Turn, Turn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Today is Wednesday, the ninth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his awesome photography at the link provided.

Day 23,372

The A/C and heater people are supposed to arrive, this morning, between 9 and 10. The work should take most of the day. It is currently pretty cool outside, at 36 degrees, but should get up to around 60 by mid-afternoon.

An update on my computer situation. I finally got all of the files moved to Dropbox, but when I opened up the PC, I couldn’t tell which part was which. I’m also not 100% sure which part is making the noise, so I’m not going to try to swap out the hard drive myself. I have talked to the Computer Center manager at the library, so when I go to work Friday, I will take it with me, and he has agreed to look at it. I’ll take the new hard drive with me, as well.

There’s not much else to talk about, this morning. I’m starting a new devotional book, as I finished Symphony of Salvation, yesterday. The new one is also by Eugene Peterson, called On Living Well.

You might notice that I have not addressed world events that are going on. That is intentional. There are plenty of places you can read/hear about that. My purpose here is to present the Word of God in the best way I can, as positively as I can. My goal is encouragement, not discouragement. I know that I occasionally point out issues and shortcomings in the Church. But that is because I love the Church and I want to see her flourish.


Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place -
the Most High, who is my refuge -
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
(Psalm 91:9-10)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Church, the community of saints, faithful and true 
2. for angels who minister to the saints
3. for Salt of the Sound and their beautiful, inspiring music
4. for the way God works in my devotionals
5. for those times when the things of earth go strangely dim

John Henry Newman speaks of Daniel’s two recorded fasts. The first one, I believe was for ten days, in which neither Daniel nor the three Hebrews we know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ate any meat or any of the king’s delicacies. The second was for three weeks.

The result of the first fast was that Daniel and his three friends were all stronger and healthier than the king’s people. On the second fast, Daniel was visited by an angel.

Newman keys in on the angel visit, and notes that, when Jesus was fasting in the desert for forty days, He was visited and helped by angels. “And so we too may well believe, and take comfort in the thought, that even now, Angels are especially sent to those who thus seek God.” Newman then takes note that Elijah, as well, was strengthened by an angel. We also have record of Cornelius, the Gentile, being visited by an angel when he was fasting.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91:11-12)

The devil is well-aware of this promise, says Newman, “for he used it in that very hour of temptation. He knows full well what our power is, and what is his own weakness. So we have nothing to fear while we remain within the shadow of the throne of the Almighty.”

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
(Psalm 91:7)

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

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5 ESV)

“The Word was first. The Word was previous to everything else. Before we were conceived and took shape in our mothers’ wombs, before we were born, before anything happened, there was the Word.”

Before anything else existed, sun, moon, stars, trees, flowers, fish, governments, hospitals, schools, “there was the Word.”

I can’t paraphrase this stuff . . . it’s too good.

“If the Word were not first, everything else would have gone awry. If the Word were second – or third or fourth – we would have lost touch with the deep, divine rhythms of creation. If the Word were pushed out of the way and made to be a servant to the action and program, we would have lost connection with the vast interior springs of redemption that flow out of our Lord, the Word made flesh.

“When the Word is treated casually or carelessly, we wander away from the essential personal intimacies that God creates . . . by his Word.” (Emphasis mine)

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

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

It is the season of Lent. We are “supposed” to give up something. I did see a TikTok by a reverend that I respect and follow, suggesting that, maybe, instead of trying to force ourselves to give up something, perhaps we should try to add something positive, such as trying to pray for a person every day.

But this is a “season,” as indicated in Ecclesiastes 3. Almost everyone is familiar with the next ten verses or so of that chapter. Pete Seeger helped us all with that. The Byrds probably made it more famous than Pete, but he wrote the song.

I’ve read over this many, many times, in my life, but it is always “time” to look them over again. The many “times” or “seasons” that the writer of Ecclesiastes notes are as follows:

A time to for birth and a time for death
A time to plant and a time to reap
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to destroy and a time to construct
A time to cry and a time to laugh
A time to lament and at time to cheer
A time to make love and a time to abstain
A time to embrace and a time to part
A time to search and a time to count your losses
A time to hold on and a time to let go (there's a whole bunch of us who need to learn that one)
A time to rip out and a time to mend
A time to shut up and a time to speak up
A time to love and a time to hate
A time to wage war and a time to make peace
(I used The Message for these)

And, as we work our way through the season of Lent, perhaps giving things up and perhaps adding things, there is one thing that we need to do. We need to “Turn” our eyes upon Jesus. It is always time for that.

Today’s prayer word is “ponder.” Isn’t that fitting, based on what I’ve just written?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

“Ponder,” of course, means “to think about.” To think about carefully, to chew over, to meditate. Unfortunately, we tend to ponder over the wrong things, sometimes.

I have to interrupt myself and simply be awestruck over how my Father works these things out, how all of this works together, this morning. The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Becky,” writes about trying to go to sleep at night, but as soon as her head hits the pillow, she starts pondering her day, her family members, and then the world and the future and . . . well, you get the picture.

In her case, “ponder” is more like “worry.” And I have most certainly been there. But the writer of Philippians would have us ponder different things. And I’m sure, if he were around today, he would agree with the song above the purple line, and say that all of the things in that verse are summed up by saying, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Because, most assuredly, when you do that, the things of earth grow strangely dim.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help us all to turn our eyes upon Jesus, during these times, so that the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Not that we stop caring, may it never be! But that we stop worrying, fretting, fearing. We are Your children . . . have mercy on us . . . teach us how to obey Your commands to “fear not.” Help us to live Isaiah 41:10 every day, ever minute, throughout all of those many “seasons” listed above. There is NEVER any reason for us to fear, Father!

NOTHING can separate me from Your love in Christ Jesus. None of the things mentioned in those two verse, nor anything else that we could possibly imagine. And, most beautifully, not even my sin can separate me, because of the powerful and efficacious work of my savior Jesus Christ, my Lord! Your Word made flesh, existing before there was anything else, and who will come again to make all things right.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Imperishable, Undefiled, Unfading

It’s Wednesday morning, November 23, 2011. The day before Thanksgiving. Christi is taking the day off today. But she will spend a good part of the day cleaning, in preparation for tomorrow’s big family Thanksgiving. Then she will get up early tomorrow and start cooking. Christi doesn’t cook a whole lot…I do most of the cooking for us. But she loves to cook the Thanksgiving meal. And she does a fantastic job of it, too.

Stephanie got a little freaked out yesterday and started having doubts about the homebound schooling. I think she recovered, though. Personally, I think she got intimidated by the amount of work she needed to do this week. But once she got over it, she completed three of the six tasks that she needed to do this week. I told her later that she could space it out a little more. There was no need to feel that she had to do it all at once!

Yesterday…one of those rough days at work. Today will be better. I believe it.

Today’s Bible readings:
1 Peter 1:1-12; Ezekiel 37-39; Proverbs 29:19-27

Just as James wastes no time getting down to the admonitions and warnings, Peter wastes no time getting to the encouragement. After a brief greeting, he praises God for our salvation. Note the words that he chooses. God “caused us to be born again…” (v. 3) It’s important to see this. God caused it. We did not. I can’t stress enough that God is responsible for every inch, every ounce, every minute detail of our salvation! We have nothing to do with it! Even if you say, “But I had to believe” (which is true), God is the one who gave the faith that enabled you to believe. What have we been “born again” to? Living hope; an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading!” (v. 4) I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I get goosebumps! It gives me shivers. We have an inheritance waiting for us that is amazingly awesome! It is being kept in heaven for us, and we are guarded by God’s power! (v. 5) However, while we are waiting for this “salvation” to be revealed (by this, he is referring to our final, ultimate “salvation,” in which we receive our inheritance), we are “grieved by various trials.” (v. 6) But this tests the genuineness of our faith. And the result is “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (v. 7) I love verses 8 and 9. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Yes!! This is what faith is all about! We don’t see Jesus, but we love him! We believe and we rejoice! The resulting challenge comes tomorrow.

Ezekiel 37 is the infamous “dry bones” chapter. God tells Ezekiel to prophecy to a grave full of bones. They come to life, grow flesh, and after further prophecy gain breath. The purpose for this? God’s revelation in verses 11-14. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
Instead of the traditional “Dry Bones” song, I thought I would share this beautiful worship song by a very talented group called “Gungor.”

By the way, thanks to Emerging Mummy for turning me on to this group.

Father, I praise you for causing me to be born again. I thank you for the living hope that I have; for the inheritance that waits for me that in imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. I cannot wait for the day when this inheritance becomes reality for us. Nevertheless, we live on this earth, we suffer various trials, and we live by faith, rejoicing in that which waits for us some day. The joy that we have in Jesus is truly indescribable. At times, we forget. This is true. I struggled yesterday to remember my joy, when faced with difficulties at the workplace that just wouldn’t go away. However, at various points during the day, I believe the Holy Spirit reminded me that these are just things that have no lasting impact on my life, as a whole. I thank you for reminding me of these things, and I confess that there were points during yesterday’s trials that I did forget; I did worry; I became discouraged. But I see, looking backward, that none of this has affected my inheritance. There is NOTHING that can affect my inheritance. That’s why Peter used words like “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” to describe it! I praise you for this, Lord, and I pray that you will continuously remind me of these truths!
I thank you for giving me faith to love Jesus and believe in him, even though we cannot, at this point in our lives, see him. This is truly remarkable.

I pray for this day. Let this day be a good day for Christi as she works and rests at home (I pray that she will get some rest). I pray for Stephanie, that she will help out some, during the cleaning.

I pray for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal, that you would not allow us to go through it without remembering what it is that we are celebrating. May we truly be thankful for all that you have given us. I also pray for Friday’s meal at my parents’ house. Give us safe travel as we go to their house.

I lift up a special prayer for my friend Andy, in California. Lord, please give him shelter, and, if it is your will, I ask that you give him the means to return to the city to which he wants to return. Give you grace and mercy today, Father, as well as courage.

I pray for the place that our leadership team from The Exchange is looking at. Again, we pray for your will in regards to a permanent place for The Exchange to meet.

Imperishable. Undefiled. Unfading. That’s what we have to look forward to!

Grace and peace, friends.

Never Stop Trusting

It’s only Tuesday. I feel like we’ve already had a week back from our vacation. I posted a couple of comments that things were better with Stephanie yesterday evening, but then that switch went off again. We spent another hour arguing last night about school, and she got up continuing the argument this morning. She says she’ll go tomorrow. We’ll see about that. I don’t believe anything she says any more. Christi just about lost it last night. Almost had a full-blown breakdown. We just don’t know what to do. It’s a pretty helpless feeling. So I’ll just keep turning to the only place I know that gives me any hope.

Today’s Bible readings:
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; Jeremiah 17-18; Proverbs 21:24-31

There are some final instructions and greetings in the last part of 1 Thessalonians 5. Among them are instructions to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (v. 14) These things are more difficult than they sound, aren’t they? There are many of us who have no problem admonishing the idle. But we do seem to have a low tolerance for faintheartedness and weakness. We are also encouraged to always seek to do good to everyone. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (vv. 16-18 ) Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but be sure and test them. Hang on to what is good with all of your being and avoid all kinds of evil. And then he prays for them. “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 23)

Jeremiah 17 has some good words for us. First we have a warning about trusting in man for our strength. Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. (vv. 5-6) Then we get an encouragement to trust in the Lord instead. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (vv. 7-8 ) Does that sound familiar? Remember Psalm 1? Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (vv. 1-3)
Remember that bit about trusting the heart the other day (I can’t remember if it was yesterday or last week)? I referred to Jeremiah 17. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (vv. 9-10)

Father, I lift up your name this morning, and praise you for your grace. I admit that I don’t feel very much like praising this morning, but I know I need to. Christi and I need help, Lord. Stephanie is not in a good place right now, mentally, and she needs your help very much. We could use a miracle right now, Lord. I pray for my heart and Christi’s heart right now. I pray that you infuse us with an extra dose of grace right now. Let us not rely on the help of man, but trust in you. Your word says that you will work all things out for good, and we do love you and believe that we are called according to your purpose. Let us not lose heart or lose hope.

We will never stop trusting in God. No matter what.

Grace and peace, friends.

This Dying Tent

Good Sunday morning to you. We’re up and about, getting ready to go worship at The Exchange this morning. Yesterday was fairly busy, at least early, as we had to go to the other side of town to look at the proofs for Stephanie’s senior pictures. They turned out very nice, and we spent….never mind…on a package of them. Perhaps the best part of the package was that we got all 18 proofs, 16 of which are in a nice, folding portfolio. We got to take those with us, and the rest will be ready in the standard 2-3 weeks.

After leaving the photo studio, we went a short distance to where Christi’s stepfather is in rehab, following his surgery. We visited with him for a few minutes, and initially made plans to go back today and take him out to see the assisted living apartment where he will be living after he gets out of rehab. However, we got word later that his doctor would rather him wait another week before taking that trip.

I went to the grocery store after we got home, and let Christi rest, as she was still pretty worn out from the three previous days of helping her mother move. By the time I got home, it was almost 5pm, so we ordered some dinner and pretty much did nothing but watch TV the rest of the evening.

Our evening was capped off nicely, as Josh Hamilton hit a towering walk-off home run to help the Rangers beat the A’s 7-6. I was very glad to see him get that walk-off, after what he’s been through this week. There was the traditional mob scene at home plate when he came around third. Meanwhile, the Red Sox handed the struggling O’s yet another shutout, beating them 4-0 behind the unusually potent pitching of struggling John Lackey. I was glad to see him do well last night, as I never want to see any Red Sox player struggling. Unfortunately, the Grumpy Old Men won, but the Sox are still in first place. The Halos won, too, but the Rangers keep first place, as well. Adrian Beltre hit a home run in Texas, which counted as my Home Run Beat the Streak, AND my Beat the Streak hit, because I picked him for both. Woot!! So I have a “streak” of one for HR Beat the Streak, and a streak of six for regular Beat the Streak. I’m on a roll!! Hahaha…only 51 hits to go! I’m going back to Big Papi for the home run today. I think he’s overdue. Josh Hamilton is my pick for a base hit.

Now for the devotional.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
2Co 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

What a beautiful and encouraging passage this is! We are told when this “tent” (our physical bodies) is destroyed, we will have a “building from God.” This “house” is not made with hands and is eternal. We groan, day and night, in this “tent,” with great desire to be in our heavenly dwelling. I can certainly attest to that fact. Who has prepared this place for us? It is God, and we have the Holy Spirit as a pledge toward it.
Some believe the next paragraph teaches that, as soon as our body dies, our spirit is present with Christ in heaven. I’m not 100% convinced of that, but even if not, as far as our conscious spirit is concerned, that would be the case. Verse 10 clearly teaches (and some would have us believe otherwise) that even Christians must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It also teaches that not everyone will receive the same reward.

Hosea 4-5
We begin with a strong and disturbing accusation. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. (vv. 1-2) The accusation then goes further, and applies to the priesthood. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (v. 6) The rest of the chapter and chapter 5 continue with accusations that are desperately hopeless. Israel has lost her love for the Lord and chased after false gods.

Psalm 138
1 Of David. I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
2 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.
3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

I love the beginning of this Psalm of David. “I give you thanks with my whole heart!” I sing the praises of the Lord. And verse two tells us that the Lord has exalted his name and his word above all things. An alternate translation actually says that he has exalted his word even above his name. That is how important the word of God is. The beautiful truth in verse 6 is that, even though the Lord is higher than all, he still “regards the lowly.” How precious that is! For we are all “lowly” before him!

Father, I praise your name, and exalt your word! I love your Word, Lord, and am glad that you have given me such a desire to read and study it. I ask for more understanding, more wisdom, more comprehension as I read it. Let your Spirit guide me to truth as I meditate on your Word. Let me never fall into the trap of chasing after false gods, Father! My heart’s desire is to follow only you; to serve only you; to worship only you.

I pray that as we go to worship this morning, that we will truly worship you, and that it will be acceptable in your eyes. Let us join with other believers in worship and leave changed because we had an encounter with you this morning. I am encouraged by the truths of 1 Corinthians 5 this morning, knowing that, though this “tent” is decaying, I have a heavenly “building” that will never decay; never perish. Hallelujah!

Once again, this “jar of clay” that my spirit inhabits, is not my permanent home. I have a heavenly home that is eternal!

Grace and peace, friends.