Displacing Worry with Christ

Today is Friday (I had to think a minute), the twenty-third of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,570

I’ll give a quick update on my cyst removal surgery, yesterday. It went very well, as far as I can tell, with no complications or anything. I’m a little sore, but not in any kind of terrible pain. I can take extra strength Tylenol through the weekend, and then I can take Ibuprofen. I have to leave the bandage on through Saturday, and then need to replace it every day. I go back in two weeks to get the stitches out.

I may not have mentioned that this was happening . . . I don’t remember. But the two cysts were very close together, right on top of my head. They are sending them to pathology, which is routine.

It’s Friday, so I will be in the Computer Center at the library today, from 9:15-6:15. If time allows, I will update Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit, after I finish my devotional.


Our dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you have given us the Lord Jesus on high and that we are allowed to be with him and find joy even while still surrounded by all that must fade and perish. For in Jesus Christ you hold us by the hand through anxiety, need, and death. Grant that he may be with us as we continue our pilgrimage. Grant us your Spirit, for we are poor in spirit and in soul. Give us your Holy Spirit from on high. Just in our weakness we come to know what strength and victory you bring through the Lord Jesus, our Savior. The Lord Jesus is our Savior for body, soul, and spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 
(Ephesians 4:8 RSV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for God’s love, poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit
  2. that we can have joy, even though we are surrounded by everything that must fade and perish
  3. for the peace that comes when we allow Christ to displace worry in our lives
  4. that prayer is more than just asking God for stuff; it is fellowship with Him
  5. that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4 ESV emphasis added)

Three times, in those four verses, the author of this little epistle declares that he is an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ. And the reason that he is writing this is given, “so that you too may have fellowship with us.”

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

I see this as more of a comparison than an outright command that we must confess sin. If we agree with God (assent or acknowledge) that we have sinned, we will be forgiven; if we claim that we are sinless, we are delusional, “and the truth is not in us.”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.
(Proverbs 5:21 NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

If I think too much about the Lord examining all my paths, it might create the anxiety that I am not supposed to have, according to Philippians 4. On the other hand, knowing that my “ways are in full view of the Lord” can bring comfort to me. There is no hiding from God; there is nowhere I can go where God is not. And even though I’m not perfect, even though my thoughts sometimes go places where they should not, I know that my God is already there, and that there is nothing that I can do, say, or think that changes His love for me.

The Philippians passage says, “in every situation.” Interestingly, the Greek word that is translated “every situation” in NIV and “everything” in ESV and NLT is simply “pas.” That word essentially means “all.” There is no further object indicated. This explains why the KJV is translated “every thing.” I like Eugene Peterson’s translation.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
(Philippians 4:6 MSG)

We worry about so much, these days. The Christian Church is fraught with worry, and those worries seem to be over such meaningless things. There is an implication here, since we are told that if, instead of worrying, we pray, we will have peace, then the opposite also applies; if we worry instead of praying, we will not have peace.

And that peace that results from praying instead of worrying transcends all understanding. Peterson’s translation here is also wonderful, to me. “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

I forgot to finish my thought up there, when I pointed out the part that says “in every situation,” or in “everything.” This includes those situations when we have allowed ourselves to stumble into sin, or when we have allowed negative thoughts to reign in our minds, or when we allow complaining to be the order of the day. Prayer is not just for when we need someone’s healing or provision. Prayer is for everything, for “pas.”

“Love breaks the chains that hold you to the past; it allows for growth, change, and new life. When you accept God’s love, you also accept God’s forgiveness. As you love yourself, you also forgive as you are forgiven and you love even more . . .

“The more control you try to grasp, the less you have; the more control you surrender to God, the more under control your life becomes. Surrendering control doesn’t mean you have become passive or fatalistic. It means you trust that God has given you the physical, emotional, and spiritual tools necessary to negotiate life. To surrender control to God releases the tension within that keeps you from responding to life with all your capacity. When you stop pushing and pulling to have things your way, you are more apt to see things God’s way.”

(Adolfo Quezad, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

It seems to me that this last paragraph supports the teaching of Philippians 4:6-7.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Andrew Murray further supports the truth of the Philippians passage. When we give in to anxiety and prayerlessness, we experience self-condemnation. (I am speaking primarily to believers, here.) But, if we pray, instead, as Paul admonishes, “Think of the confidence in the Father that will replace the reproach and self-condemnation that characterized our lives before. Think how the hour of prayer may become the happiest time in our whole day, and how God may use us there to share in carrying out His plans, making us a fountain of blessing to the world around us.”

And then, Murray says, “Prayer is not merely coming to God to ask something of Him. It is, above all, fellowship with God and being brought under the power of His holiness and love.”

I believe this all falls under the truth of the Jeremiah passage. When we pray, we disable the anxiety, we recognize God’s plan for us, and we have peace.

Father, strengthen us to believe in the victory that You have prepared for us. Strengthen us to believe that the blessing that You have for us is greater, far, than anything we could ever imagine! Teach us to pray instead of worry. Teach us to live in the country of grace and forgiveness, rather than in the country of worry and doubt. We will doubt, yes. We are human, and it goes with the territory. But we do not have to live or dwell in that doubt. We do not have to allow our minds to dwell on that doubt.

Give us that peace that passes all comprehension or understanding; help us to live in that promise of life and hope and a future in You. Help us to pray over everything, and in doing so, release the reproach and self-condemnation that we tend to fall into. Help us to remember the great words of Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

In the Watches of the Night

Today is Tuesday, the twentieth of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,567

Only two more days until Autumn begins!! (Which, as has been duly noted, means absolutely nothing in Texas, as it is still 90 degrees outside.)

And, once again, the high temperature for yesterday was two degrees below the predicted high of 95. We are running about six degrees higher than the average for this time of year.

Today’s high is projected to be 96. The record high for this date occurred just last year, at 100 degrees.

C and Mama are currently at Mama’s doctor appointment, as she is seeing a new doctor here in Fort Worth, for the first time. I hope they like him.

I’ll be working my half-day, this evening, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. C will be working from home the rest of the day, after the doctor appointment, and I will probably go out and pick up Subway for lunch today.

There were only nine baseball games, yesterday, none of which involved my two favorite teams. However, the Mets, I am told, clinched a playoff berth, yesterday, when they beat the Brewers 7-2. I read that this was their first playoff appearance since 2016. Comparatively, though, six years isn’t such a long time. According to one source, the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, and they are on track to get a Wild Card spot, this season.

The Astros clinched their division, yesterday, to be the second team that has clinched a division, this season. However, I’m confused, because Seattle has sixteen games left, and they are fifteen games out. So that “clinching” shouldn’t happen until Houston wins their next game or Seattle loses one, as Seattle’s E# is 1. If Houston has clinched, there should be an “E” next to Seattle.

Update: I’ve dug a little more deeply into that situation. If Houston lost the rest of their games (not likely) and Seattle won the rest of theirs (also not likely) they would be tied, in which case the head-to-head record would be used to determine the record. Houston beat Seattle 12-7 this season. So there you go.

The Dodgers won again, so their chance to beat the win record is still alive. They must win fifteen of their last sixteen games. They are, of course, still atop MLB with 102-44. The Nationals and Athletics both lost, so the Nats are still on the bottom, at 51-96. The Mets have a five-game win streak going, and the Pirates, Phillies, and Diamondbacks all have four-game losing streaks. The Dodgers have a run differential of +332, and the Pirates are at -214 (the Nats are at -213).


Lord God, our Helper, we thank you for walking among us and for letting many experience your protection. Even when we are dying, you protect and help us so that we need not pass into death but may enter into life. So may our hearts be lifted up to you. Grant that the light in us remains undimmed, and that we may come before you in sincerity. Lord God, create good out of evil. Let light dawn in the darkness. Fulfill your promise, for our hearts are not concerned with human desires but with your promise. You will carry it out, and we will be able to say, "Our faith was not in vain, our hope was not in vain. Lord our God, you have blest us a thousandfold." Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts. 
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
(Psalms 145:3-5 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the love of family and friends
  2. for the wonderful works of God, past, present, and future
  3. for my soul that desires to meditate on the Lord in the watches of the night
  4. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which is better than life
  5. for the admonishment to “be still before the Lord”

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, 
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
 beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life, 
my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live;
 in your name I will lift up my hands. 
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
 and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed, 
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8 ESV)

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
(Psalms 119:148 ESV)

“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”
(Lamentations 2:19 ESV)

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 ESV)

Initially, I am drawn, once again, to the “steadfast love,” or chesed, of God. In this case, the psalmist (reported to be David) says that the steadfast love, or mercy, of God is better than life. This stands to reason, because without that steadfast love, there would likely be no life.

But then I am drawn to the middle verses of this psalm; verses 5-7.

I have been physically satisfied (even beyond satisfied) by “fat and rich food.” This is the comparison that David gives for his soul when he remembers the Lord in his bed at night. He speaks of meditating on the Lord during the “watches of the night.”

This made me remember one of the prayers for Compline from the Book of Common Prayer.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

I remember reading a great book about that prayer, by Tish Harrison Warren, called Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.

I really want to get into the habit of practicing Compline and “examen” before I go to sleep each night. Tragically, I keep forgetting. Examen is the practice of a detailed examination of the conscience, typically done at the end of the day. As a spiritual discipline, though, it goes deeper than just checking the conscience. It examines the day; what went well, what didn’t go well? What could have been better? How did I react to certain situations?

These are the kinds of things that I think about when I consider the “night watch,” or remembering God “upon my bed.” I’ve gotten out of the habit of the “bedtime prayers” that I grew up with. It is something that I really need to get back into.

“Release yourself from the bondage of your own judgment. Love yourself without condition. Love yourself through the walls of defensiveness and the darkness of your deeds. Love yourself beyond whatever you deserve for such is the love of God.” ~ Adolfo Quezada, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
(Psalms 37:7 ESV)

“Be still” is translated “rest” in the KJV. The Hebrew word is damam, which can be translated “to be dumb,” or “to be astonished,” but also means “cease,” “hold peace,” “quiet self,” “rest,” “be silent,” and so on.

Is this not the same sort of thing that happens when we remember the Lord upon our beds, meditating on Him during the watches of the night?

How many of us go to sleep at night worrying about current events or things that happened during the day that trouble us? And how many times do these worries cause us lack of sleep?

This is one of the purposes of Compline and Examen. To quiet the soul before trying to sleep. One thing I do every night (now that I think about this) is to turn on a meditation app that I have on my phone. It’s called “Abide.” They have great, Scripture-based sleep meditations. I have a set of headband-headphones that I put on (so that it doesn’t bother my wife), and I start one of the meditations. They allegedly last up to forty minutes, but I have yet to make it to the end of one of them.

This isn’t the same thing as purposeful examination of the conscience and the day that preceded, but it certainly can’t hurt anything to fall asleep listening to Scripture.

This verse, though, instructs us to not worry about evildoers or those who prosper. Eugene Peterson translated that verse this way:

Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
(Psalms 37:7 MSG)

In this, we are shown patience and endurance by the Holy Spirit. Waiting requires great patience; resting in the Lord requires great patience and faith.

Father, help me to wait and rest better. I pray for Your Holy Spirit to remind me, each night, to examine the day, to check my conscience, to see how I could have done better, and also how I could have done worse. Help me to remember You on my bed, and meditate in the watches of the night. If I have trouble going back to sleep, simply draw my thoughts and meditations toward You in prayer.

Thank You for these words of worship and wisdom, and help me to apply them to my life today.

Even so, please come quickly, Lord Jesus!

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.” ~ Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer

Grace and peace, friends.