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.



Created For A Purpose

Today is Wednesday, December 16, 2020, in the third week of Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,924

Nine days until Christmas!

In what must be the strangest week of the year, so far, I am back to work, this morning, only to be off, once again, tomorrow and Friday. Yesterday, I did not go to work, as we celebrated the life of C’s step-brother.

It was an interesting day for me. Emotionally/mentally, I began struggling on the trip to the funeral home. However, I recognized what was happening, and managed to stave it off. It would have been really ugly had I remained in that state of mind through a funeral.

There were moments in the funeral where I teared up, for sure. However, I can’t say that any of those moments were for the step-brother. Don’t get me wrong, we loved him, and we are sad to lose him, and most definitely sad for his wife and kids.

But one of those teary moments happened early on, as they played a number of recorded songs throughout the proceedings. The first was “I Can Only Imagine,” by Mercy Me, a very appropriate song for a funeral. I wept a little as I worshiped through that song. The second song was some country song I didn’t recognize. But the third song! “I Will Rise,” by Chris Tomlin. Again, I worshiped, deeply, through that song, and the tears flowed.

And what this made me realize is how much I miss worship. It has been way too long since I was able to simply sit and worship like I did yesterday afternoon. I don’t know what the answer/response is to this, though.

Later, they played another Mercy Me song, “Homesick,” which the front man wrote about missing his father. Actually, according to wikipedia, it was written when the band experienced the loss of nine different people close to them, in a short period of time. At any rate, anyone who knows me can guess where my spirit and heart went during that song. Those tears were for my own father, lost five and a half years ago.

Over all, it was a good experience, as many memories were shared by family members. Two daughters spoke, a son sang a song, and his wife sang a song, as well. I have no idea how either one of them made it through their songs.

We were exhausted afterward, and went to bed quite early last night. But I have to say that it was a pretty good day. Oh, and S went with us! She discovered that she could wear the facemasks made by WW. They are built with a little more space in them, making it easier to breathe. S did very well. But she reached her limit, so we did not try to attend the graveside service.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Psalms 145:21 ESV
(21) My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Today I am grateful:

  1. For life and breath; grateful to be alive and breathing, this morning
  2. For my family, and the love shared among us
  3. For Your steadfast love that reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36:5)
  4. For creating me “just as I am”; may I honor that within me today
  5. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)
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)

Psalms 36:5 ESV
(5) Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 145:1 ESV
(1) I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

John 19:25-27 ESV
(25) but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
(26) When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
(27) Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Psalms 138:1-8 ESV
(1) Of David.
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
(2) I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
(3) On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
(4) All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth,
(5) and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
(6) For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
(7) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
(8) The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

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

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

"Stir up your power, O Lord,
and with great might come among us;
and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy
speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

Day Eighteen

Isaiah 7:10-14 ESV
(10) Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,
(11) “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
(12) But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”
(13) And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
(14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Luke 1:26-38 ESV
(26) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
(27) to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
(28) And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
(29) But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
(30) And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
(31) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
(32) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
(33) and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

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

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

Hebrews 1:1-9 ESV
(1) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
(2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
(3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
(4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

(5) For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
(6) And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

(7) Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

(8) But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
(9) You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV
(10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

“We would be so much more at peace if we simply accepted how God made us and tried to be the best ‘us’ we could be.” (Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2020)

Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV
(2) For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

1 Peter 2:9 ESV
(9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Psalms 139:13-24 ESV
(13) For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
(14) I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
(15) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
(16) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
(17) How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
(18) If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
(19) Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!
(20) They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.
(21) Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
(22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
(23) Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
(24) And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head, right now, but I’ll filter it down to this: Once again, the Holy Spirit has brought together passages from totally independent sources that fit together like fingers in a glove.

God has created me, “just as I am.” I find that I am strangely satisfied, in this. That does not contradict, I believe, my current need for therapy. Yes, therapy/counseling is an attempt to change something in me that I am not fond of. But it is something negative; feelings, emotions that I don’t believe are honoring to my Creator; things which result from the effects of sin in my life.

There are characteristics that I have that God gave me, that do not need to be changed. I need not worry about physical appearance. The reason I am losing weight is not so much about physical appearance as it is health and how the extra weight prohibits activities that I want to do.

I don’t need to be taller or shorter. I don’t need to rub hair restorer on my balding head. I don’t need to have talents that God did not give me. I need to be satisfied with how God created me.

Why?

Because, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”

I was created for a purpose. You were created for a purpose. We may not have quite figured that out, yet, but you know what?

That doesn’t matter! You don’t have to know your purpose in order to fulfill it! If we simply go about our daily lives, doing what God puts in front of us to do, no matter how “mundane” it may seem, we just might be fulfilling that purpose, and not even realize it.

Just some simple words of wisdom for the day. Go out there (or stay in, depending on your circumstances), and do what God gives you to do, and, in doing so, honor Him with all your being.

Father, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that You created my inmost being, forming me while still in my mother’s womb. I will honor that today, doing my best to be the best “me” I can be. And, as Oscar Wilde once said, I need to be myself, because everyone else is taken. Help me to honor You today, by faithfully doing whatever You put in front of me to do. Give me the wisdom to know what that is. But also remind me that I don’t necessarily have to understand my purpose in order to accomplish it.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Be Generous With Your Life

Today is Sunday, January 6, 2019. Epiphany

Day 22,214

38 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

“It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.”
David Brin, U.S. engineer and Science Fiction author
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is palladium. It means, “anything believed to provide protection or safety; safeguard.” (Dictionary.com)

I watched a football game last night! The whole thing! The Cowboys beat the Seahawks in a close game, 24-22. I don’t think it was quite as close as the score indicated, though. And the result may have been quite different if Seattle’s place kicker had not pulled a muscle on a too-long field goal attempt. The punter was drop-kicking in his place, and muffed the onside kick with just over a minute left in the game. That could have made a huge difference, but the Cowboys were able to run out the clock after that.

I may watch football again, today! The Ravens are playing the Chargers, on the noon game. I’ll be rooting for the Ravens in that game. I was not necessarily rooting in the game, last night, but I was also not rooting against the Cowboys, as I have done in the past.

I had a great talk session with our pastor, yesterday morning, and then, in the afternoon, he came over and we watched Ready Player One together. The movie was definitely entertaining. However, it was more different from the book than it was the same. It was most disappointing.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, TX. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15 AM.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:25

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship God with our Exchange family.
2. For another opportunity to lead others in worship.
3. For the potential for another beautiful day, weather-wise.
4. For the stirring of the Holy Spirit within me, leading on to better places.
5. For the love of God and the love of people.

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of
the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord:
Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you,
that the week to come may be spent in your favor;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer, A Collect for Sundays)

Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 (The Message)

During my conversation with our pastor, yesterday morning, two things kept cropping up. We were, at the center of it all, discussing the book Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung.

One thing that arose in our conversation was the topic of pusillanimity. I’ve mentioned this before. It is a shrinking back, probably out of fear, from things that God has for us to do. For me, it has been going up to a certain point in my life, but then failing to take that definitive step into the next phase. This has happened time and time again.

The other thing, though is what I want to focus on this morning. It comes from the above verse, Matthew 5:16. In our talks, Jacob said that, instead of reading through the whole Bible this year, he has chosen to only read the Gospels through, multiple times. He started with The Message, and plans to read several other translations throughout the year. This particular verse has caught his attention, and most specifically, the phrase, “Be generous with your lives.”

What does that mean? Both of us, my pastor and I, seem to struggle with a similar issue in our lives, and I would be willing to be that many other Christians are in the same proverbial boat. We are selfish with our lives. We declare ourselves too busy for other people. C and I rarely get home from work before 6:00 PM on weeknights. By the time we either cook, pick up, or order dinner and eat it, it’s quite close to our bedtime. We generally hit the pillows by 9:00 PM, as we get up at 5:15 in the mornings.

The thing is, though, we have to eat dinner, and you have to eat dinner. What’s to keep us from occasionally sharing that meal, even on a weeknight? I know we’re tire. So are you. But let me tell you something (and believe me, I’m stomping on my own toes, here). A year or so ago, we had a semi-regular Thursday night meeting for dinner with at lest two other families in our fellowship. We would all bring our own food to one family’s house, sit down and eat together, and just share conversation about whatever happened to come up. There was no agenda; no list to follow, no plans to make. We just “broke bread” together and had a good time. I have to confess that it was refreshing and rejuvenating. And I miss those days.

This is “being generous with our lives,” at least one way. Sharing our lives with others. There is something invigorating about breaking bread with others. It has lost a great deal of significance in our culture, but in Jesus’s day, it was very significant. Sharing a meal with someone was something much more intimate than it is, today.

How do we reclaim this? I’m not sure I have the answer to it. But we have to, my pastor and I agreed yesterday, figure out a way to do it. We need to “unself” a bit (to use a word that Eugene Peterson coined in another book). I need to let go of this feeling that when I have free time, I have to spend it doing only what I want to do. I need to be generous with my life.

Father, I need Your help in this, desperately, and I’m not the only one. Help us to be generous with our lives. Help us to unself. Help us to follow in the steps of Jesus and be more aware of the needs of others around us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Soli Deo Gloria!