Displacing Worry with Christ

Today is Friday (I had to think a minute), the twenty-third of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,570

I’ll give a quick update on my cyst removal surgery, yesterday. It went very well, as far as I can tell, with no complications or anything. I’m a little sore, but not in any kind of terrible pain. I can take extra strength Tylenol through the weekend, and then I can take Ibuprofen. I have to leave the bandage on through Saturday, and then need to replace it every day. I go back in two weeks to get the stitches out.

I may not have mentioned that this was happening . . . I don’t remember. But the two cysts were very close together, right on top of my head. They are sending them to pathology, which is routine.

It’s Friday, so I will be in the Computer Center at the library today, from 9:15-6:15. If time allows, I will update Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit, after I finish my devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Our dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you have given us the Lord Jesus on high and that we are allowed to be with him and find joy even while still surrounded by all that must fade and perish. For in Jesus Christ you hold us by the hand through anxiety, need, and death. Grant that he may be with us as we continue our pilgrimage. Grant us your Spirit, for we are poor in spirit and in soul. Give us your Holy Spirit from on high. Just in our weakness we come to know what strength and victory you bring through the Lord Jesus, our Savior. The Lord Jesus is our Savior for body, soul, and spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 
(Ephesians 4:8 RSV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for God’s love, poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit
  2. that we can have joy, even though we are surrounded by everything that must fade and perish
  3. for the peace that comes when we allow Christ to displace worry in our lives
  4. that prayer is more than just asking God for stuff; it is fellowship with Him
  5. that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4 ESV emphasis added)

Three times, in those four verses, the author of this little epistle declares that he is an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ. And the reason that he is writing this is given, “so that you too may have fellowship with us.”

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

I see this as more of a comparison than an outright command that we must confess sin. If we agree with God (assent or acknowledge) that we have sinned, we will be forgiven; if we claim that we are sinless, we are delusional, “and the truth is not in us.”


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.
(Proverbs 5:21 NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

If I think too much about the Lord examining all my paths, it might create the anxiety that I am not supposed to have, according to Philippians 4. On the other hand, knowing that my “ways are in full view of the Lord” can bring comfort to me. There is no hiding from God; there is nowhere I can go where God is not. And even though I’m not perfect, even though my thoughts sometimes go places where they should not, I know that my God is already there, and that there is nothing that I can do, say, or think that changes His love for me.

The Philippians passage says, “in every situation.” Interestingly, the Greek word that is translated “every situation” in NIV and “everything” in ESV and NLT is simply “pas.” That word essentially means “all.” There is no further object indicated. This explains why the KJV is translated “every thing.” I like Eugene Peterson’s translation.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
(Philippians 4:6 MSG)

We worry about so much, these days. The Christian Church is fraught with worry, and those worries seem to be over such meaningless things. There is an implication here, since we are told that if, instead of worrying, we pray, we will have peace, then the opposite also applies; if we worry instead of praying, we will not have peace.

And that peace that results from praying instead of worrying transcends all understanding. Peterson’s translation here is also wonderful, to me. “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

I forgot to finish my thought up there, when I pointed out the part that says “in every situation,” or in “everything.” This includes those situations when we have allowed ourselves to stumble into sin, or when we have allowed negative thoughts to reign in our minds, or when we allow complaining to be the order of the day. Prayer is not just for when we need someone’s healing or provision. Prayer is for everything, for “pas.”


“Love breaks the chains that hold you to the past; it allows for growth, change, and new life. When you accept God’s love, you also accept God’s forgiveness. As you love yourself, you also forgive as you are forgiven and you love even more . . .

“The more control you try to grasp, the less you have; the more control you surrender to God, the more under control your life becomes. Surrendering control doesn’t mean you have become passive or fatalistic. It means you trust that God has given you the physical, emotional, and spiritual tools necessary to negotiate life. To surrender control to God releases the tension within that keeps you from responding to life with all your capacity. When you stop pushing and pulling to have things your way, you are more apt to see things God’s way.”

(Adolfo Quezad, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

It seems to me that this last paragraph supports the teaching of Philippians 4:6-7.


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

Andrew Murray further supports the truth of the Philippians passage. When we give in to anxiety and prayerlessness, we experience self-condemnation. (I am speaking primarily to believers, here.) But, if we pray, instead, as Paul admonishes, “Think of the confidence in the Father that will replace the reproach and self-condemnation that characterized our lives before. Think how the hour of prayer may become the happiest time in our whole day, and how God may use us there to share in carrying out His plans, making us a fountain of blessing to the world around us.”

And then, Murray says, “Prayer is not merely coming to God to ask something of Him. It is, above all, fellowship with God and being brought under the power of His holiness and love.”

I believe this all falls under the truth of the Jeremiah passage. When we pray, we disable the anxiety, we recognize God’s plan for us, and we have peace.


Father, strengthen us to believe in the victory that You have prepared for us. Strengthen us to believe that the blessing that You have for us is greater, far, than anything we could ever imagine! Teach us to pray instead of worry. Teach us to live in the country of grace and forgiveness, rather than in the country of worry and doubt. We will doubt, yes. We are human, and it goes with the territory. But we do not have to live or dwell in that doubt. We do not have to allow our minds to dwell on that doubt.

Give us that peace that passes all comprehension or understanding; help us to live in that promise of life and hope and a future in You. Help us to pray over everything, and in doing so, release the reproach and self-condemnation that we tend to fall into. Help us to remember the great words of Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

In the Watches of the Night

Today is Tuesday, the twentieth of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,567

Only two more days until Autumn begins!! (Which, as has been duly noted, means absolutely nothing in Texas, as it is still 90 degrees outside.)

And, once again, the high temperature for yesterday was two degrees below the predicted high of 95. We are running about six degrees higher than the average for this time of year.

Today’s high is projected to be 96. The record high for this date occurred just last year, at 100 degrees.

C and Mama are currently at Mama’s doctor appointment, as she is seeing a new doctor here in Fort Worth, for the first time. I hope they like him.

I’ll be working my half-day, this evening, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. C will be working from home the rest of the day, after the doctor appointment, and I will probably go out and pick up Subway for lunch today.

There were only nine baseball games, yesterday, none of which involved my two favorite teams. However, the Mets, I am told, clinched a playoff berth, yesterday, when they beat the Brewers 7-2. I read that this was their first playoff appearance since 2016. Comparatively, though, six years isn’t such a long time. According to one source, the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, and they are on track to get a Wild Card spot, this season.

The Astros clinched their division, yesterday, to be the second team that has clinched a division, this season. However, I’m confused, because Seattle has sixteen games left, and they are fifteen games out. So that “clinching” shouldn’t happen until Houston wins their next game or Seattle loses one, as Seattle’s E# is 1. If Houston has clinched, there should be an “E” next to Seattle.

Update: I’ve dug a little more deeply into that situation. If Houston lost the rest of their games (not likely) and Seattle won the rest of theirs (also not likely) they would be tied, in which case the head-to-head record would be used to determine the record. Houston beat Seattle 12-7 this season. So there you go.

The Dodgers won again, so their chance to beat the win record is still alive. They must win fifteen of their last sixteen games. They are, of course, still atop MLB with 102-44. The Nationals and Athletics both lost, so the Nats are still on the bottom, at 51-96. The Mets have a five-game win streak going, and the Pirates, Phillies, and Diamondbacks all have four-game losing streaks. The Dodgers have a run differential of +332, and the Pirates are at -214 (the Nats are at -213).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, our Helper, we thank you for walking among us and for letting many experience your protection. Even when we are dying, you protect and help us so that we need not pass into death but may enter into life. So may our hearts be lifted up to you. Grant that the light in us remains undimmed, and that we may come before you in sincerity. Lord God, create good out of evil. Let light dawn in the darkness. Fulfill your promise, for our hearts are not concerned with human desires but with your promise. You will carry it out, and we will be able to say, "Our faith was not in vain, our hope was not in vain. Lord our God, you have blest us a thousandfold." Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts. 
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
(Psalms 145:3-5 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the love of family and friends
  2. for the wonderful works of God, past, present, and future
  3. for my soul that desires to meditate on the Lord in the watches of the night
  4. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which is better than life
  5. for the admonishment to “be still before the Lord”

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, 
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
 beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life, 
my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live;
 in your name I will lift up my hands. 
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
 and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed, 
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8 ESV)

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
(Psalms 119:148 ESV)

“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”
(Lamentations 2:19 ESV)

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 ESV)

Initially, I am drawn, once again, to the “steadfast love,” or chesed, of God. In this case, the psalmist (reported to be David) says that the steadfast love, or mercy, of God is better than life. This stands to reason, because without that steadfast love, there would likely be no life.

But then I am drawn to the middle verses of this psalm; verses 5-7.

I have been physically satisfied (even beyond satisfied) by “fat and rich food.” This is the comparison that David gives for his soul when he remembers the Lord in his bed at night. He speaks of meditating on the Lord during the “watches of the night.”

This made me remember one of the prayers for Compline from the Book of Common Prayer.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

I remember reading a great book about that prayer, by Tish Harrison Warren, called Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.

I really want to get into the habit of practicing Compline and “examen” before I go to sleep each night. Tragically, I keep forgetting. Examen is the practice of a detailed examination of the conscience, typically done at the end of the day. As a spiritual discipline, though, it goes deeper than just checking the conscience. It examines the day; what went well, what didn’t go well? What could have been better? How did I react to certain situations?

These are the kinds of things that I think about when I consider the “night watch,” or remembering God “upon my bed.” I’ve gotten out of the habit of the “bedtime prayers” that I grew up with. It is something that I really need to get back into.


“Release yourself from the bondage of your own judgment. Love yourself without condition. Love yourself through the walls of defensiveness and the darkness of your deeds. Love yourself beyond whatever you deserve for such is the love of God.” ~ Adolfo Quezada, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
(Psalms 37:7 ESV)

“Be still” is translated “rest” in the KJV. The Hebrew word is damam, which can be translated “to be dumb,” or “to be astonished,” but also means “cease,” “hold peace,” “quiet self,” “rest,” “be silent,” and so on.

Is this not the same sort of thing that happens when we remember the Lord upon our beds, meditating on Him during the watches of the night?

How many of us go to sleep at night worrying about current events or things that happened during the day that trouble us? And how many times do these worries cause us lack of sleep?

This is one of the purposes of Compline and Examen. To quiet the soul before trying to sleep. One thing I do every night (now that I think about this) is to turn on a meditation app that I have on my phone. It’s called “Abide.” They have great, Scripture-based sleep meditations. I have a set of headband-headphones that I put on (so that it doesn’t bother my wife), and I start one of the meditations. They allegedly last up to forty minutes, but I have yet to make it to the end of one of them.

This isn’t the same thing as purposeful examination of the conscience and the day that preceded, but it certainly can’t hurt anything to fall asleep listening to Scripture.

This verse, though, instructs us to not worry about evildoers or those who prosper. Eugene Peterson translated that verse this way:

Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
(Psalms 37:7 MSG)

In this, we are shown patience and endurance by the Holy Spirit. Waiting requires great patience; resting in the Lord requires great patience and faith.


Father, help me to wait and rest better. I pray for Your Holy Spirit to remind me, each night, to examine the day, to check my conscience, to see how I could have done better, and also how I could have done worse. Help me to remember You on my bed, and meditate in the watches of the night. If I have trouble going back to sleep, simply draw my thoughts and meditations toward You in prayer.

Thank You for these words of worship and wisdom, and help me to apply them to my life today.

Even so, please come quickly, Lord Jesus!


“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 graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. 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.” ~ Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer

Grace and peace, friends.

“LAZARUS, COME OUT!!”

Today is Tuesday, September 6, 2022, in the 23rd week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,553 (the number of days since I was born)

To many people, today feels like Monday. My wife (known as “C” in this forum), for example, had to return to the office today after her long weekend. I, too, go to work today, but I’m always off on Monday. I’ll head in, this evening, at 4:15, for my weekly four-hour shift shelving returned books at the library.

We had another interesting weather day, yesterday. It was similar to Sunday, but the thunderstorm happened later in the day. Somewhere around 8:30 PM, we got a rousing thunderstorm, preceded by a nice rain. We received alerts that there was a severe warning in the area just north of us, but we did not get any severe weather at our house. Just like Sunday, though, the temperature dropped almost twenty degrees, this time taking almost three hours. Yesterday’s high was 90 degrees. I’m not sure how much rain we got yesterday evening, but we have received .88 inch in the last 72 hours. That may be it for a while, though, as there doesn’t appear to be any significant chance of rain over the next ten days. The temperatures continue to range from 87-92 for highs. The record high for today’s date is 102, occurring in 2012. I guess we got a break in 2000.

The Texas Rangers lost their ninth straight game, yesterday, unable to plate a run against the Astros. Final score, 1-0. Once again, Martin Perez pitched fairly well, but got no run support from his team. The Rangers, now 58-76, dropped to fourth place in the AL West, a half game behind the Angels. The Angels, Rangers, and Athletics are all eliminated from any chance of winning the division. The Rangers’ WCE# is 12. They have 28 games remaining.

The Red Sox lost to the Rays, 4-3, which is disappointing for several reasons. First, because the Red Sox lost; second because the Rays won; and third, because the Sox need to beat the Rays to keep any playoff hopes alive. The Sox are 67-69, in last place in the AL East. They remain 4.5 games behind the Orioles (who lost to Toronto, BOO), 14.5 out of first place, and 9 out of a Wild Card spot. Their division E# is 13, and their WCE# is 19. They have 26 games remaining.

In the Wild Card race, Baltimore is actually first behind the three current Wild Cards. But they are 4.5 games behind Toronto, to whom they just lost. They really need to win these next couple of games. Being the only other team in the AL East that I don’t seriously dislike, I would just as soon they make the Wild Card over Toronto and/or Tampa. If Boston or Texas can’t get in, Baltimore is my next choice.

The Dodgers lost a game, making their MLB leading record 92-42. With 28 games remaining, they must win 25 of those to break the record of 116 wins. They are 19 games ahead of the second-place team in the division, though, so, while they don’t mathematically have a playoff spot locked in, they virtually do. In other words, the Dodgers are coasting. The Nationals are making a serious run at not being the worst team. They have won four in a row, and are now only two games behind the Pirates, with a 48-87 record.

The Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays both have five-game winnings streaks. The Rangers have the longest losing streak, at nine games. The Dodgers have a +291 run differential, while the Pirates kept the worst, with -209.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, how shall we thank you for all you give to us, your children, for the great wisdom and power you hold in readiness for us if we are childlike? We want to be glad in your presence. We do not want to weep and complain, though tears often threaten to come. We simply want to ask you to protect us, your children. Protect all your children on earth. Let the pain that breaks over them be taken away, for the sake of the whole world. Even when we must follow a hard road, let all the suffering we endure become part of the fight that brings in the kingdom of heaven, bringing your purpose to the earth and great mercy to the peoples, bringing to all the world the wonderful forgiveness that enables men to be reborn, until at last all are called your children. Sustain us. Help us. Bless us. May the Savior always live among us, reviving and strengthening us in body and soul. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
(Mark 10:13-15 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for children, and how they can teach us innocence and faith
  2. for the ways in which God protects His children
  3. that Jesus wept (John 11:35)
  4. that God can speak through anyone or anything He pleases
  5. that apart from God, I can do nothing

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 

Jesus wept. 

So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?"
(John 11:32-37 ESV)

Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
(John 11:41-44 ESV)

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
(John 11:49-52 ESV)


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:1-5 NIV)


Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
(Hebrews 13:2 NIV)

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
(Proverbs 29:25 NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:22-25 NIV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)


He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
(Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

“The attempt to abolish wars and wickedness by the moral law is doomed to failure because of the fact of sinfulness.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers


Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16 ESV)


“Jesus wept.” Sermons have been preached about the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35. Why did Jesus weep? We do not know. We are not given that information. In verse 36, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But that is just their conjecture. I mean, sure, yes, Jesus loved Lazarus. But that isn’t necessarily the reason Jesus wept.

I’m not going to try to figure it out. I’m not going to try to think of all the reasons that Jesus wept. I only want to see the reality in front of me, that Jesus wept. Jesus, God incarnate, fully God and fully human, expressed emotion. He wept, right there, “in front of God and everyone.”

And then, He did the unthinkable, the unimaginable.

“LAZARUS, COME OUT!!”

Even Mary and Martha didn’t fully grasp what was about to happen. “Lord, it’s going to stink in there!” was the objection that Martha gave when Jesus told them to roll away the stone.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
(John 11:40 ESV)

“LAZARUS, COME OUT!!”

What I would love to know is the thoughts of the people who were standing around the tomb, at that moment. The expressions on their faces. What they said to one another in quiet whispers. Did they snicker? Did they scoff? I bet their eyes got as big as saucers.

“What did He just say??”

“LAZARUS, COME OUT!!”

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
(John 11:44 ESV)

A little side speculation, here . . . how, exactly, did Lazarus come out? It says that his hands and feet were bound, so I’m thinking he didn’t exactly walk out. Maybe he shuffled? Did he hop? Or did he . . . float?

It’s not really important, that detail. What’s important is that he came out, alive. It says that many of the Jews that were on the scene believed in Jesus after this. I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t say “all” of the Jews believed. Some of them went back to the Pharisees to report on this.

And I love what Caiaphas said to them.

“You know nothing at all.”

Ooh, what a slap in the face that must have been.

But then, John lets us know that what Caiaphas said was prophecy, and that he didn’t speak it of his own volition.

To see the glory of God in our lives, all we must do is believe. This is expressed many times in Scripture. But here’s the thing. At that moment in time, when Jesus cried out, in a loud voice, “LAZARUS, COME OUT!!” the belief or unbelief of those watching was utterly irrelevant. Lazarus was coming out, whether they believed it or not.

We can see the glory of God all around us. But, if we believe, it will be more readily seen. We will see His glory in events and scenes in which we might not otherwise see it. And, even better, we might be involved in it.

The book of James tells us that the prayer of the righteous person has great power. What more exciting thing than to be involved in the glory of God being revealed through prayer? And prayer requires belief. I would not pray if I did not believe, plain and simple.


Father, I praise You for Your almighty power and glory. I praise You for the raising of Lazarus and the story that we have of that event. I thank You that Jesus showed His emotions, regardless of what reason there was for His weeping. If the reason were important, You would have told us. And maybe it was something as simple as the fact that He loved Lazarus, since those three where probably His closest friends, outside of the disciples.

Help me, Father, to believe, that I might see Your glory, daily. I’m not asking to see the dead raised, every day, or even lesser miracles, although that would be exciting to see. I just want to see Your glory in my world. Let me look at the world with eyes that believe, rather than eyes that scoff and are cynical. I have spent far too much time being sarcastic and cynical, in my life. Cynicism is worthless. Belief is everything. I do believe! Help my unbelief!

I pray for the righteousness of Christ to permeate my life to the point that my prayers are powerful. Not that I might gain any notoriety or fame, but that You might be glorified, and that Your glory might be seen in the world. I pray for the prayers of all the saints, that they might be powerful and effective, and that Your glory would be known and celebrated. Let the earth be filled with Your glory, as the waters cover the seas.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


"The originality and the authenticity of Christian spirituality consists in following a God who has taken on our human condition; who had a history like ours; who has lived our experiences; who made choices; who dedicated himself to a cause for which he had to suffer; who experienced successes, joys, and failures; and who yielded his life. This man, Jesus of Nazareth, is like us in every way except that he was without sin. In Jesus, all the fullness of God dwelt; so he is the only model for our life, as humans and as Christians." ~ Segundo Galilea
(Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

What Is Fruit?

Today is Thursday, the fourth of August, 2022, in the eighteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,520

Fifteen days until S turns 29!

We hit a high of 104 yesterday (predicted 105), for our 38th day of 100+ for this summer, and fourth in the current streak. It looks like it was a new record high for the day, as the previous record was 102. Today’s high is predicted to be 104, as is tomorrow’s. However, Saturday is currently forecast at 99, and there are three days next week that may be below 100. There is also a chance of rain, possibly, next week.

The Texas Rangers were swept by the Orioles, as they lost, yesterday afternoon, 6-3. Martin Perez did not get the loss in the game, as that was accomplished by bullpen pitcher, Jose Leclerc, who has been disastrous, lately. So the Rangers are now 46-58 for the season, but somehow still in third place in the AL West, now 21 games out of first, and nine games out of the Wild Card race, which is slowly moving out of reach, I believe. Frankly, I sincerely believe it is time for a new manager. They begin a four-game weekend series with the Other Sox tonight.

The Red Sox lost to the Astros, yesterday, 6-1, but won the series. It was the first series win in over a month. They are now back at .500, 53-53, seventeen games out of first, and three games out of the Wild Card race. They begin a four-game series with the Royals tonight.

The Dodgers remain the best MLB team, with a 71-33 record, and now have the most wins of any MLB team. The Nationals are still the worst, at 36-70. The current win streak belongs to the Padres, at five straight wins, and the worst losing streak belongs to the Rockies, also five straight games. The Dodgers have also overtaken the Yankees in run differential, now at +208. The Nationals are still the worst in that category, as well, at -172. The Rangers have dropped to -3, and the Red Sox to -20.

It’s Thursday, so I will be at the library computer center from 11:15-8:15, today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Look, Listen, Be, Pray,” by Daryl Madden

Look until you see
Become fully aware
Through the light to view
All surrounding here

Listen ’til you hear
A whisper deep within
To the still small voice
Of stirring to begin

Be until you feel
His grace to impart
His overwhelming love
Let it fill your heart

Pray until you know
His calling to reveal
How God is blessing you
With His love to share

I love the order, here. I really like how “pray” comes after all of the other actions. We are so quick to simply start talking before we look or listen, or even take time to just “be.” Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.


Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for the blessings you give us on earth, for it is through your gifts and work, and through the work of your children, that we can believe and be saved. Protect us here in our household. Let us make allowances for one another in love and spare no effort to maintain unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace. Grant us new strength and new gifts whenever we need them on the path you have set for us. Grant that we may rejoice and trust in you until we reach the goal. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the blessings we receive from the Lord on earth, so many of which come from our brothers and sisters in Christ
2. for the protection of God in our lives
3. for the bond of peace in the unity of the Spirit
4. for the "light momentary affliction" that is "preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4)
5. for the fruit of the Spirit; may I be faithful in exhibiting that

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 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 6:6-8 ESV)

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:10 ESV)

“Serve nobly, wish for nothing else, and fear nothing else: and let Love freely take care of herself! For Love rewards to the full, even though she often comes late. Let no doubt or disappointment ever turn you away from performing acts of virtue; let no ill success cause you to fear that you yourself will not come to conformity with God. You must not doubt this . . .” (Hadewijch of Antwerp)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
(John 15:16-17 ESV)

What is “fruit?”

When I was younger, it was hammered into me that “fruit” meant new Christians. To the “evangelical” mindset, the only way to “bear fruit” is to go out and talk to people about Jesus. I’ve even heard people claim that the Bible says we are supposed to tell “everyone we meet” about Jesus.

No. It certainly does not.

And that mindset creates a pressure on an individual that I am convinced God never intended. The Gospel is not about peer pressure. The Gospel is not about checking off a box so that we can feel as though we have fulfilled a requirement.

The Gospel is about walking in God’s Kingdom, which is here, now (ever since Jesus arrived on earth), and available to anyone who desires to walk in it.

“Fruit” can mean a number of things. It certainly can refer to new disciples. Jesus did tell His disciples to go make disciples. But a “disciple” is more than just a new convert. Making disciples is hard work. It takes relationship, which telling “everyone we meet about Jesus” does not. Modern-day evangelism seems to think that just ambushing someone with the information that they’re going to hell and Christ died for their sins is all they need to do.

Andrew Murray would not agree, either. Of course, Murray was a huge proponent of intercessory prayer. He wrote a number of books on that subject, and believed that “intercession is the primary power by which God moves and opens heaven.”

I believe that intercession is “fruit.” I also believe that an individual’s character is “fruit.” Up there, Paul said, in Galatians, that we should “do good to everyone.” That is fruit. Paul also gave us a list, in Galatians, of what he called the “fruit of the spirit.”

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Gentleness
Faithfulness
Self-control

Right there is some very attractive fruit, beloved.

And if we were to exhibit that fruit to “everyone we meet,” and “do good to everyone,” we might see a lot more disciples as a result.

That verse up there, from 2 Corinthians 5 should scare us. Paul declares, there, that we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. ALL. I distinctly remember hearing people proclaim, back in my college days, that Christians would not have to face judgment. That’s not what I see in Scripture.

And it is there, that our fruit will be examined, I believe. I don’t believe it will be about whether we “get in” or not. That’s already been decided. That verse is talking about reward, or receiving “what is due” for our actions . . . for our fruit.

Did we do good to everyone? Did we, as Micah prophesied, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly? Did we exhibit, consistently, the fruit of the Spirit?

Or did we complain about every little thing? Did we demand our “rights” and “freedoms?” Did we cast hatred toward everyone we didn’t agree with? Were we abusive toward people?

There’s another little passage in 2 Corinthians 4 that I didn’t share yet. I think now is a good place for it.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
(2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

Jars of clay are easily broken; they are very fragile. They have imperfections. To say that we are “jars of clay” is not a compliment, just as when Jesus called us “sheep.” But it’s fair and true.

I am easily broken. I am imperfect. And all of this is to keep me humble. And to help me to remember that the “surpassing power belongs to God.”

Today's sources:
YouVersion reading plan
Daily Guideposts 2022
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I pray for Your help to bear more acceptable fruit in Your Kingdom. I acknowledge that, while fruit is definitely more disciples, it is also character traits that I could most definitely do a better job of portraying.

But it pains me, daily, to see the kind of attitudes and actions being displayed by people who claim to belong to You. Conversations that I have had with people who are either not believers at all or struggling believers have been good examples of the truth of this. The attitudes and actions of people who claim to belong to Christ are not drawing people to You; not creating new disciples; not bearing good fruit.

We simply are not being a sweet aroma to You in Christ, not as a unified body. So I pray that Your Spirit would surround us and teach us, Father. I pray that the Spirit of Christ would inhabit Your people and show us how to live and bear good fruit, and produce that pleasing aroma to You.

And if I am wrong, please show me, Father! I am humbly open to correction. All of my thoughts and opinions, though, are coming from reading Your Word and reading others’ commentary on it. As well as from observations in the world around me.

Help us, help me, to do the things that Micah said, to do justice, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly before You. Remind us, daily, that we are but jars of clay, that we are dust, and that we are merely sheep.

Even so, please come soon, Lord Jesus!


"Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father."
Charles de Foucauld

Grace and peace, friends.

Inseparable

Today is Tuesday, the second of August, 2022, in the eighteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,518

Seventeen days until S turns 29!

I realized early this morning that I totally forgot to update the weather for Sunday. After having a slight relief, as well as some rain, over the past couple days, Sunday was back up to 104 for a high. The forecast had called for 103. Yesterday, we hit right at 100, which was the forecast high. That puts us at a total of 36 days of 100+ temps, and a current streak of 2.

For the past few days, the forecast had called for below-100 temps beginning Friday, for about four days, but that is no longer the case. After projected highs of 103 today and Thursday, and 105 tomorrow, the next seven days are either 100 or 101.

The record high temperature for July 31 stands at 108. Unfortunately, the chart I am looking at doesn’t give me the date for that record.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Orioles, 7-2, last night, and were never really “in” the game. The starting pitcher got pulled from the game after only getting one out in the second inning. Apparently, he had some kind of muscle cramp in his left side. He left the game with the bases loaded and one out. The Rangers are now 46-56 on the season, still in third place in the AL West, twenty games out of first, and eight games out of the Wild Card race. Some of these numbers seem to be static, lately. They play Baltimore again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

With the trade deadline looming today, the Rangers traded Matt Bush to the Brewers for one of their top prospect LH pitchers and a utility player.

The Boston Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 3-2. This puts them back at an even .500, 52-52, for the season. They are still in last place in the AL East, eighteen games out of first, and only three out of the Wild Card race. They play the Astros again tonight, at 7:10 CDT, in Houston. While batting practice was happening, the Sox traded catcher Christian Vazquez to the Astros. That really has to be weird, getting traded to the team you are getting ready to play against, while you are in their stadium.

There’s no loyalty in baseball, any more. We all know that the days of a player playing out his career with one team are long gone. The older I get, the harder it is to be a baseball fan. Sure, the fan loyalty is for a team, but you can’t help but get attached to certain players. As a Rangers fan, my two historical favorite players have been Ian Kinsler (we saw him get his first major league hit with the Rangers) and Elvis Andrus, with whom part of my family had a really sweet encounter the one time we went to Spring Training. Both of them are long gone. Kinsler, I believe, has retired, and Andrus now plays for the Rangers’ rivals, Oakland.

The LA Dodgers continue to be on top of MLB, by mere percentage points, with a 69-33 record. The Nationals remain on the bottom, at 35-69. The Mets still hold the longest current win streak, at seven games. The Pirates retain the longest losing streak, also at seven games. The Yankees hang on to the best run differential, having outscored their opponents, now, by 212 runs. The Nationals, on the other end, have been outscored by 172. The Rangers are now at +6, and the Red Sox are at -16.

It’s Tuesday, so I will be working at the library, this evening, from 4:15-8:15, shelving books and/or DVDs. This is my “heavy” week, so I will also be working Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Then, I have the dreaded colonoscopy scheduled for Monday, so Sunday is going to be super-weird, as I cannot eat any solid food after noon on Sunday, and have to drink the yucky prep stuff during the evening, and will likely not get very much sleep that night.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Father in heaven, we thank you that we may feel your leading, your lordship, for you have blessed us with every spiritual and heavenly gift in Christ. We thank you that we may be among those who receive true life always anew, who praise and glorify you, exulting even in difficult days. For it is just in the difficult days that we need to belong to those who are thankful and joyful, who always find new certainty in their lives. With them may we experience the good you give on earth so that humankind may be blest and come at last into your hands. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that I feel; this may sound vague, but I mean more than just physical sensations; I am grateful to be able to feel anything, whether it be physical or emotional
2. for the lordship and leadership of Christ in my life
3. that no matter who rejects me in my life, I am always accepted by God, in Christ; in Him, I belong
4. that, in Christ, we also have a family that can never be separated; the bond of the blood of Christ is permanent and unbreakable
5. for forgiveness; may I be faithful to forgive as I have been forgiven

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The “evangelical” church of today has most definitely shifted away from this mindset.

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
(Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV)

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
(Ruth 1:14-17 ESV)

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
(Luke 15:20 ESV)

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
(John 16:22 ESV)

“Be on your guard, therefore, and let nothing disturb your peace. Do good under all circumstances, but with no care for any profit, or any blessedness, or any damnation, or any salvation, or any martyrdom; but all you do or omit should be for the honor of Love.” ~ Hadewijch of Antwerp

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
(Mark 11:25 NIV)

Through the Scriptures found above, we find a community that is inseparable. While we may be separated, physically, at times, the bond of the blood of Christ goes far beyond physical distance, and it even goes beyond the constraints of time. In Him, we are included in the family, the community of saints, past, present, and even future.

This is, indeed, a somewhat mystical concept, but I believe in it, wholeheartedly. Every time I take the Supper, I think about the spiritual connection with everyone else who has ever taken the Supper. There are many saints who have passed on, yet we are still connected with them.

And, as Ruth clung to Naomi, and refused to leave her side, we have that kind of connection with the community of saints. And that connection remains, even if we don’t like each other very much. There are a handful of people that I don’t care to spend any time with. But they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and that bond is unbreakable, and, in that, I love them.

The word for today is “belong.” And I can see that idea running through several of the Scriptures that are shared today. The Church (the true body of Christ, not the institution made up by men) is a place where we belong, we can feel included. The Church should be a place where all feel welcome, regardless of race, sex, class, or anything. We should bond together the way Ruth and Naomi bonded. We should feel the same way about each other that Paul felt about the Corinthians, that our suffering can result in the comforting of other people.

We can “do good under all circumstances, as suggested by Hadewijch of Antwerp, and not care the slightest bit about any reward or recognition. Because we belong.

And, also because we belong, we can obey the command of Jesus in Mark 11:25. If I am praying, and I remember that I’ve got something against a brother or sister, I am commanded to immediately forgive that person.

“In prayer everything depends upon our relationship to God being clear. Our relationship with others must also be uninhibited. Love for God and love for our neighbor are inseparable; prayer from a heart that is not right with God or that cannot get along with others can have no real effect. Faith and love are interdependent.” (Andrew Murray)

We know the truth, that if God dealt with us according to what our sins deserved, not only would our prayers not be heard, we probably wouldn’t be alive. “The ground for answered prayer is God’s forgiving love.”

“If an injury or injustice is done to us, we must seek first of all to maintain a Christlike disposition – to be kept from a desire to defend our rights or to punish the offender.” (Emphasis mine)

Because we are accepted in this community of faith, because we are accepted by Christ, because we “belong” and are inseparable, we can truly live a life as suggested by Andrew Murray and Hadewijch of Antwerp.

I’m not sure what it would take to see the contemporary church live up to this, but, beloved, we are a long way away from it.

Today's sources:
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I pray for myself, just as I pray for the Church, that we would be able to obey the commands of Jesus and live the kinds of lives that are suggested by Andrew and Hadewijch. The community of faith is severely divided. We need unity, badly. We seem to have fallen into the “me-verse” that the rest of the world has fallen into. The sad thing is that there are many alleged atheists who are doing a better job of taking care of others than the church is. That ought not be, Lord.

Please help us come together. I pray, if necessary, that pruning be done, and I believe that this is already happening, as people seem to be leaving the institutional “evangelical” church in droves. I believe they see through the facade and are tired of the “me-centricality” that is going on, right now.

We need to care more for one another; we need, Father, to obey the commands of Jesus to love You and love others. We need to exercise this truth of acceptance and belonging so that we feel like a community of saints, not a smattering of individuals doing their own thing.

Along with all of that, though, please help me to forgive those who are working against the unity that we need. I am struggling with that, Father, so I need the help of Your Spirit in this.

Even so, come soon, 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.

God’s Goodness – Greater Than Our Failures

“Anyone who is truly faithful will know that the goodness of his Beloved is greater than his own failures.” ~ Hadewijch of Antwerp

Today is Monday, the first of August, 2022, in the eighteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,517

Eighteen days until S turns 29!

We had a pretty good day, yesterday. I finished a PS4 game that I had been playing for a long time. It was one of the most difficult games I have ever played, but I stuck with it and finished the story. Then, later, I finished a book, as well.

The Texas Rangers beat the Angels 5-2 to win the series. So they are back, again, at nine under .500, 46-55. They are still in third place in the AL West, still twenty games out of first, and 7.5 out of the Wild Card race. The trade deadline is tomorrow evening, and I’m waiting with great apprehension to see if they trade Martin Perez, the only decent starting pitcher they have, right now. Maybe that’s not fair . . . Jon Gray is pretty decent, but Perez has been stellar, this season. They begin a home stand, this evening, with a three game series against the Orioles. That should be interesting, seeing how the O’s have been surging, recently.

The Boston Red Sox managed to win one game out of three against the Milwaukee Brewers, winning yesterday 7-2. The Red Sox lost or tied every single series in the month of July. They are 51-52 for the season, still in last place in the AL East, eighteen games out of first, but only 3.5 games out of the Wild Card race. That AL East division is something, this year. They begin a series this evening, unfortunately, against the cheaters in Houston.

The Dodgers continue to have the best MLB record, by percentage, at 68-33. The Nationals, back to losing, still have the worst record, at 35-68. The New York Mets have the longest current win streak, at six games, and the Pirates are still on that losing streak, now at seven games. The Evil Empire, though, still has the best run differential, at +207, and the Nationals remain on the bottom with -168. The Rangers are at +11, and the Red Sox are at -17.

Today being Monday, I am home all day, as I always have Monday off.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, bless us all through your Spirit, that we may find certainty of heart in community with you under your rulership. May we keep this certainty, whatever course our lives may take, whatever battles and suffering may come to us, for we belong to you and you rule and guide us as your children. Watch over all who are still far away from you but who long for you. Watch over all who are good-hearted and sincere, even if they often do not understand you. Protect them, and let your kingdom come so that your will is carried out more and more by the many who feel compelled to seek for you and for the goodness and truth which are your will. May we and many others serve you with our whole lives. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
However, as the scripture says, "What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him." But it was to us that God made known his secret by means of his Spirit. 
1 Corinthians 2:9–10a, TEV

Today I am grateful:

1. that I finished a really hard video game, yesterday (not everything in life is spiritual, you know)
2. that I inherited a love for reading from my parents, and they nurtured that within me
3. that God watches over all of us, even those who refuse to acknowledge Him
4. the God has blessed us in Christ "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3)
5. that the goodness of God is greater than my failures

So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
(2 Kings 13:20-21 ESV)

See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
(Isaiah 49:16 NLT)

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT)

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
(Psalms 116:1 NLT)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
(Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV)

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:9-15 ESV)

“Anyone who is truly faithful will know that the goodness of his Beloved is greater than his own failures.” ~ Hadewijch of Antwerp

That quote from Hadewijch of Antwerp is a game changer. How often do we wallow in our failures, believing that we have somehow managed to mess up God’s plan for our lives?

Beloved, we are not that powerful.

We need to take to heart so many different verses from God’s Word that reassure us. In Isaiah 49, the people of God thought that God had forsaken them and forgotten them. Part of His reply was verse 26, in which the Lord says, “I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”

The passage in 1 Peter 5 assures us of His care for us, and reminds us that “at the right time,” if we humble ourselves before Him, He will lift us up. Humility and patience are necessary, both of which seem to be in short supply in our culture, these days. We are then admonished to give all our worries and cares over to Him, because He cares for us. It’s a simple word, “all.” The Greek word is pas. The meaning is given as, “including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole:—all (manner of, means), alway(-s), any (one), × daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no(-thing), X thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.”

So, what part of “all” do we not understand?

And guess what!! When Paul says that God has blessed us with “every spiritual blessing,” it’s the same Greek word. Pas! All!

“Life and blessing are inseparably intertwined. Abiding in Christ means abiding in the heavenly places and in all the spiritual blessings with which God has blessed us in Him. Faith in Christ is meant to be nothing less than unceasing dependence and fellowship with Him and receiving from Him every grace the soul can possibly need.” (Andrew Murray)

Just as I need air for my physical life, I need fellowship with Christ for my spiritual life. And God, in Christ, has provided me with everything I need. It is truly possible, as Dallas Willard wrote a book about, to live a “life without lack.”

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
(Psalms 34:1 ESV)

If we believe we are lacking in something, perhaps we need to spend more time in the “adoring worship of the Holy Trinity. It is upon God the Father, who has blessed us in Christ Jesus that our expectations rest. It is in Christ that blessing is to be found if we continue in close and unceasing fellowship with Him. It is through the Holy Spirit that the presence of the Father and Son in divine power can be known and experienced.” (Andrew Murray)

Through this, though, let us not underestimate the importance of forgiveness. And I speak of our forgiveness of others more than God’s forgiveness of us. That forgiveness is also inseparably linked to our spiritual lives, as Jesus stated at the end of His “model prayer.”

Today's sources:
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emelie Griffin
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I recognize the need to be in continuous fellowship with Jesus, for my own good. I know, in my mind, that You have blessed us with all the spiritual blessings we need in order to have a great life and relationship with You. The question becomes, how do I so easily forget this on a daily basis? How do I get so caught up in things that simply do not matter?

Oh, they might matter right at the moment, as somethings do. But they do not matter in the “big picture” of spiritual life with You. They are small things, “footstool problems.”

So help me to be more aware of this, and to always be, in some way, worshiping You, the Son, and the Spirit, in my life.

I thank You that You have given us everything we need. I praise You that Your great, infinite goodness is bigger and more powerful than any of my failures. That one is really huge, because I know that there have been times when I foolishly believed that I had messed up Your plan for my life. But I know that You are much wiser and have infinite knowledge, so there’s no way that could happen.

Thank You for the way You care for us, and help us to always cast those cares upon You, rather than trying to carry the weight of them ourselves.

Also, please help us to always be forgiving toward others. I cannot pretend to completely comprehend those frightening words of Jesus, concerning forgiveness. But I do, to a degree, understand the importance of extending grace to others, just as You have extended grace to us. That parable about the guys who owed money to another is pretty clear about that.

Even so, come soon, 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.

Persistent Prayer

Today is Saturday, the thirtieth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,515

Twenty days until S turns 29!

We hit 103, yesterday, two degrees beyond the predicted 101, so our streak is now at fourteen days, and we have had a total of 34 days of 100+ temps, this summer. More importantly, however . . .

It rained.

Not for very long, maybe a half hour, and it was only a tenth of an inch (I didn’t measure it, but that’s what the nearest airport said), but it rained. It smelled so good, sounded so good, and felt so good. And the temperature dropped quite a bit when that happened. Between about 4 PM and 6:30, it dropped twenty degrees. The high today, at least on one of my weather apps, is predicted to be only 96.

We are going to Mineral Wells, later this morning. I have a lunch gathering with some old High School bandmates at 11:30, so I’ll go there while Mama and C go to the house. It’s going to be hot in that house, though, so I’m not sure how much work will get done. Or actually how much is left to be done, either. We’re very close to needing to get a truck to move the large pieces that we will be bringing to our house, and then we’ll be ready to get the estate sale going. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen until autumn, though.

The Texas Rangers won their second in a row, beating the Angels 7-2, once again behind the stellar pitching of Martin Perez. I’m a little concerned that the article about the game begins with, “With the trade deadline looming . . . ” It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they traded Perez. That’s what the Rangers are notorious for doing. He’s their only good pitcher, this year, and they’ll probably trade him, which will dash any hopes for playoffs this season. He has won nine straight games.

The Rangers are now 45-54 for the season, still in third place in the AL West, still twenty games out of first, and 7.5 out of the Wild Card race. They play the Angels again, tonight, in LA, at 8:07 CDT.

The Red Sox lost to the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-1, making their record 50-51 for the season. They are in last place in the AL East, eighteen games out of first place, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

The Dodgers continue to hold the best MLB record (by percentage), at 67-32. The Nationals are still the worst, at 34-67. The Mets and Athletics kept their win streaks alive, so they are tied with four straight wins. The Pirates lost again, so their losing streak is now at five games. The Yankees still have the best run differential, at +203, but are only ten runs ahead of the Dodgers. The Nationals continue to have the worst run differential, now at -164. The Rangers improved to +10, and the Red Sox dropped to -17.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we are your children. Hear all our concerns, we pray, for we want help from you, not from men, not from anything we can think or say. May your power be revealed in our time. We long for a new age, an age of peace in which people are changed. We long for your day, the day when your power will be revealed to poor, broken humankind. Be with us, and give our hearts what will remain with us, the strength and mercy of Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for RAIN!!
2. for the power, love, and self-discipline we receive from God's Spirit; may we employ that in our everyday living
3. for an opportunity to reconnect with old friends
4. for the lessons of the parables of Jesus
5. for the ability to acknowledge my weaknesses and unworthiness before the Lord, and the ability to rejoice in all things

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

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:62 ESV)

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
(Romans 6:13 ESV)

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. . . . “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
(Luke 18:1, 6-8 NIV)

Is Jesus teaching that we have to badger God into giving us what we want? Certainly not! But I have to confess that I have often puzzled over this passage (it’s not the only one I puzzle over, believe me).

But see the first verse in the chapter. Jesus is telling His disciples this parable why? “To show them that they should always pray and not give up.” It’s not the only time that He used a so-called “secular” device to teach one of His principles.

There is another principle at play, though, that might explain why we don’t get what we ask for, at least not right away. “God in His wisdom, righteousness, and love, dare not give us what would do us harm if we received it too soon or too easily.” (Andrew Murray)

Yet another principle to consider is what we are really after when we pray. I have discussed, previously, that prayer is not just a way for us to get what we want from God. And there are too many instances where people treat it that way. How many folks only pray when something is wrong?

Certainly, or Father wants to give us what we need. There may even be times when He gives us what we want. But He also earnestly desires fellowship with us, and that we would desire fellowship with Him more than we want His gifts. We all know what it feels like when, upon coming home from a trip away from the rest of the family, the first words out of the children’s mouths is, “What did you get me??”

I imagine that our Father feels the same way when we only pray to Him when we need or want something.

“We discover how earthly and finite our heart is and how we need God’s Holy Spirit to help us. Here we come to know our own weakness and unworthiness and to yield to God’s Spirit to pray through us.” In this, we also learn to crucify, with Christ, our own way and will.

“Let us acknowledge how vain our work for God has been due to our lack of prayer. We can change our methods and make continuing, persistent prayer the proof that we look to God for all things and that we believe He hears and answers us.”

As we carefully consider these things, it is worth noting that there is a not-so-recent trend in dismissing any idea of our unworthiness before God. While it is true that Christ has made us “worthy,” it is also true that we have no intrinsic worth without Him. This does not mean that we walk around with stooped shoulders and droopy faces, thinking bad things about ourselves all the time.

There is a balance here, and Paul speaks of this when he talks about boasting in his own weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

So, along with Paul, I proudly proclaim my weakness, and my unworthiness, because it is in the acknowledgment of these truths that He is seen as strong and worthy. And I also choose to rejoice in these things.

That’s the prayer word of the day, by the way, “rejoice.” And our choice in this is emphasized by a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “It is about your outlook towards life. You can either regret or rejoice.”

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:12-15 ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4 ESV)

Today's sources:
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin

Father, I thank You that You hear our prayers all the time. But I also thank You that You know what is best for us, at all times, and that You will not answer a prayer in the way that we want, if it will do us harm in any way (either spiritually or physically). Thank You for the parables of Jesus that teach us how to pray. Thank You for the examples of persistent prayer, to show us that we ought never give up in prayer.

I pray that my prayers would reflect Your will on earth, so that they will be more effective. I pray that my heart’s desires would be Your heart’s desires. And I know that the way for this to happen is for me to delight myself in You.

It is my heart’s desire, also, that I would desire fellowship with You more than the gifts that You give. Sometimes, I just want to sit and contemplate, basking in Your grace and mercy, in Your presence. There is such a warmth and acceptance in Your presence, Father, that even those words fail to describe.

And it is in that presence that I see the truth of how unworthy I am of all that You have done for me. However, I do not take that unworthiness to a level of self-deprecation that would cause me pain or grief. I celebrate it, because in Christ, You have made me worthy! I rejoice, along with Paul (not comparing myself to him in any way), that in my weaknesses, I am strong because of You and the work done in Jesus Christ on my behalf.

Help me to distance myself from thoughts and actions that would draw me away from You, or disturb my fellowship with You. And may my joy in You continue to grow and flourish.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”
(Isaiah 55:6 ESV)

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.

Opportunity Knocks Constantly

Today is Thursday, the twenty-eighth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,513

22 days until S turns 29!

My weather chart for yesterday looks a lot like the day before. The high temp was 103 again. That’s three straight days of 103 for a high. Keep in mind that I am getting my information from the nearest airport which is not DFW Airport, but Meacham Field in Fort Worth. I saw other information, yesterday, which had one more day of 100+ temps than I am showing. I have 32 days total, with a current streak of twelve. Today’s high is predicted to be 102.

We have now had no rain for 54 days. The ten-day forecast promises no relief.

The Texas Rangers kept Jon Gray in the game one inning too long, yesterday, and they lost 4-2 to complete the sweep by the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers are now 43-54, eleven games below .500, somehow still in third place in the AL West. They are still twenty games out of first place (the cheaters lost again), and 9.5 out of the Wild Card race. They begin four-game series in LA with the Angels today.

The Red Sox, after going ahead 6-5, couldn’t hold the lead, and lost to the Cleveland Guardians, 7-6. They are now 49-50, and remain in last place in the AL East, seventeen games out of first place and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race. They have another game with Cleveland today.

The Dodgers have overtaken the Evil Empire (I have been waiting to be able to say that!) by .003 percentage points, with a 65-32 record. While the Yanks have won one more game, they have also lost one more, which accounts for the percentage difference. The Nationals continue to have the worst MLB record, at 34-66. The Chicago Cubs now own the longest win streak, at six games, and the Giants continue to have the longest losing streak, now at seven. The Yankees maintain the highest run differential, at +196, and the Nationals keep the lowest, at -160. The Rangers are now at +3, and the Red Sox are at -16.

Today being Thursday, I will be working from 11:15 to 8:15 in the computer center at the library.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we come into your presence, pleading with you to bring the world what it needs, so that people may be freed from all their pain and enabled to serve you. Let the power of Jesus Christ be revealed in our time. For he has taken on our sin that justice might arise on earth, that all might have life and might see your salvation, which you will bring when the time is fulfilled. Let your power be revealed in the world, and let your will be done, your name be kept holy, and all wrongs be righted in this turbulent and difficult age. O Lord our God, you alone can help. You alone are the Savior of all peoples. In your great mercy you can bring peace. We look to you. And when we consider your Word, we remember the mighty promises you have given, promises which are to be fulfilled in our time. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Now we find that the Law keeps slipping into the picture to point the vast extent of sin. Yet, though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God his grace is wider and deeper still! 
(Romans 5:20 Phillips)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the senses, which allow me to have enjoyment in things in this life
2. for poetry . . . there are many poets who inspire me in this world
3. for the many opportunities that will come my way, to serve the Lord, today; may I be faithful and keep my eyes open for them
4. for the intricate connection between prayer and God's Word
5. that our Father will always be accessible to those who walk in Christ

On This Day, by S. Michaels, LightWriters

Let there be a change
the north west wind speaks
the willows drink deep

©2022 S. Michaels
A Season of Singing
(Haiku 5-5-5)

That’s an example of one of the poets who inspires me. Please check out her website for more beautiful imagery and poetry.


So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
(1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV)

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:13-14 KJV)

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 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 55:6-9 ESV)

Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.
(Psalms 55:17 ESV)

And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.
(Numbers 7:89 ESV)

Opportunity is the word of the day. Opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.”

In the Scripture passages above, there are opportunities galore. Opportunity is something my day is full of. It has been said by someone that “Opportunity knocks but once.” That may be true in some cases, because some great opportunities may only come to us one time. But opportunity, in general, happens constantly. Everywhere I look, if I’m paying attention, opportunity presents itself.

For example, in the Isaiah 55 passage, we are told to “seek the LORD while he may be found.” It’s not like He is hiding from us. He is available for us to find Him. For a season, at least. Seeking the Lord is one way of “making the most of every opportunity.”

Another way of making the most of those opportunities is in prayer. Now, we must be careful to note that that passage in 2 Chronicles, the one that well-meaning Christians love to quote when things are going bad in the nation, is directed to a specific people for a specific time. “My people,” in this case, is Israel. It is fair, as well, to say that “My people,” in this day and age, is the Church (capital C). What is not accurate or true is to think that “My people” represents a particular country, today.

Nevertheless, the encouragement to pray goes out to all people, to everyone who calls the name of Jesus. One of the ways that we seek the Lord (while He may be found) is through prayer. Side note: God will always be found by His own people. The Psalmist recognized that opportunities to pray were constant. In Psalm 55, he speaks of praying “evening, morning, and noon,” which is a way of saying “all the time.”

In Psalm 119:164, the psalmist says, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.” That information led the Church, through history, to implement “fixed hour prayer.” By the sixth century, the monastic orders had implemented seven fixed times of prayer. Benedict added an eighth time in the sixth century. So they had Matins at midnight, Lauds at 3 AM, Prime at 6 AM, Terce at 9 AM, Sext at noon, None at 3 PM, Vespers at 6 PM, and Compline at 9 PM. Consequently, there was “opportunity” to pray every three hours.

Needless to say, the average Christian who works for a living cannot follow such a rigid schedule. However, it gives us the realization that we can truly, as Paul admonished us, “pray without ceasing.”

And we are not restricted, as Moses was, to a specific place to speak to God. Isn’t that wonderful? We can meet with God whenever and wherever we want, as well as whenever and wherever He wants.

Prayer and God’s word are inseparable. Attempting to experience one without the other will diminish both.

“A prayerful spirit is the spirit to which God will speak. A prayerful spirit will be a listening spirit waiting to hear what God will say.”

“The Word gives you a subject for prayer. It shows you the path of prayer, telling you how God would have you come. it gives yu the power for prayer – courage in the assurance that you will be heard. And it brings you the answer to prayer as it teaches what God will do for you.”

But prayer also prepares our hearts to hear God through His Word.

God should be the aim of my heart, the one object of my desires. Through prayer and His Word, He abides in me, and I in Him.

"Lord, make me willing to be used by Thee. May my knowledge of my unworthiness never make me resist being used by Thee. May the need of others always be remembered by me, so that I may ever be willing to be used by Thee.
"And open my eyes and my heart that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for Thee."
(Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country)
Today's sources:
Pray A Word A Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I praise You that You are always right there, ready for me to find, and waiting for me to both speak and listen to You. While there will come a time when those who do not believe will no longer be able to find You, You will always be found by us who call the name of Christ.

I thank You for the many, many opportunities that will come my way today. I pray for the readiness to utilize them, and pray for the willingness, as Alan Paton prayed, to be used by You. Every day that I walk into that library, I will be faced with dozens of opportunities to serve You by loving someone. May I be faithful to fulfill that responsibility.

I thank You for Your Word and for prayer, and the way that they are inextricably linked. It is true that prayer prepares me to receive Your Word and all of its benefits, but Your Word also prepares me to pray and gives me subjects for prayer, as well as answers my prayers. I really praise You for the book of Psalms, as it constantly gives me material for prayer, as well as a source of praise to You.

I pray for Your healing in the Church, Father. I pray that You would heal the division that has been brought on by people seeking peace in men rather than You. I pray that we would stop aligning ourselves with politicians and start loving You with all our being and loving one another the way Christ has loved us.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


“When opportunity knocks a pessimist dials 911;
when opportunity knocks an optimist sets the table.”
Matshona Dhliwayo

Grace and peace, friends.

The Measure of Faith

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,512

23 days until S turns 29!

I apologize in advance for the length of this entry.

The heat wave continues, as yesterday’s high reached 103, for eleven straight days of 100+ temps, the longest streak so far, this year. That will likely continue today. We have had 31 days of triple digits, so far this year, and no relief in sight. There has been no rain for 53 days. The average high and low for yesterday are 97/73, and the record high for the day is 104. Today’s high is predicted to be 103, and the next ten days are predicted to be at least 100 degrees.

The Texas Rangers blew another one, last night. They had gone ahead by scoring in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, but then the bullpen blew the save in the bottom of the ninth and lost the game 5-4. They are now ten games below .500, at 43-53. They are still in third place in the AL West, though, still twenty games out of first (the cheaters have lost two in a row), and 8.5 out of the Wild Card race. They play Seattle again, this afternoon, at 2:40 CDT. That’s a strange time for a game.

The Red Sox lost to the Guardians, 8-3. So they are back at .500, with a record of 49-49. And they have dropped to last place in the AL East, a half game behind Baltimore. They are seventeen out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card Race. Now what does it say about a division when the last place team is at exactly .500?? The AL East is the only division that has any team below third place with a .500 record. In some cases, even the third place team is below .500. The Sox play the Guardians again tonight at 7:10 EDT.

The Nationals, in spite of a three-game win streak, continue to hold the worst MLB record, at 34-65. The Blue Jays continue to hold the longest current win streak, at seven straight games. The San Francisco Giants have the longest current losing streak, at six games. The Nationals also keep the worst run differential, at -154. The Rangers are at +5, and the Red Sox have dropped to -15.

It is somewhat odd that the Rangers have a positive run differential, yet are ten games below .500. Almost every other team with a positive number in that category has a winning record, with the exception of the Giants, who are only one game below .500. The Orioles have a -5 differential, yet are one game above .500.

I guess that’s just how baseball go.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, bring us together as one. Give us your Spirit so that we may know you, so that joy may fill our hearts, not only for ourselves but also for others. Root out evil from the earth. Sweep away all that offends you, all lying, deceit, and hate between nations. Grant that all people may come to know you, so that disunity and conflict may be swept away and your eternal kingdom may arise on earth and we may rejoice in it. For your kingdom can come to people even while on earth to bring them happiness and to make them your own children. Yes, Lord God, we want to be your children, your people, held in your hand, so that your name may be honored, your kingdom may come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
(John 10:16 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the hope of unity in Christ
2. for joy that fills my heart and soul, not only for myself, but for others, as well
3. for the "measure of faith" given to us that we can obey God's commands to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, and to not judge others, and to give generously and freely
4. that I can trust God and not be afraid, because the "universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be" (Dallas Willard)
5. that God is able to use anyone, anywhere, no matter what the weakness
6. for the power of intercessory prayer

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV, emphasis mine)

The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is “measure.”

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
(Romans 12:3 ESV)

The actual reading for today is so ridiculous I’m not even going to mention it. And they take the phrase from the verse completely out of context. So I’m winging it, here.

The NASB translates the last phrase in that verse, “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” For today’s reading, it is truncated to simply, “God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

While that is a true statement, we need to realize the reason for this measure of faith, and to do that, we must look at the whole verse. And the purpose of the verse is to instruct us to “not think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.”

“Measure” could easily be thought of as “amount.” Yes, each of us has been given an “amount” of faith, and we need to use that faith to obey the commands of the Lord.

There are other uses of the word, as well. Jesus used the word when He cautioned us against judging.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 ESV)

Then there was this somewhat vague usage in Mark 4.

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
(Mark 4:24-25 ESV)

Then, He kind of wraps it all together in Luke 6.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
(Luke 6:37-38 ESV)

So how would I use the word “measure” in prayer? After all, this is the point of this whole devotional book, right? I would pray for God to help me use my “measure” of faith to obey His commands to not think more highly of myself than I ought, and to not judge others, and to give generously and freely.


“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)

“There is none like God . . . who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
(Deuteronomy 33:26-27 ESV)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
(Psalms 46:1-3 ESV)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, 
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, 
beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life, 
my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live; 
in your name I will lift up my hands. 
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, 
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 
when I remember you upon my bed, 
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; 
your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8 ESV)

Have you ever been afraid? Is that a dumb question?

I’ve been afraid. Many times in my life. At least one or two of those times were caused by my own stupidity or rebelliousness. Some of them are humorous, as I look back on them.

One of the times, C, R, and I were driving to east Texas to visit grandparents. C was driving, as she normally does on the road trips. It had been raining heavily, and as we passed through Dallas on I-30, we encountered some standing water. At roughly sixty miles per hour or so. The car began hydroplaning and drifting toward the center lane (we were in the left lane). C was desperately turning the wheel to the left, but with no result. There was a pickup pulling a trailer in the center lane, and we were headed straight for the back of the trailer, when suddenly, the wheels caught ground, and turned sharply to the left and struck one of the cement barriers on the side of the road. R, being a toddler, at the time, slept through the whole thing in her carseat. Some paint was scraped off the front bumper, and that was the only damage.

Then there was the time we lived in west Fort Worth, near White Settlement. R was a few years older, and S had not yet come along. C was going to night school to finish her college degree. When we lived in that part of the world, we frequently got pounded by thunderstorms. They always came from the west, and they always hit us head on, with full force. That night, C was at school, and one of those storms hit. Tornado warnings went off (back then, a tornado “warning” meant that there was one on the ground somewhere; these days a “warning” is what we used to call a “watch”). R and I got pillows and huddled in a hallway in the middle of the house. We had been watching a lot of Scripture song VHS tapes (remember those?) back then, and one of them was a Steve Green tape, I think it was called “Kids Sing Praise.” One of the songs was based off of Psalm 56:3-4.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
(Psalms 56:3-4 ESV)

Turns out it wasn’t “Kids Sing Praise,” but “Hide ‘Em In Your Heart.”

Anyway, R suggested we sing that song while we sat in the hallway with the storm raging outside and C somewhere in between Euless and our house, coming home from her night class.

Then there was the night before R’s birthday, I believe it was the year 2000. We were putting a basketball goal together, which she had asked for, outside in the driveway. At that time, we lived where we currently live. Clouds began building, and storm warnings began occurring. A tornado was coming, and it was heading straight toward us. I mean, it was miles away, at the time, but still on a trajectory to hit our area. We huddled in a bathroom (S was with us by then), and ate pizza, which had been delivered before the storms started. We prayed. Other people we know were praying, as well.

Here’s the thing. That tornado/storm did something really weird that evening. It took a hard left turn (“left” is totally arbitrary, there) and went through downtown Fort Worth, hitting the Bank One building the hardest. But it was after 5:00 PM, so no people were injured, because there was hardly anyone there.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid.”

Indeed.

Once again, I am reminded of some words by Dallas Willard, these coming from his book, The Divine Conspiracy. “Jesus brings us the assurance that the universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”


More words from Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country:

“No Christian should ever think or say that he is not fit to be God’s instrument, for that in fact is what it means to be a Christian. We may be humble about many things, but we may never decline to be used.”

“The gospel is full of reassurances to us, some of them startling. You are salt to the world! You are light to all the world! Even the hairs of your head have all been counted! These words were exciting to those who heard them. Things might be dark but they were to be the light of the world. They were given a new sense of their value as persons. Especially was this true of women.”

“There are therefore two things for us to do. The first is never to doubt that God can use us if we are willing to be used, no matter what our weaknesses. The second is to see that God can use any other person who is willing to be used, whatever his weaknesses, and if need be, to assure him of this truth.”

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


Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
(Luke 11:5-13 NLT)

“In true, unselfish prayer there is little thought of personal need or happiness. If we would be delivered from the sin of limiting prayer, we must enlarge our heart for the work of intercession.”

Our faith will be stirred, says Andrew Murray, by interceding for others. Murray lists these elements of “true intercession”:

Urgent need – In order to learn to pray as we should, “we must open our eyes and heart to the needs around us.

Willing love – “It is the very nature of love to give up and forget itself for the sake of others.”

The sense of powerlessness – In Jesus’s example, the friend admits that he has nothing to give.

Faith in prayer – What he doesn’t have, someone else does have. “To get from God and then give to others what we ourselves receive from day to day is the secret of successful ministry.”

“Intercession is the link between our powerlessness and God’s omnipotence.”

(From Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray)


Father, I do sincerely pray that I might use the “measure of faith” that You have allocated to me, and that I might not think more highly of myself than I ought, nor judge people, and that I might give freely and generously to those in need, as You direct me.

I thank You for the gift of intercessory prayer, and that You have led me, in this task, to pray for others and their needs. I know that I have nothing to give, but You do, so I can ask You to do things for others that I cannot do, and that they cannot do for themselves.

I praise You for the reassurance that You can use anyone, at any time, for Your glory, no matter what kind of weakness we might think we have.

I thank You that I can trust You and not be afraid, because, in Your kingdom, as we walk in You and trust in Christ, this universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be.

I continue to pray that You would bless us with some rain, Lord. We are in desperate need, and there are people all over the world who need relief from this heat wave. Have mercy, Father!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Bonus points if you’re still reading.

Grace and peace, friends.

Compassion, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Faith

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-sixth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,511

24 days until S turns 29!

In the words of Sonny and Cher, “the heat goes on.” Wait. That’s not right, is it? Well, anyway, it does go one. Yesterday’s high was 103, for our thirtieth triple-digit day of this summer, and the tenth in the current streak. And, to make matters worse, those two days of below-100-temperatures in the forecast are now gone. (Sad face) And the chances of any rain have also diminished.

The average high and low for yesterday is 97/73 and the previous record high was 102, so we set a record yesterday. (I just started looking at those numbers, yesterday.) Today’s projected high is 104, and at 9:30, it was 88. The forecast for the next ten days has every day being at least 101, but today is the only day that is as high as 104. Of course, all of that could change tomorrow.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Mariners, last night, 4-3. They scored first, but fell behind an inning later and never caught back up. They are now 43-52, still in third place in the AL West. Still twenty games out of first, but now eight games out in the Wild Card race. They will face Seattle again, tonight.

The Red Sox managed to finally win a game, yesterday, beating the Cleveland Guardians, 3-1. This put them back over .500, at 49-48. Unfortunately, they won in those dreadfully ugly yellow uniforms. Who on earth thought that was a good idea?? Anyway, they are still in fourth place in the AL East, and still only a half game out of last place. Seventeen out of first, and three out of the Wild Card. They will face Cleveland again tonight.

The Nationals have won two straight games, but are still at the bottom of MLB, with a 33-65 record. The Blue Jays now have the longest current win streak, with six consecutive wins, and the Giants (since the Red Sox finally won) now have the longest current losing streak, at five games. The Nationals still have the worst run differential, but it has improved to “only” -159. The Rangers are at +6, and the Red Sox are at -10.

Today being Tuesday, I will be working at the library, this evening, from 4:15-8:15, shelving books. I have a suspicion that there will be a number of “youth” carts in the queue, still, as there were several there Saturday evening. So, if I check out another children’s book, that will be why. Hahaha!

Yes, that’s Kevin.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, we thank you for your Word, greatest and most glorious of all that comes to our human life. Every day we want to find more joy in your help, in what you are doing for us. Again and again we feel and rejoice in the new help, new strength, and new courage for life given by your Word. We seek and seek to find Jesus Christ, the eternal Life. He will surely come to establish your kingdom. Praise to your name, eternal, glorious, almighty God! Be with us poor, lowly people. Strengthen us in spirit, and enable us to persevere until everything is fulfilled that is promised by your Word. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Your word, LORD, is eternal; 
it stands firm in the heavens. 
Your faithfulness continues through all generations; 
you established the earth, and it endures. 
Your laws endure to this day, 
for all things serve you.
(Psalms 119:89-91 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Word of God that stands firm, no matter how badly we humans distort it and misinterpret it and take it out of context
2. for another day of living
3. for the power and privilege of prayer
4. for compassion and mercy; both that of God toward us and that which we are to extend to one another
5. for faith in the God who makes the promises, and faith that He answers prayer

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:3-7 NIV, emphasis mine)

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
(1 Corinthians 12:11 NIV, emphasis mine)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is “compassion.”

“We can’t heal the world today, but we can begin with a voice of compassion, a heart of love, an act of kindness.” ~ Mary Davis

I can’t verify this, but I’m guessing that this Mary Davis is the author of Every Day Spirit: A Daybook of Wisdom, Joy and Peace.

While there are plenty of references to “compassion” in Scripture, I do like the gist of this quote. I can’t “fix” the world. Not only can I not do it myself, it certainly can’t be done in one day. And there’s another quote by Mary Davis that I found en route to looking up this one. “We all change the world whether we intend to or not. And we always change the world for the better when we plant the seeds of kind thoughts and words.”

Every day, I change the world a little bit. How I change it is up to me. I can change it for the better or I can change it for the worse. That voice of compassion, that heart of love, or that act of kindness can have somewhat of a “butterfly effect” on the world around me.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”
(Isaiah 49:13-16 ESV)

The KJV translates the word that is seen as “compassion” here as “mercy.” The two are, of course, closely related. But here’s the thing. God has compassion (mercy) on His afflicted people. We are supposed to act like God. And Jesus told His disciples in that verse that I keep quoting to love one another the way He had loved them.

Therefore, we ought always show compassion toward one another. What’s that verse I shared yesterday?

Everything.


If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
(Psalms 130:3-4 ESV)

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 ESV)

Speaking of compassion . . . God keeps no record of our sins. If He did, as the psalmist queried, “who could stand?”

So, here’s another question. Do we, as we are infinitely less than God, dare keep our own record?? And I’m not talking about keeping a record of my own sin! I’m talking about how we seem to be really good at marking the iniquities of others!

As Rick Hamlin states, “God knows about all my judgmental thoughts, my uncharitable impulses, and my efforts at loving my neighbor as myself.”

“But,” you might object, “you just said He doesn’t keep a record of those things!”

Maybe not. But then we have deal with some of the most frightening words Jesus ever spoke.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

Are we willing to take a chance that Jesus didn’t mean exactly what He said, there?

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)


A prayer of Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country:

"O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the need of others,
open my ears that I may hear their cries,
open my heart so that they need not be without succour,
let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for Thee."

And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
(Mark 11:22-24 ESV)

These statements were in answer to the disciples’ astonishment that the fig tree that He had cursed the day before had withered. And it tells us something very important. The faith that we have, faith that our prayers will be answered, is faith in God. My faith is not in my prayers! My prayers are just words. But if my faith is in God, then my prayers become powerful.

“The power to believe a promise depends entirely on our faith in the One who promises.” And the development of that faith depends on our relationship with Christ Himself.

“The connection between faith in God and faith in His promises will become clear when we think about what faith really is. It is often compared to the hand or mouth by which we take and appropriate what is offered. Faith is also the ear by which we hear what is promised, the eye by which we see what is offered. I must hear the person who gives the promise – the very tone of his voice gives me courage to believe. I must see him – in the light of his eye and his countenance, all fear fades away. The value of the promise depends on the one giving the promise; my knowledge of his character and dependability creates faith in his promise. In the case of God our Father, there can be no doubt as to His character and power to hear and answer and provide.”

(From Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray)

Oh, and speaking of compassion again, check out the verse immediately following the above quote!

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
(Mark 11:25 ESV)


Father, we are in desperate need of compassion in our society. We have, for far too long, now, made a practice of keeping a record of wrongdoings. We have forgotten how to have compassion on one another. We have forgotten the words of Jesus when He said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Increase my faith in You, Lord, that I might fully believe Your promises, and that I might be one whose prayer is righteous, fervent, and effective. May I be one whose faith is such that, whatever I pray, I receive. And You know, Father, that I am not entering into “prosperity gospel,” or “name it/claim it” territory. Because I rarely pray anything for my own benefit. My prayers are almost always for others. And I don’t want prayers answered so that people will point fingers at me and say “What a great pray-er he is!” I want prayers answered so that You will be glorified through the Son and by the Spirit!

I echo the prayer of Alan Paton, this morning. Open my eyes, ears, and heart, that I might see the needs, hear the cries, and offer the compassion and succor to those who need it. And don’t we all need it, in some way?

Take my judgmental thoughts and my uncharitable impulses and do away with them, that they would be no more. Make it so that only love, charity, compassion, and forgiveness emerge from my heart and soul. May I believe with all my being the words that Russ Taff sang back in the eighties when he said, “I don’t care what label you may wear; if you believe in Jesus, you belong with me.” That’s the attitude I want in my heart, Lord, and only You can put it there, through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Refresh my spirit, Lord!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.