Lessons in Futility

Today is Monday, the twenty-fourth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,328

I’m having one of those “difficult-to-get-going” kind of days. I’ve been up since 6:45, it’s currently almost 9:30, and I’ve just started typing. I have managed to have breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, though.

The big thing today is our Hamilton experience from yesterday. We got to the Bass Performance Hall in plenty of time. There was quite a line going into the building, but it was moving quickly, as they checked for either negative Covid tests or vaccine cards outside the front doors. Everything went really smoothly to get in. We stopped at the merch counter first and got a t-shirt and a shot glass that says, “I’m not throwing away my shot!”

The production was not at all disappointing. The closer we got to the time, the more excited I got and the less worried I was about how it would stack up to the original cast. I had seen one “bootleg” video, made at the Broadway show, and the version that is on Disney+ (edited for a few language places, of course). We both felt that the weakest part was the Schuyler Sisters, but they were still good. The people that played Hamilton, Washington, Mulligan/Madison, and Laurens/Philip were all very good. The guy that played Lafayette/Jefferson was good, but there is no way he was going to be as good as Daveed Diggs, and, in the same vein, the guy that played Burr was also very good, but I don’t see anyone being as good as Leslie Odom, Jr., in that role. Oh, and our King George III was excellent. He played the role a little differently than Jonathan Groff, and that’s okay. It was a great performance, though, greeted by a rousing ovation at the end. And, of course, I was crying at the end. The ending of this show wrecks me every time. I mean . . . how many Broadway productions do you know of that end with A SOB?? It could be argued that Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was really the star of the story.

As predicted, we picked up Applebee’s for dinner (and Sonic drinks, of course) on the way home, watched an episode of Lucifer and chilled for the rest of the evening.

Today, C works from home (and for the rest of the week). Monday is one of my normal days off every week, and I don’t work until 4:15 tomorrow. I have no concrete plans for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Long Winding Way, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

I shall
not tire of
seeking

©2022 S. Michaels
A Waking Season
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please click on the link to see the poem in its best environment, as there is always a beautiful image accompanying the verse.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
 he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
(Psalms 40:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for books, and that I can read
2. that I can pray about anything and everything; really . . . everything
3. for Jesus's question, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Luke 18:41)
4. for the way Ecclesiastes teaches us the futility of trying to find meaning without God
5. for God, the Source of all things
“You will guide our feet into peace”
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 
And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 
They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." 
And he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 
"What do you want me to do for you?" 
He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." 
And Jesus said to him, 
"Recover your sight; your faith has made you well." 
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 
(Luke 18:35-43 ESV)

I love this passage, and the question that Jesus asks the blind beggar. I easily envision Him asking the same question of you and me. Sometimes, when I ask people for prayer requests, I ask, “What do you want Jesus to do for you?”

Who among us has not read the book of Ecclesiastes and wondered at the “vanity” of it all? If read in the wrong spirit, this book of the Bible, possibly most famous for the lines quoted in Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” could be depressing.

What Eugene H. Peterson gets out of it, as described in day 21 of Symphony of Salvation, is that the writer of Ecclesiastes has set out to “expose our total incapacity to find the meaning and completion of our lives on our own.” It seems that we are always looking for something . . . some way to be other than what we are. “We explore the countryside for excitement, search our souls for meaning, shop the world for pleasure. We try this. Then we try that. The usual fields of endeavor are money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge.”

Oddly enough, the author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t say much about God. He “leaves that to the other sixty-five books of the Bible.” Here’s an example of the lesson that is to be learned.

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.] 
There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke. 
What's there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth. 
The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. 
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. 
Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. 
All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. 
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. 
Everything's boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. 
What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There's nothing new on this earth. 
Year after year it's the same old thing. 
Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"? Don't get excited—it's the same old story. 
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. 
And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody'll remember them either. Don't count on being remembered. 
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 MSG)

You see? Like I said, if this is read at face value, it’s depressing. Why bother at all, if these things are true?

Peterson calls this a “John-the-Baptist kind of book.” He says that “Ecclesiastes sweeps our souls clean of all ‘lifestyle’ spiritualities so that we can be ready for God’s visitation revealed in Jesus Christ. . . . It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging.”

The words of the wise prod us to live well. 
They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. 
They are given by God, the one Shepherd. 
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. 
There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. 
The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. 
And that's it. 
Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil. 
(Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 MSG)

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
(Philippians 1:9 NLT)

Always be humble and gentle. 
Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 
(Ephesians 4:2-3 NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need,
 and thank him for all he has done.
(Philippians 4:6 NLT)

Father, I don’t worry as much as I used to. Thank You for that. I don’t know if I pray more or not. I know I don’t pray enough; we can never pray enough. And there are so many prayer needs in front of me, right now. Sometimes I don’t feel up to the task. You know what they are, and in my private prayer moments, I voice them to You, specifically. There are healings needed for illnesses, both Covid and non-Covid-related. There is comforting needed for lost loved ones, and for hopeless situations. There are people who need You in their lives and don’t realize it. And there is rampant division in our world, in our country, and even in Your Church. It is that last thing that hurts my heart the most. I pray for unity and peace within the Body of Christ, that we would all focus on the “greatest commandments” of Jesus.

I thank You for how well Ecclesiastes points out the futility and vanity, utter uselessness of attempting to find meaning through the various pursuits that do not involve You or Your wisdom. I am grateful for the way You have moved my heart to see these things and believe them. I confess the times that I engage in some of those pursuits, anyway, even though those times have been fewer in recent years. Thanks for that, too!

May I, as the author Ecclesiastes suggests, find whatever I have to do, and do it with all my might. May I “eat, drink, and be merry,” but all the while remembering that You are the source of that life, of the food and drink, as well as the merriment.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

GOD's there, 
listening for all who pray,
 for all who pray and mean it.
(Psalms 145:18 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Change My Heart, Oh God

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the second of January, 2022, the ninth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,306

Twenty-one days until Hamilton!

It is currently 18 degrees outside, here in DFW (depending on which app I look at), and feels like 1 degree. It’s supposed to be fairly windy, today, with a high of 39. Looks like it will be well below freezing again, tomorrow morning. But there is little to no precipitation forecast over the next ten days. I suppose winter is here. It came quite quickly, considering what a warm December we had.

Yesterday was an easy day, for the most part. We didn’t do much. I cooked eggs and bacon for a late lunch, and then, while I went to get Sonic drinks, C made banana bread, because we had a bunch of over-ripe bananas. It was really good. Still is, actually, as there is a whole loaf left.

We are not having our church gathering, this morning, and will resume next Sunday. I was thinking about visiting a nearby church, this morning, but I’m thinking I may not venture out in this cold. I don’t know, yet.

Otherwise, there are, as far as I know, no plans for this day. I suppose someone will venture out for lunch from Applebee’s and drinks from Sonic. I don’t know, though . . . it’s not supposed to be above freezing until around 2:00 PM. Hahaha!

In other news, as most already are aware, we lost Betty White on New Year’s Eve. There are a few speculative posts on Facebook, ranging from “And we shall all remember that on the final day of a bleak 2021, the great Betty White gave herself to drive the darkness back and give hope to all humanity for the coming new year,” to “Should we be concerned that Betty White was just like, ‘No thanks 2022.'”

Personally, I’m leaning more toward the latter.

And then, to begin the new year, Dan Reeves, former halfback and fan favorite of the Dallas Cowboys, back in the good years of Tom Landry, passed away.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Praying With Feeling, by Daryl Madden

An intimate bond
When we reveal
To a close friend
Just how we feel

But what better friend
Could there ever be
Than our Lord Jesus
Of how He loves me

To sit side by side
Rather than kneeling
In Presence of love
To pray with feelings

Lord I feel nervous
I’m hurt or I’m mad
Lord I feel grateful
I’m happy or sad

And with time to listen
I believe we will start
That we will grow
To share the same heart

I love the sentiment portrayed in this poem. Truly, we can share as much and more with Jesus as we would with a human friend. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

What has been is what will be,
 and what has been done is what will be done, 
and there is nothing new under the sun. 
Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? 
It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the friendship of Jesus, in which I can share anything I am feeling
2. for the comfort I get from these verses in Ecclesiastes; I know that seems weird, but there is a consistency to life that seems to lurk under the surface of things
3. for the promise of God's presence in Exodus 33:14; He will see our journey through to the end
4. for the ways that God can change me and my willingness to be changed
5. for the salvation that God has provided, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves

I’m going to start listening to Pray As You Go again, this year. I have not listened to them in a while, but since I finished the book, Seeking God’s Face, I feel the need to have something in my daily routine that keeps me connected with the liturgy of the Church. Today’s session begins with this music, from the Monks of Glenstal Abbey.

“Sing to the Lord, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord, bless his name, tell of his salvation from day to day, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

There follows a reflection on how the new year is beginning for me. “How do you begin the New Year? With intentions, hopes, commitments to a ‘better’ you?” Yes, to all the above. I spoke of my “intentions” yesterday, only I referred to them as “aspirations.” More prayer, more reading, more music, less gaming. There is, as well, I suppose, a sort of commitment towards being a “better” me. I want to be the best me that I can be, and I must rely on Christ to get me there, by way of the Holy Spirit. I hope for more wisdom in the coming year, a year of “fullness of life, toward goodness and flourishing.” And remember, yesterday’s word from Pray a Word a Day, was “goodness,” springing from Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Father, as this new year begins, realizing the truth of the verses above, from Ecclesiastes, that there is truly “nothing new under the sun,” I desire to know You more in 2022. I desire to accomplish more in this life for You, even though I don’t really know what that looks like. Give me grace for goodness and fullness of life, the kind of life that Jesus came to give us, abundant life. Help me to live up to my intentions, both spiritual and otherwise. Help me to be the best me that I can be for You.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

I’m still thinking on how to best incorporate Spiritual Classics, as it doesn’t have the kind of structure that I’m used to. Since there is, essentially, a reading per week, it is up to me to decide how to work that. The first week’s selection is on meditation, and the devotional work is from Thomas More (1478-1535), called “A Godly Meditation.” I’m not going to copy the entire thing, but just the parts that speak most to me.

"Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought,
To set my mind fast upon thee.
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths.

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant.
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love him.

To be joyful of tribulations,
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life.
To bear the cross with Christ,
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand,
To make death no stranger to me,

To have continually in mind the passion that 
Christ suffered for me,
For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks.

To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred."

The following Scripture reading is then offered:

This is what the LORD says:
 “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, 
who rely on human strength 
and turn their hearts away from the LORD. 
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, 
with no hope for the future. 
They will live in the barren wilderness, 
in an uninhabited salty land. 

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD 
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, 
with roots that reach deep into the water. 
Such trees are not bothered by the heat 
or worried by long months of drought. 
Their leaves stay green, 
and they never stop producing fruit. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, 
and desperately wicked. 
Who really knows how bad it is? 
But I, the LORD, search all hearts 
and examine secret motives. 
I give all people their due rewards,
 according to what their actions deserve.” 
(Jeremiah 17:5-10 NLT)

There are discussion and reflection questions that will be considered during the rest of this week.

Lord, as I work through this meditation in the coming week, open my heart to be completely truthful with both You and myself. May I especially work on that bit about enemies and friends. While I don’t truly have “enemies,” there are people that I need to display more love toward.

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

“The human race is in trouble.” So begins the reading concerning the book of Exodus. “We’ve been in trouble for a long time.” Peterson goes on to talk about the people who have spent their lives working to get us out of trouble. “Parents and teachers, healers and counselors, rulers and politicians, writers and pastors.”

But at the core of this work, he says, “is God.” And the word that best describes what God is doing to “get us out of the mess we are in is salvation. Salvation is God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.” There is hardly a better picture of this work than what we see in the book of Exodus.

"I am GOD. 
I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I will rescue you from slavery. 
I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. 
I'll take you as my own people and I'll be God to you. 
You'll know that I am GOD, 
your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I'll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. 
I AM GOD." 
(Exodus 6:6-8 MSG)

GOD said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
(Exodus 33:14 MSG)

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
 to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 
(Psalms 27:4 NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, 
or have already arrived at my goal, 
but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
Brothers and sisters, 
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 
But one thing I do:
 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Today’s word for prayer is “change.” This could work its way into my prayers in a variety of different ways. The most common, and probably most obvious, is a prayer for God to change my heart. Immediately my thoughts were drawn to an old Maranatha (I think) song, called “Change My Heart, Oh God.” I’ve heard it recorded by a lot of different people.

Change my heart, oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, oh God
May I be like You

You are the Potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

It’s a simple song, a simple prayer. I have also heard the second line changed to end with the word “new,” rather than “true.” Here is a fascinating clip, featuring a video of a potter creating a jar.

Another way that “change” can work its way into our lives (maybe not so much, these days, though) is in the idea of “loose change.” I don’t get very much of that any more, because I rarely pay for anything with cash. In fact, about the only reason I keep cash on hand, any more, is to tip my Sonic carhop if I’m at a Sonic that doesn’t allow mobile tipping. Oddly enough, that seems to be left up to the individual Sonic store. Nevertheless, the author of today’s reading, known only as “Bob,” suggests a prayer for the “wise use of ‘loose change.'”

What about unexpected schedule changes? Don’t those annoy us or get on our nerves? There is an opportunity for prayer.

So, Father, change my heart, as the song prays. Make it both “ever true” and “ever new.” I pray that You would constantly be changing my heart so that I am more like You. And, as a piece of clay, mold me into whatever You desire me to be. You don’t need my permission, or even my acceptance. You are the Potter, and I am the clay. And the beauty of this is that, should I happen to make a “wrong turn,” somewhere along the way, You can remold me into something new. And help me to always be willing to change my thoughts and opinions, especially as new information is brought to my knowledge. Let me never get too attached to my own thoughts and opinions. Help me to set my mind and thoughts on You, through the meditations You bring me.

Father, thank You for Your great salvation, You doing for us what we absolutely cannot do for ourselves. I pray for the salvation of all the world, that all would see Your beauty and majesty and begin to follow and worship You. I continue to pray for the eradication of Covid in our world. I pray for unity within our nation, but more importantly, unity within Your people. May we, as Thomas More writes, may we set our minds upon You and not “hang upon the blasts of men’s mouths.” All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Made Alive

Today is Monday, the twenty-first of June, 2021.

The peace of God be with you!

Day 23,111

Today is the first full day of summer. It officially began, according to information found in multiples place on the Internet, at 10:32 PM last night.

Thirteen days until July 4th.

We don’t have any big plans for that holiday, but C and I will both be off for a four-day weekend, having Friday and Monday off. My company’s holiday is being granted to us on Monday, the fifth, and I’m taking an extra day of PTO on Friday, the third.

Our house church will not be meeting on July 4, so we have made plans to travel to Mineral Wells and attend FBC on that Sunday. Our church has made plans to have a cookout on Sunday, July 11. We are also planning a pool party at our house, but have not yet pinned down a date for it.

We had another really good gathering, yesterday morning. We only made it through one Psalm (chapter 32), but we had a lot of fellowship and prayer requests. We have also started singing again, which is nice. Yesterday morning, we sang “Good, Good Father,” and “Jesus Messiah.”

We had a good lunch from Applebee’s. C and I both stretched a little and had their Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp, which was delicious. Sided with garlic mashed potatoes, the meal weighs in at 17 WW Smartpoints. But it was well worth it, and we hadn’t had breakfast, at all, so it was fine. I did cook our traditional burgers for S and me, for dinner, so I went over my daily points again. But we have weekly points to cover those.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A gift each morn’
When we awake
This sacred time
Do not forsake

Of humble heart
Appeal to pray
Please gift to me
Here, one more day

Permission of
The soul to be
Your holiness
Breathed into me

With grateful heart
The soul be blessed
The joy within
His Word of “Yes!”
("Mornings Question", by Daryl Madden)

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
(Psalms 32:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the church family we have, small as it is, full of love and life.
2. that we can pray to You, "while you may be found."
3. that You made me alive with Christ, even when I was dead in my sin (Ephesians 2)
4. that You are always watching my path, especially when my spirit grows too weary to pay attention to where I am going (Psalm 142)
5. that if we pray, believing, we will receive what we ask for

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 2

INVITATION

You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I pause, during this moment to consider the fact that You can be easily found, as You are hiding from no one. You are my light and my salvation! Whom, then, shall I fear?

BIBLE SONG

A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.

I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.
(Psalms 142:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly enjoy the presence of the Lord, this morning, I read these passages again, lingering over them, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my meditations.

I believe there is great truth in Psalm 142:3. “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.” I am fully persuaded that God watches out for me when I am too weak to watch out for myself. What I mean by that is that, when my spirit, as the verse indicates, grows tired or weary, and I grow lackadaisical in my walk with Him, He is still right there, watching over my path.

I believe this is one of those “benefits” mentioned in Psalm 103, that we are not to forget as we “bless the Lord.” Our enemy does, indeed, set traps in our way, many of which are put there by people who are not even aware that they are being tools of the enemy. For a better understanding of this, see yesterday’s blog (it might have been Saturday’s . . .) about glimpsing a Facebook post that upset me.

Amy Grant had a song, many, many years ago, called “Angels.” (1984) One of the verses goes like this:

"God only knows the times
My life was threatened just today
A reckless car ran out of gas
Before it ran my way
Near misses all around me
Accidents unknown
Though I never see with human eyes
The hands that lead me home"

There is so much truth to this. We don’t know; we have no clue how many “near misses” we have experienced each day. Our God watches over our path, brothers and sisters!

The Ephesians passage is one of the great, famous passages in the New Testament. It contains a favorite memory passage, verses 8 and 9. But this morning, I am being drawn to verses 4 and 5.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
(Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)

God made me alive in Christ (with Christ), “even when [I] was dead!” Twice in this passage, Paul says, “it is by grace you have been saved.” He hammers this truth home. God made me alive. I was dead, but God made me alive.

Evangelism has often been described as throwing a life preserver to a drowning person. But that’s not quite accurate. We were not “drowning.” We had drowned! We were DEAD in our sin! Brothers and sisters, a dead person cannot grab onto a life preserver!

I had absolutely nothing to do with my salvation in Christ! Oh, sure, I said, “yes” to Him. But that’s really just a formality. He did all the work; He did the saving, the rescuing.

He made me alive. I did not make myself alive.

Father, I praise You for making me alive, in Christ. I thank You for rescuing me, and then erasing all of my past, present, and future sins with the blood of Jesus Christ. I thank You and praise You that I was loved before the world was ever created. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain it. I also thank You for the good works that You have prepared in advance for me to walk in, and I pray that, as I walk in Your kingdom today, I will see those opportunities and will not fail to take advantage of them. Help me to walk, today, as one who is alive in Christ.

God my refuge, 
help me to get my prepositions straight.
I'm saved not by faith--
that's the work of your grace--
but through faith.
Increase my faith so that I can embrace more and more of Christ's new life,
experiencing his grace in me and becoming his handiwork,
through Christ the Lord,
amen.
(Belgic Confession 22)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”
(Mark 11:24 NLT)

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story:
“Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
(Luke 11:1-13 NLT)

Father, I thank You for these words about prayer. Help me to believe when I pray. Give me the confidence that, when I pray, I will receive what I ask for. But also give me the wisdom to ask for the right things, not just for my interests, selfishly, but for the welfare and interests of those around me, friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ. May my praying be selfless, Father, and may it come out of Your powerful Holy Spirit.

Lord, give me eyes to see Your work in the world around me, today. Not only that, but to see where I can join in and work with You. May You be present in the areas of natural disaster, comforting victims, protecting Your people, and giving strength to those who are first responders and caregivers. May You give special care, today, to those who serve in “forests, farms, and on the waters.”

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!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

“If I Be Lifted Up”

Today is Monday, the twenty-second of March, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,020

Thirteen days until Resurrection Sunday, which means this coming Sunday, the twenty-eighth, is Palm Sunday. It also means a week from today is R’s birthday!

We had a pretty good day, yesterday. Nice and restful, for the most part. There was a little bit of early drama, but I won’t elaborate on that here.

I promised to report on the Sous Vide cooking. It cooked the chicken very nicely, cooked all the way through in an hour. However, it wasn’t seasoned enough, or we didn’t figure out how to get the seasoning to permeate the chicken. We need to work on that. I made some Minute Rice with chicken broth to go along with the chicken, so that helped, but otherwise, as far as taste goes, it was just “meh.” However, like I said, it was cooked well. We will experiment more with it. I’m still interested to see how it does with a nice steak.

We plan to have Applebee’s for dinner tonight.

Also, happy Spring to all! I totally forgot to mention that Saturday was the first official day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox. At least I don’t remember remembering to mention that.

On with the good stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"In the waiting,
wash over me.
From moments that overwhelm - 
would You set me free.
Still this anxious heart,
come breathe Your Word.
Let Your peace break down these walls,
and speak to my heart."
(Salt of the Sound)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a new week ahead, with opportunities to serve; may I be faithful in prayer and faithful in service
  • for the ministry of Salt of the Sound
  • for treasures in heaven
  • that the earth is Yours, and everything in it
  • that Jesus, being lifted up, drew all people to Himself

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

LENT – DAY 29

INVITATION

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:17-18 NIV)

I am taking a moment to reflect on the great faithfulness of the Lord. His mercies are new every morning!

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
(Psalms 24:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
(John 12:20-33 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in His presence, this morning, I read these passages again. Immediately, I am struck by the truth of Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.” Look around you. Everything that you see, as well as everything that is invisible to you, belongs to the Lord! All of it. All of that “stuff” that you believe belongs to you, truly doesn’t. All of the lands around that someone believes belong to some government entity (a city, a state, a country), truly doesn’t.

It all belongs to the Lord, and we fool ourselves if we think otherwise.

And once, again, the question is asked, who may ascend? Only the one with a pure heart and clean hands, one who has not lifted up an idol and worshiped it.

And then, in the passage from John, Jesus speaks of being “lifted up from the earth.” When He was lifted up, He would draw all people to Himself. There is the One who is worthy of my worship! There is the One who gives me a pure heart and clean hands, because He erased all of the impurities! There is the One who gives me access to the “mountain of the LORD!”

Father, I praise You for these truths! I acknowledge Your rightful ownership of everything in this universe, for You created it all. Even those things which we believe we “created” were put together from things created by You. Forgive us our arrogance, O Lord. Nothing truly belongs to us, and we are merely stewards of You property. Thank You for Jesus being lifted up and drawing us to Himself. Help me to truly worship Him, properly, today, as I walk through this day.

Why, God,
would you give up your glory to take on our broken human nature?
Why, Jesus,
would you come to the scene of our crimes with the purpose of bearing our punishment?
Why would you bitterly suffer and die for us,
unless this is glory.
Where comprehension fails,
help me to simply receive this marvelous mystery in faith.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 20)

BLESSING

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
(1 John 5:11-12 NIV)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
(Romans 8:26 NIV)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:25-30 NIV)

Tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life.
(Proverbs 10:2 NLT)

The relatives of the poor despise them; how much more will their friends avoid them! Though the poor plead with them, their friends are gone.
(Proverbs 19:7 NLT)

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
(Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

Father, I praise You that, more and more, You are leading me to store up treasures in heaven, not on the earth. Yes, we are physically blessed, here on earth. But these blessings, we truly endeavor, are passed on whenever we find need. Help us to be more aware of needs around us, that we may give more away. We will not revel in treasures or stuff of earth. Rather, we will celebrate our true treasure, our eternal inheritance, that which can never rust or nor be corrupted, and that which moths cannot eat or thieves cannot steal. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, I pray, this morning, for our place as caretakers of Your creation, everything that You own, that we do not own. We are stewards, so may our stewardship be wise. Help us to care more about that which You have made and allowed us to enjoy. I pray for the people in this world whose job is to work in and around these natural resources. Give them wisdom and strength for their work.

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!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Are You Ready?

And just like that, it’s Monday again. August 24, 2020. Peace be with you.

Day 22,810

Today is The Feast of St. Bartholomew, one of the Twelve Apostles, who, according to tradition, traveled to India and founded the Church in Armenia, where he was flayed to death and then beheaded for the faith.

360 days until S turns 28. Haha . . . just kidding. Well, not really. I mean it is 360 days until August 19. It is also only fourteen more days until Labor Day, the only real significance being that we get a day off from work on Monday, in two weeks.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. We had a really good (in my opinion) virtual worship gathering. After that, C and I started thinking about where we could get a healthy lunch. We wound up checking out Applebee’s, a place where we haven’t eaten in a long time. We looked at their available menu (take-out/delivery menus for most restaurants are severely limited), and found several items that were low in Smart Points for WW.

S and I wound up getting the Cajun Blackened Salmon (zero points!) and C got the Grilled Chicken Breast (also zero points). Ironically, their veggies have points, no doubt because they are cooked in lots of butter. The broccoli was three points and the Garlicky Green Beans were five. We got S the garlic mashed potatoes, which were eight. So for C and I, our whole lunch was eight points, and it was very delicious! We think we have discovered a new Sunday lunch “tradition.” Oh . . . we ordered online for curbside pickup and C went and got it.

After lunch, C went out to Sprouts to get some cherries. She also got some cotton candy grapes (one of my favorites) and some honeycrisp apples that looked really good. The rest of the afternoon, she spent working in the yard.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
(Psalms 31:23-24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For a new work week, filled with opportunities to serve God and people
  2. That You are my rock of refuge and a strong fortress to save me (Psalm 31)
  3. That You are helping me to be ready
  4. That we need to be able to accept trouble from You as well as good
  5. For the desire to worship You, humbly confessing my sin and my need to You

Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
(Psalms 31:2-3 ESV)

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
(Psalms 31:19 ESV)

Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.
(Psalms 31:21 ESV)

And [Jesus] said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
(Luke 22:25-30 ESV)

I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”; I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 116:10-19 ESV)

Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.
(Psalms 55:17 ESV)

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

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 2:1-10 ESV)

Job lamented and mourned. He shook his fist at the sky. But he never forsook his God, and never gave up hope or faith. He understood that all that we receive, be it good or “bad” either comes from or through our Father in Heaven. In place of “evil,” the NIV chooses to use the word “trouble.” “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” I prefer that translation because I don’t like to think of God doing “evil.” In this case, while God did not personally “do” anything to Job, He allowed the enemy to do it.

We should be like Job. When “bad” things happen to us, we should receive them, accept them. Not joyfully . . . we don’t have to be happy about it, that’s for sure. But we need to accept it and move on, keeping our faith in our Father, who has all things in His hands, and who will, ultimately, work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them.
(Ezekiel 38:7 ESV)

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
(Deuteronomy 11:18 ESV)

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
(Proverbs 3:3 ESV)

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
(Matthew 24:44 ESV)

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)

Over and over, in Scripture, we are admonished to “be ready” or “be prepared.” It seems to be for a different event or thing, each time, but it is a consistent theme.

We are to be ready to provide a defense for our faith. But, at the same, time we are told not to worry about what we might say, because the Holy Spirit will provide the words.

We are to be ready for the return of Jesus, because He will come when we least expect Him.

We are to bind the words of God around our neck (the Jews took this literally, with their phylacteries), and to keep them etched on our hearts and minds.

Am I ready? Some days more so than others. I’m not yet sure about today.

Are you ready? (I know some who most definitely are!)

The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
(Psalms 95:5-7 NIV)

Psalm 95 seems to be a good blueprint for worship. The passage that we didn’t cover yesterday begins with adoration and praise.

The passage for today deals more with humility and confession. While confession of sin is not explicitly mentioned, there is confession that we are under His care, implying need. And the humility is seen in the bowing down, the kneeling. It is a posture that is somewhat unfamiliar to the Western Christian, just as “humility” is seen as weakness in our current culture.

Yet, this is what is commanded of us. “We are to bow reverently, to kneel humbly before God, admitting our sinfulness and dependence.” The first part, adoration, comes from seeing God in His glory. The second part comes out of seeing Him as a God of grace, our “covenant God, who redeemed us and brought us as sheep into His fold.”

“Lord, I confess the blindness of my understanding, the stubbornness of my will, the foolishness of my thought life, and the addition of my heart to things of this world. ‘False and full of sin I am; Thou are full of truth and grace.’ Without that grace I am lost. I praise You that in Christ Your grace abounds to me. Amen.” (Italics from Charles Wesley, “Jesus Lover of My Soul”)

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Father, there are multiple topics today. But the one most dear to my heart is my consistent lack of preparedness. Am I ready for Jesus to return? I feel more like one of the foolish virgins in that parable that Jesus told. Help me to be ready. Prepare my heart for anything that may come my way today, including trouble as well as good things. Write Your Word on my heart, that I might not sin against You. Make me ready, and help me to do whatever I need to do to be ready for You to do whatever You need/want to do with me.

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!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number:
(Job 5:8-9 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.