Who Is Your Family?

Today is Monday, January 8, 2018. Day 21,851.

80 days until Opening Day.

Amber Benson, born on this date in 1977, said, “I think any good literature, whether it’s for children or for adults, will appeal to everybody. As far as children’s literature goes, adults should be able to read it and enjoy it as much as a child would.”
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is stardust, a noun, meaning, “a naively romantic quality.”

The prayer and worship gathering went pretty well, yesterday morning. Since I didn’t play, I had ample time before-hand to prepare, reading over the Scriptures that would be used, and meditating on them, as well. It seems to have been a good morning.

This evening, it’s back to Southlake for band rehearsals. I’m excited about playing again. Not so excited about getting home at 9:30PM, but that’s the trade-off. We’ll be preparing for an indoor concert in March.

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

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8

(From The Business of Heaven)
Into the Presence of God

“It is religion itself–prayer and sacrament and repentance and adoration–which is here, in the long run, our sole avenue to the real. Like mathematics, religion can grow from within, or decay. The Jew knows more than the Pagan, the Christian more than the Jew, the modern vaguely religious man less than any of the three. But, like mathematics, it remains simply itself, capable of being applied to any new theory of the material universe and outmoded by none.

“When any man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seemed to make him so different from the men of other times, or even from his earlier self, have fallen off him. He is back where he always was, where every man always is. . . . No possible complexity which we can give to our picture of the universe can hide us from God: there is no copse, no forest, no jungle thick enough to provide cover . . . In the twinkling of an eye, in a time too small to be measured, and in any place, all that seems to divide us from God can flee away, vanish, leaving us naked before Him, like the first man, like the only man, as if nothing but He and I existed. And since that contact cannot be avoided for long and since it means either bliss or horror, the business of life is to learn to like it. That is the first and great commandment.” (Dogma and the Universe)

(From The Finishing Touch)
Memories Are Made of This

In this reading Charles Swindoll waxes nostalgic about raising children, memories sparked by a Thanksgiving gathering in which their daughter held her newborn infant. He reminisces over the joy of holding newborn children, and, subsequently raising them.

But then her realizes that not everyone has such memories. In some cases, “home” may have been a battleground, a place where the children were afraid to come home from school, or the mother afraid for the father to come home from work. In many cases, for such people, the Church has become “home” and “family” for them.

I remember when my own daughters were in school. It wasn’t nearly as frequent for the older one, who went to Christian school until eighth grace. But the younger one, being autistic, had to spend more time in public school. I remember being both shocked and saddened to find that the majority of her classmates had single parent homes.

We, as the Church, need to be reminded of the need to be “home” and “family” to all people, but especially those who have no “family” to speak of. Remember, it is the widows and orphans that truly have the attention of our Father. We would also do well to remember that Jesus found more comfort in his small band of disciples than in his own, earthly, family. And who can forget this scene in his life:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 
Mark 3:31-35

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Father, I thank you, first of all, that my family experience was a blessed one. I look around me, and am so grateful that you brought me into this world in the family I had around me. But I am also thankful for the family of Church. Help us to be more mindful of this need in our midst. After all, in our own little gathering of people, we have one who has lost a wife in the past year. What have we done to help him fill that empty space in his life? I would hope anyone who has lost family members, or who may feel alone in this world, would feel comfortable and accepted in our church. If they don’t, we have some work to do.
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.

Grace and peace, friends.

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On the Wrong Side of the Door

Today is Sunday, January 7, 2018. Day 21,850.

81 days until Opening Day.

Jon Lester, born on this date in 1984, said, “As I travel the country for away games, I meet kids fighting cancer in almost every city. They visit the ballpark, and I invite them onto the field so we can chat and then watch the game.”
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is horsefeathers, an “interjection,” meaning, ” rubbish; nonsense; bunk (used to express contemptuous rejection).”

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning, which will be a morning of worship and prayer, similar to our usual Night of Worship. I will be leading the prayer portion of this gathering. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, TX.

Yesterday, for the first time, we tried Kroger’s “Click List,” where you order your groceries on line and go pick them up at a designated time. They have people in the store that gather your order for you, and alert you if there are any necessary substitutions. It worked out very well, and we only needed two substitutions. We get three free pickups, and after that, I think they only charge 4.99 or something like that. It certainly makes grocery shopping easier!

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

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.
O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. 
O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 
if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah. 
Arise, O LORD, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. 
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. 
The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. 
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 
My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. 
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. 
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. 
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 
He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 
His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 7

(From The Business of Heaven)
Waiting to be Called In

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.” (The Weight of Glory)

Father, as I prepare myself for worship, this morning, and for the daunting task of leading a group in prayer (for which I feel most unworthy), may I truly give to you the thanks due your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, that I might sing praises to your name, for you are Most High. Though I have, to my knowledge, no pursuers, there are things out there that intend for me to stumble and fall, temptations that I face, as do all who call upon your name, every day. May you be our constant refuge from those temptations, and may you deliver us from our own weaknesses.
As we wait on the “wrong side of the door,” waiting for you to call us into the true reality of your Kingdom, give us strength for obedience. And may my eyes constantly be drawn to the beauty around me, that I might filter out the not so beautiful things of this world.
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.

Grace and peace, friends.

Teach Me Your Paths

Today is Saturday, January 6, 2018. Day 21,849. Epiphany.

82 days until Opening Day.

Early Wynn, born on this date in 1920 (died 1999), said, “I’ve got a right to knock down anybody holding a bat.” He was a pitcher, in case you didn’t get that.
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The word of the day, from Dictionary.com is boustrophedon (I can’t believe my browser spell-check knows that word), a noun, meaning, “an ancient method of writing in which the lines run alternately from right to left and from left to right.”

The weekend has commenced. Did I mention that I dropped my RX 350 by the Lexus dealership Thursday, on the way home from work? It was due for regular maintenance. They gave me a loaner, which, in this case was an ES 350 sedan, because they didn’t have any more RX loaners. I still have it, this morning, because they found a couple of warranty-covered issues that needed work. The hood shocks were not holding up adequately, and the rear shocks were leaking fluid. They didn’t have the rear shocks in stock yesterday, but were going to get them today. They might get it finished sometime today, or it might be Monday. I really like the loaner sedan, so my feelings aren’t hurt.

Recent update! As I was finishing up, here, I received a call that the rear shocks will not be in until Monday morning. So we get to keep the sedan until at least Monday!

It turns out I will not be playing for tomorrow morning’s worship and prayer gathering. I guess the worship leader thought it best for me to be able to focus my attention entirely on the prayer portion, which is fine with me.

That’s all I’ve got.

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

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. 
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long? 
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. 
For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? 
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. 
My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. 
Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 
The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. 
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Psalm 6

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

(From The Business of Heaven)
The Epiphany of the Lord

“We, with our modern democratic and arithmetical presuppositions would so have liked and expected all men to start equal in their search for God. One has the picture of great centripetal road coming from all directions, with well-disposed people, all meaning the same thing, and getting closer and closer together. How shockingly opposite to that is the Christian story! One people picked out of the whole earth; that people purged and proved again and again. Some are lost in the desert before they reach Palestine; some stay in Babylon; some becoming indifferent. The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear – a Jewish girl at her prayers. That is what the whole of human nature has narrowed down to before the Incarnation takes place. Very unlike what we expected, but, of course, not in the least unlike what seems, in general, as shown by Nature, to be God’s way of working. . . . The people who selected are, in a sense, unfairly selected for a supreme honour; but it is also a supreme burden. The People of Israel come to realize that it is their woes which are saving the world.” (The Grand Miracle)

(From The Finishing Touch)
Think It Over

This book, while having a daily reading during the week, combines the weekend into one, which appears to be an opportunity to mull over what has come during the week.

“With prayer and thoughtfulness, spend some time thinking about the year ahead and where God may be leading you.
“You may want to write down some of your conclusions below so that you can pray about them and refer back to them from time to time in the coming year.”

Below that is a section simply filled with blank lines. What will I write? What would you write?

I’ll be honest. I’m struggling to know, yet, where God is leading this year. Perhaps it is even somewhat superfluous to consider that. Where is God leading me for my life? Not just for this year. I can’t see that 2018 should be any different than the rest of my life. That being said, I won’t discount the thought that God might, at any moment, change the direction he is leading me. That has happened before.

For now, though, I will venture an answer. I believe that God is leading me down a path of better discipline. By “discipline,” I don’t simply mean a regimen of any kind, such as eating better or getting more exercise. I mean Spiritual Formation, the Spiritual Disciplines. I believe that, in 2018, I need to strive to better work out my salvation with fear and trembling, by working the disciplines, most especially ones like silence and solitude, meditation and prayer. I could certainly use more study in my life, as well. Where is God leading me? He is leading me down the path of his ways, in his truth. As my “life verse” says, “Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) That is where God is leading me, and it is where he will continue to lead me. It is up to me to follow.

Father, I want to keep my eyes more on you, this year. Only six days into the new year, and I feel as if nothing has changed. So help me to go deeper. Help me to keep my eyes more on you, Lord, and to work the disciplines into my life. Lead me in your path, teach me your ways. Show me your truth.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

Lists

Today is Friday, January 5, 2018. Day 21,848.

83 days until Opening Day.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
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The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is bindle stiff (yes, I realize that is, in fact, two words), a noun, meaning, “hobo; especially : one who carries his clothes or bedding in a bundle.”

We made it to Friday. And so far, I’ve managed to remember what day it is, all week.

This weekend, we’re having a sort of Night of Worship on Sunday morning. Rather than our usual worship gathering, we will be having several worship sets, interspersed with times of specifically guided prayer. We do this about once a year, and it usually turns out to be a pretty good gathering.

Monday night, I will be rejoining the Southlake Community Band’s rehearsals, after a several month hiatus. I’m looking forward to that. I think I said that yesterday.

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

To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. 
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. 
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. 
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 
You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. 
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. 
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. 
For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. 
Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. 
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. 
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. 

Psalm 5

(From The Business of Heaven)
The Road

“When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, ‘Look!’ The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. ‘We would be at Jerusalem.'” (Surprised by Joy)

I totally get what he is saying. Once we have found the road, the passage that takes us to our destination, we waste no more time staring at the next signpost, only glancing at in in passing, to be assured that we are still on the right path. For our desire is to get to our destination, not examine the path on the way.

(From The Finishing Touch)
New Year Stats and Lists

Many people are excited about the beginning of a new year. Others, not so much. “All those months stretching out before us hold many of the answers to today’s questions. From this perspective they seem mysterious and intriguing, maybe a little frightening.”

But as winter gives way to spring, we will find that not much has changed, after all. In the words of “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem:”

All things are full of weariness; . . . What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
Ecclesiastes 1:8-9, 14

And this is a pretty good description of life with God; “monotonous repetition of weeks, months, seasons, years, decades, and generations.”

What do people do to make it bearable? Let’s see . . . “they ‘wish upon a star,’ they look for bluebirds flying ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ . . . most of all, they ‘dream, dream, dream.'”

Charles Swindoll examined a poll that he saw in Money magazine, taken in an attempt to find “the American Dream.” Their survey identified what “affluent American couples consider ‘the good life’: 9738% dream of having a happy home life, 72% want to live well in retirement, 71.3% want to be free of debt. 68% want to have children, 26.7% would like to retire early, and 10.7% dream of owning a late-model car.”

Most of these are actually admirable goals. But some of them seem unattainable for many, which causes a list like this to be quite discouraging.

Many of us make our own lists at the beginning of new years. I, personally, quit doing that a number of years ago. Sure, I have aspirations, but I’ve quit making lists and resolutions. However, Swindoll suggests we look at lists of “a few men who have gone before us.”

Moses’s List (Exodus 19:3-17)

“Don’t ever place substitute gods before the Lord your God.
Don’t make an idol out of anyone or anything.
Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. It is holy.
Remember to observe a Sabbath rest every week.
Honor and respect your dad and mom.
Don’t murder anyone for any reason.
Never, ever commit adultery.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
never lie or give a false impression.
Don’t covet another person’s mate, benefits, or belongings.”

Paul’s List (Galatians 5:19-23)

“Stay away from the things which flesh produce, such as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, arguments, jealousy, angry outbursts, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, and running around with the wrong crowd.
Emulate the things which the Holy Spirit produces, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Peter’s List (2 Peter 1:5-8)

“Be a diligent person.
Don’t waver in your faith.
Be known for uncompromising moral excellence.
Enlarge your reservoir of knowledge; keep learning.
Stay balanced; guard against extremes.
Persevere.
Make sure your godliness is free of hypocrisy.
Treat others tactfully, graciously.
Let your Christian love flow, let it flow, let it flow.”

All of these look like pretty good stimulation for some New Year’s lists. I agree with Charles, that these lists are much more encouraging than the previously-mentioned “temporal stats.”

Mr. Swindoll suggests that if we take these lists seriously, “two things are certain for this year: 1) You won’t be the same person you were last year, and 2) You certainly won’t get bored.”

Father, I thank you for these “lists” from Scripture. May I take these to heart, not only just to begin 2018, but for the rest of my life. Remind me each day of the principles that are represented by these lists, and help me to consistently make them part of my life.
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.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Least of These

Today is Thursday, January 4, 2018. Day 21,847.

84 days until Opening Day.

Oscar Wilde said, “But what is the difference between literature and journalism? …Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.”
The Quotations Page

The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is hornswoggle, a verb, meaning, “bamboozle, hoax.”

Not much to talk about, around here. I’m starting back up with band practice in Southlake, this coming Monday evening, so that will be new. I’ve been off since the July 3 concert of last year. But I’m looking forward to getting back into it. I need to be playing.

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

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah. 
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. 
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. 
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4

In today’s Daily Guideposts reading, Stephanie Thompson reminds us that the time we spend waiting, for whatever reason, can also be time waiting to hear from God. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)

(From The Business of Heaven)
An Upside Down World

“While we are in this ‘valley of tears,’ cursed with labour, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous. For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order–with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order? How can you find any image of this in the ‘serious’ activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heartbroken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis? No . . . It is only in our ‘hours-off,’ only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” (Letters to Malcolm)

(From The Finishing Touch)
Upholding Human Dignity

Some years ago, an 84 year old Swedish woman sat on her balcony for two months before a neighbor discovered that she had died. The neighbor felt badly for not realizing it sooner, saying, “I hope this dreadful story makes us better at keeping in touch with our old neighbors.”

“Isolationism,” says Chuck Swindoll, “is a human tragedy.” This scenario could have easily played out in any country, city, or town. “For fear of poking our nose in someone else’s business or getting involved in something that could backfire on us, we have trained ourselves not to stop, look, or listen.”

Certainly, we must be cautious. Who hasn’t heard of someone who unwittingly stopped to help an apparent stranded motorist, only to be robbed, or worse? Yet, “somewhere between prudent caution and total isolation there is some sort of measured space worth the risk.”

Our world has grown fast-paced (even more so since 1994 when this book was published). Technology makes us more and more insignificant. We all struggle to be loved for who we are, yet tend to put up these fake personas on social media. We get voice mails when we call people. Some would rather send texts than talk to people in person. I, personally, do not enjoy having “conversations” via text message. For one thing, it takes too long to type a message of any length on the tiny phone “keyboard.” When we call “customer service,” we get someone in a far-away country, with little or no real understanding of the issues we are facing. We can even drive to a local ATM at any time of day or night, and get instant cash without any kind of human involvement.

“Machines write for us, answer phones for us, get money for us, shop for us, think for us, rent cars for us.” All of this has resulted in a tragic loss of human dignity. Dallas Willard defines “dignity” as that which cannot be exchanged for something of greater value. For example, we can exchange a few dollars for a hamburger. But there is nothing of greater value that should be exchangeable for a human life. That is one reason human trafficking is so horrible. But I digress.

Our excuses for the devices that rob us of this dignity is that they save time, allowing us to be more efficient. Plus they keep “us from getting hung up on knotty things like relationships and people-related concerns.”

Says Swindoll, “What’s so healthy about becoming completely untouchable? What’s so healthy about high-tech efficiency? What’s so healthy about computer-generated letters from one friend to another? What’s so healthy about spending the day talking to machines?”

A machine can’t give you a hug when you are grieving. They don’t really “listen” to you, because they are incapable of caring. Neither can they give you affirmation when you’re down or confront you when you’re wrong. “When you need reassurance and hope and strength to go on, you cannot replace the essential presence of another human being.”

Remember, Jesus came to save people, “human beings with names and personalities and fingerprints and faces. Upholding human dignity is worth the effort every time.”

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
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. 
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 
They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 
I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139

Father, remind me today of the need to uphold human dignity, with every person I meet. No matter how annoying I think a person might be, they are a creation of yours, made in your image, and deserve the consideration of someone who will deal with them as though they were Jesus. As Rich Mullins once noted, after treating someone rudely, “I just know that was Jesus.” Remind of this today. Everyone I meet is one of the least of these.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

“In Your Presence, Peace Flows”

Today is Wednesday, January 3, 2018. Day 21,846.

85 days until Opening Day.

J.R.R. Tolkien, born on this date in 1892 (died 1973), said, “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
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The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is sacerdotal, an adjective, meaning, “of or relating to priests or a priesthood : priestly.”

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

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 
many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. 
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah. 
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 
Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 
Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.

Psalm 3

“In sickness and in hope and tears and sweat and pain. In every moment. You are here. And in Your presence, peace flows.” (Erin MacPherson, Daily Guideposts 2018)

(From The Business of Heaven)
Refreshments on the Journey

“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” (The Problem of Pain)

(From The Finishing Touch)
How to Waste Time

There are countless books available, these days (and have been for decades), on how to “get the most out of your year, how to increase your efficiency, how to make every moment count, how to invest your time wisely and productively.”

Going against this trend, Charles Swindoll has decided to give us five proven ways to waste our time.

“First, worry a lot.” Start early “and intensify your anxiety as the day passes.” If you can’t come up with enough things on your own, check Facebook. But be sure to include your mistakes and failures, “what you should or could have done but didn’t.” For variety, “worry about things you should not have done but did.” Weight, marriage, job . . . all of these things provide adequate fuel.

“Second make hard-and-fast predictions.” Be as specific as possible, ignoring James 4 (“you do not know what tomorrow will bring”). Swindoll provides an example of Jimmy Hoffa, who, one month before he disappeared, announced, “I don’t need bodyguards.”

“Third, fix your attention on getting rich.” There are plenty of books written about that subject, as well, not to mention “entrepreneurial seminars and high-pressure sales meetings.”

“Fourth, compare yourself with others.” That’s a good one! And it adds fuel to number one, as well. “Not only will you ricochet between the extremes of arrogance and discouragement, you will also spend the time not knowing who you are.”

“Fifth, lengthen your list of enemies. If there’s one thing above all others that will keep your wheels spinning, it’s perfecting your skill at the Blame Game.” You can waste plenty of evenings “reveling in your feelings of hate and bitterness, stewing over those folks who have made your life miserable.”

With these five suggestions, you can “set new records in wasting valuable time.” Plus you won’t have to worry about “being happy, efficient, productive, and contented.”

All in good fun, right? But how many of us do all five of those things on a regular basis? I’m a worrier. I spend plenty of time on number one. But God would have us do otherwise. And while these things sound like “foolish exaggeration,” indeed, we do waste a lot of time on these exact things.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:13-17

Father, I confess that I do waste a lot of time worrying. I also waste a good bit of time judging, which could probably fall into category five. I probably spend a good deal of time in category four, as well. May your Spirit remind me, each day, that you are my provision and protection. You are my source, for all that I need. There is nothing to worry about, ever. In your kingdom, things are much better than I could ever imagine. Remind me of the quote from Guideposts, this morning. “In Your presence, peace flows.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

How Much Did You Lose?

Today is Tuesday, January 2, 2018. Day 21,845.

86 days until Opening Day.

Roger Miller, born on this date in 1936 (died 1992), said, “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”
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The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is accentuate, a verb, meaning, “accent, emphasize,” or, “intensify.” As in “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

Back to work today. It feels as if I didn’t get a holiday at all. Oh, wait. I didn’t, did I, since I had to work Saturday and Sunday. Oh, well. Plus, I’m going to constantly be forgetting what day it is, all week.

It’s 22 degrees as we wake up, this morning, and will only get up to around 28. I realize that there may be some of my readers who would go out and play ball with short sleeves in temps like that. But to us North Texans, it’s COLD! 😀

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

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2

(From The Business of Heaven)
The First Job Each Morning

“The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
“We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, ‘Be perfect,’ he meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder – in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” (Mere Christianity)

I recall Dallas Willard saying that he, upon waking up each morning, would not get out of bed before praying through either the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23. Lewis is right, though. At present, I’m doing nothing remotely similar to that. It’s a habit I need to develop.

(From The Finishing Touch)
A Diet That Works

Normally one of the first things that people do, at the beginning of a new year, is start a diet, “attacking the age-old battle of the bulge.” And a lot of those diets are fad diets. But a real diet that works isn’t “fad or fun; it’s tough!”

Should we not be more concerned, however, with “spiritual fitness?” Says Swindoll, “I know of now Scripture that teaches we’ll be weighed in before entering heaven.”

In speaking of a “spiritual game plan,” he mentions Psalm 119:1-16.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 
Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 
I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! 
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! 
With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

There are three things that are emphasized in these verses. First is God’s blessing, bestowed upon those who keep his Word. Second is the authority of that Word (in fact, all 176 verses of Psalm 119 speak of God’s Word, in one form or another). Third is “the necessity of God’s presence.”

Verse 9 poses a question: “How can a young man keep his way pure?” Or, hopefully, an old man, as well. The answer is in the next seven verses. “If you’re looking for a diet that really works, you’ve found it!”

Seek the Lord on a regular basis (v. 10). Pursue Him daily. Keep him involved in the everyday stuff. Include Him in your decisions, plans, your fun times, your struggles. The key is consistency.
Treasure His truth in your heart (v. 11). Commit verses of Scripture to memory. A heart full of treasure leaves little room for trash.
Openly tell others of Him (v. 13). Something wonderful happens when we open our own lips and speak to others about how our God has changed our lives. Make this the year you make your faith known.
Rejoice and delight in God’s workings (vv. 14, 16). Smile more. Let your delight shine. Laughter has numerous therapeutic benefits.
Spend more of your free moments meditating on His principles (v. 15) Think about them. Weave them into your driving time, your workouts, while waiting for an appointment, before going to sleep.
Give God your full respect (vv. 15-16). Don’t hold back. Trust completely. Make this the year you dare to live by faith. When uncertain, hold His precepts in highest regard.”

So let’s forget about the fad diets and take a serious look at this “Psalm 119 diet.” I may not lose twenty pounds, but I will develop some serious “spiritual muscle.” After all, when we stand before God at the end of the race, the question won’t be, “How much did you lose?”

Father, thank you for Psalm 119. I pray that I take these words to heart today, as well as the words of C.S. Lewis, regarding how to start my morning, each day. May your Spirit remind me, tomorrow morning, to stop and pray before I get out of bed. And may my last thoughts before falling asleep tonight be of your Word.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.