Stop. Think (and Pray). Dismiss.

It’s . . . (what day is this??) Wednesday, that’s it! Wednesday, the 16th of November, 2022, in the 33rd week of Ordinary Time.

In case you don’t get the “Ordinary Time” reference, it’s a Church calendar thing. The season of Advent will be upon us soon, beginning November 27th, four Sundays before Christmas, which happens to fall on Sunday, this year.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today!

Day 23,624 (the number of days since I was born)


My soul clings to the dust; 
give me life according to your word! 
(Psalms 119:25 ESV)

Lord our God, we come to you in community of faith and trust, in expectation that you will act. May our hearts be strengthened in all the pain and in all the conflicts of our world. Reveal your will, Almighty God, and protect those you have appointed as our leaders and rulers. Let your will be made plain to them. O Lord God, help your people in these times and give them strength to wait expectantly for what is good, to live and serve in this expectation. Grant your help to all who strive for this. We can all tell of the help that comes from you, for you always support us with your power, also in hard times. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. 
Hebrews 11:1, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that my first vein treatment went smoothly, no complications, and very little pain; hoping the rest go that well
  2. for the community of saints, of faith and trust in the Lord, expecting Him to act
  3. that, with every temptation that comes our way, God provides us a way out, a way of escape
  4. for the illuminating quality of love
  5. that we, as human beings, can control what we allow our minds to dwell on

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
(James 4:11-12 ESV)

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
(2 Samuel 11:1-5 NIV)

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

"This, then, is how you should pray: 

"'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'"
(Matthew 6:5-13 NIV)

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
(James 1:13-14 NIV)

"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? 
My hope is in you. 
Deliver me from all my transgressions."
(Psalms 39:7-8 NRSV)

Judgment. It’s not one of the “seven deadlies,” but it definitely spawns from at least one of them.

Just for review, what are those seven “vices,” as I like to refer to them? I didn’t come up with that, myself. It comes from a very good book I once read about the “seven deadly sins,” called Glittering Vices.

  1. Envy
  2. Vainglory (pride)
  3. Sloth
  4. Avarice (greed)
  5. Anger
  6. Gluttony
  7. Lust

Under which one of those would judgment fall? Could it be all of them, perhaps? I just now thought of that.

Judgment could definitely be caused by envy. Perhaps you are envious of the position or popularity of another individual. This could cause a reaction of publicly judging them, pretending to disapprove of their popularity.

The probable main vice that judgment would spring from, though, in my opinion, is pride. I think I’m a better Christian than that person who does or thinks differently than I. Therefore, I judge them.

Judgment is also (or can be, at least) lazy. Someone acts in a certain way, and our immediate response is judgment, without bothering to do the work to find out what is behind the action. Our society is really bad about this, these days. We can’t be bothered to find out the truth, so we make snap judgments.

Greed can spawn judgment, just like envy. Envy and greed are closely related. I want everything. I want it all. Someone I know of has more than me, so I am judgmental.

I am angry about the way someone votes or believes, so I judge them.

I feel guilt over my own gluttony, so when I see someone else grabbing for everything they can get, I judge them.

As for lust, well, another reason we judge people is to make ourselves feel better about our own sins. I’m lustful, but maybe I’m not as lustful as that guy over there. Remember the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank God I’m not like that tax collector?”

So, yeah. Being judgmental could easily spring from any of the seven deadly vices.

And, in the bigger picture, it really doesn’t matter which one it is coming from. What matters is that we fall prey to it. And we direct it toward our own brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember the words of brother James, concerning the tongue.

With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
(James 3:9-10 NRSV)

And while we are remembering words, perhaps more importantly, we should remember the words of our Savior.

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 NRSV)

Then, just a few verses later, He said,

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
(Matthew 7:12 NRSV)

Judgment. Plain and simply, we are told not to do it. Period.

We make excuses as to why it’s okay. But it’s not okay.

I am guilty of it, almost every day. It’s like I can’t help myself, sometimes. I fall into the trap. I feel like quoting Paul.

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:24 NRSV)

Who? I’ll tell you who! In fact, Paul tells us who in 1 Corinthians 10:13, quoted above. God, that’s who! Judging is a temptation. It’s one of those that is quick and almost silent when it comes. We see or hear something, and the judgment pops into our brain, and before we can stop it, it’s out our mouths.

But James says this ought not to be so! And Paul says that God provides a way of escape for any temptation.

I also love what Dallas Willard says about this, in regard to our minds. He says that we, as human beings, have the unique quality of being able to control what our minds dwell on. And he is dead on about that.

We play victim, too often. The thought pops into my brain, and I let it out through my mouth, like I had no choice. But I always have a choice. Always. There is always a way of escape.

Who doesn’t remember what they always taught us to do if we find ourselves on fire?

  1. Stop
  2. Drop
  3. Roll

Fortunately, I’ve never been on fire, because I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to do that. It would probably look more like this.

  1. Scream
  2. Run
  3. Scream and run

Maybe when that judgmental thought (especially in regard to a brother or sister saint) should evoke a similar response.

  1. Stop
  2. Think (and pray)
  3. Dismiss the thought

I’m aware that this looks easier than it is. I know, from experience, how quickly it happens. And how it feels, usually, afterward. Feelings of regret after opening my big mouth (actually my mouth is rather small) are not pleasant at all.

My beloved, we are supposed to love one another. Go back up and read that quote from Bonhoeffer again. Love is illuminating. Judgment is blinding. Let us love, that we might see. Let us love one another that we might be unified in the Name of Christ, that the world might see the beauty of following Christ. What example are we showing the world by our constant judging and backstabbing? What example are we displaying when we don’t treat others the way we would like to be treated?

Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Father, have mercy!

Teach us to love, rather than judge. Tame our tongues, Father! Let not blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth! Help us to love one another the way Christ has loved us. Help us to follow that “golden rule,” and treat others the way we would like to be treated.

I pray that Your Spirit would dwell within me, filling me, so that, when thought of judgment come into my mind, I would be quick to stop, think and pray, and then dismiss the thought before it can do any harm.

Perhaps a thought that we need to espouse is the idea of “harm no one.” Maybe if we thought that more often, we would not harm anyone with either words or deeds. And maybe we could even get to where we don’t even have judgmental thoughts. That’s harder, I think. But possible.

To work toward that, Father, I pray that You help me exercise that control that I can have over what I let my mind dwell on. And when I see that person with whom I disagree, help me to feel love, not judgment, especially if he or she is a brother or sister in Christ.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us;
Christ, have mercy on us;
Lord, have mercy on us.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Way of Love

Today is Thursday (pre-Friday), the twenty-fourth of June, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,114

Ten more days until July 4th!

How is your summer going? Do you like summer? I, personally, do not. But my opinion of summer is pretty irrelevant, isn’t it? It’s not like it’s going to go away just because I don’t like it. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and October my favorite month.

The announcement came yesterday, via a mid-afternoon email, that masks are no longer required at our work facility. I immediately took mine off, as did many others. Some kept theirs on. I don’t question that decision. In fact, I honor that decision. The company is following recent CDC guidelines concerning masks and fully-vaccinated people. However, the company is leaving the decision up to individuals and allowing us to make those decisions on an honor system. In other words, no one will be required to provide proof of vaccination.

Shaming others for their decision to wear/not wear a mask is strictly forbidden.

The Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-3, last night. They have won two out of three, so far, in a four-game series that concludes this afternoon. I just warned C that there is an afternoon game. She works practically right across the street from Globe Life Field.

The Rangers, sadly, are firmly entrenched in last place, 19 games out of first and 9 games behind the fourth place team.


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. 
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)

Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
(Psalms 32:10-11 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your unfailing love that surrounds us; help me to rejoice in You today, and to be glad
2. for all of you out there, the community of saints
3. that You are constantly turning my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29)
4. that most of what You do is love us; help me to imitate You
5. for the power of Your awesome works and great deeds

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



“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

As I pause to reflect, this morning, I enjoy the truth that God has, many times, over, indeed turned my darkness into light. If you are experiencing darkness in your life, this morning, try to allow Him to turn it into light; scale that wall!


A psalm of praise. Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
(Psalms 145:1-7 NIV)


So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
(Ephesians 4:17 NIV)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:25-32 NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)


As I rest in God’s holy presence, this morning, I linger over these passages. What stirs my soul? Where is the Holy Spirit leading me?

The psalm passage is purely praise, and they all are from this point on. The last five psalms are nothing but praise and worship, a fitting end to the “prayer book of the Bible,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it.

Verse 4 is stirring. “One generation commends your works to another.” I have experienced this, as I have sat in a room full of people of multiple generations, from children to people older than I, and we have together celebrated the mighty works of God in our midst. One of my favorite times of year has always been when the youth come back from camp and tell their stories to the grownups. Always so inspiring.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians continues to encourage us in one direction. Ultimately, that direction is to love one another. I land in that place a lot, in this blog. I wonder why.

That was kind of sarcasm, that last statement.

Today’s reading, split into several pieces, begins by admonishing us to not live “as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” “Gentiles,” in our culture, would simply refer to those who do not believe in Jesus. Their thinking is futile, their lives, to a great degree, meaningless.

Verse 25 begins a list of things to do and not do. Put of falsehood and speak truthfully; don’t let the sun set on your anger; don’t give the devil a foothold; don’t steal, but work for your living (note the reason for working . . . not to provide for your family, but so you can “have something to share with those in need”); no unwholesome talk out of your mouth, but only speak that which is “helpful for building others up;” do not grieve the Holy Spirit; get rid of malice, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander; be kind and compassionate to one another.

This is all summed up in the first two verses of chapter 5.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)

I like Eugene Peterson’s rendering of these verses.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)

“Love like that.”

Father, help us all to love like that. Start with me. Today. Now. As I walk into this day, of which I am laying the foundation right now, let me love like Jesus loved. That has been my central theme for a long time, now. Help me to watch what You do and then do it. And since mostly what You do is love us, let me imitate that.

Word of Life,
I love the everydayness of this gospel life,
that honest speech is included in holy living.
How necessary it is in this age of spin and hype,
where falsehood spreads with viral intensity.
Teach me to speak as Jesus lived,
full of grace and truth.
Guide all my words--
spoken or written--
by your love and the needs of others.
In Christ's name,
(Heidelberg Catechism 112)


With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.
(John 15:12 MSG)

I’m not making this stuff up, y’all. See? It’s coming at us from multiple sources. This is from today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2021.

Again, Father, please help us to love like Jesus loved. Help me to walk in the way of love.

Father, give us spiritual renewal today. Grant us deep repentance, and help us to accomplish racial reconciliation.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Joy of Knowing God

Good morning. Friday has finally arrived. And this is a long weekend! Today is Friday, August 31, 2012. Today is “Eat Outside Day.” Okay…does that mean “take your meal outside and eat it day,” or “go outside and eat whatever’s there day?” I think I would go for the former, because you never know what’s out there.

On this date in 1955, William Cobb demonstrated the first solar powered car. I see how well that caught on.
On this date in 1888, Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim, a prostitute named Mary Ann Nichols. He was never caught.
On this date in 1949, the American Gigolo, Richard Gere, was born.
On this date in 1928, The Threepenny Opera premiered in Berlin. It was composed by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. I love Threepenny! Here is a clip of Raul Julia and Bill Nighy performing “The Army Song” in a movie that I didn’t even know existed!

On this date in 1959, Sandy Koufax struck out 18 batters in a single game, setting a National League record.

All that happened in Christi’s doctor appointment yesterday was a referral to an orthopedist. So we had to pay for a doctor’s visit for that? Nothing else much happened yesterday, at least that was worth talking about. The work day was a bit stressful, but I think I handled it okay. Today should be interesting. The manager is taking a vacation day (so as to have an extra long weekend), and my direct supervisor won’t be in, as he is working tomorrow (Saturday) to cover our holiday Saturday deliveries. I’ll be by myself, pretty much. It’s not the first time…things should be fine. Oh, and there’s no work Monday.

Father, I pray that you show me a glimpse of yourself this morning, and fill me with your Spirit as I look into your Word today.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 92. Again, there is no composer listed; it is simply called “A song for the Sabbath.” It is, indeed, “good to give thanks to the LORD.”
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.
How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!

As I continue to read Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I stumbled across this line in the chapter on service. “Is it not better to serve our neighbor than to get our own way?” (p. 96 of the version I’m reading) That little sentence shouts volumes across the centuries. In fact, I’m thinking that the entire book could be summarized by that one line. “Life together” works best if one adopts that philosophy. It is better to serve my neighbor, to serve my brother or sister, than to get my own way. May we all remember this, and may we all pray for the Spirit of God to infuse that attitude into our spirits!

My Utmost For His Highest
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

Oswald Chambers says, “It is an insult to use the word happiness in connection with Jesus Christ.” Jesus never spoke of “happiness.” While I realize that the TEV translation (Today’s English Version) of the Bible uses the word “happy” in the Beatitudes, that is quite an oversimplification. One must remember that the TEV has a vocabulary of only about 5000 words. It was translated with the idea of being understood by someone whose first language was not English. Here, Jesus speaks of “joy,” both his joy and our joy. We must never confuse “joy” with “happiness.” “The joy of Jesus was absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.” Jesus prayed that our joy would be the same as his joy.

What should bring me joy in my life? It is not physical health (important as that may be, and I’m certainly still working on improving that). It is not in “external happenings.” In fact, the most joy should not even come from seeing God’s work succeed, according to Chambers. Rather, the “full flood of my life is…in the perfect understanding of God, and in the communion with Him that Jesus Himself had.” That is the goal of my life. It is the sussing out of external circumstances that will hinder this joy. The cares of the world choke out God’s word.

Again, Chambers speaks of being “rightly related to God.” “Be rightly related to God, find your joy there, and out of you will flow rivers of living water.” That sounds familiar…just yesterday, right? Chambers cuts to the chase: “Stop being self-conscious, stop being a sanctified prig, and live the life hid with Christ. The life that is rightly related to God is as natural as breathing wherever it goes.” (Emphasis mine) Think about it…”The lives that have been of most blessing to you are those who were unconscious of it.”

We must find our joy in our relationship with God in Christ, and in no other place. If I can manage that, then those “rivers of living water” will begin to pour through me, and then out of me onto anyone who gets around me. Isn’t that the kind of joy that all of us should desire?

Father, I pray for this kind of joy; the joy that finds itself simply in the relationship with you, for that is the single most important thing in my life. My health and weight are not important (not ultimately…it is true that my quality of physical life has improved as I have been more active and lost weight, and I intend to continue to do so); my “happiness” is truly not important. It is joy that is of utmost importance, and that joy being the joy that comes from knowing you. I pray that I would be “rightly related” to you, so that rivers of living water would flow out of me. May I be a channel of that living water, Father! Make me a blessing! Make this joy as natural as breathing to me. But, here’s the catch. I also pray that I would unconscious of being a blessing to people. Sure, it’s nice to hear it…I won’t deny that I enjoy comments on this blog that tell me that I have blessed someone. But I don’t want to walk around thinking, “Watch out, I’m about to BLESS YOU!!” No. This is why I pray for the characteristics of the Beatitudes to be manifest in my life every day. Meekness, poor in spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness. I pray for all of these in my life every day. Keep me humble, Father. In this joy, may I also find humility. Give me perfect understanding of you and communion with Jesus Christ.

I also pray for the attitude described by Bonhoeffer…let me be more desirous to serve my neighbor than to have my own way. My way is not important. It is your desires that should be the desires of my heart, and you commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we should, even more so, love each other as Christ has loved us. This requires me to set aside my own way. So my goals for this day are that I would find joy in being rightly related to you, and that I would make service to others a priority.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for relief for Christi, that she might not continue experiencing this pain. I pray that her work day will be stress free and smooth. I pray that my work day will be smooth, as well, especially as there is potential for carry over from yesterday’s issues. If issues arise, may I look to you to keep me calm. May I not allow my external circumstances to cast a shadow on my joy. I also pray for Stephanie on this day, that she would have a good day and that her thoughts would be drawn to you. I thank you for her sweetness to her mother yesterday evening that helped draw Christi out of a funk.

Look for that joy today…the joy that comes from knowing God.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Come To Me”

It’s Sunday morning, August 19, 2012! That means that Stephanie is 19 today!! Happy birthday to our girl! It is also the birthday of our son-in-law, Justin. How weird is that? Happy birthday to Justin, too!

Today is “National Potato Day.” I love me some potatoes! Just about any way I can get them. Except “sweet.” Don’t like sweet potatoes. Except in a pie…but I’d rather have pumpkin pie.

On this date in 1909, the first race was held at the Indianapolis Speedway. (Pay attention Stephanie…all of this stuff happened on YOUR birthday!) Louis Schwitzer won that race. (Not to be confused with Nick Swisher.) On this date in 1964, The Beatles kicked off their first U.S. tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. On this date in 1946, Bill Clinton was born. On a not so good note, on this date in 1934, Adolf Hitler became president of Germany.

Also born on this date are Ben Carr (Family Pastor at The Exchange), Orville Wright, Coco Chanel, John Stamos (Stephanie did you know you shared a birthday with HIM??), Matthew Perry, Ginger Baker (drummer for the rock group Cream), Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), and Kyra Sedgwick (we already miss you, Brenda Lee!!).

We had a really good day yesterday. Transporting Grandmother and Don from west Fort Worth to our house went very well. Lunch was good, and we got to visit with the owners of Fogata’s for a few minutes. You see, we haven’t seen them since January, and it was good to visit with them to explain that they didn’t do anything to make us mad. They were thrilled to see our weight loss progress and encouraged us to stay with it. Then they gave us free dessert for Stephanie’s birthday. They do this thing with sopapillas…I’ll just show you.

Of course, we shared that six ways, so it wasn’t too bad for us. Afterward, we came home and had strawberry cake that Stephanie and Christi made together. It was quite good. Today, in about an hour, we head to Mineral Wells, for lunch with my parents (aka Grandma and Grandpa), and the cookie cake that we will take with us. We won’t be losing any weight this weekend. :p

Father, I pray that you would reveal something new to me this morning, or refresh something old. Give me a glimpse of you as I look into your Word today.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 80. Another psalm from Asaph, this one is a prayer for restoration.
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!
(3, 7, 19)

Verses 17 and 18 seem to be speaking of the Davidic king, and, ultimately, the Messiah.
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!

My Utmost For His Highest
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

God’s desire for us is that we live a life that is fully immersed in Jesus Christ. However, there are times, when we are attacked from the outside, that we fall into a sort of introspective mode, and become self-conscious. “Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling.” It is not a sin. There are are multiple circumstances that may produce self-consciousness. “It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him.” Anything that disturbs this “rest in Him,” must be dealt with immediately. It is not a case of “ignore it and it will go away,” (not a quote from Chambers), but must be dealt with by coming directly to Jesus Christ. “If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him.”

I must beware of anything that threatens to divide my life in Christ, no matter what it is. “The great solution is the simple one–‘Come unto me.'” The verse above provides the simplest of answers, “Come to me.” The answer to every problem we have is, ultimately, “Come to me.” Yes, that sounds overly simplistic. But, “The depth of our reality, intellectually, morally and spiritually, is tested by these words.” Will I argue, rather than come? To the degree that I am not “real,” I will dispute.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer speaks against the idea of reading bits and pieces of Scripture in the corporate setting. He is a supporter of the idea of lectio continua, or “consecutive reading.” “The Holy Scriptures do not consist of individual sayings, but are a whole and can be used most effectively as such. The Scriptures are God’s revealed Word as a whole.” (p. 60) His response to the objection that people can’t retain and comprehend large portions of Scripture readings in one sitting is this: “If it is really true that it is hard for us, as adult Christians, to comprehend a chapter of the Old Testament in its context, then that can only fill us with profound shame.” (ibid) He states that, if this is the case, we must admit that the Bible is mostly unknown to us. And I believe this to be true in the modern church. I believe with all my heart that, if we were to take a poll of Biblical knowledge among churchgoers today, the result would be dismaying. “Mature Christians keep on learning it and learn it better and better; and as they read and hear it on their own, they will never finish this learning.” (p. 61) I know this to be true from personal experience. The Bible is a living book…I learn more from it every time I read it (if I’m truly reading with any comprehension, that is). In his argument against reading single verses out of context, he says this: “The Scripture is a complex unity, and every word, every sentence, contains such a diversity of relationships to the whole that it is impossible always to keep track of the whole when listening to an individual portion of it. Therefore, it appears that the whole of Scripture as well as every passage in it far surpasses our understanding.” (ibid)

On the subject of consecutive reading, he says, “For those who want to hear, reading the biblical books in a sequential order forces them to go, and to allow themselves to be found, where God has acted once and for all the salvation of human beings. The historical books of the Holy Scriptures come alive for us in a whole new way precisely when they are read during worship services. We receive a part of that which once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we too pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie, but holy, divine reality. We are uprooted from our own existence and are taken back to the holy history of God on earth. There God has dealt with us, and there God still deals with us today, with our needs and our sins, by means of the divine wrath and grace. What is important is not that God is a spectator and participant in our life today, but that we are attentive listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the story of Christ on earth.” (p. 62)

Father, while I certainly believe that it is most definitely important that you be a participator in my life, I also believe that it is more important that I be a participator in what you are doing, which is truly, “the sacred story.” May I be an attentive listener to all that you would say to me. I am inspired, my conscience is pricked by what Bonhoeffer has written. I will purpose to read more complete portions of Scripture in my devotional times. I cannot do anything about the lack of Scripture reading in worship (other than pray that you would inspire our pastors to include more reading of Scripture), but I can do something about what I read on my own. Show me yourself as I read. Show me, through your Word, through the history, the great salvation that you have worked for us! I will listen! I will participate!

And when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. Wow…I don’t know where that came from. Well, maybe I do. As soon as I typed “And when,” those words immediately came to my mind, and I have to assume that the Spirit put them there. (I know…it’s a worship song from, like, the eighties or something.) But that is the main theme of my devotion today, as I see the answer to all things being the words of Jesus when he says “Come to me.” When circumstances threaten to divide my life, to divide my unity with Jesus, that is what I must do, come to him. Too often, I panic. Or I spend hours meandering around, looking for some answer in the wrong places. Whatever is going on in my life, I will bring it to Jesus. As the old hymn says, “Tell it to Jesus alone.” Too simple for some, I’m guessing. But, Father, I’m a big fan of simple. And I believe that we have been guilty of complicating your grace much more than necessary. May we, your people, find a way back to the simple grace that you have provided on our behalf. May we truly come to you when we are overwhelmed. May we learn to abide in you.

I pray for this day. Give us safe travel to Mineral Wells, now, and a good time of fellowship with my parents as we celebrate Stephanie’s birthday some more. I pray that she have a wonderful day today. And I pray that you show her how much you love her today.

Your grace is sufficient. May it overflow in our lives.

Whatever is distracting you or afflicting you today, come to Jesus.

Grace and peace, friends.

Born Again

It’s only Wednesday? Yeah. Today is Wednesday, August 15, 2012. Today is “National Relaxation Day.” Hmph. That’s not really fair, is it? I can’t “relax” today, I have to work. It’s also “National Failures Day.” I don’t really want to take part in that, do I? I guess I’ll be a failure at relaxing, today.

On this date in 1969, Woodstock began. Do I really need to say anything else? But you know I will. 🙂 Almost half a million people converged on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York (actually about 50 miles from Woodstock) for “three days of peace and music.” I remember it, even though I was not there (only 11 at the time). It’s one of those events that had a lasting impact on our world.

On this date in 1057, Malcolm Canmore killed King Macbeth of Scotland. On this date in 1914, the Panama Canal opened for traffic. On this date in 1979, the movie Apocalypse Now was released. This is the only thing I remember from that movie.

And on this date in 1859, Charles Comiskey was born. Comiskey eventually became the first and only player to eventually own his own team. The Chicago White Sox (which I usually refer to as the “Other” Sox) played in Comiskey Park until 1990 when it was replaced by U.S. Cellular Field.

It’s only four more days until Stephanie turns 19. She is very excited about this event. There will be two separate celebrations, one on Saturday, and one on Sunday, due to distances between relatives and difficulties traveling. We will gather with Christi’s side of the family on Saturday, probably at Stephanie’s favorite restaurant, Fogata’s. On Sunday, we will travel to Mineral Wells (possibly in time for church) and spend the afternoon with my parents. Good times.

Father, I pray for a glimpse of your glory this morning. Hide me in the cleft of the rock, like Moses, and pass in front of me while I read your words this morning.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 76. Written by Asaph, this is a psalm that asks the question, “Who can stand before you?”
In Judah, God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.

Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains of prey.
The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war were unable to use their hands.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned.

But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?
From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.

Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared,
who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

Indeed, who can stand before the Lord, our God?

My Utmost For His Highest
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:7

Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” The answer is, ‘When he is old enough to die – to die right out to his ‘rag rights,’ to his virtues, to everything, and to receive into himself the life which never was there before.”

What knowledge do I have of Jesus? Is it that which comes from an “internal spiritual perception,” or is it only things which I have learned from others by either listening or reading? Is there something in my life that connects me with Jesus?

Can I truly see the reign of God in my life now? If I do truly possess this new birth, I can discern God’s rule. It was, of course, always there, but do I truly see it now?

Here’s a sobering question. “Do I seek to stop sinning or have I stopped sinning?” We know that, because of the flesh, we will commit sin. But, it is also true that, because of the Spirit, we have “the supernatural power of God to stop sinning.” There is a fine line here, which is frequently confused by people. I will still commit sins in my life. But have I “stopped sinning.” Or as one brother that I know puts it, do I “struggle well” with my sin, or do I embrace it? 1 John 3:9 says, No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. This does not mean “that we cannot sin; it means that if we obey the life of God in us, we need not sin.” The key phrase in the verse is “makes a practice of sinning.” If I am “born of God,” it will be impossible for me to “keep on sinning.”

“To be born again means that I see Jesus.” I don’t just read about him. I don’t just hear about him. In my heart, in my spirit, in my life, I see him.

Today, I can truly say that I have “stopped sinning.” Don’t misunderstand that. I still commit sins. But I have stopped making it a practice. I have ceased to embrace that which I should have been struggling with. Believe me, it is still a struggle. It will be a struggle until I shed this mortal coil. But I am struggling, not giving in. I believe that I can truthfully say that, yes, I see Jesus. I am born again.

As I continue to read Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I have moved into the portion where he describes what “the day together” looks like. He places great emphasis on early morning worship. Would that I lived in a culture where it was possible to have a morning worship time with the community every day! Here’s a quote from page 49 of the edition I’m reading.

If we were to learn again something of the praise and adoration that is due the triune God early in the morning, then we would also begin to sense something of the joy that comes when night is past and those who dwell with one another come together early in the morning to praise their God and hear the Word and pray together. We would learn again of God the Father and Creator who has preserved our life through the dark night and awakened us to a new day; God the Son and Savior of the World, who vanquished death and hell for us, and dwells in our midst as Victor; God the Holy Spirit who pours the bright light of God’s Word into our hearts early in the morning, driving away all darkness and sin and teaching us to pray the right way.

This explains a lot about why I do what I do, and the time that I do it. If I don’t get straight up and begin this devotion, the day just feels wrong to me. Part of that, of course, is habit, but part of it, I believe can be seen in this explanation by Bonhoeffer. As he proceeds in this chapter, he gives verse after verse that speak of early morning devotion to the Lord. That doesn’t make it “law.” There is no law that says that you must get up and have a morning devotion. But there is something to waking up from the darkness and seeing the Light.

Father, I thank you that you wake me up early in the morning so that I may get a glimpse of your Light. I praise you that you are Father and Creator who has preserved my life through the dark night. I thank you that you are Son and Savior of the world, who has vanquished death and hell. I thank you that you pour the bright light of your Word into my heart. Words cannot convey my gratitude for what you are doing in my life right now, my God.

I praise you that you have given me the strength to struggle with my sin. In years past, there were times when I failed to struggle. I probably would not have admitted that at the time, but, looking back, I can see that is true. In this past year, you have brought me far, and I am so very grateful for this. As you lead me further down this path, I pray for continued strength to be faithful to you and to your desires for me. I pray that the desires of my heart will reflect your desires. I pray that the times when I commit sin will be fewer and farther between. I thank you that I can say that I have stopped making a practice of sin. That sounds so arrogant, Lord, but when the root of it is examined, it has nothing to do with me, at all. It has everything to do with you and what you have accomplished in the frailty of this flesh!

I also give you praise that I believe that I can truthfully say that I see you, Jesus, in my life; that I can see you because of what you are doing in my life, not just because I’ve read about you or heard about you. I pray that your presence in my life will increase. Okay…maybe not your “presence,” but your influence. That’s it. May your influence over my life spread farther and become stronger.

I pray for this day. As Christi and I go through our work day, I pray that you give us strength and grace for the day at hand. I continue to pray for Christi to be relieved of pain in her body. I think it may have been better yesterday. I pray that our day will have minimal stress in it, and that our jobs will go smoothly today. Keep me coming back to you during this work day. I pray that you will show yourself to Stephanie somehow during this day. May your grace overflow in her life.

Now, I pray, give me clarity and focus for my further prayers.

“To be born again means that I see Jesus.” Do you see Jesus today?

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Look For Elijah

It is Saturday, August 11, 2012. It is, in fact, almost 2pm. Why so late today? We started doing setup again this morning, and I elected to get up later, do setup, grocery shopping, then have lunch before coming back here to do my devotional. Also stayed up too late last night. So here I am.

Today is “Play in the Sand Day.” I would, but I can’t find any. I’ll let the beach volleyball contestants do that for me. Oh, wait…they’re finished, aren’t they? Oh, well.

On this date in 1934, the first group of civilian prisoners landed at Alcatraz. It had previously been a military prison. On this date in 1984, President Reagan made a joke, during a mic check, stating that Russian had been outlawed, and the bombing would begin in 5 minutes. Therefore, today is also known as “Presidential Joke Day.” And it was on this fateful day in 1994 that Major League Baseball players walked off the job, creating the biggest stoppage in major league history. The strike resulted in the cancellation of the World Series (first time ever), and did not end until the day before the season was to start in 1995. I, personally, did not pay to see a baseball game for at least 5 years after that. The strike cost MLB an estimated 580 million dollars in revenue, and cost the players 230 million in salaries. Broadcaster Tony Kubek, who was one of the broadcasters on duty in the famous game six of the 1975 World Series, was calling games for the Evil Empire at the time. He wrote a letter to then acting commissioner Bud Selig (who, in my opinion, is still “acting” like a commissioner) “detailing the many ways in which he believed the sport had lost its way, and offered solutions for how he thought those critical problems could be addressed. Selig never answered him.” (Game Six, by Mark Frost, p. 372) Says Frost about Kubek, “Kubek resigned from the Yankees that winter and never called another baseball game; he’s never even watched one since, so distraught is he at what has happened to the game he loved…” (ibid) And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Our setup was nearly a disaster this morning. There were five people there. Five. I thank God that we didn’t have to unload the trailer, as we might still be there. Three of us set up the stage and sound, while the other two worked on the floor, setting up chairs and curtains, and helped a little with carrying stuff up on the stage, as well. Miraculously, we got it done in a little over two hours. It was difficult to maintain a joyful attitude during those two hours, let me tell you. But, because we do this for Jesus and not for any men or even the approval of men, we persevered and got it done. Also because we’re stubborn and don’t give up.

Later today, Justin and Rachel are coming over so we can celebrate Justin’s and Stephanie’s birthday, which is next Sunday. J & R will be out of town next weekend, so we’re celebrating with them this evening. We’ll go out to eat somewhere. Not sure where, yet.

Tomorrow, we have our worship celebration (Christi and I do not work this week), followed immediately by a birthday party for one of Stephanie’s friends at the local Brunswick bowling alley. Good times!

Father, as I take time, now, to read your words, I pray that you show me something of yourself that will inspire me further in my walk with you.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 72. This psalm is reported to have been written by Solomon. Or is it? I’m confused. The note in the Reformation Study Bible seems to indicate that the title, “Of Solomon,” might mean that it is simply about him, not written by him. At any rate, the psalm asks for righteousness and justice for the king as he deals with his people.
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!

There was a lot of pressure on the king!

The psalm closes with a “doxology” in verses 18-19.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

As I ponder this psalm, it appears to be appropriate to pray for the leaders of our own country. I must confess that I have gotten a little lax in my obedience of that responsibility.

My Utmost For His Highest
And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 2 Kings 2:12

This verse comes right on the heels of Elisha witnessing Elijah being carried off by chariots of fire. “And he saw him no more,” refers to Elisha seeing Elijah no more. Elisha depended on Elijah as long as he was there. But as soon as he was gone, Elijah had to cease depending on him. We have our own “Elijahs” in our lives. We say, “I cannot go on without Elijah,” but God says, “You must.”
At the Jordan river, Elisha was alone. There was fellowship with no one else at that moment. We have those places in our lives of “aloneness.” We have no one but ourselves and God. No one can take the responsibility to for us. It is at that point that we must put to the test what we learned from our Elijah. Note verse 14. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. We may come to a place that we have been to time and time again with our own Elijah, but this time, we are alone. “This experience must come, and you must go. If you want to know whether God is the God you have faith to believe Him to be, then go through your Jordan alone.”

Elisha also saw Elijah do great things at Jericho. When we return to our “Jericho” alone, we will be tempted to try to let someone else take the initiative. WE must remain true to what we have learned. We will certainly get the sign that God is with us.

At some point, we will have a Bethel experience. He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” (v. 23) We may be at our wits’ end, but we must trust in God, stay true to him and his word, and what we have learned. He will bring his truth out.

“Determine to trust in God and do not look for Elijah any more.”

Most anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that, a short while back, the Lord began calling me into a prayer ministry that, frankly, took me by surprise. For a few days, I began typing prayers for a number of people in this blog. Suddenly, you may have noticed, that ceased. The “weekend devotional” from Tabletalk magazine for today, lends a bit of explanation for that.

We witness, then we tweet about it. We visit a sick senior, then we “share a prayer request.” WE help a neighbor, then we sprint to update our status. We even have to offer live updates when hearing God’s Word. Living coram deo (“before the face of God”) is no longer the pinnacle of Christian experience; rather, it’s living coram mundus (“before the face of the world”).

Ask yourself: When was the last time I did anything worthwhile and told no one about it? When was the last time I visited a lonely person and didn’t drop it into the next conversation I had? When was the last time I shared the gospel and didn’t share that I shared the gospel?

Good questions, indeed. And it helps me sum up why I stopped putting all those prayers in here. I still type prayers, mostly dealing with what God has tried to teach me during the day’s readings, and then for the day ahead for my family. But other prayers happen afterward. The prayers that God has laid on my heart for this “ministry,” if indeed it can be called that. So if you have asked me to pray for things, rest assured, it is happening. And guess what…I’m seeing some good reports! This, naturally, encourages me! And no, I don’t believe that someone got a job just because I prayed for them. God is the one who is responsible, not me. And I’m probably not the only one praying for these things, either. So it might have been “Aunt Judy’s” prayer that was the one that helped, not mine. I”m speaking like a crazy person, here… The point is, I’m seeing that prayer works. True, heartfelt, pouring out from the depths of the soul, prayer. It works.

I’m still reading in Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and it is definitely taking a while. At one point, I had to re-read the same two or three pages about five times! Not because I didn’t understand it, but because there was so much good stuff in there that I wanted to make sure I digested it all. I’m still not sure I succeeded. This book is one of those that will need to be read again. And again. Anyway, on page 44, he is describing what he calls “spiritual love.” This is being differentiated from “emotional” or “self-centered” love. “It [spiritual love] will not seek to agitate another by exerting all too personal, direct influence or by crudely interfering in one’s life. It will not take pleasure in pious, emotional fervor and excitement. Rather, it will encounter the other with the clear word of God and be prepared to leave the other alone with this word for a long time.” (Emphasis mine) How many of us are “prepared to leave the other alone…for a long time?” This takes a great amount of faith in God! Most of us think God needs our help to prod the other person along, don’t we? We just simply are not capable of sitting back and letting God work! But if we are experiencing (or exhibiting) true “spiritual love,” that is exactly what we will do! Then he drops this bombshell: “This spiritual love will thus speak to Christ about the other Christian more than to the other Christian about Christ.” What??? Yes! Instead of badgering the other person, once you have spoken what you perceive to be God’s word to them, leave them alone, retreat to your closet and pray about them. “…the most direct way to others is always through prayer to Christ and that love of the other is completely tied to the truth found in Christ.” This stuff is DEEP!

Father, I thank you for speaking to me through your servants, this morning. While I don’t have a specific Elijah…wait a minute! I did have an Elijah in my life for a time! And his name was Phillipp Scott! He moved to the Evil Empire back in 2010. Yes, Lord, I learned a lot from my Elijah, and I am very grateful that he was in my life for a while. But he’s been gone for a couple of years, now, and I’ve faced a few things “alone,” although not really. I’ve seen you at work, and I believe that there are things that he taught me that have been tested. Perhaps it has taken this long to realize it. I pray that I might be an Elijah to some other Elisha someday, too. As I (hopefully) mature in my walk with you and in my ministry of worship and prayer, I hope that I might be able to impart some wisdom and truth to someone else who is beginning a similar journey. I will not look for that person, though. If you choose to bring someone into my life in this way, I will welcome them.

I thank you for showing me the benefit of keeping prayers private. I do not need for others to know what I am doing. I will share with individuals if I am praying for them specifically, and what I’m praying for. But that is more so that they will have the knowledge that someone cares and is lifting them up to the face of God. I find it very encouraging to know that people are praying for me.

I pray that the love that I show others in the body of Christ will be spiritual love and not emotional or self-centered love. The stuff I’m learning from Mr. Bonhoeffer is stunning, Lord. The truths that he shares are profound and worthy of much pondering. May I speak more to you about others, Lord. Teach me the benefit of praying to you about other people, rather than badgering other people incessantly. Increase my faith (yes, I just prayed that) so that I trust you to do the work. The work is not mine to do, it is yours. It is mine to pray.

I pray for the remainder of this day. Give Christi safe travel as she is out and about running errands. I pray for safe travel for Rachel and Justin as they come to our house. I pray that our time together this evening will be fun and relaxing as we celebrate birthdays.

Give me clarity and focus as I go into my private prayers now.

If you have an Elijah in your life, know that there will come a time when they must leave you, and you must go on into the experience alone, testing and proving your faith in God. It will be okay. God is with us, and has all things under his control.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Life of Christ in Me

Good morning. It’s Thursday, July 26, 2012. Barely. God has me up before 0300 for some reason this morning, but after laying there not sleeping for 15 minutes or so, I felt prompted to get up and pray. So here I am. Besides being “Aunt and Uncle Day” (shout out to Uncle Buddy and Aunt Barbara!), it is, apparently, “National All Or Nothing Day.” I find that intriguing. The brief description on my Hallmark Ultimate Holiday App says, “Stop letting things hold you back. Go for it if you’re gonna go for it and quit making excuses.” Is this really a thing, or is God writing on my iPhone?

It was on this date in 1775 that the U.S. Postal system was established. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. On this date in 1984, Ed Gein died in a Wisconsin prison. Gein was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho, which became a famous Alfred Hitchcock movie. I read somewhere that Janet Leigh never took another shower at a hotel. On this date in 1943, Mick Jagger was born. That makes him…lessee…69. Wow.

Once again, not much going on around here. It’s business as usual. Christi’s feet were feeling better after work yesterday, but were throbbing again after working out. Tonight, we have lifehouse, so maybe another night away from the gym will help. Work yesterday was pretty smooth. We’ve actually had a pretty good month. And Stephanie seems to be fine after her little episode on Sunday.

Father, make me less. May I have the mindset of John the Baptist when he said “I must decrease; he must increase.” Teach me your ways and make my prayers effective. That doesn’t mean I want my prayers to get you to do what I want. That’s not what prayer is about. I want my prayers to be your will. I want to be praying your will.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 56. After complaining for a couple of verses about being trampled upon, David lets forth this gem:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Later, he speaks of God saving his tears in a bottle.
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death;
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God in the light of life.

The word “tossings” in verse 8 could also be rendered “wanderings.” I think it’s important to note that the “vows” David speaks of are “thank offerings.” At least that’s the way I interpret this. Have I been thankful enough? I’ve begun to make it a point to be more thankful for little things that we tend to take for granted. The problem seems to be developing a habit of being in a mindset of prayer past my drive to work. I fully intended to read the Beatitudes again, while at work yesterday. It never happened. I must be patient with myself…it takes a while to develop new habits.

One more thing on this psalm. Why did the Lord deliver David’s soul from death? So that he might “walk before God in the light of life.” Everybody looking for their purpose in life…there it is.

My Utmost For His Highest

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.
Matthew 15:18-20

When I am ignorant of something, that is not the same thing as innocence, which is not the same thing as purity. We read these words of Jesus and think that most certainly have never felt these things in our heart! But listen, “Either Jesus Christ is the supreme Authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to.” Do I trust him, or “do I prefer to trust my innocent ignorance?” Long ago, I was horrified by realizing what crimes I might be capable of, were it not for the life of Jesus Christ in me! “As long as I remain under the refuge of innocence I am living in a fool’s paradise.” Remember a couple of days ago, when I wrote “Get Naked?” We have to get undressed before God, and we will realize that Jesus knew what he was talking about. I’m man enough to admit that, yes, every single one of those things has, at one time or another, been in my heart. Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be, because you’ve had them, too.
“The only thing that safeguards is the Redemption of Jesus Christ.” When I hand myself to Christ, the “terrible possibilities that are in my heart” become inconsequential. They also dissipate, because, guess what…Jesus changes the heart! This thing called “purity” is too deep down for me to ever be able to get it for myself. The Holy Spirit is “unsullied purity,” and when he comes in, he brings that which was manifested in the life of Jesus into the center of my life.

I’ve been reading Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (part of Works, Volume 5), recently. I can’t remember reading much Bonhoeffer, but think I may have read The Cost of Discipleship back before I was really ready to digest it. Life Together is blowing me away. This man was amazing. And when I read the words he wrote in the context of his life and how it ended, it is even more amazing. This book is about Christian community, which is something that all of us should be involved in. Right off the bat, he says, “The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians.” (p. 27) We are spoiled in this country, because we can get up and “go to church” pretty much anytime we feel like it. It may not always be this way. There are places in the world where it is not that way right now. It is a privilege for which we must be more grateful. “It is by God’s grace that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly around God’s word and sacrament in this world.” (p. 28 ) We should take great joy in the presence of other believers. “It is easily forgotten that the community of Christians is a gift of grace from the kingdom of God, a gift that can be taken from us any day – that the time still separating us from the most profound loneliness may be brief indeed.” (p. 30) This statement seems ludicrous to the Christian in the United States. But it wasn’t long after this that Bonhoeffer’s school was shut down by the Nazis, and he was subsequently hanged.
What is Christian community? It “means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. There is no Christian community that is more than this, and none that is less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily community of many years, Christian community is solely this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.” (p. 31, emphasis mine) He brings forth the point that we have been in this community from eternity past, and will be in it in “eternal community.” (p. 33)
We must be careful, though. “Those who want more than what Christ has established between us do not want Christian community.” (p. 34) It is not an ideal…it is divine reality. “Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive.” (p. 36) I’ve read this page about five times, now, trying to soak it in. I won’t quote the entire page, here, but I cannot over-emphasize how much impact it is having on me.
From this day on, I will be reading this book during my devotions and sharing thoughts from it. They won’t be this long each time…I was getting caught up this morning. I think this is a major key that is missing in the modern church. The Exchange, and other churches like it, are trying to make it happen. But, while a valuable resource to us, I believe it still falls far short of the “divine reality.”

Father, I thank you for the prompting to get up and pray this morning. I also thank you for the ability to be obedient to your prompting. I thank you, Holy Spirit, for not leaving me alone when I tried to go back to sleep. I pray for a couple more hours of good sleep after I finish. I am stirred by the fact that today has been designated “All or Nothing Day.” I know that you desire all of me, and I desire to give you just that. Yet, I hold back. The flesh does not give up easily. I pray for the reality of Galatians 2:20. It is reality…I have been crucified with Christ. I pray for you to work that out in my flesh, Lord.

Lord, I know what evil is possible in my heart. I have seen it there, and it used to frighten me. I’m not frightened any longer, because I know that you are there in the presence of the Spirit. I pray for the purity that the Spirit brings, that which was manifested in the life of Christ. Bring that into the center of my life. Let me dwell in the center of your holiness. I pray for these things to become reality during my work day! I have no issue remembering them on the trip to work…I spend that time, most days, in prayer as I drive, radio turned down. But it seems that, once I get settled in at work, I forget. I forget to look to you frequently. I forget to think on the many prayer requests that I have taken on in this role of intercessor. I ask you, Spirit, to bring them to mind throughout the day. Remind me what I read this morning, and what it meant to me. Infuse my work day with your righteousness, Lord, for I do not compartmentalize my life.

I pray for this day. I continue to ask for healing for Christi’s foot (and other joints…this seems to be an arthritic kind of condition). I pray for relief of the pain. I also pray for her work day today, that it will be smooth, and that she will shine with your radiance today. May we glorify you in everything we do. I also ask for a smooth work day for me. Give Stephanie clarity in her day today, showing her your grace and mercy in her life.

Now, I pray for focus and clarity as I go into my private prayer time. Glorify yourself through us.

Purity is not based on ignorance or innocence. It is based on the life of Christ, brought into us by the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.