Crucified with Christ

Today is Sunday, the 12th of March, 2023, in the third week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today.


We are going to Mineral Wells, this morning, leaving in just over an hour, so I don’t have a lot of time. I will say that we had a great time, yesterday, at IHOP. I got my usual Colorado Omelet (it has all the meat in it), and chose chocolate chocolate chip pancakes as my side. As I was pondering what kind of syrup to put on chocolate pancakes, I finally decided to try butter pecan. I started by dipping a couple of bites in my little syrup cup, and it tasted okay, so I cut up the pancakes and poured both cups of syrup over them.

I swear I am not making this up. My wife validated it. They tasted exactly like brownies!! They were almost better than the omelet! Almost.

We hit up Sonic for drinks, then headed home to chill for a while. I went out to In N Out, around 6:00 PM (that may have still been too early after that huge brunch). The ordering experience was pleasant. They have the burger thing down, it seems. Esentially all they make is burgers and fries, along with some shakes and soft drinks. and there aren’t very many varieties of burgers. Single with or without cheese, then the double double (you can also get triple triple or quad quad). I got a triple triple animal style (mustard instead of their sauce) and fries. The burger was good. The fries were stale. The best thing was the price. We got four burgers, four orders of fries and one drink for $31.50 The double double is $4.90. By comparison, a McD’s double quarter is around $8. But the double quarter is still better, in my opinion.

My stomach was not at all happy with me for all the junk I ate, yesterday. It’s better, this morning, though. I still don’t know what we will have for lunch today.


I rise before dawn and cry for help;
 I put my hope in your words.
(Psalms 119:147 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for the gift of your light in our hearts, allowing us to have faith in you. We thank you for your light, which shows us the many ways you save us from need, darkness, and death. In the midst of this darkness you keep our hearts safe so that we can be faithful until your time comes, the time when you will reveal yourself to the world, and when all voices will cry out as one, “Yes, Father in heaven, we thank you. You have redeemed us all.” Amen.

But now thus says the LORD, 
he who created you, O Jacob, 
he who formed you, O Israel: 
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
I have called you by name, you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; 
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, 
and the flame shall not consume you.
(Isaiah 43:1-2 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for God’s gift of light shining in our hearts
  • that I am crucified with Christ
  • for God, my rock, my salvation
  • that God knows my weaknesses, remembers that I am dust, and is mighty to save
  • for mutual love within the Body of Christ

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, 
you who lead Joseph like a flock! 
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
(Psalms 80:1 NRSV)
The LORD lives! 
Blessed be my rock, 
and exalted be the God of my salvation,
(Psalms 18:46 NRSV)
Hear my prayer, O LORD; 
let my cry come to you. 
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. 
Incline your ear to me;
 answer me speedily in the day when I call. 
For my days pass away like smoke, 
and my bones burn like a furnace. 
My heart is stricken and withered like grass; 
I am too wasted to eat my bread. 
Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my skin.
 I am like an owl of the wilderness, 
like a little owl of the waste places. 
I lie awake; 
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop. 
All day long my enemies taunt me; 
those who deride me use my name for a curse. 
For I eat ashes like bread, 
and mingle tears with my drink, 
because of your indignation and anger;
 for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside. 
My days are like an evening shadow; 
I wither away like grass. 
But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; 
your name endures to all generations.
(Psalms 102:1-12 NRSV)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.
(Isaiah 9:2 NRSV)

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,
whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit
to be tempted by Satan:
Come quickly to help us who are assaulted
by many temptations;
and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us,
let each one find you mighty to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NRSV)

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
(John 13:34 NRSV)

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
(Romans 14:19 NRSV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
(2 Corinthians 13:11 NRSV)

Let mutual love continue.
(Hebrews 13:1 NRSV)

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:19-20 MSG)

Look, folks, I don’t pick these verses out, myself. I read several resources for my daily devotions, and the verses come from there. I don’t make this up.

And yet, we find ourselves back at this topic, again.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

What I do believe is that there is an entire faction of “Christianity” out there who has completely forgotten about those little verses up there, all coming out of today’s reading in Walking with Grace 2023.

Over the course of the last few years (maybe longer, but I think social media has exacerbated it), the idea has become popular that, if someone doesn’t agree with me, then I should not treat them with kindness or respect.

I also believe that the Bible, God’s Word, knows nothing of this idea. Hence all the verses championing love, unity, kindness, compassion, and so on.

In that same reading, I find a prayer by the writer for today, Gail Thorell Schilling, which says, “Lord of all, may I see Your face in each person I meet. Amen.” Right on. If I’m looking for the face of God or Christ in everyone I meet, how could I possibly be rude or disrespectful to them? So what if they don’t see things quite the way I do?

I think a primary thing that we have missed, though, or put on a “back burner,” so to speak is nailed by Eugene H. Peterson as we consider the passage from Galatians 2. Here’s what he says:

"Crucifixion ends one way of life and opens up another. It finishes a life in which the self is coddled and indulged and admired, and begins a life that is offered to God and raised as a living sacrifice.
"Everything that Christ experienced we co-experience. Starting with Christ, the complete revelation of Christ in crucifixion and resurrection, we live extravagantly, boldly, and freely."
(Traveling Light, quoted in God's Message for Each Day)

So we seem to be forgetting that we are “crucified with Christ.” We seem to be forgetting that our previous life, the life in which our self was “coddled and indulged and admired,” is over. At least if we are truly following Christ, that life is over.

I confess that I frequently forget that, myself, and step back into self-indulgent ways. And I still find myself being judgmental toward others, at least in my mind. But there are things that I simply would not say in public about anyone, not in person, not on social media. I still need to work on my thoughts, but my actions and attitudes, as they are worked out, are trying to be in line with the teachings of Jesus.

Yesterday’s entry was “Our Life Is for Others.” This is sort of like part 2 of that. We must remember, if we are truly following Christ in this world, that our life is not our own. We have been crucified with Christ, and it is not we who live, but Christ living within us. I love how The Message words that passage. “It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me.”

Let us strive to not be one of the ones whom Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
(Matthew 7:21-23 NRSV)

Father in heaven, these words strike me in the heart, today. They strike me because I am saddened to see the shape that the church is in, today. It saddens me to see the attitudes of hatefulness toward others who do not believe like we do. I hurts my heart to see the division within Your Body.

Although I do not necessarily believe that the majority of those noisy people are truly part of Your Body. Everyone who goes to church is not part of the Church. I bow my knees to You, Lord, confessing my sinful thoughts and actions. I am not always in line with Jesus’s words, I know. But my heart desires to be, and I strive to love others the way He has loved me. Help me to do better at that. I definitely do not want to be one of the ones who hear “Go away from me, you evildoers!”

Help us to remember that You alone can see inside us; You alone know our truest, deepest motivations when we do the things we do. I hope and trust that my actions, my generosity toward people, are never to gain popularity or notoriety. I don’t care about any of those things. I care about pleasing You, about being with You ever day, about knowing You.

"Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You,
There is no greater thing."

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Singing, Drumming, and Dancing

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,269

Twenty-nine days until Christmas!

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

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

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

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

We took some pictures, yesterday.

Mama, me, S, and C
Mama and me


"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one else can say that.

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

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

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



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

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


Praise the LORD.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Good Things

Today is Sunday, July 5, 2020, beginning the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time. Peace be with you!

Day 22,760

45 days until S’s birthday!

As predicted, we watched the Downton Abbey movie during our brunch, yesterday. It was quite entertaining, and felt a lot like an extended episode of the now-concluded series. In this movie, the main plot story is that the King (George V) and Queen (Mary) decided to stay at Downton on a tour of the area. This, of course, creates a buzz (of all different kinds, as there are people among the family and staff that aren’t too keen on the King and Queen), especially when it is discovered that their entourage includes their own chef, housekeeper, footmen, and butler “Page of the Backstairs.”

There is plenty of comedy, a good bit of which is provided by Violet Crawley (the Dowager Countess), and her “frenemy,” Isobel Crawley. Of course, much of the comedy is also provided by the staff, as they deal with what most Americans would consider to be a few days off. Being British, I suppose, they are most offended that their services will not be needed. They also rebel a bit. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The next paragraph is spoiler-ish, so if you don’t care and want to read it anyway, you will need to highlight the paragraph.

There is also some drama, as an assassinator shows up. I know. It should be “assassin.” That was tongue-in-cheek. Ish. And Tom Bransom gets to save the day. Good on him. Tom also discovers a love interest, which he has not had since his wife, the other Crawley sister, Lady Sybil, passed away.

After the movie, I went and got Sonic drinks, along with a few grocery items from Albertons (most importantly, the “no sugar added” Fudgsicles that Kroger was out of). The rest of the day was resting.

I will report on my “official” WW weigh-in, yesterday. I lost another three pounds, putting my total loss, since the first of February, at fifty-five pounds! The My Fitness Pal app, which I have been using for about seven years, says I have lost 77.8 pounds. Since it goes back so far, it has a higher weight as my starting point, than what I was this past February. So, if I am asked, I just say I’ve lost over fifty pounds since February.

We will have our virtual worship gathering of The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s, this morning. I don’t believe our “hosts” will be attending, as they are out of town for the weekend. Either they won’t have wifi access, or they will be with some people that will not make it possible for them to spend an hour or so on Zoom. Originally, we had planned to meet at our house, but then things got wacky again, and we went virtual again.


“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For another opportunity to worship, read Scriptures, and see/hear what God has done in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ
  2. For the technology that allows us to continue to “meet,” even through a pandemic
  3. That You satisfy my desires with good things
  4. That You renew the strength of those who wait on You
  5. That You give us “play”

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
(Psalms 80:1 ESV)

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
(Psalms 70:4 ESV)

A Song. A Psalm of David.

My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!
(Psalms 108:1 ESV)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:23-24 ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah; a love song.

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
(Psalms 45:1-9 ESV)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

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

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

Of David.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalms 103:1-5 ESV)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

In this morning’s reading from Our Daily Bread, Sheridan Voysey writes about “renewed strength.” She cites a psychiatrist, Robert Coles, who noticed a pattern in people who experience burn out while serving. “The first warning sign is weariness. Next comes cynicism about things ever improving, then bitterness, despair, depression, and finally burnout.”

My opinion, while I recognize that the phenomenon of burnout is real, is that there is no excuse for a follower of Christ to ever experience this. But we do, don’t we? Why is that?

I can identify some of those characteristics in my own life, right now. Granted, a lot of those have been brought on by the state of pandemic in which we find ourselves in, along with the political maelstrom it has brought with it.

What is the answer? What is our remedy for burnout? One is found in the verses from Isaiah, above. These are somewhat famous verses. Here is how Eugene Peterson paraphrases those:

Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 MSG)

What, exactly, does it mean to “wait upon God,” or to “wait for the Lord?” There are differing opinions on that, even. But I like what Sheridan says in the reading. “I needed to rest in God, trusting Him to work, rather than pushing on in my own dwindling strength.”

We see another kind of remedy in Psalm 103, also above. Verse 5 says that God “satisfies you with good.” The NIV says that He “satisfies your desires with good things.” And The Message says, “He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.”

We can certainly include redemption and forgiveness in this array of “good things.” But there is more. Some would argue that we need nothing more than redemption and forgiveness. That’s a nice Sunday School answer, and in the “Big Picture,” that may be correct. But here on earth, in these week, feeble, jars of clay, we need more. We need joy. We even need play.

Yes, people. We need to play. That comes in different forms for different people. For some folks, “play” consists of putting on camo gear and sitting in a deer stand for hours, hoping for that perfect buck to come along. For others, it means putting on a headset and staring at a computer or TV screen for a few hours, playing some kind of game. For even others, it might mean sitting in a rocking chair on a porch of a cabin in Glen Rose, reading a book.

Dallas Willard once said that creation was “play” for God.

So, when I’m feeling defeated, weary, cynical, bitterness, despair, or depression, I need to find a way to “rest” in God. That can mean a lot of different things, but one thing it does not mean is continuing to serve in that condition.

My job requires me to serve, though. Therefore, I need to make sure and “schedule” some times of rest and reflection, some times of waiting on God, so that He can renew my strength, and satisfy my desires with good things.

Good things.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
(Matthew 6:5 ESV)

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
(James 4:6 ESV)

He let loose the east wind from the heavens and by his power made the south wind blow. He rained meat down on them like dust, birds like sand on the seashore. He made them come down inside their camp, all around their tents. They ate till they were gorged— he had given them what they craved. But before they turned from what they craved, even while the food was still in their mouths, God’s anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel.
(Psalms 78:26-31 NIV)

“Lord, I confess I often find prayer to be boring and sin to be fascinating. But that is because my mind is distorted by sin. You alone can satisfy the deepest longings of my soul. Only You are eternally interesting. I commit myself to encountering You afresh in prayer and the Word. Help me keep this promise. Amen.”

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

Father, I have experienced weariness. I have been guilty of cynicism, which tends to express itself in sarcasm, for which I firmly believe there is no place in Your kingdom. Therefore, I beg forgiveness and ask You to renew my strength, to satisfy my desires with Your good things. Help me to wait on You, to wait for You, to make time in my life (which truthfully isn’t all that busy) for worship, meditation, and prayer. Remind me that there are some things that are more important than others. In fact, some of those “others” really aren’t important at all.

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!

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 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Your Grace Is Enough

It’s Friday! I’m very happy about that. December 9, 2011. Only 16 more days until Christmas, and 22 days left in 2011. It’s 37 degrees outside this morning, with a projected high of 53. No precipitation predicted, but, to be safe, it says there is a 20% chance. There is, however, rain in the forecast for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of next week. Temperatures are supposed to remain above freezing.

Stephanie had a good visit with her teacher yesterday, in spite of feeling nauseated when I left for work. I think she got her work done again, and was feeling pretty good last night when we went to bed. She is supposed to meet again today at around 1pm. Then they have three days scheduled next week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There may be a Thursday or Friday meeting, but that is contingent on how she does with next week’s work. The actual school has early release on Thursday and Friday of next week, and Friday is the last day before Christmas break.

We had a nice lifehouse meeting last night; however, there were only four of us there, so we just chatted the whole time. It was good, though, as we are getting better about opening up. We had a lengthy discussion on the meaning of Christmas and how that meaning gets lost sometimes, especially if family members don’t get it.

Today’s Bible readings:
Jude; Zechariah 3-4; Isaiah 9:6-7

Jude is one of those one chapter epistles. It is assumed that he is another one of the half brothers of Jesus, evidenced by his statement that he is the brother of James. But it is only because that particular James is the only one known well enough to be referred to in this way that his assumption is made. In truth, we really aren’t sure who Jude is.
Based on verse 4, Jude is combating a false teaching known as antinomianism, or the belief that one does not have to follow the law at all. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Those who are promoting this type of belief have, apparently, come into the group to which Jude is writing, from the outside. Jude then proceeds to compare these people to the unbelievers who were destroyed as Israel was delivered from Egypt, angels who fell from heaven, and Sodom and Gomorrah. They blaspheme things that they do not understand, he says in verse 10. These are blemishes at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (vv. 12-13) Finally, he calls them grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (v. 16)
Jude begins the next paragraph with “But you…” This immediately indicates a comparison. “You’re different!” He encourages his readers to remember that it was predicted that people like this would come along. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (vv. 18-19) This is a quote of 2 Peter 3:3. Then, he proposes the remedy for combating these false teachers. But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (vv. 20-21)
Jude closes with a most beautiful doxology. 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. (vv. 24-25)
That doxology inspired Don Francisco to write this song:

In Zechariah 3, the prophet has an interesting vision. It concerns the problem of an impure priesthood. The person in the vision is Joshua, the high priest, mentioned in Ezra 3. He is clothed in filthy garments and Satan is accusing him. But the Lord rebukes Satan and gives his remedy for cleansing the priesthood. Joshua’s clothes are changed from filthy to clean. Then these words are spoken: Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. (vv. 8-9) “The Branch,” is Jesus Christ. And the iniquity of the world was, indeed, removed in a single day, as this “Branch” gave his life on the cross for a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
In chapter 4, Zechariah sees another vision in which it is stated that Zerubbabel will have the strength he needs to complete the building of the temple. Again, this refers to events that are occurring in the book of Ezra. In this chapter, those famous words are stated, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. (v. 6) The Lord declares that Zerubbabel will finish the temple. At the end of the vision, Zechariah sees Zerubbabel and Joshua, the Lord’s “two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (v. 14)
A great message for us here, is that, when we face a “mountain,” if we rely on the strength of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, “it shall become a plain.” (v. 7)

Isaiah 9:6-7 is a beautiful passage speaking of the coming Messiah.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
You should know that I have to include this:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11

After quoting this verse in today’s reading from Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado asks this question: “What if God’s only gift to you were his grace to save you?” I have to tell you, that really made me think. I’ve been praying day after day that my daughter would get it together and finish high school; that she would get over her anxiety and successfully meet with her homebound teacher. I have been praying for other things. What if those things never happen? What if God never gave me another thing I asked for?? Is his grace enough? He has saved me from hell. Dare I complain if he never gives me another thing? Paul has learned to be content in all things. Paul was told, when he asked for that “thorn” to be removed from his flesh, “My grace is sufficient.” I am certainly not better than Paul! I am not even Paul’s equal…far from it! When I pray for something, if God sees fit to grant it, then hallelujah! If he does not…HALLELUJAH!! His grace is enough. THAT is what I need to learn today! Max finished this reading: “If you have eyes to read these words, hands to hold this book, the means to own this volume, he has already given you grace upon grace.” Amen.

Father, as I read the words of Scripture this morning, and your Spirit speaks to me, I am grateful for the grace that you have given me. I confess that I have been disappointed in this past week, that things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. How selfish of me, Father! How dare I complain to you when you don’t do what I think you should! You are the creator of our universe; you hold my very life in your hands. You grant me every breath that I take; every beat of my heart. But most importantly, before the foundations of the earth you chose me to be one of your children! And you provided the grace to save me from eternal punishment, which I and everyone in the human race deserve! On this day, Lord, I fall on my face in humility and thank you with a passion that I have not had, recently. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for choosing me. Your grace is enough. That doesn’t mean that I won’t ask for anything else. I will continue to pray for struggles in my life, in the life of my family, in the life of our church. The difference is, I will stop being disappointed (or even angry, as I was earlier this week) when the answer is not what I want. Your grace is enough. Let me learn to be content.
Let me also learn the truth from Zechariah 4:6 that things are not accomplished by might or by power (at least not by mine), but by your Spirit. Let me have the confidence in your Holy Spirit to carry me through. Let me see those “mountains” as potential plains. Your grace is enough. That, apparently, is my theme for today.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray that Stephanie will have a good meeting with her homebound teacher today. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at work. If not, however, your grace is enough. Let us live by this for the rest of our lives, Father.

I have no more words. Your grace is enough.

Grace and peace, friends.