A Better Country

Good morning. Today is Monday, the tenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ reign in your spirit.

Day 23,314

Thirteen days until Hamilton! So far, it is still on.

So it’s back to a more “normal” week for me, this week. I only work two days at the library, this week, tomorrow evening, and all day Friday. Unless, of course, I get “summoned” to work an extra shift, like last week. At this point, I don’t really have any major plans. There are household chores to do, which I usually try to get done on Mondays. For example, I am currently vacuuming the floors while I type this, thanks to the new robot vacuum we got for Christmas. That saves me some time, but it also cuts out some steps that I usually get on Mondays. So there’s definitely a tradeoff, there.

I need to leave the house for a few minutes, later, as I have a couple of packages to pick up at a nearby Amazon Hub locker. I also want to get some more reading accomplished. So far, I’ve already finished three books, this year! In the interest of full disclosure, however, two of those were started last year.

We had a good time at our church gathering, yesterday. There were only four of us at the house, but there were three more on Zoom. We had some good discussion that started on Psalm 51, but kind of went all over the place. I think we plan on starting to look at either First and Second Samuel, or the life of David, soon, to go along with our readings in Psalms.

We had a good lunch from Applebee’s, after which C went up to CVS to pick up some scripts for S, and I called Mama. We had a nice conversation, in which I talked more about football than I have the whole last year. Haha. The Dallas Cowboys have made the playoffs again, with one of the best seasons they have had in quite some time. But the interesting thing about yesterday is how many of the playoff spots were still up in the air for the last week of regular season play. I may or may not watch any playoff games. I’m not much of a football fan, and haven’t really rooted for the Cowboys since Jerry Jones hired Barry Switzer as the head coach.

And with that, I think I have written more about football than I did all last year.

We lost two more celebrities, yesterday, one of which was a big shocker. Bob Saget, most famous for Full House, was found dead in a Florida hotel room. He was only 65 years old. At this point, no cause of death has been announced. Not too long after we learned of that, it was announced that the actor who played Dobie Gillis, Dwayne Hickman, had also passed away. He was 87. This is starting to look like 2016, which I unaffectionately refer to as The Great Celebrity Massacre of 2016. As we know, the 2022 list actually started on 12/31/21 with Betty White.

I guess I should get into the devotional for the day, as it is after 9:30 already.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Enough, by Daryl Madden

In this lonely world
Life can be so tough
Sharing of Your love
Am I good enough?

Life can be exhausting
Each day the road is rough
In helping all the broken
Do I do enough?

Trying to be holy
Sometimes I have to bluff
In living out my faith
Do I believe enough?

I say I don’t ask these
But that is just fluff
But when I do
Say, enough is enough

Asking the wrong questions
Dealing with this stuff
For all I need to know
That Jesus is enough

I love this, because I believe that we do, indeed, spend too much time worrying about whether we are “enough,” or if we are doing “enough.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Do what GOD tells you. 
Walk in the paths he shows you: 
Follow the life-map absolutely, 
keep an eye out for the signposts, 
his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; 
then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.
(1 Kings 2:3 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is sovereign; even when it doesn't look like it, even when everything seems to be "off the rails," God is sovereign and ruling
2. for the gospel proclamation that the Kingdom of God is here, now
3. for the promise of a "better country," a heavenly country
4. for my partner in life
5. for my church family, who also serve to help strengthen me, as we bear one another's burdens
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; 
repent and believe in the gospel."
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. 
(Mark 1:14-20 ESV)

It is believed by many (and I tend to be one of them) that the entire Gospel of Jesus is presented in that one sentence in verse 15. The time has come, the opportunity is here. The rule or reign of God is near, at hand. Jesus commands us to think differently and put our trust in this good news.

The kingdom is here, it is now. It has been here ever since Jesus set foot on the earth. It is not something that we are waiting for, when we die. We are walking in it now.

It is also worth taking note of who Jesus went to first. He did not come on the scene and immediately seek out the “preachers,” the “religious” people. He went to the everyday workers, the fishermen. Truthfully, I have been a part of both scenarios. I spent a large part of my life being “religious.” The older I get, the less “religious” I am. I’m trying to be more ordinary. There is value in the ordinary, the daily work of the ordinary people. This is where the true work of the Kingdom takes place.

The question is asked, as I listen to today’s Pray As You Go presentation, “What would be your response to the Lord’s call, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people”?

I would love to think that I would have followed Him, just as Simon and Andrew did. We are told that they left their boats and equipment immediately and began following Jesus. But, truthfully, I cannot really answer that question. What is worth pondering, this morning, though, is, is there something that I need to abandon immediately in order to follow Him more fully?

Today, in Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, I get to the reading that encompasses First and Second Kings. The main thrust of this reading is the sovereignty of God. This is one of the major truths of everything we read in the Bible.

God is Sovereign.

He rules. “Not only in our personal affairs but in the cosmos. Not only in our times and places of worship but in office buildings, political affairs, factories, universities, hospitals–yes, even behind the scenes in saloons and rock concerts.”

Sure. It doesn’t always look like it. “Most of us are knocked around much of the time by forces and wills that give no hint of God.” But remember the title that is given to Jesus: King.

How do we manage to live in this, “in a world that is mostly either ignorant or defiant of it?” We allow our minds and imaginations and behaviors to be shaped “by the reality of God rather than by what is handed out in school curricula and media reporting.” And Peterson believes the books of Kings to be invaluable resources in this realm.

In the story, which begins, actually, in the Samuels, we know that the people having kings was not God’s idea, but theirs. “Since they insisted, he let them have their way.” However, in that allowance, He did not abdicate His sovereignty. In fact, He was not even delegating sovereignty to those kings. They were supposed to represent His sovereignty.

As we know, this did not ever work very well. But what we do see is that, “in the midst of the incredible mess these kings are making of God’s purposes, God continues to work his purposes and uses them in the work–doesn’t discard them, doesn’t detour around them; he uses them. They are part of his sovereign rule, whether they want to be or not, whether they know it or not.”

Hezekiah at least had an idea of this.

And Hezekiah prayed—oh, how he prayed! 
GOD, God of Israel, seated 
in majesty on the cherubim-throne. 
You are the one and only God, 
sovereign over all kingdoms on earth, 
Maker of heaven, 
maker of earth. 
Open your ears, GOD, and listen, 
open your eyes and look. 
Make all the kingdoms on earth know 
that you are GOD, the one and only God. 
(2 Kings 19:15-16, 19 MSG)

Speaking to the Assyrians through His prophets, God says this:

Did it never occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action, Using you as a doomsday weapon, reducing proud cities to piles of rubble, . . .
(2 Kings 19:25 MSG)

“The books of Kings provide a premier witness to the sovereignty of God carried out among some of the most unlikely and uncooperative people who have ever lived.”

I love that quote! Because it directly lines up with who we are, as well. We are pretty unlikely and mostly uncooperative people, I think.

These are the words that David spoke to Solomon, as David was about to did:

Do what GOD tells you. 
Walk in the paths he shows you: 
Follow the life-map absolutely, 
keep an eye out for the signposts, 
his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; 
then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.
(1 Kings 2:3 MSG)

They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:16 NIV)

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 
'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “partnership.”

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

The devotional book only cited verse 9, but I can’t just quote that verse without the other three, as they complete the thought. Specifically that line at the end of verse 12, that, on the surface, appears to be confusing. Wait . . . I thought we were talking about two people, not three!

But if you consider that God is the third strand of that cord, it completes the truth. I am not very strong alone. With a partner, a collaborator, I am stronger, and if God is in the center of it, we are unbeatable.

Ultimately, my wife is my partner. I am stronger with her. We have overcome obstacles in our thirty-six years together; obstacles that would have been impossible without God in our midst.

Father, like the people referred to in Hebrews 11, I long for that “better country.” I make frequent references in this forum to “Home,” and that is what I long for. However, that longing is not so strong that it makes me of no use in this life. I am not “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.” But neither am I completely entrenched in the things of this world. I won’t deny that there are some things of the world that I enjoy. But if Your plan was to bring us all Home today or tomorrow? You would get no complaint from me!

I embrace Your sovereignty, and have for many years, now. The longer I live, the more understanding I have concerning this idea of sovereignty. We are not robots. You do not control every single thing that I do. At least I don’t think You do. I have a measure of “free will” within the confines of Your sovereignty. But You are working Your plan, as we can clearly see throughout the pages of Scripture, and You are using ordinary people like us to do it. The pages of the books of Kings show us this. What a mess! Just like the pages of the book of Judges! We talked about this in church, yesterday morning, about how messy we are, but we are still loved by You and You still use us in Your kingdom. We are very grateful for this, and honored and humbled to be a part of Your story.

I thank You for my wife, Lord, for the partnership that You put together over thirty years ago. She is more than I ever deserved and I am so grateful for the love that You made between us. Thank You for Your hand in our lives and our family. I pray that You continue to direct us all through this life, and embrace Your promise that we need not fear because You are right here with us, all the time.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

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.

Undignified

Today is Tuesday, the fifth of October, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,217

Seven days until our anniversary!!

The biggest news since yesterday is the Great Facebook Outage of 2021! It crashed somewhere around 10:00 CDT, yesterday morning, while I was in the middle of composing my blog, and didn’t come back up for at least six hours. But it turns out the only reason I missed it was because I was unable to share my blog post and prayer request post and gratitude list until late afternoon.

It turns out that we can actually live without Facebook.

The other big news is that I FINISHED A DANCE WITH DRAGONS LAST NIGHT!!!

Seriously. That was a true “slog.” If you care, you can read my review on Goodreads. So now, I’m moving on to another book I checked out from the Hurst Public Library, Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. This book contains the entire libretto of the musical, along with notes and stories about its creation and production. I plan to listen along as I read, whenever possible.

Tonight is the Wild Card playoff game between the Red Sox and Yankees, at 7:08 CDT, in Boston. The only place to watch the game, apparently, is ESPN. I work from 4:15 to 8:15, tonight, so I won’t get to watch the beginning. I may actually tune in as soon as I get home.

Today is World Teachers Day. Say a prayer for all the teachers you know, today.

The word for today, appropriately, is inculcate, a verb which means, “to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly.” (emphasis mine)

Today’s quote is from Milton Berle, American comedian. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

Significant birthdays on October 5:

Jonathan Edwards, Christian preacher, philosopher, and theologian, 1703-1758
Chester A. Arthur, 21st U.S. President, 1829-1886
Larry Fine, American actor and comedian (3 Stooges), 1902-1975
Ray Kroc, American fast food entrepreneur (McDonald's), 1902-1984
Allen Ludden, American gameshow host (Password) and husband of Betty White, 1919-1981
Bil Keane, American cartoonist (Family Circus), 1922-2011
Bill Dana, American comedian (Jose Jimenez), 1924-2017
Steve Miller, American rocker (Abracadabra, The Joker, Fly Like an Eagle), 1943 (77)
B.W. Stevenson, American singer (My Maria), 1949-1988
Bob Geldof, Irish singer (Boomtown Rats - "I Don't Like Mondays"), 1951 (70)
Clive Barker, English author (The Damnation Game, Hellraiser), 1952 (69)
Guy Pearce, British-Australian actor (Memento), 1967 (54)
Kate Winslet, British actress (Mare of Easttown, Titanic), 1975 (46)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Grace to you, and peace;
Giving thanks to God for you;
Love is increasing.
(2 Thessalonians 1)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
(2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I finished A Dance with Dragons last night (egad)
2. for all the saints, as we grow in faith together
3. that our love for one another increases as we walk in Christ
4. that You care nothing for appearances, but examine our hearts
5. that You are my rock and fortress, and bring me the comfort of joy when I experience anxiety

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY – DAY THREE

INVITATION

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
(Psalms 33:5 ESV)

I pause, now, to reflect on Your steadfast love, and how it feeds us, the saints, enabling us to love one another and grow in our faith. Thank You, Father!

BIBLE SONG

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Can a corrupt throne be allied with you— a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them.
(Psalms 94:16-23 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
(2 Samuel 6:12-16 NIV)

David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
(2 Samuel 6:21-22 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself of Your presence, this morning, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me through the reading and meditating of Your Word. Teach me, Father, as I read Your Word.

I believe that the question posed in Psalm 94:16 is coming from the unnamed psalmist, not the Lord. In fact, the implication is that it was the Lord who, in fact, helped the psalmist stand against evil. And, as the psalm continues, I believe it is important to note the last verse. It is God that repays them for their sins, not humans.

There are many well-meaning people in the Church who believe it is their mission to rid the world of evil. I don’t see any Scripture that corroborates this opinion. And I see the quest to remove evil from the world as a serious hindrance to the completion of one of our two main jobs, that of loving people.

If we live and walk with the Lord as our fortress and Him as our Rock, we have nothing to fear from evil. This was discussed at some length in our church gathering, this past Sunday, as we discussed 1 John 4:18.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18 NIV)

Psalm 94:19 also seems to give us this message as we find joy in the consolation we get from God when we experience anxiety. And, in regards to verse 20, asking if a corrupt throne could possibly be allied with the Lord, we can certainly apply this to any form of human government, and I believe that all human governments of the twenty-first century are corrupt. There is no “throne” in our world today that is allied with God.

Our reading in 2 Samuel picks up where yesterday’s left off. When David saw that the household of Obed-Edom the Gittite was being blessed by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, he decided to go ahead and have it brought home.

One of the first things we see is that it appears to have been carried correctly, this time. I can only assume that, but it looks to be true, as the verse speaks of “those who were carrying the ark.” This implies to me that it was being properly carried by staves, on the shoulders of footmen.

David was so excited that, before they had walked ten steps, even, he was making sacrifices. And then he danced. David danced so hard that he exposed himself. Verse 22 makes it clear . . . David cared not one iota what anyone else thought or how he appeared to any people. He was dancing before the Lord Almighty, and He was the only One who mattered.

David did not care at all that he appeared to be “undignified.”

We create our own anxieties over appearances. Professional workplaces don’t help. If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never fathom why anyone thinks that wearing a suit has any effect whatsoever on your job performance. In fact, I think there should be a special hell for whoever invented the necktie. It serves absolutely no purpose, whatsoever, other than to choke you and make you sweat a little bit more.

God doesn’t care about our appearances. What I wear “to church” has no bearing on my standing before God. We do have the caution in Scripture to not be a stumbling block to weaker brothers and sisters, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Any energy that I would spend in anxiety over what another human being thinks of me or my appearance, would be better spent in prayer and meditation of Scripture, and in loving my neighbor as myself.

Incidentally, Michal’s reward for being critical of David was that she remained barren to the day of her death. That’s what caring about appearances will get you.

Father, I pray for the same kind of joy that David had, that cares not how it appears to others. Let me look like a fool to others . . . I don’t care. Please replace any anxiety, that might come from worrying over appearance, with joy. I believe I can say, like the psalmist, that, if it were not for Your help in my life, I very well may have dwelt in the silence of death. I’ve made some pretty foolish decisions, along the way. But You have spared me from some of the consequences. I believe that You still have work for me to do, here, and that, as my fortress and my Rock, You will provide the strength in which I can perform that work. As for the wicked and evil in the world, I will rely upon You to take care of them. Give me dancing feet that most certainly can grow from a praying knee.

I pray for a love for and commitment to the communities in which You have placed me. Please equip us to serve in unique ways in our communities and workplaces. I pray that You grant strength to any of Your people who serve in the news media.

"Joyful Jesus,
forgive me for the ways I can reduce life with You to fine worship or stately buildings,
dignified gatherings or efficient organizations,
influence or importance.
I pray that Your church and my life would be reckless with love for You,
captive to the rhythm of Your kingdom joy,
glorying and enjoying You.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6 ESV)

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:13-17 ESV)

“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)

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!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.