Displacing Worry with Christ

Today is Friday (I had to think a minute), the twenty-third of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,570

I’ll give a quick update on my cyst removal surgery, yesterday. It went very well, as far as I can tell, with no complications or anything. I’m a little sore, but not in any kind of terrible pain. I can take extra strength Tylenol through the weekend, and then I can take Ibuprofen. I have to leave the bandage on through Saturday, and then need to replace it every day. I go back in two weeks to get the stitches out.

I may not have mentioned that this was happening . . . I don’t remember. But the two cysts were very close together, right on top of my head. They are sending them to pathology, which is routine.

It’s Friday, so I will be in the Computer Center at the library today, from 9:15-6:15. If time allows, I will update Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit, after I finish my devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Our dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you have given us the Lord Jesus on high and that we are allowed to be with him and find joy even while still surrounded by all that must fade and perish. For in Jesus Christ you hold us by the hand through anxiety, need, and death. Grant that he may be with us as we continue our pilgrimage. Grant us your Spirit, for we are poor in spirit and in soul. Give us your Holy Spirit from on high. Just in our weakness we come to know what strength and victory you bring through the Lord Jesus, our Savior. The Lord Jesus is our Savior for body, soul, and spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 
(Ephesians 4:8 RSV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for God’s love, poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit
  2. that we can have joy, even though we are surrounded by everything that must fade and perish
  3. for the peace that comes when we allow Christ to displace worry in our lives
  4. that prayer is more than just asking God for stuff; it is fellowship with Him
  5. that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4 ESV emphasis added)

Three times, in those four verses, the author of this little epistle declares that he is an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ. And the reason that he is writing this is given, “so that you too may have fellowship with us.”

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

I see this as more of a comparison than an outright command that we must confess sin. If we agree with God (assent or acknowledge) that we have sinned, we will be forgiven; if we claim that we are sinless, we are delusional, “and the truth is not in us.”


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.
(Proverbs 5:21 NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

If I think too much about the Lord examining all my paths, it might create the anxiety that I am not supposed to have, according to Philippians 4. On the other hand, knowing that my “ways are in full view of the Lord” can bring comfort to me. There is no hiding from God; there is nowhere I can go where God is not. And even though I’m not perfect, even though my thoughts sometimes go places where they should not, I know that my God is already there, and that there is nothing that I can do, say, or think that changes His love for me.

The Philippians passage says, “in every situation.” Interestingly, the Greek word that is translated “every situation” in NIV and “everything” in ESV and NLT is simply “pas.” That word essentially means “all.” There is no further object indicated. This explains why the KJV is translated “every thing.” I like Eugene Peterson’s translation.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
(Philippians 4:6 MSG)

We worry about so much, these days. The Christian Church is fraught with worry, and those worries seem to be over such meaningless things. There is an implication here, since we are told that if, instead of worrying, we pray, we will have peace, then the opposite also applies; if we worry instead of praying, we will not have peace.

And that peace that results from praying instead of worrying transcends all understanding. Peterson’s translation here is also wonderful, to me. “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

I forgot to finish my thought up there, when I pointed out the part that says “in every situation,” or in “everything.” This includes those situations when we have allowed ourselves to stumble into sin, or when we have allowed negative thoughts to reign in our minds, or when we allow complaining to be the order of the day. Prayer is not just for when we need someone’s healing or provision. Prayer is for everything, for “pas.”


“Love breaks the chains that hold you to the past; it allows for growth, change, and new life. When you accept God’s love, you also accept God’s forgiveness. As you love yourself, you also forgive as you are forgiven and you love even more . . .

“The more control you try to grasp, the less you have; the more control you surrender to God, the more under control your life becomes. Surrendering control doesn’t mean you have become passive or fatalistic. It means you trust that God has given you the physical, emotional, and spiritual tools necessary to negotiate life. To surrender control to God releases the tension within that keeps you from responding to life with all your capacity. When you stop pushing and pulling to have things your way, you are more apt to see things God’s way.”

(Adolfo Quezad, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

It seems to me that this last paragraph supports the teaching of Philippians 4:6-7.


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Andrew Murray further supports the truth of the Philippians passage. When we give in to anxiety and prayerlessness, we experience self-condemnation. (I am speaking primarily to believers, here.) But, if we pray, instead, as Paul admonishes, “Think of the confidence in the Father that will replace the reproach and self-condemnation that characterized our lives before. Think how the hour of prayer may become the happiest time in our whole day, and how God may use us there to share in carrying out His plans, making us a fountain of blessing to the world around us.”

And then, Murray says, “Prayer is not merely coming to God to ask something of Him. It is, above all, fellowship with God and being brought under the power of His holiness and love.”

I believe this all falls under the truth of the Jeremiah passage. When we pray, we disable the anxiety, we recognize God’s plan for us, and we have peace.


Father, strengthen us to believe in the victory that You have prepared for us. Strengthen us to believe that the blessing that You have for us is greater, far, than anything we could ever imagine! Teach us to pray instead of worry. Teach us to live in the country of grace and forgiveness, rather than in the country of worry and doubt. We will doubt, yes. We are human, and it goes with the territory. But we do not have to live or dwell in that doubt. We do not have to allow our minds to dwell on that doubt.

Give us that peace that passes all comprehension or understanding; help us to live in that promise of life and hope and a future in You. Help us to pray over everything, and in doing so, release the reproach and self-condemnation that we tend to fall into. Help us to remember the great words of Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

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.

May the Good in Our Hearts Bloom

Today is Wednesday, the twentieth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,505

Thirty days until S turns 29.

The heat wave continues, and it’s not just in Texas. In fact, the world is, quite literally, burning. There are wildfires in Texas and California, that I know of. There are also fires in Europe, where temperatures are reaching record highs. DFW reached a high of 109, yesterday, just shy of the predicted 110. Today is predicted to be 109, as well. For a little bit, it looked like tomorrow would be below 100, but this morning, the forecast for tomorrow shows a high of exactly 100. I’m still hoping.

We still desperately need rain, as do many other areas. The last day DFW had recorded rain was June 3. This, of course, is recorded at airports, so there may have been pockets of rain in some areas last Thursday, but not where I live.

I don’t have much else, this morning. I need to get moving, because it’s my early day at the library, and my shift begins at 9:15.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, you want to be our God and you want us to be your people. Give us the inner integrity and the power to discern and reject what does not come from the heart, so that everything may be genuine among us. Then no lies and deception will creep in, and honesty and goodness will flow from our hearts to the glory of truth, to the glory of the gospel and the great hope you give us through the gospel. Guard our hearts. Protect the good that is planted in them, that it may grow and thrive and bear fruit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. 
(Jeremiah 32:38–39 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that there is good planted in our hearts; may it grow and thrive and bear fruit
2. that God desires us to be His people
3. for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
4. for flowers and the inspiration that we can get from them
5. for God's ability to do miracles and answer our prayers

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
(Amos 5:18-20 ESV)

Whenever I read this passage, it gives me pause in thinking about how eager some folks are for the return of Christ. I have stated before how I long for Home. And I do end my daily prayers with “Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.” But there is a sobriety to that prayer, and I don’t pray it flippantly or even, necessarily, eagerly. Because I understand that the second coming of Christ is going to be a dark and dreadful day for much of humanity.

And I will also admit that there is much that I don’t understand about Biblical prophecy and its fulfillment. Much of Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed. Enough that there are even people known as “preterists” who go so far as to believe that all Biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled.

I don’t fall into that category, because if that were true, what are we doing here? Why are we still here?


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is flower.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~ Lady Bird Johnson

There is truth to that statement, and “flower” can be a verb, as well as a noun. Initially, when we see the word “flower,” we think of something like this.

But “flower” can also be a verb, and pretty much means the same thing as “bloom.” Hope blooms where flowers grow, is the statement by Lady Bird.

I like to think of something else, though, when I consider the word “flower.” I like to think of what Jesus said about faith and anxiety, about how much we worry about things that aren’t worthy of it. I’m going to use Peterson’s translation.

All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
(Matthew 6:28-33 MSG)

When I start worrying about things, I need to, as a popular song once said, “stop and smell the roses.”


I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
(Psalms 118:17 NIV)

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
(John 5:8 NIV)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

I believe in the power of prayer. If I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t pray. But some of my brothers and sisters and I wonder, at times, why we don’t see the kind of results that people in biblical times saw. I’m not going to get into a lengthy philosophical discussion, here (partially because I don’t have time), but I will say that I do still believe. I believe that God can heal and deliver, because He is all-powerful. My questions have never been about the ability. My questions are about the willingness. I know that He can, but will He?

There are many of us praying for rain and relief from the heat wave. And we believe.


Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)

Let us not mistake what Paul is pressing on toward. He is not striving to get everything out of this life that he can get. He is striving, pressing on, toward “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

“God has done the decisive act in Jesus Christ. God calls us. He calls us to be his; he calls us to be in relation to him; he calls us to know him. The upward call is not the call to make the most of ourselves, to get the most out of life, and to give it the old college try. We are talking not about a task but about faith.”

This call is about what God wants us to get out of Him. This call does not diminish us. “His call does not distract me from my essential being but confirms it. His call does not diminish my core identity.

“His call establishes it.”

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


Father, I confess that time is short, this morning, and I must get on with things. But I will pray, still. I thank You for the flowers and how they teach us of Your love and care for us, and teach us that anxiety and worry are things that should not concern us. Please keep teaching us these things, especially during these challenging times.

Father, I pray for everywhere that is on fire, right now. Please send rain and cooler temperatures to all places that are in danger right now. I pray for the forecasters to be wrong. I pray for rain to come out of nowhere to drench the burning wildfires in our country and in other countries across the world.

I pray that Your upward call will reign in us, and that our faith will grow, increasingly, and be strong. I pray for the good that is planted in our hearts to bloom and grow, that it will thrive and bear much fruit.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Now you've got my feet on the life path,
 all radiant from the shining of your face. 
Ever since you took my hand, 
I'm on the right way.
(Psalms 16:11 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Adventure Time

“There are days when the world is bright with meaning and every bird and flower a witness to the glory; we dance and sing with the innocence of animals. But those days are then snatched by the starless nights when the dark has seeped into our souls and we cower in fear and despair, pulling the covers over our heads.”

It’s Tuesday, the nineteenth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,504

I got all the things accomplished yesterday. It was quite productive, and turned out pretty well. I wound up only needing one new tire (for now), and I have to say, I love the company where I get my tires done. We have been going to Hamm’s for quite a while, now, and they are honest, reliable people. They could have easily sold me four new tires, yesterday, but told me that the other three tires were okay for now. They showed me the bad one, so I’m confident that that was what I needed.

I got the oil changed pretty quickly after that, as well. I was home, with Sonic drinks, shortly after noon, which isn’t bad. Turns out mid-morning on Mondays is a good time to do things.

I haven’t updated the weather, here, lately, so I’ll do that, today.

It’s hot.

I’m still keeping my spreadsheet going, and found a website that helps me keep up better, because Reliant’s app is always at least two days behind. So the highest temperature, to date, was yesterday, when it hit 110 (that’s 43.3c for those reading anywhere but the U.S.). It is projected to be that hat again today.

We did have two days, last week, that did not reach 100, so that streak ended at ten days. The current streak is at three. We have had 23 days, now of triple-digit temperatures. The ten-day forecast calls for another 110 degree day tomorrow, followed by temps closer to 100 for the rest of the visible forecast. That gives me some hope that it might drop below 100 somewhere in there.

As for rain, there is virtually no chance in the next ten days, with one day having a 21% chance (and that depends on which weather site you look at – Wunderground only gives a 15% chance for that day).

It has still not rained since June 3.

But even bigger news is the European heat wave, right now. It hit 40c yesterday, in London, and airports are shutting down because the runways are melting. Many people there do not have A/C. At least, in Texas, we expect it to be hot.

It’s my busy week at the library, so I’ll be working tonight, tomorrow, Thursday, and Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we rejoice that we may be called your children. In our weakness we ask you to shelter us in your hands. Strengthen us in the hope and faith that our lives will surely go the right way, not through our strength but through your protection. Grant that through your Spirit we may come to know more and more that you are with us. Help us to be alert in our daily life and to listen whenever you want to say something to us. Reveal the power and glory of your kingdom in many people, to the glory of your name, and hasten the coming on earth of all that is good and true. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, when I am weak (and acknowledge that weakness), in Him I am strong
2. that His grace is sufficient
3. for this journey, this "adventure" of faith, trusting that life in God's Kingdom is far better than I could ever imagine
4. for the community of saints; oh, how we need each other!
5. for the mystery of resurrection and the adventure it brings us

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!
(Amos 4:13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is adventure.

“Adventure is not outside man, it’s within.” ~ George Eliot

Adventure. It is defined as, “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” As a verb, it means, “engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.”

You won’t find the word anywhere in the Bible, but that’s okay, because we don’t just pray words that are in Scripture.

Admittedly, some folks are more adventurous than others. We have had adventures in Mexico, some more fun than others. We ziplined, we drove a Hummer, we held a baby crocodile, we had a snake around our shoulders, we rode four-wheelers through the jungle. We even rode a bus to Walmart.

“Adventures” can be fun. They can also be dangerous and risky. People have lost their lives attempting adventure.

I suppose the journey of faith can be described as an adventure. In this journey, every step is a step into the unknown. Someone once described faith as walking up to the edge of the light and taking one more step. But, in reality, walking in faith is never knowing what is coming next.

Now what this truly means is that every human being on the planet is walking in faith, whether they know it or not. Who or what that faith is placed in is a different story. But everyone who takes a step forward or gets in a car to drive or ride somewhere is acting in faith.

I am on a journey of faith, walking in God’s Kingdom. I trust in Him, in His reality. I trust that things in God’s Kingdom are far better than I could ever imagine, no matter what I see in the world around me. And let me tell you, the world around me doesn’t look very promising, right now.


Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
(Matthew 26:36-38 ESV)

When Jesus was approaching the most traumatic time He would experience while He walked on earth, He brought His best friends along. He expressed His heart to them, His trouble and sorrow.

Jesus. The Son of God. God incarnate. Needed His friends.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 ESV)

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
(John 15:15 ESV)

Jesus calls us “friends.” He does not call us “servants.” The old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” How often do we stop to think that He also considers us “friends?”

If Jesus, God incarnate, needed His friends around at this most important juncture of His life, how much more do we need each other?


In this life of adventure, Peterson chimes in (although he doesn’t use the word). “There is a lot we don’t know. There are days, many of them, when we don’t know what is going on. Events tumble out randomly, it seems. . . . There are days when the world is bright with meaning and every bird and flower a witness to the glory; we dance and sing with the innocence of animals. But those days are then snatched by the starless nights when the dark has seeped into our souls and we cower in fear and despair, pulling the covers over our heads.”

Try to imagine what Peter and John must have felt when they stood in front of an empty tomb, not yet comprehending what had happened. “Not only was the body gone from the tomb, but the meaning was gone from their lives.”

They had such high hopes. Jesus, when He was alive, “had convinced the two men that their lives had purpose, that it was worthwhile to live, that everything fit together in a design of salvation, and that love was possible.”

And now, not only was the living Jesus gone, so was the dead Jesus. But in the midst of this mystery (adventure?), “They spotted a clue. They used their heads. they followed the clue. And it led them to resurrection.

“There are clues everywhere, still. It is up to the curious to pick them up, follow them, make the correct deductions from them, and live before the mystery of life in a believing faith.”

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


Father, this life is full of adventure, but those adventures are not always fun or enjoyable. In fact, we seem to be in the midst of an adventure that I would just as soon end. But it continues, and so must we. I pray for the faith to continue to walk in Your Kingdom, and to continue to believe that things are far better than I could ever imagine, and far better than they seem.

I praise You for the resurrection, and for the “clues” that we still have around us. Help us to not get bogged down in circumstance; help us to see that “reality” is not necessarily what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears. Rather, give us the faith to be able to see and hear what is truly reality in Your Kingdom.

I pray for unity within the Body of Christ. We need each other more than ever, and yet we are terribly divided over issues and “causes” that are not necessarily relevant to the Kingdom. Help us to remember that the only “cause” worthy of our attention is the cause of Jesus and love. I believe it’s okay to support a cause, but if that cause divides brothers and sisters in Christ, then please God, give us the sense to step back and re-think it!

I continue to pray for relief from this heat wave, which now is affecting more than just Texas. I pray for people in Europe who are experiencing unusual heat, right now. Give them relief, as well. I also pray for rain in our area. The forecast doesn’t give much hope, but You are the God of hope, and control things that the forecast can only guess about. I pray for relief, Father, and I know that I am not alone.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus! Come and set things right, and take us to the place You have prepared for us, that where You are, there we may also be.


Grace and peace, friends.

On A Pale Horse

Today is Monday, the eighteenth of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul today!

Day 23,503

Sorry if yesterday’s entry seemed a bit truncated. I needed to get finished so we could get on our way to the race track. Yes, we spent our Sunday watching the horse races at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. We had a wonderful time. It was just C and me, as we had a day long “date,” which we dearly needed.

For the first time, we got a table in the dining area of the park, which is a level higher than we usually sit. It included a buffet that went on through the seventh race (out of nine). The buffet included breakfast food, as well as lunch food. There was bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy, brisket (the brisket was marvelous), beef tenderloin, smoked sausage, a pasta bar, fried fish, and a number of other items, including Blue Bell ice cream, cookies, cakes, and pies. Needless to say, we both ate too much.

As for our “winnings,” we didn’t do terribly. We aren’t exactly “high rollers,” and kept to $2 bets, mostly on two horses per race. I splurged and added a third horse on race eight. So my total output was $38. I won $36.80, so I was only down $1.20 for the day (not counting tips to the young lady who came around and took our wagers). I actually won $12.80 on one race, when horse number seven placed and I bet on her to place.

C didn’t do quite as well, but won on more races than I did. We both won something in the final race, so that was fun.

Today will be busy-ish. I have a tire that has a very slow leak in it, so I’m going to take the car to a local tire shop and see if it can be repaired. I know I’m dangerously close to needing a whole new set of tires, but I don’t know if I will have to do that today. I also need to get the oil changed on the car, as well, so I will try to do that today, since I have the whole day off today. There are some household chores that need to be done today, as well.

I haven’t updated baseball in a few days, but the Rangers got swept by the Mariners, in a four game series, losing the finale, yesterday, 6-2. That puts the Rangers at 41-49, still in third place in the AL West, three games ahead of LA. But they are 8.5 behind Seattle, and 17.5 out of first place. They are 7.5 out of the Wild Card race.

After winning Friday’s game 5-4, the Red Sox lost badly to the Evil Ones, 14-1 Saturday, and 13-2 yesterday. They have dropped to fourth place in the AL East, now at 48-45. They are 16 games out of first place, and are now two games out of the Wild Card race.

Today is the Home Run Derby, and tomorrow night is the All Star Game. The Sox don’t play again until Friday, and the Rangers have a weird makeup game with Miami on Thursday night. I’ve been trying to figure out how they have a makeup game from before the season started, but I guess it might be to make up games canceled by the pre-season lockout.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for being among us as our Father, for letting us be your children on earth. We thank you that as your children we can find life in spirit and in truth. Grant that each of us may find how our lives on earth can be lifted up by your Spirit. Your Spirit can bring us what we do not possess, so that our daily work, all our striving and struggling for the outward things of life, may be pervaded by what is higher and greater. Your Spirit can keep us from falling into base and petty ways, from getting lost in earthly experiences which do not last, no matter how much they demand our attention. We thank you for all you have done for your children. Continue to help us, that we may serve you every day in gladness and gratitude. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. 
(John 4:23–24 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is my Father
2. that by the Spirit, the outward things of life, all the striving and struggling, can be pervaded by what is higher and greater
3. that God's plans for me are perfect
4. for Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, and the Light of the World
5. that, as long as the Lord has work for me to do, I'll be around

The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is plans.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
(Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

We all make plans, right? Sometimes we plan things way in advance, weeks or even months. We have rarely planned something out beyond a year.

But those plans don’t always come to pass. I can count on one hand the number of times we have had to cancel vacation plans, but it has happened. There was this one time that a global pandemic kind of threw a wrench in the works.

But God’s plans are never thwarted. His purpose prevails. And if our plans don’t mesh with His, then it is ours that will change, whether we like it or not. I am reminded about a “preacher story” about a ship and a lighthouse.

But we can take confidence in the fact that God’s plans are greater then ours, and that His plans are not only perfect, but they are also better for us in the long run.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15 NIV)


So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
(1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV)

There’s another aspect to making plans. There are times that when we make plans, we think we are “all that.” We think we are something special.

I’ve been on staff in a number of churches, during my life. Many’s the time when the pastor felt like we should be doing something, so we did something. It wasn’t necessary God’s leadership. In fact, it seldom was. It was humans making stuff up because we just thought we should be doing something. And then we pray for God to bless those plans.

There’s just something backwards about that way of working. One thing that I took away from a Bible study, many years ago, that I liked. The thing I liked . . . not so much the Bible study. It was called Experiencing God. It was a big fad for a few years, to the point that there was even an Experiencing God Bible. (You can still get one if you’re so inclined.)

Anyway . . . the thing I took away. Henry Blackaby said that we should look around to see what God is doing, and then join Him. I rather like that philosophy. Instead of coming up with our own thing (reinventing the wheel?), why not join in with what God is already doing?

But, you see, we like to think of ourselves as “special,” as a “big deal,” so we try to be clever, unique, and inventive. This, I believe, is folly, for it is only God who makes things grow, according to Paul.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 NIV)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
(John 6:35 NIV)

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." 
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?" 
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
(John 4:10-14 NIV)

Eugene Peterson’s reading for today, in On Living Well, is called “A Good Death.” This seems oxymoronic or counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But that is only a recent development in society.

“Until about a hundred years ago, all pastoral practice was directed toward preparing people for it – for living in the expectation of a good death.”

The secular culture in which we live instead attempts to avoid death or insulate us from it. But it can’t. I don’t know how many books I could find or products that are on the market that make claims of being able to “reverse aging.” This, of course, is preposterous, and impossible. While some products might be able to make you look younger, they cannot make you younger. There is no Fountain of Youth.

“Death is still one of the elemental mysteries of our existence.” According to Peterson, attempting to avoid it “diminishes us.”

This makes me think about the many Old Testament people who died, and the ways in which they died. When Jacob (Israel) died, at the end of Genesis, it is said that he was “gathered to his people.”

When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
(Genesis 49:33 ESV)

That’s a “good death” if I ever saw one.

Don’t get me wrong. Death is still the result of the work of the enemy. But, as noted a few days ago, it’s not the end. It’s a gateway for us, because (at least until Jesus returns) it is how we get out of this plane of existence. It is how we are transitioned into our final reward.

But here is where we talk about plans again. I can plan all I want for this “good death.” And who wouldn’t love to die like Jacob did, almost on schedule? But I don’t know what’s going to happen today or tomorrow or the next minute. I can plan, yes. And there is nothing wrong with planning. James even said (and I paraphrase), “Sure, go ahead and make plans, but be sure and say, ‘If God says so, too.'”

I won’t pretend to be ready. I’m weary, and I’m longing for Home. But, if I’m honest, I’m not quite ready to leave this life. And, as long as the Lord has something for me to do, here, I won’t. In fact, I am a firm believer that I cannot die until He is finished with me, here.


Father, I thank You for the work that You have for me to do, here. Right now, I believe that work is the work of love. It used to be worship; then it was prayer, for a while, and I think prayer is still a part of it (certainly worship is, as well, but that has changed somewhat). Now, it seems that my primary work on this earth is loving and showing how to love. This is challenging, because I’m still learning how to do it, myself. And I actually love this work of love. It could even be said that I “love love.”

I thank You for the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, and the Living Water, Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are nothing. None of my plans are worth a plug nickel without the presence of Christ in them. Without the support of the Holy Spirit, I can do nothing of any worth. And nothing I do has any inherent worth in and of itself. In short, without You, I am nothing. And I am perfectly okay with that, and don’t feel that this is a matter of self-esteem.

As for my own plans, I pray that, whenever I do make plans, that I will always be open to Your changing them. I will certainly pray that Your blessings would be upon them, but I would prefer that my plans match up with Yours. That being said, I do pray for success in today’s ventures, and that Your will be done in all that I have to do, today.

I also pray that You would relieve C’s pain today, as she is experiencing quite a bit in her shoulder. Please touch her body with Your healing touch. Also, I pray desperately for relieve from the heat wave, and for rain in the area.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Between Being and Doing

It is Saturday, the sixteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart!

Day 23,501

Hooboy, it’s been a busy day, already today! I was about two thirds of the way through my devotions, when C called me. She had gone out to look for some new chairs (I don’t even want to go into what caused that) and wanted me to come help her pick out a couple. So I left the house, and we bought two identical rocker/recliner chairs to replace some older wingback chairs that the cats had shredded. We got them home, and they are set up, and the old chairs are in the garage.

And I’m exhausted.

There wasn’t a lot that happened, yesterday. I had groceries delivered, and I cooked Chicken Taco Rice Skillet for dinner. I highly recommend this recipe. It is delicious, and my family loves it. I add more chicken to it, a total of two breasts (boneless/skinless), and I also use a cup and a half of the brown rice. The rest of the recipe is done as called for. Very tasty!

The Texas Rangers bullpen didn’t exactly blow the game, yesterday, but they were set to change the pace of the game. They started out behind 4-0, and had worked their way to within a run, when, in the top of the eighth inning, with two outs and a full count, Jose Leclerc surrendered a grand slam home run to Julio Rodriguez. Final score, 8-3, Mariners. The Rangers are now 41-47, but still in third place in the AL West, a good 3.5 ahead of the Angels. They are 16.5 out of first and 5.5 out of the Wild Card spot.

On the other hand, the Red Sox beat the Yankees!!! 5-4, in extra innings, when Xander Bogaerts scurried home on a wild pitch in the top of the eleventh inning. The bullpen held off the Evil Empire, and the Sox broke their losing streak. They are now 48-43, in third place in the AL East, 14.5 out of first place. There is a two-way tie for the third Wild Card spot, between Boston and Toronto, now. Tampa has the first spot, and Seattle moved into the second one.

The Washington Nationals have fallen into the worst MLB record, now at 30-62. The reason for Seattle being in the second Wild Card spot is that they currently have the longest win streak, at twelve games. Hopefully, the Rangers can bring that to a halt today. The poor Nationals also have the longest current losing streak, at eight games. They also have the worst run differential, at -150. The Rangers are still in the positive, but only +4. The Red Sox are currently at +42.

I want that coat!!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, as your children we stand before you and lift our eyes to you. We are poor, needy people, often wretched and tormented. Let your eyes rest upon us. Grant us the help we need. Bless us when we gather in the name of Jesus Christ, that we may be a people who learn to serve you on all the paths we follow, even if it proves bitterly hard. Give us true faith for every moment. May we have joy and confidence that you are with your children, that you remain with them forever, until the great time of redemption when we will rejoice with all past generations and with all who are living today. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. 
(Micah 7:7–8 RSV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, when I find myself in darkness, the Lord is my light
2. for the joy and confidence that comes with being God's children, especially when circumstances come that threaten those things
3. for the promise, in John 14, that Jesus is preparing a place for us, that we will always be with Him
4. that God knows my thoughts and my words, even before they occur
5. for the Holy Spirit, who intercedes when I don't know exactly how to pray

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:5 ESV)

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
(John 14:1-3 NLT)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is balance. There’s a quote from Maya Angelou, who was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.”

Balance is a tricky word/concept. However, in general, it is a good thing. I believe (and I am not alone) that our society is so far out of balance that it is in severe danger.

The technical definition of balance is, “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” But, of course, in this context, we are not speaking of weight distribution. We aren’t trying to walk a tightrope between two tall buildings, here.

On the other hand, we do want to “remain upright and steady.”

A second definition is, “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” The example given is work and relaxation. This is closer to what we are looking at today. Ms. Angelou cites patience and passion. The writer of today’s reading speaks, as the definition, of a balance between work and rest/play.

Guess what! The world will not stop turning if you rest or play for a bit! And, as Christians, we are not expected to be “Jesus Jr.” With tongue slightly in cheek, I believe, she writes, “God didn’t create me to be a human doing, but a human being.”

Back a few years ago, C and I did this thing in our church that we called “Huddle.” For the most part, I didn’t like it, I’ll be honest. It employed a technique called “Life Shapes,” which I thought were mostly trivial and irrelevant. Scriptures were taken out of context in order to fit the shapes that were used.

But there was one shape that I came away liking. It was the “semi-circle.” This semi-circle was positioned with the round side down, and a pendulum was envisioned in the middle of the straight line at the top. As the pendulum swung, one side was designated as “work” and the other side designated as “rest.” They were also called “fruit” and “abide.”

The point of the semi-circle was to illustrate that, in order for us to be effective disciples, the pendulum had to be free to swing to both sides in equal measure. Balance. If all we do is work, if all we do is attempt to bear fruit, without ever resting or abiding, we will experience what is known, in the business world, as “burnout.”

It is my firm belief that a Christian should never experience burnout. But it happens, because we get out of balance, and think that we should be working all the time. That is not what Paul meant when he said “pray without ceasing.” Even Jesus, the Son of God, God incarnate, needed time to rest (while we don’t see any records of recreation or “play” in the Bible, I firmly believe that there must have been some times of levity with His disciples).

I guess we think we’re stronger than Jesus?

I will note that the one issue I had with the semi-circle idea was that we should always be abiding. We don’t stop abiding to bear fruit. But there’s no such thing as a perfect analogy, is there?


In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.
(Romans 8:26 CEV)

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
(Psalms 139:1-4 ESV)

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
(Isaiah 65:24 ESV)

There is no language barrier with God. There are times when words fail us. I have frequently prayed that I don’t have the right words to express to God what I am feeling. But that’s okay, because He is able to see into my heart and know exactly what it is that I am trying to say. Even when I do think I know what to say, He knows what I mean, if I happen to get it wrong.

Nothing I say or do is a surprise to God. I believe it can be inferred, from Psalm 139, that the Lord also knows my every action before I do it. So nothing surprises Him. When I stary off the path and sin, He isn’t sitting there, exclaiming, “Oh, no!! Look what he did!!! What are we going to do now??”

That brings me great comfort. It also is comforting when we apply this principle to prayer, because, as Isaiah says, He has the ability to answer us, even while we are still speaking, or before we even call on Him. And I believe it’s not too far-fetched to think that He will answer a prayer that we don’t even know we need to pray.

So how does this fit in with the idea of “balance?” I think I can make it work. In our prayer lives, we need to balance speaking with listening. We also need to balance speaking with meditation or contemplation. There are times, in prayer, when it is better to simply sit and contemplate our Father in heaven, to whom we are praying. As we do this, we gain a better understanding of who He is and what He does. I have long understood (I didn’t always) that prayer is more than just asking God for things.


GOD, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. 
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. 
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. 
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure. 
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. 
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:1-6 MSG)

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

“We badly distort what it means to be a human being if we think about life only in terms of solving problems or accomplishing tasks. In the areas in which we are most ourselves, life doesn’t work like that.”

I have struggled with this problem since retirement, and only a couple weeks ago did I realize that my life does not consist of “doing things” and “accomplishing tasks.” I don’t have any deadlines.

At the same time, though, I do not sit and do nothing. I work at relationships; I do tasks around the house, cooking meals, doing dishes and laundry. I play music whenever I am so inspired. Nothing is “one and done” in this life.

The same thing applies to our spiritual life. And this is something I addressed the other day. “We don’t solve the problem of life by getting right with God, merely circling the date of our conversion on the calendar, and giving testimony to our faith. There is an incredibly rich world of grace and mercy to explore.”

Once again, we need balance. We desperately need balance between “being” and “doing.”

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


Father, I pray for more balance in my life. I do believe that my unbalance may be more on the “being” side than the “doing” side. So help me find things to do that will be good for me, in terms of balance in this journey of my life. Guide me as I continue to explore Your “incredibly rich world of grace and mercy,” and help me to exhibit that fruit of the Spirit to everyone who comes in contact with me.

This, of course, put a burden on me to do my part, even when it’s an unsolicited sales/scam call on my phone, or a person who comes to my door trying to sell me solar panels. While I don’t need to try to “evangelize” every one of them, it does fall on me to be kind to them. It also applies to people who have different philosophical/moral/political points of view than I.

I thank You for the truth that You know all there is to know about me, even down to everything that I’m about to say, think, or type. You also know everything that I am going to do, even before I do it. Sometimes, I wish You would fill me in, so if I’m about to do something stupid, I could maybe not. But, as I move forward in the journey, hopefully the stupid acts will be fewer.

I pray for my own life, that there would be a healthy balance between work and rest/play, but that I will always be abiding in You, and Your Word abiding in me.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Low Hanging Fruit

Today is Friday, the fifteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,500!

I realized yesterday that this song mentions every day of the week. Of course, I knew that, but hadn’t really thought about it, as I think about songs for each day of the week. But it’s still my all-time favorite Friday song. As well as uncharacteristically “happy” for a Cure song.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, grant that we may find the power of your Spirit so that we may live on a higher level, no longer controlled by our lower natures but strengthened to take up the battle of life. May we be children of the Spirit and may we walk in the Spirit. Guard us against carelessness and keep us joyful and courageous. Help us and counsel us on all our ways so that we may honor you and testify that you are our God, our true help. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 
(Isaiah 61:10 RSV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the power of the Spirit, manifested in us (when we are walking in Him)
2. for the garments of salvation and robe of righteousness; may I wear them faithfully
3. my cats (Cleopatra, Luna, Trixie, Rachmaninoff (Rocky), and Maggie)
4. for the fruit of the Spirit; may I be faithful to produce it and place it within the reach of others
5. that death is not the last word, as demonstrated by Jesus with Lazarus

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
(1 Corinthians 3:1-4 ESV)

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men.
(1 Corinthians 3:18-21 ESV)

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
(1 Kings 16:29-33 ESV)


The word for today, in Pray A Word A Day, is fruit.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 NLT)

The book only included a phrase from verse 10, the bit that has the word “fruit” in it. I chose to include verses before and after that, to provide better context.

When we are walking in the knowledge of God’s will, living in His spiritual wisdom and understanding, we are “good fruit” bearers. We are also filled with joy and gratitude, as verses 11-12 indicate. And, throughout this, we will grow as we learn to know God better.

I believe the “knowledge of God’s will” is tied in with those two commands I keep harping about. But what is “fruit?” Different people define it in different ways. To some people who only think about evangelism, fruit only means new believers. But the different translations of this passage give us more understanding. The NLT, cited above, calls it “every kind of good fruit.” The NIV, which I also like, here, says, “bearing fruit in every good work” (emphasis mine). The ESV renders it identically to the NIV.

I also believe “fruit” to be consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

And, as we walk in the Spirit, doing the good works (prepared in advance for us to walk in, Ephesians 2:10), we bear the fruit of the Spirit. And I really like the way today’s reading expresses the idea.

“God’s Word says followers of Christ are fruit bearers – the kind who make an effort to place His love and loyalty, His kindness and forgiveness, His peace and joy within reach of others. Flavorful fruit for all to savor.”

I think that nails it! We need to make our fruit His fruit, accessible to others! It seems to me that too many people are trying to keep it just out of reach. Maybe even hoarding God’s fruit. Well, we all know what happens when we hoard fruit, right?

That doesn’t look very appetizing at all, does it? Well, maybe if you are wanting some banana bread.


Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Here’s another verse that tells us something that we can do to “fulfill the law.” We’ve seen the one, Romans 13:8, that tells us that loving one another fulfills the law. Of course, carrying one another’s burdens is most definitely one way to love one another, isn’t it? It is also a way to demonstrate good fruit.

And here’s the thing. One way we make this fruit accessible to others is by bearing the burdens of not just people within the church. Yes, we are supposed to love the saints with an even more intense love (the way that Jesus loves us). But we are also supposed to love our “neighbors” as ourselves, and I believe that Paul’s command to bear one another’s burdens overflows into that realm, as well.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
(Romans 15:1-7 ESV emphasis mine)

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(Galatians 5:14 ESV)


Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
(John 11:25-27 ESV)

These are the words of Jesus to Martha, shortly before He raised Lazarus from the dead. Why did Jesus do that? We do not know. I’m sure preachers have made up answers to that question. It makes for great sermons. But it is pure speculation.

The only thing we know is that Jesus did say, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And then, when He prayed (out loud, specifically so others could hear Him), He said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

So maybe He brought Lazarus out of the tomb so that others could see the glory of God. That’s a reasonable guess. Another reasonable guess is to demonstrate to us that death is not the final word. All of Lazarus’s family and friends believed that his life was over. He had been buried for several days (Martha was afraid he would stink). But Jesus demonstrated to them that Life is the final word.

We are all born and we all die, eventually. We’ve all (probably) seen it happen at least once. I watched my father die. Sort of. By the time I got there, he was only “living” because a machine was breathing for him. I fully believe that his spirit was long gone.

There are people in this world who believe that death is the final word. Frankly, I don’t understand the way they lived. If I believed that there was nothing after this life, I would live the most hedonistic life possible.

But Jesus surprises us “with life at the very moment we think death is the last word. Birth is no surprise, nor is death, but life – life when we think the story is over, life when we think family and friends and job are played out – is always a surprise.” (Eugene H. Peterson, On Living Well)

The “circle of life,” doesn’t end with death. We are born, then we die, and then, we live.

As Code of Ethics sang in “Satellite Babies,” “Death is not end for my satellite babies, if you place your trust in me.”


Father, I praise You and Jesus and the Holy Spirit that death is not the final word. Yes, I believe that, and I don’t care if anyone thinks me a fool for it. As Michael Card sang, I will gladly come be a fool for you. I pray that we might walk in this life, this life that, through Jesus is the final word. I have placed my trust in Him for many decades, now, and I look forward, with great anticipation, to when that trust will be finally rewarded. Sure, there are things that I don’t quite understand correctly, and I also look forward to having those things straightened out. None of us has it all quite figured out, no matter how much we think we do.

Help us, Father, to be low-hanging fruit, so that the world might be able to see Your grace and mercy, Your love and compassion, Your forgiveness and salvation, fully demonstrated. As I walk through this world, may love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control be the defining pieces of my personality. May I demonstrate in my life the full fruit of the Spirit.

I struggle most with patience, and sometimes kindness, although I believe I have gotten much better with that in recent years. I’m not sure which one of those parts of the fruit that judgmentalness counteracts, but that’s the one I typically need most help with. And it seems that that judgment tends to be pointed more toward those who claim to be part of the Church but are not, themselves, demonstrating that fruit. Give me more patience in that realm, Father.

Help me to keep my eyes open as to ways that I can help bear another’s burdens, and in this way do my part to fulfill the law of Christ in this world.

I thank You for music, for all the songs that have been written that bring me such joy in my life. I always hope that I might write more, so I pray that You would send some my way. Not that I might be “famous,” for I’m pretty sure that ship sailed a long time ago. But just so that I might sing a new song in praise of You and all that You have done in my life.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Breathtaking Vistas of the Holy”

The primary means of expansion of the ‘civilization’ of God in a ‘barbarian’ world is not by lecturing people in the truth or coercing them to be good. It is by establishing communities of imitation, worshipping congregations where we simply live the common life – but in God’s way.” (Eugene H. Peterson, On Living Well)

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart today!

Day 23,499

I’ve started a spreadsheet to chronicle the weather. I found out that our electric billing provider’s app shows me the high temperature for each day. So, to catch everyone up, our first day of 100+ temperature, for 2022, was June 11. The average first day of 100 in DFW is July 1. Up through yesterday, we have had 20 days of 100+ temps, and 10 consecutive days. The highest, so far, has been 105 (last Friday and Saturday). The 10-day forecast shows no relief. In fact, next Friday and Saturday are projected to be 106. (Not tomorrow, but the following weekend.)

We have had no rain since June 3. The longest streak of 100+ days was back in 1980, when we had 42 consecutive days. 2011 saw 40 in a row. I am not hoping for a new record this year.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, kindle true light in our hearts and minds, that we may recognize what we are and become free of everything false and dishonest. Let this light of righteousness, this judgment, go through all nations, that people no longer use empty words when they talk of "mercy" and "truth." Grant that your mercy and your truth find the right soil and bear fruit. May they find soil prepared by you, for you judge us and make right what is wrong in our earthly life. We thank you that however painful many of our experiences are, we may still say, "Through how much need has not our merciful God spread out his wings to protect us!" Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
At that time I will answer the prayers of my people Israel. I will make rain fall on the earth, and the earth will produce grain and grapes and olives. I will establish my people in the land and make them prosper. I will show love to those who were called "Unloved," and to those who were called "Not-My-People" I will say, "You are my people," and they will answer, "You are our God." 
(Hosea 2:21–23 TEV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for mercy and truth; may they not be "empty words" when we use them
2. for the privilege of prayer and the joy of seeing answers
3. for the peace found in God's embrace (see the poem below)
4. for joy experienced, even in the face of trials
5. that I am able to grasp the breathtaking vistas of life in God's Kingdom, walking in the Gospel

Let There, by Daryl Madden

Let there be nothing
To do or to say
Only an entrance
A time here to pray

Let there be only
The need to receive
That God is here dwelling
And fully believe

Let there be silence
And no light to show
Only Gods voice
And vision to know

Let there be peace
In God’s embrace of
Mercy and grace
Wrapped in His love

I especially love that last stanza. Please visit Daryl’s site at the link provided to see more of his poetry.


And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 ESV)

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
(1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is joyfulness.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

The writer of today’s reading expresses joy in the midst of painful, even horrible circumstances. I have addressed the idea of joy, before, here. There is a stark difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not. Joy is more internal, and is dependent mostly on faith.

I can have joy, even when I am not happy. I can even have joy when I am angry, but it’s harder to see. Anger is tricky. I love what Dallas Willard says about it. “Anything done in anger can be done better without it.” That is so true.

It is also difficult to see joy in the midst of depression. I suppose that, out of all “emotions,” depression might be the one in which joy is least visible, if at all.

But the Bible exhorts us to have joy, even when we face trials, because we know this testing produces perseverance. Let’s look at the next verse in that passage.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(James 1:4 NIV)

Joy rests in the hope of things to come. If we know there is something better ahead, we can have joy. Joy eludes us if we have lost that hope.


By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
(Hebrews 11:8 NIV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
(Isaiah 42:16 NIV)

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:8 NIV)

All of these verses, while they do not contain the word “joy,” give reasons for it. We don’t always know where we are going, but we can have confidence that the Lord does. He knows where we are going, and He has it all planned out for us.

I think they left out one of the best verses, though.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

In the presence of the Lord, which is always and everywhere, there is “fullness of joy!” I looked up “fullness,” just for kicks. It means, “the state of being filled to capacity.” When I am in the presence of God, I am filled to capacity, even to overflowing, with joy!

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalms 23:5 NIV)

There may be differing opinions on what it is that the psalmist’s cup overflows with, but I like to think it is joy.


“The Christian faith by any accounting, even by those who do not embrace it, has to do with things vast and splendid: breathtaking vistas of the holy, awesome insights into the human, prodigious commands, and bright blessings.”

Thus begins today’s reading in On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson.

“The sheer extravagance of the gospel dazzles us.”

I wonder, though. Does it really? Have we become so jaded by our modern world and all its bells and whistles that the gospel no longer dazzles us? Do we no longer see the “breathtaking vistas of the holy?”

Based on what I see around me, and interactions on social media, I think that this may be all too true. I believe that most people who call themselves “Christian,” have no clue how grand and breathtaking the Gospel really is. They are basically living in a place that I would consider to be just inside the front door of salvation. They have stepped in, and they have gone no further.

I believe God has just shown me something, so bear with me.

I’ve been to Yellowstone. It is breathtaking. It is vast, indeed. So vast that, in order to visit one of the “main attractions” (Old Faithful, for example), you must drive anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes from the entrance. Yellowstone, after all, takes up a majority of the state of Wyoming.

Can you imagine driving your car into the entrance, and then just sitting there for an hour, never going any further? The person who did that would say, “I’ve been to Yellowstone. I wasn’t impressed at all. It was rather boring.”

“Many of us fail to live the fullness of the faith not because we don’t believe it but because we don’t feel up to it. At such times, we don’t need strong arguments to persuade us of the truth. We need simple directions to guide us into participation.”

Consider, as well, learning the English language. Most of us have gotten pretty good at it. There are a few of you out there who need work, let me tell you. But what if you were simply satisfied with the few thousand words you had learned by the age of, say five years old? Sure, you could get by in life, but you would certainly be limited. By the way, the average grown-up knows anywhere from 30,000-42,000.

The way we accomplish such things is not on our own. We have help. Knowing the fullness of the Lord (joy, included) comes from associating with others who have been there. Knowing how to get to the best places in Yellowstone comes from knowing and trusting people who have experienced it.

In short (is it too late?), we learn things by imitation. “Christians set down to live the common life, much as everyone else does, except that we do it in Christ’s way. The primary means of expansion of the ‘civilization’ of God in a ‘barbarian’ world is not by lecturing people in the truth or coercing them to be good. It is by establishing communities of imitation, worshipping congregations where we simply live the common life – but in God’s way.” (Emphasis mine)

Right now, in our culture, we are seeing the opposite. We are seeing a large group of people who are doing a lot of lecturing and coercion. We also see how that is working out.


Father, I have experienced much joy in my lifetime. And I am still experiencing it. I thank You for this joy, that comes in fullness from being in Your presence. Many times, I have felt my own “cup” overflowing, just as the psalmist wrote. Thank You that we are able to feel and see joy in the midst of trials, as well, because we know that, through those trials, You are perfecting us in perseverance, and preparing us for the pleasures of eternity with You.

I praise You for the faith that I have that, even when I don’t know or can’t see where I’m going, You are there, and You have the destination completely planned out. You show me the path, and You keep me on the path. Yes, I am “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,” but You keep me heading in the right direction. And, by faith, I am moving that way, moving forward.

Father, I pray, still more, for our society, today. I pray for “Christians” who can’t seem to make it past the front door, and are satisfied with simply having “fire insurance.” They’ve got their “ticket,” and that’s all they want. I pray for those who feel that the way to “convert” the “wicked” is by lecturing and yelling at them, telling them how “bad” they are and that they’re “going to hell.” That doesn’t seem to be having much effect, these days.

Help us to be more effective by imitation – imitating You by imitating Christ by imitating those who have gone before us in this journey. And, as we grow in our own journey (this is an important part of it, because if we don’t grow, how can we help someone else grow?), let us know the “breathtaking vistas of the holy,” as Peterson described. Help us to have the capacity to see the grandness, the vastness of You and Your Kingdom, through the Gospel. May we not try to contain You in a box of theology.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:3-8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Transformation

Today is Wednesday, the thirteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27 ESV)

Day 23,498

We have already been to the dentist, and Mama’s crown was successfully placed. It only took about thirty minutes, and we were back home within an hour of the appointment time, in spite of a delay by a train on the trip to the office.

There really isn’t anything else on my “plate” for today. I think I have a load of laundry to fold, but that’s about it. And I have a meal planned for this evening, which I’ll start cooking around 5:00-ish. Maybe I’ll get some quality reading done, today.

The Texas Rangers blew it big time, last night. They were behind for a good part of the game, but then tied it up. They went into extra innings, went behind in the tenth, but tied it back up in the bottom of the tenth. Then came the top of the twelfth inning. Oakland scored eight runs! Santana (not Carlos) was responsible for six of those, and why he was allowed to keep pitching for that long, I have no idea. The Rangers came back with only one run in the bottom of the twelfth, and lost the game 14-7. To the worst team in baseball. This puts the Rangers five games below .500, at 40-45. They remain firmly in third place in the AL West, a comfortable 3.5 games ahead of the Angels, four behind Seattle, and 16.5 out of first place, occupied by the Cheaters. The Rangers and Athletics will finish their series tonight, at 7:05 CDT.

The Red Sox lost another game to the Rays, 3-2. It is said that Chris Sale, back from the IL after a lengthy recovery, “dominated.” Maybe so, but it’s still an “L” in the stats. The Sox are now 47-41, and also now in third place in the AL East, a half game behind Tampa. They are 14.5 out of first place, and now occupy the second of the three AL Wild Card spots. They play another game with the Rays tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

Oakland continues to have the worst MLB record, at 30-59. Baltimore is now the sole owner of the longest winning streak in MLB, with nine consecutive games. The Mariners are right behind them with eight. The Angels and Cubs both have five game losing streaks. The Nationals continue to have the worst run differential, at -142.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our mighty God, look upon us in our poverty, for you call us your children and give us of your Spirit. From your fullness we constantly need to receive strength for the struggle meant for us in life. Grant that light may come wherever darkness still reigns, especially where it is so black that we do not know which way to turn. Hear our prayer for all people, and let your justice and your truth alone be victorious. Let all people receive what you have promised them, and let them realize that no matter what happens, they remain your children. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 
(1 John 3:2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God calls us His children and gives us His Spirit
2. that nothing can take that away from us
3. that true transformation of the human character is possible by practicing Spiritual Disciplines
4. that, by the grace and mercy of God, my eyes "see" and my ears "hear," that I might be transformed
5. for God's "consuming fire," which both purges me from impurities in my life and gives me the ability to leave a mark in this world
6. for the hope of eternity with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ESV)
"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 
(1 Corinthians 1:31)

The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it?
(Joel 2:11 ESV)


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is transform. I’m not going to reference the quote they use, because it’s a Joel Osteen quote, and I don’t like him. That’s all I’m going to say about him.

The reading is also not very good. It makes reference to something the writer calls “sudden deliverance through grace alone.” That is not what “transformation” is. Changes within us do not take place suddenly, just like changes in real life don’t take place suddenly, at least not most of them.

There are far better quotes that they could have used. One really good one is from Romans.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 ESV)

I mean, why quote Joel Osteen when you can quote Paul, right?

But Dallas Willard had a lot to say about transformation, as well. In fact, he wrote several books about it. One is called Renovation of the Heart. Another is The Divine Conspiracy. And in these books, along with The Spirit of the Disciplines, he shows the process of transformation to be, not instantaneous (or “sudden”), but a lifelong journey of practicing Spiritual Disciplines.

True transformation is possible. But, unlike our initial salvation, that takes work on our part, and it’s not easy work. I can attest to this.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)


But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
(Matthew 13:16 ESV)

The fact that my eyes “see” and my ears “hear” is two-fold. One, it is by God’s grace. He began that process by calling me to Jesus Christ and enabling me to choose to follow Him. But the rest of it has largely been up to me. And this, again, is where this business of “transformation” comes into play.

As I have grown older, God has placed this desire in my heart, perhaps because I have more and more “delighted in Him.” And one of my favorite Psalms says:

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalms 37:4 ESV)

Too many people interpret that to say that if I delight myself in the Lord, then I can get whatever I want. That’s a double-edged sword, because, if you are allegedly delighting yourself in the Lord in order to get a mansion or a Ferrari, then what is your delight truly in? It most certainly is not the Lord.

I have, for a while, now, interpreted that verse to mean that, if I delight myself in the Lord, He will transform the desires of my heart! He will give me new desires. I do realize that the word that is translated “desires” can also be translated “petitions” or “requests.” I get that. But once again, those petitions and requests, if I am truly delighting myself in the Lord, will not be for things that will only benefit me.

The desire that I have, that the Lord is giving me, is to do exactly what Romans 12:2 says, to be transformed by the renewal of my mind, which is happening, gradually, not suddenly, by the practice of Spiritual Disciplines.


Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
(Zephaniah 1:18 ESV)

This is a somewhat frightening verse, and I don’t want to focus on the part that seems to indicate the end of the world. I just want to focus on the fire.

You see, part of the process that I have been describing above, that of the gradual transformation of the human character, is purging. And while I am practicing Spiritual Disciplines, the Lord will also work to purge impurities from my life.

Eugene H. Peterson writes a little bit about this “consuming fire” in On Living Well. We know that fire has many uses. Peterson writes of his experience as a youth, watching ranchers do a controlled burn of a field that had been overrun by weeds and thistles. When it was done, there was nothing left but black ashes. This is an example of how God’s consuming fire works in our lives.

He also writes of watching ranchers brand their cattle. In this case, the branding iron was placed in the fire, which did not destroy it, but made it so hot that it quickly left its mark on whatever it touched.

While Peterson doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit in this, but that is what comes to my mind when I think of this use of fire. The Holy Spirit presented as flames of fire on Pentecost. When the fire of the Holy Spirit touches us, it creates a “heat” within us that will leave the mark of God on anything we touch.

There can, of course, be negative connotations here, and I don’t want to dwell on those. Needless to say, I believe that God’s fire in our lives should only be to make us a more positive force in the world. And this is where, like all analogies, this analogy of cattle-branding falls apart. The branding causes the cow much pain, I can only imagine. And when I leave God’s mark on someone or something, I most certainly do not want to cause them pain. I want it to be a mark of love, because God is love.

One other quick word about this fire. It is also preparation; preparation for us to spend eternity with the One we love.


Father, I thank You that transformation is truly possible, and that You have made a way for us to be transformed. I do thank You for the grace that brings us into Your Kingdom, for that journey seems to have a sudden beginning. But the rest of the process lasts a lifetime, as You prepare us for eternity with You.

I am so grateful for the Cross of Christ, that which began the journey for all of us, and erased the debt of sin from our lives. But there is so much more to this story, and I long to embrace it in its entirety. Let Your consuming fire burn away everything within me that is not of You. I pray that I might fully delight myself in You, that I might receive the desires of my heart, and that the desires of my heart will be transformed to match the desires of Your heart.

Father, prepare me for that eternity. May my heart, soul, and mind be transformed for the rest of my days, until the point where, when I step into eternity, I won’t notice any difference.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
(1 John 3:2 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

His Indescribable Gift!

Today is Tuesday, the twelfth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,497

Today is my four-hour evening shift at the library, doing shelving. It’s always unpredictable, to some degree, because I never know how many carts will be waiting for me, nor do I know what kind of material I will be shelving tonight. Could be “youth books” (that’s what we call children’s books), could be adult books, could be DVDs and audio books, or it could be adult books that will go on the “new books” shelf. Occasionally (but rarely) there are no carts in the hallway, so I seek out work from one of the other librarians, who might need help with something.

And then, about the last hour, I walk back and forth between the shelves, looking for books that have been taken off the shelf and just laid back down any old where. All of these misplaced books are collected and scanned in our system as “mark used” (this tells the librarians that there was at least some interest in the material, even if it didn’t get checked out), and then, if time allows, re-shelved.

If you remember, a couple weeks ago, I had to take Mama to the dentist for a broken tooth. Well, that crown is in, and we will go tomorrow morning at 9:00 to get that placed on her tooth. They tried to schedule us this afternoon, and we said, “nope.” Then they tried Thursday afternoon, and we said, “nope,” because I work all day on Thursday. We said Wednesday or Friday. They said, “We don’t see patients on Friday.”

Must be nice. We used to talk about “bankers’ hours.” Now we talk about dentists’ hours, because they seem to be able to work whenever they want to. However, in their defense, it takes a special kind of person to actually want to stick their fingers into peoples’ disgusting mouths. Ugh. Either that, or they are sadists, who enjoy inflicting various pains on people.

The Texas Rangers had a field day with Oakland, last night, in Arlington. The final score was 10-8, but it was really much worse than that. The Athletics managed to score six runs in the top of the eighth inning. The highlight of the game, though, in my opinion, was when rookie Josh Smith hit his first major-league home run. Which happened to be an inside-the-park home run. Click on that link, and you can watch it. So the Rangers are now 40-44, in third place in the AL West, 15.5 out of first, but only 3.5 out of the Wild Card race, now. They will play Oakland again, tonight, at 7:05 CDT.

The Red Sox were embarrassed by the Rays, last night, losing 10-5. This makes the Sox 47-40 for the season, still in second place in the AL East, but only by a half game. they are 14.5 out of first, and currently in the first Wild Card spot. They will play Tampa again, tonight, in Tampa, at 7:10 EDT.

Oakland continues to be the worst MLB team, now at 29-59, and are the only team that has yet to win 30 games. As we watched last night’s game, I heard one of the TV announcers say that they were setting all kinds of records for how bad they are, this season. One of them said they reminded him of the ’72 Rangers. Hahaha. Yes, I remember that team. As for winning streaks, hold on to your hats. The Seattle Mariners and (are you sitting down?) the Baltimore Orioles both have eight-game win streaks going on! And the Mariners are coming to Arlington Thursday for a four-game weekend series. There are five teams with four-game losing streaks: Toronto Blue Jays (YAY!!!), LA Angels (YAY!!!), Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Nationals. The Nationals continue to have the worst run differential, at -142. The Rangers have improved to +14, and the Sox are currently at +46.

For those of you who are of the praying persuasion, please pray for some rain for parts of Texas (north central). We have not had rain for a long time, now, and temps are hitting triple digits on a daily basis, and there is no rain in the forecast for the next ten days.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Almighty God, keep watch over us and lead us fully into the life of Jesus Christ. Let your Son Jesus Christ become truly living within us so that we may be full of joy because we belong to the realm of heaven and may live every day with faith in him. We thank you for all you have let us experience. We thank you with all our hearts that in your great compassion you have showered so much good on us who are not yet perfect in faith. Keep our hearts in the light, we pray. Keep us patient and dedicated, for then more and more can be done among us poor children of earth, to the glory of your name. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
(Galatians 2:20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the unending joy that comes from having the Spirit of Christ within us
2. that, even though I am far from perfect, the Father continues to shower me with good
3. that, in Christ, we are bound together with all the saints, "with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:2)
4. that, because of Christ, I am cleansed from all sin, in perpetuity
5. for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Living the Greatest Commandment, by Daryl Madden

The greatest commandment
All one of agreeing
To love our Lord our God
With all our heart and being

We can believe it
And know that it’s true
But how do we live it
It seems so hard to do

We can see this truth
If our souls are aware
That our God is love
And He is everywhere

A pray to the Spirit
With vision it brings
Let me see and love
Our God in all things

I somehow missed this poem from yesterday, and it’s a great one. It highlights one of those two greatest commandments of which Jesus spoke. As you are aware, this is what I have been “preaching” for a while, this one, and the second, which is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Please visit the link above to see more of Daryl’s poetry.


Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ESV emphasis mine)


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is cleanse.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
(Hebrews 10:19-23 NIV)

The book only cited verse 22. I chose to expand that, for a couple of reasons. First, verse 22 is part of a longer sentence, and second, that longer sentence explains the reason for verse 22.

We get dirty, in life. Some of us more so than others. I don’t roll around in the grass and dirt like I did as a child. Shoot, I don’t even like to get my hands dirty, now.

But do I feel the same about my spirit? I try to keep my spirit cleansed, and some days, I try harder than others to avoid things that would soil my spirit. But here’s the thing. According to Scripture, my heart is sprinkled to cleanse me from a guilty conscience. There are other passages that proclaim that my sin is gone, erased completely from the record, never to be remembered again.

At least not by God. Would that I could intentionally forget things! I still remember sins from elementary school!!

David was painfully aware of his sin, and desperately cried out to God to remove it from him.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
(Psalms 51:1-3 ESV)

Thanks to the blood of Jesus, I am perpetually cleansed. This does not give me license to do what I want. I am still responsible for my actions, and need to constantly be in a state of repentance and confession, just like a song Twyla Paris once sang, “I am here to confess the same old sin.”

And this fits so very well with yesterday’s word (mine), because it is because of the fact that I belong to Him that I am cleansed in perpetuity.

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


O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
(Psalms 130:7 ESV)

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:9-10 ESV)

With Him, there is steadfast love (also known, in some cases, as mercy), and with Him, there is “plentiful redemption.” I decided to look up that word “plentiful.” The KJV renders it “plenteous,” a similar word. The NIV says “full redemption.” NLT says “His redemption overflows.” And Eugene Peterson says it is “generous.”

It is my opinion that the NLT is closest (based on my very limited knowledge of Hebrew, most of which comes from using my e-Sword Bible app). The Hebrew word, there, is rabah, which literally means, “to increase.” There are a lot of other words to which it could be translated, but that is the first meaning. And if something increases, especially beyond the capacity of the container, it overflows.

So, because of God’s mercy, there is enough redemption for all of us. And this is done, with no help whatsoever from us, so that we have nothing about which to boast. This is a point Paul makes multiple times in his various letters. In Christ, we have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification (guess what that means – cleansing!), and redemption.

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


Eugene H. Peterson, in On Living Well, cites the need for “a sharp line between religious consumerism and a gracious gospel.” The line is constantly blurred by this world, as well as by our sin. In recent years, the line seems blurrier than ever, as “churches” delve more and more into the realm of “religious consumerism.”

“Resurrection,” says Peterson, “draws the line bold and distinct again, dividing a consumer religion from a gracious gospel.

“A consumer religion shops for God in the religious shopping malls and tries on the latest fashions. A gracious gospel discovers us in our ignorant waywardness and invites us into the membership of Christ. Many people are living on the wrong side of the Resurrection, trying to get something interesting or useful for their lives from God rather than letting him do something gracious and eternal for them.”

He then lists five words that distinguish what he calls the “Resurrection pivot: believe, sacrifice, abide, love, and sanctify.” There’s that idea of cleansing again!

“Resurrection is the pivot point. Up to the event of the Resurrection, we are consumers of religion, looking for what we can get out of God. After the Resurrection, we are surprised by amazing grace and given what we weren’t even looking for, what we didn’t even know we needed.”

Peterson calls consumer religion “a shopping spree in the boutiques of idolatry.” “It’s all about me,” says consumer religion. What can I get out of it? How many times have we heard someone give as a reason for not going to church, “I just don’t get anything out of it.”?

“Resurrection life marks the difference. It is both more wonderful and more difficult than consumer religion. It is more wonderful because it is God’s inventive creation, perfectly customized to our condition. it is more difficult because God is in charge and we would rather be in charge. It is, after all, our life – or so we feel.”

And that hearkens back to yesterday’s word, because our lives are not, in fact, our own, but belong to God.

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


Father, I praise You for Your cleansing, through Jesus Christ. I thank You that, in spite of myself, I am perpetually cleansed, the beneficiary of Your overflowing redemption. Yes, I still sin, and will likely continue to do so until I am free from this mortal coil. But, hopefully, I am also growing more and more like Jesus, with the hopes that, as Dallas Willard described, when the time for my transition to Home comes, maybe I won’t even know the difference. Those are, indeed, high hopes, based on my past performance.

Thank You for Your Resurrection and the difference it makes in our lives. I can say, with some assurance, that I am in the country where I am not seeking so much for myself, what I can get out of You, but am constantly surprised by Your amazing grace, receiving from You things that I wasn’t even looking for. I stand amazed in Your presence, and, rather than seek what I can get, wait for You to do something “gracious and eternal” within me.

Let Your redemption overflow in the lives of Your people, Father. May Your Resurrection be the pivot point for all the saints, for all who call upon the name of Jesus. May Your Holy Spirit lead us all to be unified within Your Church, following only Jesus Christ and no man. May those who push consumer religion be brought down. And help us to acknowledge that we are not in charge of this thing.

All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit, and thanks be to You for Your indescribable gift!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Take the Wheels Off

Today is Friday, the eighth of July, 2022, in the fourteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,493

We are all home, today, as I am off work and C is working from home. I’m working on an issue with the billing department of the company that provided my new CPAP machine, back in January. The company is Healthline, an “adapthealth” company, and the apparently have no clue what they are doing. As it happens, I am not having good luck with them at all. Either the agent hung up on me, or the call was dropped. I’m not sure, yet, what happened, but am waiting on another call back.

In the meantime, I will proceed with my morning devotional, as it is already a few minutes after 10:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven and on earth, we are thankful that you have a people to whom you say, "You are mine." Grant that we too may belong to this people. Strengthen us in the faith that we belong to you, so that we can come to know your rule and your justice. Protect us on all the paths we follow during our time on earth. The times are evil, but come what may, every single one of us has in his heart the certainty, "We are yours." You have long watched over us and kept us safe. Again and again we affirm, "We are yours, Lord our God, through Jesus Christ our Savior." Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalms 34:17-18 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I belong to the Lord, I am His (call me a "sheep," I don't care)
2. for the promise that the Lord will deliver us from all our troubles, and that He is close to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit
3. for the way Jesus restored Peter after he denied Him three times, thereby giving all of us hope for forgiveness
4. for occasional opportunities to observe solitude and silence
5. for air-conditioning (it's going to be 100+ degrees for the next ten days, here)

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
(Mark 14:36 ESV)

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Mark 14:38 ESV)

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
(Mark 14:66-72 ESV)

I’m sure many sermons have been preached on Peter’s denials of Jesus. I once read a book, I think it was by Grady Nutt, where it was even opined that, perhaps, Peter was trying to get closer to Jesus, and was attempting to avoid being caught.

Regardless, we have no right to judge Peter. We do not know, nor can we pretend to, what was in Peter’s head and heart when he declared, thrice, that he did not know Jesus and was not one of His disciples.

And, in the end, we get hope from this story, because I dare say there is not a one of us who has not, at some point in our lives, “denied” Jesus in some way. And Jesus, in His infinite grace and mercy, even restored Peter, later, forgiving him, and Peter went on to be a giant of faith, even being rumored to be the first pope of the Catholic Church. There is no evidence that I know of to support this claim, but the fact that it exists shows the extent of Peter’s restoration by Jesus.


Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is a Hebrew word, yadah. The word has a number of different forms, and can be translated as “to shoot,” “to cast,” “throw,” or also “to give thanks,” or “praise,” or even “confess.”

The writer of the reading today states that the word means praise, which is not wrong. However, the verse that is used at the heading is this:

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
(Psalms 69:30 KJV)

While the Hebrew word “yadah” appears a number of times in Psalms, that is not one of them. The word for “praise” in Psalm 69:30 is “halal.” There are a few different words for “praise” in Hebrew.

Psalm 7:17 has the word we are looking for today. Oddly enough, the non-KJV translations seem to want to translate “yadah” as “thanks.” In addition, the word for “praise” in the second phrase of the KJV is “zamar.”

I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
(Psalms 7:17 KJV)

I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 NLT)

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Psalm 9:1 is another instance where KJV translates “yadah” as “praise,” and other English translations render it “thanks.” However, in this case, the NLT also uses “praise.”

So what does “yadah” really mean? See the first paragraph in the section. It can mean any of those things. So all of the translations are correct. We can’t truly know what the psalmist originally intended, but we can be sure, I think, that “thanks” or “praise” are both appropriate. And I’m sure God doesn’t really mind which way we use it.


The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalms 34:18 NIV)

No, you’re not experiencing deja vu. This verse has actually appeared in two of my sources, today.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalms 30:5 NIV)

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
(Psalms 55:22 NIV)

Who among us has not been brokenhearted? Who among us has not been crushed in spirit? I could name multiple times in my life when both experiences were true. I have lost loved ones; I have lost friends; I have had dreams shattered, and I have caused some of my own heartbreak.

But I am here, on this platform, to declare that Jesus has never failed me. And I am confident that He never will. He is close to the brokenhearted. He holds up those who have fallen. Just look at Peter! Peter, one of His closest friends, who outright denied that he knew Him, not just once, but three times in the space of one evening! Peter fell hard! (Once again, I do not judge him . . . see the paragraph above.) And Jesus lifted him back up and gave him a most important task to fulfill.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
(John 21:15-19 NIV)


There is an old custom that is described by Eugene H. Peterson, in On Living Well. I am having trouble finding a source for it, because whenever I do a search for anything regarding wreaths and wheels, all I get are etsy shops and creative ideas on how to make wreaths from wagon and bicycle wheels.

The fact that this still is a thing lends some credibility to the legend, though.

Here’s the thing (haven’t said that in a few days). According to Peterson, it is a centuries old tradition practiced by Christians in the north as winter made working on the farm impossible. They would take the wheels off of their wagons and carts, put greens and lights all around them, and bring them inside and hang them up.

What this symbolized (and it wasn’t Christmas) was that times were now different, and it was time “to stop and turn inward.” Obviously, if your cart or wagon was missing some wheels, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Peterson then imagines what it would be like if we did that today. What if we took a wheel off of the family car and decorated it for our Advent wreath? “Indeed, things would stop! Our daily routine would come to a halt. . . . Having to stay put, we wouldn’t be able to dilute our expectant hope of Christ born in us with a distracting run to town.”

Obviously (at least for most of us), this is not feasible. But the thought behind it certainly is. And I really thought that the pandemic would bring some of this about, and maybe it did. The idea is stopping for a bit. Stopping to think, to contemplate, to meditate. This happens to be one of (or actually more like a couple) the Spiritual Disciplines. The idea of solitude and of silence lend themselves heavily to this.

It is good for us to be alone for a little while, to remove distractions, and to be quiet. To “be still and know” for a little while.

“What would it mean for us to deepen our expectancy in this way? What might we gain from knowing the seasons, from learning the wisdom of losing a wheel once in a while?”


Father, help me to be more aware of Your presence in my life, by practicing more solitude and silence. Certainly, I am normally alone in this room when I am practicing my morning devotions, but there can be more times where I can get away from the normal, and maybe just sit and listen, being quiet and still, to know that You are God, and that You are there, and that You are in control. Help me, indeed, to take the wheels off, occasionally.

Ah, Lord, I am so very grateful for the truth that You are close to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit. I have experienced this, but I know that my broken heartedness pales in comparison to what many have experienced. And I am grateful that You are there for them, in their broken hearts, as well. Help me to pray better to that end, Lord, to pray comfort to those who have lost, and whose spirits may be crushed. “Thoughts” don’t mean much, but prayers do.

I am also very grateful for Your example of Peter’s restoration and forgiveness. This is great hope for us, especially those of us who know that, either in action or in word, we have, at some point in our lives, denied Jesus.

And I am grateful for the many ways we can praise You and thank You, for there are many different words and meanings that help us in this. May we embrace the example that Scripture gives us and be thankful and praise-ful daily.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.