Fear Not

Good morning. It is Sunday, September 20, 2015. Today marks the fifth month anniversary of my father’s passing.

Today’s word of the day, from dictionary.com, is timocracy. It is not, as one might thing, government by Tim. It is, “a form of government in which love of honor is the dominant motive of the rulers,” or, “a form of government in which a certain amount of property is requisite as a qualification for office.” Either one is, in my opinion, not good.

Today is Wife Appreciation Day. Dang. I wish I’d known that sooner. I do appreciate my wife, very much. Christi is the biggest blessing this side of heaven that I have ever had in my life, and ever will have.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, all around. The grocery shopping went very well, and our church activities went well, too, I think. Our pastor presented a great message on the existence of God, as our church is participating in the “Explore God” series that is going on around the Metroplex. There are, literally, hundreds of local churches participating in this series, which strives to answer the following questions:

  • Does life have a purpose?
  • Is there a God?
  • Why does God allow pain and suffering?
  • Is Christianity too narrow?
  • Is Jesus really God?
  • Is the Bible reliable?
  • Can I know God personally?

If you live in the DFW area and are interested in checking this out, it is easy to find a church that is participating. Just click on the link above to check it out.

After church, Christi went to pick up dinner at Whataburger, while I went to Redbox to pick up a couple of movies. Last night, we watched “The Age of Adaline,” with Blake Lively and Harrison Ford. It was a delightful movie! I had been wanting to see that and a friend at church highly recommended it, yesterday afternoon. This afternoon, we will watch “The Judge,” with Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Duvall.

On this date in 1633, Galileo Galilei was tried before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for teaching that the Earth orbits the Sun. On this date in 1881, Chester Arthur was inaugurated President, following the assassination of James Garfield. Ten years later, to the day, the first gasoline powered automobile made its debut in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1946, the first Cannes Film Festival was held.

Today’s birthdays include Upton Sinclair (American writer), Red Auerbach (American basketball coach), Jay Ward (American animator, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right), Bobby Nunn (American singer, The Coasters), Anne Meara (American actress/comic), Sophia Loren (Italian actress), Steve Gerber (American comic writer, Howard the Duck), John and Chuck Panozzo (American musicians, Styx), George R.R. Martin (American writer), Anthony Denison (American actor, The Closer, Major Crimes), Gary Cole (American actor), Alannah Currie (New Zealander musician, Thompson Twins), Matthew and Gunnar Nelson (American musicians, Nelson), Kristen Johnson (American actress), and Jason Bay (Canadian baseball player).

Anne Meara was a comedian, born on this date in 1929. Sadly, she passed away just under four months ago. She was married to Ben Stiller for 61 years, and they are the parents of Ben and Amy Stiller. Here is a clip of Stiller and Meara, from the Ed Sullivan show, in 1964.

Jacob Grimm, Jean Sibelius, Jim Croce, John W. Peterson, and Leonard Skinner are among notable deaths on this date. Something I just learned today . . . Leonard Skinner was a high school gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Ronnie Van Zandt, Gary Rossington, and Bob Burns were among some of his students, in the sixties. After Skinner sent them to the principal’s office for violating his long hair policy, which resulted in their suspension, they decided to name their band after him. Lynyrd Skynyrd.


Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 104:29-32.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,
who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!

“In these words, the Psalmist declares, that we stand or fall according to the will of God. We continue to live, as long as he sustains us by his power; but no sooner does he withdraw his life-giving spirit than we die.” (p 264)

Words we would do well to remember.

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

I’ve learned something else today. (That’s two things in one day. Boy, am I exhausted!)

Do you know what the most common command in Scripture is? Some might answer, “Love one another.” Others might answer in some way that includes obedience. The correct answer (and I checked multiple sources to verify this) is “Fear not,” or, “Do not be afraid.”

If you think about it, that’s stunning. Out of all of the commands that God and/or Jesus gives us, in all of Scripture, the most prevalent is, “Fear not.” How well our Father knows us, right?

The author of today’s Daily Guideposts reading relates a morning coffee time with her husband, as he prepared for his sermon. He turned and asked her that question. It turns out that they were planning to adopt a child from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and she had an opportunity to travel there, to Kinshasa, the capital city. Fear was holding her back. She feared the financial implications of the trip. She feared holding a child and falling in love, only to find out that they would not be able to adopt her. She feared for her safety, as circumstances in that city were dangerous. We don’t find out in this reading what she did. but the last line says, “So who would I listen to: God’s voice or my fear?”

Who will we listen to?

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Proverbs 1:33
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7

Father, teach me this truth, over and over. My worries, my anxieties, they all stem from my inability to obey this command. Why do I fear? WHAT do I fear? What can any man do to me? I am guilty, my Father, so guilty of failing to “fear not!” I pray for your peace in my life. I pray for courage, not the kind that wants to go out and fight with people, but the kind that allows me to stand up for Jesus and live for the Kingdom every day. I confess that I worry too much, still. Take this away from me, Lord. May Jesus be my all in all, my peace, and my strength.

I pray for the rest of this day, that we will have good rest this afternoon, in preparation for the work week ahead. Let it be a week of successes and victories, not of failures and defeats.

I pray for our friend, Ann, who lost a brother this week. May you be comfort to her and her family. I pray for family friends, Bill and Ramona, as health is failing. Give strength to their adult children as they try to care for them.

Come, Lord Jesus!

To know that the most commonly repeated command in Scripture is some form of “fear not,” brings a whole new perspective to our Father’s desires for us.

Matthew 10 31

Grace and peace, friends.

Better Than Thousands of Gold and Silver Pieces

Good morning. It’s Friday, October 5, 2012. One week until I have been married to my best friend in the whole world for 27 years. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.

Today is “Do Something Nice Day.” It makes it easier that it falls on Friday. It’s much easier to do nice things on Friday than, say, on Monday, right? It’s also “World Teachers Day.” I can’t say enough good and encouraging things about teachers. Well, most of them, anyway. So, today, maybe find a way to combine the two and do something nice for a teacher.

On this date in 1947, President Truman made the first ever televised presidential speech.
On this date in 1990, Henry & June opened as the first film to receive the NC-17 rating. The film is about author Henry Miller, his wife June, and their “love triangle with the french writer Anais Nin.”
On this date in 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end the Chinese domination of Tibet.”
On year ago today, Steve Jobs died.
It was on this date in 1892 that the famous Dalton Gang, while attempting a bold, broad daylight robbery, was nearly wiped out by the townspeople of Coffeyville, Kansas.
Chester Arthur, who would one day be president, was born on this date in 1829.
And it was on this date in 1953 that the Evil Empire won a fifth World Series in a row, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers. Second baseman Billy Martin played a crucial role in that series. He would later go on to manage the Evil Ones. And the Rangers. And the Evil Ones again…

This will be a bit of a speed devotional this morning, as Christi and I are planning to take one car to work. We are going to Dallas right after work to hear The Choir in a concert at The Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum. She is graciously attending with me, as they are one of my favorite Christian rock bands. So I have to be ready to leave in less than thirty minutes.

I would request that we be in prayer for Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Pat Neshek. He and his wife lost their newborn son only 23 hours after he was born on Wednesday. There is, at this time, no explanation as to why the baby died. I cannot imagine the pain that they are feeling at this time. Some things transcend petty baseball rivalries.

Father, show me something this morning that will keep me looking to you for my life during this day.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 119:65-72. In this one, the psalmist declares that God’s word is more valuable than “thousands of gold and silver pieces!”

65 Teth. You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

I also ask God for good judgment and knowledge. Definitely a worthy prayer. The psalmist recognizes the value of certain afflictions, which are designed to teach us God’s precepts.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Bias of Degeneration.” The Scripture reference is Romans 5:12, which says, Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Note that the Bible does not say that God is punishing the entire human race for one man’s sin. Rather, it makes clear that the “disposition of sin…entered into the human race by one man.” Then another Man took that sin upon himself and “put it away” (see Hebrews 9:26). The main problem with the disposition of sin is not so much the doing of wrong things or immorality. It is that we believe that we are our own god. It is that thing called “self-realization.” It may even, in fact, look like “decorous morality” to some, “but it has one basis, my claim to my right to myself.”

I am born with sin; I cannot touch it. God, however, touched it in redemption. “In the Cross of Jesus Christ God redeemed the whole human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin.” So now, the condemnation comes not from my heredity of sin. Rather, it comes “if when I realize Jesus Christ came to deliver me from it, I refuse to let Him do so.” John 3:19 says this: And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light…

What does this mean for me today? For one thing, I thank God that Jesus Christ has “put away” my sin. I did not “refuse to let him do so.” I don’t often put out a call like this, as this is not exactly an “evangelistic” blog. It is simply a devotional blog. But if you find yourself reading this today, and you are not “in Christ,” have not allowed him to deliver you from this “heredity of sin,” I would ask you to consider doing so. I would say that the life with Jesus Christ is incomparable to life without him. To know the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ is, well…”better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”

Wow. Do you see what God just did there?

Father, I praise you for the salvation of Jesus Christ. I thank you for putting away my sin by his sacrifice. And I also praise you for putting the desire to receive this salvation into my heart, even before I was conceived. Your grace and mercy are truly worth more than all the gold and silver in the world. All the riches of the history of the world could not purchase so great a redemption! Thank you, my God! I pray for the spirit of anyone who might read this today, they they might be changed by the words that you have spoken.

I pray for this day today. I pray that Christi and I will have good work days, free from stress and issues that would affect our day. I pray for safe travel to Dallas tonight, and that we might have an enjoyable time listening to the music. I pray for the bands that will be playing tonight, that their skill will be excellent and their messages clear.

I also lift up a special prayer for Pat Neshek and his wife, that they might be comforted in the loss of their newborn baby. I pray that their hearts would be drawn closer to you through this tragedy.

Your grace is sufficient.

The Word of God was made flesh in Jesus Christ. And he truly is worth more than “thousands of gold and silver pieces.”

Grace and peace friends.

Identify With God’s Interests

Good morning. It’s Thursday, September 20, 2012. Today is “National Punch Day.” OUCH!! Hey! Not that kind of punch! Break out the 7-Up and sherbet. Let’s have some wedding punch!

On this date in 1973, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a “battle of the sexes” tennis match. Hey…maybe Michael Jackson was watching…
On this date in 1984, Marvin Gaye Sr. accepted a plea bargain in the shooting death of his son, singer Marvin Gaye.
On this date in 1934, Sophia Loren was born.
On this date in 1878, author Upton Sinclair was born.
On this date in 1975, the Bay City Rollers made their U.S. debut on Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. I swear I am not making this up.
On this date in 1881, Chester Arthur was inaugurated as President of the U.S., becoming the third person to be President that year. The year began with Rutherford Hayes in office. He served out his term, and James Garfield was inaugurated (in March). But on July 2, Garfield was shot by an assassin, and died on September 19.

Christi had her visit with the doctor yesterday afternoon (after waiting over an hour in the waiting room). The news is mostly good. The doctor saw no need for surgery at this point, and plans to give her a steroid injection next Thursday. She has degenerative arthritis, bulging discs, and some misalignment issues. The steroid injection should reduce inflammation and provide some relief, as well as help to narrow down the diagnosis. However, he also said that it was difficult to tell what might be causing the leg and foot pain. It was confirmed that she has bursitis in her hip, though. The really bad news is that she is not allowed to take any ibuprofen for five days before the injection. We are definitely not looking forward to that, as she has been taking quite a bit of that to deal with the constant pain.

We are still praying for healing, but also praying that the steroid shot will provide the expected relief, and that they will be able to pinpoint the cause of the other pain.

Father, I pray for a glimpse of you this morning. Teach me something from your word today.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 112. This psalm has an interesting theme. It begins, as do 111 and 113, with the exclamation, “Hallelujah!” Of course, in English, it is rendered, “Praise the LORD!”
Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! (1)

What follows is a long list of blessings that the “man who fears the LORD” will have in his life. Generosity and justice are highlighted in verse 5 and 9.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.

The Old Testament frequently uses the word “horn” as a symbol of strength. This righteous man, the man who fears God, is generous with the resources God has given him. He realizes that everything he has comes from God and is, therefore, not stingy with it. He also deals with justice and integrity.

Verses 6 and 7 show great strength and confidence in the Lord.
For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

Can I truly say that I am not afraid of bad news? I, like many others that I know, struggle with that one. Does this mean I don’t fear the Lord? I don’t think so, but it does mean that my faith has a long way to go.

The psalm ends with a description of the wicked man’s reaction to all of this.
The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!
We should not be so quick to try and figure out who is “wicked,” though. I tend to leave that to the Lord, these days.

Today in My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers begins with Matthew 5:48. You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Of course, my first, human, reaction is to throw my hands up in the air and give up. Because I can’t be perfect! But what is the context of this verse? It’s the last verse in the chapter (which, as we know, are pretty arbitrary divisions), so what do the preceding verses have to say? “Our Lord’s exhortation in these verses is to be generous in our behaviour [sic] to all men.” Jesus is exhorting us to walk not according to our “natural affinities.” We all have them. We like some people; we don’t like other people. That even happens in the church. Don’t deny it…I’ll call you a liar. “We must never let those likes and dislikes rule in our Christian life.” I think that statement is worthy of repeating. “We must never let those likes and dislikes rule in our Christian life.” I even retyped that, rather than copying and pasting, just so I would get the emphasis of it. đŸ™‚ This is an important concept in our walk with Christ. If we walk in the light of God’s word, in the light of Christ, “God will give us communion with people for whom we have no natural affinity.” This is the truth. I can vouch for it out of personal experience.

The example that we are given in this passage is that of God, himself. Jesus does not give us the example of a “good man” (after all, we know that there is truly no such thing). If we are “perfect” even as our Father in heaven is “perfect,” then we will have no issues showing others what God has shown us. We will have no problem dispensing with those “natural affinities” and being generous to someone that we really don’t like. Or, let’s take it deeper. Have you ever tried praying earnestly for someone you don’t like? I have. It is impossible to pray for someone in earnest, in intercessory prayer, and continue to be out of sorts with them! God will not allow that to happen! “Te be a disciple means that we deliberately identify ourselves with God’s interests in other people.” Do we really get that? This, I believe, is also the crux of intercessory prayer. In order to truly pray for someone, I have to identify myself with God’s interests in that person’s life. THIS is where God has been pointing me for the last few weeks! (Folks, I’m having an epiphany here…) I can’t just pray for Christia to get a job. Sure…I’m praying for that, but I need to go deeper. I need to be identifying with God’s interests in Christia. What does God want for her? What are God’s interests in Bonnie’s life? There’s more to it than her granddaughter’s heart problems! This brings a new level of intensity to prayer. I can’t just whiz through a list of prayer requests. There must be earnest entreaty on the behalf of each person represented. My heart must be involved, and my heart is the heart of Jesus Christ. At least it had better be…

The expression of our character as Christians is not “good doing, but God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit Divine characteristics in your life, not good human characteristics.” So I’m no longer a man trying to do be godly. I’m actually exhibiting God’s life in me. The “supernatural is made natural by the grace of God.” This works itself out, not here during this time of communion with God, but in the practical life. “When we come in contact with things that create a buzz, we find to our amazement that we have power to keep wonderfully poised in the center of it all.” i guarantee you, I’m definitely not there yet! But I do believe I’m getting closer.

Father, I’m almost at a loss for words this morning, as you have brought into light something that has been lurking at the edge of my spiritual senses for the past week. How do I do this? How do I get this deep? This is very close to being too intimate and private to even share in this place. Teach me, Lord, how to identify with your interests in those for whom I am praying. Take me deeper as I pray for Bonnie, Christia, Mike, April, Tom, Alex and Mary…even for my own family, Lord! What are your interests as far as my wife and children are concerned? Even the leaders of our church. I’m afraid and excited all at the same time. One of my biggest prayers during these last few months is that I don’t want to mess this up! You have placed an amazing opportunity in front of me, pretty much shoved me into it, and I don’t want to screw it up, Lord. I want to be faithful. I want to expand my knowledge and understanding of prayer and how it effects me and those around me. “I want to go deeper…but I don’t know how to swim…” Teach me, Father.

Give me that confidence and maturity in you that teaches me how to approach any situation that arises with unflappable poise. I feel close to that, but it seems like every day something happens that “flaps” my poise. I’m still “flappable.”

I can’t say any more. I can only sit here and bask in the magnificent grace of what you have shown me this morning.

Sorry…I’m a little overwhelmed right now.

Grace and peace, friends.