Abiding in Christ

Today is Sunday, the first of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,425

It seems as though it has been a really busy week. Between working four days (three of those consecutive) and then going to Mineral Wells on Friday, there has been a lot going on. I am grateful to have a day, today, where (hopefully) nothing is expected other than going to our house church.

C and Mama got a lot accomplished, yesterday, I think, while I was “working” at the library. It was pretty dead at the library, yesterday, so not a lot of actual work was involved. I’m not sure if the pretty weather kept people away or what.

The Texas Rangers managed another win, yesterday, beating the Atlanta Braves 3-1. And the starting pitcher got the win! Dane Dunning finally got a win. The Rangers are now 7-14 for the season, in last place in the AL West, 6.5 games out. The LA Angels are currently in first place, at 14-8. The Rangers and Braves will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Taylor Hearne still seeking his first win.

The Boston Red Sox blew a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, last night, and lost in the tenth, 2-1. This behind seven innings of stellar pitching by Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox are looking a lot like the Rangers, this season. That’s distressing. They are 9-13 for the season (having played one more game than the Rangers), and are in fourth place in the AL East, thanks to Baltimore being worse. Those two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 1:05 EDT, in Baltimore.

The NY Yankees have sneaked into the top position in MLB, with a 15-6 record. They are a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers and the cross-town rival Mets, who both have 15-7 records. The LA Dodgers have fallen to fifth overall. The Cincinnati Reds (3-18) continue their losing streak (now at five games), to hold down the worst spot in MLB. The Washington Nationals are next, at 7-16, followed by the Orioles and Rangers, both at 7-14. The Reds have a run differential of -56. This means that their opponents have outscored them, over the span of 21 games, by 56 runs. In comparison, the Rangers only have a -10 run differential.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Third Sunday of Easter)

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
(Acts 2:42-44 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the opportunity to gather with other saints, this morning, to devote ourselves to the reading of Scripture, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers 
2. for the life that I have had so far
3. for the hope that I have in God, and that I am calling out His name
4. for the boldness, and the ability to live out the truth and words of Christ, that comes from being associated with Him
5. for a day of rest

Today’s prayer word is “longevity.” I have to confess, I’m scratching my head over this one. I’m not sure what they are getting at, so let me get on with the reading.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
(Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)

Verses like these are dangerous, because people tend to key in on the wrong things. The focus becomes material, the word “prosperity” is highlighted, and suddenly, there is a group of people proclaiming that if you memorize Proverbs, you’ll get rich.

If you think I’m joking, think again. I have heard things just as outlandish as that.

The writer of today’s reading, Susanna, speaks of an Italian village that has over three hundred centenarians (that’s people over one hundred years old, in case you don’t know that word). As I searched to try to get validation of that statistic (yes, I’m a “fact-checker”), I found that there seems to be more than one such Italian village.

Scientists believe the key to such longevity is a combination of genes, lifestyle, and diet. Just yesterday, I saw a report that the oldest person on the planet is a French nun who enjoys wine and chocolate. Seriously, she is 118 years old and has a glass of wine every day.

Longevity is, indeed, a mystery. It does seem that the average European life is a bit longer than the average American life, though. It also seems that there is quite a bit less stress over there than over here. The USA is an incredibly stressful place to live.

But here’s the thing. Susanna mentions this, and I firmly believe it, as well. “God already knows how many days I have on this earth. My longevity is anchored in Him. Following His loving commands, centering my life in His words of hope, brings peace and long life. Abiding in Him is good for body and soul.”

I already feel like I’ve had a good, long, life. And I’m only 64 years old. That French nun has lived 54 more years than I. I can’t even fathom living another 50 years. But if I do, I pray that it will be in continued abiding.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I don’t pray for more longevity. I am not asking for 50 more years of life. However, what I do ask is that, for all the years that I have left here, be it one or be it 50, that I spend those days abiding in You and following Your commands. Help me to center my life in Your words of hope, that I might display the love that You have for all people, in everything that I do and say. I am grateful for the life that I have had, so far. My lot has fallen in pleasant places.

The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!
(Psalms 16:6 NLT)

Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.
(Jeremiah 33:3 NLT)

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
(1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
(1 John 4:7-12 NLT)

Father, I praise You that You have caused me to be one who calls out Your name. I know that the songs that I have sung have not been sung in vain, and that the thirst in my soul, that thirst for Home, will one day be permanently quenched.

I pray for the promise that You gave Jeremiah, that, if I call out to You, You will reveal remarkable and wonderful things. I’m not asking You to tell me the future. Rather, I’m asking You to reveal wonderful things about Yourself to me. Honestly, I’m not terrible concerned with the future, other than the certainty that I will one day live in eternity, worshiping You with all the saints. I just want to know You and know You more.

“Our association with Jesus will teach us, as it taught Peter and John, the deepest truths about ourselves and the highest truths about God. We need not be theologians or experienced in the ways of the world or longtime church members or leaders of the community or overly intelligent. We need only to be with Jesus–to associate with him in prayer and imitation. And as we do, people will wonder at our boldness as we live out in words and actions the truth of humanity and God as it is seen in Jesus Christ.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, this little reading fits hand-in-hand with my previous prayer. Because that is my desire, to live life in association with Jesus Christ, being taught the deepest truths about myself and the highest truths about You. I’ve attempted to be a theologian, at times, and found that it only produces a sort of arrogance that is dry and not nearly as deep as it pretends. I’ve been a “leader” in churches, and found this experience to leave something to be desired, as well. I have no more aspirations to be a “leader.” I want to be a follower, a simple follower of Christ, that I can live out His truth in words and actions as I walk through this world in Your kingdom.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
(Acts 4:13 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Star of Wonder

Good morning! Today is Thursday, the sixth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. Today is the day of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,310

Seventeen days until Hamilton!

As noticed above, today is “Epiphany,” the day when the church celebrates the arrival of the “wise men” to visit Jesus. The season of Epiphany lasts until the beginning of Lent, which occurs on Wednesday (always Wednesday), March 2, known as “Ash Wednesday,” which comes immediately “Fat Tuesday,” or “Mardi Gras.”

It was a nice day at the library, yesterday (when is it not). It was relatively quiet, but there was a flurry of activity during the last ten minutes that we were open. I got to register a new patron, and fielded a phone call from one who thought that a book she had turned in was still showing up on her account. This call happened at 5:57, and I was not looking forward to having to initiate a “claims returned” process with only three minutes left in the day. I’m not very familiar with that process, as I don’t believe I have ever had to do one on my own, yet. Fortunately, when I looked up her account, the book in question did not show as being checked out.

As noted, yesterday, I have agreed to work an extra shift today, from 10-2. That won’t be bad, even though it is supposed to be a day off for me. I don’t have to go in early, and I’ll get home in plenty of time to get a couple things accomplished.

It’s a cold day in DFW, today. currently 30 degrees (or 32, depending on who I listen to), and only getting up to just below 40 today. Tomorrow’s low is predicted to be in the low twenties. Egad. Fortunately, there is no precipitation predicted until Saturday when temps are supposed to remain well above freezing.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God,
by the leading of a star 
You manifested Your only Son 
to the peoples of the earth:
Lead us, who know You now by faith,
to Your presence,
where we may see Your glory face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Collect for Epiphany)
After listening to the king, they went on their way. 
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose 
went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, 
and they fell down and worshiped him.
 Then, opening their treasures,
 they offered him gifts, 
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:9-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that, because of Jesus, God holds me in His arms today
3. for the "star of wonder" that led the Magi to Jesus
4. for the admonition to love our enemies
5. for strength and courage that God gives us
6. for the awe I feel when I consider His holiness

In today’s final examination of Thomas More’s meditation (the text can be found at this link), I will include thought written by Richard J. Foster, in Spiritual Classics.

“This selection by Thomas More simply does me in. The breadth of it exhausts me. One line maybe I can enter into a little, but even then some single sentences contain a lifetime: ‘To think my most enemies my best friends.’ However, the prayer is not just one sentence, but sentence piled upon sentence, covering, as it seems, all thought, word, and deed. It is too much to take in, too much to expect, too much to hope for–in myself or anyone else.

“But then I realize that More is not telling me many things but only one thing. And what is that one thing? Simply to love God. When I see this it all becomes clear. Then I can read each line as another aspect of the call to love. And so, once again, I am struck by the unity of all these writers on contemplative prayer. They all keep calling us back to our first love. Their message, it seems, keeps tune to the beat of our heart . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God.”

The main thing I want to present from Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation, today, from the book of Joshua, is that everything presented in that book is grounded in the reality of real people and places. Grand ideas have no life of their own apart from the people and places in which they occurred. Says Peterson, “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less–this continuation of the salvation story–Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families, name by name, assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.”

Just as GOD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it. He didn’t leave incomplete one thing that GOD had commanded Moses.
(Joshua 11:15 MSG)

A favorite verse in Joshua is 1:9. Oddly enough, when I was in school, I memorized verse 8, but never verse 9.

Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take.”
(Joshua 1:9 MSG)

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
(Revelation 4:8 NIV)

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
(Psalms 33:8 NIV)

Today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day is “persistence.” That’s a good word.

He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
(Luke 11:8 CEV)

I’ve often wondered at this teaching of Jesus. He seems to be saying that we should “pester” God with our requests. For some reason, I’ve never felt comfortable doing that. But here Jesus seems to be telling us exactly that. There is another story that He tells, in another place, about a widow seeking justice from an ungodly ruler.

Persistence is a good trait to have. We don’t give up, or we should not give up. The book tells a story of a pianist who lost his right arm during WWI. He refused to stop playing, and began commissioning pieces written for just the left hand. That is definitely persistence.

But our persistence should be in doing good things, having good desires. As we remember that “nothing is impossible” with God, we persist, we persevere. I am persisting in my quest to have a “love revolution” in our culture. And I persist in my prayers to have that come about.

Father, I thank You for the record of the “wise men” visiting Jesus and giving Him gifts that seemed to point toward His burial preparation. I thank You for that “star of wonder.” I am also grateful for this persistent command to love each other, and more specifically, to love our enemies. Help me to do that today and every day. I pray for a Love Revolution to take hold in our country, in our world. That is only possible when people hold Jesus dear to their hearts and allow You to hold them in Your might arms.

Give us strength from the message of the book of Joshua, helping us to be grounded in its reality. I have no desire to “escape” reality. When I want to do that, I play games or watch movies. But then I return to the true reality, knowing that You exist there and that You give us mundane tasks to complete, which help us get down in the dirt with people.

Thank You for the sense of awe I have when I consider Your holiness. And thank You for Jesus’s stories, encouraging us to be persistent and never give up on praying.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.