Interior Silence, the Place of Strength and Power

Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,470

June is half over today. 2022 is almost half over. And even though we’ve already hit triple digits at least a couple times in the past week, Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, five days from now. That day is also known as Summer Solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight.

If I write anything that doesn’t make sense, today, it’s because I woke up too early. C gets up at 5:15 to get ready for work, and my brain had a lot of things to think about, so I wound up getting up around 6:00. What’s on my brain? Let’s see . . .

We switched mobile carriers, yesterday. We finally dumped ATT, because I’m tired of over-paying and under-getting. We have switched to Mint Mobile, for at least three months. If we like it, we will likely renew for twelve. Unlimited data for half the cost of ATT. The problem is, I still have an iPad I need to get set up, and I’m going to need some technical support today, because I made one wrong decision when I was trying to set it up yesterday afternoon.

I’m trying to reschedule my colonoscopy that is currently scheduled for Monday. I didn’t realize, when I scheduled it, that it was the day after Father’s Day! I was thinking about going ahead with it, but then I looked at the prep instructions. I can’t eat any solid food for a whole day before the procedure! I have called the scheduling number four times, and one of the facilities once, and can’t get any response. So I have to deal with that again today.

There’s more, but those are the two “big” things (first world problems, of course, or, as I have also called them, “footstool problems”). It will all work out fine.

This is my Wednesday off, at least. And I’m cooking a surprise for the family, tonight. Another dish that I got from Emily Bites, a wonderful recipe site that has tasty and relatively healthy recipes. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow morning, along with how it came out.

The Rangers blew a three-run lead, last night, to lose to the Astros, 4-3. It was almost the exact reverse of Monday night’s game, when the ‘stros blew a 3-0 lead. And the thing that ultimately led to the loss was a misplayed grounder that could have been an out (allowing a run to score), but wound up being no outs and a run scored. The next batter hit a two-run home run, and that wound up deciding the game. Oh, well. Tonight’s another night, and the Rangers could still win the series. We’re still in second place, though, because the Angels lost again. The Rangers are back to 8.5 out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

I learned yesterday that there will be three wild cards in each league, this year. This is getting ridiculous. Soon, MLB will be like the NBA, where more than half the teams make the playoffs. Might as well just start the season with the playoffs. Also, currently, all three wild card spots are held by AL East division teams. If the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs!

Anyway, the Rangers play the Astros again this afternoon at 1:05 CDT. We don’t know who is pitching for the Rangers, yet.

The Red Sox beat the Athletics (good for the Rangers), last night, 6-1. The Sox are now 33-29 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 2.5 out of third, 12.5 out of first, but are currently in the third Wild Card spot. They play the Athletics again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

We all know who still has the best MLB record, now at 45-16. The KC Royals have the worst record, at 20-41. The Braves won again, increasing their win streak to 13! The Cubs must not have played last night, and the Pirates did, and lost, so the Pirates now have the longest losing streak, at nine games. You-know-who has a run differential of +129. The Pirates are now at -103. The Rangers are at +5 after last night’s loss, and the Red Sox are at +45. Oddly, the Sox are in sixth place in the run differential category.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open will carry on, today, with practice sessions for all four oil patterns.

Update on tasks. My colonoscopy is rescheduled for Monday, July 11, and my iPad appears to be set up, now. Things are looking up!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, help us who are allowed to hear your Word. Help us come with all our hearts to the Savior, who leads us into your arms. Hear our pleading and let your countenance shine over the world. Send a new age soon, a new salvation to the earth, to the glory of your name. Show us that what we have learned about you is the truth and that we may live in the truth and find the way through to heaven, to the glory of your name. Hear us, O Lord our God. Often it seems that you are far away. But we know that our voices still reach you and that those roused by your Holy Spirit will become your workers for the Lord Jesus. Send your Spirit soon, O Lord God. Send the Comforter, who leads us into all light and all truth. We entrust ourselves and our daily lives to you. We want to be faithful. Help us to be your children, to remember at every step that we belong to you, Lord God. No matter how dark it is on earth, help us remember that we are with you, your children in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:14-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for one gracious blessing after another, received out of the abundance of the Father's unfailing love and faithfulness
2. that we are the tabernacle of God, as His Spirit dwells within us, but also that anywhere I can worship God can be my tabernacle
3. that God chooses to be with us always, an indication of how much He loves us; how then can we not also choose to love one another?
4. that we can know the strength and power of the Holy Spirit by entering into the silence of that inner tabernacle
5. for coffee

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
(Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is “tabernacle.”

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34 NLT)

The tabernacle of the Old Testament was the place where the people of God met with Him. His presence dwelled within the tabernacle.

But now, ever since Christ came, God’s tabernacle is within us.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

There are many verses of Scripture that tell us that we are the dwelling place of God, now.

All that being said, though, anywhere You meet God can be your “tabernacle.” This study is my “tabernacle” every morning. I have experienced “tabernacle” on the deck of a cabin in Glen Rose, as I looked out over the landscape, toward the river. I have worshiped God sitting in a canvas chair on a beach in Galveston, watching the waves of the mighty ocean go to and fro.

Anywhere you can worship God can be your tabernacle.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When Jesus makes this promise to His disciples, it is a choice that He makes. Our God chooses to always dwell with us and care for us. This is a minute indication of how much He loves us. This is something worth dwelling on, worth meditating on. And when we do dwell on this, and think rightly about God, there is no other option but worship.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Did you know that we do not have to create silence? On the contrary, it is the noise that we create, that which disrupts the silence that exists. I wonder at the silence before everything was created, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.” That must have been the most profound silence that ever existed.

It is difficult, in our day, to encounter complete silence. Even as I sit in this room, when I am not typing, there is some kind of noise. I can hear the computer fan. I can hear the box fan in the bedroom. Occasionally, there is a noise in the room next to mine.

But it is as close to silence as I can get in the house. I have experienced a deeper silence in the Redwood forest of northern California.

As C and I walked around in the midst of those majestic trees, the ground was covered with their needles. The ground cover acted as a silencer. Our walking made no noise, and, when we didn’t speak to each other, there was the closest thing to total silence that I have ever experienced.

John Main speaks of the interior silence that is the “language of the Spirit.”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT)

“The words we use in trying to communicate the Christian message in the Christian experience have to be charged with strength and power, but they can only be charged with strength and power if they spring from the silence of the Spirit in our inner being. . . . Leaving behind all other words, ideas, imaginations and fantasies is learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in your inner heart [your “tabernacle”], who dwells there in love. The Spirit of God dwells in our hearts in silence, and it is in humility and faith that we must enter into that silent presence. St. Paul ends that passage in Ephesians with the words, ‘So may you attain to the fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.’ That is our destiny.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Living the Godly life turns out to be the opposite of the world’s business mindset. “The bottom line in business shows how much you accumulate, but the bottom line in life shows how much you give away.”

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

Father, may we always be humble and never think of ourselves as more righteous than we ought. In comparison with You and Jesus, we are all the worst of sinners.

I thank You, Father, for the example of the Old Testament Tabernacle, where we get a glimpse of the power of Your holiness. But I am more thankful that we do not need that Tabernacle in our day, because we are Your “tabernacle,” as Your Spirit dwells within us. I am also thankful that anywhere I can worship You can be my temporary tabernacle.

Father, the way that You love us and choose to be with us at all times is inconceivable. It is, as the psalmist said, too much, too lofty. I cannot attain it. I cannot fathom it. But it is true. Help me to embrace this daily, Father, and help me to transform that into love for my fellow human beings. Yes, even the ones with which I do not agree, and even the ones who would abuse me or harm me or take advantage of me. Even the people who come, unbidden, to my front door, trying to sell me solar panels!

Father, I pray that I can know the silence of the Spirit in my inner being, so that the words that I must use, whether they be verbal or written, are charged with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit.

Finally, Father, I pray that I would continue to be generous with all that You have give me, that my life would be marked by how much I give away.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Drink Deep

Today is Tuesday, the fourteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,469

The Rangers beat the Astros, last night, in a fantastic game. The Astros went ahead early, and led 3-0, until the bottom of the third, when the Rangers scored their first run. The score remained 3-1, until the bottom of the seventh, when the Rangers scored another, making it 3-2. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, the Rangers scored three times, to make it 5-3. Matt Moore came in and shut things down in the top of the ninth, to notch his first save. This makes the Rangers 29-31, in second place in the AL West, 7.5 behind the Astros, whom they will play again tonight at 7:05 CDT.

The Yankees are still the best in MLB, at 44-16. The KC Royals are back at the bottom, at 20-40. The Atlanta Braves won again, extending their winning streak to twelve games, the longest current (and maybe the longest for the season, so far) win streak. The poor Cubs and Pirates both lost again, extending their losing streaks to seven games. The Yankees continue to have the best run differential, at +127, and the Pirates have the worst, at -93. The Rangers’ run differential is currently +6. The Red Sox didn’t play, so theirs stays at +40.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open kicks off tonight, in South Glens Falls, NY, with the “Bowl with the Pros” event, at 7:00 PM EDT.

Since it’s Tuesday, I will be working a four-hour shift at the library, tonight, doing shelving. 4:15 – 8:15. This means I will miss the beginning of the Rangers game, but will catch up when I get home. I will likely keep tabs on it, on my phone.

Here’s a pic of four of our cats, probably the closest they’ve all been to each other without some hissing.

From the top, Rocky, Luna, Trixie, and Cleo

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, in the grace of Jesus Christ we pray to you that your will may be done for us and for all the world. Through Jesus Christ grant us faith that you love us, faith that we may live in your love, that we may hope in your love every day and have peace on earth, where there is so much unrest and trouble. Keep us firm and constant, remaining in your peace and in the inner quiet you give us because Jesus Christ has overcome the world. He has truly overcome, and this fills us with joy. We praise you, Almighty God, that you have sent Jesus Christ and that he has overcome the world. We praise you that he has overcome all evil, sin, and death, and that we may rejoice at all times in your presence. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
(1 John 5:3-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God's commands are not burdensome . . . really, they aren't, as long as we walk in the "easy yoke" of Jesus
2. for the faith to know that God loves me and that I live and hope in His love
3. that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life
4. for the "living water" from Jesus
5. that God has given me a generous heart

Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “water.”

“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
(John 4:14 NLT)

Who among us manages to drink enough water? The standard line is that adults should drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. That’s – gets out fingers and toes – 64 ounces of water. A mere half-gallon.

But everyone is different. Having gone through the WW (formerly Weight Watchers) program, I know that they do not subscribe to that blanket theory. There’s another theory (and I first heard this one at WW, many years ago) that, in order to know how much water your body needs, divide your weight in half (or multiply it by .5) and that’s the answer in ounces.

So, let’s see . . . my current weight is right at 290 lbs. 290 X .5 = 145 ounces.

Egad. That’s well over a gallon a day. I get up too many times in the night, as it is!

And I just saw another site that said you should multiply weight by 2/3! That would have me drinking almost 200 ounces of water a day. Well, that would certainly be incentive to lose weight, wouldn’t it? And, they all say you should add more if you work out, up to twelve ounces per thirty-minutes of working out.

But we aren’t talking about literal water, here, are we? We are speaking of Jesus and “living water.” I think it is probably safe to say that none of us gets enough of that water, either. In fact, I’m not even sure it is possible to get “enough” living water.

Nevertheless, Jesus tells us that, if we drink His water, we will not thirst. How often do we seek after other “thirst quenchers” in our lives? Yet Jesus tells us,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6 ESV)

Jesus also tells us,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 ESV)

Note the word “the.” That article is actually in the Greek text. Not “a.” Jesus is the way (the road, the path, the means). Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. Also note that Jesus, Himself, says that no one comes to the Father except through Him. There is, in fact, only one road to God.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:34-36 ESV)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 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 14:15-17 ESV)

One thing that happens when we are connected to this “water,” to this “way, truth, and life,” is that we become more generous. How much generosity is enough? There is no real measure of that. Scripture suggests ten percent. That seems to be a good guideline (however, I will protest anyone who claims it is a law that we must follow, today).

Truly, it is the heart that is more important than the amount or percentage. You can give 99% of everything you have, but if you are giving it begrudgingly, you might as well hang on to it. And remember the widow and her two “mites?”

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 ESV)

“Generosity means dealing with our greed and our impulsive self-indulgences. It means reordering priorities and values. Most people’s lack of generosity is due not to money problems but to greed problems, avarice problems, value problems.”

“If we try to live by getting instead of giving, we go against the stream.”

Our life is a gift. Everything that we see and “possess” is a gift from God. “God gives away everything that is. When we give our money, we begin to do, clumsily and awkwardly at first, what God does expertly.”

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

Father, I am grateful for the living water that Jesus Christ provides for us. I pray that I might drink more deeply of it, and, thereby, be more deeply connected with the way, the truth, and the life. I am also grateful that, through this connection, You have given me a generous heart. It could still be more generous, true, and I pray that You increase that generosity in my heart. Help me to not hold on to anything with a closed fist, but, rather, with an open hand and open heart.

I pray for more of the confidence in You that can enable me to sometimes simply sit in silence. It is true that, the more comfortable and confident two people are in their relationship, the more they can simply sit in silence, not requiring any words. Excessive words are the tool of the insecure. Make us more secure and confident in You, and help us to observe and practice the discipline of silence, that we might fall more deeply in love with You, in Christ.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

What Makes A “Strong” Christian?

From Romans 15, I see the way to tell is someone is a “strong” Christian. If they are seeking the good of others and not themselves, they are strong Christians. Something to think about. Because what this means is that all Christians who are insisting on their own “rights” and “freedoms” are, in fact, weak Christians.

Today is Friday, the tenth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,465

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, Almighty God, you are our Father and we are your children, who want to live for you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Strengthen and renew our hearts. When discouragement and fear try to mislead us, may your Holy Spirit help us again and again to hold fast, for no matter what difficulties arise, your will is being done and your will is good. Your name will be honored. Your kingdom will come for all nations. Your reign will come over all peoples, for they are all yours and must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to your honor, O Father. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us. 
May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere.
(Psalms 67:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have Fridays off
2. that I was able to sleep until almost 9:00, this morning (very rare)
3. that God is constantly making me new, reviving me, day after day
4. for the promises of God that help me in this reviving
5. that the marks of a "strong" Christian are selflessness, being considerate of others, and building others up, rather than building oneself up

We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.
(Romans 15:1-2 NLT)

From Romans 15, I see the way to tell is someone is a “strong” Christian. If they are seeking the good of others and not themselves, they are strong Christians. Something to think about. Because what this means is that all Christians who are insisting on their own “rights” and “freedoms” are, in fact, weak Christians.

The prayer word for today is “revive.”

Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.
(Psalms 119:50 NLT)

One thing that has always fascinated me is the perennial plants. Last year, my mother gave us some “Four O’clock” seeds. The proper name for these is “Mirabilis jalapa,” also called “the marvel of Peru.” We planted them in several spots in our front flower bed, and one of the plantings survived, giving us a pretty good-sized flowering plant. I have always loved Four O’Clocks.

I wasn’t sure if they would come back, but sure enough, this spring, the plant came back up (along with a couple smaller ones) and is producing more flowers. I suppose you could say it was “revived.”

God revives me, frequently. I don’t suppose it could be said that I have ever “died” spiritually, but I have certainly had periods in my life when I was not as spiritually active as others. Perhaps “dormant” might be a better word, just as a perennial plant is “dormant” during the “off-season.”

The psalmist wrote, in Psalm 119, that God’s promise revived him. And this is what I have experienced. In my lowest times, a verse of Scripture, more often than not Psalms, has “revived” me, or sparked a new interest in me, or a fresh perspective on life. Some of my favorites include:

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
(Psalms 86:11 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalms 16:11 NLT)

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NLT)

There are many more. Here are some verses that actually use the word.

Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NLT)

I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.
(Psalms 119:25 NLT)

I think, based on that verse in Psalm 119, that a condition to being revived is knowing that one lies “in the dust.” In other words, I have to know that my spiritual condition is desperate before I can be “revived.”

Our God is in the business of making things new.

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

But this “newness” is not a one and done deal. God continues to make me new, throughout my life, day after day.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Being an old Southern Baptist, I must say that the first thing I thought of when I saw the word for the day was this old hymn, written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay

1. We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

2. We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

3. We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv’n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav’n.

4. Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Refrain - Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

Also, being an old Southern Baptist, I’m pretty sure I have never sung that third verse. Hahaha!

Speaking of what makes one a “strong” Christian:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 NLT)

It wouldn’t hurt to read that entire chapter.

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
(1 Peter 2:12 NLT)

Father, I pray for the ability to continue to seek to not be selfish, to not try to impress anyone else. Let my motivation be only to do what is good for others and to build them up and help them. Help me to always think of others as better than myself. I pray that this would be true for all who call the name of Jesus. May we all be “strong Christians.”

Help me to “live properly” among my neighbors, so that, should they not be believers, they will still give honor to God for my behavior.

I praise You that You are always in the business of making things new, reviving us. This gives me hope when my soul is downcast, because I am reminded, by Your great and precious promises, that You will never give up on us, and that we cannot be taken out of Your hands.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

Today is Thursday, the ninth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,464

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our Savior, you are our Lord and our Helper. Show yourself again and again in our hearts as the Savior who is strong to help us even in difficult times. Remember the many people who sigh to you. Guide them into the protection of the almighty God. Even if they suffer pain and distress and have to go through fear and anxiety, even if they die, Lord Jesus, you are comfort and help. In everything life brings us you will show yourself as the One who does the will of God and who carries it out for us on earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord takes delight in us with gladness
2. that the Lord calms all our fears with love
3. that real transformation is possible, changing the way I think, renewing my mind, by dwelling in and meditating on the Word of God
4. that by doing the things in number 3, I can live a life of love, joy, and laughter
5. that regularly gathering with other saints enhances this even more
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. . . . Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. . . . So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.
(Romans 14:1, 4, 10-13a NLT)
O God, you know how foolish I am; 
my sins cannot be hidden from you. 
Don’t let those who trust in you be ashamed because of me, 
O Sovereign LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 
Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated, O God of Israel.
(Psalms 69:5-6 NLT)

It seems to me that a large number of us needs to spend some time in Romans 14.

The prayer word of the day is “mind.” This is not the verb sense of the word, but, rather, that which is somewhat synonymous with “brain.”

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

I prefer the way some other translations word this, though.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 NLT)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:2 MSG)

In this day and age, it is not unusual for one’s mind to feel scattered. Society has pushed the myth of multi-tasking on us. Susanna asks, “How can I figure out God’s will when I can’t even navigate my day?”

The presence of God and His Word can “rewire how I see things, changing priorities, bringing peace in the midst of chaos, resetting my moods with His grace.” This is the “transforming” or “renewing” of the mind that Romans 12 speaks of.

If we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, it will certainly change the way we think.

All too often, though, and this is what causes the attitudes that Paul is speaking against in Romans 14, we allow the way we think to “transform” what God’s Word says.

Just sit on that for a minute.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
(Proverbs 31:25 NIV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:26 NIV)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
(Matthew 5:8 NIV)

Most people are probably familiar with Proverbs 31, and that it speaks of a “wife of noble character,” beginning in verse 10.

But that’s not what we’re talking about, here, today. I want to focus on that bit about laughing at “the days to come.”

I’m pretty sure that no one would deny that we have been living “hell on earth” for the last two years or so, maybe closer to three. First there was a pandemic (honestly, there still is . . . as much as some folks want to believe it’s over, we are still having close to 100,000 new cases a day in the U.S.). Weather has been unpredictable (February in Texas, 2021, the entire state was frozen for three to five days). Russia invaded Ukraine. Prices are skyrocketing.

Here’s the thing. Because of my faith in Christ, because of my walk with Him and in God’s Kingdom, because of abiding in His Word and His Word in me, I can do what Proverbs 31:25 says. I can laugh at the days to come.

Not because I think it’s going to be funny. I don’t think that at all. I have opinions about the way things are going. They aren’t relevant to pretty much anything, though, so I keep them to myself, for the most part. I do believe, however, that Dallas Willard nailed it when he said that, in Christ, “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.” And this is the attitude portrayed in Proverbs 31:25.

The psalmist alluded to that in Psalm 73:26. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” The verse immediately preceding that has long been a favorite of mine. Verse 25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Because of these things, I can “live a life filled with love, joy, and laughter.” I can, as “they” say,

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

What makes this state of mind even better is when we can enjoy it with other believers. “Honesty in worship is maintained by keeping in touch with other Christians in company before God. There are no instances that we know of when Christians have successfully severed themselves from a regular gathering in community.”

Worship is not an option, something you add on whenever you feel like it. “Community worship keeps our relationships with God from depending on our feelings (our feelings are notorious deceivers) and restrains us from indulging. It keeps us connected to the whole revelation in the whole company of all God’s people.”

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

Father, I praise You for joy. I praise You that I can look at the days ahead and laugh, not because things are funny, but because I have You, and because I desire You more than I desire anything on earth. I pray that You keep this mindset alive in me. Continue to transform and renew my mind, my way of thinking, as I continue to read, pray, and meditate on Your Word.

I also pray for continued gathering with other saints to keep this alive and enhance the mindset. As we gather, Father, help us to have joy in our lives, regardless of outward circumstances and appearances. May Your will be done on earth as in heaven; bring heaven to earth, Father. And please do it “soon.”

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

True Worship

Today is Tuesday, the seventh of June, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,462

I haven’t written personal stuff, recently. Nothing is wrong, or anything. A couple days, I felt that the spiritual portion of the blog was, perhaps, a bit too long, and didn’t want to add to it with trivial stuff. I have actually considered moving this portion of the daily blog over to my other blog. The jury is still out on that.

Speaking of jury, I got a jury duty summons in the mail, yesterday. Fortunately, it is not for the Monday of my colonoscopy exam, which is two weeks from yesterday, June 20 (unfortunately, that is the day after Father’s Day, so I will have to spend Father’s Day evening drinking the prep). The summons is for the following Monday, June 27. Also fortunately, that happens to be my “easy” week at the library (that means that I’m not working that Wednesday or Saturday), so if I wind up having to serve on a jury, and it lasts more than one day, I won’t miss very much work.

The Texas Rangers have won some and lost a few, during the past few days, and remain three under .500, at 25-28. They are also still in third place in the AL West, even though the Angels have lost twelve in a row! Hah! Take that, Joe Maddon! They are actually only a half game behind the Angels, at this point. The Rangers got rained out in Cleveland, yesterday, so a double-header is scheduled with the Guardians, today, beginning at 2:10 CDT, this afternoon.

The Red Sox have managed to get above .500, and are now 28-27, but are still in fourth place in the AL East. They are 3.5 behind Tampa. They are currently in a series with the Angels, so it helps both them and the Rangers if they win.

The Evil Empire continues to be the best team in MLB, with a 39-15 record. Their cross-town rivals are only 2.5 behind them. The KC Royals (17-36) are holding on to the worst MLB record. I’m sure the Reds are enjoying that. The Yankees also have the current best win streak, at six games (The Red Sox are at five). As referenced previously, the LA Angels’ twelve game losing streak is the longest current losing streak. We hope it continues to grow. Another AL West team, the Athletics, has the second longest losing streak, at six games. Now if Houston would follow suit . . . The Dodgers still have the best run differential, at +113. The Yankees are trying to catch them, though, at +102. The Royals, on the other end, have been outscored by 89 runs. The Rangers are at +9, and the Red Sox are at, wait, what?? +39! Wow.

In PWBA news, Breanna Clemmer not only made history in last week’s Twin Cities Open, she also earned her first PWBA title, as she defeated Bryanna Cote (the battle of the BC’s?) in the title match of the tournament. History was made, as she had the highest three game series ever by bowling consecutive 300 games, followed by a 289, and threw, I believe 29 strikes in a row!

The ladies are currently in qualifying round 1 of the Long Island Open, one of three rapid-fire tourneys that are happening this week, at Maple Lanes Rockville Centre, NY. After two games, Liz Johnson, veteran bowler, is in the lead, followed by Jen Higgins (good to see her back up there). Breanna Clemmer is in eighth, and Verity Crawley is tied for tenth. There are a total of 81 bowlers in this round. Round 2 will begin at 2:30 EDT, after which they will cut to the top 12 for tomorrow’s two match play rounds. The stepladder finals will be tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EDT, on bowltv.com. I won’t get to see all of that, as I don’t get off work until 6:15 tomorrow, CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our refuge forever, bless us who have gathered in your presence and who turn to you in all distress, not only in our personal need but also in the distress of the nations and peoples of the whole world. Grant that we may be your children, with a simple faith that gives us strength to go on working even when life is bitterly hard. We thank you for giving us so much grace, for helping us and never forsaking us, so that again and again we can find joy and can glorify and praise you, our Father. May your name be praised from heaven above and among us here below. May your name be praised by all people throughout the world, and may everyone on earth acknowledge you and receive all that they need from you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were born, 
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, 
from beginning to end, 
you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm still alive and breathing; a new day with new opportunities
2. for the confidence that I have that God is working His plan and that all will be well, in the end
3. for the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26)
4. that the primary way we show our love for God is by loving others
5. that true worship makes both God and our neighbors more real to us

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
(Romans 12:3 NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us.
 May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere. 
May the nations praise you, O God. 
Yes, may all the nations praise you. 
Let the whole world sing for joy, 
because you govern the nations with justice 
and guide the people of the whole world. 
May the nations praise you, O God.
 Yes, may all the nations praise you.
 Then the earth will yield its harvests, 
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “groanings.”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
(Romans 8:26 NLT)

There have been plenty of times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to pray. It still happens, sometimes, in regard to my own life, and sometimes, in regard to prayer requests that I receive. I have to stop and remember that, in those times, the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

I also have this feeling that there are times when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I did think I knew what to pray.

Me: Utters prayer about any certain topic
Holy Spirit: Um . . . Father, that's not really what he means . . . this is what he really wants to pray

It is also worth noting the word “weakness” in that verse. The Holy Spirit is helping us in our weakness. I can’t help but wonder, if we feel that we have no weakness, will the Holy Spirit then condescend to intercede for us?

Father: Did he really mean to pray that??
Spirit: Beats me . . . he doesn't need my help, he's got it all figured out

I confess that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I type those dialogues. And of course, I mean no disrespect. It is merely a means of trying to illustrate what I believe this verse is telling us.

There is great comfort in embracing this truth, in knowing and believing that, when I don’t quite know how to pray, He is there for me, helping me. And when I pray something that isn’t quite right, He is also there for me.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
(Hebrews 6:10-12 NLT)

This passage is interesting to me. The emphasis is (surprise!!) on loving others! The writer of Hebrews stresses that this is how we show our love for God, by “caring for other believers,” and then says that their desire is that the recipients of this letter will “keep on loving others as long as life lasts.” By doing this, they will keep themselves from becoming “spiritually dull and indifferent.”

How do we show our love for God? By loving and caring for others. Not by fighting for “causes.” Not by fighting for anything.

*mic drop*

This was one of my favorite songs as a “youth.”
"The person who wants to arrive at interiority and spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus.
"Nobody's comfortable in public unless he's spent a good deal of time in the quiet of his home. Nobody speaks with assurance who hasn't learned to hold his tongue. Nobody's a success as a general who hasn't already survived as a soldier. Nobody respects decrees who hasn't already obeyed them."
(Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
"When we worship God, we discover how his blessings shape our lives. We also discover how to bless and be blessed by our neighbors' lives.
"In worship, God becomes more real to us. But the mystery is this: so do our neighbors."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Here’s the thing: if we aren’t loving our neighbors, we haven’t really worshiped God.

Father, Your Word tells us quite plainly that “pure and genuine religion” is caring for others (specifically, in that case, orphans and widows). Jesus told us, also quite plainly, that in caring for others, we care for Him, and in refusing to care for others, we refuse to care for Him.

Why is this so hard for us to embrace?? I struggle with it, sometimes, myself, but when I look around and see the hatred coming from peoples’ hearts and mouths, it breaks my heart. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Dear Father, this ought not be so! Have mercy on us, Lord. Please reach our hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of peace and love, not fighting and hatred.

I thank You that You have given us this “law,” Father, that the way we are to show our love for You is by loving others. I thank You for molding my heart to believe this, so many years ago. I confess that I still struggle with it, but that struggle remains largely interior, these days, so at least there’s that. I rarely type or say some of the thoughts that come through my mind, and try to dismiss them as soon as they pop into my brain, as I do not wish to entertain any thoughts of “unlove” toward anyone.

Help us to truly worship You, that You might become more real to us, and that our neighbors would also become more real to us, and that we might bless them and be blessed by them, as well. As we seek to worship, I also pray that we might find time and way to spend more time alone with Christ in our lives. We, as a society, are too busy for our own good. Help us to slow down, to stop and meditate, to consider You and Your Word, and its effect on our lives.

Help me, Father, to never pretend, but to truly and really love others. I pray that I would take delight in honoring my brothers and sisters. Help me to keep praying, to pray more often and more fervently. I pray for more compassion and willingness to help others. I also pray that I would never be conceited, thinking that I “know it all.” Above all, help me to live at peace with everyone.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Humble Confidence

Today is Monday, the sixth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,461

I’ll confess that I have been slightly confused about when Ordinary Time occurs, partially because of a devotional book I used last year. The primary Church calendar, however, shows Ordinary Time to occur between Epiphany Sunday (usually the first Sunday in January) until Ash Wednesday, and then from Pentecost Sunday (which was yesterday) up until Advent. Hence today beginning the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.
Lord our God, gather us together in one flock to praise you with one heart and one voice. Let this praise ring out on earth in the midst of all the evils that still confront us. We thank you for your protection, for all the help and deliverance you give us. We thank you for the hope you put into our hearts. We thank you for the hope that we may yet see great things done through the working of your Spirit, for us your children and for all peoples and nations. For your love will not rest until life on earth has come into your hands and all may rejoice. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! 
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. 
Your unfailing love will last forever. 
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
(Psalms 89:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the understanding that the purpose of my life is to love; to love my family, to love Jesus, to love the Church, and to love my neighbor as myself
2. that I don't have any "agenda" for my life, other than the above declaration;
3. that I am a child of God, but also that He has led me down a path of humility in that relationship, because, not only is He my Father, He is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe!
4. that I will be praising God for "ten thousand years and then forevermore" (Matt Redman)
5. that my joy is not dependent upon my happiness; I may not always smile, but there is always hope and celebration in my soul
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! 
Sing about the glory of his name! 
Tell the world how glorious he is. 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! 
Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
 Everything on earth will worship you; 
they will sing your praises, 
shouting your name in glorious songs.” 
Come and see what our God has done, 
what awesome miracles he performs for people!
(Psalms 66:1-5 NLT)
Come and listen, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell you what he did for me. 
For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. 
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer 
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
(Psalms 66:16-20 NLT)

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “confident.” The quote used comes from Maya Angelou.

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.”

Let me say, right off the bat, that I have no problem with the thought of confidence before God. I believe that Scripture teaches this.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

But there is a stark difference between confidence and arrogance. And we must not cross that line when we come before the Lord, in my opinion. I really don’t have a problem with Ms. Angelou’s quote, either, in the context of Hebrews 4:16.

I do, however, have a problem with where today’s reading takes the idea. The writer, Jeanette, applies this to a mindset of prayer, and relates a time when friends at a Bible study told her, “Hold up your head when you talk to God. You are His child. You have every right to come to Him and ask for what you need and want.” (I added the italics.)

This, in my opinion, crosses that line. Especially that bit about asking for what we want. I started to write that I don’t have a problem asking God for things that I want. But that’s not quite accurate. I’ll admit that I do struggle some with asking God for things that I want, but don’t necessarily need. I even struggle with praying for other peoples’ prayer requests when they ask me to pray for something that they want, but don’t necessarily need. It’s not my place to judge, for sure. And I will pray for what they ask me to pray for (unless it’s political . . . I won’t go there), but I will also let God know how I feel about that.

Haha. That last sentence is kind of ridiculous, you know? “I will also let God know how I feel about that.” As if He already doesn’t know that, right??

We say, sometimes, the most foolish things about God and our relationships with Him. He knows everything! He already knows how I feel about that prayer request.

So, do we have a “right” to ask God for anything we want?

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
(John 15:7 NLT)

Here’s the thing. I think there’s a catch there. It’s not a “blank check” as some folks want to believe. Yes, we may ask for anything we want. But I firmly believe that, if I am remaining (abiding) in Christ and His words are abiding in me, that will have a drastic effect on whatever I want! I won’t want the same things.

I can speak from experience on this. Not that I have perfectly nailed down this concept of abiding. Far from it. However, as I work toward that, and when I do abide in Christ and His words abide in me, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, ask for the same things that I would have asked for, earlier in my life.

I find myself praying that God would bless my “enemies” rather than curse them. I find myself praying more for things like unity in the Body of Christ, because that’s one of the more important things that I want when I am abiding in Him.

“Jeanette” naively compares us asking God for something to her own children asking her for stuff. She doesn’t want them to hang her head, but to ask confidently. I would like to see how faithful she is to that belief when her kids come to her in arrogance, asking for something that they want, that might harm them in some way.

Her prayer at the end says, “Dear Lord, help me remember that although You are God, You are also my Father.” I would turn that around. It’s true. He is both. But, lest we get too comfortable, we must also remember that our Father is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. A little humility is in order, I do believe.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Praise the LORD, who is my rock. 
He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. 
He is my loving ally and my fortress, 
my tower of safety, my rescuer. 
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. 
He makes the nations submit to me. 
O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, 
mere mortals that you should think about them?
 For they are like a breath of air; 
their days are like a passing shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NLT)

“You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.”
(Job 42:3 NLT)

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. 
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. 
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. 
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; 
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
(Psalms 39:4-5 NLT)

And look! What more reason for humility do we need than what we find in these Scriptures?? We are but a breath, in comparison with our eternal, infinite, majestic God! “My entire lifetime is just a moment to you!” How could I come before this God with any thought of arrogance, with any though of demanding something that I seem to think I have a right to???

This life is so very short. But eternity is long. And, as the following song says, we will have 10,000 years and then forevermore to sing His praises! Hallelujah.

To me, this is a very stirring moment, as I watch and listen to Matt unable to contain his emotions while singing this praise song.

The same mindset that would have us come before our Father in arrogance also brings us the idea that we should always be smiling. And I think the bottom line in all of this is that we must remember that there is nothing “fake” about being a Christian.

The idea of “fake it until you make it” has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. This life is real. There is nothing, in my opinion, more real than walking in Jesus Christ. He is Reality.

“It is a myth that the Christian always wears a smile. There is a stream of joy that runs through the Christian life and keeps surfacing in praise and glad service. There is a powerful note of celebration in the church’s life and the Christian’s witness. But that is not the kind of smile that maintains itself by ignoring or denying everything that is troubling or difficult.”

I used to work with someone who displayed what I call “toxic positivity.” She could not bear any negative thought whatsoever, about anything.

We do, as followers of Christ, face difficulties in this world. “We must wrestle with unanswerable questions. If we take seriously the commands of God and give ourselves seriously to the task of loving our neighbors and our enemies, we are going to find ourselves in conflict with others, even find ourselves looking silly and naive – a laughingstock, in short.”

We will feel, at times, that God is unfair. I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt that. And, even worse, there is the danger of beginning to think, “If only I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t feel this way. If I just had more faith, these blasphemous thoughts would never cross my mind. If only I could be well balanced and peaceful and accepting of God’s will in my life, like the really good Christians!”

But here’s the thing. As Christians, we are not people who never have doubts or feelings of despair. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you (and probably lying to themselves, as well). As Christians, we are people who believe in spite of those things! We obey God’s commands when we don’t feel like it, and we hope, even when it looks like there is no hope.

I certainly struggle with these things. I look around me, right now, and see very little hope for this nation. It is more divided than I have ever seen it, in my 64 years, and it is, quite frankly, so foolish that I can hardly stand it. The political division in the country right now is asinine. It makes no sense. But guess what? My hope is not in this country. My hope is not in a political party (either one, or any of the alternatives). My hope is not in a president, past, present, or future.

My hope is in Jesus. And when I look around and see no hope, I still have hope because of Him. It is because of Him that I can sing “10,000 Reasons.” It is because of Him that I can go before the God of the universe with humble confidence, and ask for whatever I want, knowing, or at least hoping, that “whatever I want” is also what He wants.

And what does He want? If you’ve read this blog at all, you already know what I’m going to say. He wants us to love Him with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love the saints in the same way that Jesus loves us.

“The picture we have of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shows him agonizing over the decision of the Cross. He struggled with his own feelings. He wrestled with the will of God and finally chose the will of God. And out of this struggle came something we call good news.”

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

Father, there may be too much stuff here, today. There is certainly a lot to pray about. I pray, Father, that people would not be subjected to false teachings. I know that Your Word says they will come. And come, they have, in droves. I won’t name names, but there are certain people that I truly believe are teaching serious error in Your kingdom. I pray for truth to be known. I also pray that we, Your children, would have the confidence to come before You boldly, but also have the sense to come before You in humility. Yes, You are our Father, and You love us. But You are also Almighty God, and have all the power.

I come before You as one who has surrendered any “rights” to anything that I might want. Therefore, when I read Jesus’s words about asking for whatever I want, I take that in context of abiding in Your Word and Your Word abiding in me. I do not have a right to anything I want, because I have surrendered those rights.

I thank You for whatever life I have on this earth. I am grateful for the number of years that I have had, so far, and will graciously accept whatever number of years You grant me, going forward. I pray that, through the rest of those years, I will heed Your Word and do what You have commanded us to do. I pray that I will always shove my opinions into the “back seat,” and simply do my job, which is to love You and love people. And I pray that this example will speak more loudly than ten thousand words.

I thank You for the hope of “ten thousand years and then forevermore.” That hope is what keeps me going, some days. And I look forward with great anticipation to that day when that multitude from every tribe, nation, language, and people will stand before You, arms lifted high, shouting and worshiping Your holiness and Your Name! You are worthy, O Lord, to receive power and glory and honor and blessing! Worthy Is the Lamb! Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!

All glory to You, Lord, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Grace and peace, friends.

Pay Attention

Today is Sunday, the fifth of June, 2022, Pentecost Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,460 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you are so near us and that we may be near you. We thank you that throughout our days we may be people who listen to you with all our hearts and minds, a listening people who can receive what is good and true for our lives and who can witness to the power you give us through the Savior. Protect us in all things. Look into our hearts and into the situation of each one of us, where many things are still faulty and unclear. Deliver us from evil, for the kingdom shall be yours. From you the power shall come. Your glory shall radiate from our lives, and we shall praise and thank you forevermore. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is near to us and we may be near to Him
2. that God has a clear view of all things in my life that is yet faulty and unclear
3. for the greatness of our God, even though that word falls far short of getting it; we cannot fully comprehend His majesty and glory
4. that God allows us to take part in the work that He does on this earth
5. for the joy we receive from meeting together to praise God
What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. 
We will fulfill our vows to you, for you answer our prayers. 
All of us must come to you. 
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all. 
What joy for those you choose to bring near, 
those who live in your holy courts. 
What festivities await us inside your holy Temple.
 You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
 O God our savior. 
You are the hope of everyone on earth, 
even those who sail on distant seas.
(Psalms 65:1-5 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “attention.”

Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD; hear my urgent cry.
(Psalms 86:6 NLT)

In this context, the psalmist is asking God to pay attention to him.

Pay attention, GOD, to my prayer; bend down and listen to my cry for help.
(Psalms 86:6 MSG)

But attention works several ways. While it is perfectly fine to entreat the Lord to pay attention, or hear, us, we must also pay attention to Him.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT)

I didn’t notice that little bit that says, “Listen to him,” until probably less than a decade ago. It was at that point that I began paying much closer attention to those “red letters,” the words of Jesus. And it was at that point that I began focusing so much more on love instead of judgment.

But there is one more aspect of attention, isn’t there (at least)? We must, absolutely must, pay attention to one another.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 NLT)

It is crucial that we pay attention to what is going on around us. We must keep, not only our spiritual eyes, but our physical eyes open. Why? Because, as James tells us, “faith without works is dead.” This does not mean, at all, that we are working for our salvation. Rather, it means that, if we are not doing the work, there is no faith! Faith proves itself by the works that it does.

If we claim to be following Christ and do nothing whatsoever to help the hungry or thirsty or stranger or naked or sick or in prison, then we are just blowing smoke. If we are only offering “thoughts and prayers” to people, we are doing no good. I am, of course, in no way diminishing the efficacy of prayer. But that phrase has become a substitute for action.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
(James 2:14-20 NLT)

Pay attention!

Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 NLT)

GOD is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 MSG)

“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”
(2 Samuel 7:22 NLT)

“Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”
(Job 36:26 NLT)

How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!
(Psalms 147:5 NLT)

How do you describe God? Is “great” adequate? What about “magnificent?” We have many words. Marvelous and glorious; strong, powerful.

There are four phrases in the above verses that really speak to me. In 2 Samuel, it says, “There is no one like you.” In Psalm 145, it says “he can never be praised enough.” In Job 36, it says, “God is greater than we can understand.” And, in Psalm 147, “His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

We try, because we have to. We need words to tell our God how great we think He is. But those words fall so far short that it’s almost ridiculous. We must acknowledge the truth of those four phrases. It is beyond comprehension. We simply cannot truly fathom how great our God is.

I am somewhat blown away by the following video. It is Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great Our God.” But it is being sung in many different languages. I got some serious chill bumps as I listened and watched. How fun is it, how stirring is it, to listen to a song you know being sung in another language? Because you know what they are saying, even though you don’t understand the language.

Celebrate the greatness of our God with me. Use whatever words you have. He will still be magnified and glorified, even though He is so much greater than we could ever understand.

Pay attention!

Father, today, help me to pay attention. May I pay attention to You, and may I pay attention to my brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else around me. Help me to keep my eyes open to what is going on around me. Help me to see what You are doing around me, that I might join in and support Your “cause,” which is the only cause truly worthy of my support.

I know You do not need my support. You do not need anything from us. If you were hungry, you would not tell us, because You own the cattle on a thousand hills! But You choose to utilize us in Your work.

I praise You for Your greatness, Lord. Your majesty, Your glory, Your magnificence. You are marvelous and wonderful and every one of those words, even if we combine them all into one thought, are nowhere enough to describe You. Even the nonsense word that Mary Poppins made up doesn’t come close. But yet we must try. We must use words, because that’s what we have. We have language. So help us to use our language appropriately. When we try to describe You, help us to have the right attitude and motivation behind that description. And help us, dear Lord, to never take Your name in vain. Help us to honor You properly, and honor the name of Jesus in the best ways.

All praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Do not be one who stretches out the hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving. If you earn something by working with your hands, you shall give a ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor shall you grumble when giving, for you will know who is the good paymaster of the reward. You shall not turn away from someone in need, but shall share everything with your brother or sister, and do not claim that anything is your own. For if you are sharers in what is imperishable, how much more so in perishable things!
(The Didache, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Joy Still Comes In the Morning

Today is Saturday, the fourth of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,459

This is the last day of the season of Easter, as tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.

This has already gotten quite long, and I don’t want to make it longer with trivial matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for guiding us, your children, here on earth. We thank you that whatever happens to us, we can again and again find joy because you give us what is good even when times are evil and when we go through sorrow. We thank you that your goodness and your faithfulness penetrate everything, and that at last, at long last, they penetrate our hearts. Then we can know and be glad that your Spirit guides us. We can know we are never alone but can receive strength to help us in the struggle and toil of our life. Through your help everything becomes fruitful – good and evil, life and death, health and suffering. Everything must serve you through the working of your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; 
therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for God's great faithfulness and mercy, in that He gives us what is good, even during sorrowful and evil times
2. that I'm still alive and breathing; praise the LORD!
3. that a joyful or cheerful heart, the center of my being, is good medicine for my body and my soul
4. for the joy and praise that can be found in a church that is truly walking in Christ
5. for times that force me into humility, because we could all use more humility

Today’s prayer word is “expect.”

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
(Psalms 5:3 NLT)

This verse has long been a favorite of mine, and it is something by which I try to live each day. But frequently, I forget to do that bit about waiting expectantly. Too often, I “bring my requests” and walk away in total oblivion.

I need to remember these words of David, each day. I need to remember to wait expectantly to see what God will do. Maybe there won’t be anything immediate. But let me tell you this. I would rather wait and see nothing than miss something by rushing away.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 17:22 NLT)

I know full well the truth of this.

So confession time: yesterday evening, I didn’t do so well in remembering everything that I blogged about yesterday morning. After taking my mother to the bank to deposit her oil royalty checks (would you believe there was another one waiting in the mail when we got home?), I decided to get the bank’s app on my phone. Mama doesn’t have a smart phone, so I figured, if we get it on my phone, then we can do mobile deposit for those checks. Then we don’t have to visit the bank so often.

I got the app downloaded, no problem. The first time I tried to log in, it said that either the username or password was incorrect. I used the combination that I had logged into my “bitwarden” (an excellent password keeper app for the phone, by the way), so I tried again. Same result.

I started spiraling. My wife will tell you, right away, that I don’t do well when technology doesn’t work right.

So I got on my laptop and opened the browser to the bank’s website, where I saw right away that I had the user name wrong, by a number. So that was my fault. I fixed the user name in the bitwarden app, and logged in on the bank app. Naturally, the first thing that happens is that it wants a verification code in order to register and recognize this new device. I was expecting that.

So I had it send the code to Mama’s phone. She got it, I entered it in the app, and it immediately said that either the code was invalid or expired, or that the account had been disabled. We tried again, different code, same result.

I was livid. Seriously, I was freaking out. But there was phone number to call, in the text message, so I called it. I spoke with a very friendly lady who had me send another code to Mama’s phone, but she said she would give it to me on the phone, rather than getting it from the text. For some reason, it worked just fine, that time. We got the app open, and also enabled mobile deposit, so it’s ready the next time we want to deposit a check.

There was something else that happened, I think, a few minutes later. But the bottom line is that I completely reacted wrongly about all of this. I totally forgot my whole thing, from yesterday morning, about “first world problems.”

So, you see, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes. This journey, as long as we remain in Jesus’s “easy yoke,” is not terribly difficult. But as soon as we step out of that yoke and forget who we are and whose we are, things get really tricky. And, like yesterday evening, we wind up looking somewhat foolish.

But enough about the broken spirit. What about the joyful heart? Or, as the NLT says, “cheerful heart.” I just realized something. There’s a gift shop in Glen Rose that C and I used to frequent, called Cheerful Heart Gifts. And if you click on that link, you will see that they quote Proverbs 17:22 right on the front page.

The KJV translates the word as “merry.” The Hebrew word is śâmêach, which can also mean “blithe” or “gleeful.” And the word translated “heart” is lêb which can also mean the “center” of something. So, when we allow ourselves to maintain joy or cheerfulness at the center of our being, it brings healing to our bodies. It’s “good medicine.”

Reader’s Digest (is that even still a thing?) used to have a monthly column called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.” As a child, I eagerly awaited that feature every month. Most of the time, in fact, I would devour all of the jokes in the magazine, and, for the most part, ignore all of the “serious” stuff.

I have always loved to laugh. And I do believe in the truth of that statement that laughter is good, if not the best, medicine. And who doesn’t feel better by just smiling?

Solomon was probably the author of this proverb. And, for most of his life, he knew the joy of the Lord. But, later in life, Scriptures says that his heart turned away from God.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
(1 Kings 11:9 NLT)

The writer of today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, Carol Knapp, says this:

“For me, the biggest joy-stealer is this very thing – turning away from God or allowing something to interfere with my closeness to Him. Communion with God . . . is the source of gladness in my life. It yields the ‘good medicine’ of a joyful heart.”

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

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
(John 16:22 NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

“Indeed, “joy still comes in the morning.”

It is very cool when there is a convergence of ideas from unrelated sources. The readings in Eugene Peterson’s On Living Well are not dated. The one I came to today is called “On Joy at Church.”

I wonder what God is trying to tell me, today?

“More praising goes on in church, more joy is expressed in the context of the Christian congregation, than anywhere else on the face of the earth.”

Where else do we spend our time, during the week? Grocery stores, department stores? These days, those are pretty grim places . . . not much joy there, as shelves continue to be sparse (at least for some products) and prices continue to rise. “People pushing their food baskets, anxiously comparing prices, complaints etched into their faces as they pay the clerks.” (This book, while published in 2021, is comprised of meditations that were written long before that year, as the author passed away in 2018, long before the pandemic hit us.)

We also spend a great deal of time on roads. Also not a very “happy” place. “Worried, compulsive people are behind the wheels of most of those cars.” Heaven forbid you should not react immediately when that light changes!

Even athletic events, places where we used to be more celebratory (at least if our team won) have become places of “complaining, arguing, and criticizing.”

As a place that contains a context for joy and praise, the church should be unequaled. It’s not perfect, for sure, and there are probably some local churches that resemble the grocery store or highway or athletic event more than they do a worship service. I’ve attended a few, in my life, that, sadly, had more arguing, complaining, and criticizing than they did worship.

But, in general, I would agree with Peterson, when he says, “I don’t find any other place in the world where there is such a consistent friendliness, such a steady joy, such a relaxed rejoicing in God’s love. There is more generosity when it comes to money in church than anywhere I know. Where else in this community can you find people giving their money away each week, then standing up and singing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

When is the last time you walked up to someone at the grocery store and said, “Say, you’re new here. I’d like to get to know you better!”?

As previously mentioned, there is no perfect church. We acknowledge this. Some are far less perfect than others. Taking all of this into consideration, though, there is no place on earth where such joy can be found. And that is one reason that I keep “going to church.”

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

Father, I praise Your name, this morning, because You have, while giving me a good dose of reality, increased my joy, still. What a joy it is to worship You, to praise You, to sit and meditate on Your Word, to know You more. I thank You for the ability to do this, for the time that I have to do these things.

I confess my shortcomings as I failed, miserably, yesterday evening, and I am grateful for the knowledge of it, and grateful that I am able to acknowledge it, as well. I pray that You keep working on me, in this regard, that I might always know Your joy, and that I would not allow “first world problems” to steal or diminish that joy. Things like that always have a fairly easy solution. And even when they don’t, they tend to eventually work out fine.

Help me to remember the truth that You work out all things for our good, and are constantly at work to make things better in Your Kingdom. And, we would do well to remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are already far better than we could ever imagine.

I thank You for joy, for a cheerful or merry heart. I thank You for the idea that my heart is the center of my being, and that, when my center is joyful, everything is better, and the “bad” things don’t seem to matter as much. I thank You for laughter, that brings healing to our weary bones and tired bodies. Help us all to smile more, complain less, argue less. And I thank You that, no matter how “bad” things might seem, “Joy still comes in the morning.” Your mercies are new, every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

Keep our hearts focused on You; let not our hearts turn away from You, as Solomon’s. Help us to always look toward You and love You with all our being.

And I thank You for the Church, where we can and should be able to experience the most joy possible. While there is certainly joy to be had in the observance of a beautiful sunrise, there is still more joy to be found in the celebration of You, together with all the saints. All praise to You, Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. May we be able to gather with Your saints, somewhere, on each Lord’s Day.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Stored Goodness

Today is Friday, the third of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,458

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday, working in the computer center. It was fairly busy; a little slow up until lunchtime, but it picked up after lunch. And now, I’m off work until next Tuesday night.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Rays, yesterday, 3-1, to split the series. There were multiple opportunities blown, where they had two men on base with the go-ahead run at the plate, but they just couldn’t get them across. They are now 24-26 for the season, in third place in the AL West. They are 8.5 out of first, and two out of the Wild Card race. They begin a weekend series with the Mariners tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT.

The Yankees (36-15) continue to have the best MLB record, while the Nationals and Royals are in a virtual tie for the worst, with 18-35 and 16-33, respectively. They are separated by .013 percentage, with the Royals being on the bottom. The Blue Jays continue to win. They are now on an eight-game win streak. And the Angels continue to lose! (Wheee!!) They are on an eight-game losing streak. The LA Dodgers remain at the top of the run differential column, having outscored their opponents by 114 runs. The Washinton Nationals are all alone at the bottom, having been outscored by their opponents by 83 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by ten runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 22.

The PWBA bowlers are currently in the first qualifying round in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.

The only thing on the agenda for today is getting groceries delivered (already set up) and taking Mama to the bank to deposit some oil royalty checks. Yes, she still gets some of those, and occasionally, they are pretty good. And, since C was out of town, and we did not have our chili last Monday night, we are going to cook chili tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for all your goodness and for the peace you give us. Unite us as your people, we pray. Unite us as one people with all your children who have ever lived, as one people with all who want to serve you. The more faithfully and joyfully we are your people, the more blessing you can give. Let the material world come under your hand. Guide your children on earth. Lead us in such a way that others may be helped. When we suffer, grant us strength and understanding of your will. Protect us today and every day. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
(Ephesians 2:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this Good News of peace; praying that we can spread this message of peace to the world
2. for the hope of unity within God's people
3. that, even though circumstances may look grim, yet there is hope, and still I can praise Him
4. for the goodness of God and for all the wonderful things He has stored up for us, which is one of the reasons for all this gratitude
5. for the way true prayer makes us more honest and human

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
(Romans 9:14-16 NLT)

Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
(Romans 9:20-21 NLT)

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. 
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you 
in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 
I have seen you in your sanctuary 
and gazed upon your power and glory. 
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 
You satisfy me more than the richest feast. 
I will praise you with songs of joy.
 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. 
Because you are my helper, 
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
(Psalms 63:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yet.” Such a small word, yet full of potential meaning and significance.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
(Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT)

In some cases, this word has a similar meaning as “still.” Even though all of these seemingly negative circumstances are prevailing, I will still praise Him. Or, “yet” I will praise Him or rejoice in Him.

There is another sense, though, in which to use the word “yet.” We might be waiting for a particular problem or situation in our lives to be resolved, and bemoaning the fact that it remains unsolved. It has not been resolved.

Yet.

In this case, the word “yet” provides hope that there is still an opportunity for the situation to be resolved. And that hope should allow joy to continue. Even when there are no blossoms on the fig trees.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.
(Psalms 31:19 NLT)

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness. 
Come before him, singing with joy. 
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! 
He made us, and we are his. 
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. 
Give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good. 
His unfailing love continues forever, 
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NLT)

How many times, in the past couple of years, have things that we wanted been unavailable? I’m not talking about things that we need or must have. That’s a different conversation. I’m talking about things that we want.

My biggest example is cherry-flavored sugar-free sodas. There have been periods of time when I have not been able to find Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar at all. In fact, there was one long stretch when I couldn’t find any cherry flavored soda at all. There was even a stretch when we couldn’t find C’s drink of choice, Sprite Zero.

While it was certainly disappointing, and the temptation is to moan, complain, and grumble, if I force myself to stop and consider Psalm 31:19, there is no reason for grumbling.

I desperately wish more of my brothers and sisters would do the same. Instead of trying to point fingers and place blame, what if we spent more time being grateful for the things that we do have?

I saw this video a long time ago, and was able to find it again. While it is produced by a charity organization (Water is Life), it presents some stark realities. And the bottom line is, “First world problems are not problems.” Watch this video, and then, the next time McDonald’s forgets to put mayo on your burger, think about these people.

Instead of complaining, we should be singing songs like this:

O God, listen to my cry! 
Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
 Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
(Psalms 61:1-2 NLT)

For us who name Jesus as Lord and Savior, “prayer is the most comprehensive and essential of actions.”

We separate ourselves from the bombardment of outside stimuli when we engage in prayer, and, in doing so, “deliberately develop every part of our lives, body and soul, in response to God.” This is not, of course, an easy task. “It is hard, exacting work – this life of prayer – but not at all grim.” There are times when “geysers of spontaneous joy erupt and spray out goodness.” And, in addition, we need each other in this journey. While one can pray quite well in solitude, one still needs the support of other saints.

One such companion, though long passed from this world, is David, the psalmist. “Read his psalms. They are David assembling all his experiences, all his difficulties and achievements, and all his doubts and affirmations before God and finding them shaped into wholeness, into salvation – as he becomes more honestly himself and more God’s both at the same time.”

Hopefully, we can also accomplish this. In true prayer (not just daily recitations from a “shopping list”), we become more honest and human as we pour out our hearts to God, our Father. And, in that context, it might be perfectly fine to complain about the grocery store not having any Cherry Dr Pepper Zero Sugar. As long as we come away in gratitude, remembering all the blessings that we have, and the promise of eternal bliss.

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

Father, I pray daily to You. Some days, my prayers are more authentic than others. Some days, my prayers are more numerous than others. Some days, those prayers are truly in response to You, and some days, they are more oblivious to Your blessings. I do love, though, how true prayer makes me more honestly myself and more Yours, at the same time, as Peterson suggest. Help me engage more in this kind of prayer on a daily basis.

Also, I pray for more gratitude. I know I share a good bit of gratitude, each day. But do I continue in that gratitude after I have typed and shared my list? Not that my list is contrived . . . not at all. But sometimes, I walk away from it, and then later find myself complaining about something trivial, that is not at all relevant or important. I pray that You deliver me from this trivial small-mindedness and help me to remember the plight of people in countries that do not have all the conveniences that I have here. In other words, keep me mindful of the great privilege that we have in this country. Well, some of us.

I thank You for the hope that comes when we remember that, just because You have not answered a prayer in the way we had hoped, doesn’t mean that You won’t, still, or “yet.” I also pray that You help me to remember that I can still praise You, even when circumstances look grim or challenging, as the Habakkuk verse says, and as the Matt Redman song says. “Blessed be Your name, when the road’s marked with suffering . . .”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Whatever the work of peacemaking is, it cannot be thought of as simply maintaining the “rule of law” of whatever regime holds political power. The path of peacemaking is altogether different than the one that leads to mere good citizenship or the preservation of a polity. Indeed, if peacemaking involves emulating the Prince of Peace who bears the government on his shoulder as whip scars and a wooden cross, it’s clear that peacemaking is intrinsically tied to solidarity with whomever one’s regime is presently nailing to a cross. The justice of Christ’s cross is a justice of reconciliation, a pathway to peace for those who have been denied it.
(Anthony M. Barr, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Strong Tower ~ Refuge ~ Redeemer ~ Deliverer

Today is Thursday, the second of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,457

We finally got C home, last night, but it wasn’t easy. S and I headed to the airport at about 2:45, planning to meet C when her plane landed at a little before 3:30. We got there and parked across from the expected gate. It was then that I saw, on Spirit Airlines’s terrible website (it constantly gives errors) that the plane had been diverted to AUSTIN, because of a tiny thunderstorm that was in the area for about five minutes. They would be returning, but not until close to 6:00 PM. Ugh.

So we went back home, not 100% sure that we would be seeing C last night, at all. In fact, I was prepared to drive to Austin to get her. But, eventually, everything worked out fine. C and I talked, after they finally told the passengers what would be happening. Then she texted me when their plane taxied back onto the runway. I kept checking the website, and when it finally said that the plane was “in flight,” I got S and we headed back to the airport. The ETA was 6:49, but at 6:39, while we were still a few minutes away, C texted us and said they had landed. We met her at the baggage claim, and there was much rejoicing.

Suddenly I could breathe again.

I noticed, during all of this, that Spirit’s website declared that they would soon be combining with Frontier Airlines. That figures. I wonder what you get when two terrible airlines combine?

The Texas Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, last night. Well, the Rangers didn’t actually lose (my opinion, here). MLB lost it for the, with their ridiculous Little League “zombie runner” in extra innings. The reall sad thing is that Jon Gray pitched excellently, striking out twelve batters. The Rangers are now 24-25, in third place in the AL West, eight games out of first, and 2.5 out in the Wild Card race. They have guaranteed at least a split in this series with TB. They will play again today, at 1:05 CDT.

The Red Sox finally won a game, beating the Reds 7-1, last night. They are now 24-27 for the season, in fifth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 3.5 out in the Wild Card race. They are playing the Athletics in Oakland tonight, at 9:40 EDT. I always feel sorry for east coast teams when they play on the west coast. Check that. I only feel sorry for the Red Sox. There are no other east coast teams for whom I ever feel sorry about anything.

The NY Yankees (34-15) continue to have the best MLB record. The KC Royals (16-33) are holding onto the worst record, for now. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to have the longest win streak, now at seven games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at six games. The Dodgers are atop in the run differential category, with +112 (it seems to be going down), and the Royals are now tied with the Pirates for the worst run differential, both at -77. The Rangers are at +12, and the Red Sox are at +22.

Today being Thursday, I will be working in the Computer Center at the Hurst Public Library, from 11:15-8:15. I have Creamy Italian Chicken soup cooking in the crock pot.

All is well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, with all our hearts we want to thank you for giving us joy on earth and for sending us your radiant light from heaven. We praise you for the light you give our hearts, the light that lets us find great joy together because we become one in you, one in your Spirit, one in awaiting your promised good. Grant that we may be your children. May we always find the paths where you can go with us and give us what we cannot give ourselves. May our whole life glorify you and our every breath belong to you. Through communion with you may we remain in your safekeeping in body, soul, and spirit. For all you have done and for all you will do for us, we ask you to accept our thanks. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Let all that I am praise the LORD. 
O LORD my God, how great you are! 
You are robed with honor and majesty. 
You are dressed in a robe of light. 
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
(Psalms 104:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the radiant light from God, sent from heaven to light our hearts and our paths, and to give us joy
2. for the "starry curtain of the heavens," stretched out for us to see
3. that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing . . . NOTHING (not even sin!) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
4. for the hope of being mature (perfect?) in Christ, lacking nothing, being complete (teleios)
5. that God is our strong tower, to whom we can run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10, Psalm 91, Isaiah 41:10)
6. that God interacts with us, validating our language and words as we have conversation with Him
"Of one thing I am sure. Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive. Whenever I express my complaints in the hope of evoking pity and receiving the satisfaction I so much desire, the result is always the opposite of what I tried to get. A complainer is hard to live with, and very few people know how to respond to the complaints made by a self-rejecting person. The tragedy is that, often, the complaint, once expressed, leads to that which is most feared: further rejection. . . . Joy and resentment cannot coexist."
(Daily Meditation from Henri Nouwen)

Based on this quote, and my observations, there is very little joy on social media, these days.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 NLT emphasis mine)

This is truly good news. This is the BEST news. This verse may very well sum up the Gospels. But here is a question: Why is it that so many people, who claim to belong to Christ Jesus, are so full of condemnation?

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
(Romans 8:10-11 NLT)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

Nothing.

Not. Even. Sin.

If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins do not separate you from God. Any preacher who tells you that is lying (maybe not on purpose, mind you, because he might actually believe it) and doesn’t understand God’s Word.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
(Psalms 62:1-2 NLT)
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will not be shaken. 
My victory and honor come from God alone. 
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 
O my people, trust in him at all times. 
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 
(Psalms 62:5-8 NLT)
God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: 
Power, O God, belongs to you;
 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. 
Surely you repay all people according to what they have done.
(Psalms 62:11-12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “teleios.” This is a Greek word that has a number of possible meanings. In today’s context, it means “mature” or “complete.”

“When we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

It’s kind of interesting to me, sussing out the real meaning of teleios. Bob, today’s writer, says it means “mature, . . . a state in which nothing is left out or lacking.” And, if I read the cited verse, Ephesians 4:13, in most versions, the word is, in fact, translated “mature.”

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NLT)

until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:13 ESV)

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NIV)

until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 MSG)

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
(Ephesians 4:13 KJV)

Wait. What?

“Perfect??”

Regardless of whether we translate it “perfect” or “mature,” I think we can probably agree that the idea behind it is completeness, which is the word way up there in the Spurgeon quote. Complete, lacking nothing, which is, in my opinion, more along the lines of “perfect.”

But who am I to cast dispersions on Bible translators?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
(Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the LORD, 
"He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." 
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare 
and from the deadly pestilence. 
He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge;
 his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 
nor the plague that destroys at midday. 
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 
You will only observe with your eyes 
and see the punishment of the wicked. 
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge," 
and you make the Most High your dwelling, 
no harm will overtake you, 
no disaster will come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways; 
they will lift you up in their hands, 
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
 I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 
He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
(Psalms 91:1-16 NIV)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

I really like the way Eugene Peterson begins the reading for today.

“Can there be conversation between a God who speaks worlds into being and speaks our lives into being and those of us who use words to get a second helping of potatoes or to tell a checkout clerk that we were overcharged $3.50 on some broccoli? Are these words compatible? Aren’t we dealing with two completely different orders of magnitude?”

Do we, in our own minds, truly believe that our meager words are on the same level of validity as God’s words? Do we believe that our words are “worthy of being entered into a conversation with God? When we express our own unworthiness, even by not expressing it (does this make sense at all?), we initiate a conversation with God; we include ourselves in a dialogue, by answering Him.

“When our words and God’s words are joined, something new starts to happen. Our words are validated. They become authenticated. They function for the exact reason God’s words function: to reveal and create.”

Part of the meaning of being created in God’s image (remember that, back in Genesis?) is that we have language. This relates to yesterday’s reading. (Or maybe the day before . . . I can’t remember.) We have the ability “to speak and listen to words that link these mysterious interiors of our lives in love and understanding.”

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning is a resounding “Yes!” And another reason for that is that God condescends, or stoops down, as it were, to interact with us. That’s another way that He shows His great love for us. He could very well, as the Creator of the universe, He who spoke the word and brought worlds into being, sit up on His lofty throne, high and mighty, and pretty much ignore us. Which is how a lot of people already view Him, as an entity that created everything, set things in motion, and then just sat back to see what happens, without having a hand in anything else.

That is not the God we serve. The God we serve and worship interacts with us. He initiates conversation with us! And when we “respond” by not responding, because we think our words are unworthy, we have answered Him. But He answers back, continuously calling us into conversation with Him, validating our words, just as He validated Jeremiah.

GOD told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.”
(Jeremiah 1:7 MSG)

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

There is so much to be thankful for, here, today, Father. I am so thankful for the joy that comes from knowing You, but acknowledge that, as Henri Nouwen said, this joy cannot coexist with resentment. If I am complaining about anything, there is no joy present. I confess that this happened, yesterday evening. I complained a lot about the circumstances as we were delayed picking C up at the airport. I was not happy. I did not feel joy. But, all the while, You were there. I know that You never left me, nor will You ever. I pray that You can help me overcome situations like that and not resort to complaining. Remind me, quickly, when things like that happen, that You are there, in control, and that joy is still possible.

I praise Your name that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. This is such great news, and we are doing such a poor job of declaring this to the world. We are real good at declaring it to ourselves when we’ve messed up, I think. But then we turn around and refuse grace to a dying, lost world, offering up only condemnation and guilt. For far too long, Father, Your people have been trying to guilt and shame people into the kingdom. I don’t think that’s working any more (if it ever did). The “good news” is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Therefore, if there is no condemnation for me, who am I to dish out condemnation to anyone else?? God help us!

Father, You know how I love those verses and passages that talk about You being our strong tower and refuge. I love passages like Psalm 91 that tell us how You care for us and take care of us. I have long believed those verses that tell us that if we dwell in Your tent, no harm will come to us. This seems counterintuitive, especially when “harm” does come to us. But it all hinges on how we define “harm.” I believe with all my heart that there is nothing that anyone in this world can do to me that can truly, ultimately harm me. There is nothing that the universe can throw at me that can do me any ultimate harm. Because You are my God and You are with me. You will help me; You will strengthen me; You will hold me up with Your righteous right hand! And, when this life on earth is over, You will gather me up and take me Home, where I will be “teleios” for eternity.

Finally, Father (but this will not end my prayers today), I am very grateful that my words are reaching Your ears and eyes. I praise You for stooping down to interact with us. I thank You that You gave us language and that we can speak to You, respond to You, and You hear us, You understand us, and You make us able to understand You. May Your words fill me up today, Father, filling me with joy and peace, and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.