Reflecting the Grace and Glory

Today is Saturday, the 3rd of December, 2022, in the first week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,641

22 days until Christmas!

We are having a Night of Worship, tonight, for the first time in what must be at least two years. I’ll be playing keyboard alongside a couple of friends who play guitar. We all sing, so each of us will be “leading” several songs. Here is one of the songs I will be leading.

Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided to view his inspiring photography.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, 
your salvation according to your promise; 
then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, 
for I trust in your word.
(Psalms 119:41-42 ESV)

I crave Your steadfast love, O Lord, like a newborn craves its mother’s milk. No one is taunting me, right now, but I still desire Your Word to be imbedded in my heart, that I might always have an answer for anyone who questions my faith and devotion.

Lord our God, we thank you that you let light shine out every day and every year. Thank you that we may always look to you, whose right hand will bring order into everything and set all things right, even in difficult times. May our hearts receive strength to persevere and go on praising you, for you remain, no matter what happens on earth. You are our God, you have sent us the Savior, and we can draw close to you. You have made us the firm promise that your day is coming when truth and justice will arise on earth to the glory of your name. May the hearts of many people turn to you so that they worship you and call to you for help, to the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. 
Luke 1:76–79, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the light of God that shines out, daily, in us and through us
  2. that, no matter what happens on this earth, our God remains and is faithful
  3. that, because of Jesus Christ, we can draw close to God; may He draw us closer and closer
  4. that the Lord takes pleasure in His people, and adorns the humble with salvation (Psalm 149)
  5. that it’s not about me, but it’s about Jesus; it may be for me, but it’s not about me

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
(Galatians 6:2-3 ESV)

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
(Galatians 6:14 ESV)

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
(Ezekiel 3:1-3 ESV)

Praise the LORD! 
Sing to the LORD a new song, 
his praise in the assembly of the godly! 
Let Israel be glad in his Maker; 
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! 
Let them praise his name with dancing, 
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! 
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; 
he adorns the humble with salvation. 
Let the godly exult in glory; 
let them sing for joy on their beds. 
Let the high praises of God be in their throats 
and two-edged swords in their hands, 
to execute vengeance on the nations 
and punishments on the peoples, 
to bind their kings with chains 
and their nobles with fetters of iron, 
to execute on them the judgment written! 
This is honor for all his godly ones. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 149:1-9 ESV)

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”
(Joshua 7:19 NLT)

But the king will rejoice in God. 
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him, 
while liars will be silenced.
(Psalms 63:11 NLT)

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)


Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
(Mark 9:33-37 NRSV)


I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19 NRSV)


Surrender. We do not like that word, we westerners. We bristle with pride when we are called upon to surrender anything that we believe is a “right.” We love our “rights,” especially in the US of A.

We also like glory. Oh, how we love to be noticed and applauded. We love the glory. But here’s the thing. If we are followers of Christ, the glory is not to be ours. And one of the main things we are called to do is, in fact, to surrender.

As a person who has lived in Texas all my life (so far), I see the struggle lived out right in front of me, daily. One of the biggest stages where this is worked out, in reality, is on the highways. Watching people drive is a great indicator of their level of maturity. People become monsters when they get behind the wheel, it’s rather strange. Monsters with a two-ton weapon in their hands.

I was intensely moved by today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2022. Here is the piece of it that struck me the hardest.

"We aren't designed to compete with His glory; we're made to reflect His grace.
"Through my own, much humbler experiences, I know that not a single talent I possess is mine alone. Rather, they were given to me for His specific purpose. God opens the doors He wants opened and closes the ones He wants closed. I don't know His plans. I do know I will give my utmost for what is asked of me and leave the rest up to Him." 
(Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2022)

We humans, who drive like bats out of hell, are made to reflect His grace. Next time you get behind the wheel of a car, think about that, and consider how much grace you reflect in your driving habits. Or any other habits, for that matter. How do you respond when the people at the restaurant get your order wrong? Again. (I’m point the finger back at myself on that one, so I’m not just preaching at those who will read this.) How do you respond when the grocery store leaves something out of your delivery order?

How do I respond when the Internet doesn’t work right?

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I’m stomping on my own toes, people.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the past couple of decades is that it’s not about me. Pretty much nothing is about me. This past Sunday, in a sermon entitled “For You,” Pastor Kari Malinak, Discipleship Pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church, said that God’s plan of salvation isn’t about you; it’s for you.

Nothing God does is about me. The talents that I have, that, as Erika so aptly stated, cannot be called my own, because they were given to me “for His specific purpose.” I have musical talent with which I have been gifted. Admittedly, it appears to be somewhat genetic, as both my parents also had musical talent. Nevertheless, it is a gift from God, and it is not so that I can receive glory.

When I was an adolescent, I wanted to be a rock star. I mean, who doesn’t, right? I finally outgrew that a few years ago. (That was supposed to be funny.) But, later in life, I realized that this talent that I was given was for the specific purpose of leading others to lift up the name of Jesus in worship. It’s not about me. It is for me, yes, but not about me.

It is always about Jesus.

When Jesus took those three disciples up on the mountain and they witnessed His transfiguration, during that event, Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Him. Moses represented the Law; Elijah represented the Prophets. And then, suddenly, as quickly as they appeared, Moses and Elijah were gone.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
(Mark 9:7-8 NRSV)

“Only Jesus.”

It is all about Him. It may be for you and me, but it is about Jesus.

So, today, when I get out on the highway, I’m going to think about this when someone cuts me off in traffic or drives too slow in front of me. I’m going to graciously leave space between me and the car in front of me, so that someone can change lanes if they need to, or if they suddenly realize that they need to be over there, somewhere.

When I got to a restaurant, I’m going to remember that if I have to wait longer than I think I should have to wait (boy, we Americans hate waiting), or if they get my food order wrong. And, should a piece of technology suddenly stop working properly, I’m going to remind myself that it is an inanimate object and, as such, bears me no ill will. It’s not personal.

In short, I am going to remind myself that I am supposed to be reflecting the grace and glory of our Father in heaven.


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.

Father, I confess that I constantly forget that it’s not about me. I can try to blame our society, but that doesn’t really fly. I have no one to blame but myself. Society doesn’t hold a gun to my head and force me to be a jerk to people. I have full control over my mind and my emotions, and it is up to me to own that. As a famous blues song once said, it’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine.”

And, in the same manner, the talents that I have are not mine at all, but Your gifts to me. And I praise You for those talents. Tonight, when I am playing and singing in this Night of Worship, I pray that I, along with the other people participating, will make it all about You and none of it about us. Let us praise and worship You and give You all the glory as we worship You. Even though some of the songs we may sing are about “me,” let us realize that it is because of You that we are even able to exist, from day to day.

I also pray that the whole world would see this truth, and acknowledge that we owe all to You. Someday, that will come to pass, as it is Your will, on earth as in heaven. But we would love to see this happen sooner than later, and would prefer to see it be voluntary.

Thank You, Father, for all You have done for us and help us to remember that it is not about us. May we reflect Your glory and grace in all aspects of our lives. Word of God, speak.

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

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.

Indescribable

Today is Wednesday, the 30th of November, 2022, in the first week of Advent. The last day of November.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul, today.

Day 23,638

25 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Turn away the reproach that I dread, 
for your rules are good.
(Psalms 119:39 ESV)

Lord our God, let your miracles be done among us, and bless us through your deeds. Bless us in Jesus Christ, the Savior of so many people. May your kingdom come to us and at last bring the great miracles that carry out your will and that do what is pleasing to you. Lord God, Father in heaven, we praise you! In you we live, in you we believe, in you we hope, in you we want to live day by day and hour by hour. May your name be honored among us, for you are our God and the God of all the world. Let your light shine among all people so that many millions and whole nations may glorify your name, for in the last days the nations shall come and worship you. So protect and bless us today and in the coming time, and again and again let something happen to bring us new life and strength. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Shout for joy to God, all the earth! 
Sing the glory of his name;
 make his praise glorious...
Come and see what God has done, 
his awesome deeds for mankind! 
Psalm 66:1–2, 5, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the awesome deeds that God has done for mankind
  2. for the theme of this first week of Advent; hope
  3. for the light of God that shines through His people, when they are faithful to walk in His commands
  4. for good news
  5. for the indescribable love with which our Father loves us

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, 
"therefore I will hope in him." 
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, 
to the soul who seeks him. 
It is good that one should wait quietly 
for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:21-26 ESV)
Let us test and examine our ways, 
and return to the LORD! 
Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:
(Lamentations 3:40-41 ESV)
"I called on your name, O LORD, 
from the depths of the pit; 
you heard my plea, 
'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!' 
You came near when I called on you; 
you said, 'Do not fear!'
(Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV)
Praise the LORD! 
Praise the LORD, O my soul! 
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; 
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. 

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; 
on that very day his plans perish. 

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD his God, 
who made heaven and earth,
 the sea, and all that is in them, 
who keeps faith forever; 
who executes justice for the oppressed, 
who gives food to the hungry. 

The LORD sets the prisoners free; 
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. 
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; 
the LORD loves the righteous. 
The LORD watches over the sojourners; 
he upholds the widow and the fatherless, 
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

The LORD will reign forever, 
your God, O Zion, to all generations. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 146:1-10 ESV)

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:23-24 NIV)

“True faith is much more complex and powerful than the easy answer.” ~ Isabella, in Pray A Word A Day


Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.
(Romans 12:19 TLB)
Depart from evil, and do good; 
seek peace, and pursue it. 
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, 
and his ears are open to their cry.
(Psalms 34:14-15 NRSV)

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.
(2 Peter 1:5-9 NRSV)


First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 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.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)


Our God is indescribable. The works of His majesty defy description. We try, but we fall short.

Another thing that is indescribable is the love that He has for us.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
(1 John 3:1 ESV)

He pours this love into us, through Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. How tragic is it when we fail to spread that love around us?

Andrew Murray makes a bold statement concerning intercession. “It is only love that can enable us for the work of intercession.” (From Absolute Surrender, quoted in Power in Prayer) I had honestly never considered this before.

I can’t remember how many years it has been since the Lord drew me into the ministry of intercessory prayer. It was definitely a drawing of the Holy Spirit, and I felt it quite deeply. I contemplated it long and hard, and it might even be said that I resisted it. After all, the main thrust of my life, up to that point, had been worship.

But that is where God led me, and continues to lead me. I will be quick to confess that I don’t think I’ve done a great job of it. At least until more recently, that is. (Don’t be mistaken, I am still not “tooting my own horn,” here.) And I believe that one thing that has made the difference, in the past couple years is this concept of loving one another.

A couple years ago, I was listening to a podcast called “True Tunes,” in which John Joseph Thompson was interviewing Amy Grant, who had recently turned sixty (how on earth was that possible??). In this podcast, Amy said something that changed my life; changed my perspective on everything.

She said that people were always asking her opinions about things, and her response had become to say that she has two jobs. You probably know where I’m going with this. Those two jobs are (say it with me) love God and love people. That’s what the commands of Jesus boil down to, right? Even Paul says that to love fulfills the entire law. Jesus said that loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself fulfills the entirety of the Law and the Prophets.

Amy went on to say that her opinion about certain things, especially “hot topics,” is not in the job description for those two jobs.

Mic drop.

I felt like that eighties song by Dead or Alive, “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby . . .” And from that day forward, I have adopted that philosophy. I believe it’s biblical, and I believe it is spot on.

I have opinions. Occasionally, I share them. But I try to keep the political ones to myself, because what I think about controversial issues is not part of my “job description.” And, moving forward into 2022, and thinking about 2023, this is even more important. Because I am asked to pray for people for whom I have sharp disagreements in opinion. But that doesn’t matter. I am called to love them.

And, as Andrew Murray stated, I can only truly be successful at intercession if I have love. In that quote up there from 1 Timothy, Paul urges us make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for “all people!” I believe I may have addressed this recently in another blog entry.

The Greek word for “all” is “pas.” Here are the Strong’s definitions for it: “pas; including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole:—all (manner of, means), alway(-s), any (one), × daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no(-thing), X thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.”

In other words, “all” means “all.”

I cannot successfully intercede for “all people” unless I love “all people.” And this is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing that we have been called to do. It seems like a burden, right?

But here’s the thing. And I could easily drift off into a discussion about “burnout,” here. If I am walking with Christ, properly, nothing is ever a burden. Things are only burdensome when we allow them to be, and when we try to take them on in our own power or strength. What did Jesus say about burdens?

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV)

The love of God is amazing . . . it is truly indescribable. And it is the same love with which we are called to love “all people,” and to intercede for “all people.” What joy it gives me to consider this! What pleasure I get out of considering that love and considering the task of intercession! It is indescribable.

You show me the path of life. 
In your presence there is fullness of joy; 
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 NRSV)

Father, I thank You for these revelations. I thank You for that testimony from Amy Grant from that podcast. I thank You for causing me to listen to it, and for making me pay attention to it. I thank You that, since then, You have increased my capacity for loving others. I’m far from perfect, and I still struggle with loving some people, but I also confess and acknowledge that You expect me to love those people, as well. So help me, Father.

I do believe! Help my unbelief!

As we prepare to launch into another year, Lord, things still are pretty upside-down in this nation and in this world. We are still suffering the effects of a pandemic that began almost three years ago, and, in spite of our thinking, may not truly be over. But there is one of those opinions that doesn’t figure into my job description. Lord, I’m seeing a lot of people spout out some pretty outlandish opinions, but You have called me to love them, anyway, and You have called me to intercede.

So I continue to acknowledge this calling, and I commit myself to it even more, today, than before. I still love to worship You, and look forward to doing this on Saturday night, with the brothers and sisters who gather for Night of Worship. But intercession is where You are directing me, with the emphasis on loving one another.

With that in mind, I pray for Your Church, especially in America, that we would do a better job of fulfilling that command from Jesus. First, that we would love You with all of our being. Second, that we would love our “neighbor” as ourselves. And, third, that we would love one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, more intensely and more intentionally. Pour Your love into us, that we might pour it out to others!

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Thank You

Today is Thursday, the 24th of Thanksgiving (oops) November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

I got a little ahead of myself, there.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today, and cause you to be thankful.

Day 23,632

And, yes, today is Thanksgiving, in the U.S. Canada already had theirs. And this year, Thanksgiving falls on one of those days that I always think Thanksgiving should be on, November 24, 25, or 26. The weather is not the best, today. It’s chilly and rainy, out there. Which doesn’t really bother us, so much, as we aren’t planning to go anywhere. But there are people planning to travel to our house.

And, it is 31 days until Christmas. Believe it or not, I actually have two Christmas presents, already.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; 
and I will keep it to the end.
(Psalms 119:33 ESV)

O Lord God, give us new hearts, teach us a new way on earth, so that through your commandments all people may act in accordance with your Word and may become one. Only you can do this, working through your promised Holy Spirit, and you will do it in order that the earth may become a paradise, a heavenly kingdom pleasing to you. Let your words be written in our hearts, and help us to fulfill your commandments in our daily life. Only by carrying out your commandments may we foolish, sinful people be made perfect, our sins be forgiven, and everything become right and good in your sight. Stay with us, Lord God, our Father. Help us in everything. Let something new, something pleasing to you, soon come into our time. Put your commandments into our hearts, that peace may be restored to the glory of your name. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them...For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 5:17, 20, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for this day, when our hearts are specifically drawn to giving thanks to God; may we be thankful beyond today
  2. for the promise that our God is always doing something new
  3. for the hope and promise of peace
  4. that the perfect love of our God casts out fear
  5. that the Lord is my perfection, Jesus is my righteousness; in Him, I am made blameless
  6. that God, in His mercy, does not remember our sins, once we have laid them at the foot of the cross

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. 

Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; 
preserve me from violent men, 
who plan evil things in their heart 
and stir up wars continually. 
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's, 
and under their lips is the venom of asps. 
Selah. 

Guard me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; 
preserve me from violent men, 
who have planned to trip up my feet. 
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me, 
and with cords they have spread a net; 
beside the way they have set snares for me. 
Selah. 

I say to the LORD, You are my God; 
give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD! 
O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, 
you have covered my head in the day of battle. 
Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; 
do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! 
Selah. 

As for the head of those who surround me,
 let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! 
Let burning coals fall upon them! 
Let them be cast into fire, 
into miry pits, no more to rise! 
Let not the slanderer be established in the land; 
let evil hunt down the violent man speedily! 

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, 
and will execute justice for the needy. 
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; 
the upright shall dwell in your presence.
(Psalms 140:1-13 ESV)

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
(Jeremiah 33:3 NIV)


For who is God, but the LORD? 
And who is a rock, except our God?
— the God who equipped me with strength 
and made my way blameless.
(Psalms 18:31-32 ESV)

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 ESV)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
(1 John 4:18 ESV)


And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)


My gratitude, on this day, is immense. Perhaps I am focusing more on it, today, since it is the day of Thanksgiving. As anyone knows, who has regularly read this blog, I am grateful, every day, as a practice of spiritual discipline. But today, that gratitude is heightened.

As I read the various Scriptures today, I find that I am most grateful for things like the promise of Jeremiah 33:3, the promise that, if I call to the Lord, earnestly, and in humility, He will answer; He will show me things that I have not known. And trust me, there is plenty that I do not know. The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know much.

I am also very grateful (is it possible to be “very” grateful?) for the truth of the passage from Psalm 18.

Let’s talk about “perfection,” for a minute. The harder we work to be “perfect,” the farther short we fall from the goal. And, it causes us great stress and anxiety, two things that Scripture tells us are bad. Jesus has told us to be anxious for nothing, because worrying cannot add a second to our lives or an inch to our stature. In fact, medical science has shown us that worry and anxiety not only do not lengthen our lives, they shorten them!

Great. There’s another thing to be anxious about!

But, as the psalmist tells us, God has made our way “blameless” (some translations say “perfect.” I rather like the way Eugene Peterson said it:

Is not this the God who armed me, then aimed me in the right direction?
(Psalms 18:32 MSG)

Exactly how has God made me perfect or blameless? How has He pointed me in the right direction? Through Jesus Christ.

Who didn’t see that coming?

Seriously, though, it is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to our account, that has made us blameless. This is one of those mysteries. I love mysteries. The Communion Table (the church we are currently attending calls it the “Table of Grace”) is a mystery. How is the bread and wine also the body and blood of Christ? I don’t know. But He said it is, so it is. Once again, God said it, and I believe it.

God has also told us that the righteousness of Christ has become our righteousness. He has, in Jesus, removed all of our sin from us.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
(1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, 
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
(Psalms 103:11-12 ESV)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:18-19 ESV)

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 ESV)

How much more encouragement do we need? And why? Why can’t we get this? Why can’t we embrace this? This is something that I must contemplate. It must have to do with arrogance and selfishness or something.

But there it is. And I am so very thankful for these truths today. God remembers my sin no more. None of it. He doesn’t remember that thing I did when I was a teenager, even though I can’t seem to forget it. He doesn’t remember the awful way I treated someone (many times, sadly), even though those memories pop into my brain at the most inopportune times. God forgets our sins, intentionally. His ability to do that is, quite frankly, unfathomable.

I am driven, as Paul, to declare,

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV)


Father, my cup overflows, this morning. As we get ready to partake of the table that You have prepared for us, we are thankful for all of the things that I have mentioned, this morning. And, in addition, not only have You prepared a table for us, You have given us, in abundance, that we might share with others. And I am grateful that You have given us generous hearts, that we might share with “the least of these,” whom Jesus proclaims represent Him in this world.

I pray for all the world, this morning, that all would know Your presence; that all would know Your great salvation through Jesus Christ. I pray that Your Kingdom will come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. I pray that everyone would know the joy of realizing this great forgiveness of sin, the healing from anxiety and worry, Father. Help us to know Your great love for us, and be thankful in all circumstances.

I pray for the many people I know, this morning, who have lost, or are about to lose, loved ones. It is such a difficult thing to lose a family member around holidays. It taints the holidays forever. I pray for comfort and peace for those, Father, that Your grace and mercy would overflow in their hearts.

I praise You that Christ is our righteousness, and that, when You look at us, You look through His sacrifice, through His blood, and You see His perfection. This does not, of course, clear us to do whatever we please. On the contrary, it motivates us to try to do better in this world. At least it should.

Thanks be to You for Your indescribable gift, Father! And may You be glorified in all the earth, today and every day.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Praise the Lord

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the twenty-seventh of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,270

We had a very nice day, yesterday, with C’s family. There was way too much food, of course, and plenty of leftovers. We’ll be eating ham for a while. I suspect the green bean and corn casseroles, as well as the desserts, will all be gone by the end of today, though.

I got some good news in email. All of my gifts for my Secret Santa person should be in hand by the end of Tuesday. Also, I believe my gift for the library’s Christmas lunch gift exchange should arrive Monday.

Today is a scheduled work day for me, and I have to be there in an hour and twenty minutes, so I’d best get busy with what is important.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Isn’t It?, by Daryl Madden

Isn’t it exhausting?
Life just seems too hard
Keeping up appearance
Living the façade

Isn’t is confusing?
No matter how I try
Being who I’m not
Living of a lie

Isn’t it so stressful?
Worries everywhere
Of all that could go wrong
Living here in fear

Isn’t it so freeing?
When our lifes outpoured
Being who God made me
Living for the Lord

Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at his blog site, linked above.

“Ask,
and it will be given to you;
seek,
and you will find;
knock,
and it will be opened to you.”
(Matthew 7:7 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for grapes
2. for good food and fellowship with family
3. for promises of answered prayer
4. that You are a God of restoration
5. for the many ways we have to praise You

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
(Joel 2:25-27 ESV)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

“Be still,
and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth.”
(Psalms 46:10 WEB)

As I meditate in this quiet moment, I consider that Jesus came to liberate the captives, give sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed, and proclaim the Lord’s favor. As I continue reading His Word, these thoughts will be in focus.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
(Haggai 1:5-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence, I read these passages again, noticing how He might be speaking to me through His Word. I allow my heart to respond to Him in prayer and meditation, and take refreshment in His presence.

The obvious word in Psalm 150 is “praise.” It occurs (if I am counting correctly) thirteen times in the psalm. All of the main questions are answered.

Who is praised? The Lord. Yahweh. Creator of the universe.
Where? In His sacred place; in His mighty heavens.
Why, or for what? His mighty acts of power, His surpassing greatness.
How? With sounds of trumpet, harp, lyre, timbrel, strings, pipes, and cymbals. With activities or movement of dancing. 
Who is praising? Everything that has breath!

I think it is fitting that the Psalms end with the simple injunction to “praise the LORD.”

The thing that stands out to me in the Haggai passage is a phrase that is repeated in verses 5 and 7. “Give careful thought to your ways.” I can’t speak for anyone else (we all try, at times, though, don’t we?), but I am guilty of not doing that enough. “Give careful thought to your ways,” says the Lord, through the prophet Haggai.

To the people of Israel, He takes note that they plant, but harvest little. They eat, but are not filled. They put on clothes, but aren’t warm. They earn wages, but their purses or pockets seem to have holes in them. In other words, they never have enough.

Now, I don’t know if this is saying that they literally don’t have enough, or if they are a lot like our modern Western culture, where we can’t seem to be satisfied with what we have. I suspect that it may be a subtle combination of the two, but I can’t verify that.

At any rate, they are given the answer in the rest of the passage. The second time they are told to consider their ways, the house of the Lord is brought up. It seems that everyone is occupied with their own “houses,” while the Lord’s “house” remains in ruins.

This is very thought-provoking for me. Because, while I know and acknowledge, readily, that this passage is explicitly directed to Israel, I can see correlation in today’s Church. We get caught up in our own “houses,” or own lives, even our own families, which are, of course, important. But not more important than our relationship, or “house,” with the Lord.

We don’t have a physical “temple,” to which we are to travel, today. The individual person is the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” as His Spirit resides and dwells in each of us. We are the “Church.” It is not a physical “house.” I don’t think that means we are supposed to spend extraordinary energy and time keeping our bodies fit, either.

This is about “soul keeping.” We need to make sure that we are keeping the Lord’s “house,” our souls, in good shape.

And one of the best ways to do that, in my opinion, is to practice what Psalm 150 teaches us.

Praise the Lord.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I will praise You for no other reason (though I have plenty) than that You are God. I will praise You for Your mighty acts of power, too. I will praise You for Your surpassing greatness, Your most excellent righteousness. And in praising You, I shove aside selfish platitudes and thoughts; I shut out selfish needs concerning my own “house.” I tend to Your “house,” which is my soul, because my soul needs tending and keeping. Thank You for the reminders from Your Word, reminders of how important this upkeep of our souls is. Help me to stay focused on what is important to You.

I pray for Your Church to flourish all over the world. I pray that we would engage in worship that glorifies You and “gathers, unites, and blesses” Your people.

"Generous God,
my way with money is a sure sign of my heart's trust.
and when it's mostly spent on me,
I show that my heart does not belong to You.
Center me again on You,
the source of everything good;
remind me of how rich I am because of Jesus and free up a generous heart for others.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed is a person who endures temptation,
for when he has been approved,
he will receive the crown of life,
which the Lord promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 WEB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Singing, Drumming, and Dancing

Good morning. Today is Friday, the twenty-sixth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,269

Twenty-nine days until Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, this coming Sunday, November 28, is the first Sunday of Advent.

We had a most lovely day, yesterday. All of the preparations went very well, and we had a nice, safe trip to Grandma’s house in Mineral Wells. We had a great lunch together, and a nice visit, just sitting around talking (several of us may or may not have fallen asleep). After divvying up the leftovers, we headed back to Fort Worth, stopping for sodas just outside of MW at a convenience store that happened to be open.

This morning, C is back in the kitchen, prepping for today’s lunch with her sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend. They are, I believe, supposed to be arriving around 1:00 PM. Ish.

The library is closed today, so I have a second day off for the holiday.

We took some pictures, yesterday.

Mama, me, S, and C
Mama and me

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)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for every good and perfect gift
2. for a great Thanksgiving holiday
3. that You are the "Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change"
4. for the things that I can learn from Jesus
5. for the ability to praise You with music, singing, and dancing

. . . whatever good anyone does,
this he will receive back from the Lord . . .
(Ephesians 6:8 ESV)

Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)(emphasis mine)

As I look at this Matthew passage, this morning, one that is so very familiar, I’m seeing something “new.” Notice the italics that I added. All of them are pronouns, which Jesus used to refer to Himself.

Jesus is the key to so much in life. It’s cliché and easy to say, “Jesus is the answer to everything.” That’s easy to say. It’s not so easy to live out. But just look at His words. “Come to me,” He says. “I will give you rest.” Who doesn’t labor? Who isn’t weary? Jesus promises rest, if we only come to Him. And only Him.

He tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him. So what is so new and different about this, that I’m seeing today, for the first time? It is this: Jesus tells us to learn from HIM. He does not tell us to learn from anyone else.

While there may be great value (and most certainly is) in learning from other humans, it is from Jesus, Himself, that we are to learn. I can surely learn from reading and studying great writers and great Christian minds, such as C.S. Lewis and Eugene Peterson. But I should be spending the most time and energy learning from Jesus.

He is the one who will give me rest. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

No one else can say that.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Our God says,
“Calm down,
and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me.”
(Psalms 46:10 CEV)

As I pause on this quite morning, I reflect on all the good and perfect gifts in my life, which have come down from the “Father of lights.” There is no shadow or variation in Him; He is constant and consistent. He does not change.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 149:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.”
(Micah 6:3-4 NIV)

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:6-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, perhaps even out loud, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder and meditate upon what has moved my heart or mind. I pray these things to God, including any questions that I might have. I turn my thoughts to Him and quietly enjoy His presence.

Part of Psalm 149 does, indeed, cause me to have questions. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to focus on the music. We are commanded/encouraged/admonished (I can’t say for sure which word is applicable when we are dealing with poetry/songs) to sing and make music in praise to God.

First, we are told to sing His praise “in the assembly of His faithful people.” So we are to sing praises together. Whenever I see this, I am reminded of the opinion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that all congregational singing should be in unison. That’s only an opinion, of course, and only one man’s opinion. But he has a good point. Here is the quote from Life Together:

“There are some destroyers of unison singing in the fellowship that must be rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in the singing. There is, first, the improvised second part which one hears almost everywhere. It attempts to give the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone, and thus kills both the words and the tone. There is the bass or the alto who must call everybody’s attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling, blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the glory of its own fine organ. There are the less dangerous foes of congregational singing, the ‘unmusical,’ who cannot sing, of whom there are far fewer than we are led to believe, and finally, there are often those also who because of some mood will not join in the singing and thus disturb the fellowship.”

I don’t necessarily agree with brother Bonhoeffer, here, but, as I said, he makes some good points. When we sing “in the assembly of His faithful people,” there really is no place for calling attention to ourselves, and I can’t think of any other reason to sing harmony in that setting. Of course, this makes me wonder, as well, how loudly I should sing in a congregational setting. I have a tendency to “belt it out,” which also tends to call attention to me.

I guess the key element in all of this is motive. Why am I singing harmony? Why am I singing loudly? If the song is a Chris Tomlin song (he has an unnaturally high voice for a man), most people can’t sing in that octave, and may need to sing it an octave lower. I once knew a man who believed his singing voice to be inferior, so he whistled the hymns.

We are then told, in Psalm 149, to praise Him with (gasp) DANCING! Oh, dear. I grew up Baptist. With a preacher who declared, from the pulpit, mind you, that “a dancing foot never grew off of a praying knee.” Well, the Bible tells us to dance, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except to say that context is very important in these matters.

We are also told to praise Him with the timbrel and harp. What’s a “timbrel?” All educated guesses seem to indicate something akin to a tambourine. So, a percussion instrument. A harp is a stringed instrument. It stands to reason, then, at least to me, that it’s okay to praise the Lord with a guitar and some drums. And dancing.

But then, in verse 5, we are even told to sing for joy on our beds! The last thing we should do every night is praise Him!

Why all this vigorous praising, singing, and dancing? Verse 4: “For the LORD takes delight in His people.” Simple answer.

I think it’s pretty awesome to think about God taking delight in us. The definition of delight is “great pleasure.” The Lord takes great pleasure in us, and I believe that Scripture tells us that this pleasure, this delight, is magnified when we are praising Him, whether it be by singing, dancing, playing a drum, or even whistling.

I did mention questions, and those come into play in the second half of this psalm, in all those bits about “double-edged swords,” “fetters,” and “shackles of irons.” It is not my intention to delve into those meanings, this morning. Today, I’m all about the praise and the great delight.

The only thing I want to say about the Micah passage involves the somewhat rhetorical questions issued in verses 6-8. Do we come before Him with offerings, calves, thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil? Do we need to be so extreme as to offer our firstborn children to Him?

I love to quote Micah 6:8, because it is major truth. God has shown us what He desires, even demands, from us. “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s it.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I have praised You with guitars, pianos, keyboards, trombones, and singing. I may have even praised You with a tambourine, occasionally. I don’t know about dancing. I’m not very good at that, but I know I have “moved to the music,” sometimes. My heart’s desire is to know You more and to praise You more, so I pray that You will always put it in my heart to continue to praise You. I also pray that I will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before and with You. I praise You and thank You for Your presence with me, this morning, and every morning, and every minute of every day. I celebrate Your presence, and I rest and draw refreshment from Your presence.

I pray that You will increase our wonder when we consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I also pray that You will increase our capacity to suffer with others, at least to have empathy with those who suffer through either poverty or injustice. And may You give strength to all who suffer persecution for their faith.

"Father,
I expend so much energy wondering what Your will is for my life.
Could You make it any clearer?
Give me a gospel-motivated resolve to carry out Your clear and good purposes -
living justly,
loving mercy,
and walking humbly with You.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

God will bless you,
if you don’t give up
when your faith is being tested.
He will reward you
with a glorious life,
just as he rewards everyone who loves him.
(James 1:12 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Great Disruptor

Today is Sunday, the twenty-first of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign on your hearts today.

Day 23,264

Four days until Thanksgiving in the U.S.!

We had a lovely day, yesterday. We hung out at our Airbnb until almost noon, when we went to pick up R & J to go to Yats for lunch. Lunch was delicious, just as the dinner was Wednesday night.

We debated over what to do next. We finally decided to not visit the Children’s Museum, but, instead, to go to a Christmas Market in the Carmel district. It was slightly amusing to see the difference between the areas in the city. The Carmel area reminds me of Southlake in DFW.

The Christmas market was a lot of fun, and quite charming. It seems to have been designed around a German theme, and all of the booths appeared to have German names. I took some pictures, and will post some of them here.

The entry gate
J, R, C, and S
Beautiful carved decorations
Ice rink
Alpine horns. They really played these. It was beautiful!

It was a wonderful time. We bought way too many snacks, but we also got some Christmas ornaments to take home with us.

We went back to R’s house, where we watched some stuff, discussed (but didn’t solve) the problems in the country, and then ordered way too much food from the City BBQ. We had a wonderful “Thanksgiving” meal, full of love.

This morning, we plan to meet them back at Lincoln Square at 10:00 for breakfast, and then we must head back to the airport to go home. Mixed emotions, of course. Sad to leave R & J, but it will be nice to be back home. We have been quite busy for the last four days. It’s been wonderful, though.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

When, by Daryl Madden

When light is laid
Upon the ground
When Spirit speaks
Without a sound

When gifts are blessed
Of treasure found
Of one to share
Is so profound

When God of love
Is always here
Found within
A simple prayer

When the response
Is clear to see
To simply dwell
For us to be

He alone is your God,
the only one who is worthy of your praise,
the one who has done these mighty miracles
that you have seen with your own eyes.
(Deuteronomy 10:21 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You are my God, and that You alone are worthy of my praise
2. for a wonderful and safe trip (so far); please carry us safely home
3. for Jesus, the "disruptor"
4. that we can "be still and know" that You are God
5. that You are my fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, and refuge

And he told those who sold the pigeons,
“Take these things away;
do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
His disciples remembered that it was written,
“Zeal for your house will consume me.”
(John 2:16-17 ESV)

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way,
and the truth,
and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you had known me,
you would have known my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
(John 14:6-7 ESV)

Jesus was a disruptor. He stormed onto the scene and disrupted everything for the religious leaders of His day, providing a new way to approach the Father, who had been, up until that time, largely unapproachable.

“In Himself, He presented the kind of mega-gigabyte network that even our technology-obsessed world will never see. He was eradicating the spam, clearing out the detritus, and demonstrating a new way for us to ‘do’ faith.” (Thanks to Marci Alborghetti, in Daily Guideposts 2021)

Perhaps we have all gotten a little too comfortable in our faith and need to allow Jesus to disrupt us again.

So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights.
He neither ate bread nor drank water.
And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant,
the Ten Commandments.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai,
with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain,
Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone
because he had been talking with God.
Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses,
and behold, the skin of his face shone,
and they were afraid to come near him.
But Moses called to them,
and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him,
and Moses talked with them.
(Exodus 34:28-31 ESV)

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
(Psalms 96:1-3 ESV)

“Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:5-11 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)

We find God on the mountaintops. We dwell with Him on a sort of “high,” during our devotional times. Many mornings, I have a sort of “mountaintop” experience. But the mission is down the mountain. We have to come down from the mountain.

“You have to go down the mountain. That’s where your ministry is . . . at the bottom of the mountain . . . where the cities are, and the towns, and their marketplaces, and the fields, and the rest of the world. That’s where they are, at the bottom of the mountain. So you have to go down. You have to bring down His love to the unloved. Bring down His blessings to the cursed, His riches to the poor, His presence to the godless, and His salvation to the lost.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY ONE – CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY

INVITATION

He says,
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
(Psalms 46:10 NIV)

I pause during this quiet moment, to consider and be still. Help me to know that You are God; my heart desires that You be “exalted among the nations.”

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NIV)

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.
(Psalms 144:9-10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
(Colossians 1:15-20 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, slowly repeating them, meditating on them. I pray my thoughts, my desires, my heart, and my life, to God, enjoying His presence.

In the psalm, I am noticing words (and this is common for me) such as fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, and refuge. God is all of these things to me. Other places in Psalms speak of running and hiding in these places.

But the truth stated by Jonathan Cahn, above, stands. I have to leave those places in order to minister. I cannot minister to those who are unloved, hungry, desolate, or poor, while hiding in the refuge or fortress that is my God. I cannot share my blessings while remaining on the mountaintop. I must come out of that fortress and come down from the mountaintop. And I do so with the confidence that my God will cover me and protect me while I do.

The Colossians passage speaks of the significance and importance of Christ. There may not be a more important passage in the New Testament, at least about this topic.

He is the image of God; all of the fullness of God dwells in Him. In Christ, “all things hold together.” And when I consider the phrase, “It’s all about Jesus,” it makes a lot more sense in the context of Colossians 1:15-20.

My life needs to be all about Jesus. As I consider this, going forward, I do not know what kinds of decisions will be made. But I must consider what Christ would have me do, in all circumstances. Not so much “WWJD,” but what would He want me to do? The consideration, the meditation, the pondering, and the praying will happen in the fortress, in the refuge, on the mountaintop. And when the direction is given, I must leave the solace of the mountaintop.

Jesus is the Great Disruptor. He does not allow our lives to remain static. When He appears, we must decide what to do with Him. He is either who He says He is, or He is a raving lunatic, or He is an outright liar. He cannot be simply “a good teacher.” He is the Son of God; He is God Incarnate; all of the fullness of God dwells within Him.

Father, I praise You for Jesus Christ, the Great Disruptor. May You be glorified in Him, throughout the earth. I pray for the knowledge of Christ to be spread through all the earth, and that all peoples will glorify Your Name. Help me to be a channel of blessing and honor for You in this world. In all I do, may You be glorified. Take me out of the refuge, out of the fortress, down from the mountain, to do Your will. Keep me from sin; purify me by Your grace and mercy. Help me to love You and love people in the way that I should.

I pray for full fellowship with Jesus Christ, King of kings. May You grant spiritual renewal and refreshment to Your people.

"King of kings and glorious Lord,
You are above all.
You rule,
and the whole universe is Your kingdom.
Have the supremacy in all things and draw more  and more to the freedom of Your reign.
Be first in my life,
now and always.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test,
that person will receive the crown of life
that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 NIV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Abiding in the Easy Yoke

Today is Wednesday, December 9, 2020, in the second week of Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,917

Sixteen days until Christmas. The packages have begun to arrive. And, since C is working from home, we are having them delivered to our front door, rather than a drop box somewhere else.

Yesterday was a better day, for me. There were opportunities to overreact to situations, and I kept a more level head. Part of this came from remembering to stop and breathe whenever something happened that threatened my joy/peace. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect day, but I got through it feeling much more positive. I also made note of this in my notebook that I began keeping for my therapy sessions. The doctor did not ask me to do this, I started it on my own. I figure it would have come up, eventually.

Last night was a rough night for both C and me. I’m not sure of the time, but I think I remember looking at the clock and seeing 1:01. S came into our room and woke us up with the terrible news that C’s step-brother (I believe that is correct, the son of her step-father) had passed away from a heart attack, yesterday. I can’t speak for C, but I know my sleep was fitful after that. This has been such a terrible year.

Yet, we must continue to fight our way through it, trying with all of our might, to find joy and blessing within it. The things I wrote about yesterday have been invaluable during the insanity that is 2020.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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


(Prayer to Live in God’s Presence)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
(Psalms 97:12 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For life; I have been granted another day’s beginning; may I not squander it with negative emotions
  2. For Your presence, always
  3. For the easy yoke of Jesus Christ
  4. For the promise of rest when we come to You
  5. For making me thirst for You

Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
(Psalms 86:1-2 ESV)

Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
(Psalms 28:6 ESV)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6 ESV)

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
(Matthew 3:1-6 ESV)

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
and my God.
(Psalms 42:1-6 ESV)

“My soul thirsts for the strong, living God and all that is within me cries out to him.”
(Traditional)

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
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)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:25-31 ESV)

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalms 1:1-3 ESV)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
(Hebrews 13:2 ESV)

She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
(Exodus 2:22 ESV)

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
(Exodus 22:21 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.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

There are a lot of Scripture passages here, this morning. The ones that have stood out the most to me are Psalm 1 and the Matthew 11 passage about the easy yoke of Jesus.

Dallas Willard spoke frequently about this “easy yoke.” The historical idea is that when a young ox was being trained to work, it would be yoked with a stronger, older ox, that would help the younger one pull the load, showing it how to work.

When we step into the “yoke” with Jesus, who is infinitely stronger than we, our burden becomes light; the work becomes easy. “Easy” is relative, here, because if it was truly easy, it wouldn’t be “work,” right? But maybe we aren’t talking so much about physical work, here.

I’m not wise enough to say, for sure, but I get the feeling that we might be talking about spiritual labor. In Psalm 1, the introductory chapter to the great prayer book of the Bible, the psalmist declares that the one who will survive is the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night.

If we take the advice of Psalm 1 and combine it with the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, we might gain some insight.

Jesus bids us come to Him and He will give us what? Rest! How, exactly do I “come to Him?” He is not here, at least not physically. His body is at the right hand of God, until the day that He returns to take us home.

We come to Him by doing what Psalm 1 advises us to do. Delight in God’s Word. Meditate on it day and night. By doing these things, our burden will be light, and we will find rest for our weary souls. This is called “abiding.” And Jesus promised, if we abide in Him, He will also abide in us.

Father, I thank You for the promise of rest; for the invitation to step into the easy yoke with Jesus. Our problem (at least mine) is that we are stubborn “oxen.” We want to feel like we are doing it ourselves. This is why we create so many additions to the free grace that gives us salvation. Help us to abide, Father. Help me to abide, constantly. Help me to remember, all day, every day, to delight in Your Word, and meditate on it, day and night, that I might be like that tree, planted by streams of water, whose leaves never wither or fade.

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!

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalms 86:11-12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Just Like Breathing

Today is Tuesday, December 8, 2020, in the second week of Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,916

Seventeen days until Christmas

Only Tuesday? I swear there are least two days in Monday, this week. I recall waking up in the middle of the night, last night, not being able to remember what day it is. Disappointment set in when I realized it was only Tuesday.

I forgot to practice “Examen,” again, last night, a discipline that I really want to begin. I have set an alarm for 9:00 PM tonight, to remind me. Now, if I can only remember why the alarm is going off.

Yesterday was a mixed bag, emotionally. Work was frustrating, at times, but also just fine, at times. I’m still finding that I tend to overreact when I get bombarded with Skypes and emails, especially when they come from people I have never even heard of. I really need to stop and breathe a little when that happens.

All that being said, I can’t even imagine what kind of day I would have if I didn’t take this time in the morning. But even with that, it stresses me if I find that time is getting away from me.

More ammunition for my therapy talks, I suppose. I have another session (my second) this Thursday, at noon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
(The Jesus Prayer)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

“Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
(Psalms 68:26 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For Your hand of protection over us, during these dark times
  2. That, as long as my eyes are fixed on You, I shall never be moved
  3. For the challenge to encourage one another and build one another up; help me to do this today, Lord
  4. For the joy that I find in my soul/heart; increase that joy today, Lord
  5. For wisdom, which You freely give; help me to ask for it

Have regard for the covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
(Psalms 74:20 ESV)

By your hand save me from such people, LORD, from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
(Psalms 17:14 NIV)

When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
(Psalms 53:6 NIV)

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
(Luke 1:57-66 ESV)

And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
(Luke 1:80 ESV)

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.”
(Psalms 30:1-6 ESV)

“Keep me, Lord, as the apple of your eye and carry me under the shadow of your wings.”
(Traditional)

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
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)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
(Revelation 11:19 ESV)

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
(Revelation 12:1-6 ESV)

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
(Revelation 12:10 ESV)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 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.
(Luke 1:26-38 ESV)

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,”
(Luke 1:39-47 ESV)

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ESV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

“Encourage one another.”

“Build one another up.”

“Rejoice always.”

“Pray without ceasing.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Is that enough of a challenge for one day? My word, that’s enough for a whole work week, isn’t it? Yet all of those things could be stated in a single breath.

Paul gives us these instructions at the end of 1 Thessalonians, almost in passing.

It’s as though he believes that these things should be natural for followers of Christ; that we should be able do do these things without thinking about them, without having to try.

Kind of like breathing.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I find that I fail at all of these on a daily basis.

The challenge for me is to look for ways to encourage and build up my fellow believers. “Rejoice always?” Maybe I should start by trying to rejoice, period. One definition of “rejoice” is “feel or show great joy or delight.” Note that it doesn’t necessarily have to be visible. But, I think, if I am feeling joy or delight, it will probably reflect on my face.

I pray a lot, but do I pray “without ceasing?” Another challenge. And I’m pretty grateful, as displayed every morning by my gratitude list. Please note that those five (or sometimes more) points don’t always come easy. The days when I wind up with six or seven are days when it’s easier.

Today, at this point in the blog, there are only two, so far. You see, I add them as I go. (I just added three and four.)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Corinthians 1:19-25 ESV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(James 1:5 ESV)

Father, give me this wisdom today! Help me to be single-minded. Unite my heart to fear Your name. Help me to build up and encourage my fellow believers. Teach me to rejoice always, which would help with those moments when I overreact to stressful situations. Help me to pray more, unceasingly. And make me even more thankful, remembering, at all times of day, the many blessings and wonders that You have brought into my life. Let it be like breathing.

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!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Help!

Today is Monday, December 7, 2020, in the second week of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,915

Eighteen days until Christmas!

And the Christmas shopping frenzy has begun. A lot of presents were ordered yesterday. And some even early this morning.

I have a little sentimental sadness, this morning. Today is the 36th anniversary of our first date. Friday night, December 7, 1984, C and I went to a Laser Magic show at the Noble Planetarium in Fort Worth, Texas, after bowling in the TGIF league at Wedgwood Bowl. What makes me sad is that, each year, for the past several years, C and I have had the pleasure of dancing to “our song” at the USBC Christmas party. There will be no party this year. And dancing would be so much easier, as we have lost over 150 pounds between us! Here’s the song.

Oh, man, it’s already after 6:20. I’d better get a move-on.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.
(The prayer of St. Patrick)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
(Psalms 51:15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For that first date, 36 years ago
  2. That I am alive and breathing, this morning
  3. That You have opened my lips, that my mouth can declare Your praise
  4. That You have opened my eyes to see the wondrous things in Your Word
  5. That You have opened my heart, that I may thank You with all my heart

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalms 119:18 ESV)

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalms 86:12 ESV)

For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—
(Psalms 18:31 ESV)

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
(Matthew 21:18-22 ESV)

Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
(Psalms 111:2-9 ESV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
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)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
(Isaiah 35:1-10 ESV)

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—”I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
(Luke 5:17-26 ESV)

But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!
Let them know that this is your hand; you, O LORD, have done it!
(Psalms 109:21-27 ESV)

“Help.”

There’s a book I want to read, by Anne Lamott. The title is simply, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.

In this prayer, David is at the proverbial end of his rope. And his prayer is a very simple one. “Help me.” He does elaborate a little, after that, but sometimes the most effective prayer is also the most simple one.

I can testify that there have been many times in which I have simply said, “Help me, Lord!” Or some variation of that. The truth is, He doesn’t need us to elaborate on what is happening.

So many times, our prayers consist of us giving God a recap of what is happening. “So-and-so has cancer!” Guess what. God already knows that! At least half of the prayer requests that I get are not really prayer requests as much as they are information points. Someone has a family member that is experiencing something bad, either physically or spiritually. I find it very interesting that the requestor seldom tells me what they want God to do!!

Next time you pray, think of that. And maybe just say, “help.” Then when you get the help, “thanks,” and “wow.”

Father, You help us a lot more than we ask You to. For that I praise You! The Bible says that You know what we need before we ask You, and I believe that with all my heart. It is good for us, however, to ask. And I stumble, often, over that passage where Jesus tells us that if we pray, believing, we will get what we ask for. That one boggles me. And makes me question my true beliefs when I don’t get what I ask for. Help me understand, and help me pray better. See? Help!

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!

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Light

Today is Sunday, December 6, 2020, the Second Sunday of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,914

Nineteen days until Christmas

Probably time to get started with Christmas shopping. We have lists from everyone, mostly, I think. I also think that we will likely use one of the many available drop box locations that are close to us, as the “porch pirates” tend to come out at Christmas-time.

My WW report for this week is not great, but not bad, either. I neither gained nor lost, when I weighed in yesterday. I am only mildly disappointed, as not gaining is always good. It’s a weird pendulum swing, though, because there have not been alternating weeks, four in a row, where one week saw a large loss, and the next week saw either a miniscule loss or no loss at all. Nothing really changed during any of those weeks, either. I rarely go over my point allowance for the day, and usually end the day getting rollover points moved to my “weekly” points (those are what it takes from if you do go over your daily points). We can roll over up to four points, daily.

We tried a new recipe, last night. We got a new appliance, last week. Early Christmas present, or maybe C spending her birthday gift from Mama. I think that’s how we decided to consider it, finally. We had been interested in an air fryer, having heard from various people what they can do. For example, you can make healthier things like onion rings and “french fries” (not really “fried”). And the one C wound up getting has the name of Emeril Lagasse on it. It is, essentially, a glorified toaster oven that air fries, toasts, broils, and bakes.

The recipe we tried last night did not use the new appliance, though. C made “tuna croquettes,” and they were good. 1 point each serving, due to them having a third of a cup of uncooked oats in them. But then I used the toaster function of the new oven to make cinnamon toast, using our Sara Lee “Delightful” bread (1 point per slice), “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray (zero points), and Favor God’s “Buttery Cinnamon Roll” topper (zero points). The toaster oven in this oven toasts both sides of the bread, just like a stand up toaster. And, with the settings, there is no guessing, like there is in a regular oven. I actually burned some a few nights ago.

It was perfect! Maybe the best cinnamon toast I have ever had, and only 1 point per slice!

There are some other recipes we want to try, such as “fried” chicken, fish, onion rings, and zucchini chips (why is “zucchini” so hard to remember how to spell?).

Today, we have our Zoom church gathering at 10:15, followed by lunch, which will likely be from Applebee’s, and then rest for the remainder of the day. There may be some walking (there was none, yesterday; C got her activity by cleaning out the pantry while making room for the new air fryer on the kitchen counter).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.
(Psalms 101:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For Your steadfast love and justice, of which I will sing
  2. For another day of life and breathing, both physical and spiritual
  3. That Your decrees (Your Word) are trustworthy and sure
  4. For the ministry of John the Baptizer
  5. For the Light of the world

But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
(Psalms 88:13 ESV)

Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
(Psalms 93:5 ESV)

This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
(Psalms 118:23 ESV)

“What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
(Luke 7:25-28 ESV)

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 149:1-9 ESV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
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)
"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father,
you have brought me in safety to this new day:
Preserve me with your mighty power,
that I may not fall into sin,
nor be overcome by adversity;
and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose;
through Jesus Christ my Lord.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
(Isaiah 40:1-5 ESV)

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
(Isaiah 40:9-11 ESV)

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
(2 Peter 3:8-14 ESV)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
(Mark 1:1-8 ESV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
(1 John 5:1-6 ESV)

How do we know we love God? If we keep His commandments. And “his commandments are not burdensome” (verse 3).

But let’s consider what those commands are, once again. Most people, if asked what God’s commandments are, would start quoting the Ten. But let’s move forward a few centuries. Jesus “summarized” (if you will allow me to use that word) the Ten Commandments, along with the rest of the Law, as well as the prophets, with only two commands!

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

John, I believe, speaks truthfully, when he says that these commandments are not, in fact, burdensome.

This does not mean that they are “easy.” But the truth is, if we would consistently walk in the “easy yoke” of Jesus, they would be easy, wouldn’t they? It’s when we step out of that, that things become difficult.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:5 ESV)

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
(Psalms 119:130 ESV)

Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.
(Ecclesiastes 2:13 ESV)

What is light?

Is it the opposite of darkness?

It is not the absence of darkness. Rather, it drives the darkness away. In a room completely consumed with darkness, a light as small as a match can dispel that darkness.

Darkness is the absence of light.

But the word, “light,” has other meanings. For example, in Psalm 119:130, above, it is said that God’s Word gives light. We all know that’s not literally true. I have never opened up my Bible and used it to light my way when the power goes out.

In this sense, light means something similar to “understanding” (the word in the second half of that verse).

When someone has a new idea, or suddenly understands something, we think of a light bulb going on above their heads.

I just had a slightly humorous conversation with C because all of this made me wonder, why do we always put the light fixtures in the ceiling? Light is directional, certainly, but it has no weight, so gravity does not affect it. So, theoretically, a room would get just as much light from a fixture on the wall or even the floor.

The answer we came up with is that, since you don’t put anything else on the ceiling, there is nothing to obstruct the light source, to keep it from illuminating the whole room. We don’t put furniture on the ceiling.

If the light fixture was on the floor, there would be no light on the other side of the bed. If it was on the wall, it would be better, but it might be blinding, because, too often, you would be looking right into it.

Sorry. This got way too philosophical.

Where is your light? Where is my light? When I open up God’s Word, my soul gets light. I get understanding. And, if you consider that the word “light” also means “not heavy,” then my spirit is made less heavy when I consult God’s Word, as well.

Jesus is the Light of the world. When He was “lifted up,” all men were drawn to Him, as a moth to a candle flame. And His light ultimately defeats the darkness in our world.

Father, thank You for light. In the poetic opening of our Bible, we are told that the first thing You created after creating the heavens and the earth, was light. I thank You that “light” also means understanding, and that, through Your Word, the Holy Spirit gives me light. I am also grateful that “light” means “not heavy,” and that through walking in the “easy yoke” of Jesus Christ, my burden is made lighter and easier. Your commands, as John told us, are not at all burdensome, if we would be walk with Jesus daily. I pray for Your light to shine more brightly on this world, and especially on Your people, that we might live together in harmony and unity as we face the darkness in this world. May we also not be deceived into believing that the darkness comes from people who believe differently than we do. The darkness comes from our enemy. And our enemy is not flesh and blood. Please, God, help us to remember this.

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.