Turn, Turn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Today is Wednesday, the ninth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his awesome photography at the link provided.

Day 23,372

The A/C and heater people are supposed to arrive, this morning, between 9 and 10. The work should take most of the day. It is currently pretty cool outside, at 36 degrees, but should get up to around 60 by mid-afternoon.

An update on my computer situation. I finally got all of the files moved to Dropbox, but when I opened up the PC, I couldn’t tell which part was which. I’m also not 100% sure which part is making the noise, so I’m not going to try to swap out the hard drive myself. I have talked to the Computer Center manager at the library, so when I go to work Friday, I will take it with me, and he has agreed to look at it. I’ll take the new hard drive with me, as well.

There’s not much else to talk about, this morning. I’m starting a new devotional book, as I finished Symphony of Salvation, yesterday. The new one is also by Eugene Peterson, called On Living Well.

You might notice that I have not addressed world events that are going on. That is intentional. There are plenty of places you can read/hear about that. My purpose here is to present the Word of God in the best way I can, as positively as I can. My goal is encouragement, not discouragement. I know that I occasionally point out issues and shortcomings in the Church. But that is because I love the Church and I want to see her flourish.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place -
the Most High, who is my refuge -
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
(Psalm 91:9-10)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Church, the community of saints, faithful and true 
2. for angels who minister to the saints
3. for Salt of the Sound and their beautiful, inspiring music
4. for the way God works in my devotionals
5. for those times when the things of earth go strangely dim

John Henry Newman speaks of Daniel’s two recorded fasts. The first one, I believe was for ten days, in which neither Daniel nor the three Hebrews we know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ate any meat or any of the king’s delicacies. The second was for three weeks.

The result of the first fast was that Daniel and his three friends were all stronger and healthier than the king’s people. On the second fast, Daniel was visited by an angel.

Newman keys in on the angel visit, and notes that, when Jesus was fasting in the desert for forty days, He was visited and helped by angels. “And so we too may well believe, and take comfort in the thought, that even now, Angels are especially sent to those who thus seek God.” Newman then takes note that Elijah, as well, was strengthened by an angel. We also have record of Cornelius, the Gentile, being visited by an angel when he was fasting.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91:11-12)

The devil is well-aware of this promise, says Newman, “for he used it in that very hour of temptation. He knows full well what our power is, and what is his own weakness. So we have nothing to fear while we remain within the shadow of the throne of the Almighty.”

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
(Psalm 91:7)

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5 ESV)

“The Word was first. The Word was previous to everything else. Before we were conceived and took shape in our mothers’ wombs, before we were born, before anything happened, there was the Word.”

Before anything else existed, sun, moon, stars, trees, flowers, fish, governments, hospitals, schools, “there was the Word.”

I can’t paraphrase this stuff . . . it’s too good.

“If the Word were not first, everything else would have gone awry. If the Word were second – or third or fourth – we would have lost touch with the deep, divine rhythms of creation. If the Word were pushed out of the way and made to be a servant to the action and program, we would have lost connection with the vast interior springs of redemption that flow out of our Lord, the Word made flesh.

“When the Word is treated casually or carelessly, we wander away from the essential personal intimacies that God creates . . . by his Word.” (Emphasis mine)

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

It is the season of Lent. We are “supposed” to give up something. I did see a TikTok by a reverend that I respect and follow, suggesting that, maybe, instead of trying to force ourselves to give up something, perhaps we should try to add something positive, such as trying to pray for a person every day.

But this is a “season,” as indicated in Ecclesiastes 3. Almost everyone is familiar with the next ten verses or so of that chapter. Pete Seeger helped us all with that. The Byrds probably made it more famous than Pete, but he wrote the song.

I’ve read over this many, many times, in my life, but it is always “time” to look them over again. The many “times” or “seasons” that the writer of Ecclesiastes notes are as follows:

A time to for birth and a time for death
A time to plant and a time to reap
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to destroy and a time to construct
A time to cry and a time to laugh
A time to lament and at time to cheer
A time to make love and a time to abstain
A time to embrace and a time to part
A time to search and a time to count your losses
A time to hold on and a time to let go (there's a whole bunch of us who need to learn that one)
A time to rip out and a time to mend
A time to shut up and a time to speak up
A time to love and a time to hate
A time to wage war and a time to make peace
(I used The Message for these)

And, as we work our way through the season of Lent, perhaps giving things up and perhaps adding things, there is one thing that we need to do. We need to “Turn” our eyes upon Jesus. It is always time for that.

Today’s prayer word is “ponder.” Isn’t that fitting, based on what I’ve just written?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

“Ponder,” of course, means “to think about.” To think about carefully, to chew over, to meditate. Unfortunately, we tend to ponder over the wrong things, sometimes.

I have to interrupt myself and simply be awestruck over how my Father works these things out, how all of this works together, this morning. The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Becky,” writes about trying to go to sleep at night, but as soon as her head hits the pillow, she starts pondering her day, her family members, and then the world and the future and . . . well, you get the picture.

In her case, “ponder” is more like “worry.” And I have most certainly been there. But the writer of Philippians would have us ponder different things. And I’m sure, if he were around today, he would agree with the song above the purple line, and say that all of the things in that verse are summed up by saying, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Because, most assuredly, when you do that, the things of earth grow strangely dim.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help us all to turn our eyes upon Jesus, during these times, so that the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Not that we stop caring, may it never be! But that we stop worrying, fretting, fearing. We are Your children . . . have mercy on us . . . teach us how to obey Your commands to “fear not.” Help us to live Isaiah 41:10 every day, ever minute, throughout all of those many “seasons” listed above. There is NEVER any reason for us to fear, Father!

NOTHING can separate me from Your love in Christ Jesus. None of the things mentioned in those two verse, nor anything else that we could possibly imagine. And, most beautifully, not even my sin can separate me, because of the powerful and efficacious work of my savior Jesus Christ, my Lord! Your Word made flesh, existing before there was anything else, and who will come again to make all things right.

All praise and glory to You, my Father, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Heal Us, O Lord

Today is Saturday, the twelfth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,347

Today’s header image is by Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his lovely photography at the link provided.

Sometimes, I look at the year and shake my head in disbelief. 2022. I remember, as a child, trying to calculate how old I would be at the turn of the century, in 2001. And yes, the new century/millennium started in 2001, not 2000. I’m not even going to argue with you about it. You’re just wrong. Anyway . . . and now, it’s 21 years beyond that.

We were preparing our tax return, the other day, and C needed to know when my driver’s license expires. 2030. What?? Geez.

I think about the technological advances I’ve seen in my lifetime. I consider that today’s youth/teens have never known anything but primarily digital music, or streaming television. Then I think about the advances my parents’ generation has seen.

I remember the first handheld calculators (there was a factory in my home town, by the way). I remember when cassettes and 8-tracks became big, then when CDs obliterated vinyl. By the way, vinyl has been outselling CDs in recent years . . . it’s made a comeback, because people have realized that it actually sounds better than digital music.

But here’s the thing. I’m not stuck in the past. I have embraced the new technology, as much as I can. I confess that I never quite figured out “SnapChat.” But I have ventured into TikTok territory. You can find me here, if you want. I get mildly amused, and a little sad at all the Facebook posts I see from my generation; you know the ones. There’s a picture, perhaps, of an old-school car dimmer switch, on the floorboard, and the question says, “Who remembers these??” And a bunch of my contemporaries all jump on and say, “ME!!” What I take away from this is that they feel a sense of superiority about it.

Whatever.

Enough of that. It’s 2022. Wow. You have heard it said, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” I have learned that the second two thirds of that sentence are unnecessary. Time flies. Period.

It was, as usual, a great day at the library, yesterday. Someone brought donuts. Some of them were heart-shaped. Yes, because, as I have just realized, Valentine’s Day is Monday! C and I don’t even really acknowledge Valentine’s Day. It’s not really a thing for us. We don’t buy cards or flowers or candy. Well, we buy candy, but not just for that day. We’ve been buying way too much candy, these days. I will say, though, that we have enjoyed the temporary availability of chocolate covered cherries.

Today, S and I have appointments at the eye doctor. It was supposed to be S and C, but C has some kind of bronchitis or something, and doesn’t feel up to going, so we switched the appointment to me. I’m due for a checkup, anyway, so I’ll do it today. That’s at 12:20.

The rest of the day is wide open. I have a small grocery order scheduled to be delivered between 2 and 4 this afternoon. I’ll likely cook burgers for S and me, tonight. C has already said she doesn’t want one.

It’s colder today. The A/C was on, yesterday, because the temp was supposed to reach 77 degrees (and probably did), but today, the high is, like, 47 or something. So the heat is back on, this morning.

That’s all I got. Oh, wait. The Super Bowl is Sunday. I hope the Bengals win. The only reason I have for that is that I heard their quarterback loves to play chess and has an autographed copy of The Queen’s Gambit. I couldn’t tell you his name, at the moment, if my life depended on it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Genuine Prayer, by Daryl Madden

Oh Lord, my need
As day begins
In helping me
Be genuine

My mask, remove
My soul, reveal
Oh Lord let me
Be truly real

And with my friends
Our heart to share
Be vulnerable
And fully here

Oh, let me live
As You see me
A human of
Humility

Whose joy is found
With greater view
A life of grace
Through love of You!

Please check out more of Daryl’s wonderful poetry at the link provided.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 
For fear has to do with punishment, 
and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 
We love because he first loved us. 
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; 
for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen 
cannot love God whom he has not seen. 
And this commandment we have from him:
 whoever loves God must also love his brother. 
(1 John 4:18-21 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the challenge presented in those verses above
2. for the reminder that everything I think, say, or feel, and everyone I meet, has to do with God
3. for the promises of healing (but not always the way we think or desire)
4. that, through all the years and experiences of my life, "I still believe"
5. that God doesn't change like our weather

The prayer word for the day is “heal.” Here is a word that typically only has one meaning. The scripture reference may not seem to have anything directly to do with healing, but let’s take a look at it.

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
(Matthew 22:32 NIV)

The writer of today’s reading cites three different instances where he knows of someone who was miraculously healed. He names “Cheryl,” “Tim,” and “Deb.” Then he goes on to say that, sometimes, he prays to the God of “Cheryl, Tim, and Deb.”

Jesus’s point in that statement (He was responding to a trick question by the Sadducees) was that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not dead, but eternally alive. And not only alive, but physically and spiritually healed from anything that might have afflicted them, while on earth.

I prayed for my dad’s healing for years. He was afflicted with a rare muscular disease called Inclusion Body Myositis, in the Muscular Dystrophy family. He passed away from this disease on April 12, 2015, almost seven years ago. Was my prayer not answered? My prayer was answered, I will confidently say. It was not answered in the way I preferred, because I’m a selfish human. But it was answered in the best way. Yes, I miss my dad. But I believe, confidently, that he is 100% healed. I don’t know what heaven will look like, as we only have glimpses. But I believe that my dad’s muscles are strong and healthy in his “glorified” body, so he has been healed.

Sometimes, people are healed on earth. I also am a firm believer that I will be on this earth until God doesn’t need me to be here, any more. As long as there is a job for me to do, here, I will remain. When that time is over, He will bring me Home.

In the meantime, I will pray for peoples’ healing. Just because my dad wasn’t “healed” in the way I wanted, doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to believe in God’s ability to heal people. In the words of Michael Been and The Call, “I Still Believe.”

"But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And the grief
Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, I still believe"

(From Pray a Word a Day)

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson addresses something that I have struggled mightily with. In the chapter on Zephaniah, entitled “Seek God’s Right Ways,” he talks about how some of us tend to look for a “religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people. We want to go to God for comfort and inspiration when we’re fed up with the men and women and children around us.”

Ouch.

That hits me right between the eyes. You see, I don’t like “people.” And that dislike has gotten even more severe in the last few years. Between the political division and the pandemic (much of which produced even more political division), I am simply fed up with “people.” But Peterson pointedly reminds me that this is not right. I can’t be that way. I mean, how can I obey Jesus’s command to “love one another” if I can’t stand the people I’m supposed to love??

I love this one statement that Peterson makes. “Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.” This doesn’t mean that every conversation has to include something about God. But what it does mean is that my mind and spirit need to be in tune with this fact and consider that every person that I come in contact with . . . okay . . . how to frame this. I remember Dallas Willard saying something once. I can’t remember the exact quote or even where it was, but he said something to the effect that we need to treat every person as though Jesus is standing between us.

So if I meet someone while I’m at the eye doctor today, and have any kind of interaction, whether positive or negative, I need to act as though Jesus Christ is standing between us; He is in the midst; He is paying attention to the interaction, which means He is listening to what I say about that person or to that person; He is even hearing what I’m thinking about that person!

So if that doesn’t chill your bones, I don’t know what will.

Sounds like I need some “healing,” huh?

Never-changing God, I’m so fickle. I admit it, I confess it. Sometimes, I’m a hypocrite, too. I admit that, as well. I preach love for one another, but then I don’t want to have anything to do with people, in general, because, as Peterson has observed, I just don’t like people very much. They annoy me, they frustrate me, and I don’t understand why they think the way they do.

Heal me, O Lord! I know I’m not right about everything. I may not be right about much of anything. But I do know one thing that I’m right about, and that is that I’m supposed to love You with every ounce of my being, love my neighbor as myself, and love my brothers and sisters the way Christ has loved us. So help me do that.

Take that annoyance and remind me that You are present between me and those other people, all the time. That everything I think about them (even if I don’t speak words) goes through You, because You are aware of it all. Before I think something, let Your Spirit stop me and remind me that the person of which I am thinking is created in Your image, and might just be one of Your children, as well. Remind me that there is always something about their lives that I don’t know, don’t even have a clue about. Release me from judgmentalness! Just chisel that fault out of me. Cleanse my heart and heal me.

I’m grateful for all You do in my life, and pray that this will continue. Just keep teaching me Your ways, that I may walk in Your truth, and in Your kingdom. May my feet be guided down the path of righteousness, true righteousness of faith, based on the words and actions of Jesus, not on some man’s legalistic interpretation of Your Word.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Today is Good Friday, April 10, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,674

Resurrection Sunday is the day after tomorrow.

C has today off. Her company designates one extra holiday each year. It’s not always the same day. I recall it being Presidents’ Day one year. But it has been Good Friday before. So today, C gets to stay home and not work, as opposed to all the other days when she gets to work from home.

We placed our grocery order with Kroger last night. This time, the first available pickup is tomorrow (Saturday) between 6:00 and 7:00 PM! A bit later than last week. Of course, it is Easter weekend, so perhaps people getting those last-minute orders in for Sunday’s lunch. We’re not planning anything special for Easter. We’ll probably order take-out from Subway like we usually do on Sunday.

This may be the first time in modern history that the church buildings will be empty (at least the ones who are following the rules) on our most important Holy Day of the year. I’ve been pondering what it is that we should be learning from this. Our little group, The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s, has already learned that a building is not necessary to be “The Church.” And it is still possible to be The Church without being able to gather and meet face-to-face. One of our friends brought up the fact that nothing can stop us from celebrating this day, even if we have to do it over Internet technology. I’ll be pondering this even more through this whole weekend.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
(Psalms 142:5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the suffering and sacrifice of my Savior on the Cross.
2. For that beautiful, scandalous night.
3. That Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2.24).
4. That death has died and love has won.
5. That Sunday’s coming.

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalms 71:3 ESV)

But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
(Psalms 88:13 ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

(Psalms 22:1 ESV)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(John 19:1-30 ESV)

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
(Psalms 22:14-22 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.

“Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that I, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, 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)

“O God, you sent Christ Jesus to be my shepherd and the lamb of sacrifice. Help me to embrace the mystery of salvation, the promise of life rising out of death. Help me to hear the call of Christ and give me the courage to follow it readily that I, too, may lead others to you. This I ask through Jesus, my shepherd and guide.”
(The Divine Hours, The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

(Mark 15:33-41 ESV)

“On this day when we remember the greatest gift of our Savior, His death on a cross, take a moment to consider how we can stand for Jesus as we face trials of many kinds (see James 2:2-4). Think too about our fellow believers around the world who suffer for their faith.”
(Amy Boucher Pye, Our Daily Bread)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
(1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
(Romans 8:22 ESV)

For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
(2 Corinthians 2:4 ESV)

“Suffering is a language, a ‘tongue.’ I used to tell my Christian college students, ‘You can get by in ministry without knowledge of Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, but you had better understand the language of suffering, because you will be ministering to people in pain.
“No picture I’ve ever seen affects me the way the crucifixion does. It’s like Jesus is speaking to me personally, saying, ‘This is how much I love you, Dan.’ It makes me want to live in a way worthy of that price.”
(Daniel Schantz, Daily Guideposts)

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

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind. As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever.
(Psalms 48:1-8 NIV)

At the time this psalm was written, Jerusalem was the city of God, containing the Temple, the place for atonement. “But after Jesus, who was the final temple and sacrifice for sin, the city of God becomes a community of the faithful both in heaven and on earth.”

This community of the faithful should be “the joy of the whole earth” (verse 2)–“an alternate human society based on love and justice rather than on power and exploitation.” We are that community today, believers in Jesus throughout the world. May we live up to that expectation as we celebrate this weekend.

Prayer: Lord, too many of our Christian communities are ingrown and invisible at best or unattractive at worst. Help me become one small but important part of making my church beautiful to all around it. Amen.”

Truly, Father, may we be this “alternate human society,” and may we be truly based on love and justice, rather than on power and exploitation. Help us to be visible to the world, and, if we are unattractive, may it be because this world hates you, not because we bring it upon ourselves.
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us to live.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.