Today is Tuesday, the 21st of February, 2023, the last day of the season of Epiphany. Lent begins tomorrow, with Ash Wednesday. Today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.
May the peace of Christ dwell within you today and every day.
Typical Tuesday, today. I’ll be heading to Subway for lunch and dinner for the family, and then I’ll go to work at the library at 4:15-8:15 this evening. Who knows what will happen in between? Maybe some reading, maybe some gaming. I’m currently reading The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix. I’ve been wanting to read some of his work, for a while, now, so I finally checked this one out. So far, it does not disappoint. I’m a little more than halfway through it.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts; I hate every false way. (Psalms 119:128 NRSV)
Lord our God, remember us even though we are only a few. Protect us from all evil, from all inner harm, which threatens us every day. Let your hand be over us so that at last a great power may stream out from your church into all the world, bringing the fulfillment of your promises. We thank you for all your goodness. Watch over us, we pray. Keep us in the right spirit and purpose, and help us resist all that is wrong and harmful. Grant that we serve you and not the world. Protect us this day and every day. Amen.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians 5:25-27 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for my wife, faithful partner for almost 38 years
- for the goodness of God in all things
- for the potential of the Church to bring the light of God into the world; strengthen us to do right, Father!
- for the steadfast love of the Lord, and His wonderful works to humankind
- for David’s example in 1 Samuel of not doing evil to Saul
Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalms 119:18 NRSV)
With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. (Psalms 119:10 NRSV)
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalms 107:23-32 NRSV)
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; (Psalms 23:1-2 NRSV)
David left there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; when his brothers and all his father’s house heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Those who were with him numbered about four hundred.
(1 Samuel 22:1-2 NRSV)
The men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.'” Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. Afterward David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
(1 Samuel 24:4-6 NRSV)
let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
(Hebrews 10:22 NRSV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NRSV)
See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.
(1 Thessalonians 5:15 NRSV, emphasis added)
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
(2 Thessalonians 3:3 NRSV)
"Father God, fill me with You until there is no more room for me." (Erika Bentsen, Walking in Grace 2023)
Show me how you work, GOD; School me in your ways. (Psalms 25:4 MSG)
Evil will be used by God to bring about good. “All things . . .” (Romans 8:28) Not just “good things.” And, besides that, human interpretation of what is “good” and “evil” is, at best, suspect.
While we should not be naive about evil (having that “head in the sand” attitude about it), we should not be intimidated by it, either. The 2 Thessalonians verse tells us that God will guard us from the evil one. We also have Jesus’s model prayer including that bit about “deliver us from evil,” and there are some who say that it should say “evil one,” and not just “evil.”
We are not to repay evil for evil. It is my opinion that there is no circumstance that bears this out as prevalently as in driving. But it displays itself in some ugly ways in our interactions in society, as well.
We have this problem of forgetting that the “newspapers are footnotes to Scripture and not the other way around.” We spend to much time engaging with our own and other peoples’ opinions about things, especially in the political arena. “We get our interpretation of politics and economics and morals from journalists when we should be getting only information.” The meaning of the world should be given us by God’s Word. Instead we allow the world to interpret God’s Word. (Quotes by Eugene H. Peterson, from Run with the Horses, quoted in God’s Message for Each Day)
Look at the example of David up there. Saul was trying to kill David. All because of some song that some women sang. “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands,” is how the song went. I’ve always had a rather humorous vision of this in my head, as a few dozen women do some kind of Hebrew dance in the street (which involves a lot of bouncing and jingling), chanting this line repeatedly. It has a pretty good rhythm to it.
Saul was envious. Or maybe it was jealousy; I get those two confused a lot. At any rate, he was literally hunting David to kill him. David had hidden out in a cave with around 400 men. Saul stepped into the cave to take a leak (relieve himself). David’s men said, “Here’s your chance! Kill him!”
David crept up to him and cut off a corner of his robe. David would not lift a hand against Saul, even though Saul would have killed him on the spot! 1 Samuel 24:4-6 tells us. David even felt guilty for cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe!
Who are your enemies? Do you even really have any? I don’t. There are certainly people that I don’t like very much. But do I consider them enemies? My only real enemy is spiritual, at least at this point in my life. But this translates into how I treat someone I don’t like, as well.
There’s a library patron I don’t care for. I’m not alone in that. But if Jesus is having His way in my heart, I will treat this person with love, not hatred. I will do “good things” to him.
By the way, note that bit from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5 where he says that we should “do good to one another and to all.” Oh, if only he had stopped before “and to all!”
There are Christ-followers (allegedly) who are “conservative Republicans” who seriously believe that all Democrats are their enemies. There are Christ-followers (allegedly) who are “liberal Democrats,” although the conservative Republicans believe this to be impossible, who seriously believe that all Republicans are their enemies.
There are white people who believe that all people of color are their enemies. There are people of color who believe that all white people are their enemies. There are even men who believe that all women are their enemies, and vise versa.
None of these beliefs are true. Not one. But guess what. Even if they were, if we are true Christ-followers, we are obligated to love those people whom we consider to be our enemy. It is not negotiable.
I really like Erika Bentsen’s prayer in today’s reading in Walking in Grace 2023. I quoted it up there. It’s a wonderful prayer. We should all pray that, every day. Lord, “fill me with You until there is no more room for me.”
I’ve still got too much of me in there.
Lord, have mercy! Father, have mercy on us, for we are foolish children, walking about casting hatred at one another over ridiculous things like politics. We consider ourselves each others’ enemies, when, in reality, our only real “enemy” is the devil. We wrestle not with flesh and blood, says Paul, but we are sure wrestling an awful lot with each other. Help us to unite, in the blood and name of Jesus Christ, and fight our common enemy, reaching out with love to the world.
Help us to not interpret Your Word by the morning headlines and editorials. Rather, help us to interpret what we see in the world by Your Word, instead. Help us to be filled with You until there is no more room for us in there. When that happens, there will only be love coming out of us, and the world will then see what a true Christ-follower is supposed to look like.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.