10 consecutive days. The highest, so far, has been 105 (last Friday and Saturday). The 10-day forecast shows no relief. In fact, next Friday and Saturday are projected to be 106. (Not tomorrow, but the following weekend.)

We have had no rain since June 3. The longest streak of 100+ days was back in 1980, when we had 42 consecutive days. 2011 saw 40 in a row. I am not hoping for a new record this year.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, kindle true light in our hearts and minds, that we may recognize what we are and become free of everything false and dishonest. Let this light of righteousness, this judgment, go through all nations, that people no longer use empty words when they talk of "mercy" and "truth." Grant that your mercy and your truth find the right soil and bear fruit. May they find soil prepared by you, for you judge us and make right what is wrong in our earthly life. We thank you that however painful many of our experiences are, we may still say, "Through how much need has not our merciful God spread out his wings to protect us!" Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
At that time I will answer the prayers of my people Israel. I will make rain fall on the earth, and the earth will produce grain and grapes and olives. I will establish my people in the land and make them prosper. I will show love to those who were called "Unloved," and to those who were called "Not-My-People" I will say, "You are my people," and they will answer, "You are our God." 
(Hosea 2:21–23 TEV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for mercy and truth; may they not be "empty words" when we use them
2. for the privilege of prayer and the joy of seeing answers
3. for the peace found in God's embrace (see the poem below)
4. for joy experienced, even in the face of trials
5. that I am able to grasp the breathtaking vistas of life in God's Kingdom, walking in the Gospel

Let There, by Daryl Madden

Let there be nothing
To do or to say
Only an entrance
A time here to pray

Let there be only
The need to receive
That God is here dwelling
And fully believe

Let there be silence
And no light to show
Only Gods voice
And vision to know

Let there be peace
In God’s embrace of
Mercy and grace
Wrapped in His love

I especially love that last stanza. Please visit Daryl’s site at the link provided to see more of his poetry.


And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 ESV)

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
(1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is joyfulness.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

The writer of today’s reading expresses joy in the midst of painful, even horrible circumstances. I have addressed the idea of joy, before, here. There is a stark difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not. Joy is more internal, and is dependent mostly on faith.

I can have joy, even when I am not happy. I can even have joy when I am angry, but it’s harder to see. Anger is tricky. I love what Dallas Willard says about it. “Anything done in anger can be done better without it.” That is so true.

It is also difficult to see joy in the midst of depression. I suppose that, out of all “emotions,” depression might be the one in which joy is least visible, if at all.

But the Bible exhorts us to have joy, even when we face trials, because we know this testing produces perseverance. Let’s look at the next verse in that passage.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(James 1:4 NIV)

Joy rests in the hope of things to come. If we know there is something better ahead, we can have joy. Joy eludes us if we have lost that hope.


By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
(Hebrews 11:8 NIV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
(Isaiah 42:16 NIV)

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:8 NIV)

All of these verses, while they do not contain the word “joy,” give reasons for it. We don’t always know where we are going, but we can have confidence that the Lord does. He knows where we are going, and He has it all planned out for us.

I think they left out one of the best verses, though.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

In the presence of the Lord, which is always and everywhere, there is “fullness of joy!” I looked up “fullness,” just for kicks. It means, “the state of being filled to capacity.” When I am in the presence of God, I am filled to capacity, even to overflowing, with joy!

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalms 23:5 NIV)

There may be differing opinions on what it is that the psalmist’s cup overflows with, but I like to think it is joy.


“The Christian faith by any accounting, even by those who do not embrace it, has to do with things vast and splendid: breathtaking vistas of the holy, awesome insights into the human, prodigious commands, and bright blessings.”

Thus begins today’s reading in On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson.

“The sheer extravagance of the gospel dazzles us.”

I wonder, though. Does it really? Have we become so jaded by our modern world and all its bells and whistles that the gospel no longer dazzles us? Do we no longer see the “breathtaking vistas of the holy?”

Based on what I see around me, and interactions on social media, I think that this may be all too true. I believe that most people who call themselves “Christian,” have no clue how grand and breathtaking the Gospel really is. They are basically living in a place that I would consider to be just inside the front door of salvation. They have stepped in, and they have gone no further.

I believe God has just shown me something, so bear with me.

I’ve been to Yellowstone. It is breathtaking. It is vast, indeed. So vast that, in order to visit one of the “main attractions” (Old Faithful, for example), you must drive anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes from the entrance. Yellowstone, after all, takes up a majority of the state of Wyoming.

Can you imagine driving your car into the entrance, and then just sitting there for an hour, never going any further? The person who did that would say, “I’ve been to Yellowstone. I wasn’t impressed at all. It was rather boring.”

“Many of us fail to live the fullness of the faith not because we don’t believe it but because we don’t feel up to it. At such times, we don’t need strong arguments to persuade us of the truth. We need simple directions to guide us into participation.”

Consider, as well, learning the English language. Most of us have gotten pretty good at it. There are a few of you out there who need work, let me tell you. But what if you were simply satisfied with the few thousand words you had learned by the age of, say five years old? Sure, you could get by in life, but you would certainly be limited. By the way, the average grown-up knows anywhere from 30,000-42,000.

The way we accomplish such things is not on our own. We have help. Knowing the fullness of the Lord (joy, included) comes from associating with others who have been there. Knowing how to get to the best places in Yellowstone comes from knowing and trusting people who have experienced it.

In short (is it too late?), we learn things by imitation. “Christians set down to live the common life, much as everyone else does, except that we do it in Christ’s way. The primary means of expansion of the ‘civilization’ of God in a ‘barbarian’ world is not by lecturing people in the truth or coercing them to be good. It is by establishing communities of imitation, worshipping congregations where we simply live the common life – but in God’s way.” (Emphasis mine)

Right now, in our culture, we are seeing the opposite. We are seeing a large group of people who are doing a lot of lecturing and coercion. We also see how that is working out.


Father, I have experienced much joy in my lifetime. And I am still experiencing it. I thank You for this joy, that comes in fullness from being in Your presence. Many times, I have felt my own “cup” overflowing, just as the psalmist wrote. Thank You that we are able to feel and see joy in the midst of trials, as well, because we know that, through those trials, You are perfecting us in perseverance, and preparing us for the pleasures of eternity with You.

I praise You for the faith that I have that, even when I don’t know or can’t see where I’m going, You are there, and You have the destination completely planned out. You show me the path, and You keep me on the path. Yes, I am “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,” but You keep me heading in the right direction. And, by faith, I am moving that way, moving forward.

Father, I pray, still more, for our society, today. I pray for “Christians” who can’t seem to make it past the front door, and are satisfied with simply having “fire insurance.” They’ve got their “ticket,” and that’s all they want. I pray for those who feel that the way to “convert” the “wicked” is by lecturing and yelling at them, telling them how “bad” they are and that they’re “going to hell.” That doesn’t seem to be having much effect, these days.

Help us to be more effective by imitation – imitating You by imitating Christ by imitating those who have gone before us in this journey. And, as we grow in our own journey (this is an important part of it, because if we don’t grow, how can we help someone else grow?), let us know the “breathtaking vistas of the holy,” as Peterson described. Help us to have the capacity to see the grandness, the vastness of You and Your Kingdom, through the Gospel. May we not try to contain You in a box of theology.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:3-8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.