To Know You Is to Love You and Trust You

Today is . . . um . . . Thursday. Right. Thursday, the eighth of July, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,128

42 days until S’s birthday!

I can’t think of anything really pressing that I need to blog about, this morning, so I’m going to move on into the devotional time. I will say that C is feeling better, this morning, and is going to work at the office today. But, since she was asked yesterday to nail down her two work-from-home days, she has chosen Friday as her second day to work from home, so she will be working from home again, tomorrow.


Morning Dew, by Daryl Madden

To start the day in prayer
Relationship pursue
Thirsting of the quenching
Sweet the morning dew

In the heat of day
With challenges so tough
Let these drops of water
Here now be enough

When it’s parched and dry
Hope this day to keep
Grounded in the soul
Of the roots grown deep

When the rain pours down
Let living water flow
Grateful for the blessings
If our Lord to know

I love that third stanza. It’s why I’m here, every morning, hoping to keep this day grounded, and grow my roots deep, like that Psalm 1 man.

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
(Psalms 34:4-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the daily rain of Living Water that flows into my soul.
2. for the confidence that, whenever I call out to the Lord, He hears me.
3. that I can say that I know You and know Your Name, therefore, I trust You and love You.
4. that You oppose the proud, and show favor to the humble; help me to be humble, not proud.
5. that I can cast all my anxiety upon You, because You care for me.

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



The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,
(Nahum 1:7 NIV)

As I pause in quiet reflection, I consider that You are here, very near to me. When I call out to You, I have confidence that You hear me. You don’t always answer in the way that I want, or as quickly as I would like, because Your timing is far better than mine. But You do hear. I also have confidence that You care about those for whom I pray each day.


For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David.

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause, sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.
(Psalms 9:1-6 NIV)

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
(Psalms 9:9-10 NIV)


All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
(1 Peter 5:5b-10 NIV)


Father, as I read these passages again, and linger within, may Your Spirit guide me to truth, to meditations that will send me into my work day with deeply-grounded faith.

What better way to approach the day than to be glad in the Lord, and to sing His praises? (Psalm 9:2?) The psalmist had much to be glad about, based on the next few verses. I, too, have much to be glad about. For one thing, I don’t have the kind of “enemies” about which the psalmist sings. Sure, I have annoying people in my daily life, but they aren’t trying to attack and kill me. As far as I know.

I have good work that helps keep the bills paid. We have been blessed to the point that those bills are gradually shrinking away, and we have more resources to share with others. And, our hearts are growing more generous with the blessings that we have received. We are, for the most part, healthy. Yes, C is having some back and stress issues. Speaking of which, she is scheduled for more injections today, to see if surgery can be avoided.

So I have much about which to sing and rejoice.

I believe that I know the Name of the Lord, therefore I trust in Him. (verse 10) And this is a key element in life. “Those who know your name trust in you,” says the psalmist. And it’s true. Of the people I know, those who do not trust in the Lord don’t know Him. It’s that simple. Some of us who are older remember a song: “To know, know, know him, is to love, love, love him.” Sure, that’s a song about a girl and a boy. But it’s true of our God, as well. If you really know Him, you can’t help but love Him and trust Him.

The passage in 1 Peter 5 has more good stuff than I have time to reflect on, this morning, so my plan is to keep that open at work, either in a browser or on my phone, so that I can continue to reflect on it, throughout the day. Maybe I will actually remember this plan after I get there.

It begins with the mass call for humility, to the whole body of Christ. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” He even gives us a reason. We are to humble ourselves so that God will, in His time, lift us up.

1 Peter 5:7 is a popular memory verse, and rightfully so. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” This is a challenging thing, too. We love our anxiety. In some cases, it may even be an “idol.” I know that sounds crazy, but think about it. Do you know people who seem to thrive on anxiety? I’m a worrier. My mother is a worrier. Must be where I got it, right? I catch myself worrying about things that will likely never happen.

It’s not as bad as it used to be, thanks to the Lord and His work in my life. But I still catch myself creating my own anxiety, putting pressure on myself that, when I step back and take a look at it, is coming from no one else but me.

“Nobody’s fault but mine,” the old blues singer, Blind Willie Johnson sang.

Father, I rejoice in You, and sing Your praises. I have much to be thankful for, much to praise You about. Let me never stop. As long as I have breath, I will praise You. In fact, based one what I believe and know, I will continue to praise You beyond the time that I have “breath,” for all eternity! Oh, how I look forward to that! I long for Home, Lord, truly long for it. Yet, I know that I still have work to do in my temporary home. I must, because I’m still here, right?

Help me to be humble today, especially with other brothers and sisters in Christ, but also with all others. Keep my “enemies” at bay. Help me to cast my anxiety upon You, because You care for me. Help me to humble myself, that You might lift me up, because You oppose the proud, but favor the humble.

God of truth and light,
my sworn enemies--
the world,
my own flesh,
and the devil--
are not always obvious opponents.
They are shifty prowlers,
usually hidden and wickedly crafty.
So make me wise to their schemes but mostly alert to your grace.
In Jesus' name,
(Heidelberg Catechism 127)


And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
(1 Peter 5:10 NIV)

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
(Psalms 10:17 ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
(Jeremiah 29:11-14 ESV)

Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the time appointed every year, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.
(Esther 9:26-28 ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Father, I don’t believe in luck, nor am I what might be called a “fatalist.” I believe that everything happens for a reason; that there are no “random” or “chance” happenings. Yet, I also believe that I have a small amount of control over my own little “kingdom.” Help me to exercise wisdom in those things over which I have control, as well as the wisdom to know what things I cannot control. And in all things, help me to trust Your hand of mercy and love, and to know that Your care over us is greater than anything else. All glory and honor to You, Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Lord, please give me a deeper understanding of the Gospel, today, and how it can work itself into my life. May I truly experience the benefits of being Your adopted child, today. I pray that the gifts and fruit of the Spirit will manifest themselves in my life today.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Here’s that song, just for kicks.

Cast Your Anxieties

Ah, we are back to Monday again. It was nice having four days off in a row. We are nearing that time of year when all of the holidays will be over for five whole months. I would seriously like to have a chat with the person who put all of our holidays in the second half of the year. Our Thanksgiving was good, though. We have so much to be thankful for. Today, I am thankful that we got all of our Christmas decorations up yesterday. It was chilly and windy outside, but we got the outside lights up, and then later, we decorated our Christmas tree. So the house is all pretty now, and festive-looking.

I’m requesting prayer for Stephanie this week. She’s gotten herself all worked up and stressed out over the homebound program, now. Thinks she can’t even do that. The teacher is due over here at 900 this morning. I’m hoping that she can give Stephanie enough encouragement to keep her going.

Today’s Bible readings:
1 Peter 5; Ezekiel 47-48; Proverbs 30:29-33

Peter gives some very important instructions to elders in 1 Peter 5. They are to shepherd the flock, but “not for shameful gain.” (v. 2) In other words, don’t do this just for the money. Now…anyone who has ever ministered at a small church would laugh at that idea. However, there are some “pastors” out there who have become very wealthy. Nothing wrong with that, mind you…it just depends on the motivation. And the local church has a responsibility to take care of their “shepherd,” too. The elder is also not to be “domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (v. 3) The elder/pastor/bishop is not to be a ruler. Then Peter changes direction and gives some instructions to the “flock.” Those who are younger should “be subject to the elders.” (v. 5) I don’t think many people understand this concept any more. I was raised in a rather old-fashioned way, and still give respect to my elders. I realize that this passage is not just speaking of someone who is older than me, but an “elder” in a church should not be someone who is, you know, 20 years old. In our church, I give respect to the elders, or the leadership team (some of which are older than me). One of the men that I work with in the church during setup time, and also attends our lifehouse, insists on calling me “Mr. Bickley.” I find that slightly amusing, but he is giving me respect, because I’m older than him. It feels rather strange, because I’m not used to it.
After this, though, Peter once again stresses the importance of humility within the body. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (v. 5, italics mine) I don’t think we can emphasize this enough! Obviously, God didn’t think it could be emphasized enough, either, because he keeps having the writers of Scripture bring it up. Peter even continues in verse 6 with the same thought. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (included v. 7) Now, a lot of people like to quote verse 7. But they don’t ever include verse 6 in their quote. It’s typical though, because we only want to think about the benefits we can get from God…we don’t want to think about our responsibilities to him! But this little passage tells us that we first have to humble ourselves before God, THEN cast our anxieties on him!
We are told to be sober-minded and watchful, because our enemy (Satan) “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (v. 8 ) However, we are admonished to resist him and stand firm, because “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (v. 9) After a period of suffering, our God will restore us. (v. 10) One thing to note, as 1 Peter comes to a close. Verses 8 and 9 tell us that our enemy, Satan, is very real, and very powerful. He is not omnipotent, as our God, nor is he omnipresent or omniscient. He’s not “omni-” anything! Nevertheless, he is powerful and not to be trifled with. I’ve heard some well-meaning people say that the “roaring lion” in verse 8 has no teeth. I’ve never seen any serious commentary to support that notion.

Father, I pray that I will be a humble person. I catch myself, at times, not acting in humility. But it is necessary, especially in relationship to the rest of the body of Christ. We are told to be humble and then to cast our anxieties on you. I know that you care for us, Lord. I think the problem is that we get caught up in not wanting to “bother” you with our piddly little anxieties (even though they aren’t so little to us!). You’re the God of the universe, we think…how could you be possibly concerned with someone smaller than a speck of dust, in comparison?? But your Word says that you are! So we must accept that. How much easier, our lives would be if we would simply obey your Word and do these things! If we would consistently humble ourselves before you and cast all of those anxieties upon you! But, now…we hang on to them and suffer. And that, in itself, is a rather perverted sort of pride, isn’t it? When we fancy ourselves too small for you to care about, we ignore the words that you have spoken, and think we know better than you. How tragic this is! I purpose this day to attempt to get away from that kind of thinking.
I pray that we will take our enemy seriously, Lord, but at the same time, not credit him with too much strength. He is not nearly as powerful as you! Therefore, if we are humbling ourselves, and casting our cares on you, we should have nothing to fear from him!

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray that Christi and I will have good days at work, and I pray that Stephanie will be able to get through a couple of hours visit with her homebound teacher, and that she will get renewed confidence that she can handle this program, which is designed to make her successful. I also pray that she would learn the truth of 1 Peter 5:6-7. Let her learn to cast those anxieties on you, instead of trying to bear them herself.

I continue to pray for a possible building for The Exchange to meet in. We’ve heard no updates recently, but will keep praying. The timing is yours, so it will happen when you are ready. I pray for Joel’s continued healing from his accident. I also pray for comfort for Jordan, who recently lost his Grandma last week, and was also involved in an accident which totaled his car. May he have a week filled with your grace and mercy this week.

May you comfort my cousin Al, and my mother, in the loss of their aunt on Thanksgiving evening.

Let us all humble ourselves, and then cast those anxieties on God, where they belong!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Futility of Anxiety

Well, I guess mtsweat is happy this morning. I seem to recall you being a Cardinals fan, right? 8) But that’s a subject for the Other Blog, should I ever have time to update it again.

Good news with Stephanie. She had a really good psychiatrist’s visit yesterday. He has been insisting for some time that the school environment simply won’t work with her. And honestly, I must admit that her struggles have been getting progressively worse ever since she started changing classes (somewhere around intermediate school). His suggestion, which we are going to attempt to work out with the school is either 1) going “homebound,” which means the school has to send a teacher to our house, or 2) dropping out. So, at this point, we are pursuing the hombebound option. Stephanie is almost giddy. Her entire countenance changed yesterday afternoon. She’s completely like a different person. It may not work out…we’ve had difficulties before with Keller ISD cooperating, so we will see. Christi and I have agreed that it’s not a disaster if Stephanie doesn’t graduate. Even if she does, it’s pretty meaningless…she won’t have a 12th grade education, anyway.

Tonight we have our lifehouse group meeting. So I won’t get to watch much of the World Series game. But some things are more important. Life, for instance…

Today’s Bible readings:
2 Thessalonians 2; Jeremiah 21-22; Proverbs 22:9-16

Paul feels the need to begin chapter 2 with encouragement concerning the “day of the Lord.” It seems that some are saying that it has already happened. …not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (v. 2) Paul says “the rebellion” must come first and the “man of lawlessness” must be revealed. (v. 3) “Lawlessness” is rendered “sin” in some manuscripts. This man will set himself up as God, according to verse 4. He chastises them gently in verse 5: Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? Then he gives some words that are actually kind of difficult to understand. And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (vv. 6-7) Unfortunately, we who read this now don’t know what the 2 Thessalonians knew, because it is not self-evident “what is restraining him now.” The only thing we know for sure is that God is behind the power that is restraining this “man of lawlessness.” We do know, however, thanks to verse 8, that Jesus will make short work of this man when he returns. Take note of the activities, though, in verses 9-12. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Also take note of who sends the “strong delusion!” It is God! It is very important to realize who is in control of all things. The Lord is in control of everything.
Paul then gives thanks for the Thessalonians, though, and encourages them to stand firm. Then he shoots out a short prayer for them. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (vv. 16-17)

In Jeremiah 21, the king sent the priest, Pashhur, to Jeremiah to ask him about the impending invasion by Babylon. Jeremiah told him that the Lord said that he would fight against Jerusalem. But then he gave an interesting prophecy. “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’ (vv. 8-10) So they were told that if they went willingly with their attackers, they would be spared.
In chapter 22, the Lord declares his desire for justice. Thus says the LORD: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation. (vv. 1-5) God has always cared deeply for the oppressed, the widows, and the fatherless. If a nation refuses to care for these, that nation is doomed.

Today’s reading in Grace For the Moment, by Max Lucado, is called “Fretting Is Futile.” The Scripture reference is Matthew 6:27. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Another word for “being anxious” is a word that we are all too familiar with…”worry.” “The biblical word for worry (merimnao) is a compound of two Greek words, merizo (“to divide”) and nous (“the mind”). Anxiety splits our energy between today’s priorities and tomorrow’s problems. Part of our mind is on the now; the rest is on the not yet. The result is half-minded living.” Wow. That’s pretty amazing. And very accurate, I think. But there’s more.
Worry, though not a disease, is responsible for other diseases. Anxiety has been connected to “high blood pressure, heart trouble, blindness, migraine headaches, thyroid malfunctions, and a host of stomach disorders.”
Know what the really sad thing about all this is? Worry accomplishes absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero. It is totally futile. “Worry has never brightened a day, solved a problem, or cured a disease.”
My mother used to tell me, “Don’t borrow trouble.” Is faith the opposite of worry? I don’t know. But it is certainly the cure for it.

Father, please teach us how to not worry. Teach me how to have faith that preempts worry. Anxiety is useless. Yet I find myself directly disobeying Scripture by indulging in it. Do I enjoy worry? Is it fun? No. Yet I find that I lack faith and tend toward worry anyway. Thank you for this definition that shows me that my mind is divided when I worry. There is not point in being focused on the “not yet.” It is completely useless and a total waste of time. Not to mention that it’s a sin, as well. I truly believe that, Father. So forgive me for my sins of worry. And make me more faithful and obedient.

I pray for the church, Lord, as the end draws closer. Obviously, none of us knows when it will happen. It may not happen in our lifetime. Many are convinced that it will; that times are so much worse than ever. But are they really? All you ask of us is to be prepared. That we stay alert, and be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about our faith. I pray that I will have that answer, should that time arise. Keep me alert, Lord.

I thank you for a good doctor visit yesterday with Stephanie. I thank you for the change in her when the decision was made to try to change her circumstances. I pray for her mind, Father. I pray that you would work to change it and heal it.

I pray for this work day for me and Christi. Help us to get things accomplished that need to be done. I pray for our lifehouse meeting tonight. And I begin praying for our worship celebration on Sunday. I pray for our pastor as he prepares a message for this week. Give him great faith and peace as he prepares, and open his mouth to speak exactly what you would have him speak.

Worrying never solved anything.

Grace and peace, friends.

Rejoice! Be Reasonable! Don’t Worry! Be Content! Be Generous!

It’s Thursday, right? And I’m sneezing my head off. And that’s annoying. Especially when it rolls far enough away that I have to get up to retrieve it.

Two more work days until vacation. Today and tomorrow, I’m training someone to take my place next week. That’s always a dilemma, you know? How well do you train someone to fill in for you while you’re gone? I mean…you don’t want the company to figure out they could get by without you, do you? Just kidding. Seriously…everyone is expendable. If you think you are not replaceable, you will be very shocked someday.

Pray for our pastor and his family. It seems that they have all come down with some kind of “bug.”

I’m taking Stephanie to school today. There’s a pep rally early. I don’t even want a chance of last Friday’s scene.

Today’s Bible readings:
Philippians 4; 2 Kings 23:31-24:20; Proverbs 18:13-18
Philippians 4 contains some final exhortations and greetings. After pleading with two women to get along, Paul gives these instructions: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (vv. 4-7)
We have plenty to rejoice about, so we should rejoice! But also, look at verse 5. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed that verse before. I figure most of us skip right over from rejoicing to verses 6-7, which are some very popular memory verses. But think about that. I’ve met a lot of believers in my life who are totally unreasonable! What does it mean to be “reasonable?” I’ve found a few definitions. “Not extreme or excessive.” “Possessing sound judgment.” Ooookaaayyy…. Moving right along… Seriously, though…did you ever notice that we have a Biblical mandate to be reasonable? Apparently, a lot of other folks haven’t either.
I’m also a little shocked to notice that verse 6 is not the beginning of the sentence. I’ve always heard it that way. The memory verses always begin with “Do not be anxious about anything…” But the sentence actually begins in verse 5! “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything…” Is Paul referring to Christ’s return, or is he speaking of Christ’s abiding presence with us? (Keep in mind, I’m reading the ESV. The KJV actually starts the sentence in verse 6.) But since we have the presence of Christ, we have this admonition to not be anxious. Anxiety is incompatible with trust in God! Do we truly realize this? So, instead of being anxious, we are to bring our requests to God with thanksgiving. I’m not sure that means (as many have interpreted) that we are supposed to thank God in advance for answering our prayers. I’m not really a big fan of that practice. I see that more as being presumptuous than as having faith. Nevertheless, we are to be thankful when we come to him in prayer. And the result? PEACE! The kind of peace that cannot be understood.

Heh. In verse 8, Paul says “finally” again. Didn’t he say that in 3:1? “FINALLY, finally!” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This is a big one. If we were to think about all the things we think about (what??), would we find that they are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise?” I cringe when I read this verse. I think there are a lot of things that I spend time with that aren’t any of those things. Do the TV shows that I watch fit this description? What about all the books I read? Am I willing to chunk everything in my life that doesn’t fit the description in Philippians 4:8? I haven’t gotten there yet. Have you? This is a tough one.

Paul continues by telling us that he has learned to be content. He has faced hunger and need, and has had plenty. But he has learned to be content in all situations. This is another one that’s tough for most of us. We need this. Perhaps it’s part of being “reasonable.” Then there’s verse 13. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Don’t we love to yank that verse right out of it’s context and throw it around like a cure-all? Paul is speaking in terms of his ability to be content in any circumstances. He’s not claiming super-invulnerability, here. Context is key. Whatever situation he finds himself in, Paul has learned, by the strength of Jesus Christ, to be content and to survive.
Another verse that we love to pull out of context is verse 19. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Again, we throw that around like it will fix everything. But read the verses before it to see who Paul is speaking to and what he means. He is speaking to people who have shared out of their need to support his ministry! So before you go claiming Philippians 4:19 as a promise, check your generosity level. Have you been supporting the gospel of Christ? If not, you have no grounds whatsoever to be quoting that verse!

The main event that happens in the passage in 2 Kings is that Nebuchadnezzar comes to Jerusalem and carries everyone off to Babylon.

There are several good verses in the Proverbs passage (as if there are some that aren’t good?). Verse 13: If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. How many times do we start answering someone before they finish talking?
Verse 15: An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Verse 17: The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. This is meaningful for me, because I’m the type who hears the first argument and says, “Yeah, he’s got a good point.” Then along comes the second argument, and I’m, like, “Oh…wait a minute, now…” So we should hear all sides of an issue before we make up our minds, right?

Father, I call out praises to you this morning. I call out to you, the God who is. You, who are YHWH, “I AM.” I will rejoice in you today. No matter what comes my way, I will rejoice. I will do my very best to be reasonable today. I thank you for showing me these truths today that I have not noticed before. I thank you that the Bible continues to be a living book, teaching me new things every day! I will endeavor to be content in all circumstances today, believing that I can, in fact, do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I pray that you will continue to keep us generous. You have gifted my family with enough. And we have been, over time, willing to share with others, to support the gospel of Christ with our giving. I pray that we will continue this, and that we will never get greedy or stingy. I have confidence that will supply all of our needs through your riches in Christ Jesus.
Lord, let my heart be intelligent; let my ears be wise. Let me seek your knowledge always. Let me be quick to listen and slow to answer. But also let me always have an answer for my faith. Give me the preparedness of the Holy Spirit in case someone questions me about my faith in you.

Father, I pray for this day. I pray for another good day for Stephanie. She’s had three good days this week. Keep us safe as we travel to and from work and school. I pray for a good work day for Christi and me. Give me wisdom as I work with someone to show them my job for next week.
I pray for our Lifehouse meeting tonight. I pray that as we continue to share our “stories” with each other, that you would grow us closer in fellowship and in grace. I look forward to these meetings and growing with these people.

A lot of good stuff today. Not from me…from God’s word. The biggest one for me today is being reasonable.

Grace and peace, friends.

“God Is In Control, So Chill Out!”

A good Tuesday morning to all. A little groggy this morning because of slight allergy problems. It’s that time of year. I will report that Stephanie had one of her best days at school in a while, but the evening at home was a little strange. I think her stomach was a little upset though, either because of the increase in meds or because it’s very close to “that time of month.”

I wanted to give a brief overview of Sunday’s message in yesterday’s blog, but I have to hurry so much on Monday that I didn’t have time, so I’ll do it today. The message was called “We Will Not Forget What Really Matters,” and was the final of the series based off of the 9/11 anniversary. Joel started off with a “top ten” list of the top ten things that most worry Americans. Here they are, as he gave them.
1. Deficit out of control
2. Terrorism
3. Health care system at risk
4. Stubborn unemployment
5. Inflation
6. Rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, etc.
7. China
8. Crime
9. Housing Market
10. Political uncertainty

That’s probably a pretty accurate list, I would guess. All of this led him to the main thesis of this message. Seeking Christ is what really matters and seeking Christ leads to unshakable security.

The Scripture passage for the message was a very familiar one, but one worth returning to frequently. It was Matthew 6:25-34. The first point was “God is in control, so chill out!” He said that when he started writing that one, he first had it sounding all deeply theological, but finally just simplified it to that. I think that’s a great way to state it. If we could all remember that one thing every day, our lives would be a lot less stressful. We need to remember that our God has established what is called “covenantal” (that word just looks all kinds of wrong…) relationship with us. Joel also reminded us of a truth found in Psalm 109:21. But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! Everything that God does, he does for his own name’s sake. I may have alluded to this idea yesterday. God works for his own glory, not for ours. I know that sounds self-seeking and arrogant to some. But he’s the creator. And the creator has every right to do whatever he wants with his creation. And, ultimately, everything he does, in the “Big Picture,” is good for us. It may not seem like it at the moment (for example, 70 day of 100+ temperatures in north Texas this summer…), but it is. We have to remember that God is in control, so chill out!
Joel also quoted Proverbs 12:25, which says, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Then he told us that many Christians live their lives as “practical atheists.” What that means is that we say that we believe that God is sovereign, but then we live a life of worry and anxiety over every little thing. Sad but true.
Point number two was that “Faith in God’s goodness separates us from unbelievers.” There may be a lot of times that our lives may not look much different from the lives of unbelievers, especially when we get caught up in the same pursuits, but there is one thing that, if we are true Christians, will separate us and that is our faith in his goodness. I would like to say that my faith in God’s goodness is unshakable. I would love to say that. But I’m not sure I would be honest. Most days it is. Most days, I will will proclaim to you that God’s goodness is true and firm. But every now and then, I doubt. There have been some times in the midst of Stephanie’s biggest meltdowns that I have come dangerously close to thinking God had abandoned us. But he didn’t! And he never will. I know that in the deepest part of my heart. My head might freak out and disagree sometimes, but, ultimately, my heart will win out. We need to stop doubting God’s ability to handle our lives!
The final point was from the last two verses of the passage, verses that have been quoted and sung for years. I’ve been singing Matthew 6:33 since I was a youth in church. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Of course, when I was a youth, we sang King James Version…it’s pretty much all we had. Yeah, I’m that old. My quotes are always English Standard Version, unless I say otherwise. Then verse 34, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Those two verses make point three of the message, which was simply, “The secret to success.” Yes. It’s that simple. Or is it? Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Don’t worry about self. Don’t worry about food, drink, clothes, and stuff. Seek God and his righteousness, and you will have all those other things. Ultimately, it’s not what matters, but who matters.

Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 4:1-16; 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; Proverbs 16:9-17

Paul begins Ephesians 4 with an admonition. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (vv. 1-3) Again, it’s important to point out that the “walk” he calls for is not to earn that calling. We not told to walk in such a way as to not lose our salvation. We are simply called to walk in a way that shows that we are Christians. And what does that walk look like? Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and eagerness to maintain unity. The next couple of verses have a bunch of “ones,” illustrating this need for unity. And basically, the rest of this passage is about unity, how we are one body and we are to grow together and mature. Let me say, though, that truth is never to be sacrificed for the sake of unity. There are many who would do that. Unity becomes the end, rather than a means to an end.
Verse 11 lists some of the “offices” that have been appointed for the purpose of equipping the saints. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. All for the single purpose of equipping the saints “for the work of ministry.” And what is the purpose of that ministry? … for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (vv. 12b-16) There are multiple points in this. One is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are NOT supposed to do all the work! They are to equip the rest of us to do the work. Another is that we are supposed to mature in the faith, building up the body of Christ in love.

It’s been a while since we visited 2 Kings. In chapter 21, Manasseh, son of Hezekiah has become king in Judah. Hezekiah was a good king. Manasseh was an evil king. He pretty much undid everything that Hezekiah accomplished during his reign. In fact, it says that Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel. (v. 9) This made God very angry. Angry enough to say this: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (vv. 12-13) When Manasseh died, his son Amon picked up where he left off. His servants conspired and assassinated him, but the people of the land put the servants to death. Josiah, Amon’s son became king at the ripe old age of eight!
The interesting thing is that 2 Chronicles includes some information about Manasseh that the writer of 2 Kings chose to leave out. After the Lord made the prophecies and Manasseh didn’t listen, God sent Assyria, which captured him and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (vv. 12-13) The cynical side of me wants to say, “Sure, who wouldn’t??” But we have to note that God was “moved by his entreaty.” You see, God knows the heart, so God knows that Manasseh was not just “repenting” to get out of trouble, like we do most of the time. And the “proof in that pudding” (I still don’t really understand what that phrase means…I’ve never proven anything with pudding) was the actions of Manasseh when he returned. He took down all of the false altars that he had built. He restored the offerings to the Lord that he had previously forsaken. So even the most evil kings can repent and serve the Lord.

Proverbs 16:9 fits right in with the message from Sunday. The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. God is in control, so chill out!

In Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado gives two readings for the day. Morning and evening. I always read both readings in the morning, mainly because I kept forgetting to read the “evening” reading. Both of today’s are worthy of sharing, I think. The morning reading is called “God Knows What He’s Doing.” Seems to be a theme this week, huh? Max begins by stating that it’s easy to be thankful when God does what we want. “But God doesn’t always do what we want. Ask Job.” Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. Many people feel that the story of Job even predates Abraham. I’m not smart enough to know about that. But what I know is that God allowed Satan to pretty much destroy Job’s life. Job went to God to plead his case. God answered. “Not with answers, but with questions. An ocean of questions…” Finally, Job responded with this: Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (Job 42:3) He got the point. “God owes no one anything. No reasons. No explanations. Nothing. God is God. He knows what he is doing.” God is in control, so chill out!
The evening reading is called “God Goes With Us.” I don’t think I have ever seen a morning and evening reading go hand in hand so well together. In Genesis 28:15, God says, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… Max says, “When God calls us into the deep valley of death, he will be with us.” God said to Moses, in Exodus 33:14, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. God said to Jacob in Genesis 28:15, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:5, Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. God says all of these things to us. He knows what he is doing, and no matter where he leads us, he will be there with us.

Those are words to get you through the day!

Father, I praise you that you know what you are doing! Because I’m not sure what I’m doing, and a lot of times, I don’t know what you’re doing, either. But I have faith in your goodness; I have faith that you know what you are doing. I believe that you will never leave or forsake me, just like you promised your Old Testament people. You have made that promise even more sure by giving us Jesus and then providing our Helper in life, the Holy Spirit. I thank you for your constant presence in my life, Father! Help me to be more aware of it each day, each hour, each minute.
I need help to not worry. I know that the things our pastor said Sunday are true! My heart knows them. Most of the time my head knows them. But sometimes my head goes walkabout. It takes off on its own and forgets what the heart knows. So I need help to always know and believe that you are in control of all things and that there is absolutely no reason to worry or be anxious for anything! I’m working on that this week. You seem to be giving me some good lessons, too.

I pray for this day, Father. Stephanie is feeling a little “under the weather.” I think it’s mostly allergy-related. But she’s going to school today, and I pray she can make it through the day. I pray for Christi’s day today. And I pray for mine, as well. Let us have good work days today.

God is in control, so chill out!

Grace and peace, friends.