If It Concerns You, Pray About It!

Today is Sunday, December 22, 2019, in the fourth week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,564

THREE DAYS until Christmas!

Today is Forefathers’ Day. “Few things are more important to Americans than heritage. Remembering where you come from, and how hard you’ve worked to get where you are are all integral parts of the concept of the American dream.

“For those reasons, no holiday could be more American in nature than Forefathers’ Day, a holiday that celebrates the first ever pilgrims courageously sailing across the vast ocean they knew very little about at the time, in search of a better life and freedom from religious prosecution.

“When they set foot on the shores of North America, they themselves were the beginning of a new country that would one day become a world superpower. Now that’s definitely an event worth celebrating.”

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. Today we are “gathered,” as The Exchange Church meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth. We will be singing a few Christmas songs, and Jacob will bring us a message, presumably about Christmas. I’m not actually sure, to be honest.

Yesterday was a good day. R came over and had lunch with us, and then set out to clean out the closet in her old bedroom. We carried out eight or ten bags of trash (mostly old school binders and stuff like that). She found a small crate of stuff that is mostly mine. As I perused the contents, I found a small cardboard tube that bore the name “Crazy Ikes.” I almost cried. Older “kids” might remember those. They are plastic toys that connect in different ways to make various shapes. They were some of my toys from my childhood. I had no idea that they were even in our house, and I’m not sure why they were. But it was very cool to stumble upon them. I just looked on Ebay, out of curiosity, and someone is selling the identical set for $34.95. Not a gold mine, to be sure, but I bet they didn’t cost that much in the late fifties/early sixties.

C wrapped most of our Christmas presents yesterday, as well. There is a stack that is still in my study, that are all for her. I’m going to try to get those wrapped today. She has offered to wrap them, too, if I can keep them in such a way that she can’t see what they are. To be honest, she wraps presents much better than I do. Haha.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 96.2-4

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship the Lord with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. For the spirit of Christmas in our midst, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
3. That the Lord hears our prayers.
4. That the Lord wants us to pray about whatever matters to us, no matter how trivial we may believe it to be.
5. For the observance of The Supper, later this morning.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90.14
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;
Psalm 65.5
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
Psalm 91.5
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 
but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1.18-25
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! 
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! 
From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! 
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! 
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, 
who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 
to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. 
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 113

“Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming,
may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Pray About What Matters to You, by Dallas Willard

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
Psalm 62.8

“Prayer is never just asking, nor is it merely a matter of asking for what I want. God is not a cosmic butler or fix-it man, and the aim of the universe is not to fulfill my desires and needs. On the other hand, I am to pray for what concerns me, and many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should only pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or not interest in or even knowledge of.”

This is true, probably, for most of us, at least sometimes. I struggle to pray for my own needs. I have been involved in intercessory prayer for so long that I hesitate to ask for things for myself. Every now and then, someone will respond to my question, “What can I pray for you today?” with, “What about you?” I’m almost paralyzed when they ask this! If I were having to answer in person, I would probably stutter like Mel Tillis.

Many of us also think that God isn’t concerned with little things in our lives. But I believe that what Dallas says is true. We need to pray for whatever it is that concerns us, from world-level issues such as climate change and world peace, down to whatever might be wrong with your pet gerbil. If it matters to you, pray about it! It doesn’t have to be a request, either. Prayer doesn’t have to be asking for something! It can be me simply talking with God, telling him what is on my mind. And sometimes, when I do that, it’s kind of like talking to a psychologist. Just the simple act of airing my thoughts to the Lord is helpful. And sometimes, while I am talking, the answer comes before I’m finished.

So pray about what matters. If it is a concern in your life, pray about it, no matter how silly or trivial you might think it is. God will listen. He promises.

Father, help me to be more honest and authentic in my prayers. Help me to be more comfortable praying for personal matters as well as the requests that other folks bring to me. And help me to remember to pray without ceasing.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1:2)

Grace and peace, friends.

Sailing, Rowing, Drifting, or Sinking

“I can resist everything except temptation.”~~Oscar Wilde (BrainyQuotes)

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is irenic, “tending to promote peace or reconciliation; peaceful or conciliatory.” We need more irenic people this holiday season.

Today is Forefathers’ Day. This day commemorates “the pilgrims who sailed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mayflower, in 1620.”

I had a sort of weird day, yesterday. I’m not sure what was going on, and I wasn’t in a really bad mood, but things were annoying me more than usual. Work was okay, and, over all, the day was pretty uneventful. I think it’s just the fact that in only two more days, we will be off for seven days. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.

It got a lot better last night, when Christi made Kahlua fudge! Yum!! I got to taste what was left in the bottom of the pot when we poured it into the dish, so it could set in the refrigerator. Wow!! I told Christi this may be the best batch ever! I may have said that last year, too.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

As we approach the end of this book, Tim Keller asks the question, “Where are you?” He asks us to evaluate our current situation in regard to prayer. We are asked to imagine that our soul is a boat, with both oars and a sail. Four questions are then asked.

“Are you ‘sailing?'” If I’m “sailing,” I am living my Christian life with the wind at my back. God is real to my heart. I feel his love, frequently, and see prayers being answered. I see remarkable things when I read Scripture and sense that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. I can even sense that people around me are influence by the presence of the Holy Spirit within me.

“Are you ‘rowing?'” If I’m “rowing,” I am finding prayer and Bible reading to be more of a chore/duty than a delight. There are many times that God feels distant. I don’t see many prayers being answered, and may even be struggling with doubts about God and myself. However, in spite of these spiritually dry feelings, I don’t give up. I don’t give in to the temptation to think that I know better than God about how my life should go. I keep reading and praying, attending worship, and reaching out to serve others.

“Are you ‘drifting?'” If I am drifting, I am experiencing all of the conditions of “rowing,” but instead of actually doing the work of rowing, I am letting myself drift along. I don’t feel like approaching God, much less obeying him, so I don’t pray or read. I give in to self-centeredness, perhaps even allowing a “pity party” to set in. I drift into “self-indulgent behaviors.”

“Are you ‘sinking?'” If I am sinking, eventually, my soul-boat will drift away from the “shipping lanes” and “truly lose any forward motion in the Christian life.” Numbness of heart will set in and turn into hardness. The wrong kind of hardship or crisis in life could even lead to total abandonment of faith.

In this metaphor, there are some things that we are responsible for, such as Bible reading, prayer, and church involvement. But there are also things that are out of our control, such as life circumstances, and, sometimes, even emotional response. “If you pray, worship, and obey despite negative circumstances and feelings, you won’t be drifting, and when the winds come up again, you will move ahead swiftly.” However, if we do not apply the means of grace, the “rowing,” as it were, we will drift, and when the storms come, eventually sink.

Keller finishes this section with this: “In any case–pray no matter what. Praying is rowing, and sometimes it is like rowing in the dark–you won’t feel that you are making any progress at all. Yet you are, and when the winds rise again, and they surely will, you will sail again before them.”

As I read this, I have evaluated where I am. To be honest, I am somewhere between rowing and sailing. There are some times that I am sailing, and there are times when I feel spiritually dry. But, as is evidenced by this blog, I am continuing to “row,” doing the things that are necessary to keep my spiritual life afloat. I pray. I read the Bible, at least some. I attend worship, and, when called upon, I serve. I am confident that those winds will rise up again, and, someday, I will be sailing, enjoying sweet intimacy with my Father in heaven.

Father, I pray for the winds. But in the meantime, I also pray that your Spirit will keep me inspired to keep rowing, that I might not drift or sink. Your grace is most certainly enough.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Shipwrecked and Rescued

Good morning. It is Monday, December 22, 2014. Only three days until Christmas!

Today’s Word of the Day is “fissile.” 1. “capable of being split or divided in the direction of the grain or along natural planes of cleavage.” 2. “capable of undergoing fission”.

Today is Forefathers’ Day , a day set aside to commemorate the pilgrims who sailed across the ocean to settle in a new land, and, eventually, form the United States of America.

We had a nice time yesterday, except for the part when we dropped off something at Christi’s mother’s apartment. I’m not even going into that. But we finally got (I think) all of our Christmas shopping finished, as we loaded up on candy stocking stuffers. After that, we went bowling again. That was great fun. We bowled two games, in which Christi averaged about 138, and I averaged 167. Stephanie averaged around 65, which is not bad for her, either, especially since she started bowling without the rails.

After bowling, we went to Texas Roadhouse for lunch. I still had a $25 gift card that I got from work, so that paid for a good portion of our lunch. The food was okay, but not great. I was actually slightly disappointed.

We spent the rest of the evening just resting up for the work week. We’ll be at work today and tomorrow, then off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, then have to work again on Friday.

Oh, and the Dallas Cowboys have, apparently, won their division for the first time in I don’t know how long. Weird. I’m not really a fan, but I guess I’m happy for them. I’m not happy for Jerry Jones, but, oh, well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Fourth Week of Advent

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Psalm 31:23-24
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
Psalm 31:3
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126 A Song of Ascents
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at
his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Matthew 21:12-17

Matthew seems to mention this event, almost in passing. But the words of Jesus are important. “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” he says. Basically, the temple had been turned into a market place. I’ve heard all the explanations about what was going on, regarding buying sacrifices for people who traveled long distances, as well as changing currency for the temple tax, and so on. The bottom line is that the house of the Lord is not a place for taking advantage of people, to turn a profit. It is a house of prayer, a place to serve people.

As Jesus hung around in the temple, afflicted people came to him for healing. Children cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Maybe they sang. But the religious leaders couldn’t stand this. They confronted Jesus, apparently to get him to deny the truth of what the children were saying. But he would not. He simply quoted more Scripture to them, and left, traveling to Bethany, no doubt the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Shipwrecked At the Stable.”

“The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with a life-and-death grip to one solitary plank. Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything. The shipwrecked find it not only tacky, but utterly absurd to be caught up either in tinsel trees or in religious experience–‘Doesn’t going to church on Christmas make you feel good?’ They are not concerned with their own emotional security or with any of the trinkets of creation. They have been saved, rescued, delivered from the waters of death, set free for a new shot at life. At the stable in a blinding moment of truth, they make the stunning discovery that Jesus is the plank of salvation they have been clinging to without knowing it!

“All the time they were battered by wind and rain, buffeted by raging seas, they were being held even when they didn’t know who was holding them. Their exposure to spiritual, emotional, and physical deprivation has weaned them from themselves and made them reexamine all they once thought important. The shipwrecked come to the stable seeking not to possess, but to be possessed, wanting not peace or a religious high, but Jesus Christ.”

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:

1 Corinthians 1:2

Father, I praise you for drawing me to the stable. I have clung to the plank of salvation that is Jesus. Have I yet to come to the place, though, where I desire to be possessed more than to possess? I truly believe that I am closer than I have ever been in my life. I pray for Jesus in my life. Not that I don’t believe that he is here, but this prayer is for a closeness with Christ that surpasses everything else. This prayer is that I might truly know him, above all things. The lights and decorations of Christmas are nice, and pretty. But they are not the true meaning, even when we examine the symbolism of them. The real meaning of this season, nay, the real meaning of life, itself, is Jesus Christ. Without him, there is no meaning. I pray that this message would be clear, that the Gospel would shine clearly throughout Christmas, and throughout the rest of the year.

I pray for this day, that we would have safe travel to and from work. I pray for a good work day today, and that we would be able to display your Kingdom in all things. May you speak to Stephanie during these days, that she might understand the true meaning of Christmas. May your Spirit be real to her, and teach her your ways.

I pray for Samantha, as she has back surgery today. May the surgery be successful and, after recovery, relieve the terrible pain that she has been enduring. I pray for Craig, as he takes care of her and the kids during her recovery. May your grace and peace shine down on all of them.

The beautiful writing of Brennan Manning is such a great description of our encounter with Jesus. I pray that all the “shipwrecked” will discover that the “plank” that they are desperately clinging to is Jesus Christ!

Grace and peace, friends.