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!
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:
- for God’s love, poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit
- that we can have joy, even though we are surrounded by everything that must fade and perish
- for the peace that comes when we allow Christ to displace worry in our lives
- that prayer is more than just asking God for stuff; it is fellowship with Him
- 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.
(St. Teresa of Avila)
Grace and peace, friends.