What I Believe

Today is Monday, September 5, 2022, in the 23rd week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul today!

Day 23,552

Today is Labor Day in the US, a holiday for many people (not the retail folks, though).

We had a nice thunderstorm with a decent amount of rain, yesterday afternoon. During the storm (we were under a “severe thunderstorm warning,” but it didn’t seem that severe in our location), the temperature dropped from 93 (the high for the day) to 70, in the space of less than an hour. I ventured out to get Sonic drinks between 3:30 and 4:00, and it was very nice outside. According to the site I use to check the amount, we got .38 inch in the last 72 hours. That’s the way I like my rain, not 9.5 inches in, say, twelve hours.

Today’s high is predicted to be 91, and our highs seem to be stuck in the 89-92 zone for the next ten days. The record high for today’s date was, once again, in 2000, at 105. I’m glad I don’t live in Citrus Heights, CA. One source predicts a high of 113 there, today. Egad.

We watched the Elvis movie, yesterday, on HBO Max. It’s a very well-done movie, and the young man who plays Elvis Presley did a very good job. I understand he did a lot of the singing, and also plays piano and guitar. Tom Hanks plays Col. Tom Parker. In this movie, it is coming from Parker’s POV, as he tries to convince us (not successfully) that he is not the villain, here, but that Elvis wouldn’t have existed without him.

I think I might do a separate review of the movie, later.

The Texas Rangers lost the fourth and final game to the Boston Red Sox, yesterday, 5-2. The Sox swept the Rangers. Have the Rangers given up? Or are the Red Sox surging? Hard to say. The Sox may have a slim chance of making the playoffs, and the Rangers have slim to none. The Rangers are now 58-75, soon to be twenty games below .500. The Angels lost, though, so the Rangers are still in third place in the AL West, 27.5 out of first place and 15.5 out of a Wild Card spot. Their division E# is 2, and the WCE# is 15. They have 29 games left, and begin a series in Houston today.

The Red Sox are 67-68, almost back to .500. They are still in last place in the AL East, 13.5 out of first and 7.5 out of a Wild Card spot. Their division E# is 15, and their WCE# is 22. They have 27 games left, and begin an important series in Tampa today.

The Minnesota Twins have caught up with the Cleveland Guardians, as the Guardians have lost five in a row. This is important for Minnesota, as there is currently no team in the AL Central in a Wild Card spot, because they are still locked up by two AL East teams and one AL West team. The Red Sox could knock Tampa out of that spot this week. Here’s hoping.

The Dodgers won again, so their MLB leading record is now 92-41. With 29 games left, they have to win 25 of those to break the 116 win record. The Nationals won again, but still have the worst record, at 47-87. The Mariners continue to win, now having a seven-game win streak. The Rangers, feeling the need to be the “best” at something, are in sole possession of an eight-game losing streak. The Dodgers edge closer to a +300 run differential, now at +294. The Pirates have overtaken the Nationals with the worst run differential, now at -209.

Not much on the agenda for today. Groceries are on the way, I’ve ordered some Crumbl cookies for the family, and we might have Lone Star BBQ for lunch. It’s Monday, so I’ll probably make chili for dinner, this evening. There might be a movie at some point, too.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We thank you, Father in heaven, that you concern yourself with us and that you bind us to yourself through all your deeds and all your help. We thank you for showing us a way of hope, a way that becomes always clearer, always firmer under our feet. On this way we can defy every evil of this world and time, knowing for sure that everything will come out right and we will all be brought to the great, eternal goal, even though we have to deny ourselves and go through much suffering. Your kingdom must come to the glory of your name, so that all people may live on a higher plane and follow you, the only true help and true life. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. that God concerns Himself with us and helps us, showing us a way of hope, which, if we are following Him, becomes ever more clear
  2. that we who long for Christ’s appearing will be awarded a crown of righteousness at the end of the race
  3. that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and, though we physically die, yet we shall live
  4. for the rest that comes with my relationship with Christ
  5. for the example of Jesus and His prayer life

So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
(John 11:3-4 ESV)

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
(John 11:14-15 ESV)

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
(John 11:21-27 ESV)

We give thanks to you, O God; 
we give thanks, for your name is near. 
We recount your wondrous deeds.
(Psalms 75:1 ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)


All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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 11:27-30 ESV)

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 40:30-31 ESV)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
(Matthew 6:33 ESV)


And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
(Mark 1:35 ESV)


“All things work together for good.” When Jesus received word of Lazarus’s (did anyone else grow up hearing people call him “Lasaruth?”) illness, He purposefully delayed His visit. I think it is important to understand this, to comprehend it fully, or at least as fully as it is possible for our human brains.

Jesus let Lazarus die, in order for God to be glorified by raising him from the dead!

Take a few minutes to process this. It’s not unlike the man that was born blind, to whom Jesus restored sight. Jesus declared that it happened that God might be glorified.

There are people who would explain away things like this, try to reason humanistic values into the truth. “My God would never do something like that; He wouldn’t intentionally cause someone pain.”

The Bible says differently. And if you’re not okay with that, then your understanding of God Almighty is somewhat incomplete.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
(Psalms 115:3 ESV)

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
(Psalms 138:2 ESV)

Here’s the thing. God created everything. He created the universe, then He created life on this planet. He may or may not have created life on other worlds. If He has, He hasn’t deemed it necessary to tell us about that.

He has the right to do whatever pleases Him, including things that will glorify Himself. And He is worthy of all of that glory because, as previously stated, He is the Creator. If you create something, it is yours, and it is your right to do whatever you wish with that creation.

Anyway . . . back to Lazarus. He was allowed to die so that the world could see the power of God in resurrection. It was a foreshadowing of what would happen to Jesus, who allowed Himself to die, so that God could be glorified in His resurrection.

And yes, Jesus allowed Himself to die.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(John 10:18 ESV)

And this, again, causes us to consider our thoughts about Jesus. I’ve mentioned this before, and will likely do so again. Any thoughts of Jesus simply being a “good person,” or a “good teacher,” are simply ridiculous, because of the claims He, Himself made. If any “normal” human being said the words in John 10:18, today, he would be locked up as crazy and be forced into therapy.

Either Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be, or He was insane, or He was an outright liar. Those are the only three options.

And if we believe that He was exactly who He claimed to be, then we should be believing His words and obeying His commands.

I do my best, in human terms, to do that. I believe that He was who He claimed to be; I believe His words, believing that He is the resurrection and the life, and that, even though I die, which I will, that I will live on into eternity, after the resurrection. Lazarus died again. He wouldn’t be the only person in history to do so, but there are only a handful of people who would die twice. And Lazarus will live again, after the resurrection, which will occur at the second coming of Christ.

I will remind you that I do not believe in the popular notion of a “rapture.”

I also try my best to obey the commands of Jesus, which are, as previously stated (perhaps ad nauseum to some), to love the Lord with all of our being, lover our neighbors as ourselves, and to love one another (all the saints) the way Christ has loved us.

So that’s what I believe. That wasn’t the original direction this was going to take, but, as any real writer (not that I’m a “real writer,” mind you) knows, sometimes your characters take you into some strange places.

I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, 
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, 
and born of the virgin Mary.
I believe He lived a sinless life and performed many miracles while on earth,
and was crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day.
I believe He ascended into heaven (I'm not sure about the descending into hell part)
where He sits at the right hand of God (except for that bit when Stephen was stoned and He was standing up)
until the day He will return to resurrect those who have "fallen asleep,"
and gather up the rest who are still alive
to live with Him in eternity in a new heaven and a new earth, 
wherever those will be.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the unified Church, the Body of Christ,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

That’s mostly the Apostles’ Creed, with some modifications.

I also believe in the rest that comes from following Christ and walking in His easy yoke. He bids us come to Him when we are weary and He will give us rest. He does the hardest work, if we will but let Him.


Father, I have lived most of my life believing in You and in Christ. I have believed longer than I can remember. I have loved Your Word since I have been able to read. Sure, there are some times, in the course of my life, that my belief waned, and that maybe I didn’t love Your Word as much as other times. Nevertheless, I still believe, today. In fact, my belief today is stronger than ever, and I praise You for bringing that to pass in me.

My belief and acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit and His power has not been as long or consistent as my belief in You and Christ. That is more complicated, and my “understanding,” if we can call it that, of the Holy Spirit came much later in life. I now, while not necessarily claiming to understand or comprehend, embrace the truth of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all equally loving and directing our attention to the other two. Three in One, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

I believe that You are the Creator and that You do whatever pleases You. I am very glad that one of the things that pleases You is to commune with us, Your creation, Your people. I am grateful that You condescend to be concerned about us, and that You give us light and life. It is because of this belief that I can read the account of Lazarus without being upset about him being allowed to die so that You could be glorified. You are God; it is all about You, it is not about me or us. It is also about Jesus Christ, Your Son, and His glory.

I thank You for Jesus and all that He has done for us. I feel like I am rambling a bit, today, but there are a lot of thoughts running through my head, and I can’t quite make them all make sense. But another thing I believe is that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I do not know how to put my prayers into words. So I have faith that this is happening today.

Help me to be a light in this world of trouble. Help me to follow the commands of Jesus, to love You and to love people, giving them encouragement instead of criticism (oh, how critical I have been in the past . . . my God, I pray for forgiveness for that!). There is more than enough criticism in this world, Father. Help me be light, life, and encouragement to people. Salt and light.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Ordinary Life

Today is Friday, the eleventh of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,101

Nine days until Father’s Day

The big news around the Bickleyhouse today is this:

Player to be named later

Yes, we adopted another kitten last night. She is a Seal Point Siamese. One of my Facebook friends called her an Applehead Meezer. We don’t know if she is full-blooded or not, and we really don’t care. We got her from a family in Denton (about a mile from R’s house), who still owns the mom and the dad. As the caption states, we have not named her yet. Or, as I have told some folks, she has not yet told us her name.

We have a couple of choices that are floating around. C thinks she might be Sophie. I’m wondering if she is Cleopatra. We have also tossed around the idea of Elvira. Not because we like the queen of horror movies, but because . . . okay, there’s this podcast, see? Called My Favorite Murder, and one of the hosts used to have a Siamese cat named Elvis. At the end of every episode, she would say, “Elvis, want a cookie?” and Elvis would say, “Mrowr!” Well this cat is a girl, so we don’t want to name her Elvis, you know.

Anyway . . . as soon as there is a name, we will let everyone know.

We stopped by R and J’s house before coming home, to show them the new kitty. That was a nice addition to the day. I think everyone in the family knows, by now, so it’s safe to let out that they are planning, it seems, to move to Indianapolis. Yes, the one in Indiana. Why Indiana? They have friends there. R can continue to keep her current job with pretty much no regard for where she lives. J would probably have to find a new one since he works for UNT. They have actually made an offer on a house out there.

That’s about it for current events, so on to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
(Psalms 27:8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You have said, "Seek my face."
2. for kittens, puppies, rainbows, and other things that make children smile
3. for the ability to take my everyday life, the most mundane things, and offer them up to you as a "living sacrifice," embracing all that You do for me
4. that I own nothing, yet have everything (2 Corinthians 6:10)
5. for Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 3 – DAY 6

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

I pause, briefly, at this time to reflect on seeking God’s face. My gratitude is flowing, this morning, like a river after the spring rains.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

LORD, remember David and all his self-denial.
He swore an oath to the LORD, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
(Psalms 132:1-5 NIV)

For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
(Psalms 132:13-16 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
(Romans 12:9-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy God’s presence, this morning, I reflect on these two passages, asking the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and ponderings, leading me toward a deeper understanding of my walk with Christ.

I am drawn to the idea of the “living sacrifice” presented in Romans 12. How do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices? I like the way Eugene Peterson put it in The Message.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
(Romans 12:1 MSG)

It’s not a matter of going out and doing spectacular things for God, though that is certainly a good thing. It’s a matter of taking that everyday life, your ordinary life, the mundane things you do every day, and offering them up to God. I love the idea of “embracing what God does for you.”

I am reminded of Brother Lawrence, who is well known for this thought of finding God in even the most mundane tasks, like washing the dishes.

But the real nuts and bolts of offering up your life as a living sacrifice comes in that second passage from Romans 12, this morning. Let’s go back up there and read that again.

It starts with, “Love must be sincere.” The NLT words that, “Don’t just pretend to love others.” “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Let’s be clear on this. It does not say, “Hate evil people.” And this cliché about “love the sinner, hate the sin,” is all well and good, but most people who say that don’t really love the sinner. You can tell by how they treat the sinner, all the while forgetting that, oops, I’m a sinner, too!

“Honor one another above yourselves.”

We haven’t been doing too good with that one through a pandemic, have we . . . what with all this insistence on “my rights,” and “my freedoms,” and acting like being required to wear a mask is like the most inconvenient thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your entire life.

If we are offering up ourselves as living sacrifices, we are also giving up our so-called rights.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I’ll confess that we could do better at the hospitality thing. We don’t invite people into our home very often. We could definitely do better. I think we do alright at the sharing part, though.

How are we at blessing those who persecute us? Let’s get real for a second. I don’t know that I have ever been really persecuted. So I don’t think I have had a chance to test that one.

Then, at the end, Paul lays it down with telling us to “live in harmony with one another.”

Boy, do we have some work to do.

Father, Your Church is in disarray, these days. We aren’t doing a great job of living in harmony, nor are we doing very well at honoring each other above ourselves. I pray for the Holy Spirit to have His way with us in these times. I pray that Your people would open their hearts to Your Spirit in such a way that we might be truly transformed into a people of love, a people who take Your Words seriously, and not just the parts that we like. I pray for my own attitudes toward others, which, I think I can say, is improving, these days. But we could do better in the hospitality arena. Help us in that area. Lead us all toward a deeper fellowship with You and with one another.

Loving Father,
how quickly we can become discouraged about your church,
especially when we measure it by attendance,
political influence,
budget,
or programs.
Free us from trying to size up your church by the pattern of this world.
Instead,
keep us in your way of simple service and humble love,
energized in your mission,
always encouraged,
knowing your hands guide and keep your people.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 27)

BLESSING

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 MSG)

Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
(Psalms 69:30 MSG)

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
(James 1:17 NLT)

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
(2 Corinthians 6:10 NLT)

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:20 NLT)

Father, these last Scriptures are sinking deep into my soul. I give You thanks and praise in all circumstances. You are my keeper, my provider, my Rock and my salvation. You are my fortress and my deliverer. You are my hiding place, where I can run when I feel afflicted. I shout Your name with a praising song, today. I will tell of Your greatness in my prayers of thanksgiving. Indeed, everything that is good and perfect in my life comes from You. I do not “have” anything. I own nothing, and yet have everything. All glory to You, Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.

Lord, give all of us a deeper gratitude for the work of Christ on the cross. I pray, today, for those who live in poverty and injustice. May Your Spirit prevail and justice be done for all. I also pray for the equal treatment of women in our society, and in all of the world, as well.

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!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends!

Kitty update: It appears that her name is Cleo (Cleopatra).