One People, One Voice

Today is Monday, the 16th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,685

I made it through the weekend! Saturday’s choir retreat was fun, and educational. Our trip to Mineral Wells was productive and fruitful. And yesterday was pretty amazing. The choir did well (at least I think we did . . . I haven’t listened to the recording, yet), the worship service was good, and I did fine at the orchestra rehearsal afterward. I was introduced as a new member in both morning services, and in the orchestra rehearsal. Then, last night, I went back for the small group that is discussing C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. What an invigorating discussion! It’s a great group of people.

Today should be a normal Monday. Grocery shopping, laundry, a little housecleaning. It is MLK Day, today, so a lot of businesses are closed, including banks and the Post Office. C had to go to work, though. Our library is also closed today, but I never work on Mondays, so it’s just another day for me.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

If your law had not been my delight,
 I would have perished in my misery.
(Psalms 119:92 NRSV)

As I launch into morning prayers, my spirit is drawn to a line that we repeat in the Lutheran worship service: Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. May I delight myself in His Word, this morning.

Dear Father in heaven, we come before you and thank you with all our hearts. You know all that we are thankful for. Continue to sustain us, we pray, and give us strength for the paths on which you lead us. Even when we must suffer and fight long, hard battles, we know that everything has its right purpose and will still lead us to your goal. For all this we praise and thank you. Protect us in mind, heart, and spirit. Keep us courageous, and lift us above all discouragement through your Spirit, who will renew our lives forevermore. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

I will extol you, my God and King, 
and bless your name forever and ever. 
Every day I will bless you, 
and praise your name forever and ever.
(Psalms 145:1-2 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that the Lord has caused me to delight in His Word
  • for strength for the path on which God is leading me
  • for the ability to sing to the Lord and bless His name
  • for the hope of that day when all peoples will sing the praises and glory of God, together in one tongue
  • for the act of worship, the response of the creature to the Creator

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day. 
Declare his glory among the nations, 
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
(Psalms 96:2-3 NRSV)
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; 
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 NRSV)

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!

We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalms 21:13 NRSV)

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; 
let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 
let the field exult, and everything in it. 
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD; 
for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world with righteousness, 
and the peoples with his truth.
(Psalms 96:11-13 NRSV)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 
And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." 
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 
Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
(Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV)
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; 
make melody to our God on the lyre. 
He covers the heavens with clouds, 
prepares rain for the earth,
 makes grass grow on the hills. 
He gives to the animals their food, 
and to the young ravens when they cry. 
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
 nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; 
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, 
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
(Psalms 147:7-11 NRSV)

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.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - Concluding Prayers of the Church)

You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the LORD.” You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the LORD.
(Exodus 28:36-38 NRSV)


At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.
(Zephaniah 3:9 NRSV)

May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. 
May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.
(Psalms 72:17 NRSV)

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 NRSV)

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV)


The moment I called out, you stepped in; 
you made my life large with strength.
(Psalms 138:3 MSG)

There is a passage (or two) in Revelation that always gives me chill bumps. It excites me, it creates in me a deep longing for Home, and for that day when the Kingdom of God becomes tangible Reality.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NRSV)

This “worship service,” which may last for ten thousand years, for all we know, is magnificent in its scope. When I read that verse from Zephaniah 3, this morning, it made me think of this passage in Revelation. In Zephaniah, the Lord promises to create a universal language, a “pure speech,” that all people may call on the Lord together. I believe that is what we are seeing in Revelation 7. The multitude from every nation, from every tribe and people and language, is standing before the throne, singing praise in one voice, in one language.

We have all been made one “people,” already, in Christ, but are still splintered into various groups. On that day, we will finally all be one, in true unity.

No doubt, we will all be surprised in heaven. Now, I’m speaking, here, in a kind of “fantasy,” because we truly don’t know what, exactly, this is going to look like or be like. We have hints, but there are details that we don’t know. So bear with me. I have to think that every person is going to be surprised to find someone in heaven that they didn’t expect to be there. I’m sure there will be some who are surprised to find me there.

And, God forbid, there will likely be someone there you didn’t want to see there. Tell the truth. Everyone has at least one person like that in their lives, right?

Right now, one of the things that excites me the most about that day when “we all get to heaven,” is that there will be no politics. There will no “conservatives” or “liberals,” just as there will be no male or female or Jew or Greek, as Paul tells us in one of his epistles. I know some people who believe that there will be no Democrats in heaven. Boy, are they going to be surprised.

But, in a sense (not the one they think), they are right. Because when we leave this earth, when our spirits are resurrected (if we are already dead) and united with a new body, all of those labels will be left behind. All of our countries will be left behind. All of our foolish, petty allegiances that we hold so dear on this earth, will be left behind. There will be no United States or Canada or Ukraine or Russia.

There will only be the most beautiful mosaic of saints, singing together in one voice, in one language, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

As I used to hear some folks say, if that don’t light your fire, your wood’s wet.


Father, I am so very grateful for this image of heavenly worship. I long to be there. I can’t wait to be there, to know this new language, this new tongue, and to sing this new song with all the saints and angels and elders, multitudes upon multitudes, singing the praises of Jesus Christ for ten thousand years. Or however long it takes. We will have all eternity. My soul magnifies the Lord! My spirit cries out for joy!

And this vision makes me cry out, all the more,

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

But in the meantime, I pray that we would start practicing. Not just practicing the worship; many of us do this every Sunday morning. But practicing the unity, getting used to the idea of singing together with multitudes of people from every nation and tribe and tongue, so that it won’t be as big a shock when we land there. Teach us, Father! Teach us Your ways, that we may walk in Your truth; give us undivided hearts that we might revere Your holy name! Let us give thanks to You with our whole hearts, today and every day.

All glory and honor to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit!


There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:28-29 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends!

The Thoughts and Intentions of the Heart

Today is Tuesday, the fourth of October, 2022, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in the twenty-seventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be within your soul today

Day 23,581

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Father in heaven, we people on earth are poor and needy. We are deaf and dumb, but you rouse us every day and call to us, "Ephphatha." We thank you for this, in gladness for all you do for our sake. Help us to become united in expectation for the great day when our Lord Jesus Christ will come, when before all people he will be proved your Son, the Savior in whom you, the Almighty, come to meet us. Through him you say again, "Let there be light! Let there be life! Let life break free from the darkness of death so that Jesus may come as the Savior of all, the Savior even of those who are still in deepest darkness." Praise to your name, O Father in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
(Mark 7:34-35 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the “living and active” Word of God, and the many resources that I have to help keep me connected
  2. for that word, “Ephphatha,” that Jesus spoke, and how God continues to open my heart, my ears, and my mouth
  3. for the visions of worship around the throne in John’s Revelation
  4. for His drawing/leading toward humility
  5. for the confidence that God hears me when I pray
  6. for the patience and long-suffering of God, who, in steadfast love, understands that we are simply dust

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)


Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. 
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, 
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, 
who was and is and is to come!" 
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, 
to receive glory and honor and power, 
for you created all things, 
and by your will they existed and were created."
(Revelation 4:4-11 ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God; 
worship at his footstool! 
Holy is he! 

Exalt the LORD our God, 
and worship at his holy mountain; 
for the LORD our God is holy! 
(Psalms 99:5, 9 ESV)

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
(Psalms 25:9 ESV)

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:29-30 ESV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
(James 4:10 ESV)


"Worship, then, is an avenue which leads the creature out from his inveterate self-occupation to a knowledge of God, and ultimately to that union with God which is the beatitude of the soul;" (and here is the catch) "though we are never to enter on it for this, or any other reason which is tainted by self-regard." 
(Evelyn Underhill, quoted in Spiritual Classics by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
(Micah 7:7 ESV)


Let’s start way up at the top, with that verse from Hebrews. This has long been a memory verse of mine, probably as far back as my college days. But I noticed something today, and this, in itself, is proof of the first phrase that “the word of God is living and active.” Check the last phrase of the verse. ” . . . and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Word of God can discern my thoughts and intentions.

Am I to believe that a book can do this? Words on a page? As I contemplate this, I don’t think that it is so much the physical book, the ink on dead tree shavings, but rather the spirit behind those words. And, I suppose, we can even go so far as to include Jesus in this, as He is the “Word made flesh.” The Greek word logos is used in all of those instances, whether referring to Scripture or Jesus Christ.

It takes no great imagination to believe that Jesus can discern my thoughts and intentions. But it is a much heavier thought to consider that God’s Word, i.e. the Bible, can do so.

Definitely something to ponder.


Next I want to focus on that quote from Evelyn Underhill. Worship, true worship, leads us away from “self-occupation.” This ties in with Scriptures immediately preceding that quote, that deal with humility. We are told to do nothing from selfish ambition, and to consider others as more significant than ourselves. The first Other which we should consider, of course, is our Father in heaven. If we cannot even succeed in thinking that He is more significant than ourselves, we have a long row to hoe.

And this is pretty much what humility is all about. If we come to “worship” solely for the idea of what we can get from God, then we are not worshiping. This also ties in with my critique of modern worship music, which I have mentioned multiple times in this format.

But Ms. Underhill even brings a tricky catch into the equation. If we go to worship for the reason of getting away from our self-occupation, we are still entrenched in self-occupation. Do we understand this? If we go to worship for any other reason than God, we are missing the point.

And this is much harder than it sounds. I believe that is why God is patient with us. He understands our frame, our weaknesses.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

What a comforting verse this is! Yes. I am dust. I am cynical; I am selfish; I do come to worship with self-occupations, desiring to “get something out of it.” But at the same time I want to get away from these characteristics, and become fully embraced in the Holy Spirit, and the Son, and the Father, and for my heart’s desires to be His desires!

I want to go to worship just to worship Him, to contemplate His greatness, His majesty, His glory, and to walk away knowing nothing other than Him.

And, in doing that, when I emerge, I am more concerned with others than I am myself, and more inclined to do nothing out of selfish ambition.


Father, You have given me much food for thought, meditation, and contemplation, today. If I understand that Your Word can discern my thoughts and intentions, I will read it differently. And I do want to read it with that thought in mind, because I want my thoughts, and, above all, intentions to be pure. I don’t want to have mixed messages coming from my soul. I desire for my heart to be completely united, that I might fear Your name, that I might learn Your ways and walk in Your truth.

I also pray that You will help me to approach worship with more of an attitude of simply being in Your presence and engaging with You, with no ulterior motive (thoughts and intentions?) of what I can get out of it. This is hard. But You know this about us, and You are patient with us. I am grateful for this, Father. If You were not patient with us, in steadfast love, we would have long been destroyed.

Father, I do believe that You raised Jesus from the dead. Because of that, if I do believe that, why do I struggle with believing that You would do something less powerful (if that even makes sense) like answering my little prayers? Help me, Father! I do believe! Help my unbelief! Seriously, if we believe in the resurrection of Christ, we should be praying in much greater expectation, waiting on You, looking to You, confident that You hear us, as that verse in Micah says.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
(Micah 7:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

True Worship

Today is Tuesday, the seventh of June, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,462

I haven’t written personal stuff, recently. Nothing is wrong, or anything. A couple days, I felt that the spiritual portion of the blog was, perhaps, a bit too long, and didn’t want to add to it with trivial stuff. I have actually considered moving this portion of the daily blog over to my other blog. The jury is still out on that.

Speaking of jury, I got a jury duty summons in the mail, yesterday. Fortunately, it is not for the Monday of my colonoscopy exam, which is two weeks from yesterday, June 20 (unfortunately, that is the day after Father’s Day, so I will have to spend Father’s Day evening drinking the prep). The summons is for the following Monday, June 27. Also fortunately, that happens to be my “easy” week at the library (that means that I’m not working that Wednesday or Saturday), so if I wind up having to serve on a jury, and it lasts more than one day, I won’t miss very much work.

The Texas Rangers have won some and lost a few, during the past few days, and remain three under .500, at 25-28. They are also still in third place in the AL West, even though the Angels have lost twelve in a row! Hah! Take that, Joe Maddon! They are actually only a half game behind the Angels, at this point. The Rangers got rained out in Cleveland, yesterday, so a double-header is scheduled with the Guardians, today, beginning at 2:10 CDT, this afternoon.

The Red Sox have managed to get above .500, and are now 28-27, but are still in fourth place in the AL East. They are 3.5 behind Tampa. They are currently in a series with the Angels, so it helps both them and the Rangers if they win.

The Evil Empire continues to be the best team in MLB, with a 39-15 record. Their cross-town rivals are only 2.5 behind them. The KC Royals (17-36) are holding on to the worst MLB record. I’m sure the Reds are enjoying that. The Yankees also have the current best win streak, at six games (The Red Sox are at five). As referenced previously, the LA Angels’ twelve game losing streak is the longest current losing streak. We hope it continues to grow. Another AL West team, the Athletics, has the second longest losing streak, at six games. Now if Houston would follow suit . . . The Dodgers still have the best run differential, at +113. The Yankees are trying to catch them, though, at +102. The Royals, on the other end, have been outscored by 89 runs. The Rangers are at +9, and the Red Sox are at, wait, what?? +39! Wow.

In PWBA news, Breanna Clemmer not only made history in last week’s Twin Cities Open, she also earned her first PWBA title, as she defeated Bryanna Cote (the battle of the BC’s?) in the title match of the tournament. History was made, as she had the highest three game series ever by bowling consecutive 300 games, followed by a 289, and threw, I believe 29 strikes in a row!

The ladies are currently in qualifying round 1 of the Long Island Open, one of three rapid-fire tourneys that are happening this week, at Maple Lanes Rockville Centre, NY. After two games, Liz Johnson, veteran bowler, is in the lead, followed by Jen Higgins (good to see her back up there). Breanna Clemmer is in eighth, and Verity Crawley is tied for tenth. There are a total of 81 bowlers in this round. Round 2 will begin at 2:30 EDT, after which they will cut to the top 12 for tomorrow’s two match play rounds. The stepladder finals will be tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EDT, on bowltv.com. I won’t get to see all of that, as I don’t get off work until 6:15 tomorrow, CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our refuge forever, bless us who have gathered in your presence and who turn to you in all distress, not only in our personal need but also in the distress of the nations and peoples of the whole world. Grant that we may be your children, with a simple faith that gives us strength to go on working even when life is bitterly hard. We thank you for giving us so much grace, for helping us and never forsaking us, so that again and again we can find joy and can glorify and praise you, our Father. May your name be praised from heaven above and among us here below. May your name be praised by all people throughout the world, and may everyone on earth acknowledge you and receive all that they need from you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were born, 
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, 
from beginning to end, 
you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm still alive and breathing; a new day with new opportunities
2. for the confidence that I have that God is working His plan and that all will be well, in the end
3. for the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26)
4. that the primary way we show our love for God is by loving others
5. that true worship makes both God and our neighbors more real to us

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
(Romans 12:3 NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us.
 May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere. 
May the nations praise you, O God. 
Yes, may all the nations praise you. 
Let the whole world sing for joy, 
because you govern the nations with justice 
and guide the people of the whole world. 
May the nations praise you, O God.
 Yes, may all the nations praise you.
 Then the earth will yield its harvests, 
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “groanings.”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
(Romans 8:26 NLT)

There have been plenty of times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to pray. It still happens, sometimes, in regard to my own life, and sometimes, in regard to prayer requests that I receive. I have to stop and remember that, in those times, the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

I also have this feeling that there are times when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I did think I knew what to pray.

Me: Utters prayer about any certain topic
Holy Spirit: Um . . . Father, that's not really what he means . . . this is what he really wants to pray

It is also worth noting the word “weakness” in that verse. The Holy Spirit is helping us in our weakness. I can’t help but wonder, if we feel that we have no weakness, will the Holy Spirit then condescend to intercede for us?

Father: Did he really mean to pray that??
Spirit: Beats me . . . he doesn't need my help, he's got it all figured out

I confess that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I type those dialogues. And of course, I mean no disrespect. It is merely a means of trying to illustrate what I believe this verse is telling us.

There is great comfort in embracing this truth, in knowing and believing that, when I don’t quite know how to pray, He is there for me, helping me. And when I pray something that isn’t quite right, He is also there for me.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
(Hebrews 6:10-12 NLT)

This passage is interesting to me. The emphasis is (surprise!!) on loving others! The writer of Hebrews stresses that this is how we show our love for God, by “caring for other believers,” and then says that their desire is that the recipients of this letter will “keep on loving others as long as life lasts.” By doing this, they will keep themselves from becoming “spiritually dull and indifferent.”

How do we show our love for God? By loving and caring for others. Not by fighting for “causes.” Not by fighting for anything.

*mic drop*

This was one of my favorite songs as a “youth.”
"The person who wants to arrive at interiority and spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus.
"Nobody's comfortable in public unless he's spent a good deal of time in the quiet of his home. Nobody speaks with assurance who hasn't learned to hold his tongue. Nobody's a success as a general who hasn't already survived as a soldier. Nobody respects decrees who hasn't already obeyed them."
(Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
"When we worship God, we discover how his blessings shape our lives. We also discover how to bless and be blessed by our neighbors' lives.
"In worship, God becomes more real to us. But the mystery is this: so do our neighbors."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Here’s the thing: if we aren’t loving our neighbors, we haven’t really worshiped God.

Father, Your Word tells us quite plainly that “pure and genuine religion” is caring for others (specifically, in that case, orphans and widows). Jesus told us, also quite plainly, that in caring for others, we care for Him, and in refusing to care for others, we refuse to care for Him.

Why is this so hard for us to embrace?? I struggle with it, sometimes, myself, but when I look around and see the hatred coming from peoples’ hearts and mouths, it breaks my heart. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Dear Father, this ought not be so! Have mercy on us, Lord. Please reach our hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of peace and love, not fighting and hatred.

I thank You that You have given us this “law,” Father, that the way we are to show our love for You is by loving others. I thank You for molding my heart to believe this, so many years ago. I confess that I still struggle with it, but that struggle remains largely interior, these days, so at least there’s that. I rarely type or say some of the thoughts that come through my mind, and try to dismiss them as soon as they pop into my brain, as I do not wish to entertain any thoughts of “unlove” toward anyone.

Help us to truly worship You, that You might become more real to us, and that our neighbors would also become more real to us, and that we might bless them and be blessed by them, as well. As we seek to worship, I also pray that we might find time and way to spend more time alone with Christ in our lives. We, as a society, are too busy for our own good. Help us to slow down, to stop and meditate, to consider You and Your Word, and its effect on our lives.

Help me, Father, to never pretend, but to truly and really love others. I pray that I would take delight in honoring my brothers and sisters. Help me to keep praying, to pray more often and more fervently. I pray for more compassion and willingness to help others. I also pray that I would never be conceited, thinking that I “know it all.” Above all, help me to live at peace with everyone.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Pretender

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of God be with you today!

Day 23,421

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Ordinary Day Becomes,” by Daryl Madden

An ordinary morning
As light comes to this day
A breath of fresh air
Clouds drift on their way

Flowers come to blossom
Branches of trees sway
Colors here awaken
Of vision to portray

Between the birdsong calling
Of silence to convey
Listen here dear soul
What Spirit has to say

And through our connection
Of binding here to pray
This journey now becomes
An extraordinary way

Father, I pray that this “ordinary morning” helps my journey to become an “extraordinary way.” Help me to listen to what the Spirit has to say to me, today.

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.

Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” 
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: 
“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” 
And the four living beings said,
 “Amen!” 
And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
(Revelation 5:11-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this ordinary morning, and hopes that it will become extraordinary
2. for the vision of worship in Revelation 5
3. for the belief that God has placed in my heart; may I embrace it fully
4. for the command to really love others, and to not just pretend (Romans 12:9)
5. for the ability to embrace change in my life
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. 

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “believe.” The opening quote is from positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

I almost stopped typing in the middle of that and erased it. Because why? Because, here’s the thing: Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded or called upon to believe in ourselves. That is simply not a biblical concept.

There are, however, plenty of Scriptures to tell us that we are loved by God. And we are called upon and commanded to believe in Him. So, in obeying the command to believe in God, we must believe that we are beloved of God. The danger is that somehow we have to do that without becoming prideful.

So, yes. Believe. But not in yourself; not in your own ability. Believe in God. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He who watches over you never slumbers or sleeps. Believe that He watches over your life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am constantly praying the prayer that that father prayed in the New Testament. You know the one. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Yes, that one. Help me to believe. Help me to believe in Your constant, never-fading love for me. Help me to believe in Your mercy and grace and forgiveness, because every time I sin, that belief wavers. How could you possibly still be forgiving me for that same sin?? But You do, because You already have, and that is a mystery that I still cannot fully fathom.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

I don’t believe I’ve ever read that version of that verse before. The ESV is more succinct, saying, “Let love be genuine.” But I like the idea presented in the NLT. It takes more words, but I think it says it better. The KJV uses the word “dissimulation.” I’m 64 years old, and I’m pretty sure I have never heard that word before. I guess I have read it, because I grew up with the King James Version. But I sure don’t remember it, and I’ve never heard it in conversation.

The Greek word could also be translated “hypocrisy.” The dictionary says it means “pretense.” So, it looks like the NLT nails it. And, oddly enough, the human-added subheading at the beginning of that paragraph says, “Marks of the True Christian.

Indeed . . .

One way to love someone is to care for them or care about them. And the way we care about or for others is to get to know them. What makes them click? What “floats their boat?” What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they need?

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help me. I’ve not done a good job at this. I’ve certainly pretended to love some people. But have I truly loved them in my heart? Have I loved them with my actions? I’ve heard the cliché, “Love’s not a feeling; it’s a verb.” But how do I do that? Please show me how to love, really love, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And then show me how to love my co-workers. Maybe first, please show me how to best love my family. I wear the shirt, “Love one another.” But I need to do more than wear a shirt.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; 
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; 
his name is the LORD; 
exult before him! 
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
 is God in his holy habitation.
(Psalms 68:4-5 ESV)

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15 NLT)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
(James 1:27 NLT)

There are times when living in both of the above thoughts will require change. In order to fully believe in God and to believe that He loves us and has forgiven us might require change. It might require (gasp) repentance!

When I use that word, though, I am not using it in the typical “evangelical” sense of “being sorry for my sins.” I’m using it in the purest form, which simply means to turn around, to change my way of thinking, to think differently about something. That is literally what repentance means. So, in essence, “change” and “repent” are kind of the same word.

In order to truly love someone without hypocrisy or pretense, change might be required, as well.

We don’t like change. We’re all familiar with the series of jokes that ask the question, “How many ___________ does it take to change a light bulb?” You can insert whatever you want in the blank and come up with a humorous answer. I once heard, “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer was, simply, “CHANGE?????”

I grew up Southern Baptist so I can make fun of them all I want. There’s an old saying . . . “We’ve never done it that way before!”

But sometimes, we have to. Sometimes we have to change the way we do things, and that takes work and adjustments and variations.

There are also times when we want change. We are tired of the “status quo.” “Life isn’t quite what we had hoped for, and we look for something new.”

But what makes the difference is how we involve God in that change. How do we approach the work? “God is shaping. His hand is molding. We can discover his ways in the changes of our own lives.”

“Change will probably always be uncomfortable. But we can begin to see it as desirable because the One who knows us best is carefully orchestrating the transitions of our lives.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, the thoughts that are presented above require change in my heart. Maybe not so much the act of believing, although there is always room for improvement in my “belief department.” But most assuredly the “love department.” I do not feel that I have done a good job following that command, and I need You to help me change. I know that You have already been at work in that area; You have been working there, building and shaping, for close to a decade, now. There is nothing that You cannot accomplish in me, I do believe that. But I also know that I am, at times, stubborn and resistant to change. (Someone who knows me might read that and laugh. “At times?? Hah!”)

Father, I want to fully love people, but first I want to fully love You with every fiber of my being. Back to those two commands, aren’t we? Love You; love people. But do it according to Scripture. Help me to not just pretend, but to really love, both You and the people. I do know that when I pretend to love You, I am only fooling myself, though.

Grace and peace, friends.

Pause . . . Pray

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the eighth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,371

Yesterday was an interesting day. I had scheduled a grocery delivery (a rather large one) to be delivered between 10-11 AM. This was set up the night before, as C, Mama, and I sat around discussing the grocery order. The order arrived right on time, but as I brought everything in, it appeared that some things might be missing. So I checked items off of the receipt as I put them away. Sure enough, it appeared that the driver (or a store associate . . . I will never know exactly whose fault it was) didn’t get a couple of bags. All of the cat treats were missing (oh, the horror!!), and none of the items that would be from the area by the pharmacy were there (toothpaste, ibuprofen, and so on). I was also missing one of the three Healthy Choice meals that I ordered.

I found a customer service number on one of my emails and called them. They helped me quickly and courteously, and said they were going to process a refund. After finishing my blog for the day (the grocery delivery interrupted that), I was getting ready to go to a grocery store and pick up the items that were missing, and I got a text telling me that my Albertson’s order would be delivered in a few minutes.

Wait, what?

Apparently, they found the missing bags at the store and immediately arranged for them to be delivered. Everything was there except for the Healthy Choice meal. So I took off my hat and shoes and had some lunch. As of this moment, I have seen no evidence that the refund was ever processed, so I’m glad about that. I don’t want to have to deal with trying to get me to charge me again for those items.

In the meantime, I was also wondering if a scheduled appointment with Milestone was going to happen. When the electrician made the repairs last week, he set up an appointment for a plumber to come by, yesterday, to look at my outdoor faucet in the back yard. The window as 11-2. By noon, I had heard nothing at all, not even a confirmation of the appointment, so I had assumed that they weren’t coming. But around 12:30 or so, I got a text and a phone call telling me that someone was on the way.

He arrived, and was extremely professional and friendly. However, after going over what needed to be done, and then giving the estimate, we elected to not have them do the work. They are outrageously high on their prices. We probably won’t be calling them again. They wanted over $500 to fix the outdoor faucet, and C found an average price of around$150-$300. I think, when the A/C folks are here tomorrow, I will ask them if they have any plumbing recommendations. Or I may check with our “handyman,” who doubles as a Walmart store manager. Hahaha!

Today, I don’t have much going on. It’s a normal Tuesday for me, which means I work this evening, 4:15-8:15. I’ll run out and get Subway for lunch for S, Mama, and me, and pick up stuff for them and C to have for dinner. I might get something for me to have for a late dinner, as well.

Winter is giving a final gasp (I hope?) at the end of this week, as we will have yet another bout of freezing temperatures overnight on Friday to Saturday morning, with chances of rain and snow showers. Actually, some of the snow could occur while I’m at work on Friday afternoon. Yuck.

My Lenten fast continues to go fairly well. On the physical side, I have had no candy. On the spiritual/emotional side, I have not been perfect, but have made progress. Last night, in fact, I stopped myself, mid-sentence, just about to say something critical about someone. C and Mama both approved, and also stopped talking about what we were talking about. It was a cool moment.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that today is a new day; none of yesterday's anxiety is welcome; none of tomorrow's worries are allowed; it is today, and it is the best day; it is all we have
2. for the power of worship
3. for the scenes of worship in the book of Revelation, especially those that include people "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages"
4. for the pauses that God places in my life
5. for the wisdom He gives me to notice those pauses and to pray through them

John Henry Newman gives us three examples of Old Testament fasting. First, he mentions Jacob, whose account occurs in Genesis 32. Jacob had separated his entire camp into several groups, in preparation for meeting up with his estranged brother, Esau. Jacob was scared. He was sure that Esau was out for revenge.

After crossing the Jabbok, with his wives, children, and a few servants, Jacob spent the night wrestling with “a man.” It doesn’t specifically mention fasting in this context, but if he was wrestling all night, he was fasting. And the end result of this was a blessing.

Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 
(Genesis 32:28 ESV)

The next example is Moses, who, after coming down the mountain to find Israel worshiping a golden calf and generally partying, went back up the mountain for forty days and nights, to intercede for them.

“So I lay prostrate before the Lord for these forty days and forty nights, because the Lord had said he would destroy you. And I prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.'"
(Deuteronomy 9:25-26 ESV)

The end result of this fast was that God didn’t wipe out Israel. Would He have done that, anyway? I don’t know. You don’t know. None of us know.

Tomorrow, we will look at the third example, which is Daniel.

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

The final chapter in Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation is, rightfully, on the book of Revelation, and called, “Worship.”

“The Bible ends with a flourish: vision and song, doom and deliverance, terror and triumph. The rush of color and sound, image and energy, leaves us reeling. But if we persist through the initial confusion and read on, we begin to pick up the rhythms, realize the connections, and find ourselves enlisted as participants in a multidimensional act of Christian worship.”

It starts with the four “living creatures” in chapter 4, who are said to be chanting night and day, never taking a break,

Holy, holy, holy
Is God our Master, Sovereign-Strong,
THE WAS, THE IS, THE COMING.

And, with the twenty-four elders joining in,

Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God!
Take the glory! the honor! the power!
You created it all;
It was created because you wanted it.
(Revelation 4:8, 11 MSG)

By mid-book, all the “saved ones” have joined in:

Mighty your acts and marvelous,
    O God, the Sovereign-Strong!
Righteous your ways and true,
    King of the nations!
Who can fail to fear you, God,
    give glory to your Name?
Because you and you only are holy,
    all nations will come and worship you,
    because they see your judgments are right.
(Revelation 15:3-4 MSG)

Regardless of everything you have ever read about the book of Revelation, the central theme of John’s book seems to be worship. I love how Eugene Peterson has brought this out, in his different writings about Revelation. John was worshiping when he received the vision, and is responsible for “a circuit of churches on the mainland whose primary task is worship.”

“Our times are not propitious for worship. The times never are. The world is hostile to worship. The Devil hates worship. As Revelation makes clear, worship must be carried out under conditions decidedly uncongenial to it. Some Christians are even killed because they worship.”

Consider this scene from chapter 19:

I heard a sound like massed choirs in Heaven singing,

Hallelujah!
The salvation and glory and power are God’s—
    his judgments true, his judgments just.
He judged the great Whore
    who corrupted the earth with her lust.
He avenged on her the blood of his servants.

Then, more singing:

Hallelujah!
The smoke from her burning billows up
    to high Heaven forever and ever and ever.

The Twenty-four Elders and the Four Animals fell to their knees and worshiped God on his Throne, praising,

Amen! Yes! Hallelujah!

 From the Throne came a shout, a command:

Praise our God, all you his servants,
All you who fear him, small and great!

Then I heard the sound of massed choirs, the sound of mighty rapids, the sound of strong thunder:

Hallelujah!
The Master reigns,
    our God, the Sovereign-Strong!
Let us celebrate, let us rejoice,
    let us give him the glory!
The Marriage of the Lamb has come;
    his Wife has made herself ready.
She was given a bridal gown
    of bright and shining linen.
The linen is the righteousness of the saints.

And Peterson doesn’t even mention on of my favorite Revelation passages:

I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing:

Salvation to our God on his Throne!
Salvation to the Lamb!

All who were standing around the Throne—Angels, Elders, Animals—fell on their faces before the Throne and worshiped God, singing:

Oh, Yes!
The blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving,
The honor and power and strength,
To our God forever and ever and ever!
Oh, Yes!
(Revelation 7:9-12)
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
(Ephesians 1:5 NLT)
But you, O Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
(Psalm 86:15 NLT)
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
(Romans 8:16 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “comma.” Another good one, when taken in context, here. Obviously, the word is likely not in the Bible anywhere. I’m not going to go to the trouble to verify that right now, but I don’t think it is.

The quote at the beginning of the reading is from Christian musician TobyMac.

"Practice the pause. 
When in doubt, 
pause. 
When angry, 
pause. 
When tired, 
pause. 
When stressed, 
pause. 
And when you pause, 

pray."

Commas are interesting. I remember an English class I had in college, taught by a TA. I would write an essay for an assignment, and there would be a note written in the margin, “Comma not necessary.” Then, the next time, “You could put a comma there.” I was, like, “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!”

But that’s the funny thing about commas. I’m a staunch supporter of the “Oxford comma,” so I use more commas than some. I was going to launch into this long, drawn out example, but there’s nothing spiritual about that, so never mind. But a comma in a sentence is a place to pause, perhaps to breathe.

Sometimes, God puts commas in our lives. Sometimes, those commas are at very inconvenient places. Over the last couple years, we have had a very large comma, haven’t we?

As written by one who is only referred to as “Barbranda,” “[God] inserts a comma in various spots in my life because He wants me to stop and rest or learn a lesson. Sometimes I recognize it as such; other times I think I’m facing a defeat or the end. But it’s only the Lord’s comma – a pause, not a period.”

We would all do well to ponder this, especially the next time a “pause” is forced upon us. I’m not necessarily an “everything happens for a reason” person. But there are times when those things do happen for a reason. Side note: that reason is, in my opinion, never to make you feel guilty or helpless or anything like that. But that’s a discussion for a whole ‘nother day.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
    loving look at me, your High God,
    above politics, above everything.”
(Psalm 46:10 MSG)

Father, thank You for the pauses. I’m even grateful for this gigantic pause we have had since the beginning of 2020. That doesn’t mean that I am thankful for the million deaths we have had in our country. It doesn’t mean I am thankful for Covid-19. There are, unfortunately, some who would read that that way. But I am grateful for the “reset” that has been forced upon us, the opportunity to step back and realize that there are most definitely things that we can live without. And, when some of the things we like are not available, we survive . . . we can adapt and get by. We can do without! Thank You for showing us that.

Thank You for the magnificent displays of worship that we see in the book of Revelation. And I thank You for the work of Eugene Peterson, who, at this moment, is likely enjoying one of those scenes of worship, in helping us to reframe our perspective on the difficult book of Revelation. It isn’t quite as difficult after hearing Eugene talk about it. You know, Father . . . I love worship, and I miss the act of worship in my life. This past Sunday was, for me, a great time of worship. I know that not everyone responds to the kind of worship setting that we were in, but my soul resonates with it. Help me to get back into the habit of worship, especially in my daily life. And that’s not a call for more music or singing, although I could definitely do more of that. It is a call for my life to be worship. For I believe that worship is something that are, more than something we do.

Thank You for the way my fast is going, and I pray for strength to continue it and to improve. Thank You for adopting me as Your son, through Christ Jesus. I believe that this adoption is permanent, and that no man can snatch me out of Your hands, per the words of Jesus. I praise You for this. Keep me growing in You, and learning more about You.

By Your Spirit, help me to pause and pray more often, today.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Love (Again)

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,327

Our Hamilton show is today. I’m not sure what I’m going to count down to, next.

I had a pretty decent night’s sleep, last night. The new CPAP seems to be working pretty well. I’m getting more used to it. However, I have learned that I can’t use the humidifier feature in it, as it tends to clog up my nose. Fortunately, that feature can be turned off.

I learned a couple new things at the library, yesterday, the coolest being how to encode our RFID (I have no idea what that stands for) tags that are stuck in the back of the book. This is an electronic tag that is used to both check the book in and out, as well as provide security at the front door. So when I lay a book on the electronic pad at the circ desk, it checks the book out to the patron and unlocks the security feature so the alarm won’t go off when the patron leaves.

A patron was trying to check out a book that she had placed on hold, and the computer kept saying that the book was not in the system. I noticed that, when I scanned the book on the pad, the number that went in simply said “0.” The assistant librarian on duty helped me and showed me that the RFID tag had not been encoded with the bar code number, then taught me how to do that. Lo and behold, I had to do it again, later in the day, as I was clearing one of the book drops.

I also learned how to clear a patron’s charges from being billed for a “lost” book, after they returned the book to the library. This had not come up, yet, when I was on duty.

As previously stated, our show of Hamilton is this afternoon at 1:30. So we will be heading downtown as soon as we leave our church gathering, today. We will likely pick up Applebee’s on the way home for a mid-afternoon meal.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father."
Charles de Foucauld
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalms 34:1-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music and all the joy it brings me, both in the realm of worship and praise, as well as entertainment
2. for brothers and sisters in Christ, and the opportunity to read God's Word together
3. for chocolate candy (all kinds, actually . . . I pretty much love candy, but chocolate is my favorite)
4. that God has been merciful to me, a sinner
5. for the beautiful innocence of children, and for Jesus's teaching that we must become like them to enter the Kingdom

In this morning’s Bible readings in You Version, I came across this passage.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. 
And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 
But Jesus called them to him, saying, 
"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, 
for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 
Truly, I say to you, 
whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
(Luke 18:15-17 ESV)

As we were closing the library last night, a young family with two small boys were leaving. As they went out the front door, the two boys were waving and saying goodbye to everyone they saw. The circulation manager was standing by the front doors, as is customary at closing time. Suddenly, I heard one of the little boys shout, “I LOVE YOU!” to the manager.

My heart nearly exploded. Is it any wonder that Jesus told us that we need to become like children to enter the Kingdom? This is the kind of love we must have for others. This is the kind of love I have been striving for for at least five years, now, and more intensely every year, especially in the current political climate of our nation.

Folks, this is not negotiable, in my opinion. There are two “great commands” (here he goes again . . .) that Jesus speaks of. Love the Lord your God with all of your being, heart, soul, mind, and strength. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And then, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus delved a little deeper into that second one when He told His disciples that they were to love one another as He had loved them.

This love transcends everything else, and, most importantly, it transcends our blasted opinions about everything!! We should be able to shout, “I LOVE YOU!” to anyone we meet, just like that little boy, last night, regardless of their political affiliation, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of the color of their skin.

Trust me, I’m preaching to myself as much as I’m preaching to anyone else. There are some who know me, who know my political leanings and opinions, but I try to keep them away from this place. You may think you know, but you might be mistaken. What I am striving for is to not “lean” in either direction, politically, but to lean toward Jesus. I am reminded of Psalm 146.

Praise the LORD! 
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
 I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. 
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man,
 in whom there is no salvation. 
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; 
on that very day his plans perish. 
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD his God, 
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, 
who keeps faith forever; 
who executes justice for the oppressed, 
who gives food to the hungry. 
The LORD sets the prisoners free; 
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
 The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
 the LORD loves the righteous. 
The LORD watches over the sojourners; 
he upholds the widow and the fatherless, 
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 
The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, 
to all generations. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 146:1-10 ESV)

My hope is not in a human prince, but, rather, the Prince of Peace. My hope is not in a human king, but, rather, the King of Kings. My hope is not in a President or any other human ruler. Hope is in Jesus Christ, Lord of Lord, Son of God, maker of heaven and earth.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 ESV)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(Matthew 16:26 ESV)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
(John 3:19 ESV).

Today’s prayer word is “always.”

And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.
(Exodus 27:20 KJV)

Father, may my love for You and the Light that is within me burn brightly, consistently, and “always.” Father, my heart is aching this morning, as I consider how I have failed to be like a child in my striving to walk in Your Kingdom. Sure, I’ve gotten better, over the years, but I still let differences of opinions and attitudes affect the way I feel about people. I confess this . . . it is sinful . . . and I ask, not only for the forgiveness that You freely give, but that You . . . well . . . fix me. Embed that light of Jesus, that love that He has, within me so deeply that I know no other way. Help me to beat my breast like that tax collector and cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” I pray that prayer daily . . . “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” May it be so in my life. My hope is in You, Father. My hope is in no man. For only You can give us the resources and ability to execute justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry, set the prisoners free, open the eyes of the blind, lift up those who are bowed down, love the righteous, and uphold the widows and fatherless. You watch over the way of the travelers and sojourners, Father. Protect us when we travel, but help us to look out for those who are fleeing oppression in another land.

Father, help us to start a love revolution.

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.

He Will Deliver . . .

Good morning. It is Monday, the thirteenth of November, 2021, the third Monday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,286

Only twelve more days until Christmas!

We had a lovely day, yesterday, in Mineral Wells. Yesterday’s Christmas worship, at First Baptist Church, was very good. I love what their worship leader does. Rather than present a “canned” musical, he curates a set of music, himself, which incorporates the children’s groups, as well as the congregation, in the singing. In other words, it is not a “performance,” as much as it is simply worship.

Afterward, we had a great lunch from Natty Flats BBQ. I had sliced brisket and sausage, along with their “baked tater salad,” and some “Natty Flats BBQ beans,” as well as a side of their delicious chili. We also had some banana pudding for dessert.

After a few hours of visiting with Mama, we headed home, but not before having to extricate a neighborhood cat from her house. He (or she?) sneaked into the front door while we were saying our goodbyes. Fortunately, S saw it happen, so I was able to get the cat out with little effort. It was quite funny.

Today is a standard day off for me. Laundry is already started, and a trip to one or more grocery stores will be in the near future. Not a big trip. We actually don’t do much of that, anymore, since I can easily go on either Monday or Thursday of any week, not to mention Tuesday morning or early afternoon.

I finished reading The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly, on Saturday night. I’m going to focus on trying to finish The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber, this week. I need to take a glimpse at what I’ve already read, just to refresh my memory. I’m on page eighty-five of a little more than two hundred. I have no idea what will be next.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Lord is strength and song;
He has become salvation;
I will praise my God.
(Exodus 15:2)
But let all who take refuge in you 
rejoice;
let them ever sing for 
joy, 
and spread your protection over them, 
that those who love your name may exult in you. 
(Psalms 5:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we have enough; food, clothing, shelter, and more
2. that our hearts are drawn toward helping those who do not have enough
3. for Christmas music
4. for Your care for the needy and weak
5. for Your rescue for the oppressed
And he called his disciples to him and said to them,
"Truly, I say to you, 
this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 
For they all contributed out of their abundance, 
but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, 
all she had to live on." 
(Mark 12:43-44 ESV)
The righteous flourish like the palm tree 
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; 
they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; 
he is my rock, 
and there is no unrighteousness in him. 
(Psalms 92:12-15 ESV)
The glory of young men is their strength,
 but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
(Proverbs 20:29 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY SIXTEEN

INVITATION

How beautiful on the mountains 
are the feet of the messenger 
who brings good news, 
the good news of peace and salvation,
the news that the God of Israel reigns! 
(Isaiah 52:7 NLT)

I pause, this morning, in the silence of the hour, to reflect on the beauty of the message, and on the joy that comes from knowing Jesus.

BIBLE SONG

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.  

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, 
the afflicted who have no one to help.
 He will take pity on the weak and the needy 
and save the needy from death. 
He will rescue them from oppression and violence, 
for precious is their blood in his sight. 
(Psalms 72:1-2, 12-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, 
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 
And do not begin to say to yourselves, 
'We have Abraham as our father.' 
For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 
The ax is already at the root of the trees, 
and every tree that does not produce good fruit 
will be cut down and thrown into the fire." 
(Luke 3:7-9 NIV)
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 
John answered them all, 
"I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 
(Luke 3:15-17 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages again, attempting to notice how God might be speaking to me through His Word. I dwell on any words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, allowing my heart to respond to the Lord in prayer. I take refreshment in His presence.

Father, I see again, the emphasis placed on the needy, the afflicted, the weak, those who need to be rescued from oppression and violence. I see that their blood is precious in Your sight. This causes me anxiety, as I look around me, because I see so much of all of it. So much, in fact, that I am virtually paralyzed because I don’t see how I can help. Yet You move my heart toward generosity, and I pray for direction. I have, we have, resources with which You have blessed us. Guide our hearts and our hands, Father, to know where to direct those resources, that they might provide the most relief for the most people. Help us to do the work of Jesus on this earth. I pray that more of Your people would care more for those whom Scripture clearly tells us that You care about, deeply.

Let us not get complacent or over-confident, either, Lord. We have the example of Israel, who was exiled because of their sin. While it is true that they were allowed to return to their land, and they produced the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ, yet they continue in their unbelief. Being of Israel will do them no good if they continue to deny the truth of the Messiah. Likewise, if we do not follow Jesus and obey Him, we will be lost. I do not believe that we can become lost, once we have begun to follow Him. However, I fear that there may be many who believe they are following Him, who are truly not. Give us clarity of vision, Father, and weed out all false teachers, that the message of the Gospel not be muddled. We leave that to You and Your angels, though, as Your disciples were instructed to not try to remove the weeds from the true grain.

May I not be chaff, Father, that becomes burned with “unquenchable fire.” Sometimes, my enemy foments doubt in my heart. Keep me confident . . . make me struggle with my sin, and not give in to temptation. Increase my joy, that overwhelming sense of well-being, that comes from knowing You through Christ.

"Holy God,
lead me to repentance that brings life.
Not the groveling show that's more about convincing You I'm worthy of Your forgiveness,
but the cut-to-the-heart kind of repentance that is grieved at my sin because of Your holiness and glory.
Move me by Your mercy and lead me to a life of joyful obedience.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Praise the Lord, 
the God of Israel, 
because he has visited 
and redeemed his people."
(Luke 1:68 NLT)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Silence

Today is Saturday, the twenty-eighth of August, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,179

Nine days until Labor Day

Today is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. I’ve never learned why it is popularly called the “rainbow bridge,” but that’s the common terminology used when a beloved pet passes away. Since we have recently experienced this (Tessie – dog) I chose this “holiday” to recognize today. If you have recently lost a beloved fur-baby, my heart goes out to you, today.

The word for today is cruciverbalist, a noun which designates “a designer or aficionado of crossword puzzles.”

Today’s quote, from Lao Tzu, is, “To see things in the seed, that is genius.”

Birthdays for August 28:

1749 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and social philosopher (Faust), born in Frankfurt am Main, Holy Roman Empire (d. 1832)
1774 Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, 1st American Catholic saint (1975), born in NYC, New York (d. 1821)
1831 Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, 1st lady of the United States (1877-81), born in Chillicothe, Ohio (d. 1889)
1840 Ira D. Sankey, American evangelist, composer and singer (Gospel hymns), born in Edinburg, Pennsylvania (d. 1908)
1916 Jack [Holbrook] Vance, American sci-fi author (2 Hugo, Dirdir, Pnume), born in San Francisco, California (d. 2013)
1917 Jack Kirby, American cartoonist (X-Men; Spider-Man; Hulk; Captain America), born in NYC, New York (d. 1994)
1921 Nancy Kulp, American actress (The Beverly Hillbillies - Jane Hathaway, The Aristocats, Shane), born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (d. 1991)
1925 Donald O'Connor, American dancer and actor (Singin' in the Rain), born in Chicago, Illinois (d. 2003)
1930 Ben Gazzara, American actor (Run for Your Life, QB VII), born in NYC, New York (d. 2012)
1939 [Catherine] Cassie Mackin, American newswoman (NBC TV) and 1st woman to regularly anchor an evening network newscast alone, born in Baltimore, Maryland (d. 1982)
1943 David Soul [Solberg], American-British actor (Starsky & Hutch) and singer (Don't Give Up On Us), born in Chicago, Illinois
1943 Lou Piniella, American baseball outfielder (1969 AL rookie of the year TEST) and manager (NY Yankees, Seattle Mariners), born in Tampa, Florida
1948 Daniel "Danny" Seraphine, American rock drummer (Chicago, 1969-90 - "25 or 6 to 4"), born in Chicago, Illinois
1948 Vonda N. McIntyre, American sci-fi author (Star Trek II, III, IV), born in Louisville, Kentucky
1950 Ron Guidry, Yankee pitcher (Cy Young 1978), born in Lafayette, Louisiana
1951 Wayne Osmond, American singer (Osmond Brothers, Donnie & Marie), born in Ogden, Utah
1956 Luis Guzmán, Puerto Rican actor (The Limey), born in Cayey, Puerto Rico
1957 Daniel Stern, American actor (City Slickers, Wonder Years), born in Stamford, Connecticut
1958 Scott Hamilton, American figure skater (Olympic gold 1984), born in Bowling Green, Ohio
1960 Emma [Elizabeth Wylie Samuelson] Samms, British actress (Colby's, General Hospital), born in London, England
1965 Shania Twain, Canadian singer (You're Still the One), born in Windsor Ontario
1969 Jason Priestley, Canadian-American actor (Brandon-Beverly Hills 90210), born in Vancouver, British Columbia
1969 Mary McCartney, English photographer and daughter of Beatle Paul and Linda McCartney, born in London
1969 Jack Black, American actor (High Fidelity, Kung Fu Panda), comedian and singer (Tenacious D), born in Santa Monica, California
1971 Todd Eldredge, American figure skater (1996 World champion and a six-time U.S. national champion), born in Chatham, Massachusetts
1982 LeAnn Rimes [Margaret LeAnn Rimes Cibrian], American country singer (Blue), born in Jackson, Mississippi
1985 James Jagger, American actor (Vinyl) and son of Mick Jagger & Jerry Hall, born in NYC, New York
1986 Florence Welch, British blues and swing jazz singer (Florence and the Machine), born in London, England
1986 Armand "Armie" Hammer, American actor, born in Santa Monica, California
Lou Piniella, 78 years old today
Danny Seraphine, original drummer, 73 years old today

So, what’s up for today? C and I have decided to get out of the house and do something today, and it looks like we’re going to go up to where she works and go bowling. Apparently, because she pays a small amount per paycheck to use the workout room, she also has access to the bowling lanes anytime there is open bowling. We thought about doing some geocaching, but it’s going to be pretty warm today, around 93 degrees. And I’m sure there is probably an orange ozone alert or something.

The grocery order will be ready to pick up at 11:00, so we will probably get those picked up, have some lunch, and then head over to the IBC (International Bowling Campus, not root beer).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Where Are My Thoughts, by Daryl Madden

A question to ponder
Throughout our day
Where are my thoughts?
Am I living astray?

Are they lost in?
What I must do
Thinking of goals
I need to pursue

Are they consumed?
Of threats, I’m aware
Is my view of dwelling
From a place of fear

Let’s be of this moment
Our thoughts to profess
To see, smell and feel
The ways we are blessed

Let me be absorbed
In what I sense here
When it’s of Gods’ Presence
It’s a living prayer

It is good to be aware of our thoughts, throughout the day. My prayer, though, is that I be absorbed in God’s Presence, for the next few minutes.

But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people.
(Psalms 52:8-9 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for You
2. for Your presence in this place
3. for the hope that I can be like that olive tree and thrive in Your house
4. for Your unfailing love, in which I will always trust
5. for the spiritual discipline of silence

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK FOURTEEN – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

Your name, Yahweh, endures forever; your renown, Yahweh, throughout all generations.
(Psalms 135:13 WEB)

During this quiet moment, I think about the Lord, about how grateful I am to simply have Him in my life.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.

Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity?
No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be.

The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.”
(Psalms 58:1-5, 10-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the LORD said to Moses: “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month. Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain. Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. Place the gold altar of incense in front of the ark of the covenant law and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle.
“Place the altar of burnt offering in front of the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting; place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. Set up the courtyard around it and put the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard.”
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:1-8, 34-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue to rest in the presence of the Lord, I linger over these passages, looking for truth and inspiration to guide my life.

I admit that I struggle with passages like Psalm 58. While I do acknowledge that earthly rulers and judges are mostly corrupt, devising injustice constantly, and meting out violence right and left, I am more than a little uncomfortable with the thought of dipping my feet in the blood of the wicked.

That just doesn’t seem very Christlike to me. I know, it’s right there in the Bible. But I also know that David was not allowed to build the temple of the Lord because he was a man of war.

David rose to his feet and said: “My brothers and my people! It was my desire to build a Temple where the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, God’s footstool, could rest permanently. I made the necessary preparations for building it, but God said to me, ‘You must not build a Temple to honor my name, for you are a warrior and have shed much blood.’”
(1 Chronicles 28:2-3 NLT)

I do, however, look forward with great anticipation to the day when the righteous will receive their eternal reward.

In contrast, I really love reading the ending of Exodus. All the preparations have been finished, and the tabernacle is complete and set up, so what happens?

The presence of the Lord fills the tabernacle, and is so strong and intense that no human being can stand to enter it.

I have often longed for that kind of thing to happen in our present day. What would it be like if, in the middle of a worship gathering, the presence of the Lord became so thick that we couldn’t continue what we were doing? I picture an extended period of total silence in worship, because what could you say that would do anything but detract from the moment?

This makes me wonder why modern churches are so terrified of silence. I have been a music minister and a worship leader. I have worked with pastors who always insist that some kind of music be playing in the background, even during prayers.

Why???

I could never get a straight answer.

I’m a fan of silence. If someone else is praying, and the instruments are playing a song, guess what I’m thinking about! That’s right . . . the words of the song! And what if it’s a song I don’t care for? That makes it even more distracting.

In the book of Revelation, the last word on everything in the Bible, when the seventh seal was opened, there was silence, complete and utter silence, in heaven for about a half an hour.

Can you even imagine having thirty minutes of complete silence in the middle of your Sunday morning worship service?

Father, we seem to be really afraid of silence. We have gotten so used to noise in our culture, yet it is noise that distracts us from You and keeps us from hearing Your voice. We love to talk about the “quiet whisper” or the “still small voice” that Elijah encountered in that cave, but then we make all this noise! How can we expect to hear Your still, small voice, when there is always some kind of noise going on? Help us to quiet down. Help us to fall in love with silence, so we can hear You speak to us. I pray for opportunities, in my future, to observe and practice the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. And I pray that all of us might experience something similar to Moses’s experience when Your Presence filled the tabernacle.

I pray, Lord, for Your Church to flourish around the world. May our worship glorify You, no matter how we choose to observe it and participate in it. May our worship gather, unite, and bless Your people. I pray for all denominations, agencies, and programs in Your Church around the world.

"God with us,
the tabernacle represented the place you lived among your pilgrim people.
How can I thank you,
Jesus,
for becoming the true tabernacle by dwelling among us and providing the way into your holy presence through the blood of your sacrifice?
Make my everyday living a place where I and others find heaven on earth.
Amen."

BLESSING

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good work and word.
(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 WEB)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.
(Jude 1:24 NLT)

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!

All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.
(Jude 1:25 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

God Is Love

Today is Tuesday, the fourth of May, 2021, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,063

Five days until Mother’s Day!

Today is Star Wars Day (May the fourth be with you?)

It’s also the day that two of our good friends are going to have their new baby, Charlie! Charley? Not sure on that. She is scheduled for a C-section at 7:30 this morning. All of you who pray, please pray for everything to go well and all to be healthy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“The world bombards us with negative thoughts, but any thought that derails us from the knowledge that God does love us is from the evil one, so it’s a constant effort to remind ourselves of the truth.

“Just be present for God – be available for him. Just sit in his presence and be with him to develop the practice of letting you be loved. Once we set our foot on that path, everything else can grow out of it.”
(Daryl Madden, On A Bench of Wood)

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
(Psalms 33:1-4 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Your presence, as You let me know that I am loved
  • that You are faithful in all that You do
  • that You are love
  • for new life being brought into the world, this morning
  • that You are present in our grief, our pain, our suffering, our injustices

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

EASTER – DAY 31

INVITATION

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. . . . The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
(Psalms 126:2-3 NIV)

I pause for a moment to consider laughter and joy, trying to allow the Holy Spirit to fill my soul with joy.

BIBLE SONG

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
(Psalms 95:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
(1 John 4:7-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I turn my thoughts toward God, this morning, I reflect on these passages, on places within them that have connected with my soul.

The idea of worship always connects with my soul. I have been a big proponent of worship for decades, now. And while worship is more than just music, and music really isn’t essential to have worship, one of the things I miss the most, both through the pandemic, as well as in our current church model, is the singing of songs together, by the congregation.

“Let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” Not a command. More of an invitation. Let us sing and shout; let us worship Him.

The passage from John has some great stuff and some scary stuff. Great in that the description of love and definition of love comes from God. Love, itself comes from God (verse 7). The scary parts are those parts that say that if we do not love, we do not know God. I know some people who claim to be Christians who have been really short on love for the last year.

I, myself, have struggled with it, from time to time, mostly at work, in work situations. If we’re honest, I would bet we all struggle with love for some people.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (verse 11)

It’s that simple. But, yet, it is oh so hard.

God help us! Father, teach us to love better. Help me to love my brothers and sisters better. Help me to love those whom I find to be a challenge to love. Let me find no one to be “unlovable,” as all are created in Your image, and You love all people. Help me to love what You love. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. Break my heart, Lord, and then remake it, whole and complete, full of You and Your Spirit.

Lord God,
plunge me into your love so that I can love you with all that I am.
I know I'm asking you for the very thing I'll give right back to you,
but my heart feels small and shrunken;
I struggle to love well or even love at all.
Immerse me in your love so that my heart,
soul,
strength,
and mind find their true home,
and I find the room in my heart to love my neighbor.
Amen.
(Westminster Shorter Catechism, 42)

BLESSING

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
(Jude 1:21 NIV)

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
(Lamentations 3:32 NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
(Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)

Father, for all who grieve today, I pray for mercy and grace. For all who are in pain today, I pray for mercy and healing. For all who are suffering in poverty and/or injustice, I pray for provision, justice, and mercy. Father, show us Your love, that we may, in turn, love others! Because You have loved us, let us love one another! You are love!

Lord, I pray, this morning, for the calling to follow You into my workplace and my neighborhood. May You bring about shalom peace in our neighborhoods and communities. I pray for all who work in business and industry today; may we all know Your grace and mercy and love as we work today.

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!

Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love; God is love.
Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love; God is love.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Season of Epiphany – Worship Jesus!

Today is Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,945

Today is Epiphany, the day on which we acknowledge the visitation of the wise men, or magi, to Jesus.

Epiphany: “a moment of piercing awareness, the sudden jolt of understanding. Imagine, then, that moment stretched out over a period of time. This is the season of Epiphany, a season celebrating the revelation of the Savior, the light of the world.” (Seeking God’s Face, by Philip F Reinders)

This devotional book recognizes an entire “season” of Epiphany, rather than just a single day. In the season of Epiphany, it will take a look at the magi visit, Jesus’s baptism, and the wedding feast at Cana. It will focus on “the ministry of Jesus, the calling of the disciples, the teachings of Christ, his miracles, and finally his transfiguration.”

The season of Epiphany will last until the beginning of Lent.

I would like to recommend a couple of apps. I don’t normally do that, here, but I have found both of these to be useful.

First, the Abide app for meditation and sleep. This is a wonderful meditation app, full of Scripture meditations for just about any reason you can think of. For me, the best use for it is falling asleep at night, having a soothing voice reading Scripture to me.

Second, an app called Three Good Things. Very simply, all you do is type in three things that you feel were positive in your day. I have the app set to notify me at 9:00 PM each night. I haven’t been as consistent as I like in using it, but it is a good way to reflect on your day and find the positive in it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He Himself is my contemplation;
He is my delight.
Him for His own sake
I seek above me;
from Him Himself I feed within me.
He is the field in which I labour.
He is the fruit for which I labour.
He is my cause;
He is my effect.
He is my beginning;
He is my end without end.
He is, for me, eternity.
(Isaac of Stella)

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 1

INVITATION

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. . . . The appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Titus 2:11, 13 NIV)

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 72:1-2, 8-11

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 he rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts.
May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.

BIBLE READING: MATTHEW 2:1-5, 7-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

There are a number of things that could stand out in this passage, but one speaks to me, on this day, at this time.

“Worship.”

We have no idea where, exactly, these Magi came from. It simply says, “from the east.” Side note: we also have no idea how many of them there were. Nowhere does it say that there were three.

They came from far enough away, though, for it to take them a long, long time to get there. Most scholars estimate that it was at least two years, because of the age of children Herod demands to be slaughtered, in order to eliminate this “threat.” I think it is safe to say that these Magi were Gentiles.

We are also not told how they knew what to do. Why were they following this star?

This morning, though, what really hits me, is that, when they arrived at the house where Jesus and his parents were staying, they worshiped Jesus! This influential, important men (perhaps they were even kings), got on their knees and worshiped a child who was somewhere around two years old! However they knew what they knew, they knew enough to do that!

But note that the word “worship” is also used deceptively in this passage. Herod lied to the Magi, telling them to let him know where and when they found the child, so that he could also go and “worship” him. Fortunately, God had other plans and warned the Magi not to do this, so they went back home a different way.

Not all “worship” is true, authentic worship. I don’t have the time to delve into the many definitions of worship, this morning. And I’m not going to critique each church’s way of worship. All I will say is that our modern culture’s consumer-based philosophy of “worship” is probably way off base. However, I will also say this. At least there is some kind of purposeful, intentional worship going on, even if it may not be quite right. After all, none of us really “gets it right,” you know? We do the best we can, hopefully, with what we are given. And maybe that is the best definition of “worship.” Give God back what He gives you, in the best way that you can.

Just know that, if a group of Gentile VIPs from somewhere far east of Israel knew enough to travel for many, many miles to worship a child and give Him gifts of royalty, perhaps we should worship that child, as well.

Father, thank You for leading me to Jesus, and giving me a heart to worship Him. However, I confess that my “worship” is imperfect. It is not, many times, authentic. Sometimes (most of the time?) it is distracted and rushed, especially during these morning times. Help me to focus better when I am worshiping. And help me to worship more consistently, throughout the day. While “worship” might happen at prescribed times, daily and weekly, it can also happen spontaneously, at any given moment. Open my eyes that I may find more of those spontaneous moments!

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.

"Stellar Lord,
drawing the Magi to worship Jesus
pictures for us your wide mercy.
Now we see how in Jesus
you have gone public with your generous promises
for all people.
Forgive our easily narrowed hearts
and equip us with widened imaginations
to promiscuously proclaim the promise
of the gospel to every culture,
nation,
and people.
Amen."
(Canons of Dort 2.5)

BLESSING

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
(Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV)

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
She: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you.
Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.
Others: We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.
(Song of Solomon 1:1-4 ESV)

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
(Ephesians 5:28-32 ESV)

“We were each created to be the bride. that’s why we can never be complete in ourselves. That’s why, deep down, in the center of our being, in the deepest part of our heart, we seek to be filled. For the bride is made to be married. So we can never find our completion until we are joined to Him who is beyond us. And that is why we go through our lives trying to join ourselves . . .

“To that which we think will fill the long of our hearts – to people, success, possessions, achievements, money, comfort, acceptance, beauty, romance, family, power, a movement, a goal, and any multitude of things. For the bride was created to be married, and she can never rest until she is.”

The Mission: Put away anything that substitutes for His presence, and join all that you are, your deepest parts, to your Bridegroom.”

Lord, may Your Spirit lead me today to put away anything that might stand between me and the deepest devotion of my heart and my deepest soul to You!

I pray, Father, that more people would have hope and joy in the resurrection, both of Jesus, and in the hope of our own eventual resurrection. I also pray for opportunities and courage to share the Gospel with those who are near me.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
(Psalms 9:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. The season of Epiphany and what it reveals to us
  2. For the Magi who worshiped the child, Jesus
  3. For the mystery of the Bride and the Bridegroom
  4. For Your presence around me, in me, and through me
  5. That the things of the earth are growing strangely dim, in the light of Your glory and grace

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.