Today is Tuesday, the 14th of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.
May the peace and love of Christ dwell within you today!
I haven’t mentioned it at all, yet, because C and I don’t really celebrate this one, and haven’t for years. But today is Valentine’s Day, the day when we celebrate the martyrdom of a priest by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus by giving roses and chocolates to our loved ones.
Yeah, I’m still confused by that one, as well. But we leave it to the “youngsters” to celebrate.
Today being Tuesday, I will be working at the library this evening, from 4:15-8:15. It has been raining most of the night, and is sprinkling (I believe the Brits may refer to this as “spitting”) a bit, now. The wind was quite strong, last night, and is predicted to be high, this afternoon, as well. The sun should come out around midday, and the high temperature is expected to hit right at 70 degrees. Tomorrow’s high is projected to be 75, but then, in another drunk frenzy, the weather will drop the temperature 30 degrees by mid-afternoon Thursday, and then another 20 degrees to hit a low of 26 on Friday morning. Fortunately, there is no precipitation forecast for those days.
We must be in the midst of the anniversary of “Snovid 21,” when we had an ice storm that broke the Texas power grid for a few days. I say this because the record lows for the past two days were in 2021, today’s record being 10 degrees.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. (Psalms 119:121 NRSV)
Lord our God, keep us in the grace that is ours through Jesus Christ. Uphold others also in this grace. Reveal yourself everywhere to those who trust in you and who await your kingdom. May your blessing be on our household. We thank you for helping us, and with your help we want to be faithful to you. Then when hardships come, we can be certain of your presence. We know and trust you. We know and trust the Savior, and we know and trust the Holy Spirit, in whom we can have community and be strengthened to serve your glory. Amen.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
(Romans 5:1-5 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the grace in which I stand
- for God’s love, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit
- for the beauty of our God; that should be enough to convince people to love and follow Him
- that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7); specifically, God’s love
- that God has not and will not abandon His people
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalms 90:14 NRSV)
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 148:7-14 NRSV)
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, worshiping the Baals and the Astartes, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. Thus they abandoned the LORD, and did not worship him. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, and they crushed and oppressed the Israelites that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites that were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was greatly distressed. So the Israelites cried to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against you, because we have abandoned our God and have worshiped the Baals." And the LORD said to the Israelites, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, oppressed you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet you have abandoned me and worshiped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress." And the Israelites said to the LORD, "We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!" So they put away the foreign gods from among them and worshiped the LORD; and he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer. (Judges 10:6-16 NRSV)
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7 NRSV)
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
(Ephesians 4:1-7 NRSV)
Oh, blessed be GOD! He didn't go off and leave us. He didn't abandon us defenseless, helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs. (Psalms 124:6 MSG)
One of my favorite things, of late, has become trying to tie all of these Scripture passages together. In case you aren’t aware, they come from a variety of sources. For example . . . today, the first verse, Psalm 119:121 comes from my own daily reading through Psalm 119. The next passage, from Romans 5, comes from the daily prayer provided by Plough magazine, a resource that I discovered last year.
The two passages from Psalms that occur after my gratitude list are from The Divine Hours, daily readings compiled by Phyllis Tickle. The passage from Judges is from my daily readings as I read through the NRSV C.S. Lewis Bible. I am not following any particular plan on this, just reading it straight through, approximately five chapters a day.
Next come a couple of passages from Walking in Grace 2023 (formerly Daily Guideposts), and finally a verse from God’s Message for Each Day, by Eugene H. Peterson.
The reason I included that passage from Judges has to do with a C.S. Lewis passage that was included in reference to it. The key part of that passage of Scripture comes when God responds to the Israelites in verses 11-14.
And the LORD said to the Israelites, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, oppressed you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet you have abandoned me and worshiped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.”
(Judges 10:11-14 NRSV)
Now, remember my blog from yesterday, when I wrote that God is not ever obligated to answer us. Here, He answers, but not in a way that they would have preferred. Yet, their response was noble and honest.
And the Israelites said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!”
(Judges 10:15 NRSV)
They did what was right, put away their false, foreign gods, and the Lord could no longer bear to see them suffer.
Here is what the editors of the C.S. Lewis Bible chose to include on that page. It is a selection from his book, The Problem of Pain.
“It is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had. The same humility is shown by all those Divine appeals to our fears which trouble high-minded readers of Scripture. It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts. The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered; and by trouble or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it ‘unmindful of His glory’s diminution.'”
“It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts.”
Brothers and sisters, that sentence wrecks me. I believe that, for far too long, our opening card in evangelism has been “Accept Jesus as your savior or you’ll go to Hell.” Because of this, Jesus has become, to many people, nothing more than a “get out of Hell free card.”
What if we appealed, rather, to the exquisite, infinite beauty of God? Or, as we have seen, in recent years, to His great love for us? Look back up at Psalm 90:14. What if we were satisfied, each morning, by His steadfast love, instead of, as Lewis said, preferring “everything else to Him?”
There’s another quote of Lewis, a rather famous one that John Piper quoted in Desiring God (I think). According to Goodreads, this one comes from The Weight of Glory.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Yet, when those mud pies no longer satisfy, when those things that we thought would be better than God don’t quite pan out, there we go back to Him, crying out to Him. He would have every right to respond to us just as He did to those Israelites in Judges, who “again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” Then, after God relented and delivered them through Jephthah (a tragic story in its own right), look at Judges 13:1.
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.
(Judges 13:1 NRSV)
Again. And again and again and again.
But there is the beauty of 1 Corinthians 13:7. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I used to think that this chapter was nothing more than a list of ways that we ought to behave. I still believe it is that, but I also believe that it is a description of God’s love toward us. If God is “love” and “love” is and does all of the things described in 1 Corinthians 13, then this chapter also describes God.
He doesn’t abandon us, as is also referenced in Psalm 124:6. He has every right to. He could. He maybe should. But He doesn’t. And He even accepts our pathetic cries to Him after we have tried everything else, and then decided that the best reason to come to Him is to avoid Hell.
Father, forgive us. Father, have mercy! You do, I know, and we most definitely do not deserve it. You are beautiful, my God! “You are beautiful; a terrible, terrible sight!” (Terry Scott Taylor) And You are more than just a means for us to avoid Hell. Please forgive us for our feeble efforts. I know You do, because You are Love. Your steadfast love will never fail or fade, even though ours is as fickle as the wind. We are tossed about by whatever wave of popularity comes along. We stumble and fall on a daily basis.
Yet, You remember that we are but dust. And that is such a glorious verse in Psalm 103, Father. What great comfort it is that You remember this. Yet we are called to be perfect, even as You are perfect. I should think that we might also be called to be beautiful, even as You are beautiful! Help us to be that, Lord. Help us to reflect Your beauty, not some human-devised vision of Your anger that, because of Jesus Christ, may not even be true, any more, if we are to understand what “propitiation” truly means.
And forgive me, Father, for being “far too easily pleased.”
May the Holy Spirit help us to come up with a better way to draw people into Your kingdom than trying to scare them out of Hell. Help us to love people. I think a Love Revolution would be a far more effective tactic.
Even so, come quickly, 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.