True Evangelism

Today is Thursday, the twelfth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,436

It was a pretty good day, yesterday. The library was moderately busy, but not too much so. I issued at least five new library cards before lunch, which is an unusual amount. I also replaced a few cards for people, as well.

We had a new version of our crockpot chicken soup, last night. I thought of this a week or so ago. I got some Alfredo sauce mix, and instead of Ranch mix, I sprinkled it in the crockpot with the chicken and the cream of chicken soup. That’s the only difference, but then we served it over cauliflower linguini, and it was most delicious!

The Texas Rangers lost last night’s game, 8-2, to the KC Royals. They had won Tuesday night, but I didn’t have time to talk about that, yesterday morning. The Rangers are now 12-17 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, a half game ahead of the Athletics. They finish the series with KC tonight, at 7:05, and tomorrow, the Red Sox roll into town. That should be an interesting series, as the two teams have had similar starts to the season.

Speaking of the Sox, they lost last night, to Atlanta, 5-3. They are now 11-20 for the season. Their next game is tomorrow night, here in Arlington.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“This Day Is,” by Daryl Madden

It’s blessed to us
A gift of His
And that is what
This day is

Let us receive
His love, adore
That is what
He’s longing for

His love to share
Abundantly
That is where
Our joy will be

Of heaven here
His love to bind
That’s how this day
Becomes divine

Please check out more of Daryl’s poems at the link provided.

Lord our God, we thank you that we can be children of your Spirit. We thank you that because you have called us, we receive eternal gifts that enable us to stand firm even when many sorrows and burdens weigh us down. For you are our life, and in all the darkness, even that of death, you give us light and strength and joyful hope. Keep these alive in us. May an ever brighter light shine on all that you have already put into our hearts, on all that draws us daily to you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”
(John 14:23 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day, a gift of blessing from God
2. for His eternal gifts that help me to stand firm, even when things threaten to weigh me down
3. for faith, without which it is impossible to please God
4. for the Word of God and the impact it has had on my life
5. for the Gospel of Christ, that the kingdom of God is here, now, available for us to live in right now
6. for the love of my wife

Today’s prayer word is “faith.” About time we got around to that one, right?

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
(Matthew 19:26 NLT)

“I understand the power of faith. I can touch it on my daughter’s face, smell it in the roses gracing my garden, and read it in the Bible. It’s forever. And it’s mine.” ~ Heidi

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Faith is real. We are mocked, frequently, by people who think that faith is unrealistic, that we are believing in a myth. That’s fine. Let them think that. But even they exhibit faith. Every time someone sits in a chair or turns on a light switch, they practice faith. My faith is just a little bit bigger. I believe that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected. I believe that I, too, will one day be resurrected to live with Him in eternity. I don’t know what that will look like. But I believe it. Because God has given me faith. My faith is a gift from Him.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)

Father, thank You for my faith, and for the faith of all of Your children. I pray that our faith will ever increase as we draw closer to the Day of the Lord. I pray that this faith will lead us into the most wonderful love that this world has ever seen. And I pray that this faith will cause us to never worry about or fear the things that are happening in this world, today.

My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart.
(Proverbs 3:1 NLT)

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
(Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NLT)

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NLT)

I have, through life, endeavored to remember the things that my parents taught me. There were certainly times when I strayed, but God has always brought me back to the path.

We tried, as parents, to commit ourselves “wholeheartedly” to God’s words. We taught them to our children, and now, they are grown. One of them still lives with us, but the other is pretty far away. We continue to pray that God will keep her in His sight and draw her closer to Him. It is no longer up to us.

Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise? I used to believe it was. But this is considered “wisdom” literature in Scripture, just as the Psalms are “poetry” and “songs.” It is not always wise to attempt to build a theological system on poetry, songs, and wisdom. But, then again, it is wisdom. Maybe it is not so much a promise as it is a truth.

Father, I thank You for the things that my parents taught me, as I grew up. I thank You that these things have stayed with me, well into adulthood. I pray that those same things will stick in the hearts and minds of our daughters as they grow older. And may we all continue to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Your Word.

I’m going to talk about an unpopular word, for a minute. Well, it’s unpopular with half of the country, at least. “Evangelism.” What is evangelism?

Evangelism is the label we give to all those words and gestures, acts of witness both deliberate and subconscious, that get out the news in a person way that God is alive in the world, that it is his will that we experience his love, and that Jesus Christ provides the way in which we get in on it.”

There are many who do not quite grasp this “good news.” Many do not understand that “God is for them;” many who “don’t know the way and are wasting their lives hunting and pecking, guessing and groping, hoping that they will get lucky someday with a lottery ticket to heaven.”

On a side note, there are also quite a few who are not interested at all, and don’t even believe that there is a heaven.

The true Christian knows that God is for us and knows that the way to get to Him is through Jesus. “We don’t know everything about these great issues, but we know at least that much.” We also know that we have an obligation to share this “good news.”

Another side note: there are those who believe that this “obligation” requires us to mention Jesus in every single conversation that they have. I have even heard suggestions on how to manipulate conversations with random people, say your barber or someone, around to salvation and Jesus. I am not one of those people. I am, however, as Paul suggested, ready to give an answer should someone ask the reason for my hope.

Part of the problem is that we think we have to put on big productions in the name of “evangelism,” you know, like with “football-stadium crowds and television glamour.”

“But most evangelism is incremental and unobtrusive. Most evangelism takes place in the world as Christians live and work alongside one another in families and at jobs over the course of ten and twenty and thirty years. The primary field for evangelism is not with strangers who cross our lives briefly but with the people with whom we live and work and socialize over a lifetime. That is why it is so difficult–we must learn how to communicate through the ordinariness of our lives the extraordinariness of God’s grace. We need constant stimuli and direction in both what to say and how to say it right with our words and our lives.”

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

Here’s the thing: the people who believe that we must constantly be talking to strangers about Jesus (they claim that the Bible says that we have to talk about Jesus to everyone we meet . . . this is not true) would rather do that than with the people they live and work with every day. Why is that? More than likely because, in their everyday lives, they do not live according to the words of the One whom they want to talk about to all the strangers.

I’m doing some conjecture here, but it is based on observation. A lot of these people, who would manipulate a conversation with their hairdresser, treat their co-workers with contempt and scorn, abuse their families, and possibly other things, as well. They spew hatred on social media toward people who don’t think the way they do, and call them things like “idiot” and “stupid.”

I could very well be wrong, but this doesn’t seem very “Christlike” to me.

I am, at heart, evangelical. I happen to be white. However, I am most definitely NOT a “Christian Nationalist,” which is what “evangelical” has come to mean in our current culture.

I can’t help but wonder what brother Peterson would have to say about that.

Father, I thank You for the “good news,” and I thank You that You given us this news to share with others. I pray for the ability to share this Gospel with the people with whom I live and work on a daily basis. I pray also that I would be able to share it in the way that I live and the words that say, both toward random people, as well as those with whom I am in contact on at least a semi-daily basis. I thank You fort he social media platforms I have to share the Gospel. And I thank You for the simplicity of this Gospel, which is nothing more than the fact that Your kingdom is here, now, and that we can walk in it right now.

I pray for the souls of the people who claim to know You and claim to follow Jesus, but turn around and treat their fellow man with hatred. I pray for Your intervention in these circumstances. And it is because of these circumstances and others in our world that I pray, daily . . .

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything GOD does is right— 
the trademark on all his works is love. 
GOD's there, listening for all who pray, 
for all who pray and mean it. 
My mouth is filled with GOD's praise. 
Let everything living bless him, 
bless his holy name from now to eternity!
(Psalms 145:17-18, 21 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, May 1, 2014.

Today is School Principals’ Day. The principal is one of those roles that is often under-appreciated. After all, they always have to play the “bad cop” role, don’t they. Well, for all of the Schneiders in the world, happy Principals’ Day!


I’m going in to work at 7:00 this morning, so I don’t have a lot of time. I’m trying to knock this out in a short amount of time, so it may not be very deep.

Christi’s interview with BNSF went really well, yesterday. They are trying to get somebody in the position really fast (NOW they’re in a hurry?), so they even said that, if they do decided to hire her, they might want her to come in as a contract-to-hire position, so she can start sooner. They would do all the background and drug test and all that stuff during that period of time. She should know something pretty soon, based on what was said to her.

The interview with Etherios is this afternoon.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Psalm 100:3
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
Psalm 93:5
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
Psalm 118:26


Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Crucial Question.”

“‘What think you of Christ, whose son is he?’ is the crucial question of the gospel.” The answer is the purpose of the New Testament.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30-31

Jesus demanded faith, hope, and love in himself. He demanded faith when the disciples’ boat was storm-tossed. And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:26) He demanded hope in Mathew 11:28. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And he demanded that his disciples love him even more than their fathers and mothers! Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them,
he it is who loves me.
And he who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

John 14:21


Father, I pray that, as I continue to grow in discipleship, that I will find myself having the basic faith, hope, and love in Christ Jesus. I pray that, though I love my wife dearly, I will not love her more than I love Jesus. May I not love anything more than him! Increase my faith; increase my hope; increase my love!

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi’s interview with Etherios will go well. But I pray even more that the BNSF opportunity would come through. There is a possibility that she could be working as soon as Monday! We are trying not to hope to much on this, but it is hard not to. I pray that everything will work out on this, but only if it is your will. That trumps everything. May your will come to pass, on earth as it is in heaven. I pray for Stephanie today, that she would be drawn closer to your heart and deeper into your love. Please give her wisdom and understanding. May my work day go smoothly today, and may we get caught up on the work, as we have been short-handed.

Your grace is sufficient.


Faith, hope, and love. Three words that figure heavily in 1 Corinthians 13. But also three things that our Savior demands from us.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Revelation Sense”

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Today is “Mischief Night.” Interesting. I guess it’s in preparation for tomorrow night, which is, of course, Halloween. The “Hallmark Ultimate Holiday” app advises caution on “Mischief Night,” though, reminding us that the same people for whom we stir up trouble will be handing out the candy tomorrow night…

On this date in 1811, Sense and Sensibility was published. On September 1, 2009, Ben Winters added sea monsters.
On this date in 1845, Henry VII was crowned King of England.
On this date in 1922, Benito Mussolini was made Prime Minister of Italy.
On this date in 1925, John Logie Baird created the first television transmitter in Britain.
It was on this date in 1938 that Orson Welles caused nationwide panic as he narrated H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds on the radio.
On this date in 1945, the “color barrier” was broken in baseball, as Jackie Robinson signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On this date in 1961, the Soviet Union detonated a 50 megaton hydrogen bomb in a test over Novaya Zemlya. It was (and is to this day) the largest explosive device ever detonated.
It was on this date in 1991 that the legendary “perfect storm” hit the New England and Canadian coast. The fishing boat Andrea Gail and her six-member crew were lost in the storm, chronicled in the best-selling book and subsequent movie, The Perfect Storm.

Today’s birthdays include John Adams, second President of the U.S., 1735, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Admiral William Halsey, Jr., 1882, Ezra Pound, 1885, Charles Atlas, 1893, Bobby Bragan, 1917, Jim Perry, 1935, Grace Slick, 1939, Henry Winkler, 1945, Timothy B. Schmidt (Eagles), 1947, Harry Hamlin, 1951, Gavin Rossdale, 1965, Marco Scutaro, 1975.


Yesterday was a challenging day, beginning and ending with trouble. The middle part was okay. I don’t think I handled the beginning part very well. Evidence of much work to be done. Christi finally got back to the gym with me last night. Stephanie didn’t go, as her stomach was “going round and round,” as she puts it. Christi says her leg is “okay” this morning. She thinks that the pain may not be as severe as it was a week or so ago. She says it’s “changing.” Hopefully, that’s good.

Today in baseball news…oh, wait. There is no baseball news today. Sigh. That’s probably not true. I’m sure theirs news of some kind. For example, they will be announcing gold glove winners today, I believe.


Father, I pray for a glimpse of you this morning as I read your word. Take me deeper…


Today, I’m reading Psalm 131. This “Song of Ascents” is a short one, speaking of a calm and quieted soul.

1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

Perhaps we should all take the attitude in verse 1 of not being occupied with things “too great and too marvelous.” The thought of having a “calmed and quieted” soul is very appealing.


Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “Faith.” The scripture reference is Hebrews 11:6, which says, And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Who didn’t see that coming? The beginning statement is interesting. “Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism.” I like that. You’ll notice that Chambers doesn’t speak highly of what we call “common sense,” but only when it gets in the way of our faith. The truth is that a legitimate life of faith “brings the two into a right relation.” The words of Jesus weren’t “common sense,” they were, Chambers calls them, “revelation sense,” and they reach “the shores where common sense fails.” And here comes the key statement in today’s reading. “Faith must be tried before the reality of faith is actual.” Faith is a very personal thing, and God’s purpose is to see that it is “made real in His children.”

Faith is active and always strives to put Jesus Christ first. It is always a fight, though to turn “head faith into a personal possession.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s about things. It’s not. It’s talking about possessing the faith in the soul, in the heart. Moving it from head knowledge to the possession of the heart is always a fight. I know what God can do because the Bible tells me. My head knows that God loves me with an everlasting love. Does my heart believe it? (Absolutely, it does!) Make no mistake, regardless of what other people may say. God most certainly engineers circumstances in our lives to “educate our faith.” The “nature of faith is to make its object real.” I like that statement quite a bit. In what (or whom) is my faith? My faith is in God; my faith is in Jesus Christ. But until I “know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, [I] cannot have faith in Him.” Because, in the words of Jesus, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9) “Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” That is an awesome statement!


Father, you are majestic and powerful. Yet you are merciful and give us grace, daily. As I read about faith this morning, my first prayer is that my soul may be “calmed and quieted,” as the psalmist spoke about. Just reading that psalm this morning had that effect on me. Immediately I read that, my soul felt calmed and quieted by your Spirit. What a marvelous feeling, especially in our time, when, the moment we wake up each day, we begin to face troubles and stress. I pray that you teach us to live through the stress of each day with calmness and quietness in our souls.

Lord, teach me faith. I know. That’s probably the worst prayer we could ever pray, at least in terms of personal comfort. But, you see, I’m not interested in comfort. I’m interested in being rightly related to you. I’m interested in in having a prayer life that goes above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen, and that’s going to take some extreme faith. I desire to have that right relation between faith and common sense that Chambers speaks of. Let the words of Jesus bring that “revelation sense” to the shores of my life where common sense fails. Make my faith real and actual, Father. Make it something active in my life that puts Jesus Christ first. You are real in my life, but there are still areas where I struggle to turn that “head faith into a personal possession.” In the words of that famous father in the New Testament, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Show me how you have worked circumstances in my life to educate my faith. I look back at yesterday. I confess that my initial reaction to the beginning of my work day did not exhibit faith. It is challenging when the event that occurs is exactly the opposite of what I had prayed for! But that is the very thing that I’m talking about, isn’t it? My faith needs to be educated to the point that the initial reaction is one of, “Okay, let’s be calm and see how God is going to work this out.” I see that now. But I need to learn to see it in the midst of the trouble.

I pray for this day. I thank you that Christi says her leg is not hurting as bad today. I continue to pray for healing of her pain. I pray for her work day, that she might exhibit faith in the stress that comes her way today. Surround her with your love and with your Spirit as she has meetings today. May her soul be calmed and quieted. I pray the same for my day, that my soul will be calmed and quieted, regardless of the circumstances. I pray for Stephanie today, that her stomach will feel better, and that she will feel like going to lifehouse with us tonight. I pray that you would teach us together how to fear you and follow Jesus. Tonight, we will learn something more about your Holy Spirit. Teach us your ways, that we might walk in your truth, daily.

I lift an additional prayer this morning for all who live on the east coast, who have been affected by hurricane Sandy, over the last 24 hours. I pray for protection for them against the elements. I pray for the safety of all. I pray that power may be restored quickly for those who have lost power. I pray for comfort for those who have lost property or, even worse, loved ones.


Do we dare ask God to try our faith? It’s a risky prayer, for sure. But we must grow to the point where it is real and active in our lives. I pray for “revelation sense.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Imperishable, Undefiled, Unfading

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Grace and peace, friends.

Faith

It’s Tuesday, November 15, 2011. Today is my father’s birthday. Happy birthday! Hope you have a great day today! It was a joy to get to have our celebration on Saturday.

Not really much else to talk about today, so I guess I’ll jump right into the devotional.


Today’s Bible readings:
Hebrews 11; Ezekiel 21-22; Proverbs 27:1-9

Ah, Hebrews 11. The great chapter of faith. The “Hall of Faith,” as it were. The writer begins with is definition of faith. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. This is the ESV translation, of course, as are all of my Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted. It’s interesting that it is exactly the same in the NASB. Anyway…what makes faith faith is that it is based on what we cannot see. It is, as John Piper described, “Future Grace.” Our faith is in future grace. But we also have faith in what is passed. As verse 3 says, we have faith that God created the universe. We did not see that happen…no one did. But we have faith in that truth. And then the list of people commences: Abel, Enoch (with an interjection that without faith, it is impossible to please God, in verse 6), Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses (actually Moses’s parents), THEN Moses, all of the people of Israel who crossed the Red Sea (note that this writer says it was faith that brought down the walls of Jericho!), Rahab (yes, the prostitute), Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. By faith, people “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” But others did not fare so well…in faith, some “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (vv. 33-38 ) And not one of these people received what was promised (at least not in this life). They did not see the promised salvation of the Messiah. Yet their faith did not falter. They believed, in the face of insurmountable odds.
I read this chapter and I am ashamed of my feeble faith, that wavers when the least little thing gets in my way. Today, I commit to holding fast to that faith. Today, I resolve to fight the good fight. Today, I resolve to finish the race.


Two things have stuck out to me in the Ezekiel reading. Both are in chapter 22. Verse 26 says, Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. “They have made no distinction between the holy and the common…” I think we need to take a hard look at that phrase. Are we guilty of this same crime? So many of our modern churches have assimilated so much of the world’s methods that they don’t appear much different. This does not mean that I am opposed to using technology and modern music in our worship and service. Not at all. But when the church sinks to the level of secular marketing to try to appeal to more people, I think we have a serious problem. We need to make sure that we know the difference between the holy and the common.
The other thing is in verse 29. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. I’m pretty sure no commentary is necessary.


Father, I pray that you would open our eyes to the extortion and oppression of the poor and needy that is rampant in our country, and even worse in other countries. I pray that you would guide the hearts of our leaders to do the right things and consider what is good for all, rather than just for a select few. I also pray that you would guide our church leaders to understand the difference between the “holy and the common.” Let us not profane your name with the practices of our churches. Let us seek to obey your command to be holy, just as you are holy. Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, realizing that, because of the blood of Jesus Christ, we have been made holy! We are not sitting around waiting for some future holiness to come upon us; we are holy NOW! I pray that we would act accordingly!
Father, I pray that my faith would honor you today. Dare I ask for you to increase my faith? I dare not ask you to test it. But if you desire to do so, I cannot ask otherwise. I know what kind of things test faith. I honestly don’t know if I am up for those. However, I believe that Christi and I have been through some serious tests of faith in the bast few years, and we have come out believing in you stronger than ever. I just pray that this faith will work itself out in smaller things in our lives. Let us not be guilty of thinking that faith is only applicable for big things. We need faith for the little, every day things, as well. And perhaps that is where we fail the most.

I pray for this day. Give Christi a good day at work today. Let the anxiety level by minimal today. I pray that she can have a productive day, getting accomplished what needs to be. I pray for a smooth day for me, as well. I pray for Stephanie today. Show her how much you love her. And I lift up Rachel and Justin to you, Lord. Show them your love today.
I also pray for our lifehouse members today. May you shower them all with your grace and mercy today. Jeremy, Jennifer, Jacob, Mary, and Alex, and their families.
I pray for Joel’s continued recovery from his accident last Friday. I also pray for The Exchange to have a place to meet that is our own, that we can call home. Let us have a visibility in the community that exists at times other than Sunday morning.


Faith…it’s not just for crises.

Grace and peace, friends

Lord, Direct My Heart…

It’s Friday morning! Finally! Actually, the week hasn’t been that bad. There have been a couple of challenging days at work, but it’s been okay. And we think we have come to some more good answers for Stephanie, but it’s not all worked out yet. Bottom line, though, is that she probably won’t be going back to Keller High School. They’ll either send a teacher to the house to complete her senior year, or she will withdraw. And last, but certainly not least, THE RANGERS WON LAST NIGHT! (Sorry, MT, but at least we’re tied…)

I’m reading a book by Richard J Foster, called Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer. In this book, Foster describes something that I have encountered before, called lectio divina. This is a rather ancient way of reading the Scriptures which involves praying the Scriptures. Not just praying, though, but listening, as well. The art of meditation on Scripture has been virtually lost in today’s church. We are a loud church, these days. Not that I mind the loudness. I believe our praises should be loud. But we seem to be afraid of silence. As I read this book (I may read it twice through…it’s a small book), I intend to try to rediscover this concept which was introduced to me by Eugene Peterson several years ago, as I used a devotional version of The Message.


Today’s Bible readings:
2 Thessalonians 3; Jeremiah 23-24; Proverbs 22:17-23

Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3, asks for prayer. Prayer for him and his associates, but so that the gospel might “speed ahead and be honored.” He also prayed that they might be delivered from evil men. He expresses confidence that the Lord will “establish and guard” the church against the “evil one.”
He offers one final warning, though, against idleness. He uses himself as an example, in the fact that he never ate anyone’s bread with paying for it. Paul admonishes them to steer clear of anyone who walks in idleness. He even goes so far as to say If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (v. 10b) Paul is not cruel. He doesn’t wish someone to go without if they are not able to work. But if you are able, you’d better be doing something productive, he says. Why so insistent? The results of idleness are seen in verse 11. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. I love his play on words there. I wonder if it comes across that clever in Greek? “Not busy at work, but busybodies.” So, apparently, there are people in Thessalonica who aren’t working, but being busy getting up in everyone else’s business. Paul commands them to quietly earn their own living.
Finally, he encourages them to not grow weary in doing good. And if they do have to shun a brother for disobedience, they are not to treat said brother as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (v. 15)
There is a good prayer for us in verse 5. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. We should pray this prayer (or one like it) for each other on a regular basis. It probably wouldn’t hurt to pray it for ourselves! “Lord, direct my heart to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ!”

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:1 The prophet continues in verse 2. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Does this even need an explanation? As I observe the “church” of today, I see countless “preachers” who are guilty of exactly what is being condemned in verses 1 and 2 of Jeremiah 23. Even though these men appear to be outwardly successful and have “congregations” of thousands, their judgment is coming. I don’t pray against them. Rather, I pray that they would open their hearts and eyes to the error of their “preaching,” so that they can begin to lead “their people” in the right path.
Verses 5-6 contain a Messianic promise. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
In chapter 24, God uses a vision of figs to reemphasize what he spoke earlier about the people who willingly submitted to exile being safe. The exiles from Judah were the good figs, and the king of Judah, who remained in the land, and those who fled to Egypt, were the bad figs.

In Proverbs 22, the Lord once again emphasizes how close to his heart he holds those who are poor. Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the LORD will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. We ought always to treat people fairly and justly. Not only are we to be generous, but we’d better be sure we aren’t ripping anyone off, as well.


“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado, from Grace For the Moment.


Father, I pray that you would direct my heart to the love of you and the steadfastness of Christ. I pray this for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. For my wife, for my daughters, for my son-in-law, for all of the members of our lifehouse, for everyone at The Exchange, for our pastor, Joel Engle. Direct our hearts, Lord! You are the creator and master! You hold all things in your hands, and you are in control of all things. Direct our hearts!
As I return to this concept of lectio divina, I pray that you help me to descend with my mind into my heart and come face to face with you there. The idea that you, through Jesus Christ, dwell within me forever, is almost incomprehensible! But it is, according to you word, true. Therefore, I will meet you there. I need not travel hundreds or thousands of miles; I don’t have to go to a certain building at a certain time. You are here with me, all the time. Perhaps, in addition to our mantra, “God is good, all the time,” we should add, “God is here, all the time!” How would our lives look if we actually practiced your presence every moment of every day? That is a stunning question.
Lord, I pray for the kind of faith that Max Lucado describes. I believe I am close to that. I don’t always believe that you are going to just do whatever I want. But I do believe that you will do what is just and right, because you are God and that is your nature.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for Christi and me to have a good day at work. I pray that Stephanie will feel better today. She is complaining of her stomach trouble again. Give her grace through this day, and I pray that we can work things out with the school quickly, so that, if she is to complete her senior year, it can be done in a timely manner.


May the Lord direct your hearts today…

Grace and peace, friends.

“God Is In Control, So Chill Out!”

A good Tuesday morning to all. A little groggy this morning because of slight allergy problems. It’s that time of year. I will report that Stephanie had one of her best days at school in a while, but the evening at home was a little strange. I think her stomach was a little upset though, either because of the increase in meds or because it’s very close to “that time of month.”


I wanted to give a brief overview of Sunday’s message in yesterday’s blog, but I have to hurry so much on Monday that I didn’t have time, so I’ll do it today. The message was called “We Will Not Forget What Really Matters,” and was the final of the series based off of the 9/11 anniversary. Joel started off with a “top ten” list of the top ten things that most worry Americans. Here they are, as he gave them.
1. Deficit out of control
2. Terrorism
3. Health care system at risk
4. Stubborn unemployment
5. Inflation
6. Rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, etc.
7. China
8. Crime
9. Housing Market
10. Political uncertainty

That’s probably a pretty accurate list, I would guess. All of this led him to the main thesis of this message. Seeking Christ is what really matters and seeking Christ leads to unshakable security.

The Scripture passage for the message was a very familiar one, but one worth returning to frequently. It was Matthew 6:25-34. The first point was “God is in control, so chill out!” He said that when he started writing that one, he first had it sounding all deeply theological, but finally just simplified it to that. I think that’s a great way to state it. If we could all remember that one thing every day, our lives would be a lot less stressful. We need to remember that our God has established what is called “covenantal” (that word just looks all kinds of wrong…) relationship with us. Joel also reminded us of a truth found in Psalm 109:21. But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! Everything that God does, he does for his own name’s sake. I may have alluded to this idea yesterday. God works for his own glory, not for ours. I know that sounds self-seeking and arrogant to some. But he’s the creator. And the creator has every right to do whatever he wants with his creation. And, ultimately, everything he does, in the “Big Picture,” is good for us. It may not seem like it at the moment (for example, 70 day of 100+ temperatures in north Texas this summer…), but it is. We have to remember that God is in control, so chill out!
Joel also quoted Proverbs 12:25, which says, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Then he told us that many Christians live their lives as “practical atheists.” What that means is that we say that we believe that God is sovereign, but then we live a life of worry and anxiety over every little thing. Sad but true.
Point number two was that “Faith in God’s goodness separates us from unbelievers.” There may be a lot of times that our lives may not look much different from the lives of unbelievers, especially when we get caught up in the same pursuits, but there is one thing that, if we are true Christians, will separate us and that is our faith in his goodness. I would like to say that my faith in God’s goodness is unshakable. I would love to say that. But I’m not sure I would be honest. Most days it is. Most days, I will will proclaim to you that God’s goodness is true and firm. But every now and then, I doubt. There have been some times in the midst of Stephanie’s biggest meltdowns that I have come dangerously close to thinking God had abandoned us. But he didn’t! And he never will. I know that in the deepest part of my heart. My head might freak out and disagree sometimes, but, ultimately, my heart will win out. We need to stop doubting God’s ability to handle our lives!
The final point was from the last two verses of the passage, verses that have been quoted and sung for years. I’ve been singing Matthew 6:33 since I was a youth in church. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Of course, when I was a youth, we sang King James Version…it’s pretty much all we had. Yeah, I’m that old. My quotes are always English Standard Version, unless I say otherwise. Then verse 34, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Those two verses make point three of the message, which was simply, “The secret to success.” Yes. It’s that simple. Or is it? Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Don’t worry about self. Don’t worry about food, drink, clothes, and stuff. Seek God and his righteousness, and you will have all those other things. Ultimately, it’s not what matters, but who matters.


Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 4:1-16; 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; Proverbs 16:9-17

Paul begins Ephesians 4 with an admonition. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (vv. 1-3) Again, it’s important to point out that the “walk” he calls for is not to earn that calling. We not told to walk in such a way as to not lose our salvation. We are simply called to walk in a way that shows that we are Christians. And what does that walk look like? Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and eagerness to maintain unity. The next couple of verses have a bunch of “ones,” illustrating this need for unity. And basically, the rest of this passage is about unity, how we are one body and we are to grow together and mature. Let me say, though, that truth is never to be sacrificed for the sake of unity. There are many who would do that. Unity becomes the end, rather than a means to an end.
Verse 11 lists some of the “offices” that have been appointed for the purpose of equipping the saints. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. All for the single purpose of equipping the saints “for the work of ministry.” And what is the purpose of that ministry? … for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (vv. 12b-16) There are multiple points in this. One is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are NOT supposed to do all the work! They are to equip the rest of us to do the work. Another is that we are supposed to mature in the faith, building up the body of Christ in love.

It’s been a while since we visited 2 Kings. In chapter 21, Manasseh, son of Hezekiah has become king in Judah. Hezekiah was a good king. Manasseh was an evil king. He pretty much undid everything that Hezekiah accomplished during his reign. In fact, it says that Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel. (v. 9) This made God very angry. Angry enough to say this: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (vv. 12-13) When Manasseh died, his son Amon picked up where he left off. His servants conspired and assassinated him, but the people of the land put the servants to death. Josiah, Amon’s son became king at the ripe old age of eight!
The interesting thing is that 2 Chronicles includes some information about Manasseh that the writer of 2 Kings chose to leave out. After the Lord made the prophecies and Manasseh didn’t listen, God sent Assyria, which captured him and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (vv. 12-13) The cynical side of me wants to say, “Sure, who wouldn’t??” But we have to note that God was “moved by his entreaty.” You see, God knows the heart, so God knows that Manasseh was not just “repenting” to get out of trouble, like we do most of the time. And the “proof in that pudding” (I still don’t really understand what that phrase means…I’ve never proven anything with pudding) was the actions of Manasseh when he returned. He took down all of the false altars that he had built. He restored the offerings to the Lord that he had previously forsaken. So even the most evil kings can repent and serve the Lord.

Proverbs 16:9 fits right in with the message from Sunday. The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. God is in control, so chill out!


In Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado gives two readings for the day. Morning and evening. I always read both readings in the morning, mainly because I kept forgetting to read the “evening” reading. Both of today’s are worthy of sharing, I think. The morning reading is called “God Knows What He’s Doing.” Seems to be a theme this week, huh? Max begins by stating that it’s easy to be thankful when God does what we want. “But God doesn’t always do what we want. Ask Job.” Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. Many people feel that the story of Job even predates Abraham. I’m not smart enough to know about that. But what I know is that God allowed Satan to pretty much destroy Job’s life. Job went to God to plead his case. God answered. “Not with answers, but with questions. An ocean of questions…” Finally, Job responded with this: Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (Job 42:3) He got the point. “God owes no one anything. No reasons. No explanations. Nothing. God is God. He knows what he is doing.” God is in control, so chill out!
The evening reading is called “God Goes With Us.” I don’t think I have ever seen a morning and evening reading go hand in hand so well together. In Genesis 28:15, God says, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… Max says, “When God calls us into the deep valley of death, he will be with us.” God said to Moses, in Exodus 33:14, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. God said to Jacob in Genesis 28:15, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:5, Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. God says all of these things to us. He knows what he is doing, and no matter where he leads us, he will be there with us.

Those are words to get you through the day!


Father, I praise you that you know what you are doing! Because I’m not sure what I’m doing, and a lot of times, I don’t know what you’re doing, either. But I have faith in your goodness; I have faith that you know what you are doing. I believe that you will never leave or forsake me, just like you promised your Old Testament people. You have made that promise even more sure by giving us Jesus and then providing our Helper in life, the Holy Spirit. I thank you for your constant presence in my life, Father! Help me to be more aware of it each day, each hour, each minute.
I need help to not worry. I know that the things our pastor said Sunday are true! My heart knows them. Most of the time my head knows them. But sometimes my head goes walkabout. It takes off on its own and forgets what the heart knows. So I need help to always know and believe that you are in control of all things and that there is absolutely no reason to worry or be anxious for anything! I’m working on that this week. You seem to be giving me some good lessons, too.

I pray for this day, Father. Stephanie is feeling a little “under the weather.” I think it’s mostly allergy-related. But she’s going to school today, and I pray she can make it through the day. I pray for Christi’s day today. And I pray for mine, as well. Let us have good work days today.


God is in control, so chill out!

Grace and peace, friends.

We Do Not Get To Decide If God Loves Us

It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m really sleepy. I think I have some kind of sinus thing going on, and caused me to have trouble sleeping from about 330 on, this morning. And I’ve got this muscle twitching thing going on in my right knee. It’s weird. No pain at all. But every couple of hours, it just starts twitching. In almost perfect rhythm. Monday night, it happened in the middle of the night. It’s hard to sleep when your knee is twitching. Once every t-3 seconds. It’s not twitching right now, so I should be able to concentrate. If I can stay awake.


Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 21:1-22
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent a couple of them to fetch the donkey and her colt. I just noticed that Jesus asked for both of them. I never caught that before. The prophecy Matthew quotes in verse 5 is from Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The word that the crowds are saying, “Hosanna,” means “Save, now.” But when people asked the question, “Who is this?” the answer given shows their misunderstanding of who Jesus truly is. They said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” They called him a prophet. Although that may have been true, it was not the whole truth. Jesus was/is so much more than a prophet.
Jesus spoke about faith again, in verses 20-22. It’s a similar statement to the mustard seed parable. However, this time, he adds And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. This has caused much controversy in the church, as people have attempted to abuse this teaching to get whatever they want. “Name it/claim it” theology has taught that all you have to do is believe and you’ll get that new car, that new house, that new job, or whatever. I do not believe that Jesus meant anything close to that. I agree with the notes in the Reformation Study Bible, which say this: “Freedom from doubt arises from an awareness that something is truly God’s will. True faith receives what it asks for; trust in God is not presumptive arrogance but submission to His will.” My interpretation of this is that faith is more than just belief, it also assumes understanding; comprehension. In other words, I must discern what God’s will is before I pray. Now there are times when I pray for things, not knowing what God’s ultimate will is. Like those days when I pray for rain or for a break from the heat. I have faith that God can do all things. But what is really going on in those prayers is hope, rather than all-encompassing faith. But there are things that I can pray that I know are God’s will. Like prayers for his eventual second coming. I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I know that it will happen.

2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37
Hezekiah is disturbed to the point of tearing his clothes (an ancient sign of great despair) when he hears of the the Rabshakeh’s public mockery of the Lord. But Isaiah reassures him that God will take care of things. The Rabshakeh returns to Assyria, and king Sennacherib sends a letter of similar mockery to Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s prayer follows:
15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands
18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

I like how he ends his prayer. The main purpose for God saving them would be “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” You see, we need to understand that everything God does is for his own glory. Even the great mercy and grace he lavishes on us are for his own name’s sake. He is creator. He has that right.
The Lord, through Isaiah issues a prophecy concerning Assyria. God planned “from days of old” that Assyria would lay waste fortified cities. It was all part of the plan.
27 “But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me.
28 Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.”

And then God tells Hezekiah that the king of Assyria will not so much as even shoot an arrow in Jerusalem because he will defend her. And here is the end of Sennacherib:
35 And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.
37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

I think it’s important to notice that what Hezekiah did when all this started was exactly what we should do in a crisis. He turned to the Lord! He didn’t run to Egypt or other nations, like some kings before him (and after him) did. He consulted the One who has all things in his hands.

Proverbs 9:10-18
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (v. 10) If there could be a theme verse for Proverbs, that would be it. I believe that is the single most important teaching in the whole book. If we do not fear the Lord, we don’t even begin to have wisdom.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10) In Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers, Dennis Jernigan speaks of God’s love for us. As parents, we, of all people, should have more of an understanding of God’s love for us. Nobody love my children more than me. So why is it that I can’t seem to comprehend how much God loves me? I love this statement that Dennis has made before, “We do not get to decided if God loves us!” But yet we try to do exactly that. We “decide” that we are not worthy of his love, or that we have done something wrong that has made him stop loving us. This is not possible! God will not stop loving us. Ever. And this reminds me of something that Joel Engle said in our message Sunday morning. A proper understanding of our status before God is necessary before we can properly worship him. How can we worship God when we think he hates our guts?? The answer? WE CAN’T!!! But if we understand that we are cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus, and we understand that any discipline that comes from God’s hand comes through his LOVE, then we can truly worship him, and we can worship him with abandon! “We do not get to decide if God loves us!”


Father, I thank you for loving me. I thank you that I am forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. I thank you that I am free. I pray that I might grow more and more in my comprehension of this love that you have for us, to the point that I no longer ever think you are “angry” at us when we sin, or even that you might stop loving us when we do wrong things. Help me remember that you are my Father, and that you will never stop loving me; that you will never love me less than you do right this minute. But also help me to remember that you will never love me any more than you do right this minute, as well. My works will not make you love me more. Everything I do is done because you love me and because I love you, and is for your glory.
I thank you for the examples of trust that we are given in Scripture. Examples like Hezekiah show us where we need to turn when we enter into a crisis. Too often we run straight to people instead of straight into your arms first. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from people, especially from other believers, but we need to go to you first.
I pray for the faith that Jesus is talking about in Matthew. Several times, he has referenced this faith that can move mountains. Faith that withered a fig tree instantly. It is my contention that only Jesus had that kind of faith. But I believe that we can exercise true faith as well, when we understand your will and pray in that will. Help me to not ask for anything that is not within your perfect will. Give me discernment, Lord, to understand your will.

I pray for Stephanie today, Lord. I pray that she will feel better today than she did yesterday. She made it through the day yesterday, but her stomach was not feeling well. I pray that she will have a better day today.
I pray for Christi’s work day, Lord. Let it be a good one. Also for mine. Yesterday was challenging…today could be as well. But if I remember to look to you, that could make all the difference.

I pray for a friend’s grandson this morning. Newly born yesterday, there was a possibility that something was wrong with his heart. I pray your healing hand on that little baby.


“We do not get to decide if God loves us.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Discern What Pleases the Lord

Wednesday morning, and school is still going very well. If they’ll just get the bus route figured out so they can get the kids to school on time…

Jumping right into the devotion…


Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 17:14-27
14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him,
15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.
16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”
17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”
18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
21 [But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.]

Verse 21 is not in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. It’s interesting that the father says the boy is epileptic, but Matthew says that Jesus rebuked “the demon.” That’s curious. I know people who don’t believe in demon-possession, but think the NT accounts were all epilepsy. Is all epilepsy demon possession? Were all demon possessions epilepsy? Are all squares rectangles? Yes, but not all rectangles are squares. I won’t pretend to be wise enough to know the answer, but I believe what the Bible says to be true. Therefore, I choose to believe that what the father thought was epilepsy was really a demon. But I don’t believe that all epilepsy is demon possession.
Anyway…the disciples couldn’t deal with this one. Jesus criticizes their “little faith,” and talks about the mustard seed again. Is he referring to actual, physical mountains?? I don’t know. I’ve never seen anyone move a mountain. However, Moses and Joshua parted great bodies of water.

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,
23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

Jesus is letting the disciples know what’s coming. This is at least the second time he has spoken of his impending death and resurrection.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Jesus was pretty clear about our responsibility to the government. At another place in Scripture, he says to “render unto Caesar…” He won’t always give us a coin in a fish’s mouth, but we are supposed to pay our taxes. Is it okay to complain about them? Not sure about that…Paul tells us to do everything without complaining. (Philippians 2:14) Does that include paying taxes?

Isaiah 27
This chapter speaks of the redemption of Israel. In verse 1, the Lord slays “the dragon,” “Leviathan the fleeing serpent.” This probably is a metaphor for evil powers in the world, which are backed by Satan. After that, he speaks of a pleasant vineyard that the Lord will keep and water. The end result is depicted in verse 12ff:
12 In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt the LORD will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel.
13 And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.


Proverbs 6:20-35
He begins with encouragement to keep the commands of the father and the teachings of the mother. They will be light to the path, and protection when you lie down. Then there are more warnings against adultery. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes… (v. 25) It almost looks like the writer would rather see the reader interact with a prostitute than with a married woman in verse 26: for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. I’m sure he’s not encourage the former, but the latter is much worse.
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.
35 He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.

Solomon basically says that if you commit adultery, you’re stupid. Like a man trying to carry fire or walking barefoot on hot coals.


Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)

The “desire to please God is a mark of conversion, and the Bible finds it inconceivable that any regenerate person would lack a desire to please the Lord.” Is this incompatible with the doctrine of justification by faith alone? No, because we are not desiring to please God so that he will save us. We desire to please God because he HAS saved us; our nature is changed. Pleasing the Lord is not our “ticket to heaven.” The desire to please him is “the necessary and inevitable consequence of the new birth.”
How do we “discern what is pleasing to the Lord?” The best way is to study the Bible. There is no better way to learn what pleases God than to study his words. “Soaking ourselves in Scripture reinforces our understanding of the light in which we must walk, transforming our minds that we might do what pleases God (Rom. 12:2).”
(From Tabletalk Magazine)


Father, I pray for my study of Scripture that I might walk in your ways, thereby learning what pleases you the most. I agree that there is no better place to learn what pleases you than in your words. I figure that’s why you’ve given them to us. And that is a major reason that I do this every morning, and I feel like I’ve totally missed out on a very important piece of my life if I miss it in the morning. Help me to learn what pleases you. You would think that, after 53 years, I would have it figured out. Unfortunately, there’s still enough of the old me hanging around, the flesh hanging on, to distract me pretty badly at times. I pray that these distractions will decrease as I, hopefully, mature in you.
Lord, I pray that I will also learn to do things without grumbling…things like paying taxes and doing my civil duties and responsibilities. While it is true that I believe myself to be a citizen of heaven first, I am still a citizen of the USA, and have certain obligations to the country. Help me to fulfill those. I also pray that you help me get back into a habit of praying for our leaders on a daily basis. I used to do that every day. I’ve used the excuse that I don’t have enough time…that’s lame. I do have enough time. So, for starters, today, I pray for our president, Barak Obama. I pray that he will seek your wisdom as he goes about his duties as president. I pray for his cabinet, and for our congress, that they might also seek your will as they make decisions for our nation. We pray for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. That is always our prayer. Sometimes my will conflicts with your will. So my will needs to change, in that case. I also ask that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ would cease their derogatory comments about the president and support him with prayer. They don’t have to agree with him. I don’t agree with him a lot of times. But I must pray for him. I also commit to carrying that precept down to lesser officials, like governors. I confess that I have been less than kind in my speech about the governor of our state. I will stop that. And I will pray for him and for the rest of our state government, as well.
Lastly, Lord, I pray for the kind of faith that can move a mountain. I have yet to see that in my lifetime, but I have certainly seen some great men and women of faith. I pray that my faith would be strong.

Thank you for the bus getting here earlier today. Perhaps Stephanie will get to school on time today. I pray that she will have a great day at school. I pray for her Government teacher, who has missed the first three days of school because of some personal issues.

I pray for a good day for Christi and me, that it will be stress free.


Finding what pleases the Lord is not as hard as we want to make it. It’s all there, in his word.

Grace and peace, friends.

Honest Worship

It’s Sunday morning, and we are getting ready to go worship at The Exchange. It will be interesting this morning, because today, they have split into two services. For now, we will continue to go to the 1030 service. If I get to be on a worship team soon, I may wind up going to both of them. That’s okay, though. It will be worth it to be serving.


Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 16:1-12
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’
3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

I believe this is the second time they had asked him for a sign. This time, before he referred them as an “evil and adulterous generation,” he pointed to the skies. “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red skies at morning, sailors take warning.” Apparently, that old formula has been around a very long time! By the way, it’s always bothered me that The Fixx got it wrong in their song.

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were able to interpret skies, but not the signs of the times. They had all the prophets at their disposal, but refused to see that Jesus was who they were pointing to. Once again, he states that Jonah is the only sign they will be given.

5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.
6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.”
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Again, the disciples seem to have forgotten what Jesus is able to do. They are worried because they forgot to bring any bread. But Jesus isn’t even talking about bread. When he tells them to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” he’s talking about their teachings; those false teachings that carry just enough truth that they are able to permeate the truth with the lies. In Luke 12:1, Jesus called the leaven of the Pharisees hypocrisy.

Isaiah 23
This chapter is an oracle concerning Tyre and Sidon. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor! From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them. (v. 1) The ships of Tarshish will have to find another place to put in, because the harbors of Tyre have been destroyed. Tyre was known for its revelry, as described in verse 7. Is this your exultant city whose origin is from days of old, whose feet carried her to settle far away? In verses 8-9, it is the Lord who has brought about this destruction. Who has purposed this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth? The LORD of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth. According to verse 15, Tyre would be forgotten for 70 years, but then she would eventually acknowledge the sovereignty of the Lord.

Proverbs 6:1-5
1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger,
2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth,
3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.
4 Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber;
5 save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

This is an interesting passage warning us against entering into a contract to guarantee someone else’s debt. Why allow someone else to control your life for another man’s debts? The instruction here encourages doing everything possible, to annul the contract, even going without sleep.


In today’s reading from Grace For the Moment, by Max Lucado, he quotes Romans 12:1 from The Message. (One quick note: The Message is NOT a paraphrase! It is a translation.) So here’s what I want you to do, God help you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. I’ll continue and add verse 2: Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. This, my friends, is what true worship is! “Honest worship lifts eyes off self and sets them on God.” “We can make a big deal about God on Sundays with our songs and on Mondays with our strengths. Every day in every deed. Each time we do our best to thank God for giving his, we worship.” Worship is more than just singing songs in church on Sunday morning! Worship is life! Let me say that again. WORSHIP IS LIFE! If we are not laying down our lives as an offering to him on a daily basis, then we are not truly worshiping Almighty God.


Father, I pray that I might do my best on a daily basis to give you honest, true worship! Let me lay my life down to you every day. Let me not be guilty of only “worshiping” you on Sunday morning. Yes, we are about to go “to church” and sing songs of praise and worship to you; listen to a message; give you prayers and offerings. But if this does not carry on into tomorrow and Tuesday and Wednesday…all the way to next Saturday, then it is not valid worship. I acknowledge that, Father, and I purpose to worship you every day with my life!

I pray for this day, Father. We have some tasks that we want to accomplish, and I pray that they will go smoothly. I also pray that this morning’s worship service will be acceptable to you. Let our songs of praise waft up to you as sweet incense, and let them come from our hearts. Then let us carry them into our lives after we leave the building.

I pray for Stephanie’s first day of school tomorrow. Let it be a great day, Lord, and let her have no anxiety over her first day of new classes. Thankfully, some of the teachers will be the same ones she has already had.


Worship God this morning. And then worship him tomorrow and the rest of the week, as well. Lay down your lives for him…after all, he laid his down for us.

Grace and peace, friends.