A Spiritual Sacrifice

It’s Wednesday, the 28th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the fourth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ dwell within your soul, today!

Day 23,666

Four days until 2023.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a rather lazy day around here. C is still off work, taking vacation, and I don’t go back to work until Friday morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The insolent smear me with lies, 
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 
their heart is unfeeling like fat, 
but I delight in your law.
(Psalms 119:69-70 ESV)

O Lord God, we thank you for everything you allow us to see and hear. May our hearts become awake and alive through all we receive so that we await your final revelation and recognize your ultimate will for all people, for all nations and races on earth. Hear us in these days, for we know your kingdom is coming. Your kingdom is before our eyes. Your Word, your help, is coming, and in Jesus Christ light will dawn for all the world. Praise and honor to you for all you do! May we see it all before our eyes so that our expectation of the last days is a living expectation, full of joy and blessing. We want to wait in joy, in love, and in longing for the day that is coming to your glory. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 
Galatians 4:4–5, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for a day of relaxing with not much to do
  2. for our cats; Trixie, Rocky (Rachmaninoff), Luna, Cleo (Cleopatra), and Maggie (Magnolia)
  3. that God sent His Son to redeem us, that we might receive adoption to sonship
  4. for the sufficiency of God’s grace in the face of my weaknesses; “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  5. that the ways of God are perfect, and that He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 18:30)

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
(Ezekiel 43:1-5 ESV)


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

This God—his way is perfect; 
the word of the LORD proves true; 
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
(Psalms 18:30 ESV)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; 
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
(Psalms 19:7-9 ESV)

More thoughts from John Henry Newman on Christmas:

“It is a day of joy: it is good to be joyful–it is wrong to be otherwise. For one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and rejoice in the perfections of our Saviour Christ, without thinking of ourselves, withing thinking of our own miserable uncleanness; but contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His overflowing love. We may rejoice in the Lord, and in all His creatures see Him. We may enjoy His temporal bounty, and partake the pleasant things of earth with Him in our thoughts; we may rejoice in our friends for His sake, loving them most especially because He has loved them.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NRSV)


Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:4-5 NRSV)


What is a “spiritual sacrifice?” I don’t have a deep theological answer to that. But I believe it can be almost anything. What it is not is a physical sacrifice. It is not a literal sacrifice. Jesus Christ is our only literal, physical sacrifice. We need no other.

When I read the 1 Peter passage, I also think of Romans 12.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 NRSV)

We are to be a “living” sacrifice, which means that we stay alive, presenting ourselves to the Lord, “holy and acceptable to God.” How can I become holy and acceptable? Only through Jesus, by walking in His commands. I cannot become holy and acceptable by actions or works. I cannot pray enough to be holy; I cannot confess enough to be holy; I cannot abstain from anything enough to be holy. I can only be made holy by Jesus and His sacrifice for me/us.

The spiritual sacrifice involves what is presented in Romans 12:2, though. It involves not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. It involves discerning what the will of God is, and learning what is “good and acceptable and perfect.”

In short, I suppose it means what Jesus said when He told us that we must take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. That is a “spiritual sacrifice.”

And while those photos that we see, occasionally, of some person dragging a real cross down the side of the road (sometimes cheating by putting a wheel on it), can be moving and inspiring, they are also rather pointless.

That is not what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross. He was not, I assure you, speaking of a literal cross. For goodness sake, He did that FOR us!

But it is also important to note that Jesus was also not talking about something that happens to us, over which we have no control. Usually, when someone says, “Well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” it isn’t. Because usually, they are referring to something that they cannot control or choose. A horrible disease, for example. Cancer is not anyone’s “cross to bear.” You don’t “choose” cancer.

But we do choose to not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world. We can choose to renew our minds through meditating on the Word of God, which is all of those things described in Psalm 19, above.

Another thing that is important is to know that, when we do take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we do it joyfully! Remember what Jesus said about fasting, which is one of those sacrificial things which we can choose to do.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV)

So, yes. Take up your cross. Deny yourself. Make that spiritual sacrifice. Follow Christ.

And don’t complain about how miserable it makes you. Bear the cross joyfully, celebrating Christ in all things.


Father, help us to take up our crosses, whatever it may be for each of us, individually. And help us to do it joyfully, celebrating Christ in our lives. May we never try to draw attention to our “spiritual sacrifice” or our suffering that may come because of it. If I am fasting, yes, I will be hungry. But I should not talk about how hungry I am, so as to draw attention to it.

Help me to always remember the words of Christ, who told us that, if we do those things, visibly, in order to be recognized by men, that will be the extent of our reward. Rather, let us be joyful when we do these things. Let us show the world joy in our relationship with You and Christ. No one wants to be involved with any “god” who is constantly making his people miserable. So why would we act that way?

Teach us joyfulness in all things, Father. Help us to be grateful and thankful in all circumstances, that we might display the life of Christ and spread the good news of the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Revive Us Again

Today is Tuesday, the 27th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,665

Five days until 2023!

Today is my first day back to work at the library since last Wednesday. Then I don’t go back until Friday. I am scheduled off for New Year’s Eve. The library will be closed next Monday for New Year’s Day, but I never work on Mondays. I will be in at my normal time of 4:15 PM, today.

Today’s header photo is taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided, and view more of his photographs!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are good and do good; 
teach me your statutes.
(Psalms 119:68 ESV)

Jesus tells us that God, alone, is “good.” And if we believe correctly, we believe that everything that God does is also “good.” We sometimes call people “good,” but it is only good, relative. No one but God is truly good. Once, when answering the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” R.C. Sproul was quoted as saying, “There are no ‘good’ people.” Perhaps that is a bit extreme, but in comparison to God, none of us can be said to be “good.” When we call each other “good,” we are comparing ourselves to other humans.

Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we come into your presence and ask you to show yourself to us as the true, great, and almighty God, who can shed light into our misery and change it all, letting us find reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. Protect and help us with your mighty hand. Let every country and nation see your grace and see the victory over all sin and injustice. Let your justice come on earth, and let peace fill every heart and show in every life. May all that happens to us serve the good. Help us always look to you, our Lord and God, for you have power to rule everything and to turn everything to its right purpose. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. 
Luke 1:68–69, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that some of our friends are having a wonderful time celebrating Christmas in New York City
  2. that everything that happens to us, in some way serves the good (Romans 8:28)
  3. for the possibility of peace in every heart
  4. for the love of God, that makes us His children, rather than slaves who fear Him
  5. for the Incarnation, the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, 

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
 make his paths straight. 
Every valley shall be filled, 
and every mountain and hill shall be made low, 
and the crooked shall become straight, 
and the rough places shall become level ways, 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
(Luke 3:4-6 ESV)

God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.
(Ephesians 1:5 CEV)

God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father.
(Romans 8:15 CEV)

Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world did not know who Christ is, they don’t know who we are.
(1 John 3:1 CEV)


John Henry Newman writes this on the birth of Christ:

“The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds, became flesh, though remaining what He was before. He became flesh as truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been changed into flesh. He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother’s eye fixed upon Him, and to be cherished at a mother’s bosom. A daughter of man became the Mother of God–to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him what condescension! What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not only a helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were possible to a sinless soul. What were His thoughts, if we may venture to use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite, when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His? What a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man! Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)


Will you not revive us again, 
so that your people may rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NRSV)

What is “revival?” When I read that verse from Psalm 85, I immediately thought of an old hymn, “Revive Us Again,” written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay.

We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

Refrain:
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv'n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav'n. 

Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

In my early years as a “music minister” (that’s what it was called in Southern Baptist life, back in those days), I took part in half-week to week-long meetings that were mistakenly called “revivals.” They were not revivals, I eventually learned. They were evangelistic rallies. The problem is, there usually weren’t very many people at those meetings who needed evangelizing. It was the essence of “preaching to the choir.”

I eventually learned what true revival means. You see, you can’t “revive” someone who has never been “alive.” Paul, in Ephesians, says that, before we came to know Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). I believe that this hymn captures the true spirit of revival, in the last verse.

They whole hymn is a prayer. It is a prayer of praise, primarily, but with the added phrase, “revive us again.” And then, in the final verse, comes the real prayer for revival, as we ask the Lord to fill our hearts with His love, and rekindle our souls “with fire from above.”

This is a prayer by the Church, asking for God to revive His Church, rekindling our hearts with His holy fire. In the fame way, Psalm 85:6 asks for revival, “so that your people may rejoice in you.” Revival is no more for the lost than Revelation 3:20 is an evangelistic verse. But that’s a topic for a different day.

Psalm 85 is also a prayer, as are many of the Psalms. This is fitting, that both this psalm and the hymn are prayers, because true revival will not happen without prayer.

“An extraordinary spirit of prayer, urging believers to labor fervently in their supplications, is a sure sign of approaching showers and even floods of blessing. . . . If there is to be revival–a true, divine outpouring of God’s Spirit–it will correspond with wholehearted prayer and faith.” (Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)

As 2023 approaches, I will be spending some time reflecting on the past few years. That right there is a scary thought. For the most part, I would just as soon forget every year since 2019. And not just for the pandemic. But, as I reflect, I try to keep my spiritual eyes turned on myself, not toward others. It is far too easy to be critical of other people. I struggle with that, and always have.

My reflection needs to be on what I have accomplished or failed to accomplish. And as I look forward to another year of prayer, I will be praying for true revival in God’s people; praying that the Church can step away from nationalism and “patriotism,” and focus on God’s Spirit being active in our lives. But here’s the thing. It needs to begin in me. Hence that bit about focusing more on myself than on others (understand that I’m speaking about reflection and self-assessment, not about loving others, here). And that reminds me of yet another old hymn that says, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.”


Father, I am grateful, beyond measure, for Your great love for us, the love that has given us the right and ability to be Your children, to call ourselves by Your name, and to walk in Your kingdom. However, we get too easily distracted by the things of this earth. I love the old hymn, Father, that tells me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, so that the things of the earth will “grow strangely dim.” Lord, Your Church needs this now, more than ever.

I pray that as a new year approaches, You will send revival to Your people. I pray for a Spirit of encouragement upon us, that we might be encouraged to dwell with You as You dwell with and within us. I pray that we will truly turn our eyes upon Jesus. And let this begin in me, Lord. I have been praying for and hoping for a “love revolution” within Your people, Father. That, too, must begin here, in my heart. I cannot force someone else to love, but I can hope to inspire.

Help us to embrace the Spirit of Christ in our lives, and consider, daily, what He sacrificed in order to come to us. It was more than the death on the cross. We see that as the primary sacrifice, most of the time, but John Henry Newman gave us so much more to think about, as we consider what He left behind to place Himself in the hands of mortal human beings.

Thank You, Father, for this indescribable gift.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Power In the Blood

Today is Friday, the 25th of November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you, today!

Day 23,633

30 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Give me understanding, 
that I may keep your law 
and observe it with my whole heart.
(Psalms 119:34 ESV)

Lord our God, we turn to you, for you are our help. Hear our prayer, we beseech you; let our cry rise to you so that you may send your mighty help in our generation. Continue to protect us from all evil, from death and destruction. Protect us because we are your children. As your children we turn to you, the almighty God, who can make everything work together for good. Be merciful to us, O Lord God. Help us for your name’s sake. Help, Lord, for you alone can bring everything to a good end. So we stand before you in Jesus Christ, holding to every word you have given us and knowing for certain that you hear us. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; 
let the distant shores rejoice... 
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, 
and all peoples see his glory. 
Psalm 97:1, 6, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating Thanksgiving with family
  2. for the joy we experience as we observe the heavens declaring the righteousness of God
  3. for the blood of Christ, sacrificed for the cleansing of our sins and the creating of new life within us
  4. for the participation in that blood when we receive Communion at His table
  5. for the patience of the Lord

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
(2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV)

A Psalm of David. 

O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! 
Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, 
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! 

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; 
keep watch over the door of my lips! 
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, 
to busy myself with wicked deeds 
in company with men who work iniquity, 
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; 
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; 
let my head not refuse it. 
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds. 
When their judges are thrown over the cliff, 
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. 
As when one plows and breaks up the earth, 
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol. 

But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; 
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! 
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me 
and from the snares of evildoers! 
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, 
while I pass by safely.
(Psalms 141:1-10 ESV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(James 1:17 NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1 NIV)


“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
(Matthew 26:27-28 NIV)

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
(Leviticus 17:11 NIV)


Every Sunday morning, the pastor that leads the Communion at Living Word Lutheran Church opens their arms and says, “You are all invited to this Table of Grace.” Then, for the next few minutes, the congregation, in orderly fashion, proceeds to the kneeling benches around the altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus.

For at least five years (maybe longer), Communion (or, as we came to call it, the Supper) has been the central piece of the worship time for me. Everything leads up to the climax of that moment, in my opinion. And in the Lutheran service, it all begins with the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. First we confess, then we worship in various ways, and we end it by receiving the body and blood of Jesus.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us!” Observe the great blessing that He has given us, the truth that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Also observe His great patience in holding off the end of times, because He is not willing that any should perish.

“When I partake of that blood, I have a part in the atonement that it established, the forgiveness it secured. I have a part in the life of Jesus, surrendered on the cross, raised from the grave, and now glorified in heaven. The spirit of Jesus’ life is the spirit of my life. How powerful, how heavenly must that life be that is nourished by the new wine of the kingdom and communion with the Son. May I ever be thankful that Jesus shed His blood for me.” (Andrew Murray, in The Lord’s Table, quoted in Power in Prayer)

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)


Father, once again I am thankful for the cross, for the shed blood of Jesus Christ, that brings me into participation into the divine presence. I thank You for the mystery that is the body and blood of Jesus, present in the bread and wine of Communion. I pray that, as we receive this each week, we would realize more strongly the connectivity between us all, provided by and enabled by Your Holy Spirit.

As we take Communion each week, we are participating in something that is so much bigger than the congregation with whom we are worshiping. We are participating in something that spans the globe, and that also spans all time. When I consume the body and blood of Christ, I am consuming the same body and blood that John and Peter and James consumed. I am partaking in the same presence in which Polycarp and Ignatius and Clement and Augustine partook.

And I am connected, as well, with every believer who will walk the face of the earth in years to come. This mystery is similar to the mystery that is spoken of in Psalm 139; it is too wonderful for me, too high; I cannot attain it.

But I will, nevertheless, embrace it. So, this coming Sunday, Father, when I receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus, may I not take it lightheartedly or be aloof about it. May it carry with it the weight of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and may it empower me to live another week under the grace, and in His strength.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

For All People

Today is Tuesday, the 22nd of November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul, today!

Day 23,630

Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; 
let me not be put to shame!
(Psalms 119:31 ESV)

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer and reveal your hand in our days. May those things be done that bring your future nearer and that let the world see you as the Savior who can lead us to our Father. Bless your Word within us. May our hearts be strengthened, and may we always live in your presence. We draw our life from your Word, from your promise, and we set our hope on you, our Lord and Savior. Show your might, Lord Jesus, and carry out the will of God over all the world, so that we may rejoice when we see God’s glory appear and his will being done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Be patient, then, my brothers, until the Lord comes. See how patient a farmer is as he waits for his land to produce precious crops. He waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. 
James 5:7, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for this time of year, when many people’s thoughts turn toward thanksgiving; may they continue giving thanks, going forward
  2. for the strengthening of my heart through God’s Word and presence in my life
  3. that we draw life from His Word, and His promises
  4. for the challenge in 1 Timothy to pray for all people
  5. for the confidence that the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me, whatever that may be

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
(1 Peter 5:5-9 ESV)
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
 before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple 
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, 
for you have exalted above all things
 your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; 
my strength of soul you increased. 
(Psalms 138:1-3 ESV)
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; 
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. 
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
(Psalms 138:8 ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV emphasis added)

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
(Ephesians 6:18 ESV)

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:13-16 ESV)


“Most of the inconveniences that make men swear or women cry are really sentimental or imaginative inconveniences–things altogether of the mind.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
(1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
(Ephesians 1:17-18 ESV)


Paul and James give various and multiple admonitions to pray. And both of them are challenging to us.

First is Paul’s instruction (urging) to pray (supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings) “for all people.” Not just the people you like; not just your family; not just your brothers and sisters in Christ.

All people.

As I’ve seen it said many times, “All means all.”

Paul goes on, though, and includes (even though he has already said “all”) “kings and all who are in high positions.” Why? “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.”

Has anyone noticed that things in this country (I live in the United States) have been anything but “peaceful and quiet” for a number of years? Could it be that we, the “faithful” (I use that term loosely) have not been obeying this “urging” from Paul? I dare say that at least half of the “Christian” community has NOT been praying for our President, over the past couple of years. And, just to be clear, praying for him to die or be removed from office doesn’t count.

I’ll confess. I have not been diligent to pray consistently for our public servants, our elected officials. I’ll admit that. I have, from time to time, when reminded, lifted up our President and everyone surrounding him. But I don’t do it enough, and Paul’s admonition, here, convicts me. I need to spend more time praying for him, for the governor of the state in which I live, for those who serve in our city.

But along with that, looms that three word phrase, “for all people.” That’s a lot. I recently heard that the world finally passed eight billion in population.

No wonder Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.”

But, in all seriousness, we have to, at some point, acknowledge that it is virtually impossible to pray “for all people.” And, frankly, I don’t think saying, “Dear God, I pray for all people” quite cuts it. I mean, it can’t hurt, but still . . .

So how do we do this?

I was moved by Daily Guideposts 2022 writer Rick Hamlin, today. My initial reaction was that what he was about to say was silly. But the more I read it, the more it made sense. Before he goes to sleep each night, he starts at the beginning of the alphabet and works his way, all the way through Z, naming someone for each letter. Sometimes, it’s the same person for some letters, each night. Sometimes, they change. Yes, he struggles with X, sometimes, but manages to come up with something. And, when he gets to Y, he is reminded to pray for himself. Because, as much as I hesitate to do so, at times, it is acceptable to pray for yourself.

I may or may not begin to employ that practice, but it makes me think . . . what better way to fall asleep, than at least trying to follow Paul’s urging to pray “for all people.”

We are also admonished to be sure and pray “for all the saints.” Again, an impossible task, but I can pray for all the ones I know, can’t I? And, finally, James has some things to say about the effects of prayer. Prayer will save the one who is sick; prayer will bring about forgiveness. He tells us to confess our sins and pray, that we may be healed. And then comes that wonderful, popular phrase, in verse 16.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16 ESV)

Or, as many of us once learned it in KJV,

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 

So let us pray. Pray, as much as we can, “for all people.” Pray for kings, princes, presidents, governors, mayors, chiefs of police . . . pray for pastors, for Sunday School teachers, missionaries, and music leaders. Pray for one another, and don’t forget to pray for yourself.

And, to quote Andrew Murray (who didn’t see this coming?), “Let us ask Him to show us what holiness is: first His, and then ours; to show us how He has set His heart upon it as the one thing He wants to see in us: His own image and likeness.” (From The Path to Holiness, quoted in Power in Prayer)


Father, I confess that I have not been faithful enough in prayer. Sure, I pray for people, and especially when they give me a prayer request in my daily post asking for those. But I confess that I do not do enough spontaneous prayer, and certainly not enough praying “for all people.” Remind me, Father, throughout this day, and especially before I fall asleep, tonight, to pray for as many people as I can. Let the prayers be genuine, though, not just a list of “bless so-and-so” for a half an hour. Maybe, if that is all I can think of, then it’s okay. Nothing wrong with praying for someone to be blessed. But what I am asking for is to be able to remember specifics. And, perhaps, bring a person to mind, someone of whom I have not thought in a while.

I pray for the community of saints, today, that we would collectively remember these injunctions to pray for all people, and especially those who are in high positions in whatever land we find ourselves in, so that, as Paul said, we might live peaceful and quiet lives.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


"We got to pray
just to make it today."
M.C. Hammer

Grace and peace, friends.

Mind Your Own Business!

Today is Tuesday, the 25th of October, 2022, in the 30th week of Ordinary Time.

May you find the peace of Christ in your heart today!

Day 23,602

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
(Psalms 119:1 ESV)

Lord our God, grant that our spirit may recognize your Spirit and your love, so that our lives cannot be swallowed up by passing concerns but are lifted to something higher. Help us hold fast to all the blessings you have allowed us to experience, the blessings you will certainly continue to give, even though new battles and new troubles are all around us. Send a great light to shine among the many people whose task is to lead the way so that your kingdom may come. Send light so that your name may be honored through our human deeds and you may be known as life for all. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 
John 8:12, RSV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the Light of the world, the Light of life
  2. that our God is in the heavens, and does all that He pleases (Psalm 115)
  3. for the biblical admonitions to be patient, to be silent, and to be slow to anger; Father, please make this come to pass in Your children!
  4. that Paul tells us to mind our own business! (1 Thessalonians 4)
  5. for allergy meds; seriously, ’tis the season

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
(1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV, emphasis added)

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, 
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 

Why should the nations say, 
"Where is their God?" 
Our God is in the heavens;
 he does all that he pleases.
(Psalms 115:1-3 ESV)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to keep silence . . . 
(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 ESV)

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
(Proverbs 17:28 ESV)

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
(James 1:19 ESV, emphasis added)

And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.
(Mark 9:7 ESV, emphasis added)


“If you keep silent before God and give Him time, He will leave within you impressions that will be as the rays of His glory shining in you.” (Andrew Murray, The Best of Andrew Murray on Prayer, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)


I waited patiently for the LORD; 
he inclined to me and heard my cry. . . . 
He put a new song in my mouth, 
a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, 
and put their trust in the LORD. 
(Psalms 40:1. 3 ESV)

It appears that the topic of the day must be being patient, silent, and being slow to anger.

It starts up there in 1 Thessalonians, as Paul admonishes the people to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs.” Isn’t it odd that I don’t hear this preached about very often? I mean, right here in the Bible, Paul tells us to mind our own business!! And to live quietly.

Instead, when I look around me, I see of lot of loud, noisy, meddling.

The trend continues in Ecclesiastes. Listed in all of the things for which there is a time and a season is “a time to keep silence.” Admittedly, yes, there is a time to speak. But it may not be an accident that silence is written first. In truth, do we even have a right to speak if we have not first listened?

How often, in conversation, do you spend the time, while the other person is talking, thinking about what you are going to say next, rather than truly listening to what they are saying. Even worse, how often do we interrupt each other?? I am guilty, I know. It is a hard habit to break.

The writer of Proverbs tells us that a fool who manages to keep quiet is thought of as wise. And our brother James instructs us to be quick to hear (listen) slow to speak (keep silence), and then he adds “slow to anger.” Oh, dang. That James is a real meddler, isn’t he?

Once again, I see the opposite when I look around. Social media outlets are full of loud, angry “Christians.”

I added the verse from Mark, myself. After Jesus was transfigured and the disciples had blurted out their say (because they just had to say something, right?), that voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Listen.

That means stop talking. Be quick to hear, slow to speak.

Wait patiently for the Lord. It’s okay to pray, sure. But wait patiently, and, when applicable, quietly, silently. Stop talking and listen. That is what meditation and contemplation are for. The essence of those two disciplines are silence, which can, itself, be a spiritual discipline.

The reward is worth it. Andrew Murray left out verse 2, and I think it’s part of the reward, as well.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, 
out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, 
making my steps secure.
(Psalms 40:2 ESV)

This is the result of waiting, of patience, of living quietly. That, and the new song in our mouths, a song of praise to our God.

“True patience is so foreign to our self-sufficient nature, yet so indispensable to our waiting on God.” (Andrew Murray, Waiting on God, quoted in Power in Prayer)

“In waiting on God, it is important that we submit not because we are forced to, but because we want to be in the hands of our blessed Father.” (ibid)


Father, I have always had trouble keeping quiet. When I was in grade school, I kept getting separated from the rest of the class because I couldn’t stop talking. Do I really love the sound of my own voice that much? Or do I truly believe that what I have to say is so important?

Nothing is more important than listening to You. And it is impossible to listen when my mouth is running amok. Please help me to obey the admonitions of brothers Paul and James. Help me to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and dear God, please help me to be slow to anger. I have gotten better at that in recent years, but I still find myself getting angry over the most ridiculous things. Subway or Sonic got my order wrong. Again! How dare they not be perfect!!!

Grace, Father. Help me to display the same grace that You have displayed to me and all the saints. I cannot be perfect, I know. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

I pray for the patience to wait on You as Scripture teaches. I know the dangers of praying for patience. It’s like praying to have faith increased. As soon as one prays for something like that, one should be prepared for immediate testing. But, in this case, I am praying for the ability to patiently wait on You, and to do so by honoring silence. I believe silence can be sacred. So help me to observe that, and to obey Your commands to us.

I also pray that we would do a better job of minding our own business. We seem to be working real hard to create laws to keep people from doing whatever we disagree with. And we are loudly and angrily expressing our opinions while doing so. I believe this harms the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Help us to get back in focus, Lord, to do the things that are really important, which is love You and loving others. Help us to trust You with the rest of it.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Choice of Wisdom

Today is Thursday, the thirtieth of June, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time. The last day of June.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,485

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I didn’t leave the house, except to take the trash out and go to the mailbox. Oh, and to pay the lawn guy. Today is my full shift in the computer center of the library, from 11:15-8:15. And I’ve got Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup cooking for dinner tonight.

The Texas Rangers lost their afternoon game to the Royals, yesterday, but they won the series. So they are back to two games below .500, at 36-38, still in second place, 11 games out of first place, and four games out of the Wild Card. Their next game is tomorrow, in NYC, against the Mets. That could be challenging, as the Mets are having a good year.

The Boston Red Sox salvaged the series (they still lost it, but didn’t get swept) against the Blue Jays, winning 6-5, yesterday. This puts them back in second place in the AL East, at 43-33, a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, 13 out of first place, and in the first Wild Card spot. Their next game is tomorrow, in Chicago, against the Cubbies.

The Yankees continue to have the best record in the MLB, at 56-20 (I’m really getting tired of typing that). The closest team to them is eight games back (Houston, today). Oakland remains on the bottom, at 25-52. The Yankees and Brewers continue their winning streaks, up to four games. The Mets (did I say they were having a good year?) and Athletics both have three game losing streaks. It would be nice if the Rangers made that six games for the Mets. The Yankees have outscored their opponents by 151 runs, and the Athletics have been outscored by their opponents by 114 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 13 runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 60.

I still think the Yankees must be cheating.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for your Word, which is light and strength to us. We thank you for all you give us. We thank you that we may be counted among the simple-hearted, among the children. We do not want to be anything great in the world. We want only to be with you as your children, helpless little children, watched over by you, the Creator and Father of all. Grant us your blessing. Help us in all that is good and right, also in our daily work, so that we can be your children and do what you have commanded. May your name be honored at all times, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who have wronged us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.”
(Matthew 11:25 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the ability to receive the Kingdom with childlike faith
2. that I am alive and breathing, able to praise the Lord; may I praise Him with every breath
3. that to be great, one must be a servant of all
4. for the resources God provides, and the heart to believe that they all belong to Him
5. that Wisdom is easy to find, if we but search for her
6. for the two commands; if you know, you know

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

And Jesus said to [Bartimaeus], “What do you want me to do for you?”
(Mark 10:51 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is offering.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

This is interesting, as I just finished reading 2 Samuel, this morning, and chapter 24 tells of when David went and bought a threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah would have given him the floor. He was king, after all. But David said, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

The story of the widow and her two “mites,” or small copper coins, makes the point that it’s not the amount that is given, but the heart behind it, or the motivation. The rich people were putting in “large sums,” and tradition says that they were quite loud about it, so that everyone would notice how much they were putting in.

This reminds me of a time when I was in seminary. I played trombone in the seminary wind ensemble, and every Christmas, at least for several years, I was hired to play in a Christmas musical at a certain independent Baptist church in the area. One year (and C can verify this, as she was there), the pastor got up after the Christmas music was over and, in preparation for taking the offering, said, “if everyone would get caught up on their tithes today, we could pay all our bills and sink the rest of our money into evangelism!” And then he proceeded to hold his wallet up high, as did every other man in the audience (because that’s really what it was, you know), to put on a show that they were giving their offerings.

Based on the words of Jesus, they received the only “reward” they would get for that action on that day.

Jesus gives us very specific instructions regarding “giving alms” and other acts of service and devotion, such as fasting and prayer. One brother I knew took that so seriously that he never declared his tithe on his income tax! In fact, if memory serves me, which it frequently doesn’t, I think he always gave his in cash, anonymously! He didn’t want any record that someone else could see. His heart was admirable.

I don’t think Jesus means that we should never let anyone see what we do. I believe He means that the reason we do it should not be for recognition or to put on a show. And only we and He know the truth of that matter.

In regard to this matter, Hannah More says, “Vanity is at the bottom of almost all, may we not say, of all our sins. We think more of distinguishing than of saving ourselves.” (From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, everything I have belongs to You. Take whatever You need to take from me, in order to serve Your purposes in this world. I know that You, Yourself need nothing from us. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to You, and if You were hungry, You wouldn’t bother telling us about it. But You choose to use us and the resources You have given us to work Your plans in this world. So all I have is Yours, and I ask forgiveness for the times I use my resources selfishly. But I am also grateful that You allow us to use them for our own recreational purposes, at times.


“I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.”
(Proverbs 8:17 NLT)

The main thrust of this passage in Proverbs is speaking of “Wisdom” personified. “I” is wisdom. These are fascinating passages, indeed, as wisdom proclaims her own virtue and worth. I recommend reading the entire chapter, if time allows.

Wisdom is not difficult to find. She shouts from the street corners. If we search for her, we will surely find her. We just have to be looking for her.

Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 12:28 NLT)

This, also is wisdom. It is wise to obey the commands of the Lord. And what are His commands? If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Jesus summed them up in only two. Love God and love people. The entirety of the law and prophets are summed up in those two commands.

Father, I pray for wisdom. Help me to find her, daily, in all my ways. Help me to remember to search for her in everything I do, not so that people will think me wise, but so that my life will be lived in obedience to Your commands and to Your glory. As I go through my day today, at work, I pray that You will give me wisdom in interacting with the patrons who need help.


I’ll round out the morning with words from Eugene Peterson that seem to bring together both of the above subjects.

"We all have had well-intentioned (if somewhat vague) plans to do something nice for another person. 'Love your neighbor' (Matthew 22:39) is a command that we all plan on obeying . . . sometime.
"For many of us, it never amounts to more than a sentimental daydream, but for others, this fuzzy benevolence gets real. It becomes a simple, unpretentious, focused act of love that leads to health, to hope, to salvation for an actual person. The general, dreamy desire to help out in some way or another becomes a specific, creative act of compassion. A person walks out on the gossipy discussion of all that is wrong with the world and all that needs to be done in the world, finds another who needs help, and keeps the holy appointment she did not know she had."

Beautiful words from the master wordsmith. I’ve had too many sentimental daydreams in my life, but have also had some focused and unpretentious acts of love. I’ve also had far too many of those gossipy discussions, and am striving very much to stay out of those, going forward.

Father, as I go out today, keep my eyes and heart open. I may not find anyone who needs a focused act of love, today, but if I do, make me ready and able to jump in and do it. Please, oh please, keep me out of any gossipy discussions of all that is wrong with the world and help me to be one who notices opportunities to do something real and helpful. Help me to love my neighbor today!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.


Interior Silence, the Place of Strength and Power

Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,470

June is half over today. 2022 is almost half over. And even though we’ve already hit triple digits at least a couple times in the past week, Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, five days from now. That day is also known as Summer Solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight.

If I write anything that doesn’t make sense, today, it’s because I woke up too early. C gets up at 5:15 to get ready for work, and my brain had a lot of things to think about, so I wound up getting up around 6:00. What’s on my brain? Let’s see . . .

We switched mobile carriers, yesterday. We finally dumped ATT, because I’m tired of over-paying and under-getting. We have switched to Mint Mobile, for at least three months. If we like it, we will likely renew for twelve. Unlimited data for half the cost of ATT. The problem is, I still have an iPad I need to get set up, and I’m going to need some technical support today, because I made one wrong decision when I was trying to set it up yesterday afternoon.

I’m trying to reschedule my colonoscopy that is currently scheduled for Monday. I didn’t realize, when I scheduled it, that it was the day after Father’s Day! I was thinking about going ahead with it, but then I looked at the prep instructions. I can’t eat any solid food for a whole day before the procedure! I have called the scheduling number four times, and one of the facilities once, and can’t get any response. So I have to deal with that again today.

There’s more, but those are the two “big” things (first world problems, of course, or, as I have also called them, “footstool problems”). It will all work out fine.

This is my Wednesday off, at least. And I’m cooking a surprise for the family, tonight. Another dish that I got from Emily Bites, a wonderful recipe site that has tasty and relatively healthy recipes. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow morning, along with how it came out.

The Rangers blew a three-run lead, last night, to lose to the Astros, 4-3. It was almost the exact reverse of Monday night’s game, when the ‘stros blew a 3-0 lead. And the thing that ultimately led to the loss was a misplayed grounder that could have been an out (allowing a run to score), but wound up being no outs and a run scored. The next batter hit a two-run home run, and that wound up deciding the game. Oh, well. Tonight’s another night, and the Rangers could still win the series. We’re still in second place, though, because the Angels lost again. The Rangers are back to 8.5 out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

I learned yesterday that there will be three wild cards in each league, this year. This is getting ridiculous. Soon, MLB will be like the NBA, where more than half the teams make the playoffs. Might as well just start the season with the playoffs. Also, currently, all three wild card spots are held by AL East division teams. If the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs!

Anyway, the Rangers play the Astros again this afternoon at 1:05 CDT. We don’t know who is pitching for the Rangers, yet.

The Red Sox beat the Athletics (good for the Rangers), last night, 6-1. The Sox are now 33-29 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 2.5 out of third, 12.5 out of first, but are currently in the third Wild Card spot. They play the Athletics again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

We all know who still has the best MLB record, now at 45-16. The KC Royals have the worst record, at 20-41. The Braves won again, increasing their win streak to 13! The Cubs must not have played last night, and the Pirates did, and lost, so the Pirates now have the longest losing streak, at nine games. You-know-who has a run differential of +129. The Pirates are now at -103. The Rangers are at +5 after last night’s loss, and the Red Sox are at +45. Oddly, the Sox are in sixth place in the run differential category.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open will carry on, today, with practice sessions for all four oil patterns.

Update on tasks. My colonoscopy is rescheduled for Monday, July 11, and my iPad appears to be set up, now. Things are looking up!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, help us who are allowed to hear your Word. Help us come with all our hearts to the Savior, who leads us into your arms. Hear our pleading and let your countenance shine over the world. Send a new age soon, a new salvation to the earth, to the glory of your name. Show us that what we have learned about you is the truth and that we may live in the truth and find the way through to heaven, to the glory of your name. Hear us, O Lord our God. Often it seems that you are far away. But we know that our voices still reach you and that those roused by your Holy Spirit will become your workers for the Lord Jesus. Send your Spirit soon, O Lord God. Send the Comforter, who leads us into all light and all truth. We entrust ourselves and our daily lives to you. We want to be faithful. Help us to be your children, to remember at every step that we belong to you, Lord God. No matter how dark it is on earth, help us remember that we are with you, your children in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:14-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for one gracious blessing after another, received out of the abundance of the Father's unfailing love and faithfulness
2. that we are the tabernacle of God, as His Spirit dwells within us, but also that anywhere I can worship God can be my tabernacle
3. that God chooses to be with us always, an indication of how much He loves us; how then can we not also choose to love one another?
4. that we can know the strength and power of the Holy Spirit by entering into the silence of that inner tabernacle
5. for coffee

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
(Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is “tabernacle.”

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34 NLT)

The tabernacle of the Old Testament was the place where the people of God met with Him. His presence dwelled within the tabernacle.

But now, ever since Christ came, God’s tabernacle is within us.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

There are many verses of Scripture that tell us that we are the dwelling place of God, now.

All that being said, though, anywhere You meet God can be your “tabernacle.” This study is my “tabernacle” every morning. I have experienced “tabernacle” on the deck of a cabin in Glen Rose, as I looked out over the landscape, toward the river. I have worshiped God sitting in a canvas chair on a beach in Galveston, watching the waves of the mighty ocean go to and fro.

Anywhere you can worship God can be your tabernacle.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When Jesus makes this promise to His disciples, it is a choice that He makes. Our God chooses to always dwell with us and care for us. This is a minute indication of how much He loves us. This is something worth dwelling on, worth meditating on. And when we do dwell on this, and think rightly about God, there is no other option but worship.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Did you know that we do not have to create silence? On the contrary, it is the noise that we create, that which disrupts the silence that exists. I wonder at the silence before everything was created, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.” That must have been the most profound silence that ever existed.

It is difficult, in our day, to encounter complete silence. Even as I sit in this room, when I am not typing, there is some kind of noise. I can hear the computer fan. I can hear the box fan in the bedroom. Occasionally, there is a noise in the room next to mine.

But it is as close to silence as I can get in the house. I have experienced a deeper silence in the Redwood forest of northern California.

As C and I walked around in the midst of those majestic trees, the ground was covered with their needles. The ground cover acted as a silencer. Our walking made no noise, and, when we didn’t speak to each other, there was the closest thing to total silence that I have ever experienced.

John Main speaks of the interior silence that is the “language of the Spirit.”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT)

“The words we use in trying to communicate the Christian message in the Christian experience have to be charged with strength and power, but they can only be charged with strength and power if they spring from the silence of the Spirit in our inner being. . . . Leaving behind all other words, ideas, imaginations and fantasies is learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in your inner heart [your “tabernacle”], who dwells there in love. The Spirit of God dwells in our hearts in silence, and it is in humility and faith that we must enter into that silent presence. St. Paul ends that passage in Ephesians with the words, ‘So may you attain to the fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.’ That is our destiny.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Living the Godly life turns out to be the opposite of the world’s business mindset. “The bottom line in business shows how much you accumulate, but the bottom line in life shows how much you give away.”

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

Father, may we always be humble and never think of ourselves as more righteous than we ought. In comparison with You and Jesus, we are all the worst of sinners.

I thank You, Father, for the example of the Old Testament Tabernacle, where we get a glimpse of the power of Your holiness. But I am more thankful that we do not need that Tabernacle in our day, because we are Your “tabernacle,” as Your Spirit dwells within us. I am also thankful that anywhere I can worship You can be my temporary tabernacle.

Father, the way that You love us and choose to be with us at all times is inconceivable. It is, as the psalmist said, too much, too lofty. I cannot attain it. I cannot fathom it. But it is true. Help me to embrace this daily, Father, and help me to transform that into love for my fellow human beings. Yes, even the ones with which I do not agree, and even the ones who would abuse me or harm me or take advantage of me. Even the people who come, unbidden, to my front door, trying to sell me solar panels!

Father, I pray that I can know the silence of the Spirit in my inner being, so that the words that I must use, whether they be verbal or written, are charged with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit.

Finally, Father, I pray that I would continue to be generous with all that You have give me, that my life would be marked by how much I give away.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

True Worship

Today is Tuesday, the seventh of June, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,462

I haven’t written personal stuff, recently. Nothing is wrong, or anything. A couple days, I felt that the spiritual portion of the blog was, perhaps, a bit too long, and didn’t want to add to it with trivial stuff. I have actually considered moving this portion of the daily blog over to my other blog. The jury is still out on that.

Speaking of jury, I got a jury duty summons in the mail, yesterday. Fortunately, it is not for the Monday of my colonoscopy exam, which is two weeks from yesterday, June 20 (unfortunately, that is the day after Father’s Day, so I will have to spend Father’s Day evening drinking the prep). The summons is for the following Monday, June 27. Also fortunately, that happens to be my “easy” week at the library (that means that I’m not working that Wednesday or Saturday), so if I wind up having to serve on a jury, and it lasts more than one day, I won’t miss very much work.

The Texas Rangers have won some and lost a few, during the past few days, and remain three under .500, at 25-28. They are also still in third place in the AL West, even though the Angels have lost twelve in a row! Hah! Take that, Joe Maddon! They are actually only a half game behind the Angels, at this point. The Rangers got rained out in Cleveland, yesterday, so a double-header is scheduled with the Guardians, today, beginning at 2:10 CDT, this afternoon.

The Red Sox have managed to get above .500, and are now 28-27, but are still in fourth place in the AL East. They are 3.5 behind Tampa. They are currently in a series with the Angels, so it helps both them and the Rangers if they win.

The Evil Empire continues to be the best team in MLB, with a 39-15 record. Their cross-town rivals are only 2.5 behind them. The KC Royals (17-36) are holding on to the worst MLB record. I’m sure the Reds are enjoying that. The Yankees also have the current best win streak, at six games (The Red Sox are at five). As referenced previously, the LA Angels’ twelve game losing streak is the longest current losing streak. We hope it continues to grow. Another AL West team, the Athletics, has the second longest losing streak, at six games. Now if Houston would follow suit . . . The Dodgers still have the best run differential, at +113. The Yankees are trying to catch them, though, at +102. The Royals, on the other end, have been outscored by 89 runs. The Rangers are at +9, and the Red Sox are at, wait, what?? +39! Wow.

In PWBA news, Breanna Clemmer not only made history in last week’s Twin Cities Open, she also earned her first PWBA title, as she defeated Bryanna Cote (the battle of the BC’s?) in the title match of the tournament. History was made, as she had the highest three game series ever by bowling consecutive 300 games, followed by a 289, and threw, I believe 29 strikes in a row!

The ladies are currently in qualifying round 1 of the Long Island Open, one of three rapid-fire tourneys that are happening this week, at Maple Lanes Rockville Centre, NY. After two games, Liz Johnson, veteran bowler, is in the lead, followed by Jen Higgins (good to see her back up there). Breanna Clemmer is in eighth, and Verity Crawley is tied for tenth. There are a total of 81 bowlers in this round. Round 2 will begin at 2:30 EDT, after which they will cut to the top 12 for tomorrow’s two match play rounds. The stepladder finals will be tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EDT, on bowltv.com. I won’t get to see all of that, as I don’t get off work until 6:15 tomorrow, CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our refuge forever, bless us who have gathered in your presence and who turn to you in all distress, not only in our personal need but also in the distress of the nations and peoples of the whole world. Grant that we may be your children, with a simple faith that gives us strength to go on working even when life is bitterly hard. We thank you for giving us so much grace, for helping us and never forsaking us, so that again and again we can find joy and can glorify and praise you, our Father. May your name be praised from heaven above and among us here below. May your name be praised by all people throughout the world, and may everyone on earth acknowledge you and receive all that they need from you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were born, 
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, 
from beginning to end, 
you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm still alive and breathing; a new day with new opportunities
2. for the confidence that I have that God is working His plan and that all will be well, in the end
3. for the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26)
4. that the primary way we show our love for God is by loving others
5. that true worship makes both God and our neighbors more real to us

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
(Romans 12:3 NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us.
 May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere. 
May the nations praise you, O God. 
Yes, may all the nations praise you. 
Let the whole world sing for joy, 
because you govern the nations with justice 
and guide the people of the whole world. 
May the nations praise you, O God.
 Yes, may all the nations praise you.
 Then the earth will yield its harvests, 
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “groanings.”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
(Romans 8:26 NLT)

There have been plenty of times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to pray. It still happens, sometimes, in regard to my own life, and sometimes, in regard to prayer requests that I receive. I have to stop and remember that, in those times, the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

I also have this feeling that there are times when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I did think I knew what to pray.

Me: Utters prayer about any certain topic
Holy Spirit: Um . . . Father, that's not really what he means . . . this is what he really wants to pray

It is also worth noting the word “weakness” in that verse. The Holy Spirit is helping us in our weakness. I can’t help but wonder, if we feel that we have no weakness, will the Holy Spirit then condescend to intercede for us?

Father: Did he really mean to pray that??
Spirit: Beats me . . . he doesn't need my help, he's got it all figured out

I confess that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I type those dialogues. And of course, I mean no disrespect. It is merely a means of trying to illustrate what I believe this verse is telling us.

There is great comfort in embracing this truth, in knowing and believing that, when I don’t quite know how to pray, He is there for me, helping me. And when I pray something that isn’t quite right, He is also there for me.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
(Hebrews 6:10-12 NLT)

This passage is interesting to me. The emphasis is (surprise!!) on loving others! The writer of Hebrews stresses that this is how we show our love for God, by “caring for other believers,” and then says that their desire is that the recipients of this letter will “keep on loving others as long as life lasts.” By doing this, they will keep themselves from becoming “spiritually dull and indifferent.”

How do we show our love for God? By loving and caring for others. Not by fighting for “causes.” Not by fighting for anything.

*mic drop*

This was one of my favorite songs as a “youth.”
"The person who wants to arrive at interiority and spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus.
"Nobody's comfortable in public unless he's spent a good deal of time in the quiet of his home. Nobody speaks with assurance who hasn't learned to hold his tongue. Nobody's a success as a general who hasn't already survived as a soldier. Nobody respects decrees who hasn't already obeyed them."
(Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
"When we worship God, we discover how his blessings shape our lives. We also discover how to bless and be blessed by our neighbors' lives.
"In worship, God becomes more real to us. But the mystery is this: so do our neighbors."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Here’s the thing: if we aren’t loving our neighbors, we haven’t really worshiped God.

Father, Your Word tells us quite plainly that “pure and genuine religion” is caring for others (specifically, in that case, orphans and widows). Jesus told us, also quite plainly, that in caring for others, we care for Him, and in refusing to care for others, we refuse to care for Him.

Why is this so hard for us to embrace?? I struggle with it, sometimes, myself, but when I look around and see the hatred coming from peoples’ hearts and mouths, it breaks my heart. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Dear Father, this ought not be so! Have mercy on us, Lord. Please reach our hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of peace and love, not fighting and hatred.

I thank You that You have given us this “law,” Father, that the way we are to show our love for You is by loving others. I thank You for molding my heart to believe this, so many years ago. I confess that I still struggle with it, but that struggle remains largely interior, these days, so at least there’s that. I rarely type or say some of the thoughts that come through my mind, and try to dismiss them as soon as they pop into my brain, as I do not wish to entertain any thoughts of “unlove” toward anyone.

Help us to truly worship You, that You might become more real to us, and that our neighbors would also become more real to us, and that we might bless them and be blessed by them, as well. As we seek to worship, I also pray that we might find time and way to spend more time alone with Christ in our lives. We, as a society, are too busy for our own good. Help us to slow down, to stop and meditate, to consider You and Your Word, and its effect on our lives.

Help me, Father, to never pretend, but to truly and really love others. I pray that I would take delight in honoring my brothers and sisters. Help me to keep praying, to pray more often and more fervently. I pray for more compassion and willingness to help others. I also pray that I would never be conceited, thinking that I “know it all.” Above all, help me to live at peace with everyone.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Look

Today is Saturday, the fourteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of May.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,438

I initially published this without coming back up and adding a few things.

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be in the circulation department of the Hurst Public Library, today.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Boston Red Sox, last night, 7-1. Not a good showing at all, as Rick Pivetta pretty much shut down the Rangers bats, and the notorious Boston bullpen didn’t have to work very hard. Dane Dunning got his second loss of the season. The Rangers are now 13-18 for the season, but remain in fourth place in the AL West, as the Athletics also lost. The Sox are 12-20, still in last place in the AL East, 12 games behind the Yankees. The two teams will play again today, at 6:05 CDT. Glenn Otto will start for the Rangers.

The Yankees continue to hold the best record in MLB, with 24-8 on the season. The Reds continue to have the worst record, but also continue to improve, as they have a three-game win streak. Since the Tigers won, yesterday, the Reds are now the only remaining team that has yet to win ten games. They are 9-24.

The Astros continue to have the longest win streak with 11 consecutive wins. The Rockies and Blue Jays continue to have the longest losing streak, now at five games. The Dodgers have the highest positive run differential, at +74, and the Reds have the highest negative differential, at -62. The Rangers are close to the middle of the pack, with -11. Last night’s loss by six runs tied the worst lost they have had this season.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, almighty and holy One, whose glory shines upon the earth so that we may find joy in you and may live rejoicing in all your loving-kindness, spread out your hands in blessing over all people. Spread your blessing over the happy and the sad, over the courageous and the weak. Shepherd them in your love, in the great grace you have given through Jesus Christ, confirmed in us through the Holy Spirit. Do not let us remain degraded and worthless. Lift our hearts above what is transitory, for you have given us something eternal to live by. Help us every day so that we can reach the goal you have set for us, for many others, and finally for all peoples of the earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
(Romans 5:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we have peace with God because of what Jesus has done
2. for the light and truth of God, sent out from Him to guide me into His presence (Psalm 43)
3. for the example of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, given by Jesus in Matthew 6
4. for Paul's command in Romans 12 to outdo one another in showing honor to each other
5. for the community of saints, in which we all help each other stay on the path
Send out your light and your truth; 
let them guide me. 
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
 to the place where you live. 
There I will go to the altar of God, 
to God—the source of all my joy.
 I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God! 
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 43:3-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “blossom.” Algernon Charles Swinburne, English poet, is quoted as saying, “Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”

This is not a word that appears in Scripture very often. It is normally associated with Spring. The appropriateness of this reading for today would largely depend, I suppose on where one lives. It’s mid-May, so “Spring is in the air, right?” Except I live in the DFW area of Texas, where we are currently edging toward triple-digit temperatures. We already had our “week” of Spring.

However, I do find some references to “blossom” in places like Isaiah.

The time is coming when Jacob’s descendants will take root. Israel will bud and blossom and fill the whole earth with fruit!
(Isaiah 27:6 NLT)

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
(Isaiah 35:1 NLT)

The LORD will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.
(Isaiah 51:3 NLT)

Then there are a couple references in the last chapter of Hosea.

"I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. 
“O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” 
Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.
(Hosea 14:5-9 NLT)

It is the Lord’s great mercy and grace that give life. When our hearts feel barren, or bereft of hope, the Holy Spirit will cause us to blossom with new life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray for Your grace and mercy to flourish within Your people, blossoming into hope and joy, as we walk through this world in Your kingdom. We definitely have reason to be concerned, if we allow our awareness to focus on the wrong things. But help us to focus on You, and on Your promises, those “great and precious promises” that You have given us, that we might share in Your divine nature.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
(Romans 12:10 NLT)

This is something that I will never stop writing about, whenever the opportunity arises. This verse comes right on the heels of verse 9, which I have featured a few times, here.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

There are, of course, a variety of translations for verse 10. While the NLT says “take delight in honoring,” the ESV words is, “Outdo one another in showing honor,” almost making it a competition to see who can honor each other the most. How cool would that be, if the church (small c) would do that, rather than people seeking their own honor? The NIV simply says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Not so much a competition, just a simple act of looking at someone else as being more important than one’s self. I like that, and the NLT, a little better. Because, if we take the mindset of the ESV and attempt to outdo one another, then it might be done in the pretense that is forbidden in verse 9.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.
(1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT)

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
(Colossians 4:5-6 NLT)

Here’s the thing. We never know when someone is in desperate need of some grace. When someone cuts us off in traffic, or drives aggressively, we seem to always assume that that person is just rude and inconsiderate. But, in truth, we know absolutely nothing about that person (more than likely). I believe that the Lord would have us assume something different. I believe that, if we are going to make the mistake of assuming (we all know what happens when you assume, right?), we should err on the side of grace, and assume that something is troubling that person. What if we prayed for them instead of grumbling, or, ever worse, flipping them off?

The world is in desperate need of grace, right now, and I fear that what it is seeing from the “church” (small c, again) is anything but grace. They are seeing whining and complaining about “freedoms” and “rights.” When, all the while, the Gospel message is telling us, quite plainly, that we are supposed to be honoring one another above ourselves, even to the point of outdoing one another in this effort.

I also believe that this is what we will see coming out of the true Church (Capital C, the Body of Christ). There’s an old Gospel song that I used to sing. “The Church Triumphant (Is Alive and Well).” That’s true, when you use the capital C Church, the Body of Christ. Not so much the “church,” which is, for the most part, a human institution.

Father, teach us to live in the country of grace, where we willingly and eagerly honor one another over ourselves. Help us to take our focus off of “freedoms” and “rights,” and remember that we have surrendered those to You. Yes, in Christ, we have been made “free,” but this freedom is the freedom that enables us to obey Paul’s commands in Romans 12, to not just pretend to love, but to really love, and to outdo one another in showing honor, to consider others to be more significant than ourselves. By doing this, we will show the world that there is truly a better way to live.

In light of the recent examination of some of Martin Luther’s words, in the past week, we might also consider that our reaction toward people might be a symptom of our own failure to trust God with our anxieties. Consider the following questions.

  1. “Are there time when I am crippled by anxiety and stress? Do I sometimes take my feeling of worry and anxiety out on other people in my circle? How can Jesus’ counsel help me with this?”
  2. “What concrete steps might I take to develop a deeper trust in God?”

The reference to Jesus’s counsel in the first question refers to the passage in Matthew 6 that was examined during those readings from Martin Luther.

Jesus spoke of birds and flowers, so it might be wise to do what He said to do. Jesus said, “Look at the birds. . . . Look at the lilies of the field.” Don’t just think about them. Actually go out and look at them; watch them.

At one point, Luther mentions “the concern of love.” This, we believe, is “a focused concern for the well-being of others,” while a “greedy concern,” well, you can imagine . . . it refers to the concern of the selfish heart.

These are all issues with which we must wrestle, ourselves. There is no cookie-cutter answer, for all of our circumstances are unique. Luther’s writing gives us “the idea of a life free from ulcer-generating anxiety,” and leaves us “with the responsibility of translating the reality into [our] life circumstances.” And, to help us, “we have as many teachers and preachers as there are birds in the air, as many theologians and masters as there are flowers in the field.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, these are words that help us to continue to grapple with the issues of loving one another and considering one another more significant or honorable than ourselves. When we get caught up in “greedy concern,” we are focusing on our own needs and our own selfish hearts. And I certainly know how selfish my own heart can be. I still grapple with this, every day. Your Spirit, though, helps me set self aside and care more for others, and I thank You for this! I pray that this would be a common occurrence within the confines of Your Church, Father. May the Body of Christ live as Christ lived, caring for each other, and caring for those around us.

I also pray, Father, that You remind us how much we need each other to keep us on the path. It is too easy to lose our focus and forget that our lives are pretty much simply wrapped up in You and us. When I began this journey of faith, it was You and me. But things get cluttered and I frequently lose my way as I get sidetracked by things of the world and distracted by my own selfish ways. When I get back in community, when we, the Church, embrace one another and greet one another and pray for one another, it gets back to where it is just us and You. Jesus, Your Son, is the center of it all. Help us to keep Him the center.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
(John 13:34-35 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Poetry of God’s Love

Today is Friday, the thirteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,437

I had a fine day in the Computer Center, yesterday. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I was able to help most of the patrons who needed it without any assistance from the manager. There were a couple of instances that required his assistance, and one of those turned out to be something that was wrong with the program on one of the computers that is supposed to wipe all the memory when it reboots at the end of a session.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the KC Royals, 3-1. They also won the series, and I swear I heard one of the announcers say that the Rangers have not won a “rubber” game at home since 2001?? Anyway, the Rangers are now 13-17, still in fourth place, still seven games out of first, and still a half game ahead of the Athletics. They begin a weekend series against my other favorite team, tonight, the Boston Red Sox, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox did not play yesterday. They remain 11-20, and are in last place in the AL East, 12 games out!

The NY Yankees (23-8) continue to hold the best record in MLB, two games ahead of the cross-town Mets. The Yankees are the only MLB team that has not lost at least ten games. The Cincinnati Reds (8-24), while still holding the worst record, have been improving. They are only one game behind the struggling Detroit Tigers (9-23). And those two are the only remaining teams who have yet to win ten games.

The Houston Astros have the longest current win streak (10), while the Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays both have four game losing streaks. The LA Dodgers continue to hold the largest positive run differential, at 76, while the Cincinnati Reds hold the largest negative differential, at 68. That’s all the stats I care to give you, today.

I have an appointment at the Atlas Vein Clinic at 10:30, this morning, where they will look at the results of my wearing compression socks for the past twelve weeks, and we will discuss the next steps. I doubt, at this time, that I will proceed with any procedure, just yet, as I still need to schedule a colonoscopy (Wheee!!) in the near future.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, whose light shines out of the darkness and gleams brightly into our hearts, we thank you for all the goodness you allow us to see. We want to see your goodness clearly and have confidence in it, no matter how much around us is dark and disquieting. We want to remain firm and full of trust, looking to what you have put into our hearts so that we may come to know you. Be with us with your Spirit. Lead us to realize ever more clearly that we are made for your honor. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the light that shines out of the darkness into my heart that I might know the glory of God
2. for the Lord's unfailing love, poured out over me
3. that we are God's poetry, still in the process of being written
4. for the Lord's comfort in times of suffering and sorrow, and that we can turn around and provide that same comfort to others who suffer and mourn
5. that not a single thing has ever been accomplished by worrying about it
6. for the "congregation" with which we gather each Sunday morning, a group of people "who have decided, together, to pay attention" (Eugene Peterson)
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 
I thirst for God, the living God. 
When can I go and stand before him?
(Psalms 42:1-2 NLT)
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 42:5 NLT)
But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, 
and through each night I sing his songs, 
praying to God who gives me life.
(Psalms 42:8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is a Greek word, “poiema.” The word is traditionally translated “workmanship” in most translations of the Bible, in Ephesians 2:10.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

The NLT renders it “masterpiece,” and the NIV says “handiwork.” The interesting thing is that this is also the word from which we derive our English word “poetry” or “poem.” From this, we can get the beautiful image that we are, in fact, poetry that God is writing. A recent translation, called The Passion Translation, renders this verse:

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
(Ephesians 2:10 TPT)

In recent years, I have become a bigger fan of poetry, and have even ventured into the writing of Haiku, from time to time. Most Haikus that have been seen in this blog, unless otherwise accredited, were original. To learn of this meaning of this word gives me great delight.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Your amazing love;
You are writing on my heart;
Lovely poetry

Father, I thank You for the beauty of this word, and its various meanings. There are times when poetry says things to me that normal prose cannot convey. I don’t quite understand why, other than to know that You have given my hear the ability to appreciate beauty in many things. This gives me great delight, and it helps me to delight in You! I pray that You continue to write Your great poetry of love in my heart and in the hearts of all of Your children. I also pray that, in the writing of this poetry of love, You erase all of the meanness and hatred that still resides in the human heart.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
(Isaiah 58:11 NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18 NLT)

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 NLT)

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT)

Father, maybe someone needs to see these verses today. I thank You for the comfort You give those who mourn, for we all have mourned at one point in our lives, and we will all mourn again, surely. Until the day when we all get to heaven, and there is only rejoicing, there will be mourning and sorrow on this earth. It is inevitable. So we praise You for this comfort that You give. I also pray that You would help us who have been comforted by You give comfort forward to those who are suffering in sorrow. As Your Word tells us, You are our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. You comfort us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1).

Martin Luther, in The Place of Trust, reminds us that we daily see examples of God’s provision, right before our eyes. He urges that we allow these illustrations to persuade us to “lay aside your anxiety and your unbelief and to remember that you are Christians and not heathens.”

He paraphrases Jesus’s teachings from Matthew 6. “Since you are Christians, you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”

Then Luther says, himself, “If nothing grew in the field unless we were anxious about it, we would all have died in our cradles; and during the night while we are lying asleep, nothing could grow. Indeed, even by worrying ourselves to death we could not make a single blade of grass grow in the field.”

He goes on to say that we are, in effect, godless people, when we refuse to give up our anxiety in the face of such overwhelming care from our Father.

I love the example of what it would be like if nothing grew unless we were anxious about it. It is a humorous example, but also quite true.

Let us take to heart Jesus’s final statement in that passage.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I thank You for these teachings of both Jesus and the examples by Martin Luther. I am quite grateful for the teachings of the ancients that we still have available. I am grateful for the technology that has preserved the words of these people, that we might learn from them. Certainly, they all had their flaws, and we are not going to agree with every word that they said or wrote, but we can still extract diamonds from their library of work. Give us discernment as we look at the words that came out of those eras.

Help us to stop worrying. People are full of fear and worry, right now, over worldly circumstances that truly have no bearing on eternity. Inflation and gas prices have absolutely nothing relevant to us, when we consider Your kingdom. All of these things are mild inconveniences in the face of the treasure that we have awaiting us in eternity. So give us stronger faith, that we might stop the worrying and focus on what is waiting for us, and how we might lead other people into that glory.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
(Romans 8:18 NLT)

Eugene Peterson’s reading today, is a simple, single sentence. “A Christian congregation is a group of people who decide, together, to pay attention.”

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

I love this. “Pay attention to what??” you might ask. I can’t speak for Peterson, but my answer would be “anything and everything.” We pay attention to God and His Word. We pay attention to what is going on around us. However, we don’t worry or fret or complain bitterly about what is going on around us (we might, but we should not). Rather we pray about it, and we look forward, with great anticipation to that inheritance that awaits us.

Father, I am grateful for the congregation with which I gather each week. We are a group of people, I believe, who have decided to “pay attention.” Help us to follow Your commands to love You and to love others. Help us to be even better at paying attention to Your Word, as well as to events around us. Help us to not be ones who moan and complain about things, but, rather, look at the world through the glasses of faith; faith in You, faith in Christ, faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us, provide for us, to continue to save us, and, eventually, to lead us Home, where we will live forever in Your glory.

I pray desperately that You would inspire Your people to stop fretting and worrying about things because of this main reason; when the unbelievers see Your children doing nothing but moaning and complaining (and being angry, to boot), it certainly does nothing to draw them into Your kingdom. And I believe that is one of the things we are supposed to be about . . . even though it is Your job to draw them in, I believe that we might be making Your job a little bit more difficult than it should be.

“If the world hates you because of Jesus, that’s fine. If the world hates Jesus because of you, that’s a problem.” ~ seen in several TikTok videos in the past week.

Grace and peace, friends.