Today is Saturday, the thirtieth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.
Peace be with you!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)
Today I am grateful:
1. for the wonderful day that we had yesterday 2. for the prediction of a pretty day today 3. that the journey I am on is a marathon not a sprint; I don't know how long I have, but I do know that I cannot accomplish everything that I'm supposed to accomplish in a short amount of time; I must have endurance 4. for the conviction that I need to do better at listening 5. for the boldness to proclaim that a) humanity is terribly broken, and b) that God is working mightily to fix that
“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’”
(Acts 13:38-41 NLT)
Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.
(Joshua 21:45 NLT)
Today’s prayer word is “listen.” This is a pretty important word. Our culture, in general, has forgotten how to listen.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen Covey
It is my opinion that most people who claim to be followers of Christ think that prayer is asking God for stuff. Primarily, that means that they talk to God for a few minutes, then “close the door” and go on about their day.
Trust me, I have been guilty of that.
And, while most of the definitions of prayer that you can find only seem to indicate our part of outward expression, it also includes listening to what God says back to us. And, in some ways, it could be said that, even in prayer, God initiates, not us.
I kind of like the Wikipedia definition of prayer. “Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.”
The writer of today’s reading, Evan, speaks of being assigned to a specific ministry where his job was to listen, not talk. “It occurred to me, that’s what I’d been doing with God. I’d been talking up a storm to Him, but listening, really quieting my mind and hearing Him speak? Not so much. The difference was amazing, as if an entire world had been opened up to me, simply by learning to listen.”
(From Pray a Word a Day)
If you were to listen in on a conversation in my family, you might surmise that not a single one of us knows how to listen, because we constantly interrupt each other. I catch myself doing it all the time. We don’t intend to be rude to one another. It’s just a habit that has been developed in our society.
I have, for many years, now, been captivated by what God said to the three disciples, upon Jesus’s transfiguration.
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT, emphasis mine)
Ever since I took note of that little three-word command, I began to try to pay more attention to the words of Jesus, recorded in Scripture. But I need to carry that even farther. I need to work more at listening to the Holy Trinity in my spirit. And this is the intent of meditation and contemplation.
Father, help me to be a better listener. Today, in my conversations, help me to stop and listen with intent to understand. And, when my tongue revs up to speak, help me to stop it, especially if the other person is not through speaking. Moreover, help me to listen better to You, the Son, and the Spirit, as I walk through my days. And in moments like these, help me to be in a more meditative state, fully concentrating on what You would say to me.
Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
(Psalms 37:5 NLT)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
(Proverbs 21:5 NLT)
"You can do a lot in a lifetime If you don't burn out too fast You can make the most of the distance First you need endurance First you've got to last" (Rush, Marathon)
We live in a culture where everything is instant. Everything has been “instant,” now, for decades. We get so impatient when we have to wait for things. Yesterday, on our trip back from Mineral Wells, we were delayed in traffic at least four times. Two of those times were because of accidents on the freeway.
But I can truthfully tell you that we never once got impatient or stressed. If you knew me, you would know how huge that is. We enjoyed our time together and it simply didn’t bother us. Although I did joke, a time or two, about what the Waze app told me would be our ETA if I had avoided freeways (I was thinking about that, because we would be hitting Fort Worth in the thick of rush hour).
In todays’ Daily Guidposts article, Tia McCollors remembers a time when one of her kids told her, “Big things take time.” Our lives are “big things,” although in the scope of eternity, they are but a speck of dust. They are big things to us. And the Christian life, this journey that we are on, is a marathon, not a sprint. We cannot accomplish everything in a few days or weeks.
Every one of those passages up there is applicable. Trust is the most important thing in living the Christian life. We must trust that our God knows what He is doing, and that He will, in fact, direct our steps. We can make plans, yes. But we must be prepared for the times when God has other ideas.
Father, I believe I have gotten better at trusting You, but there is always room for improvement. I still get frustrated with myself when I don’t progress as quickly or as much as I believe I should have. Help me to trust You more in everyday things. Help me to believe that You are directing my steps, and that You will work all things out for good in my life. Give me endurance; help me last and not “burn out.” Honestly, Father, I believe with all my heart that there is no excuse for a Christian to ever burn out.
There are two things that the Psalms tell us, both of which are astonishingly accurate. Peterson calls them “the most accurate mirrors of the human heart we have.” But they tell us these two things: “humanity is involved deeply in unhappiness and wrongdoing, and God is cosmically involved in both a glorious creation and a gracious redemption.”
There is a boldness in which we must live, based on these two truths. First, “we must be bold in admitting who we are: people who fall far short of God’s will and who often are active accomplices in plans to thwart or destroy his will. If at any time we fail to do this, we become self-righteous, arrogant, pontifical, and almost insufferable to those outside the church.”
I want everyone to read those last two sentences again. And then I want to point out that it’s not just “those outside the church” who find those to be insufferable. I am constantly saddened by the rampant self-righteousness of those who claim to be Christ-followers who can’t seem to admit the truth of those two sentences.
There is a reason that confession is included in the early part of the Christian worship service. It is not to make us feel bad about ourselves. That is not the point at all. It is to “get the whole human affair into perspective and have a base from which to work.” It’s a good starting point.
We must also, however, be bold in “proclaiming God’s mighty acts.” One of the primary reasons we exist is “to tell a world already full of doubt, skepticism, contradictory evidence, hopelessness, sorrow, and death that God is the creator and redeemer, that God loves his creatures and will redeem and restore them to full health and fellowship with himself. This is the boldness that our time, more than most, needs us to proclaim.” (Emphasis mine)
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)
Father, I know my condition, because I believe the things that Your Word tells me about us. But I also know what You are doing and have done to fix that condition. The work of Christ on the Cross was the primary means of fixing our condition. And after that was completed, You sent the Holy Spirit to continue the work in sanctifying us, daily.
I am broken. We are all broken. This world is terribly broken, and it is sin that has done this. The Cross of Christ has done its work to erase sin in our lives. It has not simply covered it up like the OT sacrifices, but has effectively washed us clean. You have tossed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and have promised that You remember them no more. This astonished me to a degree that I cannot comprehend, because I, as a human, am incapable of intentionally forgetting things. I still remember sins from my adolescence, even though, in Jesus Christ, it is as though they never happened.
Thank You, Father, for all the might works that You have done and continue to do. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when all of this is completely restored and we will dwell in peace and safety with You for all eternity.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)
Grace and peace, friends.