How Long?

Today is Tuesday, the thirteenth of April, 2021, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,042

37 days until our Glen Rose weekend

It is currently 56 degrees and raining, this morning. The projected high is 70 for today, with a roughly fifty percent chance of more rain. Most of that looks like it will occur late tonight, going into tomorrow morning. Imagine that! It’s acting like spring out there! April showers, and so on.

The Texas Rangers lost another game, last night, again failing to score any runs. On the plus side, the Rays only scored one run, but it was enough to win the game. Dunning, the starter for Texas, pitched four innings, gave up two hits and no runs. Having not watched or listened, I don’t know why he was removed from the game. Oh, wait. I can see that he had thrown over 110 pitches. That’s why. Taylor Hearn came in from the bullpen to lose the game. If anyone is counting, that is three out of four games in which the Rangers have not managed to cross the plate. They will try again tonight, at 6:10 CDT, with Kyle Gibson (1-0) starting for the Rangers.

The Red Sox and Twins were postponed, last night. They will try again at 1:10 CDT, in Minnesota, starting pitcher TBD.

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)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the rain we are receiving, this morning
  • for the beauty of God’s creation; the wonderful colors in the world, and the silent wonder of the universe above
  • that You are firmly in control of all things
  • that, as I walk in Your kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be
  • that every day is a new beginning; “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before . . . “

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

EASTER – DAY 10

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I am pausing to quietly celebrate the glory of God, this morning, resting in His presence.

BIBLE SONG

A maskil of Asaph.

O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
(Psalms 74:1-2 NIV)

We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.
How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth.
(Psalms 74:9-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

John,
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:4-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, I reread these passages, inviting the Holy Spirit to enter into this time, drawing me closer and pointing out anything in these passages that I specifically need to notice.

What draws my attention in the passage from Psalms is the thought that “we are given no signs from God.” Does it seem, at times, that God is silent in our time? We have His Word, so, in that sense, He is not silent. And, perhaps, that is enough. I suppose there have been no “official prophets” since Christ ascended. And I believe there is a reason for that. As Michael Card so wonderfully wrote, “His final word was Jesus.” So, while we may not have any real “prophets” or modern-day “signs” (even though there are a number of people who will claim to be “prophets” or claim to have experienced “signs”), we have the Word of God, we have Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit.

So, I say to you, if you believe God has been silent, that’s on you. I may not “hear from God” every day, but most days I believe that I have heard something from Him, through this humble morning devotional.

I also wonder, sometimes, the same as the psalmist, “How long will the enemy mock You?” “Why do you hold back your hand?” I’m sure I’m not alone. This is where our faith and trust must come into play. We must, in our belief, know that God has it all under control. His “right hand” will come out soon enough, and when it does, it will be horrible. I probably don’t want to see that.

The Revelation passage reminds me of some words of Eugene H. Peterson, in This Hallelujah Banquet, which I am still working through, as time allows. Peterson thinks of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, as our Source, and our Destination. He is where we begin, and He is where we are going.

Father, I praise You that You are firmly in control of all things, and that, as I walk in Your kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be. Whenever I begin to question or doubt, as the psalmist so honestly confessed, remind me of this truth. Remind me that there will certainly be a day when Your “right hand” will come out, and judgment will be meted out, and it will not be pretty. I praise You that You are, through Jesus, our Source and our Destination. You are our all in all; You are everything we need. You are enough.

Jesus,
glorious Savior,
I see you resurrected,
unable to be held in the grip of the grave,
immortal and yet still so vibrantly human.
You are the Son of God,
Lord of the living and dead,
head of the church,
and you have completed all your work to bring home to the Father.
Revive me in grace,
strengthen me in the good fight, 
and assure me of my resurrection.
To you be glory for ever and ever.
Amen.
(Westminster Longer Catechism 52)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
(Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”
Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”
Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'”
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
(Exodus 16:2-10 NIV)

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
(Philemon 1:7 NIV)

Father, I thank You that every day is a new beginning. Remind me, each night, as I lie down to sleep, that it is the beginning of a new day. Everything past is gone. Only new is ahead. May we truly “latch on” to this truth, Lord, and focus our energies, our spirits, on that which is new, and that which is ahead, or in front of us. Let me not look behind. And oh, my Father, please help me to stop grumbling and complaining . . . about anything. It does not good, whatsoever, and only makes my own moods darker. Lighten my spirit today; lighten my countenance, so that people can see Your light on my face (at least in my eyes). All glory to You, Lord.

Lord, You have called me to serve Christ wherever I am; in my home, in my neighborhood, in my workplace. May You strengthen me to do so worthily. Help us all to do a better job of serving the “common good,” rather than looking out for our own “rights.” For those who work in the arts, theater, and entertainment industries, I pray a blessing. Shine Your light on them, Lord, as that can be such a marvelous platform to display Your glory.

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!

God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
(Genesis 1:4-5 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

On Praying for Kings and Presidents

Today is Sunday, the eleventh of April, 2021, the second Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,040

39 days until our next Glen Rose weekend

It’s another chilly morning, today, currently 50 degrees. But it’s going to be warm, as the projected high today is 84. There is virtually no chance of any rain today. The week ahead, though, looks to be cooler, with temps falling into the upper fifties by next Saturday. There is a decent chance of rain on at least four of the days in the coming week.

We had the most wonderful day, yesterday. After everyone arrived, we exchanged the birthday gifts, and decided on Mesquite Pit for lunch. I splurged a bit, point-wise, with a two meat plate of chopped brisket and sausage. I figured the meal to be somewhere around 20 SmartPoints, which may or may not be accurate. I had “Cowboy beans” (pinto beans) and green beans for my sides, which are typically zero points. I have no idea how they cook them, though, so who knows?

But the afternoon was great. After lunch, we just sat and talked and never left the dining room table. I even forgot to go get Crazy Water. By the time I remembered, they would only be open for about twenty more minutes, so I didn’t bother. I still have close to eighteen liters, which will last me over a month, so I’m good. It was so good for us all to be together (less S, of course, but she called while we were there), and we elected to be mask-free in the setting, as all of us but Mama have had both vaccines, and she has had one. I know it meant the world to her, and it felt like more “normal” times.

Our church, as previously mentioned, is not meeting, this morning. I’m still not 100% sure if I am going anywhere. I stayed up late and got up early, as I find it difficult to sleep past 6:30 AM, for some reason. Depending on what time I finish the blog post, and how energetic I feel . . . I may or may not try to go out. C is actually working (from R’s old bedroom), so she’s probably not going anywhere.

S and I will have our normal Saturday night burgers tonight, as I had used up all but one of my daily points, yesterday, and wasn’t that hungry for dinner. My usual Sunday night dinner of tuna and black-eyed peas will have to wait until another time.

The Texas Rangers lost another game to the Padres last night. They started out ahead, scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the second. They were actually ahead when Jordan Lyles left the game, after 4.1 innings. But, sadly, as has been the story for so many years, the bullpen was not able to keep the lead. The Padres won 7-4. Wes Benjamin was tagged with the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers are now 3-5 on the season, sitting in fourth place in the AL West, 2.5 games out. They will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Mike Foltynewicz starting for the Rangers. Hopefully, he will have better command than his previous outing.

The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, have taken first place, and have now won five games in a row! They beat the Orioles again, last night, 6-4, scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning, on a wild pitch and a single. Matt Barnes, as the pitcher of record when the runs were scored, go the win, and another Matt (Andriese) got a save by holding off the O’s in the bottom of the 10th. The Sox are 5-3 on the season. They will play again today, in Baltimore, at 12:05 CDT. Nick Pivetta will start for Boston.

The LA Dodgers currently hold the best record, at 7-2, not surprisingly, as they are widely projected to possibly repeat as World Series champions, this year. The Pirates of Pittsburgh currently hold the worst record, along with the Marlins of Miami, at 2-6. Neither of those is much of a surprise, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation:
Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
(The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter)

Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.
I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long, for everyone who tried to hurt me has been shamed and humiliated.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating family and birthdays
  • for the opportunity to pray for our president and other elected officials; may I be more faithful in doing so
  • for the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, given to us by Christ
  • for the victory that is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ
  • for the music we have, with which we sing and play Your praises

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

EASTER – DAY 8

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I pause to quietly reflect on the “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

BIBLE SONG

Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.
(Psalms 72:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
(John 20:19-23 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, this morning, I reread the passages, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in, looking for words or phrases that speak to me.

I am immediately impressed that the first four verses of Psalm 72 are a good prayer to pray for national leaders. Whether your country has a king, queen, dictator, or president, this is a good prayer to bring before God on their behalf. We pray for God’s justice to be enacted through our country’s leaders. We pray that our country’s leaders would “judge . . . people in righteousness.” We pray that our country’s leaders would defend the afflicted and the needy, and crush all oppressors.

I have to confess that I have always struggled/puzzled with the passage from John. Not the part about Jesus appearing in their midst in a locked room, as that is told in multiple Gospel presentations. He also gives them bodily evidence of His promise that, wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He will be in their midst.

It’s verses 22 and 23 that give me pause. Not that I don’t believe them. I’m just not quite sure I completely understand what is happening. First of all, the Holy Spirit doesn’t make His grand entrance until Pentecost, in Acts 2. Did the disciples/apostles get a sneak preview, an advanced empowerment? I suppose that is entirely possible. Jesus breathed on them. The Greek word is emphusao, which means “to puff” or “to blow at/on.” The word for Spirit is the well-known pneuma, which literally means “a current of air,” or “breath.” Jesus breathed life onto His apostles, empowering them to move on to the next phase of their lives/ministries.

The second part that I have struggled with is the bit about forgiving sins. My understanding, and commentaries that I see seem to be in agreement, is that only Jesus/God can forgive sins or not forgive sins. So, while this looks like Jesus was giving the apostles authority to actually forgive sins, I don’t think that is the case. The thing is, I might be wrong. It happens quite a bit, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I simply admit that I don’t quite grasp the meaning of this verse. One commentary says that Jesus essentially, with the granting of the Holy Spirit, gave the disciples discernment to tell when people were truly forgiven or not forgiven, and the authority to make the proclamation as such. Without a doubt, it is this kind of authority that caused Ananias and Saphira to be stricken dead on the spot when they attempted to deceive the Church with their little contribution game in Acts.

Father, I will join the psalmist (Solomon, allegedly) in praying for Your wisdom and righteousness to be granted to our president and all other elected leaders in our country. I pray that they would all join together (not an impossible idea) to judge the people in righteousness, to defend the afflicted, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressors. May Your glory be seen in all our land, Father. I also pray for wisdom to understand what is happening in this passage from John. It is not something that will break my faith if I don’t quite get it. It is not something that is essential for me to understand. I will accept on faith that the disciples understood what was being said and what was happening, and that they acted on it. That is enough for me.

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,
friend of sinners,
your resurrected life is not  a private experience or a soothing metaphor but a stubborn public reality.
May your well-attested resurrection impel me to openly announce the outrageously good news - 
that sins are forgiven through what you have done when the gospel promise is received in true faith.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 84)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

He is not here; he has risen!
(Luke 24:6 NIV)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
(Matthew 28:5-6 NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
(Revelation 2:18-20 NIV)

It’s been a while since I had time to delve into John’s letters to the churches. I’m continuing, this morning, with the letter to the church in Thyatira.

After giving them some praise and encouragement, Jesus moves on to the issue He has against this church. There is a person who is in the congregation, leading them astray with false teaching. Jesus names her “Jezebel,” to compare her to the Old Testament person of that name. And perhaps that was really her name. I suppose it is not necessarily wrong to assume so.

The Old Testament Jezebel was “the most notorious evil woman in Hebrew history.” She was the wife of King Ahab, who was one of the weaker of Israel’s kings. Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was a priest of Astarte. “Astarte was the Phoenician equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus.” This religious system was so grossly immoral that it “encouraged gross sexual immorality under the cloak of piety.”

Jezebel (OT) may have even been a priestess of Astarte, herself. To add to her evil works, she killed all prophets of Jehovah that she could get her hands on. “Ahab did not possess the moral conviction or stamina to withstand her.”

It is almost as though her spirit has been reincarnated in this person addressed by Jesus. She was having some success in seducing disciples of Christ “to indulge in immoral practices.” Her teaching included believing that matter was evil, so sins of the flesh could be indulged without damaging the spirit.

I’m going to quote an entire paragraph, here, because I feel it is important to understanding.

“Jezebel’s answer to the Christian’s conflict with the world was to eliminate the conflict by assimilating the differences. Instead of refusing to participate in what was evil, she taught that the Christian must assimilate all the evil and thereby redeem it. Any examination that we undergo must include an examination of our relation to society. And in particular here, business society. We cannot exclude such a major part of our lives from the probing, searching gaze of Christ. Our tendency is to assimilate, to take on the coloration of those with whom we work – our employers, our companies, our associates. But Christ’s command is that we should differentiate.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, may we be careful to not assimilate the practices of evil into our churches, today. But may we also be discerning as to what is truly evil and what is not. Like Your apostles, give us Your Holy Spirit, that we may discern what is worthy and shun what is not. May we not fall into the same trap as the Christians in Thyatira. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, please grant Your church resurrection hope and joy, this day. Give us, like the apostles, the power of the Holy Spirit, along with the discernment, and help us share the Gospel with our communities, in the power of the Spirit.

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!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

“From My Mother’s Womb . . .”

Today is Monday, the twenty-ninth of March, 2021, in Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,027

Six days until Resurrection Sunday!

It’s Monday, so back to work, we go!

But it is also R’s birthday, today (oldest daughter), so happy birthday to you, just in case you read this blog today! Much love to you!

The big news for today is that our little church group has agreed to meet together this coming Sunday to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Agreement was made to continue to practice safe measures. I know for sure that we will wear masks or at least practice safe distancing. We may even sing a couple of songs. Weather permitting, we plan to meet outside, in their back yard.

I think there is a plan in the works, as well, for the family to gather, weekend after next (possibly Saturday, April the tenth) to celebrate some birthdays. As already mentioned, R’s is today, and Mama’s (Grandma) is April the eighth, which is a week from Thursday.

That’s all the news I have for today. Oh, except that Opening Day is this coming Thursday, April first. The Texas Rangers will start the season in Kansas City, with a 3:10 PM start time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This morning’s opening poem/prayer is from Daryl Madden, called “Be Here Now.”

The past is behind us
To let go, allow
To God give the future
To be grateful now

Each soul of encounter
Of blessing, endow
A binding of sharing
To be present now

Each moment receiving
To fully allow
His treasure embracing
To be loved now

This moments’ a gift
That God does endow
A practice of living
To be here now 

My prayer, this morning, is that I be fully present in this moment of meditation and prayer.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
(Psalms 67:5-7 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a new week, full of opportunities to serve God and people; may I not miss those opportunities
  • for the blessings of our Lord
  • that, from my mother’s womb, You have been my God (Psalm 22:10)
  • for the testimonies of believers and their lives with You
  • that every moment of every day we can rest in Your presence and know Your glory

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

LENT – DAY 35

INVITATION

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29 ESV)

This morning, I pause to reflect on this moment, on being fully present and aware of the presence of the Lamb of God.

BIBLE SONG

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

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalms 22:1 NIV)

“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
(Psalms 22:8-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!”
(Luke 22:7-22 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Lord in this place, I reread these passages, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts.

I begin by noticing Psalm 22:8. We read this psalm, yesterday morning, and this stood out to me, then, as well. Those familiar with the Gospel narrative know that much of this chapter in Psalms is repeated during the hours of the crucifixion, including the words in verse 8, which were repeated by onlookers, perhaps even the Pharisees or Romans. It was intended to be mockery.

But I see it as truth. I do trust in the Lord, and I believe that He will rescue me. Over and over, the Psalms make that declaration of truth. And, ultimately, the Father did rescue the Son, but not until the sacrifice was done.

As for me, God, indeed, brought me out of my mother’s womb, and I was trusting Him from my birth. I don’t remember anything about those days, but I do know that, immediately, I was taught to trust and love my God and my Savior. I can say, as the psalmist said, “from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (verse 10)

As Jesus prepared for the sacrifice, He shared the last Passover He has had, to this day, with His disciples. He declared that He would not have another Passover until “it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” And this has not happened, yet.

He took the bread and the wine, in the famous institution of what we call The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or Eucharist, or, sometimes, simply The Supper. The bread is His body, the wine is His blood. And we partake of this, whenever we do it, “in remembrance” of Him.

I look forward to sharing this “meal” with my brothers and sisters, this coming Sunday morning.

Father, I thank You that You have been my God, in whom I trust, from my birth, from out of my mother’s womb. I am aware that not everyone can say this. We had that discussion, yesterday, as well, and believe that every testimony of a person’s life with You is beautiful, whether we began life with You from infancy or started it later in life. It is beautiful, because it all depends upon You and Your mighty work in our lives. We have, quite literally, nothing to do with it.

Perfect God,
I bow my knee before the wisdom of the cross.
The death of your spotless Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for my sins.
It is of infinite value and worth,
more than enough to cover not only mine but the sins of the whole world.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 2.3)

BLESSING

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
(Revelation 5:12 NIV)

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
(Psalms 94:19 ESV)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
(Psalms 55:22 ESV)

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
(Isaiah 41:13 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)

Yes, and amen!

“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.'”
(Revelation 2:19)

Yesterday, we spoke of the burning eyes of Christ, as revealed by John’s depiction of Him to the Church in Thyatira. It was said that there was mercy and generosity in those eyes.

This generosity is exhibited in Jesus’s first assessment of this church, repeated in the verse above. These people were not resting on their past achievements. Unlike the previous churches, their “latter works” were better, even, than their first.

“There was no sitting back and telling stories about how vigorous and exciting it had been in the early days of the church. They had not fallen into the habit (which Christians seem prone to) of lamenting the present evil generation and nostalgically looking back to a better time.”

The Christians at Thyatira were “skilled in and increasingly committed to love, faith, service, and patient endurance.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray that Your Church today may be as the Church in Thyatira, continuing to be committed to love, faith, service, and patient endurance, not attempting to rest on past achievements or blaming its problems on the “present evil generation.” We dwell on the “mountaintop” with You, Lord, in Your presence at every moment of every day. Let us rest in Your presence and know Your glory as we walk through this world.

Lord, may You give us eyes to see Your work in the world around us, as we walk through our day. May Your care for us be evident, even in the face of natural disasters and a creation that groans for its rebirth. May You guide those who work in conservation efforts, to make us better stewards of Your creation.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Hosanna!

Today is Sunday, the twenty-eighth of March, 2021. Palm Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,026

Seven days until Resurrection Sunday. Holy Week begins today.

I will begin with my weekly WW report. I lost another .6 yesterday. Just a tad under what I was hoping for, but a loss is a loss. I am 64.2 pounds away from my goal weight. At the rate I’m going, It will be 2023 before I get there. Hahaha!! But you know what? There is absolutely no rush, is there? There is no deadline.

My current step goal is to get below 200 pounds. That could happen this year, but I’ll have to average better than .8 of a pound per month. But I’ve lost 10.4 pounds so far, this year. That’s an average of 3.5 pounds a month. If I keep that up, I will make it this year, maybe around November.

So, yesterday, C picked up a couple of sirloin steaks when she went to get groceries. I got this new sous vide cooker with my reward points from work (I hit a ten year anniversary last November), and was wanting to try it on steak. We cooked some chicken with it a week or so back, and that didn’t turn out great. Rookie mistakes, though, I think. Steak looked simple.

There were two steaks, weighing in at roughly a pound, total. About an inch and a half thick. I put them in a Ziploc bag (we don’t have a vacuum sealer . . . yet) and got as much air out as I could. I also found four frozen corn on the cobs, covered them with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray, and put them in another Ziploc. Oh, I also sprayed the steaks with ICBINB and put “Seven” seasoning (from Saltgrass), as well as some onion powder and garlic powder on them.

I got this nifty plastic box for the sous vide . . . holds twelve quarts of water, and it came with a nice rack to put the food in, to keep it from floating. I put all of that in the box, which promptly overflowed because I had put too much water in it. It’s a learning process, you know. Based on the instructions that came with the cooking box, I set the sous vide for 129 degrees for medium rare, for one hour, and let it do its magic.

After an hour, I put the steaks in a hot pan, with just a tad of olive oil in it, and seared each side for a minute or two. Here is what I got.

Do I even need to tell you how delicious this was? Even the corn was cooked perfectly (although it could have been warmer). It was, quite literally, the best steak I have ever cooked. We already have plans to do this again, next Saturday.

Speaking of plans, we are starting to try to figure out what we are going to do for our anniversary vacation, this year. We thought about Cancun, we even thought about Hawaii (someday), but we have decided to do something drivable, this year, and put off anything involving flying until at least next year.

So Galveston is looking good, again. We’ve started looking at some beach houses, down there, and are finding some nice ones. Plus, I need to go back to Murdoch’s and get some Hawaiian shirts, since I can wear them again!

We have our Zoom church gathering in a little while, at 10:15. We’ll be starting with Psalm 20, this morning. So I guess I should get on with things. I’m sure we will have Applebee’s for lunch, and, since we had steak last night, I will make the traditional weekend burgers for S and me this evening.

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)

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah.
(Psalms 67:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for my coffee
  • for the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
  • for the King who comes in the name of the Lord
  • for the way Your Word is fresh and new every day
  • for the way music stirs my soul

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

PALM SUNDAY

INVITATION

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29 NIV)

I’m pausing a moment to quietly reflect on the amazing truth that my sin has been taken away by the Lamb of God.

BIBLE SONG

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

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

(Psalms 22:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
(Luke 19:28-40 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read through these passages again, allowing the Spirit to direct me to particular words or phrases that move my soul.

On the day that Jesus was crucified, at around noon, the sky went dark. It was, at the same time, the darkest time in human history, and the brightest. For while God incarnate was dying, hope for humanity was being born. Jesus, in an unthinkable moment, felt the presence of the Father being ripped from him. I can only imagine . . . actually, no I can’t . . . what that felt like. His cry, at the moment, only gives us a hint.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

There have been a few times, maybe just a couple, when I felt forsaken by God, but only for a moment, and that moment didn’t last very long. But it was the worst feeling I have ever experienced.

At that moment, on that dark afternoon, Jesus was utterly alone. And somehow, David was inspired to write that in a psalm several hundred years before it happened.

And just a few days earlier, crowds had lined the streets of Jerusalem, laid down palm branches in the road and shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Those same voices would, just days later, shout “Crucify Him!”

Despised and rejected. Forsaken by God; forsaken by His own people.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Father, while I rejoice at the effects of that day, my heart fills with shame at my own treatment of the Son of God, the Lamb of God. For, while He took away my sins along with the sins of the world, somehow, I manage to continue to pile them on. Nevertheless, You keep forgiving, and I am grateful for this. My shame is turned into joy, as Your mercies appear, new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness, Lord, unto me! “As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.”

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.

Mighty God,
we look for salvation and security in many different places.
We confess we're tempted to seek out a pumped-up Savior of power who would flex rippling muscles.
Prepare our hearts to welcome our humble servant-King,
Jesus,
finding in him all we need for our salvation.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 30)

BLESSING

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
(Revelation 5:12 NIV)

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Mark 11:9 ESV)

Marci Alborghetti has this to say in this morning’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021:

“When He entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, almost everyone in that adoring crowd would soon need His forgiveness. Peter, who gleefully helped Him onto the donkey, would deny Him three times. Judas, part of the parade, would betray Him. The apostles, basking in His glory, would abandon Him. The crowds would ignore Him, some even screaming for His crucifixion.

“But . . . Jesus had done nothing to hurt those who would need His forgiveness. Quite the opposite: He’d done everything to save them, us. Yet He rode on, greeting them, knowing they’d turn on Him, knowing we’d continue to sin against each other and Him, already forgiving, always forgiving.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them,
“It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
(Matthew 21:4-17 ESV)

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
(Luke 7:36-50 ESV)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”
(Revelation 2:18 ESV)

This is how Christ is introduced to the congregation at Thyatira in their portion of John’s letters to the churches.

“The eyes like a flame of fire burn as they penetrate. This is no casual survey.”

Jesus really sees into us as His burning eyes survey us.

The feet, like burnished bronze, “are solid and strong. They will not crumble under opposition.” Interestingly, bronze, an alloy made from copper and tin, has a higher melting point than either, thus being able to withstand the heat from the burning eyes of flame.

“He sees through all facades, evasions, masks, and fogginess – sees into contradiction, opposition, hostility, and indifference.”

While our initial response may be to run and hide, we need not do this. “There is mercy and generosity in the honest, unflinching gaze of our Lord. If his look burns, it is the fire of love, and it burns so that it may warm us.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

My Jesus, I praise You for the way Your burning eyes of flame see into the depths of my soul. The initial reaction is to shy away, to try to hide, but we cannot hide, so there is no point in that. I humble submit to the examination of Your holy eyes, that You may see what needs to be cleansed within me, each day. I praise You for Your mercy and generosity, Jesus!

May I experience, today, and every day this week, Lord, fellowship with the risen King Jesus. May everyone experience spiritual renewal and refreshment this coming week.

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.

The Voice of God

Today is Saturday, the twenty-seventh of March, 2021, in the fifth week of Lent. Holy Week begins tomorrow, Palm Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,025

The weekend is here! Of course, I often wonder why we get so excited about it, when another Monday is right around the corner. Someday, perhaps, in a few more years, I will obtain permanent weekend.

C is feeling better, this morning. Even her sciatica is better, so that’s good. Looks like she will make it to our weekly WW Workshop, even though she doesn’t have to go. Since she achieved Lifetime status, she only has to weigh in once a month, but she will, at least for now, keep going to the workshops with me. I’m thinking I should lose around one pound for this week. I will report on that tomorrow.

There is nothing else planned for the day, other than getting groceries at some point. If C is not up to that, I will go get them. We didn’t place a pickup order last night.

The only other thing planned for this weekend is our weekly Zoom church gathering tomorrow morning. Palm Sunday, this week, and Resurrection Sunday, more popularly known as Easter, is next Sunday, and it will be my turn to lead the morning’s discussions. I’m thinking I may divert a bit from Psalms, but that depends on where we wind up after tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Peace between neighbors,
Peace between kindred,
Peace between lovers,
In love of the King of life.

Peace between person and person,
Peace between wife and husband,
Peace between woman and children,
The Peace of Christ above all peace.

Bless, O Christ, my face,
Let my face bless everything;
Bless, O Christ, mine eye,
Let mine eye bless all it sees.

(Peace, by Alexander Carmichael, from Carmina Gadelica III)

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

Today I am grateful:

  • for the weekend, to rest and refresh for the next work week
  • for the nice weather outside
  • for the many conveniences we have, which we so often take for granted
  • for Your voice, in its many forms
  • for the trials in life which bring growth in our lives; if it never rained, the flowers would never bloom

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

LENT – DAY 34

INVITATION

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:17-18 NIV)

I’m pausing to quietly reflect on the Lord and His righteous ways.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
(Psalms 29:1-5 NIV)

The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.
(Psalms 29:9-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
(Jeremiah 31:31 NIV)

“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33b-34 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly enjoy His presence, this morning, I reread these passages, looking for words or phrases that connect with my spirit. The value of this type of reading is that, each time a passage is read, something different may connect, depending on how the Spirit is moving in one’s life at the moment. This is why I believe the verse in Hebrews:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

The psalm speaks over and over of the “voice of the LORD,” expressing its powerfulness. Yet, while it accomplishes all of these things, it is rarely heard, audibly. Or at least we are not aware that we are hearing it.

Maybe that’s what thunder really is.

Those times when God the Father spoke audibly over Jesus, some people said it thundered. When Saul was struck down on the road to Damascus, there were differing accounts of what people heard when Saul heard the voice of the resurrected Christ.

Whether we hear it or not, the voice of the Lord has great power; great majesty. It was, after all, that which created everything we see. God spoke it into existence.

This Word of God is “alive and powerful.” The verse in Hebrews may or may not be specifically and exclusively speaking of the written Word, that which we know as The Bible. Perhaps there is a double meaning. God’s Word is also that which He speaks. His Word brought galaxies, stars, planets, and us into existence.

The Jeremiah passage speaks of the New Covenant, ushered in by Jesus. Through Christ, and the appearance on earth of the Holy Spirit, God has written His Word in our hearts, putting His Word deep within us.

The Word became flesh, says John in his Gospel, and dwelt among us. And now, that Word, by the Spirit dwells within us.

Father, I thank You for Your Word, however it is manifest. Your Word is Your voice; Your Word is the Holy Scriptures; Your Word is Your Son, Jesus Christ. And by His appearing, His life, His death, His resurrection, Your Word dwells within us. Help me to live by Your Word; help me to live and walk by the precepts of Scripture, by the words and actions of Jesus, and by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Deepen my love for You and Your Word. I continue to pray that You would make me more gently, just as Jesus Christ was gentle.

Promise-keeping God,
your covenant of grace,
ratified with Abraham and renewed by the prophetic word,
stands complete in Jesus Christ.
In the new covenant of his death and resurrection I have full forgiveness and eternal salvation.
May I live today in covenant faithfulness with you and my neighbor.
Amen.
(Westminster Confession 7.5)

BLESSING

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
(1 John 5:11-12 NIV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
(1 Peter 3:18 NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
(Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.
“Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
“But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
(Revelation 2:18-29 NLT)

This chapter in This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson, is a tough one. The title, alone, makes me cringe and hide my toes. “The Test of Our Holiness.”

The issue that the Christians in Thyatira were face was that they were “reaching for attractive-appearing religion that in fact was inwardly foul.”

In every age, there is a sharp contrast between what the Christian believes (and, therefore, supposedly, lives out) and what the world believes and lives.

In every age, there is a temptation to completely isolate oneself from society, but we, as Christians, cannot do that. “There is no way to be a Christian except in the world.” Any attempt to do otherwise has never been successful. We must be in the world.

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am grateful for the trials that bring growth, inconvenient and painful as they sometimes are. I don’t seek them out, but when they come, by Your grace, I endure them, and, hopefully, grow from them. I am also grateful for the admonition to remain in the world, growing in grace and love for You and for my fellow human beings. Teach me this truth, daily, Father, and help me to love others as You have loved me, and as I love myself. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, I pray that Your Church would have a depth of identity that includes Your mission on this earth; may our leaders be servants, not dictators; may they have Kingdom vision, godly stewardship, and may Your Church be effectively organized. I pray for unity within the Body of Christ, Father. May we all have willing hearts to serve, and may we overflow with gratitude in our faithful service.

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.

Joy Comes In the Morning

Today is Sunday, the twenty-first of March, 2021. The Fifth Sunday in Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,019

Fourteen days until Resurrection Sunday

It was a great day, yesterday. As expected, C has obtained her Lifetime membership in WW (formerly Weight Watchers)! What this means is that, going forward, she only has to weigh in once a month, and, as long as she is within that two pounds of her goal (above or below), she will not be charged for her membership. It was a very exciting morning.

Somewhere around mid-afternoon, I began to feel what I can only surmise were the effects of that second Covid-19 vaccine shot. I was surprised that I began feeling effects that long afterward, but the way I felt line up with what other people had experienced. It wasn’t terrible, I will say that. But I felt on the verge of sick. Just an over-all sense of not feeling well, almost-but-not-quite-feverish (there was never any fever, I checked it several times, and it was always below 98), not quite aching, and just over-all “bleah.”

So I took some Advil and went to bed much earlier than I normally would on a Saturday night. I feel fine, this morning, after another great night of sleep.

We have our usual Zoom church gathering, this morning, at 10:15. For lunch today, we are planning something different. As part of my ten-year anniversary swag from my employer, I chose a sous vide cooker. I had been wanting to try one of those for a long time, and never purchased one. Well, this one cost me nothing buy work reward points. So we put some fresh chicken breasts in a ziploc bag, yesterday, along with some new seasoning that we bought at WW, yesterday morning (a BBQ flavor seasoning), and we will try cooking that, today, with the sous vide cooker, for lunch.

S may not be happy that we are not getting Applebee’s, but she’ll live. Maybe we will get that for dinner, or one night this week. I will try to remember to share how the chicken tasted.

Oh, I forgot to share my own WW results from yesterday. I lost .6 pound, which put me below where I was three weeks ago. I had one week where I remained the same, and then gained .4 on my birthday (boo!), but lost that back, this past week. So I am at my lowest point, so far, in this journey. But yesterday was all about C and her lifetime accomplishment!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I Am Bending My Knee

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.

(Alexander Carmichael, from Carmina Gadelica)

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
(Psalms 65:12-13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for an almost overwhelming sense of peace, this morning
  • that You were “broken and spilled out” for us, just like Mary’s vial of perfume
  • that, though weeping tarries in the night, joy comes in the morning
  • that Your faithful love never ends
  • that C accomplished her lifetime goal, yesterday

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

FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT

INVITATION

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:17-18 NIV)

I’m spending a moment in quiet meditation, considering the righteousness of God in all His ways.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will exalt you, LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalms 30:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
(John 12:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Father, this morning, I reflect on these passages. I find great comfort in the last four phrases of the reading from Psalms. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

I keep returning to Dallas Willard’s definition of “joy” as “a pervasive sense of well-being.” Webster’s defines “pervasive” as “existing in or spreading through every part of something.” So, if that sense of well-being is “pervasive,” it is existing in or spreading through every part of my life.

And I feel that, this morning. I have experienced the weeping, but it always gives way to joy. There have been many times in my life when I thought that God was angry with me. Right or no, I still felt that way. But I know that His favor is eternal, and that will never change.

Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, displayed her joy, even though, in her act of worship and sacrifice, there were tears. I believe her tears were tears of gratitude and joy. We don’t see the tears in John’s version of this event, but in another gospel account (I don’t believe she is named in that one), she washes Jesus’s feet with her tears and hair. What a beautiful picture!

I’m going down a small “rabbit trail.” I sincerely hope that, when we reach our eternal Home, we can skip back in human time and watch certain events occur. One obvious one would be the moment of the resurrection of Christ, which no human being observed. But this event, when Mary busts open a vial of perfume that was worth a year’s wages (can you imagine pouring a $50,000 bottle of perfume out on someone’s head??) is one that I would definitely like to watch.

And then we all go “SSSSSSSS” when Judas objects. Hahaha!!

It is said that there will be no tears in heaven. But does that include tears of joy? Because I do hope that there will be tears of joy. I choose to believe that it is only tears of sadness and pain that will be eliminated.

And just like that vial of perfume, Jesus, Himself was “broken and spilled out” for us, being of far more value than a little bottle of perfume.

Thank You, Jesus! My words of gratitude are far from adequate to express my gratitude for Your sacrifice for us. I do try to live my life in such a way that it also expresses such gratitude, even though it could never be enough. I want to live my life in a way that expresses my love for You and Your love for me. Help me to display that love toward everyone I encounter in my daily life. Thank You for the example of Mary, and for how much she devoted her life to You, being content to sit at Your feet and listen to Your words. May I share that contentment and hang on every word You speak, and every action You do.

Beautiful Savior,
what can I offer to you for the lavish gift of your loving sacrifice?
I joyfully offer you my life,
my worship,
my treasure,
my time,
and a willing delight to do every kind of good.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 90)

BLESSING

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
(1 John 5:11-12 NIV)

On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again.
(Zephaniah 3:20 NLT)

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT)

Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
(Psalms 36:5 NLT)

No matter what comes our way today, this week, next week, the rest of this year, we can take comfort in knowing that our Father knows it all; He knows what was, what is, and what will be. And He will be there with us through it all.
(Thanks to Kim Taylor Henry in today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021)

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.
“But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.”
(Revelation 2:12-17 NLT)

The Christians at Pergamum had done a great job of persevering through the persecution. However, as John relates Jesus’s words to them, from his exile on Patmos, it is pointed out that there are some in their midst who would have them relax their standards a little bit.

Says Eugene Peterson, “Sometimes it is easier to die for the truth in a crisis than to live the truth through a dull week at work.” Remember, the chapter is called “The Test of Our Truth.” This test is played out through those “ordinary hours when we don’t know we are being examined.”

But be sure that people are watching, especially if they know you claim to follow Christ. “Truth is not just right answers but a right life.” It is far easier to join a crowd of protesters than it is to love your neighbor.

“Christ is our comprehensive, personal truth to be expressed in gestures, actions, and conversations when no one is watching.”

Balaam’s teaching, which we looked at yesterday, attempts to make things more easy and clear than the really are. They add to the Gospel and elaborate on “real truth.” “Gospel truth is always personal, direct, obedient – a way to live in love and courage and adoration.”

The Greek word for “truth” is “aletheia.” I have verified this with my own brief research. The literal meaning of the word is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” So, for example, in Matthew 5, when the woman pressed in to Jesus, through the crowd, and touched his robe and was healed, when it became evident who had done this, she told the “truth.” She became “unhidden.”

Eugene Peterson says, “The truth test bares our being before Christ’s being. We are seen in the concrete, not the abstract – as livers of this life, of my life as it is.” Who and what we are is revealed in the reality of the light of Jesus Christ. As it says in Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”

The test of truth asks not, “What do you think?” Rather, it asks “Who are you?” And this next statement is very interesting. “God is not nearly as interested with what we say about him to others as he is with what we say to him.”

The letter to the Church at Pergamum, just like all the letters, closes with a promise. “To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” (verse 17)

“The hidden manna is the food that God gives to his people, the nourishment that keeps them going.” And the white stone, the new name, is an identification that Christ will give to His people. “He will sustain us, and he will identify us as his own.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, may my life express Your truth in all ways. Help me to not cave to the pressure of popular opinion. But at the same time, truth must always be expressed in a loving manner. So may that always be true, as well. I desire to be seen as one who loves, not as a “hater.” So let truth be my banner, but may it be held up by love, and, as much as possible for a human being, let that love be agape love, that which can only come from You.

May all in Your Church experience resurrection hope and joy, this morning, knowing Your presence, wherever they may be today. Help us all to be better harbingers of Your Gospel of peace, announcing that Your Kingdom is at hand, available for all, right here, right now.

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.

Above All Else, Clothe Yourselves with Love

“As we realize how vast the resources and energy of God are in our everyday lives, we find that we don’t have to carry the weight of the world’s sins on our shoulders, that our moral sweat isn’t going to make the critical difference in history, but that the difference has already been made by Christ’s blood.”

Today is Saturday, the twentieth of March, 2021, in the fourth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,018

Fifteen days until Resurrection Sunday

I am fully vaccinated against Covid-19! And I feel fine, this morning! My arm hurts, but not nearly as badly as last time. I never felt “sick,” yesterday evening, but I did feel, well, “weird” is best way I could describe it. I didn’t feel quite right, but I didn’t feel bad. I was extremely tired, pretty much exhausted. And I had one of the best nights of sleep I have had in a long time. My sleeping heart rate, according to my Fitbit, was 59 avg bpm. That’s phenomenal, and was 97% below my normal resting heart rate, which is an average of 66 bpm.

C and I have both observed that resting heart rate decline in the past year, as we have lost significant weight.

Speaking of that, we are excited to go to WW Workshop this morning, as C should make lifetime! Barring any surprises, she will have completed six weeks of maintenance, staying within two pounds up or down from her goal weight! It will be a glorious morning!

It should be a beautiful day, as well. It is currently 44 degrees and sunny, at 8:32 DST (which means it is really 7:32), and the projected high for the day is 68 degrees.

The only other plan for the day is a trip to the grocery store (it may take more than one store to get everything we want, as only Albertson’s has our new favorite ice cream brand, which is Nick’s, a Swedish brand). We tried putting in a pick up order for Walmart Neighborhood Market, last night, but their web site appears to be broken, and more than half of everything I was ordering showed to be “out of stock.” I find that difficult to believe, unless their shelves are at less than 50% capacity. So we gave up and C will go out, probably this afternoon, after WW and brunch.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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)

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.
(Psalms 65:9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the weekend, to rest and refresh for the upcoming work week
  • that I have completed the Covid-19 vaccination process
  • for Tessie, Trixie, Rocky, and Luna
  • for Your peace, with which You bless Your people
  • for the love displayed within the Holy Trinity

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

LENT – DAY 28

INVITATION

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

I’m taking a moment to meditate on the richness of God’s favor over the earth, the fulness of His “river,” and His provision and kindness to all people, even those who refuse to acknowledge Him.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
(Psalms 29:1-4 NIV)

The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.
(Psalms 29:8-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:8-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, reflecting on them, I am taking refreshment in the Lord’s presence, enjoying His peace over me. I am soaking in the peace with which He blesses His people in Psalm 29:11. He gives strength to His people; He blesses His people with peace.

There are certainly times, and we are in the midst of one of those times, when it does not appear that we are blessed with peace. That is because we have our eyes focused in the wrong places. We are looking at external circumstances, not at internal joy. Joy is a pervasive sense of well-being; that feeling that, in God’s kingdom, everything is much better than we could imagine.

But we can imagine it, we can realize it, if only we look in the right direction. That is how we can have peace in a world that is in turmoil. Because everything that is happening in this world, from pandemics to Asian massage parlor murders, is a “footstool” problem!

Do not misunderstand me. These things are horrific, and we definitely need to be praying for such things, and taking action where possible and necessary. But these things are not definitive of our life in Christ, nor can they affect our life in Christ whatsoever!

Or they shouldn’t. Sadly, we do allow them to.

Wake up, sleeper! Rise from the dead! Christ will shine on you!

I praise You, Father, for the peace that passes all understanding! I thank You that You give us peace in the midst of the most terrible circumstances. When my family sat in a cold house for thirty-plus hours, with no electricity, we did not despair. Our hope never waned, because You are our peace! We did complain a time or two, I will confess. But we also were aware that that complaining did no good. What did do good was remembering that You are in control, and that Your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is nothing that a human can do to thwart Your perfect will for us.

I do pray for the circumstances in this world, Lord. I pray, in that light, for Jesus to return and make all things right. We are weary of this world, I will confess. We are tired of seeing things like Asian massage parlor murders and pandemics (even though most of us have only seen this one pandemic). We observe the physical world groaning in agony, awaiting full redemption. That is why we pray, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!” Thank You for Your peace, Father, and thank You that this cannot be taken away from us. Unless, of course, we permit it by focusing our eyes on the wrong things. Help us to keep our eyes on things above, not on things of the earth. Let not the stuff of earth compete for our allegiance, which we owe only and solely to You!

Giving God and source of every good thing,
forgive me for turning away from you to seek out good in what I think is right or in the latest fads all around me.
Turn me again in faith to you and your shining presence.
Let me live as a child of light,
doing everything good that fits with your law.
In Christ's name,
amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 91)

BLESSING

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

“But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.”
(Revelation 2:14 NLT)

In spite of their resistance in the face of persecution, Christ still had this against the Christians in Pergamum.

For anyone who has read the story of Balaam, you know that there are some quite amusing moments in it. Just as there are in other stories in the Bible. We learn from this laughter, though, as it does more than entertain us. It is good to laugh. “Solemnity is not a mark of religious depth,” says Peterson. “It is not true, as many people seem to assume, that the more serious we get about God, the more serious we get.” In fact, sometimes the opposite occurs.

As we mature in Christ, we get more of a sense of grace. “As we realize how vast the resources and energy of God are in our everyday lives, we find that we don’t have to carry the weight of the world’s sins on our shoulders, that our moral sweat isn’t going to make the critical difference in history, but that the difference has already been made by Christ’s blood.”

What an incredible sentence! I think I need to read that again!

“As we realize how vast the resources and energy of God are in our everyday lives, we find that we don’t have to carry the weight of the world’s sins on our shoulders, that our moral sweat isn’t going to make the critical difference in history, but that the difference has already been made by Christ’s blood.”

Eugene Peterson, This Hallelujah Banquet

I see a lot of well-meaning Christians on social media who must be the most miserable people on the planet! They are always angry about something! Viciously angry, in fact, spewing the most hateful rhetoric toward those with whom they are angry, and displaying no evidence of the love of Christ, whatsoever. How can these people be happy at all? It makes me sad, because I agree with Peterson’s statement, above, even though I had never considered it in the way that he has so aptly written it.

And so we laugh at some of the Bible stories, that I fully believe are intended for exactly that purpose. We laugh at the story of Balaam, when his donkey lays down and refuses to move, or crushes Balaam’s leg against a stone wall, or when the donkey finally speaks to him.

The complete story can be found in Numbers 22-24.

But we learn later, that Balaam was responsible for the big sex party that Israel had with the local Moabite women, immediately afterward. In this way, though he could not prophesy against them, he still found a way to benefit Balak, due to his greed.

Why does John bring this up, now? Because there is danger of the same thing happening with the church at Pergamum. “A hostile society had tried everything to get the Christians to fold, without avail. They were the bravest, most courageous, most steadfast people the world had ever seen. They were persecuted, but they didn’t budge an inch.” So lies began to creep in. “Some nice people . . . were suggesting that it is possible to be just a little too strict with ourselves. After all, what counts is what we believe and our courage in standing up for the right – saying the truth. But in everyday life, we have to get along in the world that we find ourselves in, and we can’t be making ourselves obnoxious all the time.”

But we cannot separate the things we say from the way we live. This is like living one way on Sunday at worship and living totally opposite the rest of the week, while at work. “Truth is lived truth. Truth is not simply what we say but what we live.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Just a quick word of what might be considered trivia. I learned something today. The first time the word “love” is found in Scripture is in Genesis 22:2. It occurs at the beginning of the story when God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him.

The correlation, is made, of course, between the love Abraham had for Isaac, and the love the Father has for the Son. There are other similarities between the stories, but I will leave you to discover those for yourself.

Father, I thank You that the weight of the sins of the world is not supposed to be on our shoulders. After all, why would we want to carry something that Jesus already carried?? Thank You for His sacrifice on the cross. And I thank You for the love that is shared between You and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The great, unspeakable, eternal, infinite love that is displayed in the Holy Trinity is far beyond anything that my feeble mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, I ask for that same love to be displayed in my own life. This is a difficult challenge, as I am but human, and have as many negative human characteristics as positive. I just pray for that one characteristic, that of love, to overshadow everything else. All glory to You, Lord!

I pray, Lord, for Your Church to flourish all over the earth; may we feel Your presence during our times of worship, whenever and however, they may occur. May our worship glorify You, even when it is limited to Zoom gatherings. May Your people be united and blessed in You, forsaking all others, who are not worthy of our worship or adoration. I pray for a special blessing on those in Your Church communities who are single people. There are some who do not feel called to this life; may You provide a life partner/spouse for them, Father, that they may be complete. For those who are called to this lifestyle, give them strength against temptation, for it will surely come.

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!

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:13-14 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

As You Have Received, Give

Today is Sunday, the fourteenth of March, 2021, the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,012

21 days until Resurrection Sunday

Yesterday was a strange day. I will start off by saying, though, that it was a great day, over all. I spent the day doing pretty much whatever I wanted to do, which was the case, also, on Thursday and Friday. But it had some one-off weirdness to it.

For some reason, I was in a funk at the beginning of the day. There may have been a trigger for it, but, at the moment, I can’t remember any. I have not felt like this since before I began seeing a psychologist for therapy.

We headed up to the WW Studio for our workshop. We don’t really like the person who is doing the checking in, right now. She is hard of hearing (not her fault, I know), and she won’t tell you your results. We have to pointedly ask her how we did, every time. Yesterday, I gained .4 of a pound, which I was not expecting, as my weight at home had reflected about that much of a loss. And then, it became apparent that our regular coach was not there, which we were not expecting. So, for the first time since we started this journey, we did not stay for the workshop.

Then we had a strange experience at Sonic. The carhop brought out our drink carrier, with our three drinks. Fortunately, for reasons I can’t quite recall, we didn’t immediately back out and leave, because she showed back up at our window, asking if we were missing a drink. She had the Diet Dr. Pepper with peach (which is my drink). Apparently, the corresponding drink in our carrier was a regular Dr. Pepper. But at least that got fixed.

After we got home, I started looking at Facebook and saw all the birthday wishes rolling in. That helped my mood quite a bit. It’s not so much the attention, but just knowing that people care enough to take a few seconds out of their day to type a brief message, is a great mood lifter.

It was too early to order lunch, so C took my car to get the oil changed. That did not happen as planned, because there is a part on the underside of my car that is damaged, somehow, so I’m going to have to take it to the dealership next weekend. To make it worse, the technician at the oil change place said that the part was put on backwards! Well, that was the first time we had tried an independent oil change place. The only other people who have touched that car to service it are the folks at Huggins Honda. So, there will be a conversation about that.

We finally decided to go ahead with Hoffbrau for lunch. So I ordered our food and C went to pick it up. She got back, and we were going through the order, and there was no gravy for my chicken fried steak. Yes, I ordered chicken fried steak. It was my birthday, and I wanted comfort food. I did track it, by the way, as best I could. I figured that I used 49 Smart Points for lunch, yesterday! My whole day is 29 points.

So C called Hoffbrau to let them know they had left out our gravy. They remade both of our meals so that they wouldn’t be cold when she got home with the gravy! She did have to take the original ones back to the restaurant, so we didn’t get two meals each. I may have had two cups of chili, though. 🙂

After lunch (and I will say that by that time, in spite of the problem with the car and the error by the restaurant, I was feeling pretty great), C and S brought out the rest of my presents. I say “rest” because they had given me one each day, beginning on Thursday.

Thursday’s was a t-shirt that said something like “Missing: 100+ pounds. Do not return if found.” Friday’s was actually a package that came via Amazon from R and J. It was a t-shirt with the Fallout Boy emblem on it, from Fallout 4, my very favorite Playstation game ever, along with a book by Eugene Peterson that was on my Amazon wish list. Oh, and C and S gave me a t-shirt that said something about my people skills being okay, I just have a low tolerance for idiots. I like it, but I’m not sure where I can wear it. I probably should not wear it to work?

Yesterday, there were more t-shirts. One said “These are difficult times” and had music time signatures of 13/8 and 6/4. 6/4 is unusual, but not all that difficult. 13/8, on the other hand. Wow. Another said something about “downsizing in progress,” and the other, which I think is my favorite, looks like this:

Then, there were a couple of new Fitbit bands that I had asked for, as well as a nifty book weight that I found on Amazon. It is a rubbery thing with some weight on either end, and it will hold a book open, flat on a desk, while I’m typing on the computer.

Finally, my most favoritest present of all. A rather silly thing, but I love it.

Yea, verily, C hath arranged for us to be a Lord and Lady of Ireland!

The rest of the day was spent playing games and trying (albeit not always successfully) not to fall asleep after the amazing, carb-heavy lunch I had. It was, as it turns out, a magnificent day, in spite of its weirdness.

This morning, we have our church Zoom gathering at 10:15. It’s my turn to lead, and we’ll be starting off with Psalm 14, as we continue reading through Psalms. After that, we will, as usual, order lunch from Applebee’s. Back to the usual, healthier fare, today, though. Only one day of indulging, for this birthday. Plus I got an email coupon for $5 off an order of $25 or more.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

FRIEND OF SILENCE, by Daryl Madden

~based upon a quote by Mother Teresa~

We need to find God
And He cannot be found
In our restlessness
And noise that surrounds

He’s a friend of silence
In nature now see
How all grows in silence
The flowers and trees

See now the stars
The moon and the sun
Moving in silence
Dwelling in One

The more we receive
In our silent prayer
In our active life
The more we can share

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.
(Psalms 18:2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For a wonderful day, yesterday
  • For the love of family and friends
  • For Jesus, who is enough for me
  • For the many blessings You have lavished on me and my family
  • For making us generous, as we freely give that which we have received from You

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

Fourth Sunday in Lent

INVITATION

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

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
(Psalms 30:1-2 NIV)

To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.
(Psalms 30:8-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
(Numbers 21:4-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, taking in these readings, what does He say to me? What does His Spirit say?

The passage from Psalms focuses on transformation. The Lord healed David from whatever he needed healing from. This happened to me, yesterday, as I reflect back on it. I started out the day in “the depths,” but, at some point, I prayed, in my spirit, ever so briefly, “Lord, help me.” And He did. He turned my “wailing into dancing,” and filled me with joy. I may not have literally danced. But there was most definitely more lightness in my steps as the day progressed.

The question “what is gained?” is significant. What is gained if I spend the day moping around, in a bad mood? God is not glorified by my sulking. God is glorified by my joy! Therefore, when I cry out to Him for help, He helps me, because His desire is that I be joyful.

We will probably read Psalm 16, this morning. The last verse of that chapter has become quite important to me over the past year or so.

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)

There is fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord. I am always in His presence. Therefore, I should always be filled with joy, the pervasive sense of well-being.

The passage from Numbers demonstrates the dangers of complaining. The people of Israel complained bitterly against God and against Moses, and were stricken with snakes. Time and time again, we see illustrated in the Old Testament, God lets us know how He feels about complaining.

That has been a focus of mine during this Lent season. I have attempted, multiple times in my life, to “give up” complaining. It’s not that easy to do, especially when you live in a culture that embraces whining and complaining as a national pastime. My wife says I’m doing better. Bless her.

I am blessed beyond all dreams. Sure, I’m not a rock star or a professional musician or baseball player. None of those adolescent dreams came true. But I am blessed with a life that many, many people can only dream of. Not only do I have a nice home and a lot of stuff, a decent job, a beautiful wife and family, but I have Jesus. And, in truth, Jesus is all I need.

Jesus is enough for me.

When we complain, we indicate that Jesus isn’t enough.

Father, I thank You for the many, many blessings that You have lavished on me in my lifetime. Sure there have been, and will be, struggles along the way, as You have never promised to keep “bad things” from happening to us. But the blessings outweigh them all. Your grace outweighs everything. And Jesus is enough. Keep helping me downsize the complaining in my life. Downsize it to the point that it no longer exists, and that my life is filled with the joy that comes in Your everlasting presence. For my “eternal life” has already begun. It began over fifty years ago. And I praise You for delivering me from the depths, yesterday.

Thank you,
graceful God,
for your deliverance of my life,
for the goodness of the rescue you have provided through Christ,
lifted high on the cross like the snake in the wilderness.
I live under your shining favor,
your beautiful,
crazy grace.
Thank you,
thank you, thank you.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 86)

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.

BLESSING

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

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
(Psalms 27:13 NIV)

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
(Jeremiah 32:40-41 NIV)

More reasons for not complaining.

“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.”
(Revelation 2:13 NLT)

While the suffering that the church in Smyrna would experience was said to be temporary, Jesus tells the church in Pergamum that they have to remain in their state of danger. According to Eugene Peterson, the normal Greek word that is used when speaking Christians dwelling in the world is paroikein, which describes a temporary residence.

However, in Revelation 2:13, when Jesus talks about where the church in Pergamum lives, the word is katoikein, which means “to house permanently.” I’m not just taking Peterson’s word for this, I looked it up, and he is, as expected, correct.

Jesus is telling these folks, “You are living in a city where the influence and the power of Satan are rampant – and you have to go on living there.”

As Christians, we are not free to run away from dangerous or difficult situations. Oh, how many times have I done this? Not danger. I’ve rarely, if ever, been in situations that I would consider dangerous. But I have most definitely been in difficult and uncomfortable situations. I confess that I ran away too often. Says Peterson, “The Christian aim is not escape from a situation, but conquest of a situation.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

It is a well-known fact that there are two seas in the land of Israel. First is the Sea of Galilee, fed by the Jordan River, from the north, and underground springs. On the southern end, it flows out, again becoming the Jordan River.

The Jordan continues to flow downward until it becomes what is known as the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is so called because the water that flows into it never flows out. It stays there and becomes stagnant, able to support no life.

There is a metaphor here, for life. And I believe that, over time, my family and I have learned this metaphor well. The life that receives and then turns around and gives of what it receives, stays alive, continues to live, like the Sea of Galilee. The life that only receives (or takes) and never gives, becomes stagnant and dead, like the Dead Sea.

“You see, it’s not what you have in this life, how much or how little, that, in the end, will matter. It’s what you do with what you have. If you only take, the waters become dead and your life becomes a sea of death. But if you give, then the waters become alive and your life becomes . . . the Galilee.”

The Mission: Live this day after the pattern of the Sea of Galilee, always receiving and always giving. Live to be a blessing in the flowing of His love.”

Side note: There are, in this world, people who are too proud to receive. But it must be noted that, if you do not receive, neither can you give.

Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
(Proverbs 11:24 NLT)

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!
(Matthew 10:8 NLT)

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
(Luke 6:38 NLT)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
(2 Corinthians 9:6-11 NLT)

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Father, once again, it comes back around to the blessings. We have received so many blessings, during our life, and I praise You that You have taught us well to be generous and give away what we receive, that we might produce life! I want to be a part of Your Gospel Kingdom as it produces and continues to give life to others. Help me be even more generous, giving what I have received from You, rather than holding on with tight fists.

I also pray that You make me more courageous and less apt to run away from difficult or uncomfortable situations. Help me to always stand and struggle, when necessary, or to simply dwell in Your presence and receive strength from whatever trial is around me at the time. All glory to You, Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit!

Lord, I pray, this morning, as we continue through this Lent season, for hope and joy that springs from the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, and the promise of resurrection for Your people. May we embrace the Gospel and share it constantly and consistently with our lives and our words.

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!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.