The Seventh Day of Christmas–The Lord Bless You and Keep You

Today is Thursday, December 31, 2020, the seventh day of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,939

One more day until 2021! Will you stay up to say “good riddance” to 2020?

The above mentioned fact means, of course, that today is New Year’s Eve. And I have taken PTO (paid time off) for this last day of the year. As is, unfortunately, my custom, I was awake at shortly after 6:30, this morning. But that is still, technically, “sleeping in” for me.

As we finish off 2020, we have been greeted with yet more sad news, as Dawn Wells, who famously played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, passed away yesterday, at the age of 82, from complications due to Covid-19. I may or may not do a retrospective blog this evening. Probably won’t. But the idea did occur to me, so it’s floating around in my brain.

I will finish at least two more books today, for my 2020 reading list. I actually surprised myself by reading more than forty books. In the spirit of full disclosure, I include Audible titles on my reading list. At least, that is, if they are audio versions of real books. I do not include “Audible Originals” on my reading list. It looks like I will finish up with either 43 or 44 books, this year. Not too shabby. Two of those that I will complete today are devotional books.

In fact, I just had an idea. (Be careful, it’s in a strange place.) I think I will do a sort of “retrospective” for the year, but it will be a recap of sorts, running down all of the books that I have read this year. We will see how much I can remember about any of them. Hahaha!!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This new day You give to me
From Your great eternity
This new day now enfold
Me in Your loving hold

You are the star of the morn
You are the day newly born
You are the light of our night
You are the Savior by Your might

God be in me this day
God ever with me stay
God be in the night
Keep us by Thy light
God be in my heart
God abide, never depart.
(David Adam)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 7

INVITATION

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 90:1-6, 12, 17

A prayer of Moses the man of God.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.
(Psalms 90:1-6 NIV)

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 NIV)

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.
(Psalms 90:17 NIV)

BIBLE READING: NUMBERS 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses,
“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
“‘”The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”‘
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

This is a wonderful passage to close out a year, especially a year like 2020. Looking back on this year, we can find, all too easily, so much about which to complain. Most of us probably have to work a little harder to find something to be thankful for or that we consider blessing.

But here’s the thing. It is much more healthy, physically, mentally, and spiritually, to be grateful and count blessings than it is to be downcast and complain.

I can think of at least a couple things, right off the bat, that I find to be blessings during 2020.

I have lost almost one hundred pounds this year. Perhaps by Saturday, when we officially weigh in, I will have reached one hundred pounds. I hope to. Together, the three of us who live in this house have lost almost two hundred and fifty pounds! (It looks like more if you write it out. Heh.)

C still has her job. In a year when countless tournaments were cancelled, when bowling leagues suffered, and others were laid off, she still has her job. Sure, she took a ten percent pay cut, earlier, but she still has her job, and we are doing fine, financially.

And guess what!! She got a bonus in this week’s check, and she gets her full pay back as of January 1! What a blessing! And totally unexpected.

I still have my job. Unlike many, I have had to go in to work every day of the pandemic. And, while we have had three reported cases of Covid-19 at our place, I have stayed well. My employer is doing a good job of enforcing protocols.

So there are blessings to be counted, and, even though I have been guilty of complaining about some of the madness of the year, I have also been faithful to note the blessings and continue my habit of gratitude throughout the year.

So, as I read this, the “Aaronic blessing” from the book of Numbers, I find that I can say, without hesitation, that the Lord has blessed me and my family throughout this year. He has blessed us and protected us; He has smiled on us and has been gracious to us; and I believe that He has kept His face turned toward us, and, above all, given us peace.

Father, I am grateful for these things, in this past year. I confess that there have been times when I allowed the presence of unpleasant events take hold in my spirit, and caused me to complain. But I also praise You for the fact that, when that did happen, Your Spirit was quick to turn me around and find blessing in our lives. I pray that, as a new year approaches, You will continue to bless us, and that we will find more ways to praise You and live out those blessings, allowing them to not stagnate in our own lives, but to overflow into those around us, “paying it forward,” so to speak.

"Covenant keeping God,
at the end of another year I thank you for keeping me
connected and at home in you through the Holy Spirit
by your free, unchanging love
and by the strong intercession of Jesus.
In your faithfulness,
continue to preserve and keep me and all your people
from the power of evil throughout the coming year.
In Jesus' name,
amen."
(Westminster Confession, 17)

BLESSING

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

Side note: I’m way too distracted, this morning. Trying to get focused to finish this out.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:11-18 NIV)

In the category of blessings in the past year, I can include a strange peace that has settled in my soul/spirit. The reason for this is in verse 14 of the above passage. “He (Jesus Christ) is our peace.” Note that this verse also says that Jesus has “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

We, the Church, need to rediscover that peace.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27 ESV)

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.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)

Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 NIV)

Father, what more fitting way to end the devotionals of 2020 than with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord?” For truly, Father, everything that happens to us, during the course of a year, whether good or bad, happy or sad, must necessarily end with praise. So this year will end with praise. And 2021 will begin with praise. There has been so much in this year that has been out of sorts. Your Church has been torn down the middle by politics. I pray for restoration during 2021. I pray that we might set politics aside and realize that it truly has no bearing on eternity. We need spiritual healing.

But we also need physical healing. The world is hurting. Maybe not more than it ever has, but more than it has in my lifetime. Father, please deliver us! I don’t expect to wake up tomorrow morning and the pandemic be gone. I know that it could be, if that’s what You decide to do. I believe, with all my heart, that You could wave Your hand and Covid-19 would be eradicated. But I don’t believe that that is what will happen. Nevertheless, I pray that You would, Father, have mercy on us!

I pray for spiritual renewal in the coming year. Since we kind of see January 1 as an opportunity to “start over,” I pray that we can all approach the new year with a “clean slate,” and look for new blessings and for those new mercies that are new every morning. Grant us repentance and forgiveness for those times when we forgot to count our blessings and, rather, focused on failures. And I pray that we would find ourselves knowing and experiencing both Your presence and Your forgiveness more often in the coming year.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. That You have provided, financially, for us throughout 2020
  2. That our health has been maintained through this year
  3. That You have given us peace, in spite of the turmoil around us
  4. That You have put praise in my heart and on my lips
  5. For new beginnings and hope everlasting

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Sixth Day of Christmas – Anna the Prophet

Today is Wednesday, December 30, 2020, the sixth of Christmas.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,938

Only two more days until 2021!

I suppose today could also be called “New Year’s Eve Eve.” Whatever we call it, it is my last day of work in 2020! Whoopee!!!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"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

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 6

INVITATION

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 148:1-4, 13-14

Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
(Psalms 148:1-4 NIV)

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING: LUKE 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
(Luke 2:36-40 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

Today’s reading focuses on the second of two unique people in the story of the birth of Jesus. Anna, a prophet. Her marriage was brief, only seven years, after which, apparently, her husband died. She remained a widow, and was, the way I interpret the story, eighty-four when Jesus was born.

Her story fascinates me. Luke tells us that she never left the temple! She worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

Here is a life, unlike any other that I have ever seen, totally devoted to God. How many churches in our modern culture would allow this behavior? Most churches are locked up tight after hours, unless there is some kind of normal activity going on that evening. No one can get in to worship, privately, much less stay in there all night!

Anna’s behavior and lifestyle would no doubt be looked upon with great suspicion in our day, and she would be regarded as “that crazy homeless lady who hangs out at the church.”

But I look at Anna with eyes of honor and devotion. She truly devoted her life to God. I can only dream of this kind of devotion. I don’t feel guilt; God is leading me down that path. There is a tinge of sadness, wishing that I could be more like Anna.

Here’s the thing, though. God has put me where He has put me. My life is what it is. I cannot, at least at this stage of my life, stay at “the temple” all day and all night. I must continue to work for a living. The truth is, though, my life could certainly be more devoted. I don’t have to be physically in a temple to worship, fast, and pray. I rarely fast, in fact. Perhaps that is something that needs to change in 2021. God and I will be having some conversations about that in the next few days.

Father, I don’t want to “be” Anna. You already have an Anna. I want to be me, but I want to be me as You designed me to be, not as I want to be. Mold my heart; make it more like Anna’s heart, one that desires to worship You night and day, to fast more, and to pray more. Change my heart to make it more devoted to You.

"Jesus, 
Son of Man,
as a floating fetus and suckling infant,
teetering toddler and scabby-kneed boy,
hormonal teen and maturing adult -
even as a corpse in the grave -
your incarnation is a long and loving
identification with our humanity.
Thank you for honoring human life
from beginning of days to end of life.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession, 19)

BLESSING

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
(Mark 9:35 NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
(Galatians 5:13-14 NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:1-11 NIV)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV)

Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 149:1-9 NIV)

Father, as I go into this work day, remind me of the ministry of Anna. Keep teaching me about love and servanthood, and may Your Spirit guide me to consider the needs of others above my own.

Help me to live Micah 6:8, acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before You. I pray that the rights of children, worldwide, would be protected, especially those of orphans. And I pray for those who are lonely, especially during this season. May Your presence be upon them all.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the life and example of Anna, the prophet (Luke 2:36-40)
  2. For the admonition to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before You (Micah 6:8)
  3. For the gifts that You give us, so that we may serve one another
  4. For another long weekend, coming up
  5. For the coming new year, perhaps a chance for many new beginnings

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Today is Tuesday, December 29, 2020, the fifth day of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,937

Three days until 2021!

Yesterday, as expected, was a rather quiet day at work. Our client basically shuts down for the week between Christmas and the new year, so activity from them is sparse. There are a few working, but not many. So I was able to completely focus on one area of my job responsibilities without being bothered by the others. It was quite nice, and I almost got completely caught up again. Hopefully, today and tomorrow will be the same, and then Thursday, which I have off for my last PTO day of the year, will be no issue for the person who is my backup.

There is nothing else, really, to talk about, this morning, so on to the real reason I’m here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 5

INVITATION

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 101:1-4, 6

I will sing of your love and justice; to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.
The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me.
(Psalms 101:1-4, 6 NIV)

BIBLE READING: LUKE 2:25-35

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
(Luke 2:25-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

In this passage, I am moved by the activity of the Holy Spirit on this man named Simeon. This is his only appearance in the Bible, and it appears that he exists for one reason only, and that is to make this proclamation on the baby Jesus.

As Simeon waited for “the consolation of Israel,” it is said that the Holy Spirit was “on him.” This was before the Spirit was sent to dwell within us, which happened after the ascension of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit had also revealed to him that his death would not occur before he laid eyes on the Messiah. And that particular day, the Spirit moved him to go to the temple courts. The timing was perfect, as Joseph and Mary had entered to comply with the laws/customs regarding newborn babies.

Father, as I read this passage, I find that my heart desires the activity of the Holy Spirit in my life. I know You are present in my life, I do not doubt that. Well, at least not seriously, and not very often. But I long for the Spirit to move me in the same way that He moved Simeon. I yearn for the Holy Spirit to be “on me” in such a way that He directs my life, even to the point of telling me to go to a certain room at a certain time.

This is not a desire, Lord, for every step to be directed by You, per se. This is a desire for my life to be so in tune with You that I feel Your direction, leading my life, showing me Your path, guiding my heart, not like a “robot,” but like a faithful servant who loves You so much that every move is according to Your plan and purpose for my life.

I pray that the joy of salvation be experienced, not only by me, but by everyone who knows You. May Your children have a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that the Kingdom of God is here, now, and available for us to walk in it. And make us more faithful to pray for friends and family who do not enjoy this relationship with You.

"Faithful God,
in our world,
where evil is serious,
pain is no illusion,
and our guilt is real,
open our eyes to see 
how justice and mercy take the shape
of a Savior dying on a cross for us.
With Simeon,
may all people see that your justice and mercy
meet when Jesus is born for our salvation.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession, 20)

BLESSING

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
(Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:13 ESV)

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
(Proverbs 18:10 ESV)

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
(Romans 8:15 ESV)

Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together, old men and children!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 148:7-14 ESV)

When you are brought into praise, singing songs and shouting to the Lord, you enter into that praise with all of creation. It matters not if you are alone in your room or in your car on your way to wherever. Know that when you praise Him, you are praising Him in concert with all of creation, and with all the saints, past, present, and even future!

Praise the LORD!

Father, there are things that I need “motivation” to do. Maybe I’m afraid. Maybe I’m lazy. I’ve never quite pinned it down. But the reason is irrelevant. There are things that I need to do for You. Strengthen my spirit with Your Spirit. Save me from myself, Lord!

Remind us daily that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Help us to take this battle seriously. May we run to Your strong tower and not cower in fear.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. That You brought me into Your presence, this morning
  2. For the revelation of Jesus Christ in my life
  3. For the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, past, present, and future
  4. That when I praise You, I am not alone, but praising You in the company of all creation, and all the saints
  5. For Your strength, in which I can do all things

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.

The Fourth Day of Christmas

Today is Monday, December 28, 2020, the fourth day of Christmas.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,936

Only four more days until 2021!

We had a lovely day, yesterday, continuing our restful long weekend. C took down all the Christmas decorations, so the house looks “normal” again. But, as you can see from the title of today’s blog, Christmas is not quite over, yet. Oh, sure, the retail season might be, although we continue to order and receive packages from Amazon. But the spirit and meaning of Christmas linger on, for at least eight more days.

Yesterday, I finished one of the games that I received for Christmas, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope. These games are a welcome relief from games like The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, which take hours and hours and hours to finish. I was able to finish this one in only a couple of days. No doubt I did not get the best ending, because I lost three of the characters along the way. Yes, this is one of those “decision-based” games, where many different outcomes are possible. I might play this one again, to see if I can get a different outcome. My favorite of this type of game is still Until Dawn, the first one that I played. Next up is a game called Black Mirror, which does not seem to be related to the British Netflix show by the same name.

Today, we go back to work, but only for three days before we have another long weekend.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 4

INVITATION

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING: LUKE 2:15-20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
(Luke 2:15-20 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over this passage, this morning, there are a couple of things that catch my attention, both dealing with response.

What is the response of the shepherds to this great event? Their response is immediate. As soon as the angels were gone, they “hurried off” to find this manger where Mary and Joseph and the baby were staying. After they laid eyes on the baby, they spread the word, telling everyone they saw about Him. And then they went back to work, “glorifying and praising God” for it.

What is the response of Mary? I really like this. “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Can you even imagine what it must have been like for her, for her baby to be the center of all this attention and wonder? Sure, there was already a mystery surrounding Him; virgin birth, Son of God, and all that. But when the shepherds showed up out of nowhere, claiming to have been told about Him by a host of angels? That’s when, as they say, “things got real.”

I’m reminded of the song, “Mary, Did You Know?” I realize that there are a lot of people who are weary of this song, and the many, many covers of the original. But there is one line in the song that has always left me breathless.

"When you kiss your little baby,
You kiss the face of God."

One more song that this reminds me of. “Breath of Heaven,” a beautiful anthem from Amy Grant, who tweaked Chris Eaton’s original lyric so that it more aptly represented a pregnant woman’s perspective. But, I believe, the chorus remains intact.

"Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven"

That song, I will share here. It is most beautiful.

Father, as I ponder these things, today, may the “breath of heaven” indeed lighten my darkness. Not that I am experiencing much darkness, this morning. But may Your holiness fill me today, as I walk through whatever is coming my way. I have no idea what I will face at work today, or even between home and work. But this I know: whatever it is, You have been there before me and prepared the way. So let Your breath fall on me and sustain me, today. And may my reaction to Your wonderful grace and mercy be similar to both Mary and the shepherds. May I freely share this wonderful story, whenever opportunity presents itself, and may I treasure it and ponder it in my heart.

"Jesus, 
you are truly Immanuel,
God with us.
You share in this flesh and blood life,
entering my ordinary circumstances,
filling it with wonder,
hope,
and promise.
So, 
like the shepherds,
make me quick and ready to spread this good news to all."
(Belgic Confession, 18)

BLESSING

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
(1 John 4:20 ESV)

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
(Matthew 5:21-24 ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
(1 John 4:7 ESV)

Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away.
(Psalms 148:1-6 NIV)

Father, all creation sings Your praises. So, Lord, “tune my heart to sing Thy grace,” today, as I walk through this world. No matter what my circumstances, I know that I am never walking alone. Not only do I have my loving family’s support, I know that, wherever I am, whatever I am doing or going through, You are there. You are beside me, above me, below me, in front of me, and behind me. And Your spirit dwells within me. I praise You for this, Father.

And, as I am reminded, once again, today, please help me to display Your love to all around me, as I go. May I follow Your commands to love You with all my being, and to love others as I love myself. And may I show an even deeper and more intense love to the Body of Christ.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the “breath of heaven” that fills my soul
  2. For the love that You lavish on us, thereby allowing us to turn around and share it with others
  3. For the story of the response of the shepherds
  4. That I still have a job to which to return today
  5. For the promise of Your enduring presence

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.

The Third Day of Christmas

Today is Sunday, December 27, 2020. The third day of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,935

Only five days until 2021!

Having all of these days off kind of messes with your head, let me tell you. All day, yesterday, we kept having to remind ourselves that it was only Saturday, and that we didn’t have to get up and go to work “tomorrow.” And it will happen again, next week, as we both have New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day off.

Then there are no more holidays until Memorial Day. That’s five straight months without a non-weekend day off, unless we take PTO, which we most certainly will. I’ll probably take my birthday week off in March, especially since I got another whole week when I hit my ten-year work anniversary, last month.

Yesterday was a good day. WW results: I lost 3.2 pounds since the last weigh-in, which was two weeks ago. If I can manage to lose 1.6 this week, I will hit 100 pounds for the year! It’s really tempting to “cheat” myself and scrimp on eating, this week, just to insure that I make it. But, as anyone who has been in WW before knows, that tactic can sometimes backfire. I will attempt to do everything as normally as possible. If I make it, great! I will celebrate. If I don’t, I will surely hit it the next week, and I will celebrate. There will be no crying.

Lunch was leftover Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken and corn casserole. Then we made chicken stir-fry for dinner, last night, with red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, and onion. Add a little soy sauce for flavor, and put some rice in the bowl (for 5 Smart Points). So delicious!

Nothing planned at all for today, at least not yet. I’m sure C will get in a walk. Our little church is not meeting today, as some wanted to have the Sunday after Christmas as an off day. I’m sure S will tune in to the live broadcast from FBC Mineral Wells.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 3

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.
Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy.
The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.
Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.
(Psalms 99:1-5 NIV)

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:9-14 NIV)

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
(John 1:16-18 NIV)

At this point, each morning, I will try to share what words/phrases/concepts speak to me through the selected reading. Today, the first word is “light.” Jesus is called the Light of the world. John calls Him the “true light that gives light to everyone.”

I’m intrigued at the language, because this Jesus, of whom it was said in Matthew that He would save His people from their sins, is here said, in John 1, to give light to everyone.

Isaiah 9:2 days that the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. We were all walking in darkness before Jesus Christ entered the world in the flesh, and He is that Great Light.

The light shone on everyone. However, not everyone acknowledges or receives that light. The ones who do obtain the “right to become children of God.”

The other thing that speaks to me is in verse 18. Part of that bringing of light to everyone is the revealing of God to us. Jesus, about whom John says that He “is himself God,” has made the Father known to us.

We need nothing else.

Father, I give You thanks, this morning, for molding my heart so that it was receptive to this Light. I would not have sought this Light on my own. I praise You that Jesus, the Light of the world, came and made You known to us. Help us, Your Church, Your children, do a better job of displaying that Light in our own lives. Help us to follow Christ in our homes, our workplaces, and in our neighborhoods.

I also pray that all of us who claim to follow Christ would do a better job of serving the “common good.” Help us to be more concerned about our “fellow man” than we are about ourselves. Certainly, we must take care of ourselves, but we are confused about what is needed and what is wanted. We are also confused about what are our “rights,” when we should have surrendered all of those to Christ, upon believing in Him and choosing to follow Him.

I also lift up a prayer for all who have had to work through the holidays. I may even have work associates who are working today. So I lift them up to You, and ask You to rain grace and mercy down on them.

"Unseen God,
I sometimes wonder:
what are you like?
Thank you for not leaving me in the dark
but making yourself known in Jesus.
Because he is one with you,
I see exactly what you are like in him,
a perfect reflection of your glory.
Give me the eyes to see you
and faith to serve you.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession, 10)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:1-14 ESV)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV)

Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.
(Psalms 89:52 ESV)

Extol the LORD, Jerusalem; praise your God, Zion.
He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.
He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 147:12-20 NIV)

The truths presented in Psalm 103 are glorious. The most important, I believe, being that God is no longer angry with us, He has forgiven us, and He looks on us with compassion. “He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust.”

These are such comforting words, good to return to during just about any period of life, but most especially when our enemy digs up past sins out of our trash and presents them to us in an effort to disable us with shame. If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, that works. It shouldn’t. And if we remember passages such as Psalm 103, it won’t work as often.

Father, I give You praise because You are not angry with me, You have forgiven me, and You look on me with compassion. I give You praise because You think about me at all. I am not worthy of Your compassion, Your grace, Your mercy, even Your love. Yet You have chosen to love us, and even more, You chose to sacrifice Jesus for us, in order that our sins might be forgiven. I cannot, and will not ever be able to, adequately express gratitude for this. So I will simply praise You whenever it crosses my mind.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(Psalms 107:1 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For Your mercy, so wonderfully lavished upon us
  2. For Your forgiveness, which I can rest in
  3. For Your compassion, which keeps me going, and enables me to love others in return
  4. For the Light of the world, who reveals You to us
  5. That I am still alive and breathing

Grace and peace, friends.

The Second Day of Christmas

Today is Saturday, December 26, 2020, the second day of Christmas.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,934

Six days until 2021!

Today is traditionally known as “Boxing Day,” which, thankfully, has nothing to do with pugilism.

Today is also The Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Just as predicted, yesterday was spent entirely in my pyjamas. I never left the house. C did, in order to take her now traditional daily walk. Today will be even better for that, as the temperature is supposed to reach a nice 71 degrees out there.

I will, however, leave the house today, for about an hour or so, as we have our WW Workshop, this morning. And, to all of our delight, S will be attending!! I don’t know what my results will be, today, but I have stepped on the home scale two or three times since my last weigh-in, which was two weeks ago. It looks like I might lose around a pound to a pound and a half, which makes my goal of one hundred pounds by the end of the year less attainable. But that’s okay. I’m focusing on the progress I have made more than the progress I have not made.

After WW, we will get our traditional Sonic drinks and then pick up our grocery order. Today, rather than our usual eggs and toast brunch, we will enjoy the leftovers from yesterday’s Christmas meal. We plan to make our own version of chicken stir-fry tonight. That includes chicken breast, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, and an onion. S and I add a cup of rice to ours, for an additional five Smart Points. Everything else in the meal is zero points.

After Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my heart is full. As the psalmist said, “My cup overflows.”

Speaking of cup, my Green Mountain Hazelnut coffee is especially good, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

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

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
(Psalms 100:1-2 NIV)

A psalm.
Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
(Psalms 98:1-9 NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

“The Word” was/is the second person of the Trinity, now known as the Son. He has existed from eternity, just as the Father. His life is “the light of all mankind.” This light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. There is no place in the world which this light cannot reach.

Father, darkness is threatening us. It is encroaching upon Your Church. I pray that the Light of Christ will shine even brighter than ever during these days. The smallest spark of true Light will defeat any darkness. I pray that Your children will remain faithful to You and Your calling on our lives.

I also pray that You would continue to grant me (as well as all Your children) “the capacity to see and savor the wonder, beauty, and complexity of creation.”

"Eternal, almighty God,
how did your hands, 
which flung galaxies into elegant orbit,
become the awkwardly uncontrolled hands of a newborn?
How does your eternal being get inseparably woven
into time-bound humanity?
While the how of your incarnation widens my faith,
may the wonder of why you've done this for me
bring deep joy today.
Amen."
(Westminster Confession, 8.2)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
(1 Kings 19:9-12 ESV)

And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
(1 Kings 19:15-18 ESV)

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.
(Job 8:21 ESV)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
(Psalms 126:2-3 ESV)

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
(Luke 6:21 ESV)

Laughter is a gift from God. It is a blessing, and it has been proven to prevent afflictions caused by stress and anxiety. As Reader’s Digest famously said, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

I resolve to laugh more in 2021, especially in my work environment.

Lord, give me the gift of laughter!

Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
(Psalms 147:1-11 NIV)

Do you know how many stars there are? Not even the most resourceful scientists can tell you how many stars there are.

Our God knows exactly how many there are, and “calls them each by name.”

In Job 38:7, the Lord asks Job this question:

On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
(Job 38:6-7 NIV)

And Psalm 19 tells us:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:1-4 NIV)

The very stars of creation sing to God in praise of all creation.

And this God, to whom the stars sing praises, is delighted when we fear Him and put our hope in His unfailing love (Psalm 147:11)!

Have you ever considered that it is possible for you to delight God??

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Father, my heart is full and content, this morning, as I ponder all of these words. It thrills my heart with wonder and amazement to think that it is possible for me to do anything that delights the Creator of all things, Him to whom the stars sing praises! I shake my head in wonder. But it brings me great joy to know this. As I walk out into this day, Lord, may my joy be evident. May I find things to laugh at, thereby increasing my own joy. And may I celebrate the Light of the world, which is Christ Jesus, and may I display that Light in my own life, at all times.

Please shine Your light into our world today. Eliminate the darkness. May Jesus’s defeat of the prince of darkness by ultimate and final. Restore Your Church to her first love, Father, and bring her joy back. Help us to love one another, just as we love You with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Heal our world, Lord! Deliver us, please!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
(1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the blessings of Christmas
  2. For the fulness of my heart and the peace in my soul
  3. For laughter
  4. For the Light of the World
  5. That You delight in us when we put our hope in Your unfailing love

Grace and peace, friends.

The First Day of Christmas

Today is Friday, Christmas day, December 25, 2020, the first day of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,933

Seven days until 2021!

What a wonderful time it has been!! It would be all too easy to bemoan the inconveniences of this season, but we have chosen not to do that.

Divine providence worked things out so that we could all be together, yesterday, at my mother’s house in Mineral Wells. At least that is how we are looking at it.

R was supposed to have to work yesterday, and was planning to make driving trips to our house and Grandma’s house, today. Then she got word that they would be allowed to log off early on Christmas Eve, and began planning to make those drives yesterday.

And then, yesterday morning, there was a power outage at her work location, and they were subsequently given the day off, as they could not do anything, even though working remotely. So she and J met us at at Grandma’s house, where we were able to sit safely outside and exchange our gifts. It was a joyous time!

After the gift exchange and much conversation, they left, and C, S, and I (yes, S went, as she has discovered that there is a certain kind of mask that she can tolerate), had our lunch and chatted a while longer. We headed back to Fort Worth about 5:00 PM.

This morning, we got up and exchanged our own gifts here. It was a lovely time, after which I cooked up some eggs, toast, and accessories for breakfast. Around mid-afternoon, we will start cooking our dinner, which will consist of our favorite Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken, along with the corn casserole we discovered before Thanksgiving, and some green beans. No healthified green bean casserole. That just didn’t cut it.

It’s been a wonderful time, though, and a most joyous Christmas.

A few of my gifts will be incorporated into my daily routine. One of those is called Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year, by Philip F. Reinders. It actually starts with Advent, moves on to Christmas, and then through the rest of the Church calendar. Since today is Christmas, I will begin using that devotional/prayer book today! It will likely replace The Divine Hours in my morning routine.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“The twelve-day Christmas season, beginning on Christmas Day, may be the healing remedy needed to reclaim this holiday from merchants and marketers. After all the annoying ads and repetitive jingles fade, when everyone else is burned out on Christmas or has moved on to year-end reviews or gym memberships, now the follower of Jesus can focus on the meaning of the Christmas miracle.

“It’s a season of light in darkness, where we are taken deeper into the growing light of the Word made flesh. Reflecting on the birth of Jesus, we have time to delight in the how of incarnation as we’re also led into the deeper wonder of its meaning for our world.”

(Excerpt from the Introduction to the Christmas season in Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year)

The format for Seeking God’s Face is as follows: He begins with an Invitation, which looks like it may be the same for all twelve days of Christmas. Following the invitation, a time of quiet is called for. After that is a “Bible Song,” which will be a passage from the Psalms. Following the Bible Song is a Bible Reading, from the New or Old Testament. Another period of quiet is after that. Then there is a segment called “Dwelling,” in which we are called to read the Bible reading again, in the style of Lectio Divina. Then there is a time of “Free Prayer,” and suggestions are provided, but not required. We may, at that point, pray whatever is on our hearts. After the Free Prayer, there is a written prayer, taken from such sources as the Heidelberg Confession, Westminster Confession, and so on. The time is concluded with a blessing.

There is no set time for this, as it can be done at any time of day that we choose. However, it is recommended that it be done at roughly the same time every day. There is also no specified time limit, as it can take as long as we need it to. One thing to consider is that, just as when using The Divine Hours, it is entirely possible that others are also praying in the same way, along with us.

Also, fear not, for my gratitude will come at the end, from now on, I think.

Psalms 100:1-2 NIV
(1) Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
(2) Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Psalms 97:1-6 NIV
(1) The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
(2) Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
(3) Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.
(4) His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
(5) The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.
(6) The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.

Luke 2:1-14 NIV
(1) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(2) (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
(3) And everyone went to their own town to register.

(4) So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
(5) He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
(6) While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
(7) and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

(8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
(9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
(10) But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
(11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
(12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

(13) Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

(14) “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

One thing that I am dwelling on, this morning, is that bit in verses 13 and 14. This “great company of the heavenly host . . .” What did that look like? If the initial angel who brought the Good News to the shepherds had to calm them down by saying “Do not be afraid,” when he appeared by himself, can you even imagine the reaction of the shepherds when a “great company of the heavenly host” appeared??

And was this great company also angels? We’ve always assumed that, but it does not say that. What did they look like? What did they sound like? Were they singing? Because we also assume that they were singing. Was it all in unison, or was there a myriad of beings all shouting that phrase, seemingly randomly?

I won’t get answers to these questions until I meet my Savior face-to-face, and by then, odds are I won’t care at all. These are not theological questions. They are simply curiosity brought on by the reading and pondering of the Word.

The words that stick out to me, this morning, are “joy” and “peace,” because those are what I have in my heart today!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus Christ, our newborn King:
we rejoice that you came among us in all your glory,
taking on our life so that we might share in yours.
In your conception and birth you've come to remove our sin -
ours since we were first conceived -
delivering us to the hope of new life.
Make your home among us today and always.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Confession 36)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.”
(Luke 1:68 NIV)

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 146:1-10 NIV)

“It may take a long time or a lifetime, but all prayer that engages God and the world as they truly are will eventually end in praise.”

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

As I read that Psalm to close out today’s devotional it is fitting. This psalm praises God for justice. Not personal justice, mind you. Justice for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the “bowed down,” the fatherless, the foreigner, and the widow.

He cared enough for all of these that the events described earlier in the entry occurred a couple thousand years ago; events which culminated in a great company of the heavenly host appearing to a rag-tag group of Bethlehem shepherds, and shouting (or singing), “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Father, I praise You for this event! I praise You for the birth of our Savior, inconspicuous as it was, in the little town of Bethlehem. I praise You for the great company of heavenly host that announced this to the most insignificant of people. Your grace and mercy in this event is stunning, almost beyond comprehension. And the really great thing is that I don’t have to comprehend it. I need only believe it and embrace it. And embrace it, I do! Thank You, O great heavenly Father, for Your inexpressible, indescribable gift!

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the wonderful time we had at Mama’s house, yesterday
  2. For the joyful Christmas morning we had today
  3. For Your inexpressible, indescribable gift
  4. For new tools to engage in Your Word each day
  5. For the justice You provide for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the “bowed down,” the fatherless, the foreigner, and the widow (Psalm 146)

Grace and peace, friends.

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Today is Thursday, December 24, 2020, in the fourth week of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,932

Today is Christmas Eve. One more day until Christmas.

I’ve just discovered some more interesting facts related to the number of days I’ve been alive. For example, at the exact moment of this typing, I am 62 years, 9 months, 11, days, 13 hours, and 29 minutes old. I’ve probably slept for about 7644 days, or 21 years.

Okay, that seems like a lot, doesn’t it? But if you consider that you sleep an average of eight hours a day, that is one third of your life, isn’t it? That seems like such waste, as much as I like sleep. And now, I’m wondering . . . did Adam and Eve have to sleep?

Hold on a minute . . . I need more coffee.

While I was in the kitchen, C and I decided that I’ve probably only slept about 15 years. It’s been a long time since I have averaged eight hours of sleep per day.

For a really big number, I’ve been alive 33,022,080 minutes.

Whew. I’m suddenly very tired.

All of these interesting facts can be found at this birthday website.

We plan to leave for Mineral Wells around 11:00-11:30, this morning. I have a haircut appointment (with C) at 10:30, this morning. It’s been a while since the locks have been shorn, and I’m looking pretty ragged. Which also makes me look like a crotchety old man.

Other plans have changed, apparently. The power is out at R’s workplace, this morning, so no one can do any work, even those who work remotely. So, now, it looks like R & J will be able to meet us at Grandma’s today. They still plan to stay outside and masked, but we will at least be all together and be able to exchange all our gifts today, at the same time. I think I will take a camera and tripod and see if I can get a group picture. That could be a challenge, if we all stay six feet apart. Maybe it could be in a diagonal line. This could be interesting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them.
Help them to know one another better,
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father.
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love.
And give us your heavenly peace. Amen.”

— Pope John XXIII

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Psalms 95:6-7 ESV
(6) Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
(7) For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Today I am grateful:

  1. To be alive and breathing
  2. For the season of Christmas, bringing thoughts of new life and second chances
  3. For my family, and the love that is shared among us
  4. That my heart is glad because I trust in Your name
  5. For Your peace

Psalms 90:12 ESV
(12) So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalms 18:2 ESV
(2) The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalms 101:6 ESV
(6) I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.

John 5:31-36 ESV
(31) If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.
(32) There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.
(33) You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
(34) Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.
(35) He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
(36) But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

Psalms 33:13-22 ESV
(13) The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;
(14) from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
(15) he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.
(16) The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
(17) The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.
(18) Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
(19) that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
(20) Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
(21) For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
(22) Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!
(Psalms 70:1 ESV)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Purify my conscience,
Almighty God,
by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming,
may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Luke 2:13-14 ESV
(13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
(14) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Romans 15:13 ESV
(13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Deuteronomy 10:21 ESV
(21) He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

Jeremiah 32:27 ESV
(27) “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Once again, I come around to peace.

These are recurring themes in my daily blog, and I’m okay with that. Honestly, I couldn’t care less if my readers are okay with it or not. Sounds cold, I know, but, hey. The main and most important purpose of this blog thing is what God is speaking to me. And today, again, He is speaking “peace” to me.

Peace in this troubled world. Peace in the midst of pandemic. Peace in the midst of political asininity. Peace that passes all understanding. The peace that Jesus leaves with us.

In John 14, Jesus tells His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Then, later in the chapter, He says,

John 14:27 ESV
(27) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Today, I have peace. In many ways, this peace is inexplicable. But I believe I have the explanation. What troubles me is that I see a lot of people who claim to be following Christ who have a total absence of peace in the midst of all of this. I believe they have their eyes on the wrong things and the wrong people. I pray for them daily.

Jesus gives us peace. Donald Trump has not given us peace. Joe Biden will not give you peace. Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can give you peace.

Psalms 145:10-21 ESV
(10) All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
(11) They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power,
(12) to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
(13) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.]
(14) The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
(15) The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
(16) You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
(17) The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
(18) The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(19) He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
(20) The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
(21) My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Father, I praise You for Your peace, which I have received by the grace and mercy and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and inhabited by the Holy Spirit. I didn’t say that quite right, but I am confident that You know exactly what I mean. My heart is never quite united in You, Lord. For that, I am sorry. Please keep working in there to weed out the junk and unite my heart to fear Your name. Nevertheless, I have peace, not which the worlds gives, but which Jesus gives. Peace in the midst of the many storms that have threatened us in 2020. Personally, I don’t look for 2021 to be any better. But that really doesn’t matter, because I have You and You are enough. Thank You and praise You, Lord. I love You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Love, Yet Again

Today is Wednesday, December 23, 2020, in the fourth week of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,931

It is “Christmas Eve Eve.” And our last day of work for this week. So it feels like Friday, today.

The weather continues to be mild in DFW, but will be chilly in the mornings over the next few days. Christmas day looks to be around freezing in the morning, but up to sixty-two for the high.

It appears that my hopes for a New Year’s Eve snow have been eradicated. There might be some ice, from rain that happens the day before, as the temps drop below freezing, but then it is projected to clear up and be in the lower fifties for the high, both NYE and January 1.

I had a pretty good day, yesterday. The expedite portion of my job stayed rather slow, with only a couple people being active, so I was able to focus on clearing out unreceivables. I’m hoping today will be the same. That also makes it much less stressful.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For my eyes; Lord help me to see more beauty around me
  2. For my ears; Lord help me to listen better
  3. That You were pierced for our transgressions
  4. That Your chastisement brought us peace
  5. That Your wounds brought us healing

Psalms 43:3-4 ESV
(3) Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
(4) Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

“Splendor and honor and kingly power are yours by right, O Lord, our God,
For you created everything that is, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
(A Song to the Lamb)

Psalms 84:10 ESV
(10) For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Luke 1:30-38 ESV
(30) And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
(31) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
(32) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
(33) and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

(34) And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

(35) And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
(36) And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
(37) For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(38) And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Psalms 24:1-6 ESV
(1) A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
(2) for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
(3) Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
(4) He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
(5) He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
(6) Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.

Isaiah 9:2 ESV
(2) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Purify my conscience,
Almighty God,
by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming,
may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Psalms 63:3 ESV
(3) Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Isaiah 53:1-9 ESV
(1) Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
(2) For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
(3) He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

(4) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
(5) But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
(6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
(8) By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
(9) And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

As I read this passage, this morning, I am moved, almost to tears. Sure, I have read this, perhaps, hundreds of times. But today, as I am considering my points of gratitude, I get stuck in verse 5.

Jesus did not meet the expectations of the masses when He arrived. Isaiah even describes Him as being “despised and rejected.” Also, according to verse 2, He wasn’t much to look at. All of those paintings that depict him as being so beautiful . . . nothing more than artistic liberty.

In spite of all of this, He fulfilled His purpose, bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. And then, the kicker. Verse 6. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

In the words of Xochitl Dixon, my favorite Our Daily Bread writer, “Nothing is more beautiful than that.”

1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV
(14) Let all that you do be done in love.

John 13:34-35 ESV
(34) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
(35) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 4:7 ESV
(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Psalms 145:1-9 ESV
(1) A Song of Praise. Of David. I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
(2) Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
(3) Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
(4) One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
(5) On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
(6) They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.
(7) They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
(8) The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
(9) The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Verse 8 mirrors what the Lord said to Moses, as He passed by so Moses could see his back, while hiding in the “cleft of the rock.” Jonah also quoted these words back to God in chapter 4 of his story. But Jonah was angry because God chose to spare a people whom he despised.

But verse 9 should make us all stop in our tracks. “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”

Are we equally good to all? Do we only want God to show love to the people we like?

I shared 1 Corinthians 16:14 (above) on Facebook and Instagram today. Both with the caption, “I’m still working on this.” It’s true. As much as I preach love through this platform, I confess that I still struggle with doing everything I do in love. I also still struggle with loving all whom I know are loved by God.

I’m willing to bet we all struggle with this. But at least some of us are “struggling.” There are many who don’t even seem to consider it, spewing hatred at anyone who differs from them politically, theologically, sexually, or racially. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

And I need to love those people, too. Period. Hard stop.

Father, You have brought me back around to love again, today. The fact that it keeps coming up tells me that I still have much to learn. I am grateful that I don’t read those Scriptures and say, “I’m doing pretty good.” Rather, I read them and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” And that is truly my prayer. Have mercy, Lord. Keep working on me, teaching me to love, and to do everything that I do in love. Help me to love with Your love, and show that to all around me, because You love them, too, as You show Your love and goodness to all You have created.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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.

Christmas Thanksgiving

Today is Tuesday, December 22, 2020, in the fourth week of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,930

Only three more days until Christmas!

And only two more days to work, this week.

Looking at the weather forecast, I just saw something that might be nice. There might be snow on New Year’s Eve!

Yesterday evening, the news broke that country singer KT Oslin has passed away at the age of 78. The report said that she had been battling Parkinson’s and was also recently diagnosed with Covid-19. However, no official cause of death was noted.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This has been on my heart for several days, now. I put St. Teresa’s prayer here, yesterday, and I really like Margaret Rizza’s arrangement of it. She changes the words slightly.

"Let nothing disturb you;
Nothing distress you;
While all things fade away,
God is unchanging.
Be patient, for with God in your heart
Nothing is lacking,
God is enough."

It’s a beautiful prayer, and full of truth and encouragement, which is deeply needed, these days.

Psalms 66:16 ESV
(16) Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

Today I am grateful:

  1. That with God in my heart, nothing is lacking; He is enough
  2. For the things that He has done for my soul
  3. That You lead me to the Rock that is higher than I
  4. That You, the Creator of the universe, and Most High God, hear the prayers of your servants
  5. That You fill the generous heart with blessings uncountable

Psalms 67:1-2 ESV
(1) To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
(2) that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Psalms 119:54 ESV
(54) Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.

Psalms 51:10 ESV
(10) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

John 4:23-24 ESV
(23) “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
(24) God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Psalms 61:1-5 ESV
(1) To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David. Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
(2) from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
(3) for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
(4) Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah.
(5) For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Purify my conscience,
Almighty God,
by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming,
may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV
(14) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
(15) and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
(16) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
(17) that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Luke 6:38 ESV
(38) 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.”

Mark 9:35 ESV
(35) And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Philippians 2:5-7 ESV
(5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
(7) but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Hebrews 6:10 ESV
(10) For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

1 Peter 5:5 ESV
(5) Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Psalms 144:9-15 ESV
(9) I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
(10) who gives victory to kings, who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
(11) Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
(12) May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;
(13) may our granaries be full, providing all kinds of produce; may our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields;
(14) may our cattle be heavy with young, suffering no mishap or failure in bearing; may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
(15) Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!

“This hymn marks David’s deliverance from King Saul and perhaps his enthronement.”

In it, we also see the proper response to answered prayer: gratitude and thanksgiving. “A thankful spirit combines humility (because you see God’s answer was a sheer gift) with confidence (because you know a loving God always hears prayer).”

If you look back at the beginning of the psalm, you can see amazement that God even pays attention to us at all (vv 3-4).

Psalms 144:3-4 ESV
(3) O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?
(4) Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

But David doesn’t stop and rest after giving thanks. He keeps on praying; for protection, for prosperity, for justice, proclaiming loudly, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!”

Above this psalm, there are some other Scriptures upon which to focus. Primarily, the idea of generosity is emphasized. We can pray all day for prosperity, but if we are living our lives with clenched fists, hoarding everything that comes our way while orphans and widows (and anyone else who might fall into similar categories) go needy, God will not give us that prosperity.

Jesus, after telling us not to judge or hold grudges, also told us to give freely. The result of that would be that “it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.

I have experienced the truth of this. As God has moved us to generosity, He has blessed us even more. The only boast is in God, as He is the provider; he is the One who blesses. I don’t boast in my generosity, as even that is a gift from Him.

“Lord, I thank you that there are an infinite number of things to thank you for, if I reflect for even a moment! Now help me to take that time and to give you thanks for your many gifts I take for granted. Then let thankfulness begin to transform all my attitudes, toward you, myself, others, and life. Amen.”

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Father, I love that You have inspired me to daily gratitude. I remember that this was initially inspired because of people who suddenly get all grateful during November, and then don’t remember to give thanks the rest of the year. I want to be grateful every day. I want to give You thanks all day long, 24/7. Thanks for the little things like breathing; thanks for the simple things like coffee; and thanks for the big things, like grace and mercy. I could, quite easily, do nothing but sit and thank You all day long. But I must do other things, like work, during my day. That, however, does not mean that I cannot also be thankful. Help me remember to breathe little prayers of thanksgiving all day long!

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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.