Outdo One Another in Showing Honor

Today is Saturday, August 25, 2018. Day 22,080.

Nine days until our Labor Day Holiday!!

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank, 1929-1945, BrainyQuote

The word for today is jaunty, “sprightly in manner or appearance : lively.”

The lasik surgery seems to have gone fine. C is resting, and we have her follow up appointment at 9:30, this morning. She should be good to drive her car back from the surgery center. In fact, they had told her that she would be able to drive to her follow up, but since she was driving herself to the original appointment, her car is still there.

In the meantime, I received a call at about 3:30 PM, yesterday, stating that my car is ready! Of course, they would call on an afternoon when I couldn’t go pick it up! The good news is that they are open until 5:00 PM today. So our plan is to take C to her appointment, then I will drive from there over to where my car is and take care of that.

We also have an appointment for our Corgi, Tessie, at 3:15 PM, for shots and nail clipping. And somewhere in the midst of all of this we are finally supposed to get that toilet installed. Busy, busy day! So much so that, last night, we decided that we would set up our Kroger Click List order to pick up on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Sox lost badly to the Rays, last night, 10-3. The Rays are hot, right now, having won six consecutive games. But still . . . Their record is 90-40, and they are 8.5 ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. Unfortunately, the Yankees are currently playing the Orioles. 37-91. 52 games out.

The Rangers scored late in the game to come back and beat the Giants, 7-6 in ten innings! They are 58-72, 21 games out in the AL West. 19.5 out of the Wild Card.

As already stated, the Rays have the longest current winning streak, at six consecutive games.

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

This is a little brief, this morning, as I have to drive C to her appointment, shortly.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8

This is a topic that is addressed over and over in Scripture. Love one another. “Outdo one another in showing honor.” What that means is that we are supposed to treat each other as if the other is more deserving of honor than we are. This is so difficult to do. Which is why we need the Holy Spirit to help us and enable us.

Romans 13:8 has been abused as a verse about having financial debt. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about loving one another. “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

The Church, at large, has not done a great job of loving one another in the 20th and 21st centuries, especially lately. Technology has driven us into solitude, and not the good kind. I’m as (or more) guilty as the next guy in this, and really need God’s help to learn to love appropriately. I’m way too judgy when it comes to my individual relationships, and I know it’s wrong.

We all need to love each other more, and we need to be obedient to God’s call to treat each other as being more significant than ourselves.

Father, I pray that You keep teaching me this truth. Don’t let it go in my life. Keep at it until I get it. Show me how to love my brothers and sisters to the point that I treat them as being more significant and deserving of honor than I. I am serious about this. Take away my habit of judging people! It is wrong and evil, and I hate it. Help me to love my brothers and sisters as You have loved us in Christ.
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.

Contemplation

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”~~Anne Frank (BrainyQuote)

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is fulminate, “to complain loudly or angrily : to send forth censures or invectives.”

Today is Roast Chestnuts Day. So today is the day to do what that song talks about. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose . . . ” Unless you live where I live and it’s going to be in the sixties all week.

Well, it’s only eleven days until Christmas. I think we are mostly finished with our Christmas shopping, except for a few little things and stocking stuffers. We’re supposed to get free lunch at work on Wednesday, and then those who participated in the “Secret Santa” will be exchanging gifts on Friday.

We’ll be having our traditional Christmas Eve gathering with Christi’s family. Our church is having a Christmas Eve service, as well. We’ll do our normal Christmas morning, and then head to Grandma’s for a few days. Then Christi and I will both be off work for the first three days of the next week, which uses the last of my PTO.

We don’t have band practice tonight. The band’s Christmas party is tonight, but we won’t be making that one. Our next rehearsal is on January 4. I will, however, be taking part in something rather unique next Saturday in Grapevine. The 6th annual Grapevine Yuleslide will be occurring, in which trombone players from around the area will be gathering to play some Christmas music. That should be great fun!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

The final piece in Keller’s framework for daily prayer is contemplation. Again, here is a word that causes many people to run away, but if understood properly, it is truly a necessary piece of the equation. I believe Keller has been very good at explaining just what he means and does not mean by contemplation.

Jonathan Edwards “described contemplation as times when we not only know God is holy, but when we sense – ‘see’ and ‘taste’ – that he is so in our hearts. Martin Luther describes it as a sense of getting lost in an aspect of God’s character. Luther writes this:

It often happens that I lose myself . . . in one petition of the Lord’s Prayer, and then I let all the other six petitions go. When such rich good thoughts come, one should . . . listen to them in silence and by no means suppress them. For here the Holy Spirit himself is preaching and one word of his sermon is better than thousands of our own prayers. . . . [So] if the Holy Spirit should come and begin to preach to your heart, giving your rich and enlightened thoughts . . . be quiet and listen to him.

However, if we assume that this kind of experience will be the norm, John Owen reminds us that it is not so. Many of us will begin and end our prayers with a kind of sense of “spiritual dryness or even of God’s absence.” When this happens, our final contemplation should simply consist of mulling over the best thought we received about God, giving him thanks and praise for who he is, and then petitioning him to “come near and show us his face in his good time.”

In its simplest form, contemplation can be nothing more than enjoying the presence of our Father.

Father, I ask that you help me be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in my prayer times, listening to hear if he might be “preaching” to me, in regard to some truth or aspect of your character that has been highlighted.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

Good morning. It is Saturday, August 1, 2015. Welcome to August.

Tough choice for word of the day, today. So tough, I’m not choosing. I’m going to give you both of them! The word of the day from Merriam Webster is skulduggery, a noun, meaning, “underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; also : a devious device or trick.” I’ve always been a fan of that word. The other one, from dictionary.com, is noctambulous. I mean, who couldn’t love that word, right? It means, “of, relating to, or given to sleepwalking.” So let’s see if we can get on with some noctambulous skulduggery, here!

Today is Mead Day. No, not Margaret. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made with honey. It is similar to wine, but much, much sweeter. It is also very difficult to find, being a throwback to the days of knights and ladies of the court. Every year, when we visit Scarborough Renaissance Festival, I make it a point to have a glass of mead. It’s quite delicious, in my opinion. Perhaps I will see if I can scrounge some up, today, but I have my doubts.

I wound up working until just shy of 6:00 PM last night. Christi and I actually got off work at almost the same time, so that turned out okay. She stopped and got our Sonic drinks, and I ordered pizza. We didn’t stay up too terribly late, because she had to get up and go in by 6:00, this morning. But she’s already back home, and everything seems to be working correctly, which is good news.

We don’t have much planned for today, I reckon. We’ll get some lunch, and have our prayer and worship gatherings this evening. Tomorrow, we will go get our groceries, along with some for Christi’s mom and step-dad. Usual Sunday stuff. After that, who knows. Perhaps we will go bowling this weekend. We have decided that we don’t need another activity added to our weekly schedule, so we won’t be bowling in a league, just yet. Beginning Monday, I have band practice again on Monday nights; I have Huddle on Tuesdays; Christi has bowling on Tuesdays (currently over, but they are planning a winter league); Christi has Huddle on Thursday; we have church on Saturday. If we add a bowling league to that already frenetic schedule, we will have something five nights a week. That’s just too much. Maybe after our Huddles are done, we will look into something, but who knows. For now, we will stick to casual bowling on Sunday afternoons, whenever we get the chance.

The Rangers and Red Sox both won again, last night. The Rangers have a three-game winning streak on, while the Red Sox have won two in a row, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. Cole Hamels, newly acquired by the Rangers, will be pitching in tonight’s game.

On this date in 1876, Colorado became the 38th U.S. state. In 1902, the U.S. bought rights to the Panama Canal from France. In 1941, the first Jeep was produced. In 1944, Anne Frank made the last entry in her diary. On this date in 1966, Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, after which he took numerous guns to the Tower on the campus of the University of Texas, where he killed 14 more people and wounded 32 others, from the observation deck of the tower. The tower was closed for a while, reopened and closed again several times, due to suicide jumps, 9/11, and other events. It has been open to visitors since 2004. On this date in 1981, MTV aired its first music video. It was, as is commonly known, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Buggles. I’m not sure when MTV played its last music video. (Sarcasm, there.)

Today’s birthdays include Claudius (Roman Emperor), William Clark (American explorer), Frances Scott Key (Star Spangled Banner), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Dom DeLuise (American actor/comedian), Yves Saint Laurent (French fashion designer), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Tommy Bolin (American musician), Robert Cray (American blues musician), Joe Elliott (English musician, Def Leppard), and Madison Bumgarner (American baseball player). Also born on this date was my granddaddy, D.W. Vinson.

Joe Eliott is the lead singer for the rock group Def Leppard. He turns 56 today, and they are still touring. I think they are going to be playing in the DFW area soon. One of my work associates keeps asking me if I’m going to see them. 🙂 Here is their hit, “Pour Some Suger On Me.”

Notable deaths on this date include Marc Antony, Calamity Jane, and Charles Whitman (see history notes above).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 30 and Matthew 9. In Genesis 30, we pick up the ongoing tale of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob. Leah has had four children, and Rachel has had none. “Give me children, or I shall die!” she declares to Jacob. Jacob, flustered, says, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” So Rachel gives Jacob her servant, Bilhah. Because that worked out so well for Sarah, you know.

Leah’s sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Through Bilhah, Rachel had Dan and Naftali. Then Leah decided to get in on this act, since she had stopped having children. She sent her servant, Zilpah, in to Jacob. Zilpah had Gad and Asher. After this, Leah conspired with Rachel to get the mandrakes that Rachel had found. Apparently mandrakes had some kind of fertility characteristics. So, then, Leah had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. After this, Rachel had Joseph. That’s eleven, so far. Oh, and there was a daughter in there, who barely gets mentioned, Dinah.

At this point, Jacob starts trying to get away from Laban. It takes some scheming, as we will find out, for Laban was every bit as good a trickster as Jacob.

Rich Mullins wrote a song about this whole ordeal that Jacob went through.

In Matthew 9, we get a truncated account of Jesus’s healing of the paralytic that was brought to a house by friends. After this, Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector, to follow him, and has lunch with him. This gets criticism from the Pharisees, because they really hate tax collectors. Matthew gives us quick accounts of Jesus raising a girl from the dead, healing a woman who had been sick for twelve years, healing two blind men, and casting a demon out of a man who had been unable to speak.

At the end of chapter 9, Jesus gives this instruction to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Today’s Psalm from Heart Aflame is Psalm 89:34-35.

I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David.

(From Solid Joys)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Today’s reading is “Our Weakness Reveals His Worth.”

Our suffering magnifies Jesus Christ’s worth and power. This is God’s design for us. And this is grace, because our greatest joy is to see “Christ magnified in our lives.”

Right before the verse above, from 2 Corinthians, Paul had pleaded with the Lord to remove what he simply called a “thorn in the flesh.” We have no idea what this means. There is never any indication of what this “thorn in the flesh” was. We only know that the Lord refused to remove it from Paul’s life, responding, instead, with the verse that is quoted above. “God ordains that Paul be weak so that Christ might be seen as strong on Paul’s behalf.”

This is one of those things that is seen to be foolish by those who do not believe as we do. But we know that, if we appear to be self-sufficient, God does not get glory. Instead, we get glory. That is not our goal, nor our desire. Remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

So Paul, as he experienced this grace, rejoiced in it.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Living by faith in God’s grace means being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus. Therefore faith will not shrink back from what reveals and magnifies all that God is for us in Jesus. That is what our own weakness and suffering does.”

Father, may my faith not shrink back when suffering is ahead. I have not truly suffered for your sake. I cannot ever say that I have. But I have been weak before men, and will continue to do so, if being weak makes you appear to be stronger. I am surrounded by men who act as though they are strong. I pray daily that all of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ will rejoice in our weaknesses that make you stronger. May we say, along with Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I pray for this day, that you will be glorified in what we do today. May our prayer and worship gatherings be strong in you today. May we lift your name high, both in prayer, and in worship. May we rejoice in you, and may we hear the proclamation of your word, and receive what you have to tell us today.

Your grace is sufficient in all things.

May we rejoice in our weakness, knowing that it makes Christ appear stronger.

Grace and peace, friends.

God Gave Rock and Roll To You

Good morning. It is Sunday, June 14, 2015. We’re almost halfway through June, which means we’re almost halfway through 2015. No extra charge for doing that math for you.

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is friendful. Such a nice word. Friendful is an adjective, meaning, “Friendly, well-disposed, loving.” Let us all try to be more friendful today.

Today is Bourbon Day. There are many people who need no excuse to sip on a fine whisky drink, but today is a day to celebrate that fine whisky. The origin of the day is not known for sure, but it is rumored that this is the anniversary of the first day that bourbon was distilled, sometime in the late 1700s.

Yesterday was an interesting day. After I finished my blogging, we got ready to head up to church for set up and what-not. We stopped at Subway, on the way, for lunch, and then started getting things ready for our afternoon gatherings. For the sake of discretion, I will not go into detail, but something got me aggravated. A rash decision was almost made, but Christi “talked me off of the ledge.” The prayer gathering, I felt, really went well, and it seems that some of the prayers even lined up with what the evening message would turn out to be. I don’t think that was on purpose, either (except for the fact that God designed it). The worship gathering went very well, too, I believe.

We had our PAT meeting, at the usual place, Rosa’s Tortilla Factory. I had their chicken fajita nachos, which turned out to be pretty good. I believe our discussions went well, and during the time we were talking about personal “challenges and breakthroughs,” I expressed my desire to get back into playing music. I believe that the season of not being involved in music is over. I believe I have validation of this truth from multiple sources. One of the strongest validations was the band reunion last weekend. It reminded me how much I loved playing the trombone. So, I am determined to keep it up, somehow. But there’s more than just trombone. I also play guitar and keyboards, so there is much to do in order to return to a proficiency that I once had on those instruments.

The rest of the meeting went well, too. Afterward, though, the group of us had a “random” encounter with a man who claimed to have lost everything he had when a roommate stole his car and all of his valuables. His story was sketchy, to say the least, but we circled around him and prayed over him, gave him a little cash and sent him on his way. But not before one of our group gave the man his phone number and told him, “Call me after you get settled into a new place.” Who knows if we will ever hear from him again. I’m always skeptical when I hear stories like this, but we still were generous with him. God’s Word tells us to give to whoever asks of us, not to judge whether their stories are legit. Only this man is accountable to God for what he does with the money we gave him. We will continue to pray for him.

Today, we will do grocery shopping for us and for Christi’s mom and stepdad, then probably just rest for the remainder of the afternoon, in preparation for the work week ahead.

It was on this date in 1954 that President Eisenhower signed a bill into law that put the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1942, a young girl named Anne Frank began keeping a diary, on this date. And on this date, in 1938, Action Comics, issue #1 was released.
Action_Comics_1

Today’s birthdays include Harriet Beecher Stowe (American abolitionist and novelist), Nikolaus Otto (German engineer), Burl Ives (American musician), Rudolf Kempe (German conductor), Dorothy McGuire (American actress), Gene Barry (American actor), Marla Gibbs (American actress), Junior Walker (American musician), John F. MacArthur (American preacher/author), Rod Argent (English musician), Donald Trump (“You’re FIRED!”), Alan White (British drummer) (Why is Rod Argent “English” and Alan White “British??”) Harry Turtledove (American writer), Will Patton (American actor), Boy George (British singer), and Steffi Graf (German tennis player).

Rod Argent was born on this date in 1945, making him 70 years old today. He was a founding member of the sixties group the Zombies, and went on to have moderate success with a self-named group, Argent. One of Argent’s most famous songs is “Hold Your Head Up,” but they are also famous for giving us this song (which was actually written by singer, Russ Ballard):

Rod has also played with Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.
I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.
For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together
and say, “God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.”
O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!
May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.

Psalm 71

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

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

Today’s reading, by Melody Bonnette Swang, speaks of difficulty in having faith to follow where we believe God is leading us. A friend confided that business was slow, and she was considering returning to school to finish a degree. However, she was really struggling in moving forward with this, in spite of believing that it was God’s plan for her.

As the two friends sat in silence, after agreeing to pray about it, the observed a young girl and her daddy, on the playground. The father was coaxing the girl down the slide. She sat at the top, “clutching tightly to the rail, and he at the bottom, his arms outstretched to catch her.” You know where this is going.

“‘Honey,” he said, ‘I’m right here.’
‘I’m scared,’ she replied.
‘But honey,’ he said gently, ‘have I ever let you fall?’
She shook her head.
‘Then give it a try, okay?’ he asked.”

And down she went. “Daddy, that was fun! Let’s do it again!!”

It was a perfect lesson in faith for the friend. The verse, above, from Isaiah 41, depicts a God who is always there to catch us. Not only does he catch, He truly never lets go of us, in the first place. Our God holds our hand; he guides where we need to go. He is the one who is there to help us.

Psalm 56:3, a verse I will always remember from a Steve Green “Kids Sing Praise” song, says, When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. To the woman who bathed his feet in her tears, Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

God is there for us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will hold our hand. Forever.

Father, why do we struggle so hard to trust you? Your Word is full of promises, telling us things like what is stated above. You hold our hands; you help us; you provide for us; you never let us go; you catch us when we do fall . . . the promises are almost endless. Yet, when it comes down to it, I tend to lean away from believing. Why is it so difficult for me to believe? Like the man who encountered Jesus in the New Testament, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Give me faith, Father. You have shown me enough times. I don’t need any more examples. I simply need to believe. So I pray for the faith to believe, to trust in you, implicitly, without question, trusting that you will not allow me to fall. Let me, with childlike faith, propel myself down that “slide” into your waiting arms.

I pray for this day, that we will get our errands done in good time, with minimal stress or trouble, and that we can get some good rest, this afternoon, at home. Keep me faithful in prayer, throughout this week, but also give me some ideas on how I can work music back into my life. I pray that you also give good rest to Rachel and Justin, in preparation for whatever they need to do this week, and that you continue to hold up my mother. I pray that she had a good morning of worship and fellowship with her sisters in Christ.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we have the faith in God that is in line with the things we say we believe about him. May we follow him where he leads us.

Psalm 56 3-4

Grace and peace friends.

BONUS VIDEO!!

In Community, Not Alone

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, June 12, 2013.

Amber the Cat seems to be slowly improving. But we are still having to hand-feed her. This is a slow process. But the doctor did say that it takes close to a week for any kind of gastro-intestinal thing to get over. She seems to be eating more each day, even if it is a fight to feed her. She does occasionally get up and drink some water, too. And we think she looks better this morning.

Seven more work days on this account. I had a nice conversation with our top manager yesterday (he kind of inherited this account when our actual account manager took another job). He finally told me that they appreciated everything I have done through this, and that he didn’t think they could have made it without me. I asked for the week off immediately after we are done with it, and he said just send him the vacation request and he would run it through. So, I’m planning to be on vacation the week of June 24. I may sleep the whole week. Probably not. But it will be the most stress-free week I’ve had since February.

Monday afternoon, on the way home from work, I had a sort of “epiphany.” It could have very well been the “voice” of God, through the Holy Spirit. But regardless of what you believe about stuff like that, it suddenly dawned on me that I was taking all of this crap (sorry if that word offends you) too personally! None of this is personal. Of course, I hate it when my company fails at something. And we’ve been having service failures right and left as this account has continued to wind down. It seems like people care less and less about our performance. And I’ve been taking it too personally, which has caused me stress like you can’t even imagine! (Well, maybe you can; if you can, I pity you.) At that very moment, it was like all the stress that I had been feeling just melted away. Yesterday wasn’t much better than the day before. There were things that went wrong, and things that I had to fix right off the bat when I got to work. Yes, I got frustrated about a few things, but at the end of the day, I could say that I was amazingly UN-stressed! Thank you, Lord, for that!

In other news, Christi is OUT OF THE BOOT!!! Her doctor was, once again thrilled with her progress, so she can wear regular tennis shoes with inserts in them! Still no strenuous exercise for four weeks, when she sees the doctor again, but in a couple of weeks, she can start some light walking exercise. We are all very happy!


Today is Red Rose Day. Isn’t that the haunted house in Seattle that Stephen King wrote about? Oh, wait. No. That’s “Rose Red.” Sorry.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1937, eight of Stalin’s top commanders were executed for charges of treason, one of them being Marshal Mikhail N. Tukhachesvsky. This was part of Stalin’s plan to purge Russia of all opposition (even potential) to his regime. “Among the targets of scrutiny were former aristocrats, tsarist officers and anyone associated with Trotsky’s command of the Red Army during the Civil War.” Over the next year, this purge continued with the following losses occurring either through death or imprisonment: “three of five marshals; fourteen of sixteen army commanders; 60 of 67 corps commanders; 136 of 199 division commanders; 221 of 397 brigade commanders; and some 35,000 lower-ranking officers–in all amounting to about half the officer corps. Their replacements were for the most part unfit or untrained as commanders.” All of this, of course, resulted in some embarrassing and disastrous defeats during 1939-1941.


Today’s birthday is Anne Frank, born on this date in 1929. Born Annelies Marie Frank, she is probably the most famous of all of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Anne and her sister Margot both died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, after their family had been betrayed and captured. Anne was fifteen when she died in 1945. Otto Frank was the only survivor of the family, and when he returned to Amsterdam after the war, he discovered that Anne’s diary had been saved. He was able to get it published, so the world knows the story of Anne Frank. It was given to her on her thirteenth birthday and spans the dates from June 12, 1942 through August 1, 1944.

Anne Frank
Anne Frank

Honorable mentions go to Samuel Z. Arkoff, 1918, Dave Berg, 1920, Jim Nabors, 1930, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1977.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! Psalm 80:7
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. Psalm 71:23
Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. Psalm 68:28

Father, may my lips truly shout for joy this morning, as I sing your praises. Let your face shine on me this morning, as I look into your word, seeking truth and wisdom for my day.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “A Mentoring Influence.” The scripture reading is 2 Timothy 1:3-7, 13-14.

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

“Paul and Timothy met during Paul’s second missionary journey and worked together for some seventeen years.” Timothy was young, but had a spiritual maturity about him that defied his age. Paul took Timothy on and acted as a “spiritual father” to him. Timothy found in Paul someone who could train him in his faith, love him, and guide him in growth, while modeling the Christian life to him. Today we call this “mentoring,” or even perhaps, “spiritual direction.” Whatever it is called, Timothy participated in the discipline of guidance as he opened his life to Paul and sought growth through his influence.

“God’s speaking in union with the human voice and human language
is the primary objective way in which God addresses us. . . . This is best
suited to the purposes of God precisely because it most fully engages the
faculties of free, intelligent beings who are socially interacting with agape
love in the work of God as his colaborers and friends.
“~~Dallas Willard, Hearing God


As I continue reading chapter one in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, he continues to write about how we were “made to rule.” Humanity was created in covenant with God, with the command to “rule over all living things on earth, animal and plant.” God initially equipped us for this weighty task “by framing our nature to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him.” This “rule” was to be exercised in cooperation with God.

I can do very little in my own unassisted strength. If I have mechanical, electrical, or even atomic power at hand, i can do much more. But what can I do in union with God? All of the atomic power in the world pales in comparison! God created and controls all other forces.

Of course, we fell from this “intended divine context and from the task for which we are by nature fitted.” Over time, we have distanced ourselves from both God and each other, as mistrust has grown. “In our arrogance and fear we flounder through our existence on our own.” It is easy to see that lack of trust characterizes humanity today. However, our “fundamental makeup” has not changed! We still long, in the deepest places of our heart, to fulfill this original calling. We all desire to rule something in our personal life circumstances. When animals get in trouble, there’s always someone jumping up to take the cause. We experience creative will, we want to accomplish things, things of value. Unfortunately, when we jump up to take charge of the earth, we are doing it through distorted values. “Much of our time and energy is spent trying to dominate others or escape domination by them, from ‘office politics’ to tribal warfare to international relations on a global scale.” (pp. 22-23)


Father, as I prepare for the day ahead, I pray that I can be both Paul and Timothy. Let there be someone in my life, someone older and more mature, who can share his experience with me, who can teach me what he has learned about you. (This gets increasingly more difficult as I get older . . . not to find someone wiser, but to find someone older in my immediate circles.) Perhaps it can be someone who is “spiritually older,” yet not necessarily physically so. At the same time, I pray that someone could come into my life that I could share my own experience with. Surely I have learned something along the way that could be of value to someone else. I pray, however, for a humble spirit, that seeks not to “rule” my own kingdom, but to share in it, to share in community with other believers as we work together, play together, and worship together. My heart desires, not singular rule of a kingdom, but that of community. I desire fellowship with brothers and sisters. I pray that as our church moves forward, that this is what we will become, more and more.

I pray for this day ahead. I pray for Christi’s first day back at work wearing normal shoes. Help her to take it easy walking, to not try to walk too fast or too much. i pray that her foot will continue to heal as well as it already has. I also pray for job stability for her in the future. I also pray for her to find favor in this other thing that’s going on. As always, I pray that you show Stephanie your steadfast love today, teaching her your love and your ways. I thank you for my newfound attitude at work, and pray that that will remain intact today. Give me a “double portion” of your spirit today, of your wisdom, of your love, of your peace, that I might be a rock of strength in your strength today. I have no strength of my own, as seen in the above segment from Dallas Willard’s book, but in you, I can accomplish anything. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Your grace is sufficient.


Do you have a “Paul” in your life? How about a “Timothy?” In light of Willard’s writing, these kind of relationships are getting scarcer. We need to recapture the spirit of mentoring, of community, in our lives, regardless of belief systems.

Grace and peace, friends.

Maintain the Relationship

Good morning! It is Saturday, August 4, 2012. We got to sleep in late again, today. That will stop soon, as we will, once again, have to go back to setting up the worship area for our worship celebrations at The Exchange. Tomorrow, we will be in early, as we are working tech for the service.
Today is U.S. Coast Guard Day. Apparently, there is an annual celebration “Festival” in Grand Haven, Michigan. That would probably be a nice place to be in August. Much nicer than, say, Texas. It’s supposed to get all the way up to 88 today in Grand Haven. I bet they think that’s hot. Well, it’s already 90 here, with a projected high of 105.

On this date in 1944, Anne Frank and her family were captured by Gestapo in an Amsterdam warehouse. Anne, of course, had been working on the diary that would later become famous. It survived the war, because it was overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered their hiding place. She was 15 when captured. Her and most of the others from that hiding place perished in the Nazi camps. On this date in 1892, “Lizzie Borden took an axe…” On this date in 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born. On this date in 1927, country music legend Jimmie Rodgers was recorded for the very first time. The first song recorded was called “The Soldier’s Sweetheart.” Here is a very well-made video of some guy playing the 78rpm record.

And on this date in 1936, Jesse Owens won the gold medal for the long jump in Berlin. In the Berlin Olympics, he won four gold medals, beating out the alleged Nazi “Aryan master race.”


Today, we’ll be going out to Hawaiian Falls water park in Roanoke for an evening of water slides (and “lazy river” for me, thank you) with our church family. Should be good fun. We’ll be packing the 100+SPF sunblock, too. Not much else going on today, around here. My kind of Saturday.


Father, I pray for some inspiration from you today, that I might live this day looking to your face.


Today, I’m reading Psalm 65.
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
(1-4)

Sometimes I wish we had a “temple.” But then, I remember that our God does not dwell in a building made by men. The “house of God” is the hearts of men.

Verses 9-13 give thanks to the Lord for watering the earth and the crops of Israel. It is a reminder that we should thank God for all of the blessings we receive.


My Utmost For His Highest
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” Luke 18:31

God is very brave to trust us. Wait, what? Yes! It’s true. We say that God has been, perhaps, unwise in choosing us. There is nothing of value in us, we are not trustworthy. “That is why He chose you. As long as you think there is something in you, He cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency then He can choose you…” This also means that he will fulfill purposes “which He does not discuss with you.” Think about that last line. Most of us (me included) seem to think that we can negotiate with God over what our lives will be. I’m going to say this emphatically. GOD DOES NOT NEGOTIATE! I have no right to myself, nor do I have any right to discuss with God his purposes for me. And trust me, this is speaking very loudly to me right this very moment.
We tend to say that, if a man has some kind of natural ability, that means he would make a good Christian (whatever that means…). But it has nothing to do with what we bring with us, because, truthfully, we bring nothing with us. “The only thing that avails is that we are taken up into the big compelling of God and made His comrades (see yesterday’s reading).” Those who are comrades with God are those who know their own poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” “He can do nothing with the man who thinks that he is of use to God.” (Emphasis mine) Read that again! “He can do nothing with the man who thinks that he is of use to God.” Do I have a “cause?” I must drop it. The only “cause” that matters is the cause of God! There are times when we are not sure what God is after, but we must, nevertheless, maintain our relationship with him. If we go chasing after some “cause,” no matter how “righteous” it may appear, we have fallen off the path. “We must never allow anything to injure our relationship with God; if it does get injured we must take time and get it put right.” At this point, Chambers makes another great statement (in my opinion). “The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do {GASP!!}, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship.” Yes! We get so caught up in the work that we neglect the relationship. Yes, there is work. But the relationship must come first. The principle is this: Take care of the relationship and the work will follow effortlessly.


Father, for the past week, I have been praying that you would make me “poor in spirit,” that I would be aware of my poverty. It is, I think, timely that I should read this reading today. I am encouraged by the writing of Chambers today. I follow no cause but you, Lord. Jesus is the only “cause” that matters. I will not focus on the work at hand, but rather, the relationship that is so desperately vital to my survival in this world. Keep that right in front of me daily. I know that I bring nothing of value to you. I pray that you can use me. I believe you have used me, and I pray that you will continue to do so. While I don’t particularly know where you are taking me at this point in my life, I will endeavor to maintain the relationship. I struggle with a matter in my life right now, regarding my activities at our church. Today’s devotion spoke loudly to that struggle, Father. I have no right to be dissatisfied about anything in regard to what you are currently doing with me. What someone else gets to do is of no concern to me. It’s like Peter and John, when they walked with you and one pointed back to another and said, “Well, what about him??” What happens to “him” matters not to me. It is of no concern. What matters is my relationship with you and that I willingly go wherever you want to take me. Thank you for showing that to me today. You continue to break my heart, Lord. Not in a bad way…I mean not that it is broken in sadness, rather it is being broken in willingness. I am nothing. I am less than second. You are all. I am last. By the power of your Spirit, I ask you to help me follow your great commands, that I love you with all my being, that I love my neighbor as myself, and that I love the Church as you have loved the Church.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray for a good, relaxing time at Hawaiian Falls tonight, but I also pray that you keep us safe and keep us from over-exposure to the sun. I pray that all who attend under the auspices of The Exchange will behave themselves as your children should. I pray that we will glorify you in all that we do.

I pray for our worship celebration tomorrow. May we worship you with reckless abandon, throwing aside anything that would hinder us from intimate fellowship with you during that time. I pray for Joel as he brings your message to us tomorrow. Open his mouth to speak your truth, and open our ears to hear your truth. Teach us your ways, that we may walk in your truth. Unite our hearts to fear your name.

Give me clarity and focus as I continue into my private prayer time.


Maintain the relationship. Forget about any “cause” that threatens to distract you from Jesus. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Grace and peace, friends.