Be Ready

Today is Friday, the 30th of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the sixth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you, always!

Day 23,668

There are two days left in 2022. It is “New Year’s Eve Eve.”

We may or may not have plans for New Year’s Eve. We may have someone over, but that has not yet been determined. I’m not working, though, so it will be a nice, relaxing day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The law of your mouth is better to me 
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
(Psalms 119:72 ESV)

O Lord God, in exultation our hearts go out to you and your revelation of heaven, your revelation of the Spirit, who can fill our hearts so that we remain steadfast throughout our earthly life. It is still dark on earth. Sin and death hold sway, but we stand unafraid and seek repentance. In spite of all our failures we look to you and know you are our Savior. You send us Jesus Christ in your own glory. The world will be filled with light. Everywhere on earth, even among those who do not know you, the sincere-hearted will come to acknowledge that you, the Father of Jesus Christ and our Father, are God over all the world. You will show your glory to all people so that they may come to you, worship you, and walk in the light, to the everlasting glory of your name. Amen.

And Mary said: 
"My soul praises the Lord 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. 
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me – 
holy is his name." 
Luke 1:46–49, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for hope — no matter how dark things seem to get, there is always hope
  2. that Jesus is my savior, in spite of all my failure (hey, that rhymes!)
  3. for quiet mornings with coffee
  4. for new beginnings, as a new year approaches
  5. for the hope of the ultimate “new beginning,” which will last for eternity

"For behold, I create new heavens 
and a new earth, 
and the former things shall not be remembered 
or come into mind. 
But be glad and rejoice forever 
in that which I create; 
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, 
and her people to be a gladness. 
I will rejoice in Jerusalem 
and be glad in my people;
 no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping 
and the cry of distress. 
No more shall there be in it 
an infant who lives but a few days, 
or an old man who does not fill out his days, 
for the young man shall die a hundred years old, 
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 
They shall build houses and inhabit them; 
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 
They shall not build and another inhabit; 
they shall not plant and another eat; 
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, 
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 
They shall not labor in vain 
or bear children for calamity, 
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, 
and their descendants with them. 
Before they call I will answer; 
while they are yet speaking I will hear. 
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; 
the lion shall eat straw like the ox, 
and dust shall be the serpent's food.
 They shall not hurt or destroy 
in all my holy mountain," 
says the LORD.
(Isaiah 65:17-25 ESV)

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
(Matthew 25:13 NRSV)

I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
(Psalms 69:3 NRSV)

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.”
(Luke 12:35-36 NRSV)


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3-9 NRSV)


singing, “We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”
(Revelation 11:17 NRSV)


As 2023 approaches, there is much anticipation of better things to come. In fact, for the past three years, there has been an air of hope for things to get “better,” as each new year’s day approaches. But have they?

The image that comes to mind, as I consider national and world events, over the course of the past few years, is that of a snowball barreling down the side of a mountain, unstoppable, crushing everything in its path.

My, isn’t that uplifting.

It has become evident to many of us (perhaps not to all, yet) that things are never going back to “normal.” Whatever that is.

In spite of all of this, though, and in spite of my mindset, which might appear to be somewhat cynical to some, I see hope for the future. But that hope is not for the planet, as it is, currently. That hope is for the new creation described by Isaiah, and then later by John the Revelator. God proclaims that He is creating a new heaven and a new earth. The images that we get from both of those sources is stunning and stirring. There are images of an eternal day, where it never gets dark again. In fact, according to Revelation 21:23, the sun or moon are no longer needed, because “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

But here’s the thing. None of us has a clue when that is coming. Oh, sure, there are people who think they have clues. I have no confidence in them, though. Just recently, for example, there arose a great hubbub because the Euphrates river was drying up.

The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
(Revelation 16:12 NRSV)

“It’s going to be soon!” people cried. Never mind the fact that none of the things that are supposed to happen before that have happened yet. Also never mind the fact that Revelation is not meant to be interpreted literally. But, hey. If you insist on interpreting Revelation literally, then at least do it the favor of keeping things in the right order.

Here’s the thing. We don’t know when Christ is returning. According to Jesus, even He didn’t know!

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
(Matthew 24:36 NRSV)

So if Jesus, Himself, doesn’t know when He is returning, I certainly don’t know, and you certainly don’t know. We aren’t clever enough to figure it out, either.

But what we can do is be ready. Just like those wise virgins at the wedding in that one parable, we can have our lamps trimmed, with plenty of oil, and be ready. I used to have a t-shirt (back in my college days) that said, “Are you ready?” and referenced Luke 12:40. One day, I wore that t-shirt into a store, and a guy who worked there asked me, “What does Luke 12:40 say?”

I had no clue. How embarrassing.

But you can bet that I have known since that day.

“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Luke 12:40 NRSV)

I can’t say that I have lived my life, since then, in a constant state of readiness. I like to think that I am ready. But what if God’s plan was complete, and I’m engaged in some “less than holy” activity? I’ll be surprised, won’t I? I mean, I’ll be surprised, anyway, but this would be the worst kind of surprise. We’ve all heard the phrase “caught with your pants down,” right? Or something similar. I dare say we don’t want to be “caught with our pants down” when Jesus returns.

It reminds me of that line in the Paul Simon song, “Call Me Al.” It’s in the second verse:

A man walks down the street
He says, "Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention
And, whoa, my nights are so long
Where's my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who'll be my role model
Now that my role model is gone, gone?"
He ducked back down the alley
With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl
All along, along
There were incidents and accidents
There were hints and allegations

“What if I die here?”

Have you ever been in a situation where, if you died there, unexpectedly, it would be a terrible embarrassment to you and your family?

I have decided that a great “rule of thumb” for life is never go anywhere or do anything where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead.

And I believe that is, in a way, the spirit behind Jesus’s admonition for us to be ready. Because we don’t know when He’s coming. If we knew, we could, you know, wait until the last minute to prepare, and it seems that a lot of us are doing that, anyway. But we don’t know when that “last minute” is, so we’re likely to be caught unready, like the foolish virgins in that same parable.

The picture that is presented to us is so beautiful! The new heaven and new earth is such a beautiful picture that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to be part of it. I don’t know what we will look like. I don’t know what kind of “bodies” we will have. I don’t know if we will recognize each other as our former identities on earth. But I know it will be beautiful, it will be eternal, and it will be Home.

So I want to be ready. Pants up, arms wide open, lamp trimmed and full of oil, wide awake.

I will say that this went in a totally different direction than I was anticipating.


Father, I praise You for the visions of Isaiah and John, visions that give us such hope for our future in Your kingdom. I pray that You would help us to be ready for the return of Christ, as we do not know when it will happen. Help us, when tempted, to recall the words of Jesus, admonishing us to be wise, wide awake, and ready, so that we are not taken by surprise when that day comes.

It is too easy to become complacent, because of how long it has been. We are tempted to be lazy; we are tempted to not be diligent in prayer and worship, because we fall into the mindset that we have plenty of time to get “caught up” in these things, even though getting “caught up” in prayer is a laughable notion.

Father, You are our everything. The Holy Trinity is our essence of life, our water, our food; everything we need in this life, You have given us. You are our Creator and our Sustainer. To whom else would we turn, Lord? Please keep us awake and diligent. Please keep us ready.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Let It Be

Today is Friday, the 23rd of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.

It is Christmas Eve Eve. 🙂

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,661

TWO days until Christmas!

It got down to either 9 or 10 degrees, last night, depending on which app I look at. At one point, the windchill was, close to, if not below -10. It was very windy all day, yesterday. Today will be a little better, eventually. It is currently (at 9:30 AM) 14 degrees, with a windchill of -2. Winds are currently blowing from the NW at 14 mph. It should reach a high of around 25 today (again, depending on which app you look at). The windchill advisory goes until noon today.

I’m not at work, as the City of Hurst gave us this day as a holiday. We were all pretty surprised, as we were expecting Saturday (Christmas Eve) and Monday for Christmas, since Christmas falls on Sunday, this year. But we got today, as well. We are all very glad about that, considering what the weather did.

I would also like to gladly report that our power stayed on all night. Apparently, there were some scattered outages, as I know of one family in Fort Worth whose power went out overnight. I don’t know the cause of it, though.

The only time I plan to leave the house today is to get Sonic drinks, and I don’t have to get out of the car for that. So I shan’t wear anything but pyjamas today. Warm ones.

Time to stop scrolling Facebook and start scrolling Scripture!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;  
teach me your statutes! 
(Psalms 119:64 ESV)

Interestingly, when I read that verse, it made me think of an old hymn called “God Is Working His Purpose Out.” It wasn’t ever sung in the church where I grew up, but I learned it many years later.

Lord our God, our Father in heaven and our Father on earth, our Lord and our Ruler, we thank you that to this very day you have guarded and guided us and delivered us from great need. We praise you with hearts full of hope as we continue on our pilgrimage. For Christmas Day is coming with its message of hope that we may somehow bring honor to you in spite of all hindrances, mistakes, and sin, in spite of all death and the horror of dying. We know that you hold us in your hands. With your help we can look ahead, and again and again we may take a small step forward and live to the praise and honor of your name. So be with us now and bless us. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you to always do and say what is good. 
2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the joy of the season
  2. for the guidance and guarding of the Lord in our lives
  3. for the love of God and that, in His grace, He has given us “unfailing courage and a firm hope”
  4. for the faith and selflessness of Mary
  5. for the admonition to deny self and engage in the “fast” of God’s choosing, which is to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke,” “to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh”

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 

And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 

And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." 

And Mary said, 
"My soul magnifies the Lord, 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
 For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, 
and holy is his name. 
And his mercy is for those who fear him 
from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm; 
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones 
and exalted those of humble estate; 
he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and the rich he has sent away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, 
in remembrance of his mercy, 
as he spoke to our fathers, 
to Abraham and to his offspring forever." 

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
(Luke 1:26-56 ESV)
Is such the fast that I choose, 
a day for a person to humble himself? 
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
 and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? 
Will you call this a fast, 
and a day acceptable to the LORD? 

"Is not this the fast that I choose: 
to loose the bonds of wickedness, 
to undo the straps of the yoke, 
to let the oppressed go free, 
and to break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry 
and bring the homeless poor into your house; 
when you see the naked, to cover him, 
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, 
and your healing shall spring up speedily; 
your righteousness shall go before you; 
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; 
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' 
If you take away the yoke from your midst, 
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 
if you pour yourself out for the hungry 
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, 
then shall your light rise in the darkness 
and your gloom be as the noonday. 
And the LORD will guide you continually 
and satisfy your desire in scorched places 
and make your bones strong; 
and you shall be like a watered garden, 
like a spring of water, 
whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:5-11 ESV)

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
(Romans 8:18 NRSV)


For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NRSV)

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
(Matthew 16:19-24 NRSV)

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
(2 Corinthians 2:14 NRSV)


Let’s talk about Mary, this morning. (It was morning when I started). There’s something about Mary, to borrow a 1998 movie title.

I’m not Catholic. So I don’t “venerate” Mary, nor do I believe that she was sinless. I don’t believe the Bible tells us that. Jesus was the only person who ever lived a life entirely without sin.

Nevertheless, Mary should hold a very special place in our hearts, and in our “theology.” It is probably that she was barely a teenager when this happened. We really don’t know how old she was, but I have seen estimates of anywhere between 12-16, with the majority being on the lower end of that range.

Teen pregnancy. How would she have been regarded in the twentieth or twenty-first century?

Nevertheless, Mary, when given the news, essentially said, “Okay.” I have visions of Pete Davidson’s “Chad” character on SNL, who, no matter what was said to him, responded with a somewhat nonchalant, “Okay.” Now, I realize that Mary was anything but nonchalant. But she was accepting.

Look at what she said at the end of the angel visit.

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:38 NRSV)

Mary, in that moment, became the “fragrance” of which Paul spoke in that verse in 2 Corinthians. And she was the ultimate spreader of that fragrance.

She had no thought for herself, or her reputation, at least not that we see. She did go spend a few months with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy, as she would give birth to the Baptizer. Side note: It must have been pleasant to be there with Elizabeth during the time when Elizabeth’s husband couldn’t talk.

Hahaha!!

Mary also became that person of which Jesus speaks when He says that whoever wants to follow Him must take up their cross and deny themselves. Mary did just that. She denied herself, possibly earlier in life than anyone else in history. Not only did she have no regard for her future or her reputation, she risked disgrace for her future husband, who, had an angel not visited him, would have divorced her even before they were married. And she had to endure watching her son be crucified.

And us? We complain when there are too many cars in the drive thru. Me, I get completely bent out of shape if the Internet quits working, or if the Subway app won’t let me order ahead.

The lesson we all need to learn from Mary is in what she said to the angel. “Let it be to me according to your word.”


Father, I praise You for Mary. I have no idea what place she holds, next to You. I hope she has a place of honor in heaven, though, because of her sacrifice, her willingness to set herself completely aside in order to bring our Savior into the world. I thank You for the example she gave us of complete surrender, of saying, “Let be to me according to your word.”

So, Father, every time something doesn’t go the way I think it should, or if something doesn’t work right, let Your Spirit remind me, sharply, if necessary, of those words of Mary, and how she acted in total surrender and selflessness. Make me to remember the kind of life she had, especially the last few years of the life of Christ. Make me to remember that this adolescent girl wound up having to watch her grown son crucified for the sins of the entire world, for people about whom she knew nothing, and likely cared nothing.

Father, we are so wretchedly spoiled, and I am right there at the top of the heap of spoiledness. I live in a society that is used to getting everything instantly. Even at what I consider to be a “median income,” our household income is more than fifty times the average global income. In short, I literally have nothing to complain about. Help me to remember this, and how blessed we are, here.

You have given us generous hearts, and I love that. Make them even more generous. I haven’t yet gotten to the point of inviting a homeless person into my house, yet. Granted, I don’t have a place for them to stay or sleep, but I could feed them.

At this time of year, two days before Christmas, I pray that You would make us aware of some need that we could meet with the resources we have set aside to do just that. I would love to empty that account before the end of this year.

And Father, let it be to me according to Your Word.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Today is Friday, the 2nd of December, 2022, in the first week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ surround you, today!

Day 23,640

23 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, 
your salvation according to your promise;
(Psalms 119:41 ESV)

Lord God, our hearts are full of praise and thanks for your promise. You comfort and help us with this promise every day, enabling us to hold true through all distress. Remember us in these times, and let the cry, “Hosanna,” arise often in our hearts. Let a bright light shine out now as you once let it shine around the Lord Jesus, showing him as King and Savior. Protect us and bless us. Bless our land and all those appointed to govern. May your Spirit be with them so that they may carry out your will. For your will must be done and shall surely happen. In this we trust, and in this we hope. We praise you, O Lord our God. Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

The Lord has done it this very day;
 let us rejoice today and be glad.
Lord, save us! 
Lord, grant us success! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 
From the house of the Lord we bless you. 
Psalm 118:24-26, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for hope; without it, we perish
  2. for the promises of God; He will do what He says He will do, I believe it
  3. for the light of Christ, that shines in our hearts
  4. for sleep, perhaps the ultimate exercise of faith
  5. for fellowship with the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)
Praise the LORD! 
Praise the LORD from the heavens; 
praise him in the heights! 
Praise him, all his angels;
 praise him, all his hosts! 

Praise him, sun and moon, 
praise him, all you shining stars! 
Praise him, you highest heavens, 
and you waters above the heavens! 

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
 For he commanded and they were created. 
And he established them forever and ever; 
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 

Praise the LORD from the earth, 
you great sea creatures and all deeps, 
fire and hail, snow and mist, 
stormy wind fulfilling his word! 

Mountains and all hills,
 fruit trees and all cedars! 
Beasts and all livestock, 
creeping things and flying birds! 

Kings of the earth and all peoples, 
princes and all rulers of the earth! 
Young men and maidens together, 
old men and children!

 Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
for his name alone is exalted; 
his majesty is above earth and heaven. 
He has raised up a horn for his people, 
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 148:1-14 ESV)

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— 
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
(Psalms 127:2 NIV)
I lie down and sleep; 
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
(Psalms 3:5 NIV)
In peace I will lie down and sleep, 
for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalms 4:8 NIV)
He will not let your foot slip— 
he who watches over you will not slumber; 
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; 
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
(Proverbs 3:24 NIV)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
(Ephesians 3:12 NIV)

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
(Mark 11:24 NIV)


Faith is surrender; faith is fellowship.

Sleep may very well be the best example of faith that we encounter.

Seriously, think about it. When you go to sleep, you are the most vulnerable that you will ever be. You are at the mercy of the universe when you go to sleep.

What prevents us from sleeping? In my experience, it is usually anxiety, one of the enemy’s most powerful tools, alongside shame. If he can get us worrying about something, sleep evades us.

But look at those verses above, that deal with sleep. The Lord grants sleep to those He loves. We can sleep because He sustains us. He makes us dwell in safety. In contrast, the Lord, Himself never sleeps nor slumbers, which gives us more confidence in His “watchcare” over us. That’s a word I used to hear a lot in peoples’ prayers.

And that verse in Proverbs telling us that, because of our faith and confidence in the Lord, when we lie down, we will not be afraid and our sleep will be sweet.

Sleep is surrender. It is sweet surrender, because, when we sleep, our body heals itself from the day’s abuse.

Faith is surrender and fellowship. Faith does not equal sleep, but does sleep equal faith? Perhaps not, but I believe that sleep is a result of faith. When we fall asleep, we are exercising faith in God to care for us, to watch over us, to protect us in our most vulnerable state.


Father, I thank You for sleep. I had a pretty good night of sleep, last night. There have been some nights, recently, when my sleep was not so good. Does that indicate a lack of faith? Does that show my faith to be weak? Perhaps so, because, as I wrote up there, fitful sleep or lack of sleep sometimes indicates a lack of faith, because it is anxiety over things that keeps me from sleep.

Help us to cast all our cares on You, Lord, for You care for us. Help us to have the confidence to surrender to sleep before You, knowing that You, who watches over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps. Help us, Your human children, to deal in a more effective way with our anxieties that display a lack of faith. And help us, by faith, to not only surrender to You, but also have fellowship with You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Power In the Blood

Today is Friday, the 25th of November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you, today!

Day 23,633

30 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Give me understanding, 
that I may keep your law 
and observe it with my whole heart.
(Psalms 119:34 ESV)

Lord our God, we turn to you, for you are our help. Hear our prayer, we beseech you; let our cry rise to you so that you may send your mighty help in our generation. Continue to protect us from all evil, from death and destruction. Protect us because we are your children. As your children we turn to you, the almighty God, who can make everything work together for good. Be merciful to us, O Lord God. Help us for your name’s sake. Help, Lord, for you alone can bring everything to a good end. So we stand before you in Jesus Christ, holding to every word you have given us and knowing for certain that you hear us. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; 
let the distant shores rejoice... 
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, 
and all peoples see his glory. 
Psalm 97:1, 6, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating Thanksgiving with family
  2. for the joy we experience as we observe the heavens declaring the righteousness of God
  3. for the blood of Christ, sacrificed for the cleansing of our sins and the creating of new life within us
  4. for the participation in that blood when we receive Communion at His table
  5. for the patience of the Lord

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
(2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV)

A Psalm of David. 

O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! 
Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, 
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! 

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; 
keep watch over the door of my lips! 
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, 
to busy myself with wicked deeds 
in company with men who work iniquity, 
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; 
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; 
let my head not refuse it. 
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds. 
When their judges are thrown over the cliff, 
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. 
As when one plows and breaks up the earth, 
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol. 

But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; 
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! 
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me 
and from the snares of evildoers! 
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, 
while I pass by safely.
(Psalms 141:1-10 ESV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(James 1:17 NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1 NIV)


“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
(Matthew 26:27-28 NIV)

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
(Leviticus 17:11 NIV)


Every Sunday morning, the pastor that leads the Communion at Living Word Lutheran Church opens their arms and says, “You are all invited to this Table of Grace.” Then, for the next few minutes, the congregation, in orderly fashion, proceeds to the kneeling benches around the altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus.

For at least five years (maybe longer), Communion (or, as we came to call it, the Supper) has been the central piece of the worship time for me. Everything leads up to the climax of that moment, in my opinion. And in the Lutheran service, it all begins with the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. First we confess, then we worship in various ways, and we end it by receiving the body and blood of Jesus.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us!” Observe the great blessing that He has given us, the truth that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Also observe His great patience in holding off the end of times, because He is not willing that any should perish.

“When I partake of that blood, I have a part in the atonement that it established, the forgiveness it secured. I have a part in the life of Jesus, surrendered on the cross, raised from the grave, and now glorified in heaven. The spirit of Jesus’ life is the spirit of my life. How powerful, how heavenly must that life be that is nourished by the new wine of the kingdom and communion with the Son. May I ever be thankful that Jesus shed His blood for me.” (Andrew Murray, in The Lord’s Table, quoted in Power in Prayer)

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


Father, once again I am thankful for the cross, for the shed blood of Jesus Christ, that brings me into participation into the divine presence. I thank You for the mystery that is the body and blood of Jesus, present in the bread and wine of Communion. I pray that, as we receive this each week, we would realize more strongly the connectivity between us all, provided by and enabled by Your Holy Spirit.

As we take Communion each week, we are participating in something that is so much bigger than the congregation with whom we are worshiping. We are participating in something that spans the globe, and that also spans all time. When I consume the body and blood of Christ, I am consuming the same body and blood that John and Peter and James consumed. I am partaking in the same presence in which Polycarp and Ignatius and Clement and Augustine partook.

And I am connected, as well, with every believer who will walk the face of the earth in years to come. This mystery is similar to the mystery that is spoken of in Psalm 139; it is too wonderful for me, too high; I cannot attain it.

But I will, nevertheless, embrace it. So, this coming Sunday, Father, when I receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus, may I not take it lightheartedly or be aloof about it. May it carry with it the weight of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and may it empower me to live another week under the grace, and in His strength.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Waiting, An Attitude of the Heart

Today is Friday, the 18th of November, 2022, in the 33rd week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today, and dwell in your soul.

Day 23,626

Six days until Thanksgiving!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Make me understand the way of your precepts, 
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
(Psalms 119:27 ESV)

Lord our God, we stand before you and rejoice that you want to be our Helper, our Father. We live in a dark and evil time when whole nations groan and lament. Our need rises to you in heaven, and we cry out, “Help us, Lord our God!” Help that your will may be done in all things and that your kingdom may come. Our task is to pray to you at all times, calling, “Come, O Lord God, in Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of all the world!” For in east and west, in south and north, among all nations, Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. Praise to your name that you have given us this Lord. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for coffee
  2. for the beauty of creation all around me, especially the night sky
  3. that I will never look into the eyes of someone whom God does not love
  4. for the constant encouragement to wait continually on God
  5. for His help in times of anxiety; there is no need to worry about anything

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
(Luke 12:25 NIV)

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
(Proverbs 12:25 NIV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
(Matthew 6:25 NIV)


“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”
(Hosea 12:6 ESV)


Typically, we think of “waiting” as just sitting. The standard definition of “wait” is “stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.” But it also means, “to be available or in readiness.”

Andrew Murray indicates that waiting is “the essence of true Christianity,” and states that “the maintenance of an attitude of entire dependence on Him must be continual.” (From Waiting on God, quoted in Power in Prayer)

It may be that we wind up waiting an extended time for some answer, but the “attitude and habit of the soul must remain unchangeable and uninterrupted.” (ibid)

The practice of waiting continually is a possibility, just as praying without ceasing is a possibility. The general idea of people, though, is that we are too busy, our lives are too crowded to “wait continually.”

But that’s because they do not understand that “waiting” doesn’t simply mean to sit and do nothing. I can be waiting on God as I go about my daily business. For example: I will be working at the library today, spending eight hours in the computer center. I can still be waiting on the Lord while I do that.

This is possible because, in our case, “waiting” is more of an attitude of the heart than the lack of physical action. See that second definition. I can be active in whatever it is I am doing and still be “available or in readiness.”

Murray compares this to a father/husband who might have a sick wife or child. “A father’s heart may be filled continually with intense love and longing for a sick wife or child at home, even though pressing business requires all his thoughts.” He goes on: “When the heart has learned how entirely powerless it is to keep itself or to produce any good, when it has learned how surely and absolutely God will keep it, when it has, in despair of itself, accepted God’s promise to do for it the impossible, it learns to rest in God and, in the midst of occupations and temptations, waits continually.” (ibid)

We also must understand that God is always working in us, regardless of our status of waiting. If we think, “if I wait continually, then God will work continually,” we have it backwards. We should turn that around. “God works continually; I may wait on Him continually.” The attitude of waiting reflects the faith and hope that we have in God to work in us.


I want to also share something I saw in a Facebook post this morning.

"You will never look
 into the eyes 
of someone 
God does not love."

Father, help me to be a better “waiter.” Help me to wait on You, continually. Let this attitude be constant in me, not so that I can coerce You to work in me, but because You are already working in me. Because I believe that You are always working, I can wait, and the attitude of my heart can be that of continual waiting.

I will be available; I will be ready; I will be waiting, but I will not just be sitting, doing nothing.

I also pray that all of Your children would embrace that statement about love and Your love for all people. It is true that I will never be able to find someone whom You do not love. Therefore, I must love them all, as well. Help me to embrace and remember that when a troublesome patron comes into my work area, today. Help me to remember that the person who is angry at the world, for whatever reason, is someone You love.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Make me to know your ways, O LORD; 
teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
 for you are the God of my salvation; 
for you I wait all the day long. 
(Psalms 25:4-5 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The God Who Sees

Today is Friday, the 11th of November, 2022, in the 32nd week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,619

Tomorrow is C’s birthday!

Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. We recognize all people who have served in our Armed Forces.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.
(Psalms 119:20 ESV)

Lord our God, we come to you, the source of all being. You have said to us, “I am your God. You shall have no other gods besides me. Honor none but me, your God.” We thank you for this wonderful message. Help us to recognize you more and more, so that our hearts are full of the goodness and blessing we already have on earth, so that we hear you, the mighty One, say, “Stop, O people. Make peace. No one of you is more important than any other. Remember that I am God of all, in south and north, in west and east, on the oceans and everywhere. I am the one God, and through Jesus Christ I am now your Father.” Amen.

(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 
"You shall have no other gods before me. 
"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
(Exodus 20:2-6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the Lord our God, the source of all being
  2. that none of us is any more important than any other
  3. that the Lord searches my heart and tests my mind (Jeremiah 17:10)
  4. that my worthiness does not come from within, but from Jesus Christ
  5. that God is a God who sees us

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
(Titus 3:1-2 ESV)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Titus 3:4-7 ESV)

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
(Titus 3:9-11 ESV)

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
(Jeremiah 17:5-6 ESV)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
(Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV)

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.”
(Jeremiah 18:7-10 ESV)


She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
(Genesis 16:13 NIV)


Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:25-28 NIV)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
(1 Peter 4:10 NIV)


When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:4 NIV)


There’s a lot of “good stuff” in the Scriptures that I have read, this morning. The ones, though, that have spoken most clearly to me, though, are the one from Genesis, and the last one, from Colossians.

In the Genesis verse, it is Hagar that is speaking. She has been banished by Sarai, Abraham’s wife, out of jealousy. (It’s Saria’s own fault, but that’s a discussion for another day.) But God (I love those two words together) has seen her; God speaks to her and gives her some promises, so she, in turn, calls out to God, and calls Him “The God who sees me” (El Roi).

How encouraging is this for us today? Especially for the one who feels invisible all the time. God, who takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, sees all of us; He values all of us, and all are important to Him.

There is so much mystery in life. We were talking about this with a pastor last night, especially in regard to the sacraments of Communion and Baptism, as well as the possible activities of Christ during the three days when His body was in the grave (more discussions for a different day, unfortunately). Mysteries which we do not fully comprehend, but, by faith, we embrace.

And, because we believe in a God who sees us, we out not neglect to pray for ourselves. I confess that I often neglect that. I pray for many other people, whenever they ask me to. But how often do I pray for myself? I ask for forgiveness quite a bit. But I need to pray more for myself, as encouraged by Andrew Murray.

“We must neglect to pray also for ourselves, so that as Christ takes full possession of us, He will be able to work through us to the end that others might be helped.

“Let us yield ourselves to God in prayer that He might search our hearts and reveal to us whether the life of Christ is the law of our life.”

And then this gem:

“Consider this: Your worthiness is not in yourself or in the intensity of your consecration; your worthiness is in Christ himself.”

(From Absolute Surrender, quoted in Power in Prayer)


Thank You, Father, that Christ has made me worthy. I have no worthiness within myself; none that I can call my own. But, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I am fully aware that You, El Roi, see me! What comfort this brings; what joy!

I pray that I would take this joy and comfort and not hoard it to myself, but spread it around, like a lawn spreader spreads the seed or fertilizer around on everything near it.

Help me to remember to pray for myself, so that I can be strengthened by Your Spirit and, as Murray says, help others. I pray that Christ would be the law of my life.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Normal Spiritual Experience

Today is Friday, the 28th of October, 2022, in the 30th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you and enfold you, today!

Day 23,605

It is currently raining, and should rain all day, today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 
Then I shall not be put to shame, 
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
(Psalms 119:5-6 ESV)
Dear Father in heaven, we want to praise you together and to thank you with all our hearts for your goodness and your deliverance from our many needs. Accept our thanks, and help us go on our way with ever joyful hearts. Make us ready for whatever you have prepared for us, your children. Bless us in our individual lives and bless us in our community. Let your Spirit shed its rays into all places to comfort people's hearts and to restore and strengthen their faith. May your name be praised forevermore. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
"Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, 
and call on me in the day of trouble; 
I will deliver you, and you will honor me." 
(Psalms 50:14-15 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the rain and cool weather today
  2. for the goodness of God and the joyful heart He gives me
  3. that He makes me ready for whatever He has prepared for me, today
  4. that God is near us; He is not far away, and He is not hard to find
  5. that our Father has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
for his steadfast love endures forever! 

Out of my distress I called on the LORD; 
the LORD answered me and set me free. 

It is better to take refuge in the LORD 
than to trust in man.
 It is better to take refuge in the LORD 
than to trust in princes. 

The LORD is my strength and my song; 
he has become my salvation. 
Glad songs of salvation 
are in the tents of the righteous: 
"The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, 
the right hand of the LORD exalts, 
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!" 

Open to me the gates of righteousness, 
that I may enter through them 
and give thanks to the LORD. 
This is the gate of the LORD; 
the righteous shall enter through it. 
I thank you that you have answered me 
and have become my salvation. 
The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone. 
This is the LORD's doing;
 it is marvelous in our eyes. 
This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
 O LORD, we pray, give us success! 

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! 
We bless you from the house of the LORD. 

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; 
you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
for his steadfast love endures forever! 
(Psalms 118:1. 5, 8-9, 14-16, 19-26, 28-29 ESV)

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.”
(Acts 17:27 NLT)

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
(James 4:7-12 NLT)


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
(Ephesians 1:3 ESV)


There’s a lot of talk of humility in that James passage. I dare say that most of us don’t like to read the book of James. It is not a comfortable book. We don’t like humility. Especially in the Western world. More especially in the US of A. We are PROUD!

God calls us in a different direction, though, as His children. The only boasting we have any right to do is to boast in the work of Christ for us. That’s another teaching from the same guy who told us to mind our own business.

And James tells us, in no uncertain terms, to humble ourselves. He tells us to not “speak evil against each other. Then that next line? “If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law.” Obviously, we don’t take that very seriously, do we? Our job is to obey the law, says James, not to judge whether it applies to us.

How much energy do we waste trying to do just that?

And that law? Once again, I point to the words of our Savior, regarding the law.

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-31 ESV)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)

And another word from the “mind your own business” guy.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
(Romans 13:8-10 ESV)

Side note: Please stop using Romans 13:8 to preach against borrowing money. Just stop it.

Finally, a word from Andrew Murray:

“The believer is to walk in meekness and lowliness of heart, keep the unity of the Spirit, and minister in the power of the Spirit for the building up of the body of Christ in love. He seeks never to grieve the Spirit, but rather to be filled with the Spirit, fulfilling the law of love in his daily life. He is strong in the Lord and in the power of His might to fulfill his part in wrestling with the powers of darkness by the use of the Word and prayer.

“We all need time, thought, prayer, and quiet waiting on the Spirit of God to catch the vision of our place in Christ and to maintain it. The Spirit-sealed, Spirit-taught, Spirit-strengthened, and Spirit-filled life here described is to be the normal spiritual experience. We must turn away from self and the world and allow God to work out in us His purposes according to the counsel of His will.”

(From The Believer’s Call to Commitment, quoted in Power in Prayer, emphasis added)


Father, I pray with all my heart that I would heed these words today. Let my spiritual experience be that described by Brother Murray. May I follow the law of Jesus Christ, as He spoke it to us, humble myself, walk in meekness, lowliness of heart, and attempt to keep the unity of the Spirit for the building up of the Body of Christ in love.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Normal

Today is Friday, the 14th of October, 2022, in the 28th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,591

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, you are help, comfort, and life to us in everything we have to endure. We gather before you as poor, weak people, but you can make us rich and give us new life so that our lives prove we hold to your will and to the justice you bring on earth. May we be one in spirit through all we experience in our hearts, to the glory of your name. May the praise and thanks of many people ring out into all the world because you are help and deliverance from all evil. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will listen to what God the LORD says; 
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— 
but let them not turn to folly. 
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, 
that his glory may dwell in our land.
(Psalms 85:8-9 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the promise of peace to us, God’s people, His faithful servants
  2. for God’s help, comfort, and life to us in all things
  3. that Jesus is with us always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)
  4. that God is in the midst of everything in my life, and uses everything to draw me closer to Him
  5. for prayer, the common thread that holds all of the spiritual armor together

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20 ESV)

therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
(Isaiah 28:16 ESV)

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
(Matthew 14:22-27 ESV)

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
(John 6:16-21 ESV)


O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing, stanzas 13-17 (Charles Wesley)

Look unto him, ye nations, own
your God, ye fallen race!
Look, and be saved though faith alone,
be justified by grace!

See all your sins on Jesus laid;
the Lamb of God was slain,
his soul was once an offering made
for every soul of man.

Harlots and publicans and thieves,
in holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
from crimes as great as mine.

Murderers and all ye hellish crew,
ye sons of lust and pride,
believe the Savior died for you;
for me the Savior died.

With me, your chief, you then shall know,
shall feel your sins forgiven;
anticipate your heaven below,
and own that love is heaven.

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
(Ephesians 6:17-20 ESV)


There are things that should be normal for all Christians. One of them is the peace of Christ that can transcend and eliminate all fears. There are two instances recorded (may or may not be the same time) where Jesus walked on the water to His disciples, and bid them to not fear. Time and time again, they are told to not fear or “be not afraid.”

Jesus is with us through all things, through victories, through defeats, through our stumbling and bumbling, and, perhaps most importantly, when we are afraid. “When I am afraid, I will trust in You,” says the psalmist. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom, then, shall I fear?”

The Lord also works through all of these things, to draw us closer to Himself.

Another thing that should be normal for Christians is praying “at all times in the Spirit.” Unceasing prayer. It’s like breathing. It’s not only possible, it is demanded of us. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have to be actively praying 24/7. That would be pretty much impossible, because we need to do other things. But prayer is listed as the final thing in this list of spiritual armor that Paul talks about.

After we “put on” all of this “armor,” we then must pray, for that is the “glue,” if you will, that holds the armor together. We could have everything else listed in that passage, but if we pray not, it will not hold steady; we will fall. I firmly believe this.

Praying at all times in the Spirit is not something that only “super-Christians” do. It should be something that we all do.


Father, I thank You for Your working in us, especially during times when we are afraid. You are ever more close to us, if we lean on You during our fears, during our darkest times. But help us to not forget You when things are great, that we may lean on You then, as well. Thank You for that example of Jesus coming to His disciples, walking on the water. Thank You for His comforting, His insistence that we have nothing to fear.

Help us to keep our spiritual armor on at all times, and help us to cement it in place with prayer. Help me to pray more, to pray better, to pray without ceasing. May my prayers be effective and faithful, as people depend upon me for intercession in their lives and issues.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You;
grant us so to know You that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Prayer to Know God, by St. Augustine)

Grace and peace, friends.

Spaces

Today is Friday, the seventh of October, in the 27th week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,584

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that your voice reaches our hearts and that we can say with joy, "We belong to you. We too are yours." We want to lead lives that show we belong to you, never allowing ourselves to be sidetracked, never again giving way to pettiness, always drawing strength from the power of Jesus Christ. Protect our household. Watch over each of us. Protect us all on our way. O mighty God, be with us in the many dangers that surround us, and grant that we may always be joyful because our names are recorded in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
(John 10:14-15 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the opportunity to get away for a weekend and enjoy God’s creation for a few days
  2. for the Good Shepherd; that I know Him, and that He lays down His life for His sheep
  3. that our Father, who is always near, is trustworthy in all things
  4. for spaces of beauty, mercy, prayer, and grace, created by God; may I move into them faiththfully
  5. Lord, I am simply grateful for You, today; Your presence in my life, and the way You encourage me and strengthen me through my feeble, human weaknesses

Move Into That Space, by Daryl Madden

The day is born anew
Light shines on your face
Beauty calls to you
Move into that space

Guilty of your sins
A feeling of disgrace
Rejoicing in His mercy
Move into that space

To hear the still small voice
From your inner place
A drawing into prayer
Move into that space

When heaven calls your name
Depend on His grace
Our joy will be complete
Move into that space

How often does God create a space of beauty and grace for us, invite us into it, and we just don’t move into it? We miss out on so many blessings, sometimes simply by not paying attention to our surroundings. God is here; God is now; He invites us into spaces of beauty, mercy, prayer, and grace! “Move into that space,” my beloved!

Please visit Daryl’s site at the link provided above.


For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”
(1 Peter 3:10-11 ESV)


After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD. 

Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you! 
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! 
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. 

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, 
and the heavens are the work of your hands. 
They will perish, but you will remain; 
they will all wear out like a garment. 
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 
but you are the same, and your years have no end. 
The children of your servants shall dwell secure; 
their offspring shall be established before you. 
(Psalms 102:1-3, 25-28 ESV)

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:2-10 ESV)


Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
(John 12:28 ESV)


I may not be in a “space of beauty” this morning, as I am sitting in my usual space, the study, just off of our master bedroom. It is far from beautiful. But I have, somewhat gradually, moved into a space of mercy and prayer and grace, this morning.

I confess . . . I began the day in a bit of anxiety and stress. We started out thinking of things that needed to happen before we leave for Glen Rose, and I began to get anxious. Unfortunately, this is my nature. But God’s nature is otherwise. He bids me trust Him. He bids me not lean on my own understanding. And, in this, as I move into this space of mercy and grace, He will make my paths straight.

In that path, I find instructions, such as we find in Micah. As I walk that path, that the Lord makes straight for me, I am to be doing justice (as much as is in my control), loving kindness or mercy (chesed), and walking humbly with my God.

Walking in humility is hard. I’ve discussed this before, here. There are several Scriptures that sum up that idea, but one is in the blog today, Galatians 6:3.

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
(Galatians 6:3 ESV)

Let us not further deceive ourselves by thinking, “well if I am something and I think I’m something, then I’m okay.” I don’t believe that is what we are supposed to get from that. We are nothing. Without Christ we are nothing. If we are anything, it is because of Christ, and, therefore, have nothing about which we can boast, other than Christ, Himself.

When we enter into that space of prayer, which should be many times in a day, it should be for one purpose, and that purpose is for the glory of God to be seen. Jesus asked the Father to glorify His name. The Father responded, saying that He has, and He will again.

“For this reason Jesus on His throne in glory will do whatever we ask in His name. Every answer to prayer He gives will have this as its object. When there is no prospect of the Father being glorified, He will not answer. As it was with Jesus, our motivation in prayer must be the glory of the Father – the aim, the end, the very soul and life of our prayers.” (Andrew Murray)

So, when we read those passages that say that Jesus will give us whatever we ask, we must understand that there are conditions. One of those, in my mind the main one, is that we be abiding in Him and His Word abiding in us. If this is the case, then we most certainly would not be asking Him to give us something that would not glorify God.

Like a Ferrari, for instance.


Father, I thank You for these spaces of beauty, mercy, prayer, and grace; spaces that are always near me, always waiting for me to move into them. I pray that You give me the spiritual sight to be able to see them and move into them, constantly, that I might walk humbly with You, on the straight path that You have created for me as I trust in You.

So many good things in today’s Scripture readings, Father. I thank You for Your Word and the impact it has on me, daily. I pray that it holds strong in my life, and that the influence will not fade.

I long for the day when I can see You face to face and worship You in person.

And I am especially grateful for the space of beauty to which we will be traveling, later today.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

The Dialogue

Today is Friday, the thirtieth of September, in the twenty-sixth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ flow through you today!

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

Day 23,577

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.”
(Job 5:8-9 ESV)

Dear Father in heaven, in the world we are full of fear; in you we have peace. We pray that your Spirit may give us the joy of your heavenly kingdom and the strength to live in your service. Remember those who suffer pain, who still have to walk paths of fear and distress. Grant them help, to the glory of your name. May we be united in hope and in expectation of what you will give through your great goodness and faithfulness. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the great and unsearchable, marvelous things without number, that our God does
  2. for the peace that Jesus gives us, He who has overcome the world
  3. for the lifelong dialogue between God and His children
  4. for the promises of God that give us life and purpose
  5. that God knows me by name

I could write a whole devotional blog just based off of the two passages already featured. But I will see what else comes up, first.


Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; 
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; 
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 
In his hand are the depths of the earth; 
the heights of the mountains are his also. 
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; 
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, 
and the sheep of his hand.
(Psalms 95:1-7 ESV)

Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. 
Plead my cause and redeem me; 
give me life according to your promise!
(Psalms 119:153-154 ESV)

“I have called you by name, you are mine.”
(Isaiah 43:1 ESV)

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 
you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down 
and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, 
you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, 
and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? 
Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! 
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning 
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me, 
and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, 
and the light about me be night," 
even the darkness is not dark to you; 
the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
For you formed my inward parts; 
you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
 Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you, 
when I was being made in secret,
 intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; 
in your book were written, every one of them, 
the days that were formed for me, 
when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalms 139:1-16 ESV)

"What is this then but saying that of such consequence was it to the happiness of man that he should know how to behave himself as a creature, that it was necessary the Creator should take a created nature, and come Himself to show how to wear it? Thus one of the many known reasons of the sublime mystery of the Incarnation was that the Creator Himself might show the creature how he should behave as a creature. . . . The mysteries of Jesus are man's studies of the beauty of holiness." 
(Frederick William Faber, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

As I navigate through the various Scriptures, this morning, I see that, in many ways, this life, this journey of faith, is a dialogue. The dialogue is initiated by God, not us. We err if we believe that we are so important that we have begun the dialogue.

I took a class on worship, back when I was in cemetery seminary. The teacher of the class, Dr. Bruce Leafblad, told of a time when he and another pastor illustrated the dialogue of worship by playing a game of ping-pong at the front of the church. I have always been fascinated by that illustration, and I believe it can be found in Anne Ortlund’s book Up With Worship: How to Quit Playing Church, which I read during that course. It’s a delightful little book.

There is a reflection of this dialogue in the Scriptures that I have shared today. They are from different books of the Bible, different scenarios and circumstances, but they still serve to illustrate the principle.

God tells Israel, in Isaiah 43, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” This declaration was made to a people. Yet when we look at David’s Psalm 139, can we not also think that it applies to us as individuals?

David wrote, and was confident, of the Lord’s complete knowledge of him, even from before he was born. This dialogue with our Father begins even when we are still in the womb! Of course, it will be a number of years before we can actually begin to participate in the dialogue.

It continues as our God calls us to worship Him and sing to Him. And we declare that we will seek Him (or at least hopefully, we do). As Job said, “I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause.”

As I consider this statement, I think about what my “cause” is, that I am committing to God. The older I get, and the more I read and meditate on God’s Word, the more I realize that the only “cause” that I have is Jesus. And here is where the quote from Frederick William Faber comes into play.

Jesus, first of all, says, Himself, that He gives us peace. He has overcome the world, and He gives us peace. Then Faber tells us, in this wonderful passage, that one of the reasons for the Incarnation was to show us, the creature, how to live in our creature suits. The only real way we have to know how to behave as creatures is to examine the life of the Creator, who condescended to become creature, Himself, in order that we may know how to behave. I find myself wanting to read more of this Faber.

I do not have any other cause in life than this. To know Jesus; to proclaim His life and death and resurrection to all who would listen. And to walk as He walked, treating others the way He has taught us to treat others, to love God with all my being, and to love others as I love myself. This is my “cause.”

And I believe that this is the only cause worthy of our energy and attention.

How does the dialogue end? It doesn’t. It is still going on. The Bible, itself, is a “closed book.” It has been written and “sealed.” However, the Word of God lives on, through Jesus Christ, and through His people, the Church of God, the Bride of Christ. The Word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). This dialogue will go on for all eternity, I believe. And I cannot wait to participate in it, face-to-face.

Until then, I will share in it, best I can, through worship and prayer, and through meditating on God’s Word daily.


I praise You, Father, that You know us by name, both as Your people, and as individuals. I thank You that You know me utterly, and completely, even more so than I know myself. I also thank You that You, in Your omniscience, remember that we are simply “dust.” You remember that we are the creature and that You are the Creator. Thank You for becoming one of us, in order that we might look at You and see how we should behave. Forgive us for the times when we fail to behave properly; forgive us for the times when we engage in “causes” other than the cause of Jesus Christ.

Help us, Lord, to love better, to love You with all our being, and to love others as ourselves, and to love one another (the saints) as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.

Thank You for the dialogue between us and You. Thank You for beginning it and sustaining it, and thank You for putting up with our occasional ranting and raving and whining and complaining.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.


Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.