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.