The Pretender

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of God be with you today!

Day 23,421


Ordinary Day Becomes,” by Daryl Madden

An ordinary morning
As light comes to this day
A breath of fresh air
Clouds drift on their way

Flowers come to blossom
Branches of trees sway
Colors here awaken
Of vision to portray

Between the birdsong calling
Of silence to convey
Listen here dear soul
What Spirit has to say

And through our connection
Of binding here to pray
This journey now becomes
An extraordinary way

Father, I pray that this “ordinary morning” helps my journey to become an “extraordinary way.” Help me to listen to what the Spirit has to say to me, today.

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

Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” 
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: 
“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” 
And the four living beings said,
And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
(Revelation 5:11-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this ordinary morning, and hopes that it will become extraordinary
2. for the vision of worship in Revelation 5
3. for the belief that God has placed in my heart; may I embrace it fully
4. for the command to really love others, and to not just pretend (Romans 12:9)
5. for the ability to embrace change in my life
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. 

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “believe.” The opening quote is from positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

I almost stopped typing in the middle of that and erased it. Because why? Because, here’s the thing: Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded or called upon to believe in ourselves. That is simply not a biblical concept.

There are, however, plenty of Scriptures to tell us that we are loved by God. And we are called upon and commanded to believe in Him. So, in obeying the command to believe in God, we must believe that we are beloved of God. The danger is that somehow we have to do that without becoming prideful.

So, yes. Believe. But not in yourself; not in your own ability. Believe in God. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He who watches over you never slumbers or sleeps. Believe that He watches over your life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am constantly praying the prayer that that father prayed in the New Testament. You know the one. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Yes, that one. Help me to believe. Help me to believe in Your constant, never-fading love for me. Help me to believe in Your mercy and grace and forgiveness, because every time I sin, that belief wavers. How could you possibly still be forgiving me for that same sin?? But You do, because You already have, and that is a mystery that I still cannot fully fathom.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

I don’t believe I’ve ever read that version of that verse before. The ESV is more succinct, saying, “Let love be genuine.” But I like the idea presented in the NLT. It takes more words, but I think it says it better. The KJV uses the word “dissimulation.” I’m 64 years old, and I’m pretty sure I have never heard that word before. I guess I have read it, because I grew up with the King James Version. But I sure don’t remember it, and I’ve never heard it in conversation.

The Greek word could also be translated “hypocrisy.” The dictionary says it means “pretense.” So, it looks like the NLT nails it. And, oddly enough, the human-added subheading at the beginning of that paragraph says, “Marks of the True Christian.

Indeed . . .

One way to love someone is to care for them or care about them. And the way we care about or for others is to get to know them. What makes them click? What “floats their boat?” What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they need?

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help me. I’ve not done a good job at this. I’ve certainly pretended to love some people. But have I truly loved them in my heart? Have I loved them with my actions? I’ve heard the cliché, “Love’s not a feeling; it’s a verb.” But how do I do that? Please show me how to love, really love, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And then show me how to love my co-workers. Maybe first, please show me how to best love my family. I wear the shirt, “Love one another.” But I need to do more than wear a shirt.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; 
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; 
his name is the LORD; 
exult before him! 
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
 is God in his holy habitation.
(Psalms 68:4-5 ESV)

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15 NLT)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
(James 1:27 NLT)

There are times when living in both of the above thoughts will require change. In order to fully believe in God and to believe that He loves us and has forgiven us might require change. It might require (gasp) repentance!

When I use that word, though, I am not using it in the typical “evangelical” sense of “being sorry for my sins.” I’m using it in the purest form, which simply means to turn around, to change my way of thinking, to think differently about something. That is literally what repentance means. So, in essence, “change” and “repent” are kind of the same word.

In order to truly love someone without hypocrisy or pretense, change might be required, as well.

We don’t like change. We’re all familiar with the series of jokes that ask the question, “How many ___________ does it take to change a light bulb?” You can insert whatever you want in the blank and come up with a humorous answer. I once heard, “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer was, simply, “CHANGE?????”

I grew up Southern Baptist so I can make fun of them all I want. There’s an old saying . . . “We’ve never done it that way before!”

But sometimes, we have to. Sometimes we have to change the way we do things, and that takes work and adjustments and variations.

There are also times when we want change. We are tired of the “status quo.” “Life isn’t quite what we had hoped for, and we look for something new.”

But what makes the difference is how we involve God in that change. How do we approach the work? “God is shaping. His hand is molding. We can discover his ways in the changes of our own lives.”

“Change will probably always be uncomfortable. But we can begin to see it as desirable because the One who knows us best is carefully orchestrating the transitions of our lives.”

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

Father, the thoughts that are presented above require change in my heart. Maybe not so much the act of believing, although there is always room for improvement in my “belief department.” But most assuredly the “love department.” I do not feel that I have done a good job following that command, and I need You to help me change. I know that You have already been at work in that area; You have been working there, building and shaping, for close to a decade, now. There is nothing that You cannot accomplish in me, I do believe that. But I also know that I am, at times, stubborn and resistant to change. (Someone who knows me might read that and laugh. “At times?? Hah!”)

Father, I want to fully love people, but first I want to fully love You with every fiber of my being. Back to those two commands, aren’t we? Love You; love people. But do it according to Scripture. Help me to not just pretend, but to really love, both You and the people. I do know that when I pretend to love You, I am only fooling myself, though.

Grace and peace, friends.

Jesus Is Almighty

Good morning. It’s Monday, February 27, 2012. The current temperature where I live is 54 degrees. It should get up to 64 today, with “PM Showers” today. Rain tonight, and possible thunderstorms tomorrow.

The workouts continue (as they will), with day 39 yesterday. Today will be the 40th workout since January 15. Not consecutive, though, as there have been a handful of Thursday nights when we didn’t work out due to our Lifehouse meeting. No, we are not meeting with a rock group. That’s what our small groups are called at The Exchange. Anyway…as of this morning, I have lost over 25 pounds since January 15. I passed my goal of losing ten pounds in February, with two days left in the month.

My Utmost For His Highest

Where do you get that living water? John 4:11

Today’s reading continues on the theme of yesterday’s. Do we believe that Jesus can do what we need? Or do we believe that our “well” is too deep, and that he is unable to draw from it. The thing is, “Jesus does not bring anything up from the wells of human nature.” No, he brings it from above. We “limit” God when we think that we cannot expect him to do a thing for us. (Can a man truly limit God? But, still, we seem to.) “The thing that taxes almightiness is the very thing which we as disciples of Jesus ought to believe He will do.” When we forget that he is Almighty, we limit him. “We will come to Jesus as Comforter or as Sympathizer, but we will not come to him as Almighty.”

Why do so many of us seem to be poor Christians? (And I don’t mean poor, materially.) “…we have no Almighty Christ. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment to Jesus Christ.” I read this, and I wonder…why don’t I believe?? Why do I try get draw the water myself? This only leads to more discouragement! “The well of your incompleteness is deep, but make the effort and look away to Him.” Jesus is Almighty! We must believe!

Tabletalk Magazine

Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matthew 16:20

“Christ” or “Messiah” are the two titles most frequently used by the New Testament writers for Jesus. The question is raised, why did he not call himself “Messiah?” His “favorite” title for himself was “Son of Man.” This question is further complicated in light of today’s Scripture passage, where Jesus forbade his disciples from telling others this truth. Some believe that, since he did not call himself “Messiah,” and asked his disciples not to say it to others, that he, himself, did not believe he was the Messiah. “…they suggest the idea that Jesus is the Messiah was imposed on the historical Jesus by the church.”

Of course, we also have to realize that Jesus never denied that he was the Christ or the Messiah. In verses 16-19 of the passage referred to above, Jesus, in fact, agrees with Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ.

However, Jesus only revealed this truth to a select few. Why is that? For one reason, the social climate was politically charged. The nation of Israel was looking for a “Messiah,” but the one they were looking for would be a “political revolutionary, a king who would release the nation from Roman domination.” While the Old Testament predicted this kind of Messiah, it also said that he must suffer and die for his people. Here comes the reason for “The Messianic Secret.” “Had Jesus declared His messianic office plainly, He would have stoked the fires of rebellion, encouraging the Roman authorities to kill Him before the appointed time.” Remember, Jesus chose when to lay down his life! This brings to light a principle that carries forward to our day. “God is not bound to conform to our false expectations of Him.” That, my friends, is a very profound and true statement!

The Bible Panorama

Mark 6:30-56; Numbers 17-19

In the conclusion of Mark 6, we first see “Thousands” of people flock to Jesus (30-44). Even though he is trying to get his disciples to a place of solitude, the people follow them, hungry for Jesus’s new teaching. He eventually feeds them all with a few loaves of bread and fishes. Mark gives interesting details in his account, stating that the people sat on the “green grass,” and even saying that they sat in groups of a hundred or fifty. Jesus then tells his disciples to travel by boat to Bethsaida, where he will meet them after a time of prayer. As they travel, there is a strong wind, and Jesus appears, walking across the water toward their boat. They are “Troubled” (45-52), thinking he is a ghost. But he calms their troubles, as well as calming the storm. They were “utterly astounded,” and still failed to completely understand either this miracle or the loaves and fishes.

Numbers 17–After a group of people come to Moses, complaining of the “favoritism” of God always choosing Aaron, they are given a “Sign” (1-7). A rod is to be collected from each tribe. Whichever rod has bloomed by the next day will indicate God’s choice. This will put to rest, once and for all, their silly complaining. The next day, Aaron’s rod had “Sprouted” (8-9). Not only did it sprout, it bloomed and had completely ripe almonds on it!! It was treated as “Sacred” after that (10-11), and later we learn that it was placed in the ark of the covenant. After this, the people were “Scared” (12-13). And well they should be. They are even afraid to approach the tabernacle, lest they die.

Numbers 18–God speaks to Aaron and his sons about the “Priesthood” (1). They will be responsible for any sin that pollutes the sanctuary. We see their “Participation” (2-7), as they are to attend to everything in the holy place. The Levites will assist, but Aaron and his direct lineage will be solely responsible for the holy of holies. They will receive “Portions” (8-20) from the rest of Israel, as they have no official inheritance. The tithes from the “People” (21-24) will totally support the priesthood. This “Principle” of tithing will be upheld by the Levites, as well, as they are to give a tenth of all they receive to the Lord (25-32).

Number 19–First, we see “The Cow” (1-2), a red heifer that is to be selected. It is to have never been yoked. It must be taken outside “The Camp” and killed (3). Following that is “The Cleansing” (4-10), as Eleazar, the priest, sprinkles the blood in front of the tabernacle. He is then to be cleansed in water made from the ashes of the heifer, cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet. “The Conduct” of the people is important, and they are to be cleansed by this water, whenever they become unclean (11-22).

Jesus, I confess that I have struggled with this my entire life. I believe in you, yes, I do. But yet, I also fail to believe. How? I fail to believe because I do not abandon myself to you. I struggle because I try to draw the water myself! But the well is certainly too deep for me. And since it is too deep for me, I suppose that it is also too deep for you! This is a horrible sin, Lord! I cry out, as the man with the demon-possessed son, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” That seems contradictory, but now, I understand that it is not. I believe, yet I don’t believe. Help my unbelief, Jesus! You calmed storms for your disciples. You fed thousands of people with a little bread and fish. How can I not believe that you can meed my every need?

Father, may my expectations of you not be false! May they be completely and accurately formed by Scripture, and a proper understanding of it!

Father, in light of all of this, I pray for The Exchange. We need (or at least we think we need) a building of our own. There are issues that arise from time to time because we meet in a school building. But mostly, we need a building so that we have a visible presence in our community. I pray that a place would open up for us, and I pray that our people will be as generous as the Israelites, when they were called upon to donate materials for the tabernacle. They gave so much that Moses had to ask them to stop! May we be that generous in our donations toward a building for our church, Lord. I pray for the leadership team of this church, that your Spirit would fall on them in a most powerful way, that they would continue to be men of integrity and dependability. I pray for Joel, as he continues to pastor us, that his messages would be words that would inspire us to believe in you as Almighty God, knowing that you control all things, every little piece of our lives!

I pray for Bart, our tech leader. We give you thanks and praise that he is finally home, but he still needs strength and healing. I pray that you would heal his body so that he can be with us again.

I also lift up little Phoebe, the little girl who has been ravaged by illness, stemming from a brain tumor. Lord, there are many who are praying desperately for this little girl’s healing. I, too, ask that you would heal this child. Give comfort to her family and friends during this time. Strengthen faith, Lord.

I pray for this day, Lord. Who besides you knows what it will bring to our lives? Everything that happens today is, in a way, unexpected, because none of us knows what will come in any given day. But you are Almighty and all-knowing. Prepare us for what lies ahead with the wisdom and strength of your Spirit, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient!

May we believe and see Jesus as truly Almighty!

Grace and peace, friends.