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.

New Every Morning

Today is FRIDAY!!! December 4, 2020, in the first week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,912 (for my newer readers, this is how many days I have been alive)

21 days until Christmas!

It’s a chilly morning in DFW, not quite as cold as predicted, but just at freezing. 32-33, depending on which app I look at. The good news is that the high today should be around 58.

Yesterday was a true “mixed bag.” After the epiphany that came on me during my morning devotional, the day started out quite rough. Roughly? Anyway. It was a challenge to keep the mindset with which I left home.

Then I had my therapy session. I sat in the car with my ipad, video-chatting with the doctor. The majority of the session consisted of her asking me questions, as she needed to get a feel of where I was coming from, and so on. I got to ask her a few questions at the end. There were a few questions that she asked me that I really had to dig deep and think. It was a good session, and I feel very comfortable talking to her. We have another session scheduled next Thursday at noon. I will do the same thing, take an hour lunch, and sit in my car. I might start the car, this time . . . it got pretty cold by the end, yesterday.

The beautiful thing is what even that introductory session did for my day! My whole mindset was different when I got back to my desk. I still had all the same challenges facing me (25 SOS expedites and a crap-ton of unreceivables), but I faced it all with a much brighter outlook. I can’t wait to see how I feel after an actual talk-therapy session!

And then my mother called. At first I missed the call, and when I saw that I had missed her call, my heart skipped a beat. If you read yesterday’s blog, you know that my uncle was in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I called my mother back (she had left a voice-mail, but it had not shown up, yet). The news was good. She had actually talked to my uncle. He was doing well. They got a lot of fluid drained, and he had even gotten up and walked around some. My mother also talked to my aunt, who said that this had been coming on for a while. But the prognosis is good.

So God really turned that day around. I will say, though, that I was exhausted after I got home. The mental/emotional toll that the day took wiped me out physically, and I hit the sack not long after 8:00 PM, last night.

In light of yesterday’s devotional, there will be no more Coronavirus numbers posted here. I will not set my sights on things that are beyond my scope and beyond my sphere of influence. I will keep my sight on Jesus.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You;
grant us so to know You that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Prayer to Know God, by St. Augustine)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
(Psalms 66:5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the power You have to change a heart and mind
  2. That my uncle is doing well (which translates to being grateful for answered prayers)
  3. For the light that has shone in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6)
  4. That You predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, to the praise of Your glorious grace
  5. For Your great mercies, new every morning

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,
(Psalms 17:7-8 ESV)

Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
(Psalms 118:25-26 ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
(Luke 20:34-38 ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalms 8:1-9 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)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
(Genesis 3:9-15 ESV)

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
(Genesis 3:20 ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
(Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-12 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)


By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
(1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

“One of the ways we serve God is by serving those in need.” The above passage gives us encouragement to put feet to our words, “walk the talk,” as it were. We are encouraged to serve others out of the “abundance of our own possessions.” This attitude of serving helps us be more like Jesus.

We, as God’s children, are often the instrument used to answer prayers. “And as we serve others, our own hearts are encouraged as we encourage those we serve.” Another result is that our own faith grows, as well. (Cindy Hess Kasper, Our Daily Bread)


Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
(Psalms 90:14 ESV)

“We may not be able to stop a life struggle or change an outcome, but we can decide how to weather each storm. We can stay focused on God’s faithfulness, or we can become absorbed by dark clouds of fear that shriek What will I do?” (John Dilworth, Daily Guideposts 2020)

This takes me back to one of the Psalms verses from The Divine Hours.

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
(Psalms 66:5 ESV)

And this is exactly the mindset I am determined to keep, going forward. I can’t change the storms. I can get through them, as our faithful Father promises to deliver us from all of our trouble. And my eyes will be on Him.

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.
(Psalms 30:5 ESV)

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
(Psalms 63:5-6 ESV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)


Father, I praise You for Your mercies, new every morning. I thank You for the way You turned my day around, yesterday, and seemingly continuing on into today. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You, no matter what kind of “storms” or “dark clouds” come my way. Let me remember You every hour of this day, today.

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.

Things Too Great and Too Marvelous for Me

Today is Thursday, December 3, 2020, in the first week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,911

22 days until Christmas

Day 317 of the pandemic (I’m using January 21 as the beginning point, as that is the date of the first “official” US case being confirmed. It is definitely arguable that there were cases in the US before that. I know of one alleged case in Colorado as far back as December of last year. But this is my blog and my count, and I’ll do it the way I want to. 🙂

My prediction was right. The US had 203,737 new cases of Coronavirus, yesterday. 2833 deaths. Almost three thousand. Texas had 19,195, with 212 deaths. There is some speculation that these high numbers may still be sort of leftovers from the Thanksgiving holiday, since many reporting places may have been closed. Doesn’t make me feel much better about the shape of things, though.

And the horror that is 2020 (which isn’t going to automatically stop on January 1, 2021, mind you) continues, as our family has had both a death and a serious illness reported this week. Our son-in-law’s mother passed away Tuesday morning (I think), and last night I received word that my uncle, my mother’s twin brother, is in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. He is reportedly doing “okay,” and, so far, it is not Covid-related. However, I hear that some of his kids have had Coronavirus, but I doubt he has been around anyone from whom he could get it.

It’s just one thing after another, and, if I didn’t have the faith that I have, I would be a wreck, right now. But my eyes are on the source of everything that I have, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My eyes are on Jesus Christ, Son of God, who, through the Holy Spirit, inhabits my soul and gives me strength to get up and go every day.

I may sound like a fool or a lunatic. Doesn’t matter. It’s what I believe to be true and I will follow that truth to the end.

I have my first therapy/counseling session, this afternoon at 1:00 PM. It will be a video session, and I have planned to take an hour lunch break and simply go sit in my car for the session. There might be an office I could use. I may ask someone if that is a possibility, since most of our client’s people are still working from home. I’m kind of excited about this. Oh, wait. I just remembered . . . I won’t be able to use an office in the building, because I will be using camera for video, and taking pictures is only allowed with “approved” cameras in our facility. Government contract, you see. So the car it is.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know you, and desire nothing save 
only you. 
Let me hate myself and love you. 
Let me do everything for the sake of you. 
Let me humble myself and exalt you. 
Let me think of nothing except you. 
Let me die to myself and live in you. 
Let me accept whatever happens as from you. 
Let me banish self and follow you, and ever desire to follow you. 
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you that I may deserve 
to be defended by you. 
Let me fear for myself, let me fear you, and let me be among 
those who are chosen by you. 
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in you. 
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of you. 
Let me cling to nothing save only to you, and let me be poor 
because of you. 
Look upon me, that I may love you. 
Call me that I may see you, and forever enjoy you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Forsake Myself for Jesus, by St. Augustine of Hippo)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
(Psalms 100:3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the faith that keeps me going
  2. For the trustworthiness of Your decrees (Psalm 93:5)
  3. That You keep us in perfect peace when we keep our minds on You (Isaiah 26)
  4. That You are my refuge and fortress, the God in whom I trust (Psalm 91)
  5. That I can rest in You, and leave the rest of this behind

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
(Psalms 62:5 ESV)

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

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
(Psalms 118:26 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.”
(Luke 1:26-30 ESV)

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house,
and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.
(Psalms 45:1-11 ESV)

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

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

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”
(Isaiah 26:1-6 ESV)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 7:21 ESV)

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
(Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)


Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”
(1 Chronicles 29:11-19 ESV)


“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 ESV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
(Psalms 91:1-2 ESV)

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:6 ESV)

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 ESV)


And, this morning, it all comes down to this.

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalms 131:1-3 ESV)

While verse 1 could apply to a desire for greatness and accomplishment, I don’t think it necessarily does. It could also apply to being worried about things that are way outside of my area of influence/control.

And lot of what I have written about, this morning, perhaps even all of it, falls within that scope of things “too great and too marvelous for me.”

Jeremiah 45 even takes it further.

And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”
(Jeremiah 45:5 ESV)

Self-seeking, and even being concerned with things outside of our control, “creates great restlessness and discontent.” In today’s song, the psalmist has left that behind. The idea in verse 2 is that this child has been weaned, and no longer desires the mother’s milk. Being with his mother, simply in her presence, is enough.

“We so often approach God only for what he can give, rather than simply to rest in his presence. Do that now, through the word and prayer, in Jesus’s name.”

I confess that I have been concerned with things too great and too marvelous for me. I can’t control the Coronavirus numbers. I can’t control peoples’ attitudes and lackadaisicalness about the virus. But I can rest in Him, and simply enjoy His presence.

“Lord, you tell me to bring you my needs. But help me also to rest in your presence, joyfully content to just be with you. Sometimes give me that level of nearness and love. I need it so much. Amen.”

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


Lord, I confess my pride in being too concerned with things that I can’t control. You have taught me, this morning, and I receive the lesson. I will not go back up and re-write the blog, because what I have written earlier is all part of what I have learned, this morning. You are in control of all things. You are worthy of all praise and glory. I am not. You are God; I am not. Therefore, I bow before You in fear and trembling, desiring only to rest in Your presence.

I pray, this morning, for our daughter and son-in-law, as they grieve the passing of his mother. I pray that You will give them wisdom to know whether they need to travel to visit his father. I pray that You surround all of them with Your presence and love. I pray for my uncle and his family. I pray for healing for him, and that the Covid tests will come back negative. Give grace and comfort to my mother and my cousins, as they con do nothing but wait. May they be waiting on and with You, and resting in Your presence.

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.

Pass It On

And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
(1 John 4:21 NLT)

Today is Tuesday, December 1, 2020, in the first week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,909

24 days until Christmas

Today is the first day of the last month of Christmas. And I have three more days of PTO to “burn.” C and I have decided we want to see if we can get a weekend at our favorite cabin in Glen Rose. The weekend of the 18th is open, along with Thursday night, the 17th. I have to make sure our shift lead is not off that Thursday and Friday, because he is my backup when I’m gone. And not to worry. Safety precautions will most definitely be followed. In fact, we would be mostly isolated for the entire weekend. I imagine we will cook our own breakfasts, at least, and probably order out for the other meals. As for weather, I can’t see that far ahead, yet, but even if it’s cold, well, there’s a hot tub on the deck, and the cabin has heat.

Speaking of temperature, it is a few degrees colder, this morning, than it was, yesterday. Depending on which app I look at, it is either 28 degrees outside, or it’s 31. Either way, it is below freezing, but there was, as far as I know, no precipitation overnight, and none expected the rest of this week.

The U.S. finished yesterday with 161,736 new Coronavirus cases. There were 1238 deaths. Texas had 13,479, behind California’s 16,491.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He Himself is my contemplation;
He is my delight.
Him for His own sake
I seek above me;
from Him Himself I feed within me.
He is the field in which I labour.
He is the fruit for which I labour.
He is my cause;
He is my effect.
He is my beginning;
He is my end without end.
He is, for me, eternity.
(Isaac of Stella)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Psalms 95:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. That I have a thankful heart
  2. That Your eyes are upon us, and You will have mercy upon us
  3. For Your righteousness
  4. That You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3)
  5. That You help and inspire me to “pass it on”

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
Selah.
(Psalms 67:1 ESV)

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.
(Psalms 123:1-3 ESV)

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
(John 3:16-18 ESV)

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.
Selah.
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.
Selah.
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
(Psalms 3:1-5 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

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
(Isaiah 11:1-10 ESV)

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
(Luke 10:21-24 ESV)


And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
(1 John 4:21 NLT)

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
(Proverbs 19:17 ESV)

give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
(Luke 6:38 ESV)

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
(2 Corinthians 9:6 ESV)

I was literally in tears when I finished reading this morning’s selection from Daily Guideposts 2020.

I won’t retell the story, but the gist of it can be found in phrases like “pass it on,” or, as a popular movie from a few years back said, “pay it forward.”

We are called to be a loving people. But more than that, we are also called to be a generous people. We are called to live with an open hand, rather than a closed fist. We are, as a popular song from a few decades ago said, to “hold on loosely.”

The old youth song from the seventies said, “Pass It On.” The song was speaking of God’s love. It wasn’t so much about sharing the Gospel, although that did enter into it, as much as it was about simply sharing the love of God wit others.

So, when you experience a kindness from someone today, pass it on, pay it forward. Love your neighbor as yourself; love your fellow believers as Christ has loved you. That is the best way we can pass it on. Jesus sacrificed His life for me. And our Father has blessed me richly. Therefore, my heart’s desire is to pass this love and blessing along to others.

It only takes  a spark to get a fire going;
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That's how it is with God's love;
Once you've experienced it
You spread His love to everyone;
You want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend this happiness that I've found
You can depend on Him, it matters not where you're bound
I'll shout it from the mountaintops!
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.
(Kurt Kaiser)

In the last verse, the current versions say, “You can depend on God.” I swear it originally said “Him.”


Lord, as this day unfolds, help me to “pass it on,” to whoever I should meet. As I walk through this work day, may I hold my head high because of Your love for me, and may I share that love all around me, passing on, paying forward the many blessings that You have given me and my family. May all who see me see You in my eyes (especially since my face is not visible). Make my eyes brilliant with Your love today.

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.