Making Disciples v. Preaching at People

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fifth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,329

Today is my half-day, at the library, from 4:15 to 8:15, this evening. The reason for the fifteen bit is that I’m working until we close, which is 8:00 PM. Then it takes a few minutes for everyone to get their stuff together and get out the back door, so, in order for it to be four hours, the schedule is bumped to the quarter-hour. That is why my eight-hour days begin at 9:15 instead of 9:00, as well. We close at 6:00, but work until 6:15. For some reason, on Saturdays, we start (officially) at 9:30 and only get forty-five minutes for lunch. I have not asked for the logic behind that decision, I just go with it.

Nothing of any interest happened yesterday. It was a pretty lazy day. I did some chores, my usual Monday stuff. I still have a little bit of laundry to finish today.

We have been notified that we need to get Magnolia (cat) vaccinated against rabies. We thought this had already been done, but C got a call from the Watauga animal shelter, yesterday, saying that we had until Friday to provide proof of that, or we would get a citation. I had several possible reactions to that, one of which was, we don’t live in Watauga, so let them go ahead and cite us. However, the probable more right thing to do, especially as one who is supposed to be a “peacemaker,” is to get the shot and provide the proof. We got a voucher with Maggie to get it done at a place called TCAP (that stands for Texas Coalition for Animal Protection), and I can take her pretty much any morning this week. So I plan to take her to the Hurst location tomorrow, sometime between nine and noon, which is when they do vaccinations.

I’ve been playing the latest game craze to hit social media, Wordle. Here is my score for today.

Wordle 220 5/6*

⬜🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜
⬜🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟨⬜🟩🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

If you are interested in trying it, here is the link. Everyone gets the same word, each day, and the word changes every day. You get six guesses. The yellow blocks show that the guessed letter is in the word, but in the wrong position. The green blocks show that the correct letter is in the correct position. The empty blocks are just wrong. LOL. I have played ten times with a win percentage of 90%. I missed one a few days ago. The word was “prick.” I would never have guessed that. Modern culture assigns a not-so-nice meaning to that word. But it is a verb, though, meaning to “make a small hole in something with a sharp point.” You know . . . Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger with a spindle, right? Anyway.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Can Take You, by Daryl Madden

To listen so intently
The into flowing through
That takes you to the place
Only music can take you

To move the soul so deeply
Beyond what we construe
That takes to you the Grace
Only prayer can take you

To dwell within the scene
Of vision in the view
That takes you to the space
Only beauty can take you

To hope within the promise
To receive what we pursue
That blesses the embrace
Only God can take you

Oh, the places that music, prayer, beauty, and God can take me . . . please check out more of Daryl’s beautiful poetry at the link provided above.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
 let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, 
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
and why are you in turmoil within me? 
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. 
(Psalms 43:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music, prayer, and beauty, and the places that they can take me
2. that my soul is not "cast down," and that I am able to praise the Lord
3. that God is a friend to those who revere Him (Psalm 25:14)
4. that God has given me the faith to faithfully pray, and then watch to see what He will do (Psalm 5;3)
5. that I am content and protected beneath the wings of my God and Father
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
And he said to them, 
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, 
but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 
And these signs will accompany those who believe: 
in my name they will cast out demons; 
they will speak in new tongues; 
they will pick up serpents with their hands; 
and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; 
they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 
(Mark 16:15-18 ESV)

In this passage (allegedly not found in the oldest, most reliable manuscripts), Jesus tells His disciples, His followers to go and proclaim the good news to all of, or “the whole” creation. The KJV translated the word “kosmos” as “world,” where the more modern translations use the more-inclusive “creation.” What is our reaction to this command? The more popular version of it is found in Matthew 28, and is referred to as “The Great Commission.” Some people say that the Bible says that we are supposed to preach the Good News to everyone we meet.

No one I know does that, not even the people who claim to believe that this is what the Bible teaches. They would never get anything else accomplished, nor would they be able to hold down any kind of reasonable employment. I dare say that most employers would not tolerate someone who never did anything but preach at people while on the job.

And, sadly, that is what a lot of people do when they try to proclaim the Good News. They preach at people. And I can tell you from experience that this bothers people. Dallas Willard once opined that Jesus did not mean that we were supposed to go out and “bother” people.

I have also heard it said that, in the Great Commission, the Greek language implies that it should say “As you go . . . ,” indicating that we should be speaking the Good News in the context of our daily lives. This I find easier to believe. It is also worth noting that the Matthew version uses the phrase “make disciples” or “teach” (KJV) rather than “proclaim.” That’s a bit different, isn’t it? It takes a lot more investment in someone to make them a disciple than it does to just proclaim the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stand on a street corner and preach than it is to take the time to actually teach someone how to be a disciple of Jesus.

For me (and I am most certainly not saying that I have done a good job of obeying this command), the way to discern what is being asked of us is to look at what Jesus did. While He did do some preaching (there are several “discourses” recorded in the Gospels), the majority of His time was spent with those twelve guys, teaching them how to be disciples.

But going back to this passage in Mark. What is the “good news?” That question is answered in Mark, as well, back in chapter 1.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

I believe that the “gospel,” as proclaimed by Jesus, is that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” or, in other words, here. This is the message that we have to proclaim to the world. The kingdom is here; change the way you are thinking about life.

If Jesus really said the things recorded in this passage (again, not included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts), He made some rather bold statements about how His followers would be identified. My take on this requires me to contextualize it into our own culture, and I believe that it simply speaks to the kind of faith that we will see in disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t think we would find a lot of agreement about it, if we were to gather a dozen or so followers of Christ in the same room. Depending on where we got them, some would want to take this more literally than others. I mean, I suppose we still have “snake-handler” Christians around us somewhere. I seem to recall some news about some around Fort Worth, just a few years ago.

And some would, no doubt, use this passage as ammunition for their refusal to take part in any Covid-preventing measures. My faith, however, does not lead me down that path. Where it leads me is to walk on a path of love and faithfulness, of compassion and generosity and kindness. If you have read this forum very much, you have seen that I believe that I have, basically, two jobs: love God and love people. That is where my faith leads me, and it leads me to trust that God is looking out for me and has my best interest at heart (behind His own best interests, of course).

Part of the good news is this: God loves us. He loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to spend not only this life, but all eternity in His presence. And He has gifted us with His presence as we live and walk on this earth. What more could we ask for?

Pieces of this taken from today’s episode of Pray As You Go.

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

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13 ESV)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “feathers,” as in Psalm 91:4.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalms 91:4 NIV)

Father, I praise You for the protection that I feel, sheltered beneath Your “feathers” and “wings.” Your faithfulness is, indeed, my shield, and I find that I have nothing to fear in this world.

I thank You for the faith that You have given me, faith that enables me to pray in the face of insurmountable odds, and then wait to see what You will do. No, my prayers are not always answered the way I would like them to be. But that is part of my faith, that allows me to accept the answers You give as Your will. I know that Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are not my ways. There are times when I cannot comprehend Your ways and thoughts, and that is where faith comes into play, the faith of which Jesus spoke. I may not handle snakes or drink poison, but I trust in You, so I’m not afraid to walk out my front door and get in my car to drive somewhere.

I am also thankful that You have given me the faith to believe in the gospel, that Your kingdom is at hand, that it came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and that it remains on earth, with the presence of Your Holy Spirit, which You have given us, Your Church. May we walk in Your kingdom, and may we faithfully and adequately proclaim this kingdom while we walk here, and may we also faithfully teach others to walk in it, as we make more disciples. But, in doing this, may we not just preach at people. Help us to be more invested in the lives of others, because this is how we are going to reach them in Your name.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

All Grace

Today is Saturday (right?), the ninth of October, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,221

Only three days until our 36th wedding anniversary!

I had another great day at the library, yesterday. I helped one patron with her employment application website, although “helped” may be stretching it. We were both confused when she left, as the site said she had submitted an application, but nothing was showing up when she clicked to review it. It was too close to closing to keep going, though. I had never used the particular site she was on, so I didn’t know much about it.

We have a regular patron who seems to be helping people with things like citizenship applications and what-not. I initially thought he was some kind of legal counsel, but the other librarians said no, that he is a pastor who is helping people with things, and doesn’t get any money from them. That’s pretty cool.

Then I helped several people with printing needs, from resumes to pay stubs. The young woman who printed her resume seemed somewhat desperate. That made me sad.

We had our homemade pizza with cauliflower crust for dinner last night. That’s always good. C and I watched one of the new episodes of Leverage: Redemption, via Prime Video. It’s featured on IMDB TV, but is available through Prime.

I got my first Interlibrary Loan, yesterday. It’s a collection of stories by one of the SF Grand Masters, Jack Williamson, called Spider Island, and includes a story called “The Blue Spot,” which was published in 1935. I have been unable to find that story, and the collection, even though published in 2002, is out of print and very hard to find. At least hard to find for less than $100, which I’m not willing to pay for a book. I just want to read it, not collect it. So one of my new friends at the Hurst Library found it for me. At the TCU Library, of all places! I was quite surprised at that. I have a couple weeks to get it finished, so I will get right on it as soon as I finish the book on the Hamilton musical. I’m about a third of the way through that one.

Today, C and I are going ahead with our plan to drive up to Oklahoma, to Winstar Casino. Between us, we have $100 of bonus play and $50 of meal vouchers, so that should be a good time. Tomorrow, we may go to a craft fair at the Hurst Conference Center. That, of course, depends on how C feels after going to Winstar today.

My next library shift is Tuesday evening 4:15-8:15, in shelving.

Oh! I almost forgot. Baseball! The big news (at least for me) is the Red Sox trouncing the Rays, 14-6. It started of with a bang (and the Sox being down 5-2 after one inning), and never let up. Home runs galore, on both sides. One thing for sure, Chris Sale is not up to snuff. Don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he never had control of that game. So the teams will head to Fenway for game three tomorrow, series tied 1-1.

The Astros beat the Other Sox, 9-4, to take a 2-0 lead in that series. Their next game will be in Chicago, tomorrow. The Brewers beat the Braves 2-1, to take 1-0 lead in that series, which will continue in Milwaukee today. And the Giants shut out the Dodgers 4-0, to also take a 1-0 lead in their series, which will also continue in San Francisco today. If I’m pulling for a NL team, it’s the Brewers. I have no reason to like the Braves, and plenty of reasons to not like LA or SF. And, frankly, if the Red Sox lose their series to the Rays, I’m out for the season, because I don’t want any of those AL teams to win.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Letting Soul, by Daryl Madden

Soaking of the morning
Of senses here to fill
To be fully present
Letting the soul still

Psalm of song in silence
Caress of a soft breeze
Fragrance to awaken
Setting soul at ease

Blessed within the light
A drifting of above
Receiving sacred gifts
To shower soul in love

Heart of preparation
Aware and fully here
So grateful is our being
To offer soul in prayer

With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:41 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Twisted Pine Highlander Grogg coffee
2. for Heman and Jeduthun and "the rest of those chosen," who had one job, to give thanks to the LORD
3. for the call on my life to have a heart of gratitude and live a life of kindness (pray for me, because I don't always succeed in those tasks)
4. that I'm a whole lot better and a whole lot worse than what you think I am
5. that salvation is purely of grace, totally worked by the right hand and holy arm of God

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the loving kindness of Yahweh.
(Psalms 33:5 WEB)

As I pause for quiet reflection I wonder if the earth is really full of His loving kindness. I suppose it depends upon your perspective. You have to look beyond its inhabitants to see it.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm.

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
(Psalms 98:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me,
who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
“He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.”
(2 Samuel 22:47-51 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

Another quiet pause of reflection. What is the Holy Spirit saying to me, this morning?

In Psalm 98, another “orphan psalm” (it has a title, but no author), I take note of the line that says, “his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” As well as the next line, that says that He has made His salvation known, and that His righteousness has been revealed to the nations.

Paul the Apostle testifies to this truth in the first chapter of Romans.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
(Romans 1:20-21 NIV)

Who has worked salvation? God. Not man. Again, in Ephesians, Paul testifies to this truth.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

My salvation is in the hands of God and God alone. It has never been, nor will it ever be, in MY hands, nor is it in the hands of any other human being.

When I was an adolescent, there was a common myth being taught in “witnessing training” classes, that if I failed in my responsibility to “witness” to person X, person X might die and go to hell, so I’d better do my duty.

With all due respect to whomever respect is due, that’s a crock of you know what.

For one thing, we should never, EVER use guilt and/or shame to induce people to witness to others. There is no place for manipulation in the kingdom of God. And you can’t “manipulate” someone into the kingdom, anyway.

For another thing, why would anyone believe that God would leave our salvation in the hands of imperfect, totally fallible, humans?? If your salvation, your “ticket” for that “train” is in my hands, you’d better run, my friend. Because I’m a sinner, just like you. Probably worse than you. I’m reminded of a great line from one of my favorite Christian bands, The Choir. It’s in this song, “What You Think I Am.”

I'm a dedicated minister,
And a downright sinister man;
I'm a whole lot better
And a whole lot worse
Than what you think I am.

This has become my all time favorite song by The Choir, because I see myself in it. There’s a meme I’ve seen circulating on Facebook lately. It says something like “Everyone has chapters that they don’t want read out loud.” Yes, sir. That’s me.

I'm a good Samaritan,
And a very, very bad man;
I'm a whole lot better
And a whole lot worse
Than what you think I am.

And it is the right hand and holy arm of the Lord Almighty that has worked His salvation in me. In me, in you, in everyone who enjoys the great salvation of our God. I had nothing to do with it.

“But you accepted it!” some might object. “You had a choice!”

Even that ability to choose and accept was a gift from God. My salvation is not of works, lest I should boast. That’s a very important idea in that Galatians verse. Like Paul, the only thing I have to boast about is the grace and power of our God. The only thing, as Horatius Bonar said, that I can bring to God, is my sin, because I have nothing else that I can call my own.

I might preach kindness and love to you, and then turn around and judge you because of something you do or say. Hear me well . . . I despise that about myself, and am constantly on my knees (at least figuratively), asking the Father to grant me repentance and give me more kindness and compassion toward my neighbors and my brothers and sisters.

When I enter my eternal inheritance, my reward, it will not be because of anything I have done. It will be solely because of what Christ has done on the Cross, which was the right hand and holy arm of the Lord God Almighty, working His salvation and revealing His righteousness to the world.

I kind of went down a rabbit hole, there. But I was looking for what the Spirit was saying to me, and that line stood out immediately. What follows the full realization that salvation is of God, and God alone, is the verses that tell me to shout to the Lord, for joy, and burst into jubilant song. And why wouldn’t I?? What glorious truth! In spite of myself, God has saved me!

In the words of John Newton:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see!

And in the words of Isaac Watts:

Alas! and did my savior bleed,
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Well-meaning folks would later change “such a worm” to “sinners such as I.” I have long rejected that change. I am, and have been for many years, quite comfortable in recognizing my “worminess.” But glory, glory, Ralph Hudson came along later and added:

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away (rolled away).
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Yes, it’s true. I’m a whole lot better and a whole lot worse than you think I am. I’m a good Samaritan, and a very, very bad man. But Jesus saved me, thanks to the right hand and strong holy arm of God, and because of His grace, no thanks to me, no “work” on my part, my eternal inheritance is secured. And it was secured “At the cross,” not on that day when I was nine years old and walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, Texas. That was just icing on the cake, my friends. The “cake” was already mine.

So I will sing along with David when he writes:

"The LORD lives, and blessed be my Rock, and exalted be my God, the Rock of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,
who brought me out from my enemies;
You exalted me above those who rose against me;
You delivered me from men of violence.
For this I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to Your Name."

Most blessed Savior and Lord, I thank You and praise You for saving me. The work was done thousands of years ago on the Cross; work done by You; nothing was required of me, other than to give what You had given me and believe in Your work. The grace was all Yours; the work was all Yours; everything a gift from You, that I would have nothing about which to boast. Thank You, Jesus, for Your grace and mercy and compassion. Now work this salvation out in me, through Your Holy Spirit, as I grow in You, daily. Teach me the compassion that You showed to all people, that I might display Your love in this world, today. Take away the part of me; chisel it out; that part that judges others, that part that makes me a “very, very bad man.” Leave in me only the “good” parts, that goodness that comes only from You, Lord.

I pray for Your Church, that we would, collectively, work for the common good of all people while sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that “deep care, bold love, and rich community” would be experienced in Her. And I pray, specifically, for teachers, schools, students, and administrators during this difficult times.

"Father in heaven,
worship makes a missionary of me.
I worship You,
great God,
and long for Your goodness to be known in all the earth,
for all people to know Your glory.
Send me so that Your Name is honored and praised everywhere,
a life or praise for Your renown.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 WEB)

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
(Romans 15:14 ESV)

If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
(1 Corinthians 8:2-3 ESV)

I love that last verse. It really produces humility. If you think you know something, you don’t know anything. “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Tears in Heaven

Today is Thursday, the twenty-second of July, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today!

Day 23,142

28 days until S’s birthday!

I’m not sure what words to use to describe the day I had, yesterday.

I stopped at the CareNow in Grapevine, on the way to work, hoping to get my DOT physical done. But the doctor who performs those doesn’t arrive until 9:00, so I went on to work, debating whether to go back during my lunch time or after work.

I decided to do a “web check-in” at around 11:00 or so, and they sent me a text shortly before 1:00 PM. So I clocked out for lunch and headed that way, letting my supervisor know that I would be taking a “long lunch” for this.

I wound up not getting back to work at all. I was at CareNow for at least three hours, most of which was sitting alone in the exam room. And I did not get the physical completed, as there is a slight hiccup in the process.

You see, I have slept with a CPAP machine for probably at least twenty years. DOT requires some kind of proof of compliance with their regulations on those. You have to show that you sleep with it at least four hours a night for at least seventy percent of the time.

My CPAP machine is an ancient relic. It doesn’t communicate with anything or anyone and is basically an air pump. So. When I first heard that news, I was devastated and figured all was lost. But anyone who knows me very well knows that this is how I roll.

When the actual doctor came in (after I had been stewing in the bad news for at least 45 minutes), she did inform me that DOT allows 45 days to show compliance before the exam is rendered “incomplete.” Now, I know that the ISD is probably not going to be willing to wait that long, but hopefully it won’t take that long. I have already sent two messages to my primary care physician, asking if they can just get me a new CPAP, rather than trying to schedule a new sleep study.

As soon as I can get a new one, I have to use it for ten days in order to prove compliance. Will the ISD wait that long on me?

Well, as proof that miracles do happen and God does speak to us, I got a phone call during dinner, out of the blue, from the HR lady who had contacted me about the job Tuesday. This call was on a totally unrelated topic, regarding getting the fingerprinting appointment set up. I explained my situation to her, and she felt sure that they would work with me on this. So after I hung up with her, I sent an email to her and one of the other people with which I had interviewed, explaining the circumstances.

Today, I plan to call my doctor’s office, in support of the two messages I sent last night, to see what we can get accomplished. At this point, all plans are still going forward, including my stop date at my current job. Even if it takes a little longer to finish this process, it won’t kill us if I go a few days without working. And, if the worst happens, as my general manager told me yesterday, “You did it right. You will always be welcome back here.”

In fact, both he and my direct manager both suggested the possibility of working part time with them, as well.

So, contrary to my natural instincts, all is not lost at all. In fact, I remind myself, it is just a “footstool” problem.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Blessing of Grace, by Daryl Madden

Come here my beloved
Fall in my embrace
Allow me to gift you
A blessing of grace

To draw our hearts closer
Of love to outpour
To know you’re a treasure
And how much you’re adored

In arms of surrounding
May you find safety
A place of protection
Of peace cover thee

Found in the grip
Of hands holding tight
Are ones here to help you
And serve with delight

This blessing a glimpse
I hope that you find
Of the perfect blessing
From our God divine

“To know you’re a treasure/And how much you’re adored.” May we all find safety in His arms of surrounding, today, a place of protection and peace!

Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:5-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the hope that You keep in my heart, even when things look grim;
2. that when I commit everything to You, You are there helping me;
3. for Your "arms of surrounding," in which I find protection, safety, and peace;
4. that You did not forsake Your Son, nor have You forsaken us;
5. for the opportunity to live my life as an act of worship today.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK NINE – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
(Psalms 24:1 NIV)

I pause to simply consider the events of the past twenty-four hours, praying for God’s hand to move, and confessing my lack of faith in Him. We are not our own, we are the sheep of His pasture, and He will take care of us.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
(Psalms 22:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

This is the account of Noah and his family.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.

“I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”
Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
(Genesis 6:9-14, 17-22 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I this quiet time, as I sit in the presence of God, I linger over these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts, meditations, and prayers. I seek His truth for my life and for my day ahead.

Yesterday afternoon, around 2:00 PM, I very easily could have been heard repeating the words of Psalm 22:1. I may have prayed something similar . . . it wasn’t those exact words. But for a brief time, I felt “forsaken.”

In retrospect, I feel silly. Of course, I wasn’t forsaken. But does David ever feel “silly” for writing those words?? I sincerely hope he did not, because his words are preserved for millions to be inspired by. If we consider what he endured, my hour or two in the exam room yesterday pales in comparison. David had to live in a cave while Saul sought his life. He had to run for his life from his own son! If anyone had cause to cry out, “My God, why have You forsaken me?” it was David!

But fast forward a few hundred years. A Man hangs on a cross, moments away from His death, and repeats those exact words. Of course, David had no idea, had no way of knowing that Jesus Christ would be quoting him. And what Jesus endured, at that moment, was far worse than any human being has ever endured, in all of history.

His Father turned His back on Him.

There was, for that briefest of moments, a break in the fellowship of the Holy Trinity, and, for maybe the only time in history, there were “tears in heaven.”

We are not left hanging, though. Verse 5 of the psalm brings it around. “To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” And we know that Jesus was not left alone for long, either. In fact, just a couple of days later, His Father exhibited the most magnificent display of His power that has ever been seen when He raised Jesus from the dead!

Jesus cried out to His Father and was saved.

He will do the same for us, as well, if we only believe.

Father, I am so grateful that You have not forsaken us. Even when it seems like all is lost, help us to know that it is not at all. You showed me, yesterday, that things are, in Your kingdom, indeed, far better than I could ever imagine. And while my joy was momentarily threatened, it was restored, and I have the pervasive sense of well-being that comes from knowing and trusting in You. And, as Job once said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” That means, that, no matter what the outcome of this current employment/retirement situation, my trust in You will not waver. I was tempted yesterday, and confess that I may have been near giving up. But You would not allow that to happen. All praise to Your glorious Name, through the Son and by the Spirit!

Lord, I pray for spiritual renewal in my heart, in Your Church, in our land, and throughout the world. Give us deep repentance, which simply means changing the way we think about things. Help us to think correctly about You, Father! I also pray that You will provide new relationships with unbelievers, that I might display Your grace, love, and mercy to them.

"Holy God,
because sin flooded the earth with violence,
you sent the judgment of the flood.
As you saved Noah's family and the animals,
you float me to safety in the waters of baptism.
Thank you that you did not wash your hands of me but instead set out to find,
forgive,
and free me in a deluge of your grace.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

“I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.'”
(Isaiah 51:16 NIV)

“Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
(Isaiah 7:11 NIV)

Hallelujah!
Sing to GOD a brand-new song,
praise him in the company of all who love him.
Let all Israel celebrate their Sovereign Creator,
Zion’s children exult in their King.
Let them praise his name in dance;
strike up the band and make great music!
(Psalms 149:1-3 MSG)

The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
(Jeremiah 31:13 NLT)

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

Father, help me to live my life today as an act of worship, as I join in the dance with You!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Words and the Meditations

Today is Thursday, the eighteenth of March, 2021, in the fourth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,016

Seventeen days until Resurrection Sunday

I have no news to share, this morning, so I will move on.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You;
grant us so to know You that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Prayer to Know God, by St. Augustine)

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might;
(Psalms 65:5-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the peace in my soul, this morning
  • for this time of prayer and meditation
  • for the renewing of my mind
  • that You are my light and my salvation, and that I have nothing to fear
  • that I have the choice to offer myself to You, daily

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LENT – DAY 26

INVITATION

The Lord is . . . patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

Take a moment to ponder the “awesome deeds” of the Lord, as He answers us with righteousness (Psalm 65:5).

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 NIV)

Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
(Psalms 27:9-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
(Romans 6:8-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in the presence of God, this morning, I am reminded, once again, that, if it is true what the psalmist says in 27:1, that the Lord is the stronghold of my life, then it is also true that I have absolutely nothing to fear. In the words of Dallas Willard, “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

In verse 10, the psalmist writes, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” For most of us, the odds of our fathers and/or mothers forsaking us are very slim. However, there are many in this world, especially in other countries, who may have experienced this. I cannot fathom it, myself, nor could I fathom forsaking my own children.

That is how certain God’s love and care over us is. Stronger than the love of a father or mother in the human world, God will never forsake us.

The Romans passage can be confusing, with all of this talk of dead to this and alive to that. But what I believe it shows us is the reality of our life in Christ.

In His death, Christ defeated sin, once and for all. And in His life, both before and after His death, He lives fully to God.

We have this same ability and characteristic, because we, in effect, died with Him on the cross. While we did not physically die, all of our sin died with Him, once and for all. Therefore, we have the freedom to live fully for God.

The problem is that we carry this mystery around in what Paul will call, elsewhere, “jars of clay.” We live in bodies, in this mortal coil, as it were. Nevertheless, we have the freedom to, as verse 11 says, count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.

We have the choice every day to not offer any part of ourselves “to sin as an instrument of weakness,” but, rather, to offer ourselves to God, as we have been brought from death into life.

Father, I praise You for the work of Christ on the Cross, which has freed us from the effects of sin in our lives. Help us, by Your Spirit, to offer ourselves to You and to righteousness, and to walk in this freedom from sin that we have been given. You are truly my light and my salvation – whom then shall I fear?

Surprising God,
who would have thought that dying was good?
My instinct is to avoid it.
But,
in Jesus,
I see that dying is the way to life.
Equip me to do what is so difficult -
to die to myself and become new.
May I be genuinely sorry for my sin,
to hate it more and more,
and to run away from it.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 89)

BLESSING

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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 12:1-2 NIV)

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
(Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

Father, as I walk through this day, may I be obedient to the above Scriptures, presenting myself as a “living sacrifice,” not conforming to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of my mind. Renew my mind, daily, Father, by the power of Your Spirit, and through these meditations on Your Word. As I drive to work, this morning, may my meditations continue.

Lord, I pray for spiritual renewal as we continue this season of Lent. May You grant me/us deep repentance and genuine humility, born out of the Gospel. May You also lead us into new relationships with people who do not know or follow Christ, that we might influence them toward You and Your kingdom.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Crash of Repentance

Good morning. It seems to be Friday already. That’s one benefit of taking three days of vacation at the beginning of the week. Today is November 7, 2012. Most of us who live in the U.S. know this as “Pearl Harbor Day,” the day that got the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. But did you know that today is also “National Cotton Candy Day?” Who doesn’t like cotton candy? If there was just a way to eat it without getting your fingers all sticky. And your face.

On this date in 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution.
On this date in 1869, Jesse James committed his first confirmed bank robbery.
On this date in 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet, along with the Army and Marine Air Forces, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, resulting in a declaration of war on Japan.
Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, was launched on this day in 1972.
On this date in 1984, Christi (Rains) Bickley and I had our first “date.” It was a midnight “Laser Magic” show at the Fort Worth Nobel Planetarium, after our weekly “TGIF” bowling league at Wedgwood Bowl in Fort Worth. I still get “goosies” when I think about that night.

Today’s birthdays include Saint Columba (Irish missionary to Scotland), 521, Richard Sears (yes, that “Sears”), 1863, Ted Knight (actor), 1923, Noam Chomsky (writer), 1928, Ellen Burstyn (actress), 1932, Harry Chapin (songwriter), 1942

Johnny Bench (baseball player), 1947, Tom Waits (singer), 1949, Damien Rice (musician), 1973, Eric Chavez (baseball player), 1977.


It’s probably a very good thing that I went back to work yesterday. I wouldn’t wish the kind of day I had yesterday on my worst enemy, much less the young lady who was sitting in for me during vacation. We had three breakdowns yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever had three breakdowns in the same day! Hopefully, today will be better.

Christi had a good day, but for some reason, her kneecap started acting up. So I wound up being the only one who made it to the gym last night. I really had to go, though. It’s the only time this week, and I still want to make some serious progress before we head to Cancun. Oh, and Stephanie cleaned her room yesterday. And vacuumed it. I’m going to give you a moment to let that sink in.

She sent me a text message with a picture. I told her that wasn’t her room, and that she took that picture from a catalog. 😀 That’s the best that room has looked since we moved into this house 13 years ago.


Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. (Psalm 66:5)
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 17:7-8)
My God, I pray that you show me something of yourself this morning, that I may indeed “come and see what God has done.”


Today, I’m reading Isaiah 6.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.

What an amazing image this is! Isaiah has a vision of God Almighty, sitting on his thronw, “high and lifted up,” surrounded by his seraphim. I’ve always loved Isaiah’s immediate response. I’ve always been amused at people who make claims that Jesus appeared to them during normal activities, such as shaving or something, and how they had a casual conversation with him. To that I say a hearty, “No way!” Even Jesus’s disciples, the men who had spent three years walking with him, fell to their faces when he appeared in their midst after the resurrection. (That may be a slight exaggeration, but it does say that they were “startled and frightened.”) The point is, if you suddenly see a visible manifestation of God, I don’t think you’ll be glib about it. I like Isaiah’s response as translated in KJV. “Woe is me! For I am undone!” In the ESV, it is translated, “I am lost.” Isaiah cannot help but recognize his uncleanness in the presence of one to whom the seraphim shout out, nonstop, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
What we see here, is a sort of commissioning of Isaiah to go deliver a message to the people of Israel. The message would shock most modern-day evangelists. It was actually a counterproductive message. This was a message of judgment.
When I was in seminary, I was told that this chapter presents a biblical picture of what a worship service should look like. I have long since rejected that idea. There is no indication anywhere that we should take this as a model for a worship service. What it does represent to me is the magnificent holiness of God and the proper response to his presence.


Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is simply called “Repentance.” The scripture reference is 2 Corinthians 7:10. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Chambers says, “Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God.” I think Isaiah got that in his experience of chapter 6. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, and when the Holy Spirit stirs a man’s conscience, it is not his relationship with men that bothers him, it is his relationship with God. Note that David, even though he had committed adultery and murder, cried out, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:4) Conviction, forgiveness, and holiness are marvelously interwoven; “it is only the forgiven man who is the holy man, he proves he is forgiven by being the opposite to what he was, by God’s grace.” Repentance brings me to the point that I can admit that I have sinned. If a man can say that and mean it, then God is truly at work in his life. Otherwise, it is only embarrassment at making a mistake, or even disgust at himself (perhaps because he got caught).

“The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man’s respectable goodness; then the Holy Ghost, Who produces these agonies, begins the formation of the Son of God in the life.” I really like that imagery of the the pains of repentance “crashing into a man’s respectable goodness.” That’s what it takes, you know. We all fancy ourselves to be “good,” don’t we? I mean, what rational person really thinks he is “bad?” But when that repentance, that gift of the Holy Spirit, comes crashing into that false sense of “goodness,” there is a beautifully terrible sight. And the life of the Son of God, manifest in that life, will produce “conscious repentance and unconscious holiness.” It’s important to understand that this is never the other way around. If I am aware of my holiness, I am in trouble. Repentance, a gift from God, is the bedrock of my Christian foundation. If I have forgotten how to be repentant, I am in darkness.


Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name. When I pray this, I pray for me, that I might be transformed to make your priorities my priorities. I pray this that I might be motivated to pursue your holiness and keep you at the center of everything I say, think, and do. May your holiness be severely impressed upon my spirit; on my mind and heart. While I certainly desire to see your name “hallowed” by those around me, I must understand the necessity of hallowing your name, myself. In this, I pray that I would never give another person cause to stumble. I pray that, through me, you would give glory, not to me, but to your own name. Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)

I pray that repentance would be a constant state of being for me, because I’m pretty sure that I sin every day. Probably every hour. So I need to always be in a state of repentance, being aware of my sin, and how it affects my relationship with you. Like Isaiah, I need to recognize both your extreme, infinite holiness, and my extreme unholiness. Yes, I understand that Jesus has made me holy, and for that I am eternally grateful. But, again like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among an unclean people. Take the fire of the seraphim’s coal and place it to my lips! And then send me forth with whatever message you have. I am your ambassador in my part of the world, whether I act like it or not. There are days when I am a good ambassador, and there are days when I am a sorry ambassador. May your life, Lord Jesus, be lived in me. May the Holy Spirit continue the formation of that life in my life, as I am granted constant repentance. My sense of “respectable goodness” has long been devastated by the crash of repentance.

I pray for this day. Christi is working from home today. I pray that she will have a good day, restful while working, and I pray that you would touch her kneecap and cause it to stop hurting. I pray that Stephanie also have a good day today, with the comfort of having her mother around the house today. Give them some good moments together today. I pray that my work day will be better than yesterday, and that we will not have any issues that hinder our performance.

I thank you, my Father, that you brought Christi and me together 28 years ago. She has blessed my life beyond words.


Has the gift of repentance crashed into your sense of “respectable goodness?”

Grace and peace, friends.