Come; Listen; Seek

Today is Friday, the twelfth of March, 2021, in the third week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,010

23 days until Resurrection Sunday

Yesterday was a wonderful day! After I finished blogging, C and I got bowling gear together and headed up to the local Bowlero house. I know. It’s a stupid name, and I hate it. But they pretty much rule bowling, now, having even purchased the PBA. I had a fourteen-pound ball that needed drilling, so we started at the pro shop. We had to wait a little bit, as there were people already in there, and a sign on the door said only two customers at a time. Masks were “suggested” at the front door of the bowling alley, but required in the pro shop.

We finally got inside the pro shop, and the young man inside took measurements and told me to give him around a half hour. We both figured he was being a bit liberal with that estimate, and it turns out, we were right. It took closer to an hour, but that’s okay. We went ahead and started our two hours of bowling with another ball I had brought along.

Ironically, I bowled a 235 in the first game, starting out with four straight strikes. With no warming up. It was crazy. And the thumb hole on my older ball was too big, because, you know, I’m down a hundred-plus pounds. We finished two games before the new ball was done. The second game, I bowled 166, which is more realistic. Then I got the new ball. It’s an Ebonite Nitro, and it’s pretty porous, even more-so than the Hammer I was using. But it fit perfectly! I bowled a 186 with that ball. It felt great.

However, by the end of that game, I had a muscle in my forearm that felt strained or pulled or something, so I only made it through about four frames of the last game, which C finished out. I think the pain was starting before I got the new ball, because I noticed some pain between my ring finger and pinky finger on my right hand, due to the way I was having to try to grip the ball, because the thumb hole was too big.

It was a great time, though, and I have a great new ball to use. And, bonus, my left knee never hurt at all. Oh. That reminds me. I remember mentioning the possibility of drilling the new ball for left handed. I decided not to try that.

After bowling, we ordered Applebee’s for whatever meal you want to call that (it was somewhere around 3:00 PM), and picked up Sonic. We ate our food, and then I settled in for some Playstation time.

Today, we plan to check out the Electric Starship Arcade, during the early afternoon. I have also done prep on a new recipe we are going to try for dinner tonight. From the Emily Bites website, it’s called “Crispy Onion Dip Chicken.” The “onion dip” is made from fat free Greek yogurt, onion powder, and chives. The chicken needs to marinate in the dip for a few hours (up to eight), so I’ve already prepped it and have it in the refrigerator. I will update tomorrow on how it turns out.


God, my Father,
You have promised to remain forever with those
who do what is just and right.
Help me to live in Your presence.
The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when
Jesus, your Son, became man like us.
I want to obey His commandment of love
and bring Your peace and joy to others.
Keep before me the wisdom and love
You have made known in Your Son.
Help me to be like Him in word and deed.

(Prayer to Live in God’s Presence)

for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:7-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • For the wonderful day we had yesterday; thank you, C, for what is going to be a wonderful birthday weekend!
  • For my beautiful and marvelous wife, and the wonderful marriage we have
  • For bowling; that was great fun!
  • That You extended the invitation to come to You
  • That You gave me ears to listen to You
  • That You caused me to seek You and call upon Your name while You can still be found
  • That You have had mercy and have freely pardoned me
  • For Your wonderful words of life!

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



And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
(Isaiah 6:3 NIV)

Spend a moment in silence, resting in the shadow of His wings, enjoying His presence.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)


Of David.

To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
(Psalms 28:1-2 NIV)

Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
(Psalms 28:6-7 NIV)


“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”
(Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)


As I sit in His presence, I see some beautiful words, this morning. The entire passage in Isaiah 55 is an invitation. It is threefold, at least. For the moment, I’m focusing on three words. You might be able to guess what they are.

First, is “come.” To all who are thirsty, and to all who are hungry, the Lord says “come.” Come to the waters; and if you have no money, it doesn’t matter. The word “come” appears four times in verse 1. The door is open, the invitation is given. God does not make Himself hard to find. It is human pride that makes God hard to find.

The second word is “listen.” Between verses 2 and 3, “listen” occurs three times, and a once, it is repeated immediately. “Listen, listen.” The fact that it is directly repeated like that adds emphasis. If you include “give ear” in verse 3, then that invitation is also given four times. The reason is found in verse 3. “Listen, that you may live.”

There’s another old hymn that I remember. I grew up Southern Baptist in a small town in north central Texas, minutes away from DFW. All we sang were hymns. Worship “choruses” and contemporary worship music didn’t come on the scene until at least eighties, at least as far as adult “church” was concerned. We had our youth songs, like “Pass It On,” and “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” But in “church,” we only sang hymns.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Here you go. By the great hymn-writer, Philip P. Bliss.

1. Sing them over again to me,
wonderful words of life;
let me more of their beauty see,
wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty
teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

2. Christ, the blessed one, gives to all
wonderful words of life;
sinner, list to the loving call,
wonderful words of life;
all so freely given,
wooing us to heaven.

3. Sweetly echo the gospel call,
wonderful words of life;
offer pardon and peace to all,
wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior,
sanctify forever.

I know some of you are singing this, right now.

I love that line, “wooing us to heaven.” God’s Word is life. The words that He speaks are words of life! And He bids us come and listen to Him, that we may live! To refuse to do so is simply and utterly foolishness!

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
(Psalm 14:1 NIV)

The third word is “seek.” Only used once in verse 6, we are encouraged/admonished to “seek the Lord while He may be found.” This, of course, implies that there will come a time when He will not be found. When will that be? After the final judgment, when everything is said and done. Then, and only then, will there be a time when humanity will not be able to seek and find the Lord. Until that day, there will always be a chance. As Led Zeppelin famously sang, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” I suppose I should clarify that it is also too late, once one has passed on from this life, at least as far as I understand things.

The final result of all of this coming, listening, and seeking is found in verse 7.

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
(Isaiah 55:7 NIV)

He will have mercy, and He will freely pardon.

FREELY!! Liberally! At no cost to us, because the high, high cost of salvation has already been paid!

Father, I praise You, this morning, for the truth of these words, these “wonderful words of life.” I thank You that You bid me come, so many years ago. I thank You that You gave me ears to listen to you (although they still fail to do so, at times). And I thank You that You led me to seek you and call on Your name, before it was too late. Thank You for Your great mercy, and Your free pardon! Thank You for Your Wonderful Words of Life!

True God,
who can save?
So many pretenders
serve up hollow promises,
but it's all foolishness.
No one else can release me
from my punishment;
no program can set me right with you.
Turn me again to Jesus,
the only true deliverer,
and clear me from my sin.
(Heidelberg Catechism 14)


Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
(Psalms 32:1-2 NIV)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:18 NIV)

You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows.
(Job 22:27 NIV)

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
(Psalms 17:6 NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
(Revelation 2:12-17 NIV)

The chapter of This Hallelujah Banquet that treats this letter to the church in Pergamum is called “The Test of Our Truth.”

We live in an age where “word making” is a huge enterprise. It’s one of the biggest businesses going. The computer age hastened this along a great deal, and, now that they are everywhere and small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, making words is even easier.

“Words are big business.”

Says, Peterson, “With this great emphasis on words, you might think they are studied and valued and understood more than ever before.” (Keep in mind that these words were part of sermons preached in the 1980s!) Unfortunately, that is not the case, and it is even more true than ever, today, in 2021. Social media has exacerbated this problem, along with the ignorance of the masses.

Words are used “badly, sloppily, carelessly.”

In fact, the actual words seem less important than the effects they can cause. “Words are used in order to influence, to sell a car or a candidate, to seduce, to persuade, to win for propaganda, or for advertisement. The skill of our times is not using words as words but using them as weapons, as tools.” (Emphasis mine)

“One of the large and persistent tasks of living the Christian life is learning to tell the truth.” Unfortunately, we continue to lie quite a bit, even when we don’t realize it. “Lies are not usually blatant falsehoods. In order to be successful, they have to be mostly truth.” And, the root cause of most lies is laziness. “Most people tell lies with the best of intentions. They think they are helping the cause of their country or company or their own fortunes and that this is the best way.” Lying is easier than doing the work to make sure we are telling the truth.

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray earnestly for us, Your people, today. Help us discern truth. As we deal with people on social media, may we be more diligent to do the work to make sure that we are always telling the truth. Help us to stop spreading lies because of our affinity to a political party or candidate, or because of our support for some “cause” that is not You. We have fallen far, Lord, in the cause of truth. Jesus is The Truth! Help us to always remember this, and to make sure that we are not telling lies, even unintentionally.

Lord, I pray that, today, You might cause me to think seriously on the Cross of Jesus Christ, and its benefits to my life. I pray for all who are currently living in poverty and suffering injustice. May Your people rise up and help, Father, and may we send more than “thoughts and prayers.” I pray for all who face temptations today (that should be everyone, right?), that You would give us all the strength to withstand the temptation and find the escape route that You promise.

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!

Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
(Isaiah 51:11 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Shall Not Die, But Live

Today is Saturday, May 5, 2018. Day 21,968.

Eight more days until Mother’s Day!

Buddha (who knows if it’s his birthday??) said, “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” BrainyQuote
Pretty much the same as one of the points Jesus was trying to make. If we live life by the words of Jesus, we will have nothing to fear. Not even death.

The word for today is cinquefoil, a noun which means, “any of several plants belonging to the genus Potentilla, of the rose family, having yellow, red, or white five-petaled flowers.”

C will be back this afternoon, and she will be quite tired, as she said she only got three hours of sleep last night. They didn’t finish bowling until 2:50, NY time. The good news is that she bowled a 196 in her last game!! That’s awesome! As I am typing this, she is on the first leg of her flight home, heading for DC for a layover for the final trip home.

The Red Sox beat the Rangers, last night, 5-1. The interesting thing about this game was that all but one of the runs were scored by solo home runs. Mookie Betts hit one, Rafael Devers hit two (one of which was crushed into the upper deck of right field), and J.D. Martinez hit one. The fifth run was scored in the eighth, when Hanley Ramirez hit a double, plating Sandy Leon. The Rangers’ single run was scored on a solo home run by Nomar Mazara. Boston’s record improves to 23-9, remaining one game up on the Yankees in the AL East. The Yanks have won 13 of their last 14 games! The Sox also kept their position as the best in MLB, by one game. The Rangers’ record is now 13-21. They continue their series in Arlington tonight. As previously mentioned, I have tickets to this game, and will be sitting with a group of fellow CEVA employees. I suspect I will be the only one wearing Red Sox gear.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures;
Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties,
may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary,
and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.” (The Book of Common Prayer)

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. 
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! 
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 
like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 
You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah. 
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; 
my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. 
Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah. 
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? 
Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 
O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 
Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 
They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

Psalm 88

It is rare, but this Psalm seems to have nothing positive in it. The best thing I can take away from it is that, even though God appears to have abandoned the Psalmist, he continues to cry out to him. The Psalmist does not give up. This is a good lesson for us. No matter how bad things seem to get, we must continue to cry out to God. He hears us, and he will answer. We must endure the “dark night of the soul,” and we will come out the other side stronger for it.

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
Psalm 118:17

Who’s ready to die?

Not me, that’s for sure! In spite of what Buddha said, above, regardless if I fear or do not fear death, I’m not ready for it.

Death is truly unknown. I have observed it, or at least been very close to it. I have seen people on death’s doorstep. I have been with more than one relative mere hours before death took them. One was awake, and, I must admit, looked terrified.

I stood by while my father’s body passed away, but I am firmly convinced that his soul was already gone. The body was being kept alive by machines. There was no evidence of any spiritual life.

What is it like to die? I certainly don’t know, and I don’t know anyone who can tell me. We have speculation. As Dallas Willard (I know . . . I keep talking about him) passed from this life to the next, it is said, by the man who was with him, that he turned his head to the wall and faintly said, “Thank you!” That, my friends, is chilling! I don’t need to guess who he was talking to!

Dallas opined that, if someone is walking closely enough to Jesus, they might not even be aware of when death took them; that it would just be a smooth transition from one plane of existence to another. He might be right.

Still, I find that I am not quite ready. For one thing, I feel that I still have responsibilities on this earth to take care of. For another, I do not feel that I am walking closely enough to Jesus yet. I still have work to do.

But we have these promises from Jesus, and other places in Scripture, that “death” is not permanent. In fact, “death,” as an enemy, has been defeated by Jesus Christ. We are told that we will have eternal life. That eternal life begins when we start walking with Christ in his kingdom. And it will continue when we transition into the permanent Kingdom of Heaven.

There is hope and assurance in Scripture for us. Physical death is not the end. It is something we must endure, unless Jesus returns while we are still alive. But we will rise. And we will be with him forever.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
1 John 2:25

Father, thank you for these promises. I also thank you for the assurance that, if I am walking uprightly, in your kingdom, and in the easy yoke of Jesus, this world is a perfectly safe place to be. I need fear nothing . . . not even death. Help me, though, to walk better and more closely.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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.

Grace and peace, friends.

First Or Last?

Good morning. It is Friday, December 19, 2014. Just 6 more days until Christmas! My last day of PTO for this year.

(New feature)Today’s Word of the Day is syncretic: “characterized or brought about by a combination of different forms of belief or practice.”

Today is Underdog Day. So go ahead; cheer for the unlikely winner today. Or watch cartoons featuring a little dog that wears a leotard.

We had a great time, yesterday. After the doctor’s appointments (the dental appointment was canceled, because the dentist we were taking Stephanie to doesn’t take Medicaid for patients over 21), we went and had breakfast for lunch at Joe’s Coffee Shop in Watauga. Or is that Haltom City? Anyway, they always have a good breakfast. After that, we took our new bowling balls to Watauga Brunswick Lanes, and had the pro there fit us and drill the balls. Christi decided on a fingertip grip, rather than conventional. We aren’t sure, but it may be her first time to use fingertip. I have used fingertip for years, but it has been twenty years or more since I have been fitted, so the pro wanted to do a new fitting, rather than copy my old ball. We also both elected to have slugs and grip inserts put in the balls. He said it would be about thirty minutes to an hour, so we left to go look for bowling shoes and bags. Academy Sports does not have any bowling equipment. Dick’s Sporting Goods, even though the Interwebs claim they do, did not have bowling equipment.

So, we wound up back at the pro shop, where I found some decent bowling shoes for about the same price they were selling for on Amazon. Then we looked at several rolling bags that he had, which fit two balls and shoes, and picked out one of those, so we can both put our bowling balls in the same bag. It’s pretty likely that we will always be together when bowling, so that’s a good thing. He had our drilling finished, and all he had to do was determine which finger grip inserts to put in them. Within fifteen minutes we were bowling with our brand new Columbia 300 Throw Down balls. I have used Columbia 300 bowling balls for about 30 years. Of course, they really aren’t “Columbia 300” any more, even though they carry the logo. They are made by Ebonite.

Anyway . . . Stephanie bowled with us, and we had an awesome time. Christi did very well, and by the end of game two, had really found a groove! She got three strikes in a row, at least twice, and finished game two with a 172, significantly above her average from twenty years ago. I failed to break 100 the first game, as I had a little more trouble figuring out the new ball’s breaking characteristics. Also, my “style” suffers severely, from lack of usage. But the second game was much better, with a 162. Christi beat me soundly, 319-259, for the two game score. We plan to get in more practice, and possibly join a league next year, sometime, maybe over the summer.

We were so tired from the bowling, that we came home and collapsed to watch TV for a little while. Then Christi had her Huddle group, after which she stopped and got some dinner to bring home for us. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic day.

Today, we plan to go out and get some last minute Christmas shopping finished up; gift cards, cash, stocking stuffers, and so on. Also that evasive oil change. Looks like I’m going to have to skip the car wash for now, as there is a 60% chance of more rain today.

(Source: This Day In History)

On this date in 1986, Michael Sergio was sentenced to a fine of $500 and 100 hours of community service. His crime? Parachuting onto the field at Shea Stadium in the first inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox.

And people blame Bill Buckner . . . sheesh. Lo, and behold . . . Buckner was batting when the incident occurred!!

Today’s birthdays include Alyssa Milano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cicely Tyson, Jennifer Beals, Mike Lookinland, Kristy Swanson, Al Kaline, Robert Urich, Alvin Lee, Maurice White, William Parry, Ford C Frick, Ralph Richardson, David Susskind, and Robert Sherman.

Kristy Swanson is an actress who was unfortunate enough to play the part of “Buffy Summers” in the original movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The movie was quite awful. Fortunately, Joss Whedon was able to resuscitate the character into a very successful TV show.

Alvin Lee was the lead guitarist and singer for the blues/rock group, Ten Years After. He was born on this date in 1944, and passed away last year, on March 6. Here he is with a virtual army of other guitar players. I’m not sure what this performance is taken from, but it’s a lot of fun.


(From The Divine Hours)

Third Week of Advent

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
Psalm 147:7
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 80:1
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
Psalm 57:5
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 110:4
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:1-4
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are
sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and
deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:9-12
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:20-28

In The Reformation Study Bible, this passage is prefaced with the heading, “A Mother’s Request.” I wonder if James and John were embarrassed by this shameless request by their mother. Or, do you think they put her up to it? Who knows? We really aren’t given any insight into the motive behind the request. Either way, it is quite arrogant, especially when they answered in the affirmative Jesus’s question, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” Was Jesus surprised by this request? Of course not. You cannot surprise God! Nevertheless, I can easily see him shaking his head as he responds, “You do not know what you are asking.”

I am not surprised at the reaction of the other ten. But then, Jesus gathered them all together, and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they still weren’t quite getting it. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” He had just alluded to this a short while ago, in the parable of the landowner, when he said, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” This turned their world upside-down, just as it does ours, today. We want to be first. We don’t want to serve or be “slaves” to one another. Just look at the way we drive! We cannot stand the thought of someone getting in front of us! I struggle with this on a daily basis, as I drive to work. But God is steadily working on this attitude in me. I’m finding it much easier to allow plenty of space between me and the car in front of me; space for someone else to slide on in, if they need to. I don’t need to be concerned about who gets in front of me. Ever.

And, you know, even this gets tricky. If I’m letting people in front of me, all the while thinking, I’m going to be last so I can be first, I’m still not quite getting it, am I? I need to be letting people in front of me because I care nothing for my own status or position. All is for Jesus; all is for Christ. It is all about him; none of this is about me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m first or dead last. God will take care of me.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Gigantic Secret.”

“‘Christmas for the pagans is small publicity,’ Chesterton said, ‘for the Christian it is a gigantic secret.’

“And the gigantic Christmas secret is that Emmanuel, God-with-us, is a baby boy ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ When Jesus Christ is born in me, hope burns brightly and everything else fades into twilight. The roof can collapse, winter heat becomes unavailable, fair-weather friends shift their allegiance, popularity wane. The Kingdom of Christ Jesus remains alight within me. As Don Quixote tells Aldonza in The Man from La Mancha: ‘Wins and losses don’t matter, all that matters is following the quest.'”

. . . who through him are believers in God,
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:21

Father, as this Christmas season progresses, I sense more of the joy than I have felt in many years. I am savoring that, to the point that I almost wish it was still another week or so until Christmas Day. The funny thing is that this really should not be an issue, at all, as I should feel this joy all year long. So that’s what I pray for. May this baby be born in my all year long, and may the attitude of not caring if I am first or last be prevalent in my thoughts, words, and actions, every day of the year. May I be willing to be the servant of all, and pour myself out for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ, love them the way you have loved us, which is one of the commands that you have given us. May I grow to the point that I am constantly pursuing this idea of intimacy with Jesus in my life, thinking more about him than I am anything else. Let this color everything I do every day, and may my heart be undivided toward worshiping, thanking, and serving you through Jesus Christ.

I pray for this day, that we would have a good time as we go out and about. May we get everything accomplished that we need to do. I pray for your grace to fill this family during this season, and the rest of the year, as well. As our celebrations approach, next week, I pray that we would do a good job of sharing the Kingdom with our friends, co-workers, and family members. Especially those who tend to annoy us more. May your grace rain on Stephanie during this Christmas. I pray for Rachel, in the aftermath of her accident, that she would be okay, mentally, and not be overwrought over it.

Do you want to be first? We might wind up being first in line, here on earth, but that won’t get us far in the Kingdom. Kingdom rules are different.

Grace and peace, friends.