Pay Attention

Today is Sunday, the fifth of June, 2022, Pentecost Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,460 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you are so near us and that we may be near you. We thank you that throughout our days we may be people who listen to you with all our hearts and minds, a listening people who can receive what is good and true for our lives and who can witness to the power you give us through the Savior. Protect us in all things. Look into our hearts and into the situation of each one of us, where many things are still faulty and unclear. Deliver us from evil, for the kingdom shall be yours. From you the power shall come. Your glory shall radiate from our lives, and we shall praise and thank you forevermore. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is near to us and we may be near to Him
2. that God has a clear view of all things in my life that is yet faulty and unclear
3. for the greatness of our God, even though that word falls far short of getting it; we cannot fully comprehend His majesty and glory
4. that God allows us to take part in the work that He does on this earth
5. for the joy we receive from meeting together to praise God
What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. 
We will fulfill our vows to you, for you answer our prayers. 
All of us must come to you. 
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all. 
What joy for those you choose to bring near, 
those who live in your holy courts. 
What festivities await us inside your holy Temple.
 You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
 O God our savior. 
You are the hope of everyone on earth, 
even those who sail on distant seas.
(Psalms 65:1-5 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “attention.”

Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD; hear my urgent cry.
(Psalms 86:6 NLT)

In this context, the psalmist is asking God to pay attention to him.

Pay attention, GOD, to my prayer; bend down and listen to my cry for help.
(Psalms 86:6 MSG)

But attention works several ways. While it is perfectly fine to entreat the Lord to pay attention, or hear, us, we must also pay attention to Him.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT)

I didn’t notice that little bit that says, “Listen to him,” until probably less than a decade ago. It was at that point that I began paying much closer attention to those “red letters,” the words of Jesus. And it was at that point that I began focusing so much more on love instead of judgment.

But there is one more aspect of attention, isn’t there (at least)? We must, absolutely must, pay attention to one another.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 NLT)

It is crucial that we pay attention to what is going on around us. We must keep, not only our spiritual eyes, but our physical eyes open. Why? Because, as James tells us, “faith without works is dead.” This does not mean, at all, that we are working for our salvation. Rather, it means that, if we are not doing the work, there is no faith! Faith proves itself by the works that it does.

If we claim to be following Christ and do nothing whatsoever to help the hungry or thirsty or stranger or naked or sick or in prison, then we are just blowing smoke. If we are only offering “thoughts and prayers” to people, we are doing no good. I am, of course, in no way diminishing the efficacy of prayer. But that phrase has become a substitute for action.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
(James 2:14-20 NLT)

Pay attention!

Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 NLT)

GOD is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 MSG)

“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”
(2 Samuel 7:22 NLT)

“Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”
(Job 36:26 NLT)

How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!
(Psalms 147:5 NLT)

How do you describe God? Is “great” adequate? What about “magnificent?” We have many words. Marvelous and glorious; strong, powerful.

There are four phrases in the above verses that really speak to me. In 2 Samuel, it says, “There is no one like you.” In Psalm 145, it says “he can never be praised enough.” In Job 36, it says, “God is greater than we can understand.” And, in Psalm 147, “His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

We try, because we have to. We need words to tell our God how great we think He is. But those words fall so far short that it’s almost ridiculous. We must acknowledge the truth of those four phrases. It is beyond comprehension. We simply cannot truly fathom how great our God is.

I am somewhat blown away by the following video. It is Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great Our God.” But it is being sung in many different languages. I got some serious chill bumps as I listened and watched. How fun is it, how stirring is it, to listen to a song you know being sung in another language? Because you know what they are saying, even though you don’t understand the language.

Celebrate the greatness of our God with me. Use whatever words you have. He will still be magnified and glorified, even though He is so much greater than we could ever understand.

Pay attention!

Father, today, help me to pay attention. May I pay attention to You, and may I pay attention to my brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else around me. Help me to keep my eyes open to what is going on around me. Help me to see what You are doing around me, that I might join in and support Your “cause,” which is the only cause truly worthy of my support.

I know You do not need my support. You do not need anything from us. If you were hungry, you would not tell us, because You own the cattle on a thousand hills! But You choose to utilize us in Your work.

I praise You for Your greatness, Lord. Your majesty, Your glory, Your magnificence. You are marvelous and wonderful and every one of those words, even if we combine them all into one thought, are nowhere enough to describe You. Even the nonsense word that Mary Poppins made up doesn’t come close. But yet we must try. We must use words, because that’s what we have. We have language. So help us to use our language appropriately. When we try to describe You, help us to have the right attitude and motivation behind that description. And help us, dear Lord, to never take Your name in vain. Help us to honor You properly, and honor the name of Jesus in the best ways.

All praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Do not be one who stretches out the hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving. If you earn something by working with your hands, you shall give a ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor shall you grumble when giving, for you will know who is the good paymaster of the reward. You shall not turn away from someone in need, but shall share everything with your brother or sister, and do not claim that anything is your own. For if you are sharers in what is imperishable, how much more so in perishable things!
(The Didache, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Come and See what God has Done

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, the twenty-second of December, 2021. 12/22/21, a palindrome. It is also the fourth Wednesday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,295

Only three more days until Christmas!

I’m pretty sure that, as of right now, all the Christmas gifts have been delivered, except for one, which is now showing a delivery date of 12/28. Oh, well. Unfortunately, that particular one goes along with three or four of the other gifts. That’s no big deal, though. It will all come together, in due time. And, from past experience with Amazon, it could still change. I know they have, before.

We are talking about plans for Friday and Saturday, at least cooking plans. There’s a lot of cooking to be done, and the bulk of it will happen both Friday morning and Saturday morning. Not on purpose, I wound up with at least forty pounds of ham in the fridge. I ordered two whole hams from Albertson’s, earlier in the week, fully expecting a couple of hams that were approximately twelve pounds each. They delivered two hams that were approximately twenty pounds. Egad! My whole lower shelf in the fridge is filled with ham. And one twenty pound ham would have been plenty for both days. We may give one away. I don’t know.

Today is my last full work day until New Year’s Eve. In fact, my next work day, after today, will be next Tuesday, 12/28. And there is at least one meeting that I will be involved with, today. There is a Circulation staff meeting from 1-2, this afternoon. And then, if it happens, the Adult Services “stand up” meeting is at 2. That manager has been out for a bit, and isn’t scheduled back until 12/30, so that meeting may not happen. My monthly “one-on-one” with her was also scheduled for today, so I’m not expecting that to happen, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And Jesus said to him, 
"'If you can'! 
All things are possible for one who believes." 
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 
"I believe; help my unbelief!" 
(Mark 9:23-24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the belief that God has placed in my heart, even thought it is still tainted with unbelief
2. that God is love and whoever abides in love abides in Him
3. for the security that comes in living as one of His "sheep"
4. for the ability and willingness to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters, just as Christ laid down His life for us
5. for all the things that God has done
Anyone who does not love does not know God,
 because God is love. 
(1 John 4:8 ESV)
So we have come to know 
and to believe the love that God has for us. 
God is love, 
and whoever abides in love abides in God, 
and God abides in him. 
(1 John 4:16 ESV)
By this we know love, 
that he laid down his life for us, 
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 
(1 John 3:16 ESV)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. 
Abide in my love. 
If you keep my commandments, 
you will abide in my love, 
just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, 
that my joy may be in you, 
and that your joy may be full. 
"This is my commandment, 
that you love one another as I have loved you. 
Greater love has no one than this,
 that someone lay down his life for his friends. 
(John 15:9-13 ESV)
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe! 
(Psalms 150:4 ESV)
And it was told King David, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 
And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 
And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn. 
(2 Samuel 6:12-15 ESV)
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. 

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." 
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 
"What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!" 
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! 
(Psalms 30:1-12 ESV)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" 
Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 
(John 7:37-39 ESV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; 
against such things there is no law. 
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 
(Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-FIVE

INVITATION

God, come back! 
Smile your blessing smile: 
That will be our salvation. 
(Psalms 80:3 MSG)

As I pause, this morning, I reflect on love. God’s love for us, made evident in the coming of Jesus. Our love for God, made evident in the way we live, as well as how we lay down our lives for the kingdom of God and for one another.

BIBLE SONG

You, LORD, showed favor to your land; 
you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 
You forgave the iniquity of your people 
and covered all their sins.

 I will listen to what God the LORD says; 
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— 
but let them not turn to folly. 
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, 
that his glory may dwell in our land. 

Love and faithfulness meet together; 
righteousness and peace kiss each other. 
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
 and righteousness looks down from heaven. 
The LORD will indeed give what is good, 
and our land will yield its harvest. 
Righteousness goes before him 
and prepares the way for his steps. 
(Psalms 85:1-2, 8-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
though you are small among the clans of Judah, 
out of you will come for me 
one who will be ruler over Israel, 
whose origins are from of old, 
from ancient times." 

Therefore Israel will be abandoned 
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, 
and the rest of his brothers return 
to join the Israelites. 

He will stand and shepherd his flock
 in the strength of the LORD, 
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. 
And they will live securely, for then his greatness 
will reach to the ends of the earth. 
(Micah 5:2-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I reflect on what the Lord might be saying to me through them. I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, allowing my spirit to respond to the Lord in prayer and meditation. I enjoy His presence, this morning, preparing myself for the day ahead.

Father, I cannot get away from these passages on love and laying down our lives for one another. Teach me Your ways, Lord, that I might walk in Your path. Show me how to best lay down my life for the sake of my brothers and sisters and others in this world. Teach me how to love the way You have loved. Just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for me, show me how to do the same for others. In our culture, Father, this has become quite a challenge, over the past couple of years.

Time is short, Father, so I must bring this to a close. You are our great Shepherd, Father, and I am thankful for the security that this brings my soul. I find it easier and easier to obey that often-stated command, “Fear not,” as I find myself resting more and more in Your provision and safety. Thought this world is harsh, I find myself resting in the shadow of Your wings and in the cleft of the rock, where You have hidden me. But even as Job said, Lord, even if You see fit to slay me, yet will I trust You.

I will listen to what You say, Lord, and You promise peace to us. Only let us not turn to folly, Father. Let us not turn to folly and chase after the wind and vanities.

"God of place and time,
You chose the little town of Bethlehem to be the birthplace of David and of David's greater Son.
Make us aware of Your active purpose in our towns and neighborhoods,
so that we see them as places of promise in our time.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(based on Luke 1:78-79)

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.

A City Yet to Come

Today is Friday, the third of December, 2021. First Friday of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,276

Twenty-two days until Christmas

Yesterday, of course, was a bittersweet day. I was fine, emotionally, until it came time to sing the two songs at the service. I made it through “The Old Rugged Cross,” pretty well, only stumbling at the line, “then He’ll call me, someday, to my home far away.” But the second song I decided to sing was “I Will Rise,” by Chris Tomlin. It’s a great song for a setting like that. I was blindsided by emotions when I got to the chorus.

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise, I will rise

I recovered, though, and made it through the song, with only one more “glitch” in the bridge. As I walked back to where C and S were sitting, in the family section of the room, I dared not look up to make eye contact with any of my cousins. And, of course, the emotions were driven by memories of my own father, as well.

We had a good trip home, but it seemed to take a lot longer than the trip out there. Of course, we hit Dallas at rush hour, and we stopped along the way to refuel and take a restroom break.

C is at the office today, rather than working from home, and I’ll be heading in to work my Friday shift at the library, in the computer/media center. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in there. I hope I remember how everything works.

I’m off tomorrow, so I’ll have a few more days to recuperate from this week.

I’m currently reading The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly. It’s his first novel, from 1992. I had seen quite a few of his books during my shelving nights at the library. We have a large number of his, in both regular and large print. It wasn’t until I realized that he was the author responsible for Harry Bosch that I became interested in reading them. I am really enjoying this one, so I will, no doubt, continue in the series. I haven’t given up on The Divine Embrace. It’s still in the wings, and I will continue reading it, when I take the time to sit and take notes as I read it.

Be right back . . . I need a second cup of coffee.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Becoming Who We Are, by Daryl Madden

The journey of our life
Of inner and afar
That all paths lead unto
Becoming who you are

Acknowledging the truth
A pride-filled sinner be
Blessed be the finding
Of the One who saves me

That we find emptiness
When this world, we purse
That only gifts beyond
Are treasures of value

In telling of our story
With humility
In sharing of our gifts
Our true purpose, be

We are made complete
Even though we’re flawed
Because we’re a beloved
Child of our God

“We are made complete, even though we’re flawed, because we’re a beloved Child of our God.” This reminds me of a Mercy Me song that I really like.

"No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless"

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry in the link provided above.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
 that God sent his only Son into the world,
 so that we might live through him. 
In this is love, 
not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 
(1 John 4:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, because of Your grace, and the cross of Christ, I am made complete, in spite of my flaws
2. for Your great love, that never fails and never ceases
3. for a safe trip home, last night
4. for loving memories of family
5. for "the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:14)
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, 
and the young men and the old shall be merry. 
I will turn their mourning into joy; 
I will comfort them, 
and give them gladness for sorrow. 
(Jeremiah 31:13 ESV)
But, as it is written, 
"What no eye has seen, 
nor ear heard, 
nor the heart of man imagined, 
what God has prepared for those who love him"— 
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. 
For the Spirit searches everything, 
even the depths of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV)
For here we have no lasting city, 
but we seek the city that is to come.
(Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

What beautiful words are in these Scriptures, and how appropriate for them to come up today. God will turn our mourning into joy, and we will rejoice in Him with dancing and singing. Truly, no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard (not among the living, at least) the things that God has prepared for us who love Him. And this place in which we live? It is, truly, “no lasting city.” I, along with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, “seek the city that is to come.”

You are my friends if you do what I command you. 
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 
(John 15:14-16 ESV)
. . . and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, 
according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 
(Ephesians 1:19-21 ESV)
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 ESV)
Jesus Christ is the same 
yesterday 
and today 
and forever. 
(Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

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

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – DAY SIX

INVITATION

With all my heart, 
I am waiting, 
LORD, for you! 
I trust your promises. 
(Psalms 130:5 CEV)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to meditate on these truths that have already been presented. I am waiting on You, Lord! I am waiting on and looking forward to that city that is yet to come.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. 

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, 
we were like those who dreamed. 
Our mouths were filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy. 
Then it was said among the nations, 
"The LORD has done great things for them." 
The LORD has done great things for us, 
and we are filled with joy. 
Restore our fortunes, LORD, 
like streams in the Negev. 
Those who sow with tears 
will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, 
carrying sheaves with them. 
(Psalms 126:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. 
(Romans 13:11-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me. I linger over them, giving them my full attention. Do I find something within about which I wish to ask God? I pray my life to Him, resting in His presence.

Father, my family has experienced sorrow, this past week, yet we have also known Your joy. The truth of these promises, that those who go out weeping will return with songs of joy, has been realized, in real time, in our lives. There will still be sorrow, yes, but as was so aptly pointed out in yesterday’s funeral message, we have hope because of Jesus and His work in our lives. It is because of Him, whom we both celebrate, during this season, and for whom we await as we look forward to His return, that we have this joy.

I also find hope in these words as I ponder the potential of restoration for everything that is broken or flawed, in this creation. The poem and song, earlier on in this blog, have reminded me of the truth that everything that is flawed or broken will be fixed, made whole, and restored. And it is when these things become reality that our true joy will be made manifest. The joy we experience today, as great as it is, is still incomplete. It is incomplete because we are still dwelling in “jars of clay,” bodies of sin, this “mortal coil.” We long to shed this mortal coil and be done with it. We long to be done with this body of sin, with these temptations and sorrows. Oh, come, Lord Jesus and restore everything to its true reality!

Awaken us from our slumber! Make us aware that the time of our “salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Oh, praise, that the “night is nearly over.” Help us to put aside all deeds of darkness and put on the “armor of light.” May we fully clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus and His righteousness!

I pray, Father, for relief and justice for all who are living in poverty and injustice. Give us, O Lord, both the willingness and the capacity to suffer with others, and give relief to the refugees, Lord!

"Sovereign God,
on the coming judgment day the book on my life will be opened and a verdict will be given.
Knowing that every idle work,
every well-guarded secret and shadowed hypocrisy will be uncovered makes me want to run for cover.
Remind me that just as You gave Adam and Eve garments to cover their shame,
You dress me up in Christ-clothes that I might stand before You.
Amen."

BLESSING

The one who has spoken these things says,
 "I am coming soon!" 
So, Lord Jesus, please come soon!
 I pray that the Lord Jesus will be kind to all of you. 
(Revelation 22:20-21 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends!

Created For A Purpose

Today is Wednesday, December 16, 2020, in the third week of Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,924

Nine days until Christmas!

In what must be the strangest week of the year, so far, I am back to work, this morning, only to be off, once again, tomorrow and Friday. Yesterday, I did not go to work, as we celebrated the life of C’s step-brother.

It was an interesting day for me. Emotionally/mentally, I began struggling on the trip to the funeral home. However, I recognized what was happening, and managed to stave it off. It would have been really ugly had I remained in that state of mind through a funeral.

There were moments in the funeral where I teared up, for sure. However, I can’t say that any of those moments were for the step-brother. Don’t get me wrong, we loved him, and we are sad to lose him, and most definitely sad for his wife and kids.

But one of those teary moments happened early on, as they played a number of recorded songs throughout the proceedings. The first was “I Can Only Imagine,” by Mercy Me, a very appropriate song for a funeral. I wept a little as I worshiped through that song. The second song was some country song I didn’t recognize. But the third song! “I Will Rise,” by Chris Tomlin. Again, I worshiped, deeply, through that song, and the tears flowed.

And what this made me realize is how much I miss worship. It has been way too long since I was able to simply sit and worship like I did yesterday afternoon. I don’t know what the answer/response is to this, though.

Later, they played another Mercy Me song, “Homesick,” which the front man wrote about missing his father. Actually, according to wikipedia, it was written when the band experienced the loss of nine different people close to them, in a short period of time. At any rate, anyone who knows me can guess where my spirit and heart went during that song. Those tears were for my own father, lost five and a half years ago.

Over all, it was a good experience, as many memories were shared by family members. Two daughters spoke, a son sang a song, and his wife sang a song, as well. I have no idea how either one of them made it through their songs.

We were exhausted afterward, and went to bed quite early last night. But I have to say that it was a pretty good day. Oh, and S went with us! She discovered that she could wear the facemasks made by WW. They are built with a little more space in them, making it easier to breathe. S did very well. But she reached her limit, so we did not try to attend the graveside service.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Psalms 145:21 ESV
(21) My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Today I am grateful:

  1. For life and breath; grateful to be alive and breathing, this morning
  2. For my family, and the love shared among us
  3. For Your steadfast love that reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36:5)
  4. For creating me “just as I am”; may I honor that within me today
  5. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)
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)

Psalms 36:5 ESV
(5) Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 145:1 ESV
(1) I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

John 19:25-27 ESV
(25) but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
(26) When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
(27) Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Psalms 138:1-8 ESV
(1) Of David.
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
(2) I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
(3) On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
(4) All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth,
(5) and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
(6) For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
(7) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
(8) The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalms 70:1 ESV
(1) Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!

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.

"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."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

Day Eighteen

Isaiah 7:10-14 ESV
(10) Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,
(11) “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
(12) But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”
(13) And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
(14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Luke 1:26-38 ESV
(26) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
(27) to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
(28) And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
(29) But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
(30) And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
(31) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
(32) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
(33) and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

(34) And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

(35) And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
(36) And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
(37) For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(38) And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Hebrews 1:1-9 ESV
(1) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
(2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
(3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
(4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

(5) For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
(6) And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

(7) Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

(8) But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
(9) You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV
(10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

“We would be so much more at peace if we simply accepted how God made us and tried to be the best ‘us’ we could be.” (Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2020)

Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV
(2) For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

1 Peter 2:9 ESV
(9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Psalms 139:13-24 ESV
(13) For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
(14) I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
(15) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
(16) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
(17) How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
(18) If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
(19) Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!
(20) They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.
(21) Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
(22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
(23) Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
(24) And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head, right now, but I’ll filter it down to this: Once again, the Holy Spirit has brought together passages from totally independent sources that fit together like fingers in a glove.

God has created me, “just as I am.” I find that I am strangely satisfied, in this. That does not contradict, I believe, my current need for therapy. Yes, therapy/counseling is an attempt to change something in me that I am not fond of. But it is something negative; feelings, emotions that I don’t believe are honoring to my Creator; things which result from the effects of sin in my life.

There are characteristics that I have that God gave me, that do not need to be changed. I need not worry about physical appearance. The reason I am losing weight is not so much about physical appearance as it is health and how the extra weight prohibits activities that I want to do.

I don’t need to be taller or shorter. I don’t need to rub hair restorer on my balding head. I don’t need to have talents that God did not give me. I need to be satisfied with how God created me.

Why?

Because, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”

I was created for a purpose. You were created for a purpose. We may not have quite figured that out, yet, but you know what?

That doesn’t matter! You don’t have to know your purpose in order to fulfill it! If we simply go about our daily lives, doing what God puts in front of us to do, no matter how “mundane” it may seem, we just might be fulfilling that purpose, and not even realize it.

Just some simple words of wisdom for the day. Go out there (or stay in, depending on your circumstances), and do what God gives you to do, and, in doing so, honor Him with all your being.

Father, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that You created my inmost being, forming me while still in my mother’s womb. I will honor that today, doing my best to be the best “me” I can be. And, as Oscar Wilde once said, I need to be myself, because everyone else is taken. Help me to honor You today, by faithfully doing whatever You put in front of me to do. Give me the wisdom to know what that is. But also remind me that I don’t necessarily have to understand my purpose in order to accomplish it.

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!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

This, Too, Shall Pass

“Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Today is Sunday, March 29, 2020, the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,662

Fourteen days until Resurrection Sunday (next Sunday is Palm Sunday).

Today is R’s birthday! Happy birthday to you! I love you!

C and I went out for a walk, yesterday. That’s allowed, so don’t scold me. We did not come within six feet of another person, while walking. We did see a small group, probably all one family, that were not observing that caution. However, C and I were holding hands, so we weren’t observing it, either. But, hey. We live together, you know. It was a beautiful afternoon, and felt so good to be outside for a little while.

A little while later, though, I started feeling like I was catching a cold. That was a little scary. But C reminded me that we had gone outside and that I’m allergic to outside. Which has always been true, and it is allergy season. How convoluted is that, anyway? That this virus thing coincides with allergy season? The other day, I sneezed three times in a row, at work. I thought everyone was going to panic and make me go home.

I’m better this morning, though, and there was never any fever. I also had some mild to moderate nausea at bedtime. I think it was a combination of stuff that I ate for dinner. I won’t go into detail on that. It was probably a bad combination of things. And it’s also possible that the mayo is “sketchy.”

This morning, The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s House will be meeting on Zoom. As mentioned last week, we discovered, all too late, that Google Hangouts will only allow ten logins per session, so there were some who could not get on. But one of us is a teacher, and the teachers all have a Zoom account to use for school. So we are going to use that. If that turns out to be unethical, I’m willing to foot the bill for a Zoom account for the church. It’s only $15 a month. And hopefully we won’t need it for too many months.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.
(Psalms 146:5)

Today I am grateful:
1. That my hope is in the Lord my God
2. For the occasional rebuke (and encouragement) from the righteous (Psalm 141.5)
3. That I am singing to You, because You have dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13.6)
4. That You are near, all the time
5. That “this, too, shall pass” (Psalm 42.5)

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
(Psalms 141:3-5)

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
(Psalms 115:1)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14)

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
(Luke 18:31-34)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

(Psalms 13:1-6)

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.

“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
(John 15:5-8)

“As we remain in Jesus and let His words dwell in us, we’re wired to our life source–Christ Himself. ‘This is to my Father’s glory,’ said Jesus, ‘that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples’ (v. 8).”
(Patricia Raybon, Our Daily Bread)

He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
(Deuteronomy 10:21)

But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
(Psalms 119:151)

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

Have you ever spent an hour looking for your phone, only to discover it was in your hand the whole time? Or lost your glasses, only to find that they are propped up on top of your head (or hanging around your neck on a chain)? These are amusing pictures. But think about our God, for a minute. How often do we search here and there, “hither and yon,” for the Lord? Then we find out that He was right there with us the whole time! He is near, always near.

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

(Psalms 42:1-5)

The psalmist’s belief in God is not suffering. However, he misses the experience of meeting with God (v. 2). “Human beings need the sense of God’s presence and love as much as the body pants after water (verse 1).” And, as we are finding out in these times, human beings need the presence of one another, as well. “Meeting” over an Internet app is a “Band-Aid.” It helps. But it’s not the same. I’m not suffering as much as some folks, because I am still going to work. So I have some human interaction during the day, but touching is off limits. No handshakes, no high fives, no hugs, even fist-bumps are “sketchy.” A few of us bump elbows sometimes. I’m not likely to touch my face with my elbow. In fact, I can’t. I’ve tried.

The psalmist, however, finds some encouragement in verse 5. It’s his version of “This, too, shall pass.” And that “is a fact about any condition in this changeful world. . . . Though our good things will inevitably be shaken, a believer’s difficult times will always end as well.”

“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Prayer: Lord, I praise you for being not just a remote, nebulous force but a living, personal God who can be known. I need your presence and love to sometimes soften my hard heart, strengthen my fainting heart, and humble my proud heart. Amen.”

Father, I rejoice in the truth that “this, too, shall pass.” In the words of the popular song, based on Psalm 42, “You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship Thee.” I long to worship You, again, in the presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Zoom is not enough. It will have to do, for now, but I long for the handshakes and the hugs (especially the hugs). Have mercy, O Lord. Let Your lovingkindness flow through us, this morning.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

“Let All That You Do Be Done in Love”

Good morning. Today is Saturday, May 4, 2013. We made it through the week, sanity intact! Well, mostly, anyway. The last supervisor on the dying account had his last day yesterday. For the next few weeks, it’s me and a temp. Should be interesting.

Tonight, we will be going to the Red Sox/Rangers game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. We may attend a meetup at Humperdink’s restaurant before the game, where a group of Red Sox Nation of Texas fans will be meeting. Yes. There IS a Red Sox Nation of Texas. We even have our own “governor.” Anyway, we will be watching the game from a luxury suite, along with some other Red Sox fans. Of course, Stephanie and Christi will stubbornly insist on rooting for the Rangers. Oh, well. I can’t wait to chant “NA-PO-LI!! NA-PO-LI!! NA-PO-LI!!” when Mike Napoli comes up to bat for the Red Sox. The Rangers won last night’s game 7-0 behind the virtually untouchable pitching of Derek Holland. Gotta give him props. He was stellar. And the Rangers had one of those night where they could hit just about anything that was thrown at them. Tonight, John Lackey is pitching for the Sox. To be honest, I’m not exactly excited about that. But he has a better ERA than Ogando, who will be pitching for Texas.


Today is Star Wars Day. I’m not sure when this started, but I believe I noticed it last year. Why is today Star Wars Day? “May the Fourth be with you.” Hee!!


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1891, Mr. Sherlock Holmes went over Reichenbach falls, along with his arch-rival, Moriarty, and was presumed dead. His partner, Dr. Watson, had been called back to the village of Meiringen “on a medical emergency,” which proved to be a diversion to get Holmes alone. There were two sets of footprints approaching the falls, but none returning. However, Holmes miraculously resurfaced three years later, having somehow survived the fall, while Moriarty, it turns out, had been the one that died. Arthur Conan Doyle reluctantly revived his hero at the insistence of “millions of his devoted fans around the world.”


Today’s birthday is Chris Tomlin, born on this date in 1972 (really?? He’s 41??). Tomlin is one of the premier writers of modern worship music, having penned such classics as “Not To Us,” “How Great Is Our God,” “Enough,” “Indescribable,” and, most recently, “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies).”

Honorable mentions go to Alice Pleasance Liddell, 1852 (the real-life inspiration for Alice in Wonderland), Audrey Hepburn, 1929, Dick Dale, 1937, Robin Cook, 1940, George Will, 1941, and Will Arnett, 1970.

And since I had a tough time choosing between Tomlin and Dick Dale, the pioneer of “surf music,” I’ve decided to include a you tube clip of Dick Dale live on the Ed Sullivan show.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Psalm 32:12
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Psalm 67:3-5
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:12
You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. Psalm 40:5

Father, I will be glad and rejoice in you today. It is my heart’s desire to see “all the peoples praise you!” As I give thanks to you and ponder your wondrous deeds, may I see Jesus more clearly today. Teach me your ways.


Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Serving the Saints.” The scripture reading is 1 Corinthians 16:14-16.

Let all that you do be done in love.
Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints—be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.

In his final instructions to the church in Corinth, Paul would have us examine our motives for service. “Let all that you do be done in love.” He also urges faithful service to other saints in the church.

There is a distinction between service that is motivated by self-righteousness, and true service. Self-righteous service comes from human efforts with a goal of some sort of self-satisfaction; I want to feel good about myself, so I serve. “True service flows out of God and love.” We need to examine our motives as we work on serving the saints. Is my service based on a desire for praise from others? Or is it motivated by love for Jesus and the people I am serving? “Let all that you do be done in love.”


As I draw to the conclusion of The Ragamuffin Gospel, I find a section newly added (at least to the edition in my hands), called “19 Mercies: A Spiritual Retreat.” I’m going to share these “19 mercies” a day at a time here, because I find them to be inspiration and motivational. The Ragamuffin Gospel is a wonderful book about the love and grace of our God. I recommend it to everyone, most especially people who find themselves trapped in a legalistic lifestyle of trying to gain God’s approval by doing stuff.

The mercies are divided into categories, the first of which is Come. Number one is called “Be here, now.” Brennan tells a story that he relates earlier in the book. He asks us to imagine that we are being pursued by a relentless, ferocious tiger. As we run, we come to the edge of a cliff. Just as the tiger is about to pounce, we notice a rope hanging over the edge of the cliff. So, we grab the rope and climb down the side of the cliff, escaping the tiger. However, looking down, we see jagged rocks a few hundred feet below. The tiger is above. Suddenly, a couple of mice appear, nibbling at the rope above us. As we ponder what to do, we notice a strawberry growing out of the side of the cliff nearby. We pluck it and eat it, exclaiming, “Yum! That’s the most deliciousstrawberry I ever tasted in my whole life!”

Silly? Perhaps. However, there is a message in this tale. That message is that we should live in the moment. If we had been preoccupied with the tiger or the rocks or the mice, we would have missed that luscious strawberry. Certainly, it is a ridiculously contrived tale, but the message remains true. Jesus gave us examples of how we need to live in the moment, not the least of which resides in Matthew chapter 6. Brennan asks us, as we move forward in the readings, to “remain rooted in the moment,” disciplining our time, thoughts, and emotions. Let the Spirit work without distractions involving life and anxiety. Surely, we all have a “tiger” above us and “jagged rocks” below us in our lives. Nevertheless, we also need to take some time to seek the grace of God in the moment. “Be here now. Then the God who comes will find you in the present–waiting, listening, and ready to receive His gifts.”

PSALM 139

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

“Calm thyself, O my soul, so that the divine can act in thee!
Calm thyself, O my soul, so that God is able to repose in thee so that His peace may cover thee!”~~Soren Kierkegaard


Father, I pray that my motivations for service be pure. Let me do, as Paul admonishes us, everything that I do in love. This goes beyond what I do on Sunday mornings. Even though Paul was speaking specifically to the church in Corinth, I desire to take this to every corner of my life. It goes beyond the service I give to our local church and the saints therein. This extends to the service that I give to all people. It even extends to the “service” that I give to my employer. While it is true that there is an ulterior motivation at my job (I work for the money), I am admonished by Biblical writers to work as though I am working for you! So let everything that I do, no matter where I am, be motivated by love; first by love for you, Lord, then by love for people.

I also pray, this morning, that you would help me live in the moment. Help me to find those “strawberries” on the side of the cliffs, while I am surrounded by the trials and distractions of life. The next few weeks have potential to be some of the most anxiety-ridden weeks I have ever experienced. Nevertheless, I pledge to abide in you and live in the moment of each day, looking for those little blessings that you always throw my way. I’m not sinking into some kind of “Pollyanna” lifestyle, where I will be oblivious to everything around me (as appealing as that sounds). I just want to live life in the moment with you, knowing you as each moment unfolds, not worrying about tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Let me live in the truth of Psalm 139. Search me, O God, and know me. Lead me in the way everlasting!. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth.

May this day bring rest, relaxation, and enjoyment. May the time that we spend together as a family be refreshing, invigorating, and full of love. Above all, let us be full of love. Let this day be a day full of your love.


“Let all that you do be done in love.”

Grace and peace, friends.