Anger, Wisdom, and Humility

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
(James 1:19-20 NLT)

Today is Friday, October 9, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,856

TWO DAYS until we head to Broken Bow, OK!

Three days until our 35th wedding anniversary!

And, we have begun our six days of PTO (Paid Time Off, what they call “vacation” now; actually, it also includes “sick leave,” at least in Texas).

I actually slept until almost 8:00 this morning! So I’m feeling pretty well-rested, this morning. According to my Fitbit, I got seven hours and six minutes of sleep with a sleep score of 90. The “sleep score” is “a daily snapshot of your sleep quality and duration.”

It includes “Time Asleep,” “Deep and REM,” and “Restoration.” For “Time Asleep,” I got 46/50 points. I was sleep for 7 hours, 6 minutes, awake 53 minutes over the course of the night. This measurement includes a cool graph that displays the times I was awake. The longest awake times were around the times I had to get up to use the bathroom. The others are times when I probably wouldn’t even recognize that I was awake.

For “Deep and REM,” I got 21/25 points. I had 1 hour and 36 minutes of deep sleep, and 2 hours and 16 minutes of REM sleep. The value of these, according to the Fitbit app, is that “during deep sleep your muscles relax and repair themselves, blood pressure drops and energy is restored. REM is when you’re likely dreaming, which is key for memory and mood.”

One interesting tip that is given is to avoid alcohol three hours before bedtime, as it can suppress REM sleep.

In “Restoration,” I got 23/25 points. In this category, it measures my sleeping heart rate. For 95% of the night, my sleeping heart rate was lower than my resting heart rate. My average sleeping heart rate was 63 bpm. My average resting heart rate is usually around 70 bpm. I only had 5% of the night where my sleeping heart rate was over my resting heart rate, and that bit is tagged as “restless.’

They recommend meditation or breathing exercises before going to sleep, which I did attempt last night. I fell asleep during the exercise.

All of this is courtesy of “Fitbit Premium,” which I got free for a year with my new Fitbit Inspire 2.

Don’t worry. I won’t bore you with this every morning. For one thing, during the work week, I wouldn’t have time. It is fascinating information, though. I never knew how much healing goes on during sleep. Even WW has been teaching us these facts, when the workshop weekly topic deals with sleep.

So. Today, we plan to go to Mineral Wells and have lunch with my mother. We are taking the ingredients (and a pan) for our Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken, and are going to cook that for her. Oh. That reminds me. I need to print a copy of that recipe to take with us.

Okay. Did that.

I also plan to take a quick side trip to the Crazy Water store and grab a couple cases of Crazy Water #4. I still have almost two full cases, but any time I’m in town, I’m going to buy some.

Tomorrow, we’ll be making last minute preparations for our trip to Broken Bow. A brief grocery run might be necessary. Especially if C eats all the grapes before then. Hahaha!

Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, 
I have sought you. 
I became weary and I labored. 
O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and 
never to cease seeking you. 
Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance.
 Give me the strength to seek you, 
for you help me to find you and you have more and more 
given me the hope of finding you. 
Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. 
Preserve the first and heal the second. 
Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. 
Where you have opened the door to me, 
welcome me at the entrance; 
where you have closed the door to me, 
open to my cry; 
enable me to remember you, 
to understand you, 
and to love you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
(Psalms 98:1 ESV)

Today, I am grateful:

  1. For time off from work
  2. For the promise that, if we delight ourselves in You, You will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37)
  3. For the promise that we will find You when we seek You
  4. For the admonition to not be angry, but to be filled with humility
  5. For the book of James, which I don’t like to read

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
(Psalms 119:76-77 ESV)

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
(Psalms 108:3-4 ESV)

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

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
(Luke 17:7-10 ESV)

Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.
(Psalms 37:3-9 NLT)

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
(Isaiah 55:6 NLT)

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)

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.
(Proverbs 15:1-2 NLT)

A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.
(Proverbs 15:18 NLT)

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.
(Proverbs 15:31-33 NLT)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
(James 1:19-20 NLT)

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
(Romans 12:16 NLT)


How do you handle criticism?

I’ll confess right away that I do not handle it very well. Especially depending on from whom it comes.

But I have two different kinds of anger when confronted with criticism.

If I am told that I made a mistake, and it is proven to be true (I’ve never claimed to be perfect), I become angry at myself, because I loathe making mistakes. I WANT to be perfect! At least when it comes to my job responsibilities. The other day, I was shown a mistake that I had made. I was picking a part, and I went to the location, and there was a large crate. The lid was loose, so I pulled the crate, strapped the lid down, and sent it out.

Turns out there were five pieces in that crate, not one. I didn’t check the putaway label, or the inventory count. I assumed that the crate held one piece. It all worked out okay, because the reason the mistake came up was that the customer had submitted an order for the other four pieces. When the picker went to get them, the location was, of course, empty.

I was very angry with myself. My friend who pointed out the error tried to soothe me by telling me that that whoever did the putaway should have taken the top of the crate completely away, so that it was evident that there were multiple parts in there. Nevertheless, the fault is mine because I didn’t verify the stock.

But another way that I react is with anger toward the person doing the criticizing. One time, I went to a person to apologize for something I said, or at least in the manner that it was said. That person then spent the next fifteen minutes telling me why I was wrong, and so on. That didn’t set well with me. Frankly, that’s not, in my opinion, the way to accept an apology. And that person tends to think he’s right about everything.

I would say that, in both cases, the anger is out of order. I make mistakes. No, I don’t like to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that I should get so angry with myself when I make them. I should simply accept the facts, learn from them, and move on, taking whatever action is necessary to make sure that I don’t repeat that mistake.

In the second instance, people are going to be who they are. My anger in that situation didn’t help anything. And, of course, I, being who I am, did not express that anger. Well, I may have expressed it to my wife, later.

Look back up there at those verses from my least favorite book of the Bible, James. (Yes, I would rather read Leviticus than James. Why? Because Leviticus doesn’t constantly punch me in the gut. I would rather be bored than convicted.)

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

Period.

Dallas Willard said (“there he goes again with that Dallas Willard guy”), “There is nothing that can be done in anger that cannot be done better without it.” On a related note, he also said, “The person who has the most power in your life is the person you have not forgiven.”

So how do we prevent anger? Proverbs gives us answers. A gentle answer; wisdom that “makes knowledge appealing.” In these tumultuous pre-election times, anger is not going to change anyone’s mind. But gentle words might at least get someone to listen to your point of view. And the concept of “How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian vote for . . .” should just be thrown out with yesterday’s garbage.

I am easily angered, it’s true. I don’t always express it, but my wife can tell. And some days, I just wake up mad at the world, for no apparent reason.

Wisdom and fear of the Lord are two good resolutions. Another verse up there from Proverbs says, “Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.

Ooh. Humility. Another gut-punch. And not even from James!


Father, I hesitate to pray for humility, because I know what kind of trials that can bring. Tests that produce humility are, well, humiliating. But that’s the point, isn’t it? So I need more humility in my life. And I need less anger. I confess . . . I get angry over silly things. The Internet doesn’t work right; some technology doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Someone at work asks a question that I feel like they should already know the answer to, or maybe I have even already provided the answer. Humility and wisdom would not allow anger in those situations. So, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would produce more humility in me. Calm my soul and help me to always have a gentle answer.

Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; heal our nation, and heal our world. We pray for this pandemic to end. We pray for racial injustice to end. We pray for a love revolution.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

Grace and peace, friends.

Perfectly Safe

“The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.” (Psalm 37.18-19 NIV)

Today is Sunday, March 15, 2020, the third Sunday of Lent. Peace be with you.

Day 22,648

28 days until Resurrection Sunday.

Oh, yeah. It’s also The Ides of March.

As of this morning, there have been 162,501 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 156 countries. 6068 deaths have occurred and 75,968 have recovered. In the USA (my country), 3083 cases, 60 deaths, and 56 recovered. Schools and libraries are closing for at least two weeks. Cities are banning gatherings of anywhere from 250-500+ people. Grocery stores have been emptied out.

The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s House will meet this morning. We are only about twenty people, give or take a few, so we do not fall under the ban. We believe it is important to continue to meet together. We have cautioned people, however, who do not feel well, have traveled to “hot spots,” or are just concerned, to stay at home. We will gather at 10:15 at 4033 Jackie Lee Street, in North Richland Hills, TX. If you are in the area, you are welcome to join us as we read God’s Word, pray, take the Supper, and fellowship. There will, no doubt, be heavy emphasis on prayer.

R & J came down yesterday for my birthday. All of us except for C (who stayed home to rest from surgery) went out to eat at Hoffbrau. There were five cars in the parking lot. Needless to say, our waitress was very glad to see us. Restaurants and other such places are going to suffer greatly during this panic. It’s probably a safe guess to say that some will not survive it.

These are dark times for us, perhaps darker than they need to be. However, I am refraining from unnecessary opinions on the subject, as I stated yesterday. I am, rather engaging in prayer, as well as any compassionate action that I can take. For example (and trust me, I don’t normally broadcast my “deeds” in public), I gave our waitress very close to a 50% tip yesterday.

I have put on Facebook, and will share here, as well, that if you are a teacher and know of students who will struggle with getting breakfast and lunch because of the school closings, let me know. I have resources (cash) available. We are giving some today at our church gathering, as Kristin, our host, is a teacher in a low-income school. But we will help however we can.

I never shared my birthday gifts. On Friday, C gave me some new gym shorts, mostly to wear around the house. I have lost a good bit of weight over the last month or so, and the ones I was wearing kept falling down. What a great problem to have! S gave me a new lawn gnome, decked out in Texas Rangers gear. It now sits on the front porch, next to my Boston Red Sox gnome. It’s very cute. I also got a new Texas Rangers beach towel. R and J gave me a book that I had wanted. It is the autobiography called Acid For the Children, written by Flea, the bass player of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now, I have not, historically, been a fan of RCHP. However, I heard an interview that Rick Rubin did with Flea on the Broken Record podcast, and it piqued my interest, so I have been wanting to read it. Now, I can.

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

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
(Psalms 96:9)

Today I am grateful:
1. For a wonderful visit with R & J, yesterday, and a nice lunch, too
2. For the opportunity to worship, this morning, with my brothers and sisters in Christ
3. For Your awesome deeds, O God, the hope of all the ends of the earth (Psalm 65.5)
4. That Your angels guard us in all our ways (Psalm 91.11)
5. That You make known to me the path of life, and that in Your presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16.11)

Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
(Psalms 90:13)

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;
(Psalms 65:5)

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
(Psalms 91:11)

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
(Luke 9:44-45)

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:4-12)

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.

“O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring us again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’
(Deuteronomy 26:12-15)

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

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)

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
(Ephesians 4:2)

The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the LORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
(Psalms 37:12-20 NIV)

Time is short (I’m actually late), so I want to simply emphasize two things. First, from the above passage, verses 18-19. “The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.”

Then the verse from Psalm 16, also above. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 15.11 has become a bastion of strength for me in my life, lately. It is short, but deep, full of promise, full of joy. Combined with the two verses from Psalm 37, we find that we as believers have no reason to worry about anything. Once again, I will quote Dallas Willard. “This world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

Father, I pray for the world situation today. You know the situation, I don’t need to describe it to You. In fact, You know it better than any doctor or scientist on the planet. You know the numbers. You also know people’s hearts and minds. I pray for calm. I pray for faith. And for those of us who know You, I pray that You will keep us faithful, keep us safe, and help us to show compassion and care for those who are going to suffer financially because of the panic that is ensuing.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.” Job 5.8-9

Grace and peace, friends.

Of Ax Handles and Tacos

Today is Tuesday, December 31, 2019. The Seventh Day of Christmas. The Eve of Holy Name. Peace be with you!

Day 22,573

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, 2020.

Today is Make Up Your Mind Day. “Make Up Your Mind Day just goes to show that there really is a day for everything.

“This one is aimed at those who may be just a little (or a lot) indecisive. So to all you undecided people out there: no matter whether you have a habit annoying your friends by struggling to pick a dish at a restaurant, or trying to decide if you’re really, really ready for that career change, this is the one day when the choice has to be made. No excuses, no procrastination, no ands, ifs or buts—this day is your chance to stop putting things off for fear of responsibility and get things done. And what a better day to do this than New Year’s Eve, when you’re standing on the brink of a whole New Year and perhaps wondering what you could do to make it your own?

“While it may seem a little scary at first, especially to those unaccustomed to being decisive, the ultimate goal is to take control of you life by making a decision and sticking with it. It’s celebrated by being brave and taking chances, and by learning something new about yourself along the way.”

So as I approach 2020, while I have not made “New Year’s Resolutions” in over a decade, I have made up my mind that a few things are going to be different in this next year. They involve music, prayer, and health. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’m going to meet up with my pastor/friend in a little while, this morning. Since I’m taking my last day of PTO (Paid Time Off) for 2019, I’m not at work today. He and I have not yet had an opportunity to meet and discuss the books we are reading for the Renovare Book Club, this year. So, since I have the day off, I suggested meeting this morning. So we are meeting at a coffee shop at 10:00 AM to talk about books. If you recall my new t-shirt, that’s one of the five things that I like almost as much as reading.

After that, I will be bringing home lunch for S and me, then I will probably spend the afternoon playing Days Gone on the PS4, until C gets home from work. We don’t really have any plans for the night. We aren’t big New Year’s Eve partiers, these days. Is that a word? I don’t think it’s a word. Partiers? Partyers? There are red spellcheck lines under both of those. Oh, well. Whatever. We were invited to a get-together at a friend’s house, but C has not been feeling well for the last few days, so I reckon we’ll just stay home chill. Will we stay up until 2020? That remains to be seen. I might, but if I do, I’ll probably be playing on the PS4. Or watching a show on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Who knows???

The Shadow knows!

We’re both off tomorrow for the first holiday of the new year. Then it’s back to work for two days, then another weekend. 2020 is a leap year, so Christmas and New Year’s Day will be on Friday, next year. So it will be at least four years until we have those holidays in the middle of the week again.

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

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. 
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. 
He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. 
God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah. because they do not change and do not fear God.

Psalm 55.16-19

Today I am grateful:
1. For my last day of PTO for the year.
2. That my PTO resets tomorrow!
3. That the Lord redeems my soul in safety my battles (Psalm 55.18).
4. For examples of people such as Brother Lawrence in doing everything we do to the glory of God.
5. For the things God will do in me in 2020.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!
Psalm 70.1
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
Psalm 65.4
Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Psalm 103.20
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 
His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 
He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19.11-16
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! 
Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! 
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 
Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. 
And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 
Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 
fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 
Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 
Young men and maidens together, old men and children! 
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. 
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 148

“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him,
and to be born of a pure virgin:
Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through my Lord Jesus Christ,
to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory,
now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Do All As Jesus Would, by Dallas Willard

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10.31

“The specific work to be done–whether it is making ax handles or tacos, selling automobiles or teaching kindergarten, performing in the arts or teaching English as a second language–is of central interest to God. It is work that should be done, and it should be done as Jesus himself would do it. Nothing can substitute for that.”

I agree with Willard on this. When we are “at work,” whatever it is that we do, we should do our best to do the work as Jesus would do it. Furthermore, while we are on the job, we should give our full attention to that job, which means that “religious activities” should take a back seat to that job. That doesn’t mean that we are not engaging the power of God in our work, or even that we don’t pray during the job. Personally, I don’t consider prayer as “religious activity.”

Richard Foster, in Streams of Living Water, calls this idea the “Incarnational Stream.” It is the action of living our daily lives to the glory of God, no matter what it is that we do. In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence, who was assigned the menial task of washing dishes in the monastery, says, “Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

Willard writes, “Our intention with our job should be the highest possible good in its every aspect, and we should pursue that with the conscious expectation of a constant energizing and direction from God. Although we must never allow our job to become our life, we should, within reasonable limits, routinely sacrifice our comfort and pleasure for the quality of our work, whether it be ax handles, tacos, or the proficiency of a student we are teaching.”

So, if we are followers of Jesus, we should do all of our work for his glory, doing it the way we believe Jesus would do it if he were us. Because we love him, we do everything to his glory, whether we eat or drink or make ax handles or tacos.

2020, bring it on.

Father, as a new year approaches, I pray that I would fulfill your purpose for me in 2020. I pray that I would take this mindset along with me, wherever I go, in whatever I do. May I go to work each day with the intent of doing my work as Jesus would do it, to the glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May your Spirit inspire me and drive me to everything in a spirit of holiness and devotion to you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Following Jesus

Today is December 29, 2019. The fifth day of Christmas. Peace be with you!

Day 22,571

Three days until New Year’s Day, 2020!

Today is Tick Tock Day. “Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock… This is the sound of the year, and indeed your life, slowly slipping away. Every moment not spent living life to the fullest is another moment that is gone forever, impossible to reclaim. Tick Tock Day reminds you that the year is almost at an end, and there are things still left to be doing, and in fact only two days left to do them in. Don’t let the year end with regret! Get out there and beat the Tick Tock!”

Personally, I prefer not to worry about the Tick Tock. After all, I have nothing that absolutely has to get done before January 1, 2020. And, I’m trying to live by Dallas Willard’s encouragement to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” That also eliminates the tyranny of the Tick Tock.

C took down Christmas, yesterday. That sounds rather extreme, doesn’t it? It really just means that all of the decorations are down. She did all of this while I was at the leadership meeting, and while I was finishing up my daily blog. All of the inside decorations, the tree, and the outside decorations are all put away until the weekend after Thanksgiving of 2020.

Sadly, she is not feeling well, this morning. It sounds to me like she has come down with the sinus-bronchitis “crud.” She doesn’t think she feels feverish, so she doesn’t think it’s flu. We certainly hope not. It remains to be seen if she will make it to our church meeting this morning.

Speaking of church meeting, The Exchange Church is “scattered” this morning, as we meet in different homes to devote ourselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) Each group begins at 10:15. The three homes are at 4760 Baytree Dr (76137), 7117 Payte Ln (76182), and 4033 Jackie Lee St (76180). All are in Fort Worth (or suburbs, thereof). If you’re reading this and in the area, you are welcome and invited to join us.

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

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 145.21

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. For the mild non-winter-like weather we are having.
3. For the steadfast love of the Lord, that reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36.5).
4. That I can learn to be like Jesus by watching him and listening to him daily.
5. For the unceasing presence of the Trinity in my life.

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

(Agnus Dei)
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 36.5
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Psalm 145.1
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 
Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 
Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 
Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 
So there was a division among the people over him. 
Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

John 7.37-44
I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Psalm 18.1-3, 30-31

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.

“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

An Essential Condition, by Dallas Willard

And as [Jesus] passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

“If I am to be someone’s apprentice, there is one absolutely essential condition. I must be with that person.” That seems rather simple, doesn’t it? If you are going to learn how to be an electrician, you have to study with an electrician. Oh, sure, there are classes, probably, but any craftsman, before he or she can be “released” into the world to do their craft, must be an apprentice.

Obviously, when Levi, later known as Matthew, began following Jesus, Jesus was physically on the earth. And Levi, along with eleven other men, followed Jesus for several years. They learned from him by being with him.

“If I am Jesus’ disciple that means I am with him to learn from him how to be like him.” How do we learn from our teachers? How did we learn how to do math? How did we learn how to read? How did we learn another language? By watching and listening to our teachers. So, we learn how to be like Jesus by watching him and listening to him.

“And provision has been made for us to be with Jesus, as one person to another, in our daily life. But it is also necessary that we have a practical–though not a metaphysical or even a theological–understanding of this arrangement in order to carry on our side of the apprenticeship relation.”

Jesus is not physically here, now. But the Holy Spirit is, as well as the Scriptures, handed down to us from people who were with him on a daily basis. Through those Scriptures, we are able to “watch and listen” to Jesus as he lived on the earth. If I am to be considered a follower of Jesus, this is an essential condition. I must “be with him” daily.

It is also helpful to remember Acts 4:13. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

Can anyone recognize that I have been with Jesus?

Father, I pray that you would remind me, daily, of the presence of you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in Trinitarian reality. Teach me to be like Jesus. Help me to watch him and listen to him daily. May 2020 be a year of unprecedented growth for me.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13.14

Grace and peace, friends.

Deliver Us From Evil

Today is Friday, December 27, 2019. The Feast of St. John. Peace be with you!

Day 22,569

Five days until New Year’s Day, 2020!!

Today is Make Cut-out Snowflakes Day. “It was a favorite activity in our earliest school years, and many families would share it as a familiar project around the holidays. Surely it ended up with numerous small flakes of paper on the ground as thick as the snow outside, but it was accompanied by a warmth of time spent creatively, and the unique designs that came out of everyone’s individual efforts. Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day encourages us to set out to do it again, and create snowflakes that will persist long after the last crystal of ice has melted into water as the seasons change.” I haven’t thought about doing this in years.

It’s Friday, and we’re ending a really off-kilter work week. We had Monday, then we had a “weekend,” then we had “Monday” again, and now we have Friday. Next week will be the same for me, as I am taking my last day of PTO on New Year’s Eve. So I’ll work one day, have two off, then work two days, then have two off.

By the way, tomorrow’s blog may be later than usual. We “scattered” leaders are meeting with our pastor tomorrow morning, and it has to be earlier than usual, as one of the other leaders’ son has a school soccer game at 10:30. We’re meeting at 8:30 AM. On SATURDAY!! So I may just wait until after we are done to do my blogging.

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

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! 
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103.20-22

Today I am grateful:
1. That my knee feels better this morning than it did yesterday morning.
2. That I have opportunity, today, to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to his name (Psalm 92.1).
3. That the Lord has been with us, every step of the way.
4. For Jesus’s encouragement for us to pray that we be not lead into trials, but delivered from evil (Matthew 6.13).
5. For the promise of God to be with me, to strengthen me, to uphold me (Isaiah 41.10).

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psalm 115.1
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118.14
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 
So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John 21.20-25
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, 
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. 
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

John 92.1-4

“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born this day of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Lord, Lead Me Not Into Trials, by Dallas Willard

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6.13

“This request is not just for evasion of pain and of things we don’t like, though it frankly is that. It expresses the understanding that we can’t stand up under very much pressure, and that it is not a good thing for us to suffer. It is a vote of ‘no confidence’ in our own abilities.

“God expects us to pray that we will escape trials, and we should do it.” When “bad things” happen to us, they challenge our faith. And, frankly, there are times when I fail those challenges. That doesn’t mean my faith is ever destroyed, because it has not been. But it certainly wanes, at times. But we see, also, how people attack God whenever bad things happen to them. These things we call “bad” tend to undermine faith.

“As we attentively make this prayer a part of our constant bearing in life, we will see how God indeed does keep us from trials and deliver us from evil. Constantly.”

And my own side note, here. Some folks seem to have a tendency to seek out trials and sufferings because they think that honors God more. It is my opinion that such folks need professional help. Jesus, himself, encourages us to ask God to keep us from trials and temptations. Why, then, would we not do that?

Father, thank you for Jesus’s teachings on prayer. I am feeble and utterly dependent on you for deliverance. So, today, lead me not into temptation or trial, and deliver me from evil. And cause me to think on this truth throughout the day.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41.10

Grace and peace, friends.

If It Concerns You, Pray About It!

Today is Sunday, December 22, 2019, in the fourth week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,564

THREE DAYS until Christmas!

Today is Forefathers’ Day. “Few things are more important to Americans than heritage. Remembering where you come from, and how hard you’ve worked to get where you are are all integral parts of the concept of the American dream.

“For those reasons, no holiday could be more American in nature than Forefathers’ Day, a holiday that celebrates the first ever pilgrims courageously sailing across the vast ocean they knew very little about at the time, in search of a better life and freedom from religious prosecution.

“When they set foot on the shores of North America, they themselves were the beginning of a new country that would one day become a world superpower. Now that’s definitely an event worth celebrating.”

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. Today we are “gathered,” as The Exchange Church meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth. We will be singing a few Christmas songs, and Jacob will bring us a message, presumably about Christmas. I’m not actually sure, to be honest.

Yesterday was a good day. R came over and had lunch with us, and then set out to clean out the closet in her old bedroom. We carried out eight or ten bags of trash (mostly old school binders and stuff like that). She found a small crate of stuff that is mostly mine. As I perused the contents, I found a small cardboard tube that bore the name “Crazy Ikes.” I almost cried. Older “kids” might remember those. They are plastic toys that connect in different ways to make various shapes. They were some of my toys from my childhood. I had no idea that they were even in our house, and I’m not sure why they were. But it was very cool to stumble upon them. I just looked on Ebay, out of curiosity, and someone is selling the identical set for $34.95. Not a gold mine, to be sure, but I bet they didn’t cost that much in the late fifties/early sixties.

C wrapped most of our Christmas presents yesterday, as well. There is a stack that is still in my study, that are all for her. I’m going to try to get those wrapped today. She has offered to wrap them, too, if I can keep them in such a way that she can’t see what they are. To be honest, she wraps presents much better than I do. Haha.

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

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! 
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 96.2-4

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship the Lord with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. For the spirit of Christmas in our midst, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
3. That the Lord hears our prayers.
4. That the Lord wants us to pray about whatever matters to us, no matter how trivial we may believe it to be.
5. For the observance of The Supper, later this morning.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90.14
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;
Psalm 65.5
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
Psalm 91.5
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 
but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1.18-25
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! 
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! 
From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! 
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! 
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, 
who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 
to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. 
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 113

“Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming,
may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
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)

(From Faith That Matters)

Pray About What Matters to You, by Dallas Willard

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
Psalm 62.8

“Prayer is never just asking, nor is it merely a matter of asking for what I want. God is not a cosmic butler or fix-it man, and the aim of the universe is not to fulfill my desires and needs. On the other hand, I am to pray for what concerns me, and many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should only pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or not interest in or even knowledge of.”

This is true, probably, for most of us, at least sometimes. I struggle to pray for my own needs. I have been involved in intercessory prayer for so long that I hesitate to ask for things for myself. Every now and then, someone will respond to my question, “What can I pray for you today?” with, “What about you?” I’m almost paralyzed when they ask this! If I were having to answer in person, I would probably stutter like Mel Tillis.

Many of us also think that God isn’t concerned with little things in our lives. But I believe that what Dallas says is true. We need to pray for whatever it is that concerns us, from world-level issues such as climate change and world peace, down to whatever might be wrong with your pet gerbil. If it matters to you, pray about it! It doesn’t have to be a request, either. Prayer doesn’t have to be asking for something! It can be me simply talking with God, telling him what is on my mind. And sometimes, when I do that, it’s kind of like talking to a psychologist. Just the simple act of airing my thoughts to the Lord is helpful. And sometimes, while I am talking, the answer comes before I’m finished.

So pray about what matters. If it is a concern in your life, pray about it, no matter how silly or trivial you might think it is. God will listen. He promises.

Father, help me to be more honest and authentic in my prayers. Help me to be more comfortable praying for personal matters as well as the requests that other folks bring to me. And help me to remember to pray without ceasing.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1:2)

Grace and peace, friends.

Stop Condemning and Blaming

“When we condemn another we really communicate that he or she is, in some deep and just possibly irredeemable way, bad–bad as a whole, and to be rejected. In our eyes the condemned is among the discards of human life. He or she is not acceptable. We sentence that person to exclusion.”

Today is Thursday, December 19, in the third week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,561

SIX DAYS until Christmas!!

Today is Look For An Evergreen Day. “Every year one thing remains the same around the holidays, people everywhere have to decide at what point before the big day they’re going to go out and hunt down a Christmas tree· Look for an Evergreen Day is about the last opportunity you have if you haven’t already gotten yours to ensure you have a tree for the Holidays

“Even if you’ve already got your tree for this year, this is a great opportunity to go out and familiarize yourself with the other types of Evergreens in your neighborhood, and discover that these regal giants are around you all year round.”

We wound up not going to the dinner thing, last night. C was very tired, and S didn’t feel well. Or at least she said that. But C kind of talked her out of going, so we stayed home and ordered out Italian food for dinner. Not the healthiest of dinners.

Today is my Christmas lunch at work. We are also having a dessert contest, as well as our Secret Santa gift exchange. And C’s company is taking the leadership team out for dinner tonight.

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

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51.15

Today I am grateful:
1. For the music that helps us celebrate the season.
2. To work for a company that provides a little something extra for holidays.
3. The provision of “daily bread.”
4. That Jesus is teaching me how to live life without condemning and blaming.
5. That there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1).

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.

Psalm 86.1-2
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 90.1-2
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Psalm 85.9
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.

Mark 1.1-4
Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
…who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

Psalm 66.5, 7-9

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Imagine A World Without Condemnation, by Dallas Willard

Judge not, that you be not judged.
Matthew 7.1

“If we would really help those close to us and dear, and if we would learn to live together with our family and ‘neighbors’ in the power of the kingdom, we must abandon the deeply rooted human practice of condemning and blaming.” I can appreciate Dallas’s usage of the phrase “deeply rooted human practice.” If we are honest (and we frequently are not), we would acknowledge that this practice of condemning and blaming is, indeed, deeply rooted. What is our initial, knee-jerk reaction when something goes wrong? We immediately look for someone else to blame, someone at which to point the finger.

But Jesus is telling us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we can “become the kind of person who does not condemn or blame others. As we do so, the power of God’s kingdom will be more freely available to bless and guide those around us into his ways.”

What happens when we condemn someone? “When we condemn another we really communicate that he or she is, in some deep and just possibly irredeemable way, bad–bad as a whole, and to be rejected. In our eyes the condemned is among the discards of human life. He or she is not acceptable. We sentence that person to exclusion. Surely we can learn to live well and happily without doing that.”

Social media, today, is chock full of condemnation. The “conservatives” condemn the “liberals,” and vice versa, without even thinking about what they are doing. “If you don’t agree with the way I think, I condemn you.”

As the title of the reading suggests, can you even imagine a world where this kind of thinking is, at least, not the norm? I, for one, intend to do my part to make my little corner significantly less condemnatory. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 4.29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” That doesn’t appear to leave any room or excuse for condemning or blaming.

We are created in the image of God. Therefore, by what right do we condemn another image-bearer?

Father, thank you for this reminder, today. I’m pretty sure I was guilty of a fair bit of condemnation at work, yesterday. Please set my heart right so that I do not participate in that practice, but only allow things that are good for building up to come out of my mouth, that I might give grace to those who hear.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25

Grace and peace, friends.

Daily Bread

Today is Wednesday, December 18, 2019, in the third week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,560

SEVEN DAYS until Christmas!!

Today is International Migrants Day. “Migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.

“This new era has created challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world. It also has served to underscore the clear linkage between migration and development, as well as the opportunities it provides for co-development, that is, the concerted improvement of economic and social conditions at both origin and destination.”

C made fudge last night. I’ll be taking some to work tomorrow. As part of our Christmas lunch, we are having a Christmas dessert contest. I feel like this fudge should win something.

Tonight, we will be meeting up with some of S’s old classmates for dinner. Her old English teacher from Keller High School organizes one of these dinners several times a year. It’s really a cool thing. Tomorrow night, C has her company Christmas dinner. They usually take them to some ritzy steak place. You know the kind. Where the steaks cost $100 and you have more plate than food. So S and I will be on our own for dinner.

‘Tis the season, the busy, busy season. But it’s usually good times and fun, as well.

I think I have three more packages to pick up at the Amazon hub locker this evening.

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

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 145.22

Today I am grateful:
1. For the mercy of God, that reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36.5).
2. That, no matter how bad things might appear, there is a bigger picture, and the Lord has it firmly in hand.
3. That God still has a purpose for me.
4. That Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8).
5. That I am sheltered under the Lord’s wings (Psalm 91.4).

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

(Agnus Dei)
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 36.5
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Psalm 145.1
…but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19.25-27
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. 
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. 
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Daily Needs, Daily Requests, by Dallas Willard

Give us this day our daily bread…
Matthew 6.11

This verse is part of a prayer that I pray at least once a day. I believe that this little phrase speaks of more than just food, though. “Food, of course, is symbolically central,” says Willard, “but whatever else we really need to live in a functional manner is included in this request.” In 1 Timothy 6.8, Paul says, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” This seems to line up with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6.25-34, as well as with God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness.

“Of course this request embodies that confidence in our Father that relieves us from all anxiety. The emphasis is on provisions today of what we need for today. This is because God is always present today, no matter which day it is.”

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another… Ten-thirty–and every other moment from the beginning of the world–is always present for Him.”

This, of course, is a concept that we struggle with comprehending. But the reign of God is “the Eternal Now. So we do not ask him to provide today what we will need for tomorrow. Today I have God, and he has the provisions. Tomorrow it will be the same. So I simply ask today for what I need for today or ask now for what I need now.”

May we be confident that the Lord will meet our needs for today.

Father, I thank you for the promises that you will provide for us what we need. May I not get greedy and ask for more than I need today. May I not worry about tomorrow, because you are already there and already have things well in hand.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Grace and peace, friends.

Pitiful

Today is Thursday, December 12, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,554

13 days until Christmas!!

Second week of Advent!

No real news this morning. We got some more of our Christmas shopping done, last night, and several packages are ready to pick up at a couple of different Amazon lockers. Different because one of them was full when I placed some more orders. Fortunately, they are across the street from each other.

Today is Poinsettia Day. “Poinsettia Day, a day to celebrate the ever popular red flower used around the Christmas holiday season. When looking at a Poinsettia, all we can think of is “The Poinsettia is to Christmas like a pumpkin is to Halloween” But where is the Poinsettia from, and how did it become a Christmas staple? That’s why we’re here to find out what Poinsettia Day is all about!” Click the link to learn more about the origins of the Poinsettia.

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

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
Psalm 96.9

Today I am grateful:
1. For food, shelter, and clothing, things we so often take for granted.
2. For transportation to drive to work.
3. That we both have jobs to drive to.
4. For the mercy and compassion (pity) that the Lord shows us.
5. For the admonishment to show that same compassion toward others.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67.1
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119.164
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Psalm 25.21
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 
and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 
He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, 
was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 
But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 
So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Luke 20.1-8
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. 
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 37.1-7
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

(Agnus Dei)

“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 forever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Lord, Forgive Me, by Dallas Willard

And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
1 Kings 8.30

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103.10-14

This is the “wonderful, healing nature of the kingdom among us.” Take a moment to read that passage from Psalm 103, really read it. Let it sink in, digest it. Meditate on it.

We might replace the words “shows compassion” with “pities.” Let us not mistake this “pity” with the idea of feeling sorry for someone. That is not what it means in this context. That’s why the ESV renders it “shows compassion.” In fact, the dictionary defines it as “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.”

“Once we step into this kingdom and trust it,” writes Willard, “pity becomes the atmosphere in which we live. Of course it is his pity for us that allows us in to start with, and then it patiently bears with us.” James 5.11 tells us, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

But then, 1 Peter 3.8 tells us, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” The King James Version renders that verse like this: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” (Emphasis mine) In this case, “pitiful” means full of pity.

So we are to share the same pity (compassion) for others that the Lord has shown us. “It is not psychologically possible for us really to know God’s pity for us and at the same time to be hardhearted toward others. So we are ‘forgiving of others in the same manner as God forgives us.’ That is a part of our prayer.”

Father, today, I am grateful for the pity/compassion that you have shown me. Help me to show the same pity on others today as I go through my day. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Love Your Enemies” Is Not A Suggestion

Today is Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,538

Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow!!

Of course that also means that, even though today is Tuesday, it’s also “hump day” for this work week!

Today is Cake Day. Cake is delicious. So is pie. So are cookies. Sadly, I’m not supposed to be indulging in any of those. But it’s Thanksgiving in two days, so you can bet I’ll have at least a little bit of whatever is available. We’ll have Rum Cake, chocolate pie, sopapilla cheesecake, Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie (my favorite!!), and who knows what else! Sometimes, our son-in-law makes a peanut butter pie.

No real other news, except to say that today is “Friday” for C, because she is taking tomorrow off.

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

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! 
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

Psalm 47.5-8

Today I am grateful:
1. For the love in this house.
2. For opportunities to sing praises to God.
3. That the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry (Psalm 34.15).
4. That I will never outgrow my need to depend on God.
5. That God has given me everything I need (2 Peter 1.3).

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
Psalm 70.4
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 50.2
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Psalm 14.1
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17.5-6
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Psalm 34.15-20

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
(The Gloria)

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.

“Almighty and everlasting god, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

(From Faith That Matters)

How Are You at Enemy-Love? by Dallas Willard

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12.21

Sadly, there is a prevalent attitude in today’s culture that the way to fight hatred is with more hatred. And that has, even more tragically, crept into the mindset of some who consider themselves to be “Christian.” I see some of the most hateful posts on Facebook, coming from “Christians,” and it hurts my soul.

“There is a standard list of ‘enemies’ in the daily news,” says Willard, “which in fact hardly scratches the surface of the reality of standing hatreds that define people as enemies over against one another in this world. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to carry that love through with the highest act of love, prayer.”

Loving the people who love us and caring for those who are part of our own group is something that “traitorous oppressors, the Mafia, and terrorists do.” It would be sad to think that the Church is no different from those groups. “Even those who have no knowledge of God” tend to love their own.

“But, Jesus says to his disciples, because you are living from God as citizens of the kingdom, have the kind of wholeness, of full functionality that he has.”

I’m sure it would do us all well to check the pulse of our “enemy-love” today.

Father, thank you for these encouraging, yet admonishing words. Help us to love those who might persecute us. Help us to further love them by praying for them, by blessing them, by doing good for them and wishing good for them. Help us to love our “enemies.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.