Catch the Wind

Good morning. It is Monday, September 30, 2013. Last day of September.

Today is “Mud Pack Day.” Don’t look at me, I don’t make these up. . .


We had a great morning at church yesterday. The worship went really well, and Jacob really nailed the sermon. He is preaching through “The Sermon on the Mount” from Matthew 5-7, and yesterday, he came to the potentially awkward section in Matthew 5:27-37. This is the section that talks about lust and divorce. It may have been the best sermon I have ever heard on that subject matter. If you’re interested, there should be a podcast up sometime this week at the website for The Exchange.

The Rangers kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Angels once again, yesterday. They won their last seven regular season games. It didn’t quite make up for the damage done by the seven-game losing streak earlier in September, but it forced a tiebreaker game against the Rays tonight. If the Rangers win that, they will face the Indians for the Wild Card Game on Wednesday. If they win that, they will meet the Red Sox in the ALDS, beginning October 4. That will certainly be interesting.

It’s back to Monday again, and I have no idea what this week holds in store for us. Could be just another week. We shall see.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1399, King Richard II of England became the first English king to abdicate the throne. During his time as king, Richard had become “increasingly selfish and extravagant,” as well as more and more authoritarian. He began to ignore Parliament, and even, at one point, attempted “to be elected Holy Roman Emperor.” In 1939, Richard exiled his cousin, Henry Bolingroke and seized his property. But then, Richard made a grave mistake. He went on an expedition to Ireland. Bolingbroke invaded England, “as champion of all the dispossessed nobles.” He landed at Ravenspur on July 4, 1399, and “soon took control of most of England.” When Richard hurried back, he “found every hand turned against him and was forced to surrender to Bolingbroke’s supporters.” He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where, after being threatened and fearing for his life, he finally agreed to abdicate. On October 13, Bolingbroke was crowned King Henry IV. Henry moved Richard to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, where, four months later, he was dead, “possibly a suicide from starvation but more probably murdered on the orders of the new king.”


Today’s birthday is Buddy Rich, born on this date in 1917. Buddy is still known as one of the best drummers who ever lived. This clip is from a concert in 1987, just a few months before he died.

Honorable mentions go to Fran Drescher, 56, Johnny Mathis, 78, Barry Williams, 59, Angie Dickinson, 82, Jenna Elfman, 42, Marilyn McCoo, 72, Truman Capote, 1924-1984, Trey Anastasio, 49, Dominique Moceanu, 32, Robin Evan Roberts, 1926-2010, Deborah Kerr, 1921-2007, Jack Wild, 1952-2006, Eric Stolz, 52, Marc Bolan, 66, Gibby Haynes, 56, and Tony Hale, 43.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Psalm 103:20-22
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1

Father, I pray that you might show me some revelation during this time of devotion this morning. May your words come alive in my spirit today.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “No One Has Power Over the Wind.” The scripture reading is Ecclesiastes 8:5-8.

Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.

(The version quoted in the devotion renders “spirit” as “wind,” in verse 8.) We truly don’t know the course of our lives. Many of us seem to think that we can direct our lives in a certain direction, but, in truth, we have no clue what is coming. “It is easier to obey than to try to run our lives.” It is frustrating to attempt to keep control over our lives in this fallen world. It’s like trying to control or master the wind. It is impossible to do. Death is the same way. It is impossible to delay it forever, no matter how hard some people try. The one who wrote the words in the above scripture, only known as “The Teacher,” comes to the conclusion in the final verses of the small book, The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (12:13) Modern man seems to have either forgotten this, or is simply ignoring it altogether.

How many of us are nervous on airplane flights? (I raise my hand.) For many of us, this is caused by the fact that we have no control over our own destiny during the flight. We have, essentially, two choices. We can continue to be nervous, anxious, and, overall, miserable. Or we can release all of those feelings to God and trust his hand, along with the skills of the people flying the plane. But we struggle with relinquishing control, don’t we? The same is true of our daily lives. We want to feel like we are in control of things. But, in the end, we truly are not.


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY THIRTY-ONE
What to Pray: For the Spirit of Christ in His People

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:15

“As branches of the Vine, we are to be so like the Vine, so
entirely identified with it, that all may see that we have the same
nature, and life, and spirit. When we pray for the Spirit, let us
not only think of a Spirit of power, but the very disposition and
temper of Christ. Ask for and expect nothing less. Ask it for yourself
and ask it for all God’s children. This should be the deepest
cry of our heart.”

How to Pray: Striving in Prayer

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf. . . Romans 15:30
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face. . . Colossians 2:1

“Paul asked his followers to join him in his trials by praying
for him. All the powers of evil seek to hinder us in prayer. Prayer
is a conflict with opposing forces. It requires the whole heart and
all our strength. May God give us grace to strive in prayer for
others, and may we all be blessed with many who pray also for
us.”

Thus ends the “thirty-one day course,” Pray Without Ceasing.


Father, I thank you for the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and I pray that he might be more evident in my life, as I live each day. I pray daily for the life of Christ to be lived in me, and that his characteristics, listed in the Beatitudes, may be evident in my life. I also pray daily for the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in my life. I pray this for all believers, throughout the world today, that they might experience the life of Christ. Not only that he might empower them and enable them to live according to the commands of God, but that Jesus Christ might actually live in them and through them! I also pray that we might successfully relinquish attempting to control our own lives, our own destinies, when it is painfully obvious that we cannot. May we submit fully to you, daily.

I pray for this day, Father, that we will have a good work day, and that you will surround us with your steadfast love and mercy. I pray this for Stephanie, as well, that you will show her your love and enable her to know you more.


Part of submission is relinquishing control. To acknowledge the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit within us is the most effective way to do this.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Submission of Mary

Good morning. It is Sunday, September 29, 2013.

Today is “Coffee Day.” Now, there is a “holiday” I can fully support! πŸ˜€


Yesterday seems busy. Probably because we slept until after 10am. But we don’t get to do that very often. Lunch at Fogata’s, grocery store, all the usual stuff. But by the time we got done with everything, I had about an hour to practice today’s music before we went over to our bass player’s house to practice as a group. That went well, and was good fun. We picked up Sonic on the way home for dinner, then watched the season opening episode of The Voice. Well, we didn’t actually pick up Sonic. We just got food there.

The AL Wild Card race could not get more intense! Tampa lost again, yesterday, and the Rangers won, putting those two in a tie for the second Wild Card spot. Cleveland won, yet again, making nine in a row for them. Anyway, it all comes down to today. There could, conceivably, be a three-way tie. In that case there would be two tie-breaker games. It’s very complicated and makes my head hurt.


Today’s birthdays are Jerry Lee Lewis, 78, Miguel de Cervantes, 1547-1616, Gene Autry, 1907-1998, Madeline Kahn, 1942-1999, Bum Phillips, 90, Jean Luc Ponty, 71, and Mark Farner, 65.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 96:2-4
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. . . Psalm 65:5
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138

Father, I truly desire to thank you with my whole heart, yet I keep finding it to be divided. Unite my heart, Lord, that I would properly fear your name. May you be exalted above all things, O Lord! I will continue to praise you and worship you for all my days, and my heart longs for the day when I will worship you face to face. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Let It Be with Me According to Your Word.” The scripture reading is Luke 1:26-38.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holyβ€”the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary was, by the estimates of most scholars, very young when all of this took place, and had very little knowledge of “childbirth, marriage, or parenting.” She probably had an inkling of the disgrace that would come upon her and Joseph when this news became public. And she was told very soon after the birth of Jesus, “. . .and a sword will pierce through your own soul also. . .” (Luke 2:35). “The glorious prospect of becoming Jesus’ mother held the promise of untold pain.” How would we react were we in Mary’s shoes? Can we identify a time in our lives when the Lord told us to do something that was frightening, difficult to understand, or promised great heartache in the future? Mary’s response is classic, written down for the ages to remember.

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Submission.


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY THIRTY
What to Pray: For the Holy Spirit With the Word of God

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 1 Peter 1:12

“The Word of God is circulated without much difficulty in
countries where there is freedom of religion. Most sermons
are preached based on the Word of God–or should be.
Bibles–including various versions–are being read in homes
and in private schools. The Word is powerful and will
accomplish what God intends in each place, but how important it is
to intercede in these places, that the Holy Spirit will attend
the Word in power through those who are filled with the
Spirit and who read the Word with the eyes of the Spirit’s
understanding. Pray for Bible circulation in countries where
it is restricted or even prohibited, but pray too for the
accompaniment of the Holy Spirit in minds and hearts and in
preaching and teaching and reading, that its full effect may be
felt in every place. Let every mention of the Word of God
awaken intercessory prayer.”

How to Pray: Watching and Praying

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison. . . Colossians 4:2-3

“Do you see how everything depends upon God and prayer?
As long as He lives and loves and hears and works, as long as
there are souls with hearts closed to the Word of God, as long as
there is work to be done in carrying the Word to the ends of the
earth–pray without ceasing. ‘Continue in prayer, watching in
the same with thanksgiving.’ These are words for every Christian.
No one is exempt.”


Father, I pray that, everywhere your word is read, the Spirit would attend the reading and give understanding to both those who are reading and those who are hearing. I have been of the opinion for many, many years that one cannot truly understand your word without the help of your Holy Spirit. Therefore, I pray for that enlightenment by your Spirit, each time your word is read, whether out loud to a group, or silently by an individual. May each of us have great understanding when we read your word.

I also pray for the advancement of scripture in places where it is restricted or prohibited. I know there are countries on the earth that do not allow the distribution of Bibles. May your Spirit work in those countries to get Bibles to people who need them. I pray for those brave souls who work to get Bibles into countries, at the risk of being arrested or, possibly, worse. Protect them by your Spirit.

May we, your people, “continue steadfastly in prayer.” May we be faithful in interceding for the truth of your word to be spread abroad. Give us your strength to not get weary in interceding.

I pray for this day, Father. May we, your Church, be faithful in submission, as our great example, Mary, was. May we not fear for ourselves when you are instructing us to do your work. May we be bold and faithful. May our worship this morning be acceptable, and may we worship you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Fill the worship team with your Spirit this morning, as we play our instruments and sing with our voices. Fill the pastor even more, as he preaches your word to us this morning. Open our ears that we may hear what the Spirit has to say to our church.


The submission of Mary at the announcement by the angel is the best example we have, next to that of Jesus Christ, himself. May we all the same spirit of submission that she had, being faithful as a child.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Fear of the Lord

Good morning. It is Saturday, September 28, 2013. Stephanie says it’s raining outside. I know that there are thunderstorms predicted for this evening.

Today is “Good Neighbor Day.” It’s kind of sad that, in our culture, today, we simply don’t know our neighbors as well as we did in “days gone by.” But you can be a “good neighbor” to anyone you come across, can’t you? So today would be a good day to perform one of those “random acts of kindness.” (By the way, it is not State Farm Insurance Day, even though, apparently, very strange things happen when you sing that jingle.)


We finished up the week pretty well. I wound up having to work a few minutes late, but not too much. We got the information about our tile, coping, and plaster choices to our pool guy, and Christi ordered new glasses yesterday. Those things have gotten really expensive! Wow. But she needs them, because she has been getting headaches and blurred vision from eye strain during the afternoons.

The Rangers won again last night, and, wonder of wonders, the Rays finally lost a game. The Indians won their eighth in a row, so there is now a tie between the Rays and the Indians for the AL Wild Card, with the Rangers trailing just one game behind. This is the only race left in MLB, as all other playoff spots have been decided. There are two games left. The Red Sox won easily over the Orioles, last night, even with Chris Davis extending his home run record to 53. I have to tell you, I am very pleased to see him doing well, even if it is in Baltimore. Anyway, the Athletics won, as well, so Boston needs to win tonight to clinch home field advantage, should they advance to the ALCS.

Tonight, I will be going over to our bass player’s house for a worship team practice. Should be fun.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
Today’s story is very sad. I didn’t know this until today. One of my favorite Christmas carols is a not-so-well-known old song called “Good King Wenceslas.” It goes something like this.

(That is The Irish Rovers, by the way.)

Anyway, Wenceslas was actually not a king, but a duke of Bohemia. His father died young, and Wenceslas was raised by his “saintly grandmother Ludmila.” Unfortunately, his mother, Drahomira, was a pagan and had Ludmila murdered so that she could “hold power as regent for young Wenceslas.” When he came of age, he took power in the government, “instantly showing he had all the right instincts during the wrong time in history.” He not only took vows to remain a virgin, but encouraged the spread of Christianity in Bohemia, and, “much to his soldiers’ disgust, made peace with the German Emperor, Henry the Fowler.” His desire to help the poor, one of the keystones of his Christian faith, infuriated the nobles. In the year 929, Wenceslas left Prague to visit his brother Boleslav. “After an evening of magnificent entertainment, Wenceslas rose early on this date to attend matins. But as he was about to enter the church, henchmen sent by his brother brutally struck him down.” Boleslav obtained what he was after and became Duke. “But Wenceslas got to be the patron saint first of Bohemia and then of Czechoslovakia.”


Today’s birthdays are to Hillary Duff, 26, Brigitte Bardot, 79, Naomi Watts, 45, Ed Sullivan, 1901-1974, Moon Unit Zappa, 46, Ben E. King, 75, Arnold Stang, 1918-2009, Janeane Garofalo, 49, and Al Capp, 1909-1979.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! Psalm 34:3
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 57:9-10
Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! Psalm 106:3

Father, I thank you for the wonderful things that I find in your words every day. I pray that you would continue to teach me your ways, that I might walk in your truth. May I be one who is blessed for observing justice and doing “righteousness at all times.”


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Fearing God.” The scripture reference is Deuteronomy 10:12-13.

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?

Israel is beginning to learn what covenant relationship means. The first thing, the most important thing is fear of the Lord. But “fear” in this context means “neither abject terror nor simple respect. It involves recognition that God is our creator and we are totally dependent on him for our very life.” The things that follow are walking in his ways and loving him “with all your heart and with all your soul.” In the covenant relationship, love is more than just emotion, just like fear. It also involves gratitude and commitment to stay in the relationship. God is our King, and we are his servants, therefore, we are to serve him. We need to obey his commands. But before we get all caught up in the law, we need to remember that Jesus summed up the entirety of the law in two commands. Love the Lord with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. But it all starts with fearing God.

The book offers this prayer from Spiritual Exercises, by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I return it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.”


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-NINE
What to Pray: For the Spirit of Intercession

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. In that day you will ask in my name. . . John 16:24, 26

“If nothing else, our school of intercession has taught us how
little we have prayed in the name of Jesus. He promised His
disciples that in the day the Holy Spirit came upon them they would
ask in His name. Until we know and understand the work of the
Spirit in the life of the intercessor, we grieve the lack of power in
prayer. First we lack motivation, then we say we have no time,
then we seem to sense we are getting nowhere. But if the Holy
Spirit dwells in us, intercession will be natural to us. We will learn
to live in His fullness, and to yield ourselves to His intercessory
work through us. The church and the world need nothing so
much as a mighty Spirit of intercession to call down the power
of God on earth. Then we will know His presence as never before
and see true revival in our midst.”

How to Pray: Abiding in Christ

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

“Our acceptance with God and our access to Him is onlyl
possible through Christ. As we consciously abide in Him we have the
freedom to ask whatever we wish–because our old nature has
been put to death and our requests are in harmony with our new
nature, which is in alignment with the will of God. If we remain
in this fellowship, our intercession will be effective. We will not
have to be concerned about whether we are being heard and
whether our requests will be granted. If we are in the will of God,
we can be assured of the answer.”


Father, my heart’s greatest desire is to be an effective and powerful intercessor for your kingdom. Not so that I can gain recognition, but so that your name can be glorified through what you do in our world and in the Church. My work, that I believe that you have given me, is intercession in the body of Christ. Of course, that spreads outward, as well, but my primary mission is to intercede on behalf of your people, your Church, the Body of Christ. May you give me that Spirit of intercession, constantly keeping me praying and abiding in Christ, that I might be praying according to your will. I confess I still have doubts, but I also confess that my “abiding” is not so great. Keep me abiding in the Vine, as a faithful branch. More and more, make me serious about his work, about this ministry. It is the work you have given me to do.

I pray for more of a spirit of fearing you in our world. Modern man, as a general rule, does not fear you. They do not truly believe in you as creator and king. Even a large number of people within the Church do not act as thought they truly fear you. I pray for more of a sense of the fear of you in our churches, Lord. May your people understand the covenant relationship, and, therefore, fear you, walk in your ways, and love you. May we be committed to remaining in this covenant relationship, Father.

I pray for the remainder of this day. May we get our tasks accomplished and have time to rest. I pray for the practice session this evening, that it will go well, and that we will have a good time of fellowship as we prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s worship celebration.

Your grace is sufficient.


The fear of the Lord is not terror, but an understanding of who he is in relationship to who we are.

Grace and peace, friends.

Your Will Be Done

Good morning. Friday hath come! It is Friday, September 27, 2013. My favorite month of the year is almost upon us!

Today is “Ask A Stupid Question Day.” Go ahead. I’ll try to answer it. πŸ˜€


Yesterday was a pretty good day for me. Christi said she had some “emergencies” at work, which always have a way of causing major stress. But we managed to make it to the gym after work, after which we finally settled on tile, coping, and plaster colors for our pool renovations, which will be coming up shortly, hopefully.

The Texas Rangers squeaked out a win last night over the Angels, on a Jurickson Profar home run in the bottom of the ninth. But, alas, it was, once again, to no avail, as both Cleveland and Tampa won their games. Those two have now both won seven consecutive games. So the Rangers’ playoff hopes slowly dwindle away. The Red Sox clinched their division last week, and with three games left, have a two game lead over the Oakland Athletics for home field advantage in the playoffs.


Today’s birthday is Marvin Lee Aday, born on this date in 1947, in Dallas, TX. Oh, I’m sorry. You probably don’t know him by that name. You probably know him by his stage name, “Meat Loaf.” πŸ˜€ I’m sharing a clip of his song, “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” Warning. . . some may find this song offensive. I think it’s hilarious. Anyway, here it is.

Honorable mentions go to Avril Lavigne, 29, Gwyneth Paltrow, 41, Anna Camp, 31, William Conrad, 1920-1994, Samuel Adams, 1722-1803, Tamara Taylor, 43, Mike Schmidt, 64, Bud Powell, 1924-1966, Randy Bachman, 70, Don Cornelius, 1936-2012 (I don’t remember hearing that he had died), Harry Blackstone, Sr., 1885-1965, and James Dole, 1877-1958.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!
Psalm 27:7-9
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Father, this morning’s verses have a theme of seeking your face, seeking your presence. I will seek your face for as long as I shall live, and pray for a stronger, more intimate relationship with you each day. Show me your ways as I look into your word this morning. “Hide not your face from me.”


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Your Will Be Done.” The scripture reading is Matthew 6:9-10.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

How many of us pray that God’s will be done, but then subconsciously add, “As long as it’s what I want?” However, one of the basic tenets of the Christian life is that God knows what is best for us, better than we do. If we got everything that we prayed for, we might be in a bit of trouble. “For the next ten days we will try to experience the freedom that comes from setting aside our own will and self-interest.” The challenge is to, rather than asking questions or guidance of God, to “try to live each day with an attitude of surrender rather than struggle.” Perhaps even asking God each day what can be done to better live a life of submission (the current discipline being examined). The goal is to “discover ways to submit to God in matters large and small.” Here is a quote from Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster:

“At the beginning of the day we wait, in the words of the hymn
writer, ‘yielded and still’ before Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The first words of our day form the prayer of Thomas a Kempis,
‘As thou wilt; what thou wilt; when thou wilt.’ We yield our
body, mind, and spirit for his purposes. Likewise, the day is lived
in deeds of submission interspersed with constant ejaculations
of inward surrender. As the first words of the morning are of
submission, so are the last words of the night. We surrender our
body, mind, and spirit into the hands of God to do with us as he
pleases through the long darkness.”


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT
What to Pray: That All God’s People May Know the Holy Spirit

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own. . . 1 Corinthians 6:19

“The Holy Spirit is the power of God for the salvation of men.
He only works as He dwells in the church. He is given to enable
believers to live as God would have them live, in the full
experience and witness of Him who saves completely.
“Pray that all God’s people will come to know the Holy Spirit
and His function in their lives. He will reveal Jesus to us and
empower us to be His witnesses. We cannot expect to live as
effective Christians in prayer or in service without having the
fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If you believe in the Trinity,
do not neglect the Holy Spirit.”

How to Pray: Laboring Fervently in Prayer

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. Colossians 4:12

“To a healthy person, work is a delight, and that person works
hard at what interests him. The believer who is healthy–has a
clear conscience, a pure heart, and a desire to serve God–labors
fervently in prayer. True intercession is fervent prayer for others:
that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God;
that they may know what God expects of them; how He calls
them to live; and that they might be led by and walk in the Holy
Spirit. Labor fervently in prayer that all of God’s children may know
this.”


Father, I pray for all of us who name the name of Jesus Christ, that we may know the power of the Holy Spirit. May we not, as suggested, neglect the Spirit. He is an equal member of the Holy Trinity, and many Christians either ignore him or treat him as a lesser being. In truth, it is the Holy Spirit who resides within us, giving us power to live each day, giving us a mind to understand the reading of the scriptures. Without the Holy Spirit, none of us would understand what we read when we read your words. So I pray for each of us, that we may know the Spirit intimately. I also pray for more of a spirit of fervent prayer within the Church. May we have that clear conscience, that pure heart, and that desire to serve you, that we may labor fervently in prayer. I pray that each of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, may stand, “perfect and complete,” before you, Father. I pray that we all may know what you expect of us, how you have called us to live. Let us be “led by and walk in the Holy Spirit” each day.

May we also work more to be in submission to you each day. May we truly pray, at the beginning and end of every day (not to mention throughout the day), “Your will be done.” May we mean it when we say it, not just be making vain repetitions. Let us truly set aside our self-interests and pray that your will be done in every situation. Teach us to submit to you in all things.

I pray for this day, that Christi and I will have a smooth work day today. Give us rest this weekend, and may we worship you with all of our being on Sunday morning, as we gather together as one body to praise you. I pray, as always, that you would show Stephanie your steadfast love, overwhelming her with your peace. I also pray for your peace in Rachel and Justin’s lives, as they continue their studies. May you strengthen their minds and hearts as they study, preparing for their future.

I lift up a special prayer this morning for our friends, Josh and Joy, as they head out on a family vacation to Disney World. May they have a restful and peaceful time of fun and relaxation. As peaceful as it can be with four small children, anyway. πŸ˜€

Your grace is sufficient, O Lord!


“Your will be done. . .” is a prayer that can never be wrong. Unless, of course, you don’t mean it.

Grace and peace, friends.

Submission and Knowing Our Calling

Good morning. I is pre-Friday, September 26, 2013.

Today is “Johnny Appleseed Day,” in honor of that strange guy who walked around mid-America planting apple trees.


Last night we watched the pilot for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a new series directed by none other than Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, and more recently, director of the hit movie, The Avengers. S.H.I.E.L.D. was pretty good, but a little slow starting. I’m sure it will pick up though, as it gets going. We followed that with the season premier of How I Met Your Mother, which is now in its final season. We will miss that show, and will likely find reason to be sad in every episode of the season. They have already revealed “mother,” in fact, they revealed her at the end of last season. She and Ted are very close to meeting, already. Then we finished up with this week’s episode of New Girl, in which Schmidt buries himself deeper and deeper in his deceptive, ongoing relationship with two women at the same time.

While all this was going on, I was keeping up with two different baseball games. The Red Sox whipped the Rockies, 15-5, but it was very tense for a few innings, there. They are closer to obtaining home field advantage for the playoffs, as Oakland lost yesterday. The Rangers beat the Astros again, finishing a sweep, but to no avail, as the Indians and Rays won again! The Indians finish the season against the Twins, the third worst team in the AL, while the Rays play the Evil Empire for one more game, and then finish against the Blue Jays, the last place team in the AL East. Things are not looking good for the Rangers’ playoff hopes. That seven game losing streak earlier in September has really hurt them.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1513, a “Spanish conquistador discovered a gigantic new ocean, the Pacific.” It was not, however, as John Keats wrote in a poem, Cortez. It was, rather, Vasco Nunez de Balboa.” Balboa came to the new world at the age of 25, on an exploration voyage to Columbia. He attempted to settle in Hispaniola (currently Haiti), “but by the time he was 35 he was mired in debt and fled the island as a stowaway.” He landed at Darien, “on the north coast of the Isthmus of Panama where it joins South America.” He finally was able to prosper there, and took control of the Spanish settlement. As he led expeditions into the interior in search of gold and slaves, he heard rumors of “vast hoards of gold somewhere” and set out to find it. He began and expedition on September 1 of 1513, crossing “the stifling rain forests of the Isthmus of Panama, jungle so thick that for days he and his men could never see the sky.” He finally emerged on the southern coast to see a mountain “looming before them.” He climbed to the top, and it was there that he saw the ocean. Four days later, they reached the ocean, where he plunged “into the water in full armor,” and “brandished his sword and claimed it for Spain.”


Today’s birthday is Marty Robbins, born on this date in 1925. Robbins was a singer/songwriter from the mid 1900s, famous for songs such as “The Streets of Laredo,” and this one, “El Paso.” He died in 1982.

Honorable mentions go to Olivia Newton John, 65, James Caviezel, 45, John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed), 1774-1845, T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965, Linda Hamilton, 57, George Gershwin, 1898-1937, Kent McCord, 71, Donna Douglas, 80, Jack LaLanne, 1914-2011, Bryan Ferry, 68, and Lynn Anderson, 66.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62:5
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. Psalm 118:26
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8:3-9

Father, my soul waits for you, O God, as I prepare myself for this day. I pray that you teach me your ways this morning as I look into your word.


Today, in A Year With God, I’m beginning a segment on the discipline of Submission. Submission is defined as, “Subordination to the guidance of God; within the Christian fellowship, a constant mutual subordination out of reverence for Christ, which opens the way for particular subordination to those who are qualified to direct our efforts toward Christlikeness and who then add the weight of their wise authority on the side of our willing spirit to help us do the things we would like to do and refrain from doing the things we don’t want to do.”

“Submission does not mean blindly following anyone who tells us to do something.” When Jesus speaks of submission (although he does not use the word), he says, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. But this whole concept of self-denial is very foreign to us, especially in Western culture. We “worry that it requires losing our individuality.” In truth, self-denial simply means recognizing that we don’t always have to get our own way, and “that our happiness does not depend on getting what we want.” In fact, the act of subordinating the will to another can be “gloriously freeing.” If we don’t always have to have our own way, “we can hold the things of this world lightly.” Submission should always be to God first, but we can also submit to each other as brothers and sisters. This requires us to do as Paul admonishes in Romans and consider others to be more important than ourselves. Our best example is, of course, Jesus.

We must be aware, however, an on the alert, as submission can become destructive. This is when we need discernment and to trust the Holy Spirit for guidance to know when to refuse to submit to humans or human authority.

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. Luke 1:38


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN
What to Pray: That God’s People May Realize Their Calling

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:2-3
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Psalm 67:1-2

“Abraham was only blessed that he might be a blessing to all
the earth. Israel prays for blessing that God may be known
among all nations. Every believer, just as Abraham was, is only
blessed that he may carry God’s blessing to the world.
“Plead with God that His people may know this: that every
believer is to live for the interests of God and His kingdom. If
this truth were preached and believed and practiced, what a
revolution it would bring to our churches and our missions fields.
What a host of willing intercessors we would have. Ask God to
reveal this by the Holy Spirit.”

How to Pray: As One Who Has Accepted for Himself What He Asks for Others

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:15, 17

“When God has blessed us and met our needs, we are encouraged
and emboldened to ask the same for others. Let any thought
of your own weakness or shortcomings only make you more
urgent in prayer. As His child, you will be heard, many will be
helped, and your own faith will be strengthened.”


Father, I pray that your people will know and understand their calling in this world. I pray that we may all understand that our purpose in this world is tied to you; that the reason for us being blessed is so that we may carry that blessing into the world to others. I pray for submission within your Church, Father. There is not nearly enough of an attitude of dying to self, of self-denial, so that your purpose in this world can flourish. We all need to stop looking out for ourselves so much and start looking out for whatever it is that you have for us to do. Help me to deny myself daily, Father, that I might carry your blessing to those with whom I come in contact every day. May I rely solely on your power and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

I pray for this day today. May Christi and I have a good work day, giving our employers what they are due, that we might find favor with them. May we work as though we are working for you rather than men. May we have opportunities to help others find your peace. I also pray that Stephanie find your peace, and that she be surrounded by your steadfast love and protection.

Your grace is sufficient.


Submission is a scary word to us, today. But it is a necessary word, as we must submit to God in order to have a successful Christian life. May the Spirit guide us in this, and give us discernment, as well, as we consider mutual submission within the body of Christ. May we know our calling in God’s plan for our lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

Love and Intercession

Good morning. It is Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

Tough choice today, between “Comic Day” and “One Hit Wonder Day.” Well, now I’ve said both, so you can take your pick. For your entertainment, however, I will give you this, a compilation of seventies one-hit wonders. I don’t think it’s fair to have Lynn Anderson in there, nor was Argent a one-hit wonder. Some of these I had forgotten about, and a couple I never heard at all.


Last night, we watched the series finale of Dexter. Yes, it’s all over. And I’ll say this much. . . the finale was just flat stupid. In fact, pretty much the entirety of season 8 was a waste of time. They fixed it so that I won’t miss him, that’s for sure. Then we watched the season premier of Castle, which ended on a cliff-hanger, “to be continued” next week. After that, we gave Dads one more try, but have decided that it won’t make our cut. Sorry, Seth Green. Lots of TV shows cranking back up over the next couple of weeks, some new, some old. We’ll give a few new ones a shot at making our rotation, and one old one has dropped off. We have eliminated Bones from the list, as it clearly “jumped the shark” when she got pregnant.

The Rangers won, last night, keeping themselves alive in the Wild Card race. Unfortunately, the two teams ahead of them, the Rays and the Indians, both won, as well. The Rangers’ elimination number is now five. There are five games left. The Red Sox lost to the Rockies (can someone please explain why we are having interleague play in September??), but it really doesn’t matter, except that the Sox are trying to maintain home field advantage for the playoffs.


Today’s birthday is Shel Silverstein, born on this date in 1930. Silverstein was an author, poet, songwriter, who mostly was known for a series of poem collections that were “for children.” I believe most of us have found them to be quite delightful as adults, as well. Here is a You Tube clip I found of Shel reciting his own poem, “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too,” from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Honorable mentions go to Will Smith, 45, Christopher Reeve, 1952-2004, Mark Hamill, 62, Catherine Zeta Jones, 44, Michael Douglas, 69, Barbara Walters, 84, Heather Locklear, 52, Cheryl Tiegs, 66, Jamie Hyneman, 57, Glenn Gould, 1932-1982, Anson Williams, 64, Ronnie Barker, 1929-2005, William Faulker, 1897-1962, Dmitri Shostakovich, 1906-1975, Juliet Prowse, 1936-1996, Clea Duvall, 36, Bill Simmons, 44, and Phil Rizzuto, 1917-2007.

When I pointed out that there were a lot of birthdays today, Christi reminded me that nine months prior to this date. . .

. . .is Christmas. πŸ˜€


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Psalm 96:9
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Psalm 119:164
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Psalm 25:20-21

Father, may I truly praise you at least seven times a day! Guard my soul through this day and teach me your ways. Let me take refuge in you every day that I live, that I might be found faithful to your cause.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “The Greatest of These Is Love.” The scripture reading is 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, 13. This is the final reading on the discipline of chastity. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of glad about that. πŸ™‚

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This is probably the most famous passage on love in the whole Bible. I remember, as a child, being confused by this chapter, because the word “love” was translated “charity” in the King James Version, which was pretty much all we had back then. The words written here provide a very uplifting ideal for any community of faith to aspire to. In fact, I pray for these qualities in my life every single day. Paul desires for the Corinthian Christians to show this kind of love toward each other “in all their behavior.” The thing is, when we practice that love, we will also receive that love. Dallas Willard is quoted as saying, “To practice chastity, then, we must first practice love, practice seeking the good of those of the opposite sex we come in contact with.” I certainly believe that the discipline of chastity requires that we all respect and honor each other.

The book offers this prayer:

“Lord God, just as you love us, you call us to love one another. Thank
you for this wonderful gift. Teach me to love others chastely, with patience
and endurance, but also with rejoicing, recognizing in all I meet my brothers
and sisters. In your name I pray. Amen.”


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-SIX
What to Pray: For the Holy Spirit on Young Converts

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 8:14-16
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

“Many new converts remain weak; many fall into sin; many
backslide entirely. If you pray for the church, its growth in holiness
and devotion to God’s service, pray especially for the young
converts. Many stand alone, surrounded by temptation; many
have no teaching on the Spirit in them and the power of God to
establish them. Some are without support of family or friends.
Some are in countries that are closed to the Gospel, where Satan
has a stronghold. When you pray for the power of the Spirit in
the church, pray in particular that every young or new convert
may know that he may claim and receive the fullness of the Spirit
in his life.”

How to Pray: Without Ceasing

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 1 Samuel 12:23

“We are sinning against the Lord if we cease to pray for others.
When we begin to see how absolutely indispensable intercession
is, just as much our responsibility as loving God or believing in
Christ, and how we are called and bound to it as believers, we
will be convinced that to cease our intercession is a serious sin.
Let us ask for grace to take our place as priests with joy and give
our life to bring down the blessing of heaven on those who
depend on our prayers and supplications.”


Father, I lift up prayers today for “young” converts (which does not always mean young people). I lift up any who have recently given their lives to Jesus Christ, being inhabited by your Spirit. I pray for them to be surrounded by other believers, who will pray for them diligently to know the power of the Spirit that is already within them. Let them not be led astray by well-meaning folks who misinterpret scripture, but let them have solid foundations. Let us, believers everywhere, your Church, not fail in the mission of intercession. I am compelled daily to pray for people, not out of a sense of duty, but more of a sense of responsibility. There is a sense that these people are depending on me to pray for them, even when they don’t even know it is happening! I do not want to let them down; I do not want to let you down. Again, I pray, Father, don’t let me mess this up!

I pray for love in the community of faith. Just as I pray for the qualities of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 to be visible in my life each day, I pray for those same characteristics to be manifest in the life of the Church, both local and worldwide. We used to sing, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” Let that be truth in your Church. Let us be loving people, yet chaste in our love for each other.

I pray for this day, Lord, that Christi and I will have a good work day today. May we be diligent and efficient in getting tasks accomplished for our employers, working with joy, not begrudgingly. I pray for Stephanie today, as she was experiencing some ear pain yesterday, probably due to weather changes and sinus issues.

Your grace is sufficient.


As we, the Church, commit to love each other, we also need to commit to intercede for each other. We all depend on each other’s prayers. Let us be diligent and faithful in both love and intercession.

Grace and peace, friends.

Honoring Marriage

Good morning. It is post-Monday, September 24, 2013.

Today is “Punctuation Day.” Let’s see how many people fail.


Not much going on around here, lately. Life goes on, just like normal. We work, we come home, we eat, we watch TV. Last night we got two things accomplished after work. TWO! I extended my XM radio subscription (30-day free trial ends on October 13) for $30 for six months. Not a bad price. I just have to remember to call them and tell them I’m cancelling before the six months is up and they automatically renew at the “current price.” I have really enjoyed XM. There are actually too many stations. I’ve got presets for 18 in my car, and had a difficult time filling them all.

The other thing we got accomplished was the annual report of how Stephanie’s disability check is spent, since Christi is the representative payee. They actually let us do it online! So that wasn’t too difficult. After that, we ate dinner and watched TV. Christi had a bad headache last night, so we didn’t go to the gym. Maybe tonight. Instead, we watched Warm Bodies, a sort of zombie romantic comedy. It was cute, and very interesting. Not quite what I expected.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1435, Isabeau of Bavaria, one of the worst queens ever known by France, died at the age of 64. She was born Elizabeth, and was the daughter of the Duke of Bavaria. She married Charles VI of France and “her name was gallicized to Isabeau.” She married Charles at the age of fourteen, and after several years, “it became clear that the King was going mad.” He suffered many fits of insanity over the course of the next 30 years, during which Isabeau bore him six children. But she also entertained many lovers (see reading below about “honoring the marriage bed!”), including the King’s brother and cousin. There is a legend that says that she even had her soldiers “bring handsome men in off the streets,” where she would “make love to them, then have them tied up in sacks and thrown into the Seine.” What a charming creature!! Unfortunately, she also wielded power. She signed the Treaty of Troyes which gave King Henry V of England the throne of France while her own son, Charles, was sent into exile. She died, as stated above, “at the age of 64, held in contempt equally by the English she had helped and the French she had betrayed.”


Today’s birthdays are Jim Henson, 1936-1990, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1896-1940, Kevin Sorbo, 55, Phil Hartman, 1948-1998, Joe Greene, 67, Linda McCartney, 1941-1998, Rafael Palmeiro, 49, Frank C. Mars, 1882-1934, and Gerry Marsden, 71.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Psalm 31:23
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. Psalm 119:147
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Psalm 118:28

As I give thanks to you and exalt your name this morning, Lord, I pray for some revelation that will keep me in the center of your holiness. May my life reflect your glory and glorify your name.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Let Marriage Be Held in Honor.” The scripture reading is Hebrews 13: 1, 4.

Let brotherly love continue. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Hebrews 13 has a sort of checklist of spiritual activities, and love seems to be the central theme, running throughout. The word in verse 1 is, of course, philadelphia, “brotherly love.” The writer moves from that, however, to admonishing against sexual immorality and adultery, and keeping “the marriage bed. . . undefiled.” He calls upon us to honor marriage. Marriage seems to be more under attack now than ever before. And I’m not talking about the issue of gay marriage. I’m not going to address that here. I’m simply talking about the number of people in our world who simply don’t care anything about it any more. A lot of people simply don’t bother, these days, and then, when they do, they take a very casual attitude about it, as though it is just something they will try, and if it doesn’t work out, oh, well.

But how do we express ourselves outside of marriage? How do we have a measure of intimacy and meaningful conversation outside of the marriage relationship? This is a dangerous, yet necessary part of life. My wife has a very good male friend at work. I certainly don’t mind that. He is married with way too many kids, and has a great wife. But he is jokingly called her “work husband,” sometimes. We don’t mind that. It’s a good relationship, and she needs that. (I haven’t managed to find a “work wife,” yet, but that’s mostly because most of the people at my work are guys. The one female is about 18 and speaks about three words of English.) But I digress. The point is, we are human. We need “brotherly love” relationships, as well as our marriage. The marriage is not designed to fulfill every single need that a couple has. That is too much of a burden for either party to take on. But we must always remember that there are lines that cannot be crossed.


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-FIVE
What to Pray: For More Conversions

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:4, 7

“Christ’s power to save, and save completely, depends on
His unceasing intercession. After the apostles withdrew themselves to
concentrated prayer, the number of the disciples multiplied rapidly.
“As we in our day give ourselves to intercession, we will also
see more conversions. Let this be our focus. Christ is exalted to
grant repentance and salvation. The church exists for the divine
purpose of growth in faith and in numbers. Let us not be
ashamed to confess our sin and weakness, and then to cry to God
for more souls to be saved both in our midst and in countries
where His Word is not preached and people cling to false gods
and die without hope.”

How to Pray: In Deepest Humility

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:27-28

“You feel unworthy to pray. You question whether you are
praying effectively. Even when you feel this way, come before Him
and tell Him how you feel. This is true humility. You are not
seeking for yourself, but for others. You are trusting His grace and
mercy, not your merits or influence. It is the beginning of a great
faith, and an answer is forthcoming. The woman reminded the
Lord that the dogs are allowed the crumbs that fall from the table.
Let that be your plea as you persevere for someone who is outside
the circle of faith or outside the hearing of the Gospel. Do not let
your unworthiness hinder you from trusting God’s faithfulness
and mercy toward someone less fortunate than you.”


Father, I pray for the Spirit to be alive and working in our world, and that we, the faithful believers, would be more active in intercession, praying for more souls to be saved. May the Gospel flourish in the world, as your faithful servants, chosen by you for this task, lovingly preach the it to those who have not yet heard. May we not ever be guilty of trying to squeeze a conversion out of anyone, but simply allow your Spirit to do the work in them. It is not to our credit when souls are saved; it is to your glory and your glory alone. Yes, we may be concerned about their eternal destiny, but it is up to you, not us.

I also pray for the honor and sanctity of marriage in our world. May those who choose to enter into marriage take it seriously. May we be filled with your Spirit and approach all other relationships with the marriage in mind, keeping ourselves free from even “accidental” sin.

I pray for this day, Lord, that you would give us a good work day, keeping us focused on the tasks at hand, working effectively and efficiently for our employers, but working as though we work for you. Give us success in our companies, and may our companies prosper, that we may prosper. As always, I pray that you would surround Stephanie with your steadfast love.

I thank you that my friend, Debbie, got a new job, beginning yesterday.

Your grace is sufficient.


May we pray for the success of the Gospel in our world, while allowing the Spirit to do the work of conversion.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Seal Upon My Heart

Good morning. Monday is upon us, yet, again. Monday, September 23. A week and a day until my favorite month of the year.

Today is “Checkers Day.” Apparently, it has nothing to do with the board game, but refers to a famous speech made by vice-presidential Richard M. Nixon in 1952. His nomination was in jeopardy, and he made a half-hour speech, during which he encouraged people to contact the RNC to let them know if he should remain on the ballot. Regardless of what happened, he intended to keep one gift that had been given him; a black and white dog, named. . . you guessed it, “Checkers.”


Yesterday was a pretty good day. After a good worship service, we drove to Denton, where we went out for lunch with Rachel and Justin. We went to a place in Denton, called Giuseppe’s Italian restaurant. We had not been there before, so we decided to try something new. The food was mediocre, at best. The bread was boring, and, unlike Zio’s they brought us nothing to dip the bread in, and there was no butter for it. It wasn’t even garlic bread. It was just bread. We all ordered “Diet Coke,” and were brought something that most definitely wasn’t Diet Coke (she didn’t tell us she wasn’t bringing us Diet Coke–the menu simply says “Soda”). When we asked her about it, she said, “Well, it’s not “Coke” brand, it’s Kroger brand.” We were somewhat stunned by this; first that a restaurant that gives the pretense of being a nice restaurant would serve Kroger brand soda, second that they would charge me $2.00 for a glass of said Kroger brand soda. Three of us returned the soda, choosing water instead. Or maybe two of us. Can’t remember. At one point, the waitress asked me if I wanted more “Diet Coke.” I didn’t bother arguing with her. The “marsala” sauce turned out to be nothing more than brown gravy, and not very good brown gravy, at that. Tasted like it came out of a jar. The actual entree was not horrible, but nothing to remember, either. The sausage was tasty, I’ll give them that. We definitely won’t be going back. But we had fun with it, so that’s good. After lunch, we went back to R&J’s place, where we petted kitties for a while, chatted, and then came back home.

On the way home, we stopped at Red Box and got a couple of movies. We watched one last night, called Now You See Me. That movie was so much fun! It starred Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Isla Fisher (she played “Rebel Alley” on Arrested Development), Woody Harrelson, and Jesse Eisenberg, who played Zuckerberg in The Social Network. It was about a group of four “magicians,” called The Four Horsemen, who were allegedly robbing people during their performances, but then sharing it back with their audiences. It was totally unbelievable, but so much fun. I highly recommend it.


Today’s birthday is Ray Charles, born on this date in 1930. Ray was a blind piano player, singer, and songwriter who is a legend in the R&B world. Here is one of my favorites songs of his, “It Should’ve Been Me.” Sadly, we lost Ray in 2004.

Honorable mentions go to Bruce Springsteen, 64, Mickey Rooney, 93, Jason Alexander, 54, John Harbaugh, 51, John Coltrane, 1926-1967, Ani DiFranco, 43, Kublai Khan, 1215-1294, and Neal Smith, 66.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Psalm 103:1-2
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Psalm 16:1-2
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:1-2
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7

Father, I pray that you would show me yourself during this morning devotion, and then continue to keep in in the center of your grace throughout this day. You are my rock, shield, fortress, deliverer; my salvation!


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Set Me as a Seal Upon Your Heart.” The scripture reading is Song of Solomon 8:6-7.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

What a beautiful passage! In case you haven’t figured it out, yet, “being chaste does not mean being celibate.” For us who are married, it means “giving ourselves fully, and permanently, to our spouse in the same way we give ourselves fully to God.” The woman in this short, poetic book, is speaking. The “seal,” in those days, was a stamp of some sort, pressed in soft clay or wax, that left an impression, indicating a person’s identity. What is being asked for here is permanence and belonging. By having her seal on his heart, she wants him to be “marked” as hers and hers alone, and vice-versa. In our culture, we are drifting toward a sense of individuality that rebels against this idea of “ownership.” But it is also this same culture that is drifting away from the idea of belonging, in the same way, to God. But we should stop and reflect on the qualities of an ideal marriage (if one could be said to exist, and think there may be a few left) and how it reflects the ideal relationship with God. Here is a quote from Love and Marriage by David Hubbard:

“The loyalty pictured in the Song should remind [us] that there’s no
way out of this. There’s no rip cord that can be pulled, no ejection seat
that can be triggered. They are in it together, bound to each other
forever with covenantal loyalty.”


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-FOUR
What to Pray: For the Spirit on Your Own Congregation

. . .and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49

“Each one of us is connected with some congregation or circle
of believers. They are to us the part of Christ’s body with which
we come into most direct contact. They have a special claim on
our intercession. Let it be a settled matter between God and you
that you are to labor in prayer on its behalf. Pray for the minister
and all layleaders or workers within it. Pray for the believers
according to their needs. Pray for the conversion of unbelievers.
Pray for the power of the Spirit to manifest itself in your services
and outreaches. Join yourself with others to pray for specific
petitions that are brought to your attention. Let intercession be a
definite work in your midst, carried on as systematically as the
preaching, the worship, and the Sunday school classes. And when
you pray, expect answers.”

How to Pray: Continually

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest. Isaiah 62:6
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Luke 18:7-8
. . .as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 1 Thessalonians 3:10
She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. 1 Timothy 5:5

“When the glory of God, and the love of Christ, and the need
of souls are revealed to us, the fire of this unceasing intercession
will begin to burn in us. It will not be hard to pray every time
these people and these needs come to mind. If we remain in an
attitude of prayer, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind needs as they
arise. When we awake at night, we will know for whom we
should pray. Prayer is ongoing in the life of the intercessor. It
really has no beginning and no end. In the power of the Spirit it
is not a tiresome thing, but a source of energy and satisfaction.”


Father, I do pray for the congregation with which we worship each week. These people are very close and special to me. Therefore, I lift them up frequently in prayer to you, and ask you to make me even more sensitive to the needs that they have. May you empower me, by your Spirit, to remain in a constant attitude of prayer, regarding these, that i might be lifting them up “without ceasing.” And this, Father, is my goal for the intercessory prayer ministry of The Exchange, that we might be praying in exactly this way for our congregation, and beyond. Give us your Spirit, Lord, to be able to do this. Give me wisdom to lead this ministry.

I pray fort his day today, that your grace and mercy will fill it. Give Christi and me a good work day today, as we get back into the weekly routine of things. May we shine with your light as we encounter people today. Remind me throughout this day to pray for people and situations. Show your steadfast love to Stephanie today; keep her in your grace.


If you are in a marriage relationship, I pray that it can mirror that which is described in the passage we read today. Be determined to be sealed on the heart of your spouse. You belong to each other, just as we belong to God.

Grace and peace, friends.

Praying for Power at Work

Good morning. It is Sunday, September 22, 2013. First day of Fall! My favorite season of the year.

Today is “Wife Appreciation Day.” Now let me tell you something. I don’t have enough time to tell you how much I appreciate my wife. I have been blessed with the most wonderful wife a man could ask for, for very close to 28 years, now. (28 years on October 12.) I could write for hours about what a blessing Christi has been in my life.

I love you and appreciate you more than I can say, Christi Bickley!


Since my last blog was so late yesterday, there really isn’t any update on the personal level. The Red Sox lost last night, but it really doesn’t matter, as they have clinched their division title. The Rangers won, which kept them in exactly the same place, because everyone ahead of them won, as well.


I won’t have time for history and birthdays today. We are going to Denton after church to visit with Rachel and Justin. Perhaps I will make an addendum this evening. We shall see.


I’ve come back to add the birthdays. Today’s birthday is Toni Basil, who turns 70 today. I’m stunned at this knowledge. I know that she made this video in the 80s.

So how old was she then? Must have been a bit older than she looked in the video, that’s for sure.

Honorable mentions go to Joan Jett, 55, Scott Baio, 53, Bonnie Hunt, 52, Tommy Lasorda, 86, Michael Faraday, 1791-1867, Johnette Napolitano, 56, and David Coverdale, 62.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! Psalm 98:1
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. Psalm 119:141
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Psalm 71:5
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Psalm 84:1-3

“Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heav-
enly; and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away,
hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Father, my soul indeed longs and faints for your courts. I will sing for joy to you. I pray that you show me marvelous things while I read and meditate on your words. May I truly “hold fast to those that shall endure,” and not place my hope and confidence in things that are passing away. You have been my hope and my trust since I was a child. May I continue hoping and trusting in you until I am no more on this earth.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth.” (How appropriate on “Wife Appreciation Day,” no?) The scripture reading is Proverbs 5:15-22.

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

“This proverb eloquently describes the beauty of faithful married love.” Those of us who are married observe the discipline of chastity by remaining faithful to our spouses, “in thought, word, and deed.” It might be easier to remain faithful in deed than in thought and word. I will tell you one thing from my personal experience. I have made it a point, throughout 28 years of marriage, that I never (and I do mean never) speak an ill word about my wife, not in public, not in private, not even to her face. The thoughts are, of course, a bit more difficult to control, as we all probably know. Nevertheless, my speech about my wife is always uplifting, and never critical. Therefore, when I say how much I appreciate her, I’m not just “kissing up.”
The book offers this prayer for anyone who might be feeling overwhelming temptations:

“God, I find myself in a constant struggle with sexual temptation. I am
ashamed of my sin and I long to be free. Please forgive me and teach me
how to remain chaste in thought, word, and deed. Show me what steps
I need to take to overcome this temptation–whether there is someone I
need to talk to about it or some way I can minimize its influence in my life.
In your name I pray. Amen.”


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-THREE
What to Pray: For the Holy Spirit in Your Own Work

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:29

“Each of us has our own work to do each day, however secular
or ministry-oriented it may be. It is where God has placed us. We
are ministers wherever we are. We are witnesses of His grace and
mercy. Make your place of work a place of intercession for those
around you. Paul labored, striving according to the working of
God in him. Remember, God is not only the Creator but also the
Sustainer of all. You can do your daily work effectively only in
His strength and by His working in you through the Spirit. Be an
example of hard work and patient understanding of the trials and
difficulties of others. Co-workers will sense that you have a source
of strength and energy that they do not. This can be a platform
of testimony for you.
“Use your spare moments to pray for those who are over you
and any who may work for your. Especially remember those who
labor in the church, however solitary or unknown they may be.”

How to Pray: In God’s Very Presence

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

“The nearness of God gives confidence and power in prayer.
He is never far from us, but waits for us to draw near to Him, to
confess any sin and to be cleansed afresh. When our hearts are
pure before Him we can focus on the needs of others. It is easy
to pray in faith when we know God is near and waiting and there
is nothing between us and Him.
“When God first draws us into the school of intercession, it is
as much for us as it is for others. It trains us to love and wait and
pray and believe. Learn to rely on His presence, to be assured of
it. Then bring your work to Him, your co-workers, your successes,
and your failures. Intercede for those souls who do not
know him, but who know you and with whom you are in contact
every day. Your compassion for them will grow, and God will
equip you to minister to them in their times of special need.”


Father, I pray diligently for the power of the Holy Spirit in my own work. I have secular work, every day, the same time most people are working. I pray that you Spirit would empower me to not only do my work effectively and efficiently, but to also, as suggested, use any spare time for the work of intercession, which is the spiritual work that you have given me. May your Spirit remind me who needs prayer every day, every moment. May I realize that I am in your precious presence every minute, every hour, every day! Let this inspire me to an even higher level of intercession as I know this and practice your presence in my life.

I thank you for my wife and for the marriage that we have managed to hang onto for almost 28 years. It is a strong testimony to your power and grace in our lives! May it continue to be so for at least that many more years! By your Spirit, keep me faithful “in thought, word, and deed!”

I pray for this morning. May our worship service be strong and powerful today. May we truly worship you and bring glory to your name. Fill the worship team with your Spirit today, as we play our instruments and sing with our voices. May everything we do this morning be to your glory, even that period of time when we are unloading the trailer and setting up the room.

Your grace is sufficient.


Today’s prayer reading is one of the most powerful in the book, in my opinion. Most of us work somewhere. May we take the advice of Mr. Murray and use our work time as a platform for intercessory prayer.

Grace and peace, friends.

Pray for Those Who Suffer

Good afternoon. Yes, it’s afternoon. I’m late today. Very late. We’ve had a busy day so far. It’s Saturday, September 21, 2013.

Today is “Miniature Golf Day.” And it would be a nice day for it, too. It’s very nice outside around here, today. It rained the last couple of days, so the temperatures are very “fall-ish,” which is appropriate, because tomorrow is the first day of fall!


I got home late from work yesterday (thanks to a Yankee fan), so we didn’t go work out. We started watching a new show on Netflix. Well, new to us. It’s called House of Cards, and stars Kevin Spacey. We watched three episodes last night, and really enjoyed it. It’s a show about politics, but it’s got a humorous edge to it.

While we were watching House of Cards, the Red Sox clinched the AL East division by beating the Blue Jays, 6-3. I’ve already ordered my t-shirt. The Rangers, on the other hand, once again found themselves short of the Wild Card spot after losing to the Royals, 2-1.

This morning, we slept rather late, and then went up to the office of Fort Worth Community Credit Union to sign some loan papers. We have gotten a home improvement loan (small one) to do some work on our swimming pool. We are getting all of the tile and coping replaced, and some cracks filled in along the edge of the deck, where it meets the house. We’re kind of excited about this. Then we got home and went ahead and went to the grocery store. After that, it was our traditional Saturday afternoon lunch at Fogata’s restaurant, more drinks from Sonic, then back home. So here I am, sitting in my cave, typing at my computer, entertaining and/or inspiring you. Or not.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 490 BC, the Greeks defeated the Persians on the Plain of Marathon, in what was a genius move of strategy. The Persians, led by Darius, had landed at the Bay of Marathon earlier in September, with an army of 15,000. The Athenians sent a messenger “to plead for reinforcements from the Spartans.” But the Spartans couldn’t march until after certain religious festivals were completed, some ten days away. 10,000 Greeks reached Marathon in mid-September, and faced the Persians, although uncertainly, for eight days. The Persians were hoping that the Alcemaeonidae would overthrow the government in Athens while the army was gone. On this date, the Greek commander Miltiades saw that the Persian cavalry had headed off, probably to attack Athens, and he learned that Persian reinforcements were on the way. He struck. “The Athenian infantry charged forward and were immediately counter-attacked by the Persian front line. The Greek center bowed backwards under the assault, as the Persians hurled themselves forward, thinking the Greeks were in retreat. Then Miltiades brought his two reinforced wings around in a double envelopment, smashing into the Persian flanks.” In the massacre that followed, the Greeks only lost 192, while 6400 Persians died. The remainder of the Persian army “fled to their ships and headed for home.” However, the Athenians still had to deal with potential overthrow in Athens, so they immediately dispatched a runner to Athens. Some say it was the same runner who went to Sparta to try to get reinforcements, one Pheidippides. “Without pause or rest or water, he ran the 26 miles between Marathon and Athens, announced the Athenian triumph (‘Nike’ in Greek, meaning victory) and then fell dead from exhaustion.” It was almost two and a half thousand years later when the Greeks commemorated this run by holding the first 26-mile “marathon” run in the 1896 Olympics, which were held in Athens. The winning time was two hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds. It was won by Spyridon Louis, a Greek.


Today’s birthday is Stephen King. Everyone knows who he is. Stephen King is probably my favorite fiction author. He has written blockbuster novels, such as The Stand, The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, Carrie, It, just to name a few. His “magnum opus,” however, is the Dark Tower series, which I have read more than once. He used to play in a rock band on the side, along with Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Matt Groening, Barbara Kingsolver, and others. Here is a clip of a live performance of “Hey Little Girl,” in which Stephen King sings. It’s good that he stuck to writing. πŸ˜€

Honorable mentions go to Bill Murray, 63, Dave Coulier, 54, Faith Hill, 46, Liam Gallagher, 41, Larry Hagman, 1931-2012, Luke Wilson, 42, Leonard Cohen, 79, Chuck Jones, 1912-2002, Allison Scagliotti, 23, Jerry Bruckheimer, 68, H.G. Wells, 1866-1946, Joseph Mazzello, 30, Don Felder, 66, Nancy Travis, 52, Cheryl Hines, 48, Ethan Coen, 56, and Henry Gibson, 1935-2009.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Psalm 103:20-22
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. Psalm 42:1

Father, my soul truly does pant for you, as though I were famished for water. I pray that you show yourself to me during this time today.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Do Not Deprive One Another.” The scripture reading is 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Not exactly the kind of scripture reading you might expect in a daily devotion, eh? But what is happening here is that someone among the Corinthians has suggested, or even asserted that sexual abstinence should be the norm for all church members, both married and unmarried. But Paul disagrees here, insisting that sexual fulfillment in marriage actually prevents temptation. There might be an exception, if both parties agree to it, for the purpose of prayer. This kind of thing was covered in a previous discipline, fasting. The point of this is, though, that, among we who are married, our bodies do not belong to ourselves, they belong to each other. There are couples who use sex as reward or punishment in the relationship. This is never good. To quote Pat Benatar, “Stop using sex as a weapon!” And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”


Pray Without Ceasing: A Thirty-One-Day Course, by Andrew Murray

DAY TWENTY-TWO
What to Pray: For All Who Are Suffering

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

“We live in a world of suffering. Jesus sacrificed everything to
identify himself with it–with them. Let us seek to do our part in
identifying with those who suffer, empathizing with them in their
grief and pain–the persecuted believers around the world, the
famine-stricken millions in Africa, the poverty and wretchedness
of the developing countries, and so much more; what suffering
among those who know God as well as those who do not know
Him. Then in smaller circles, in many homes and hearts in our
own country, in our own neighborhoods, prayer is needed. There
are children who suffer abuse, parents who struggle to provide
for their families. Many need our help and comfort. Let us seek
them out and pray for a heart that weeps with them. It will stir
us to pray, to work, to hope, to love more than we do. And in
ways and at times we least expect, God will hear our prayers. He
is at work even before we ask.”

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18:1

“Do you believe prayer is the solution for this sinful world? If
you do, you will also see the need for unceasing prayer! The
greatness of the task would overwhelm us and cause us to despair
were it not for God’s promise of the Holy Spirit’s assistance. What
can our ten minutes of intercession avail? Even ten minutes is
better than no prayer, but after ten minutes we will begin to sense
the burden of the Spirit and we will find that more time is needed
before we even scratch the surface of the need. God is calling and
preparing us every day to give our life to prayer. Give yourself to
God for the sake of others and you will not regret that you did.
God’s work is our work. Let us go to Him with expectant hearts,
full of faith and boldness. The Enemy of our souls will not have
his way if we pray always, led by the Holy Spirit. It is possible to
pray always and not to faint! Don’t give up!”


Father, I pray for those who suffer in our world. I know so many who suffer in various ways. Lord, I pray for the friend who struggles with alcohol addiction. I pray for the parents of little Phoebe who suffer, knowing that, unless you intervene, their time with their precious baby is short! I pray for people in our own country, as well as in other countries, who are oppressed because of race, economic status, age, or sex. I pray for those who suffer with disabilities that are no fault of their own. There is so much suffering in the world, and so much prayer is needed. Let us not fail in prayer, Lord, but let us truly pray without ceasing. You are teaching me the meaning of this, and I pray that you continue teaching me. I want to get this; please help me get it. May I not faint and not give up.

I pray for what’s left of this day. I need to practice, and then find some time for rest this evening. May your grace give us good rest tonight and prepare us for worship in the morning.

Your grace is sufficient.


We wonder why there is so much suffering. . . perhaps it is to inspire us to pray more. None of us is able to answer that ubiquitous question. However, all of us are able to pray.

Grace and peace, friends.