Peace Like A River

Today is Sunday, the fourteenth of August, 2022, in the 20th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,530

We hit a high of 98 degrees, yesterday, for our fourth consecutive day under 100. The record high for yesterday’s date is 105. I wonder if that was 1980? The ten-day forecast still includes six days of under-100 temperatures, but the next four are 100+. The great news is that at the end of the ten days, I’m seeing two days that will possible be below 90! The not-so-good news is that we likely aren’t going to get any more rain until around August 21.

I have an adventure tomorrow. I get to take S’s guinea pig, Princess, to an exotic animal doctor to have her eye looked at. It’s been a little cloudy of late, although it seems a little better this morning, and she has exhibited a bit of a head tilt, which may mean she has some inner ear trouble going on.

We have our church gathering, this morning, at 10:15, and it looks like most of us will actually be there. However, we will not be there next Sunday, as we will be traveling to FBC Mineral Wells as part of S’s birthday celebration. Oh, I didn’t put that up there, did I? S turns 29 in only FIVE MORE DAYS! We should probably get that cookie cake ordered, huh?

C and I have scheduled a Glen Rose trip in October for our anniversary. It will be the weekend before the actual anniversary, which is October 12. It’s been a while since we have been to Paluxy River Bed Cabins, so we are very excited about that.

The Texas Rangers snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Mariners, by winning 7-4, last night. That losing streak was exclusively against the Mariners, by the way. They are now 50-63 (finally won that fiftieth game), still in third place by a half game, 23 games out of first place, and 9.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. They play Seattle again today, at 1:35 CDT, with Martin Perez taking the mound. The Rangers have 49 games left in 2022.

The Boston Red Sox lost to the Yankees, 3-2 (I think that’s the same score they won by, the night before), to make them 56-59 for the season. They remain in last place in the AL East, 16.5 games out of first place, and 4.5 out of a Wild Card spot. They will play the Yankees again, this evening (it’s an ESPN game). The Red Sox have 47 games left in 2022.

The LA Dodgers can’t seem to lose, now. They continue to be the best team in MLB with a 79-33 record, twelve straight wins, and a run differential of +251. The Washington Nationals remain on the bottom, at 38-77, and a -204 run differential. The Athletics of Oakland, however, have the current losing streak at seven games. The Texas Rangers have a run differential of -4, and the REd S

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, grant that we may heed your commandments, that our peace may be like a river and our righteousness like the waves of the sea. Be with us through your Spirit, we pray. Speak with us and tell us what we need to hear so that we can understand what draws us always nearer to you. Show the might of your hand to help us and all people. Even under judgment we shall not despair, we shall not lose courage because of troubles and distress. Come with your strength, that we may grow strong to overcome the world through Jesus Christ the Savior. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.
(Isaiah 48:18 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the possibility of peace "like a river," by heeding the commands of God (loving God and loving people)
2. for an understanding of what draws us nearer to God
3. for the strength to overcome the world through Jesus Christ the Savior
4. for the songs that my God sings over me
5. for the encouragement to always be growing, moving forward in Christ, and the knowledge that, if I am walking with Him, He will lead

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
(John 1:29-34 NIV)

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD; she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law.
(Zephaniah 3:1-4 ESV)

“On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”
(Zephaniah 3:11-13 ESV)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
(2 Peter 3:18 ESV, emphasis added)

“A faith walk is measured by forward movement. And when we walk with Jesus, He takes the lead.” (Shawnelle Eliasen)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
(Luke 17:5 ESV)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
(Hebrews 6:1-2 ESV)


I could have easily stopped, today, after that bit from Plough about having peace like a river. I kept on reading my prescribed readings, though, from my various devotional materials.

Here’s the thing. Do you have peace in your life? And I’m strictly speaking to believers, here, because I know a bunch who don’t live like they have peace. And the reason for this? It’s right there in Isaiah!

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.
(Isaiah 48:18 NIV)

The problem is that we seem to be getting bogged down in what those commands are. Let’s go over that again. I will never get tired of quoting Jesus Christ on this, because it is simply the essence of life.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
(John 13:34-35 NIV)

When we don’t have peace in our lives, it is very likely because we are not heeding those commands.

Another thing that happens when we heed those commands is that we grow. We move forward. I love the quote from Shawnelle Eliason, this morning. When I walk in faith, I will move forward. And Jesus will take the lead, if I am truly following Him.

There’s one final thought, here, from Andrew Murray. “We find the Christian life difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live according to our own will. We make our own plans and choose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to watch and see that sin does not overtake us and that we do not wander too far from the path.”

If we are heeding His commands, we will be entirely at His disposal, we will be moving forward in our faith walk, and we will have peace like a river.

Today's sources:
YouVersion Bible reading plan
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, help me, today, to enjoy this peace. Help me to focus only on obeying/heeding those two commands (three if we add that “new command” from Jesus) to love You, love my neighbor, and especially love the saints. If I can do those things, I will have peace, my walk will be moving forward, and, more importantly, my life will be Yours, to do with as You will.

I pray for all of Your children, today, that they might experience this peace in their lives by heeding Your commands and loving. It truly is all about love, Father.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(John 14:27 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Joy Still Comes In the Morning

Today is Saturday, the fourth of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,459

This is the last day of the season of Easter, as tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.

This has already gotten quite long, and I don’t want to make it longer with trivial matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for guiding us, your children, here on earth. We thank you that whatever happens to us, we can again and again find joy because you give us what is good even when times are evil and when we go through sorrow. We thank you that your goodness and your faithfulness penetrate everything, and that at last, at long last, they penetrate our hearts. Then we can know and be glad that your Spirit guides us. We can know we are never alone but can receive strength to help us in the struggle and toil of our life. Through your help everything becomes fruitful – good and evil, life and death, health and suffering. Everything must serve you through the working of your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; 
therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for God's great faithfulness and mercy, in that He gives us what is good, even during sorrowful and evil times
2. that I'm still alive and breathing; praise the LORD!
3. that a joyful or cheerful heart, the center of my being, is good medicine for my body and my soul
4. for the joy and praise that can be found in a church that is truly walking in Christ
5. for times that force me into humility, because we could all use more humility

Today’s prayer word is “expect.”

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
(Psalms 5:3 NLT)

This verse has long been a favorite of mine, and it is something by which I try to live each day. But frequently, I forget to do that bit about waiting expectantly. Too often, I “bring my requests” and walk away in total oblivion.

I need to remember these words of David, each day. I need to remember to wait expectantly to see what God will do. Maybe there won’t be anything immediate. But let me tell you this. I would rather wait and see nothing than miss something by rushing away.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 17:22 NLT)

I know full well the truth of this.

So confession time: yesterday evening, I didn’t do so well in remembering everything that I blogged about yesterday morning. After taking my mother to the bank to deposit her oil royalty checks (would you believe there was another one waiting in the mail when we got home?), I decided to get the bank’s app on my phone. Mama doesn’t have a smart phone, so I figured, if we get it on my phone, then we can do mobile deposit for those checks. Then we don’t have to visit the bank so often.

I got the app downloaded, no problem. The first time I tried to log in, it said that either the username or password was incorrect. I used the combination that I had logged into my “bitwarden” (an excellent password keeper app for the phone, by the way), so I tried again. Same result.

I started spiraling. My wife will tell you, right away, that I don’t do well when technology doesn’t work right.

So I got on my laptop and opened the browser to the bank’s website, where I saw right away that I had the user name wrong, by a number. So that was my fault. I fixed the user name in the bitwarden app, and logged in on the bank app. Naturally, the first thing that happens is that it wants a verification code in order to register and recognize this new device. I was expecting that.

So I had it send the code to Mama’s phone. She got it, I entered it in the app, and it immediately said that either the code was invalid or expired, or that the account had been disabled. We tried again, different code, same result.

I was livid. Seriously, I was freaking out. But there was phone number to call, in the text message, so I called it. I spoke with a very friendly lady who had me send another code to Mama’s phone, but she said she would give it to me on the phone, rather than getting it from the text. For some reason, it worked just fine, that time. We got the app open, and also enabled mobile deposit, so it’s ready the next time we want to deposit a check.

There was something else that happened, I think, a few minutes later. But the bottom line is that I completely reacted wrongly about all of this. I totally forgot my whole thing, from yesterday morning, about “first world problems.”

So, you see, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes. This journey, as long as we remain in Jesus’s “easy yoke,” is not terribly difficult. But as soon as we step out of that yoke and forget who we are and whose we are, things get really tricky. And, like yesterday evening, we wind up looking somewhat foolish.

But enough about the broken spirit. What about the joyful heart? Or, as the NLT says, “cheerful heart.” I just realized something. There’s a gift shop in Glen Rose that C and I used to frequent, called Cheerful Heart Gifts. And if you click on that link, you will see that they quote Proverbs 17:22 right on the front page.

The KJV translates the word as “merry.” The Hebrew word is śâmêach, which can also mean “blithe” or “gleeful.” And the word translated “heart” is lêb which can also mean the “center” of something. So, when we allow ourselves to maintain joy or cheerfulness at the center of our being, it brings healing to our bodies. It’s “good medicine.”

Reader’s Digest (is that even still a thing?) used to have a monthly column called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.” As a child, I eagerly awaited that feature every month. Most of the time, in fact, I would devour all of the jokes in the magazine, and, for the most part, ignore all of the “serious” stuff.

I have always loved to laugh. And I do believe in the truth of that statement that laughter is good, if not the best, medicine. And who doesn’t feel better by just smiling?

Solomon was probably the author of this proverb. And, for most of his life, he knew the joy of the Lord. But, later in life, Scriptures says that his heart turned away from God.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
(1 Kings 11:9 NLT)

The writer of today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, Carol Knapp, says this:

“For me, the biggest joy-stealer is this very thing – turning away from God or allowing something to interfere with my closeness to Him. Communion with God . . . is the source of gladness in my life. It yields the ‘good medicine’ of a joyful heart.”

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

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
(John 16:22 NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

“Indeed, “joy still comes in the morning.”

It is very cool when there is a convergence of ideas from unrelated sources. The readings in Eugene Peterson’s On Living Well are not dated. The one I came to today is called “On Joy at Church.”

I wonder what God is trying to tell me, today?

“More praising goes on in church, more joy is expressed in the context of the Christian congregation, than anywhere else on the face of the earth.”

Where else do we spend our time, during the week? Grocery stores, department stores? These days, those are pretty grim places . . . not much joy there, as shelves continue to be sparse (at least for some products) and prices continue to rise. “People pushing their food baskets, anxiously comparing prices, complaints etched into their faces as they pay the clerks.” (This book, while published in 2021, is comprised of meditations that were written long before that year, as the author passed away in 2018, long before the pandemic hit us.)

We also spend a great deal of time on roads. Also not a very “happy” place. “Worried, compulsive people are behind the wheels of most of those cars.” Heaven forbid you should not react immediately when that light changes!

Even athletic events, places where we used to be more celebratory (at least if our team won) have become places of “complaining, arguing, and criticizing.”

As a place that contains a context for joy and praise, the church should be unequaled. It’s not perfect, for sure, and there are probably some local churches that resemble the grocery store or highway or athletic event more than they do a worship service. I’ve attended a few, in my life, that, sadly, had more arguing, complaining, and criticizing than they did worship.

But, in general, I would agree with Peterson, when he says, “I don’t find any other place in the world where there is such a consistent friendliness, such a steady joy, such a relaxed rejoicing in God’s love. There is more generosity when it comes to money in church than anywhere I know. Where else in this community can you find people giving their money away each week, then standing up and singing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

When is the last time you walked up to someone at the grocery store and said, “Say, you’re new here. I’d like to get to know you better!”?

As previously mentioned, there is no perfect church. We acknowledge this. Some are far less perfect than others. Taking all of this into consideration, though, there is no place on earth where such joy can be found. And that is one reason that I keep “going to church.”

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

Father, I praise Your name, this morning, because You have, while giving me a good dose of reality, increased my joy, still. What a joy it is to worship You, to praise You, to sit and meditate on Your Word, to know You more. I thank You for the ability to do this, for the time that I have to do these things.

I confess my shortcomings as I failed, miserably, yesterday evening, and I am grateful for the knowledge of it, and grateful that I am able to acknowledge it, as well. I pray that You keep working on me, in this regard, that I might always know Your joy, and that I would not allow “first world problems” to steal or diminish that joy. Things like that always have a fairly easy solution. And even when they don’t, they tend to eventually work out fine.

Help me to remember the truth that You work out all things for our good, and are constantly at work to make things better in Your Kingdom. And, we would do well to remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are already far better than we could ever imagine.

I thank You for joy, for a cheerful or merry heart. I thank You for the idea that my heart is the center of my being, and that, when my center is joyful, everything is better, and the “bad” things don’t seem to matter as much. I thank You for laughter, that brings healing to our weary bones and tired bodies. Help us all to smile more, complain less, argue less. And I thank You that, no matter how “bad” things might seem, “Joy still comes in the morning.” Your mercies are new, every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

Keep our hearts focused on You; let not our hearts turn away from You, as Solomon’s. Help us to always look toward You and love You with all our being.

And I thank You for the Church, where we can and should be able to experience the most joy possible. While there is certainly joy to be had in the observance of a beautiful sunrise, there is still more joy to be found in the celebration of You, together with all the saints. All praise to You, Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. May we be able to gather with Your saints, somewhere, on each Lord’s Day.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Benefits

Today is Wednesday, the twelfth of never May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,071

Eight days until our Glen Rose weekend!

We had an unfortunate occurrence, yesterday evening. I got home from work and went to take my shower. I had recently been kind of vacillating between morning and evening showers. It’s a good thing, in retrospect, that I chose to shower yesterday evening.

Because I discovered that our hot water heater was leaking. My shower never got very warm at all. There was barely enough warm water to make it bearable. C got home while I was investigating, and we managed to get the water supply to the tank turned off, so it would stop leaking, and then she vacuumed up the water around the area where the tank is.

We also made sure to clear an accessible path to the thing, so that when we finally get someone scheduled to replace it, they will be able to get to it. Yes, we are those kind of people. The garage doesn’t hold cars, it holds junk. Go ahead and judge, I don’t care.

C is already planning to work from home tomorrow, because the pool guy is scheduled to come start work on our pool equipment, so she will try to set something up for the hot water heater tomorrow, as well. The expense will not hurt us, it’s just a minor inconvenience to deal with. I don’t see this being related to Snovid-21, as the heater is gas, so it was working the entire time the electricity was off, back in February. More than likely, it is related to the fact that it is the original hot water heater for this house, which was built in 1999. So it’s almost 22 years old.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

O, my Jesus, help me.

Thank you for your humbleness;
help me be humble.
Thank you for your forgiveness;
help me forgive.
Thank you for your mercy;
help me be merciful.
Thank you for your compassion;
help me be compassionate.
Thank you for your kindness;
help me be kind.
Thank you for your joy;
help me be joyful.
Thank you for your love;
help me love.
(Daryl Madden, On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

But I will give repeated thanks to the LORD, praising him to everyone. For he stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.
(Psalms 109:30-31 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Your ability to make me humble, forgiving, merciful, compassionate, kind, joyful, and loving
  • for Your Holy Spirit, and the promise of filling
  • for all Your benefits; bless the Lord, O my soul!
  • for Your great care for us, and the constant encouragement to be not afraid
  • for the Gospel, that Your Kingdom is here, now

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 39

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NIV)

I pause, now, to quietly consider humility, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, kindness, joy, and love. O, Jesus, fill me today.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalms 103:1-5 NIV)

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
(Psalms 103:8 NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
(Psalms 103:13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
(Luke 24:44-53 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I linger over any words or phrases to which the Spirit draws me, pondering and meditating on what connects with my soul.

Psalm 103 is a favorite of many, especially those early verses. The benefits of God . . . we are encouraged to not forget them. Also, there is the thought of speaking to my own soul. “Bless the Lord, my soul!”

There is a current trend of positive self-talk; speaking positive things to oneself. But it is, as we can see here, not new at all. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. And David encouraged us, centuries ago, to speak to our own souls and tell our souls to remember the benefits of God. He then proceeds to list some of them.

I think it is no mistake that David lists forgiveness of sins first. If we didn’t have that, nothing else would matter, right? But he goes on. He heals our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit, and satisfies our desires, but with what? GOOD THINGS!

The other two verses from today’s segment speak of the Lord’s compassion on us, which is something definitely worthy of our meditation. If not for His compassion, we would surely perish.

After this psalm, we are treated to a glorious picture of Jesus’s ascension, which is too often neglected in our evangelical churches. I just looked it up, and Ascension Day just happens to be tomorrow. So we will talk a bit more about that tomorrow. Unless, of course, I forget.

I think it is noteworthy, though, that, after watching Him ascend, Jesus’s followers returned to Jerusalem “with great joy,” and “stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

Father, thank You for all Your benefits to my soul and body. Help me to remember and reflect on those benefits, today. Also keep those characteristics mentioned at the top in the front of my mind and spirit today: humility, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, kindness, joy, and love. Fill me with all of those things today, as I walk through this day in Your Kingdom.

Sending God,
how can I possibly represent you to a watching world?
Let me start right here,
on my knees,
seeking the power that comes from on high.
May your Spirit move me toward the world you love.
Amen.
Heidelberg Catechism 117)

BLESSING

Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”
(Matthew 10:29 NIV)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
(Matthew 6:25-27 NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
(James 5:7-8 NLT)

Good advice from Scripture, this morning. And I believe that we handled last night’s “disaster” quite well. We didn’t panic. We didn’t, and are not, this morning, stress out. It’s just a thing. Remember?

“Footstool problems.”

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
(Isaiah 61:1 NLT)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!
(Isaiah 52:7 NLT)

Lord, make my feet beautiful today. Help me to bring good news to the poor, comfort to the brokenhearted, and to proclaim the deliverance of captives and prisoners. Thank You for Your care and compassion for us, and remind me of this throughout the day, especially when I begin to get stressed over work issues, because that will certainly happen. All glory to You, Lord!

Today, Lord, I lift up all governments, world leaders, and the many, many needs of our world. Taken all together, they are overwhelming to me, but not to You. I also pray specifically for the continent of Australia, today, that Your presence, grace, and mercy would be felt there. May You also be close to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, today, bringing Your healing presence to their bodies and souls.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, 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)

Hasad veshlom, friends!

Fear, Holiness and His Presence

Today is Thursday (pre-Friday), the fifteenth of April, 2021, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,044

35 days until our Glen Rose weekend

Under normal circumstances, today would be “Tax Day,” in the US, the deadline for filing one’s income tax return. Not this year, though. The deadline has been extended to, I believe, May 17.

I had a large plate of “humble pie” handed to me, yesterday. In the spirit of transparency, vulnerability, and what I mean for this blog to be, I will share my experience.

I was dealing with a difficult person who works for our client. He’s not mean-spirited or rude, it just seems that he struggles with understanding, at times. We were both getting frustrated, and, unfortunately, wound up in a phone conversation about the issue.

I would rather get a root canal than talk on the phone.

That may be a slight exaggeration. But we have Skype and email, and usually, problems can be resolved through those avenues.

At the end of it all, we had both made mistakes. The supplier started the mess. The person to whom I was talking made an error. But guess what! So did I! My error was in not catching his error, and, in continuing the process, received some material on the wrong line item, which actually caused it to be received, inspected, and almost stocked as the wrong material.

I was not only humbled, but embarrassed.

It was a good lesson for me.

The Texas Rangers won their game with the Rays, last night, 5-1, improving their record to 5-7. Kohei Arihara (1-1) got the win, with 5.2 solid innings pitched. That is two consecutive wins for them, and they are tied with Oakland for last place in the AL West, but at this stage of the season, only two games behind first place. They will play again tonight, in the Juice Box, at 6:10 CDT, with Jordan Lyles (1-0) taking the mound for Texas.

The Boston Red Sox continue to make their own little bit of history. They won both games of a double header with the Twins, yesterday, no doubt making things even worse for the good people of Minneapolis. The first game was 3-2 with Nathan Eovaldi (2-1) getting the win, and the second was 7-1, with Eduardo Rodriguez (2-0) getting the win. The Sox have now won nine consecutive games. They sit alone at the top of the AL East, three games ahead of the second place Blue Jays. The Yankees, with the same record as Texas, are tied for the bottom, with Tampa Bay. Hah! My two least favorite teams, tied for last place. How fun is that?

The Sox will play the Twins again today, at 12:10 EDT, in Minneapolis. Garrett Richards (0-1) will take the mound for Boston.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near. People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.
(Psalms 75:1 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • that You grabbed my attention, yesterday afternoon, humbling me; putting me in my place
  • for the peace I feel this morning
  • that You, alone, are to be feared . . . there is nothing on this earth that I should fear, when I am walking with You
  • for Your Church, which consists of people and souls, not buildings
  • for the great hope to be revealed at Christ’s return

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 12

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I pause briefly to reflect on the nearness of God to His people.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.

God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
(Psalms 76:1-3 NIV)

It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers;
he is feared by the kings of the earth.
(Psalms 76:7-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
(1 Peter 1:10-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence (why must I always be having to remind myself of this truth?), I read these passages again. I invite the Holy Spirit to point me toward words or phrases that speak what I need to hear today.

Seriously, though . . . I’m drawn back to this idea that I have to remind myself that I am in God’s presence. Why? Why am I not aware of this glorious truth every minute of every day? This is definitely something to ponder, and something to work on. It reminds me of Frank Laubach’s “The Game with Minutes,” wherein he teaches the idea of consciously directing our thoughts toward God at least once, every minute.

It is God, alone, who is to be feared. Truly, when I am walking with Him (I wasn’t walking very well, yesterday), I have nothing at all to fear. Once again, I point to the words of Dallas Willard, who opined that “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.” God, Himself, told us, in Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” I have also heard it said (I have not counted it myself) that some form of “fear not” is the most-commanded thing in Scripture.

Only God is to be feared. I have nothing else to fear, and I certainly should not be afraid of death. More truth to ponder, and, perhaps, to act upon.

Instead of fear, my stance should be hope. “Hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming,” says Peter. In that hope, we should not conform to our evil desires, but, rather, “be holy, because [God is] holy.” “Holy” is from the Greek hagios, which means, “sacred (physically pure, morally blameless, or religious, ceremonially consecrated),” “holy,” or “saint.”

Father, thank You for the lessons learned (I hope, at least) yesterday. Thank You for directing my thoughts, this morning, to Your presence, Your very precious and near to us presence. Help me to consider this presence frequently throughout this day, rather than blindly trudging through another day without noticing You. I thank You that You are all that I have to fear, and even that “fear” is not the same as, say the fear of a train derailing while I’m sitting first at the crossing. May my fear of You translate into the hope of the grace that Christ will bring when He returns. May it translate into love for all people, and my Your Spirit flow through me and out of me as I walk through this day. May peace and love be my mantra, today.

Missionary God,
thank you for sending people to speak your timely message of salvation.
I pray for all those who communicate your good news -
empower them to speak gracefully and effectively.
Raise up new messengers to bring your gospel to all people and places in clear and compelling ways.
And I ask that you send and empower me to be a timely witness of the glory of the resurrection.
In the risen Savior's name,
amen.
(Canons of Dort 1.3)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
(1 Corinthians 3:16 KJV)

In today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021, Gail Thorell Schilling reminds us of another important truth.

“It’s time to remind myself that the church is – and always has been – a community of believers, not a building. Jesus Himself taught outdoors and in homes; worship within dedicated structures came much later. And though the buildings provide shelter, often exquisitely beautiful and inspiring, the heart of a church beats in its living members’ hearts, not in the stained glass and stones. Even as I mourn the destruction of sacred spaces, I sense that God – who cannot be contained – is very near.”

However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands.
(Acts 7:48 NLT)

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
(1 John 4:12 NLT)

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
(Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT)

Father, this morning I have paused to seek Your face. I believe I have encountered You in this time. I pray for Your presence to be known throughout this day. Thank You for Your Church and all that it means to me. Thank You for the reminder that Jesus taught outdoors and in homes, not in expansive, exquisite structures. Thank You for the reminder that the plans You have for us are for good, and that, if we seek You with our whole hearts, we will certainly find You.

Lord, please grow me in holiness, today. May I know more fully Your forgiveness, and, in knowing this, be more willing to extend the same grace to others in my path. May the gifts of Your Holy Spirit flourish within Your Church.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Not Seen, and Yet Believed

Today is Monday, the twelfth of April, 2021, in the second week of Easter. (Oh, look, another word with four consecutive consonants.)

Peace be with you!

Day 23,041

38 days until our weekend stay at Glen Rose.

It is currently 62 degrees, with a projected high of 83 today. There is a 70% chance of precipitation. Beginning tomorrow, though, there is a cooling trend with a lot more rain chance over the next week. In fact, the projected highs through next Wednesday (ten days) are below 70, and one day below 60! My kind of weather, as long as the thunderstorms don’t get too raucous.

Yesterday was a good day, albeit a little strange for Sunday. We didn’t have our usual church gathering, and I wound up not going anywhere. C went out and about early, and picked up our lunch (Applebee’s) at the end of her excursion. They got my food wrong (not totally), as I had added grilled shrimp to my chicken Caesar salad, and the left it out. I called them, and they are allegedly putting my name down to get a free entrée next time. I’m not sure why they couldn’t just give me a $3.99 credit on my payment card. That seems to me to be the easier and more efficient thing to do. I’ll take the free food, but I really would have been just as happy with a credit for what I didn’t get.

I guess there are some folks who haven’t made into the twenty-first century, yet.

Otherwise, the day was spent just relaxing. My kind of Sunday.

The Texas Rangers lost their third consecutive game to the Padres, yesterday, 2-0. At least they got five hits. Folty was the losing pitcher, and they drop to a 3-6 record. They still aren’t in last place, though, as the Athletics have lost one more game than the Rangers. Today, they play in Tampa, against the Rays, with Dane Dunning taking the mound for Texas. He is 1-0 so far.

The Boston Red Sox won their sixth consecutive game, yesterday, beating the Orioles 14-9. This improves their record to 6-3, and they are all alone at the top of the AL East. Nick Pivetta (2-0) was the winning pitcher. They will take on the tough Twins of Minnesota tonight, in Minnesota. Martin Perez (sigh) will start for Boston.

I’m trying a new coffee this morning. Not a new brand, but a new flavor. It’s another Twisted Pine coffee, this time a mocha mint. I like it. Twisted Pine has become my favorite coffee brand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

Praise the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does such wonderful things.
Praise his glorious name forever!
Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and amen!
(Psalms 72:18-19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Twisted Pine coffee, my new favorite brand
  • for a new week, full of opportunity (giving myself a “pep talk,” here)
  • for the Psalms, where I find so much encouragement and inspiration for my life
  • for Thomas, who doubted
  • that I have not seen, and yet believed

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 9

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I am pausing, quietly and briefly, to meditate on the victory provided by our Lord Jesus Christ.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of Asaph.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalms 73:1-3 NIV)

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:21-26 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:24-29 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Lord, this morning, I read these passage through again, inviting the Holy Spirit to draw me in, closer, and point toward a word or phrase, giving me some new (or refreshing an old) insight.

The first thing I see is a warning against being envious of the perceived prosperity of the wicked. Isn’t that an easy thing to fall into? “Why aren’t those wicked people being punished??” we ask. When we do this, we place ourselves in the position of God, usurping His authority (or at least attempting to) to judge them. He will do so, in His own time. And, truly, only God decides who is truly “wicked,” right? We tend to think ourselves much more righteous than we truly are.

Verses 25-26 of that psalm have long been favorites of mine.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NIV)

I don’t even feel like I need to add anything to that.

I truly believe that, by the time the events in John 20 were taking place, this is how the disciples felt. I know it was how Mary Magdalene felt. Earth held no precious thing for them. All they had was Jesus; for a time, He had been taken away from them, but He had risen! He had returned, only to be taken away again, but this time, in a much more majestic fashion. I know . . . we haven’t gotten to that point in the story, yet. Ascension Day is May 13, by the way.

Father, my prayer today is that Jesus would be my all in all, and that, as I read the verses in Psalm 73, I would truly be able to say, “Whom have I in heaven by you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you!” Lord, it causes me to return to my favorite Psalm 86, where I read,

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
(Psalms 86:11 ESV)

Yes, Lord. Unite my heart to fear Your name!

Father of mercies,
like Thomas,
I offer you my often skeptical and stumbling heart.
And like him,
I depend on you to give the gift of faith.
Though I do not touch your wounds,
let your Word and sacraments be faith's sense of touch,
which will quench my doubt and stir my faith.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 3/4.14)

BLESSING

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 ESV)

He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
(Daniel 2:21 NIV)

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
(Ephesians 4:16 NIV)

Lord Jesus, I am numbered among those who have not seen and yet believed, because I have never “seen” You, at least not with physical eyes. My heart looks forward to that day when I will see You, finally. I cannot wait to look upon the face of the One who died for me, and to feel the embrace of the arms that stretched out in sacrifice to pay the price for my and the rest of the world’s sinfulness. All praise to You, Jesus! I worship You, this morning!

Lord, this morning, I pray that we would be good caretakers of Your creation and wise stewards of the physical resources which You have given us. We do not worship creation, we worship You. But we could do better at caring for it. Give us, Your children, a better commitment to caring for Your world.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

On Praying for Kings and Presidents

Today is Sunday, the eleventh of April, 2021, the second Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,040

39 days until our next Glen Rose weekend

It’s another chilly morning, today, currently 50 degrees. But it’s going to be warm, as the projected high today is 84. There is virtually no chance of any rain today. The week ahead, though, looks to be cooler, with temps falling into the upper fifties by next Saturday. There is a decent chance of rain on at least four of the days in the coming week.

We had the most wonderful day, yesterday. After everyone arrived, we exchanged the birthday gifts, and decided on Mesquite Pit for lunch. I splurged a bit, point-wise, with a two meat plate of chopped brisket and sausage. I figured the meal to be somewhere around 20 SmartPoints, which may or may not be accurate. I had “Cowboy beans” (pinto beans) and green beans for my sides, which are typically zero points. I have no idea how they cook them, though, so who knows?

But the afternoon was great. After lunch, we just sat and talked and never left the dining room table. I even forgot to go get Crazy Water. By the time I remembered, they would only be open for about twenty more minutes, so I didn’t bother. I still have close to eighteen liters, which will last me over a month, so I’m good. It was so good for us all to be together (less S, of course, but she called while we were there), and we elected to be mask-free in the setting, as all of us but Mama have had both vaccines, and she has had one. I know it meant the world to her, and it felt like more “normal” times.

Our church, as previously mentioned, is not meeting, this morning. I’m still not 100% sure if I am going anywhere. I stayed up late and got up early, as I find it difficult to sleep past 6:30 AM, for some reason. Depending on what time I finish the blog post, and how energetic I feel . . . I may or may not try to go out. C is actually working (from R’s old bedroom), so she’s probably not going anywhere.

S and I will have our normal Saturday night burgers tonight, as I had used up all but one of my daily points, yesterday, and wasn’t that hungry for dinner. My usual Sunday night dinner of tuna and black-eyed peas will have to wait until another time.

The Texas Rangers lost another game to the Padres last night. They started out ahead, scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the second. They were actually ahead when Jordan Lyles left the game, after 4.1 innings. But, sadly, as has been the story for so many years, the bullpen was not able to keep the lead. The Padres won 7-4. Wes Benjamin was tagged with the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers are now 3-5 on the season, sitting in fourth place in the AL West, 2.5 games out. They will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Mike Foltynewicz starting for the Rangers. Hopefully, he will have better command than his previous outing.

The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, have taken first place, and have now won five games in a row! They beat the Orioles again, last night, 6-4, scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning, on a wild pitch and a single. Matt Barnes, as the pitcher of record when the runs were scored, go the win, and another Matt (Andriese) got a save by holding off the O’s in the bottom of the 10th. The Sox are 5-3 on the season. They will play again today, in Baltimore, at 12:05 CDT. Nick Pivetta will start for Boston.

The LA Dodgers currently hold the best record, at 7-2, not surprisingly, as they are widely projected to possibly repeat as World Series champions, this year. The Pirates of Pittsburgh currently hold the worst record, along with the Marlins of Miami, at 2-6. Neither of those is much of a surprise, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation:
Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
(The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter)

Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.
I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long, for everyone who tried to hurt me has been shamed and humiliated.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating family and birthdays
  • for the opportunity to pray for our president and other elected officials; may I be more faithful in doing so
  • for the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, given to us by Christ
  • for the victory that is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ
  • for the music we have, with which we sing and play Your praises

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 8

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I pause to quietly reflect on the “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

BIBLE SONG

Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.
(Psalms 72:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
(John 20:19-23 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, this morning, I reread the passages, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in, looking for words or phrases that speak to me.

I am immediately impressed that the first four verses of Psalm 72 are a good prayer to pray for national leaders. Whether your country has a king, queen, dictator, or president, this is a good prayer to bring before God on their behalf. We pray for God’s justice to be enacted through our country’s leaders. We pray that our country’s leaders would “judge . . . people in righteousness.” We pray that our country’s leaders would defend the afflicted and the needy, and crush all oppressors.

I have to confess that I have always struggled/puzzled with the passage from John. Not the part about Jesus appearing in their midst in a locked room, as that is told in multiple Gospel presentations. He also gives them bodily evidence of His promise that, wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He will be in their midst.

It’s verses 22 and 23 that give me pause. Not that I don’t believe them. I’m just not quite sure I completely understand what is happening. First of all, the Holy Spirit doesn’t make His grand entrance until Pentecost, in Acts 2. Did the disciples/apostles get a sneak preview, an advanced empowerment? I suppose that is entirely possible. Jesus breathed on them. The Greek word is emphusao, which means “to puff” or “to blow at/on.” The word for Spirit is the well-known pneuma, which literally means “a current of air,” or “breath.” Jesus breathed life onto His apostles, empowering them to move on to the next phase of their lives/ministries.

The second part that I have struggled with is the bit about forgiving sins. My understanding, and commentaries that I see seem to be in agreement, is that only Jesus/God can forgive sins or not forgive sins. So, while this looks like Jesus was giving the apostles authority to actually forgive sins, I don’t think that is the case. The thing is, I might be wrong. It happens quite a bit, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I simply admit that I don’t quite grasp the meaning of this verse. One commentary says that Jesus essentially, with the granting of the Holy Spirit, gave the disciples discernment to tell when people were truly forgiven or not forgiven, and the authority to make the proclamation as such. Without a doubt, it is this kind of authority that caused Ananias and Saphira to be stricken dead on the spot when they attempted to deceive the Church with their little contribution game in Acts.

Father, I will join the psalmist (Solomon, allegedly) in praying for Your wisdom and righteousness to be granted to our president and all other elected leaders in our country. I pray that they would all join together (not an impossible idea) to judge the people in righteousness, to defend the afflicted, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressors. May Your glory be seen in all our land, Father. I also pray for wisdom to understand what is happening in this passage from John. It is not something that will break my faith if I don’t quite get it. It is not something that is essential for me to understand. I will accept on faith that the disciples understood what was being said and what was happening, and that they acted on it. That is enough for me.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus,
friend of sinners,
your resurrected life is not  a private experience or a soothing metaphor but a stubborn public reality.
May your well-attested resurrection impel me to openly announce the outrageously good news - 
that sins are forgiven through what you have done when the gospel promise is received in true faith.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 84)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

He is not here; he has risen!
(Luke 24:6 NIV)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
(Matthew 28:5-6 NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
(Revelation 2:18-20 NIV)

It’s been a while since I had time to delve into John’s letters to the churches. I’m continuing, this morning, with the letter to the church in Thyatira.

After giving them some praise and encouragement, Jesus moves on to the issue He has against this church. There is a person who is in the congregation, leading them astray with false teaching. Jesus names her “Jezebel,” to compare her to the Old Testament person of that name. And perhaps that was really her name. I suppose it is not necessarily wrong to assume so.

The Old Testament Jezebel was “the most notorious evil woman in Hebrew history.” She was the wife of King Ahab, who was one of the weaker of Israel’s kings. Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was a priest of Astarte. “Astarte was the Phoenician equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus.” This religious system was so grossly immoral that it “encouraged gross sexual immorality under the cloak of piety.”

Jezebel (OT) may have even been a priestess of Astarte, herself. To add to her evil works, she killed all prophets of Jehovah that she could get her hands on. “Ahab did not possess the moral conviction or stamina to withstand her.”

It is almost as though her spirit has been reincarnated in this person addressed by Jesus. She was having some success in seducing disciples of Christ “to indulge in immoral practices.” Her teaching included believing that matter was evil, so sins of the flesh could be indulged without damaging the spirit.

I’m going to quote an entire paragraph, here, because I feel it is important to understanding.

“Jezebel’s answer to the Christian’s conflict with the world was to eliminate the conflict by assimilating the differences. Instead of refusing to participate in what was evil, she taught that the Christian must assimilate all the evil and thereby redeem it. Any examination that we undergo must include an examination of our relation to society. And in particular here, business society. We cannot exclude such a major part of our lives from the probing, searching gaze of Christ. Our tendency is to assimilate, to take on the coloration of those with whom we work – our employers, our companies, our associates. But Christ’s command is that we should differentiate.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, may we be careful to not assimilate the practices of evil into our churches, today. But may we also be discerning as to what is truly evil and what is not. Like Your apostles, give us Your Holy Spirit, that we may discern what is worthy and shun what is not. May we not fall into the same trap as the Christians in Thyatira. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, please grant Your church resurrection hope and joy, this day. Give us, like the apostles, the power of the Holy Spirit, along with the discernment, and help us share the Gospel with our communities, in the power of the Spirit.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

To Which I Can Always Run

Today is Saturday, the tenth of April, 2021. Easter Saturday in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,039

Forty days until our Glen Rose weekend

It’s a chilly morning, currently 52 degrees, but with a projected high of 74. With sunny skies, it promises to be a lovely day.

We made it to the weekend! It will be a bit busier than our normal weekend, as it will include a trip to Mineral Wells for some overdue birthday celebrations. We must remember to bring all of the accumulated gifts. There will be lunch, although the prospective venue has not been identified, as of yet. There will also be, as usual, a trip to the Crazy Water store to stock up on Crazy Water #4.

Tomorrow, our church will not be gathering, as the other two “elders” are going to be out. I am considering returning to St. Barnabas Anglican Church, but have not decided, yet.

We have our usual WW Workshop at 10:30, this morning. Our regular coach will be out this week, which is a bummer, but that’s okay. I’m thinking that I might lose a couple more pounds, on this weigh-in. I’ve had a good week in that area, it seems. Immediately after WW, we will head to the grocery store to pick up our order. And, I believe, we will be getting a Subway sandwich for S, who will not be accompanying us to Mineral Wells.

The Texas Rangers not only lost 3-0 last night, apparently, they were the victims of a no-hitter. Joe Musgrove of the Padres narrowly missed a perfect game, as the only batter to reach base was Joey Gallo on a HBP. Don’t you know Musgrove regrets that pitch? The two teams will play again, tonight, at 6:05 CDT, with Jordan Lyles taking the mound for Texas. He had a good outing for his last start. The Rangers are tied for third place in the AL West, with Seattle, at 3-4.

The Red Sox remain tied for first, at 4-3, with the Orioles, as neither team played last night, and the Rays pounded the Yankees 10-5, which put both of those teams at 3-4, for a second place tie. Toronto brings up the rear at 3-5. The Sox and O’s will play this evening, in Baltimore, with Garrett Richards starting for the Sox.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This new day You give to me
From Your great eternity
This new day now enfold
Me in Your loving hold

You are the star of the morn
You are the day newly born
You are the light of our night
You are the Savior by Your might

God be in me this day
God ever with me stay
God be in the night
Keep us by Thy light
God be in my heart
God abide, never depart.
(David Adam)

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
(Psalms 71:17-19 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that You have been teaching me since my youth (and even before)
  • for Your promise that You will never leave or forsake Your children
  • that You are a rock, a refuge, and a fortress to which I can always run
  • for the forgiveness of sin, made possible by the blood of Jesus, poured out by the Cross
  • for the Living Water

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 7

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I pause, at this point, to quietly reflect on what the Lord has done for me, through the years.

BIBLE SONG

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
(Psalms 71:1-6 NIV)

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit in His presence, this morning, I reread these passages, pondering and meditating, asking His Spirit to direct my thoughts.

I begin with Psalm 71:3.

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalms 71:3 NIV)

There are several words that speak to me, in this verse. Words like “rock,” “refuge,” and “fortress” always speak to me in these psalms. Then there’s the phrase, “to which I can always go.”

Here is an important principle for our lives, one I believe we fail to implement enough. Our God is, indeed, a rock, our solid ground. When our feet are planted on the Solid Rock, we cannot be shaken. Our God is also an impenetrable fortress and refuge.

And the truth of that phrase cannot be overestimated. We can always go to this rock, this refuge, this fortress.

When I am having a bad day, when things aren’t going the way I think they should be; when my mental state is spiraling downward, and my emotions are running amok; these are times in which I need to avail myself of the infinite availability of the rock, refuge, and fortress that is my God.

But the thing is, I have to make the effort to do this. It has to be something that I intentionally set out to do. I have made the mistake, in the past, of letting those emotions have their way with me, and that never ends well. This morning, though, when I felt the negativity creeping in on me, I saw this verse. I moved myself, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, into the rock, refuge, and fortress that is my Father in Heaven.

When I am firmly planted in there, nothing can reach me that He does not want to reach me.

And, to link the passages, when I am firmly planted in there, the admonition in Colossians comes to fruition. When I run to the refuge of the Lord, it is much easier to keep my mind set on things above. This prepares me for when I have to deal with “worldly” things, like work and whatnot.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
(Colossians 3:2 NIV)

Father, I praise You for being my rock, my refuge, and my fortress, to which I can always go, to which I can always run. Please remind me, by Your Holy Spirit, when I feel the pressures of life closing in on me, when I feel the negative emotions crowding me, to run to this refuge, where Your loving arms will enfold me and protect me. How I love this feeling, Father, the feeling of Your arms around me, holding me close, keeping “bad” things away from me, at least for a moment or two. And in this, I ask that You also help me to focus on things above, rather than things of the earth.

Lord God,
I pray that my capacity to know and experience life might be magnified in Christ.
By your grace set the eyes of my heart on Jesus,
giving me a widened imagination to see everything from your perspective,
to live in faith,
and to love my Savior.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 3/4.13)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9 ESV)

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:7-14 ESV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
(Psalms 103:11-12 ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Father, I praise You for the forgiveness that is ours. I thank You for the “new creation,” both that which has already happened, and that for which we wait. Thank You for the Living Water of Jesus Christ. May I, along with all of Your children, drink deeply today.

Lord, I pray that Your Spirit will grow Your Church and cause her to flourish, throughout the world. May we all experience worship that glorifies You and that gathers, unites, and blesses Your people. May we all have a positive and helpful witness in our communities, spreading Your light as we walk.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The True Judge

Jesus commanded us to love one another, not judge one another.

Today is Friday, the ninth of April, 2021. Easter Friday, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,038

41 days until our weekend in Glen Rose

It is currently 66 degrees, with a projected high of 85 today. I’m not really ready for it to be hot again, but I will not complain. Many of us, after Snovid-19, this past February, have declared that we will never again complain about the heat in the Spring/Summer of Texas. There is little to no precipitation expected today.

I believe my Mama had a good day, yesterday. I started trying to call her, on the way home, but got no answer. I resisted temptations to worry, figuring she was out with a friend, and, sure enough, she was. One of her besties took her out to run some errands, including dropping her taxes off with the person who does her taxes for her. They even went to a grocery store! Mama has not been to a grocery store in over a year! They topped off their afternoon together with a Blizzard from a local DQ.

We had a nice conversation, later in the evening, after she got home.

An interesting thing has happened in my life, recently. It may seem trivial to some, and, yet others might think it’s a no-brainer. Earlier this week, I decided to stop adding salt to my food (except for popcorn . . . I’m still salting my popcorn). I decided, quite suddenly, that I wanted to know what the food actually tastes like without all that salt piled on it (I used to use quite a bit of salt). For example, I have not salted my over-easy eggs once, this week, during breakfast. I have added other seasonings, such as Chipotle, Bacon-Lover’s, and Ranch, from my favorite seasoning people, Flavor God, and those, no doubt, have a small amount of salt in them. But as far as just pouring salt on my food, I have ceased to do this.

The Boston Red Sox are tied for first place after defeating the Orioles 7-3, yesterday. Eduardo Rodriguez got the win for the Sox, putting them at 4-3 on the season. They are off today, and will continue a series with the O’s tomorrow, at Fenway.

The Texas Rangers were off yesterday, and remain in third place in the AL West, at 3-3. They begin a weekend series with the Padres of San Diego, this evening, at Globe Life Field (I had to look to check what this is officially called). Kohei Arihara will take the mound for the Rangers. The Padres are 4-3 on the season, and, of course, include the much-loathed Manny Machado. Jurickson Profar, former Rangers player, also plays for the Padres, now.

Weekend plans include a trip to Mineral Wells to celebrate birthdays with Mama, along with R & J. S will likely remain at home, as she is still feeling tired from her Covid shot. Plus she is still wary of getting out and about, as her and masks do not get along.

Breaking news . . . Britain’s Prince Phillip, husband of the Queen, has died at the age of 99.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
(Psalms 71:14-16 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Your mighty deeds, of which I will boast, all of my days
  • for the wonderful flavor of my Twisted Pine Hawaiian Blend coffee
  • that we may rejoice in You and be glad in You and experience a pervasive sense of well-being
  • that all who believe in You, Jesus, receive forgiveness of sins in Your name
  • that, as long as I am going in the right direction, You are going ahead of me

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 6

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I am pausing to quietly reflect on the gift of life, remembering that not even my next moment is a “given.” Lord, Your mercy is overwhelming, at times.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. Of David. A petition.

Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
May those who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay.
(Psalms 70:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
(Acts 10:39-43 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly read these passages again, lingering over the words and phrases, I ask the Holy Spirit to point out something to my soul, showing me some truth that perhaps I have failed to notice before, or refreshing something well-known, but perhaps neglected in my life.

The prayer in Psalm 70:4 stands out to me, this morning.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!”
(Psalms 70:4 NIV)

We could all use a little more rejoicing and gladness, these days. We are not seeking a type of “joyfulness” that runs around oblivious to things in the world. That is not really “joy.” Ignorance is bliss, they say. But it is?

What we seek is true joy; a pervasive sense of well-being. The idea that, no matter what life throws at me, it’s going to be okay. I can be glad in the Lord and His provision and protection over me, in spite of pandemics and power outages in the midst of the coldest days in a century.

So, yes, Lord, may all who seek You rejoice and be glad, this day!

The passage in Acts has some crucial Gospel truth. One is found in verse 42, which says that God appointed Christ as “judge of the living and the dead.” Jesus is the judge. Plain and simple. And I believe that we should leave that job to Him. It’s hard. I tend to judge people, it’s a weakness of mine. It implies that I think I’m better. I don’t, necessarily. But that is the implication. So I must turn that gaze inward when I find myself being “judgy.” Then, after turning it inward, I must abandon it, altogether and love my neighbor as myself.

Jesus commanded us to love one another, not judge one another.

Then comes the last verse of the passage, verse 43. “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Again, plain and simple. That is an important piece of the Gospel message. Some would say it is the Gospel message. I tend to lean toward that being the simple proclamation that the Kingdom of heaven is here. That was the Gospel that Jesus preached.

Father, may all who seek You rejoice and be glad, today and every day. Fill our spirits, our souls, with joy and gladness, as we contemplate You and Your mighty deeds. May we boast in You and You alone, and in nothing that we have done. May we be filled with a pervasive sense of well-being as we walk in this world. May we accept Christ as the only true judge of ourselves and others. And may that filter into everything that I think and say today. If I begin to say something judgy about someone else, or even myself, Holy Spirit shut my mouth! You, Jesus Christ, are the only true judge, appointed by the Father! Help me to spread the Gospel message that all who believe in You receive forgiveness of sins in Your name.

Jesus,
judge of the living and the dead:
knowing that a verdict on my life is coming sends me scurrying away in fright,
until I see that my judge is the very one who has laid down his life for me.
Thank you that I can face your judgment without fear or condemnation,
because I will be raised up in glory,
openly acknowledged as your friend,
approved and acquitted,
and freed to rejoice in you forever.
May the joy of that day start now.
Amen.
(Westminster Short Catechism 38)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG)

“GOD, your God, will cross the river ahead of you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:3 MSG)

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
(Psalms 118:22-23 ESV)

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(Isaiah 53:3 ESV)

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(Hebrews 13:12-13 ESV)

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
(1 Peter 2:4-8 ESV)

Father, I thank You that, as long as I am going in the right direction (that which is pointed out by Your Holy Spirit), I have nothing to fear, because You are going ahead of me. I also thank You for the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. May He be the cornerstone of my life today.

Lord, give us a deeper sense of gratitude for the cross of Christ. May You provide for and protect those living in abject poverty and suffering injustice. I pray for Your inner peace and comfort for any who struggle with their sexuality.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Foolish and Slow to Believe

Today is Wednesday (Hump Day), the seventh of April, 2021. Easter Wednesday in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,036

43 days until our trip to Glen Rose

It is currently 70 degrees here, with a projected high of 77, and a 54% chance of scattered rain showers today.

We successfully got S her second vaccine shot, yesterday. The drive through set up at Texas Motor Speedway is very impressive. The rest of the day contained nothing of any significance, other than I finally finished a book I had been reading for a couple weeks. It was a book about Manson and the sixties, some secret government organizations, LSD, and even the Kennedy assassination. It was wild and crazy read. It was called CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. You can read my review of it at my other blog.

We have made plans to gather (still safely, though) at Mama’s house on Saturday, to celebrate some birthdays. Her birthday is tomorrow, R’s was on March 31, and mine was back on March 13. We have not really been able to properly celebrate, of course, and you all know why. No need to go into that, eh?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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)

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.
(Psalms 71:4-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that I have leaned upon You from before my birth
  • for the mystery of the “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3)
  • that whoever has You has enough; You alone suffice
  • for praise from the lips of children and infants
  • for Your steadfast love, mercy, and grace, lavishly rained down on us

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 4

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I am pausing to quietly reflect on the mystery of the new birth, given through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song.

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke— as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
(Psalms 68:1-3 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
(Luke 24:13-19 NIV)

“. . . but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
(Luke 24:21-32 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am, truly, in God’s presence, I read these passages again, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in and speak truth to my soul.

I do find solace in the third verse of Psalm 68. I do hope for gladness and rejoicing before God, for the “righteous,” keeping in mind that our only possible righteousness is from the aforementioned mystery of the new birth in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I have no righteousness which I may call my own. I am happy and joyful when I consider the righteousness of Christ, and when I consider the prayer of St. Teresa, with which I began my devotional today. I have God; I lack nothing.

I feel, at times, that we (or just me, maybe? Can I truly speak for anyone else?) are “foolish” and “slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” as Jesus, incognito, said to the two travelers on the road to Emmaus. We have even less of an excuse than they did, because we have the whole story, from beginning to end. We have the same prophets they had, with the addition of the New Testament, yet we constantly wonder around in a fog, not sure what to believe.

My faith, while it may be strong enough to get me by, is weak, still. It is incomplete. Not because God isn’t enough. I’ve already covered that, this morning. I have the Lord, so I lack nothing. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack.” If I lack anything it is because I am foolish and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

Strangely, these words give me hope, this morning, rather than a feeling of condemnation. I can only credit the Spirit for this. The hope rests in the truth of what Jesus has spoken. I am not alone in my slowness to believe. I know this because of the common testimony of others with whom I fellowship and worship. We all struggle with the same things. And I also know that there is hope for it to be better.

I know the words of Jesus. I know much of the prophets’ writings. (I am far from a prophecy expert, however.) I know Paul’s writings and am familiar with the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Therefore, I have no real excuse to be foolish and slow to believe.

Father, help me to act on the available wisdom that comes from Your Word and Your Spirit. Show me Your face, as Jesus revealed Himself to the two on the Emmaus Road. Complete my faith and eradicate my foolishness. I have You in Christ, through the Spirit. That is enough.

Lord God, I'm sluggish in faith,
thick of head,
and I need your Holy Spirit's power to help me see Jesus in all the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread.
Kindle in me a burning heart of rich faith that opens my eyes and recognizes you as Lord.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 65)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
(Matthew 21:16 NIV)

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
(Matthew 18:3-5 NIV)

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
(Matthew 19:14 NIV)

“Where you look is where you go.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries)

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
(Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV)

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
(Ephesians 4:1 NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
(Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

The Mission: What is the direction of the calling of your life? Today, dwell only on that which leads to that destination, and on nothing that doesn’t.”

Father, today, direct my eyes only in that direction toward which I should be moving. Help me to not look toward things that are unhealthy for me, either physically or spiritually. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to fear Your name. You are enough. Nothing is lacking. Take away my foolishness and slowness to believe. “I believe! Help my unbelief!”

I lift up our communities, this morning, national and local, that Your presence would be felt in their midst. I pray for the continent of Africa, that You would be provider and protector for all of Your people there. I pray for our governments throughout the land, federal, state, and local. May You give all of our elected leaders Your wisdom. More importantly, I pray that Your Spirit would draw them to seek Your wisdom today.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Feelings vs Obedience

Today is Tuesday, the sixth of April, 2021. Easter Tuesday, in the first week of Easter.

Day 23,035

44 days until our next trip to Glen Rose.

I’m up at the usual time, in spite of having the day off, because S is supposed to be at her vaccine appointment by 8:30 AM, and we have to drive up I-35W to get to Texas Motor Speedway, where it will be administered. I don’t want to chance being late. Traffic on the 35 is unpredictable. Well, actually, it’s not. It’s usually predictably bad. So I’m allowing plenty of time.

I forgot to mention, yesterday, that the Texas Rangers had finally won a game, beating the Royals 7-3 behind some decent pitching. Jordan Lyles was the winner for Texas. But they lost their home opener to the Blue Jays, yesterday, and it wasn’t pretty. Mike Foltynewicz (don’t ask me to say that, but Eric Nadel sure didn’t seem to struggle with it) was the loser, and the Rangers were never ahead. Over all, they are looking pretty blasé. Folty struggled with his command. He was striking out batters, but in between the strikeouts, he couldn’t seem to get any other kind of out. And he gave up back to back home runs in the top of the second inning. The two teams will face off again today, in Arlington, with Dane Dunning taking the mound for Texas.

The Red Sox finally won their first game, yesterday, beating Tampa Bay 11-2. Nick Pivetta was the winning pitcher for Boston, as they scored early and often. J.D. Martinez put the icing on the cake with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. They will play again today, with former Ranger Martin Perez on the mound for Boston. I simply don’t understand why they keep letting him start. He will never be better than a .500 pitcher.

The Philadelphia Phillies are the only remaining undefeated team in MLB, at 4-0, currently. There are a few teams who have not managed to win a game, yet. Oakland is 0-5; the Mets are 0-1; Atlanta is 0-3; and Washington has still yet to play a game. Their first game is scheduled for today, against the Braves. So one of them will win their first game of the season today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Time,” by Daryl Madden

A time to dwell
Of precious being
Eyes to close
The soul of seeing

A time of letting
The spirit flow
To pray in me
Your grace to know

Time to receive
Your love adore
Leave us wanting
Even more

Time to share
Your gift divine
When in the moment
You we find

O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me and rescue me,
for you do what is right.
Turn your ear to listen to me,
and set me free.
Be my rock of safety where I can always hide.
Give the order to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalms 71:1-3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for this time to seek You and find You
  • that You turn Your ear and listen to me when I call out to You
  • for the example of Mary Magdalene in the garden
  • for Jesus, the resurrection and the life
  • for the comfort that You bring to us when we cry out to You

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 3

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I am pausing to quietly reflect on the living hope that we have through the resurrection, recently celebrated.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly enjoy the presence of God, this morning, I reflect on these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me to a particular word or phrase within.

Psalm 67 is a beautiful praise psalm, and contains a prayer that I find my heart desires. “May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.” Oh, that all the peoples of the world would praise the Name of the Lord, and do it joyfully and willingly. That is my prayer today, and should be every day.

I try to put myself in Mary’s place in the scene from John 20. It is difficult to do. I try to imagine what went through her mind when she realized that this man was not, in fact, a gardener, but her Lord and Savior. Were I her, I would not have wanted to leave Him to go tell the disciples anything. But she obeyed Him, putting His Word above her own feelings and desires.

Even as I was typing that last sentence, it occurred to me that this is what we all must do. We all have feelings about a lot of things. Don’t believe me? Just look at Facebook. Lots of feelings on there, worn like an ornament on one’s sleeve. But it is imperative that we lay our feelings aside and abide in the Word of the Lord. What He says is more important, in the grand scheme of things, the proverbial “big picture,” than any of my feelings.

This, of course, also requires great discernment and wisdom. Because our feelings also have an impact on how we sometimes interpret the Word of God. It’s inevitable. So we pray for the Spirit to teach us truth and give us righteousness as we read Scripture.

Father, teach us. May Your Holy Spirit dwell within us and show us truth, give us wisdom. Help us, like Mary Magdalene, to lay aside our feelings and follow Your Word, obeying Your commands. If my brother or sister or neighbor is not very lovable, that’s too bad. I need to love him/her anyway. Help me to follow Your commands. Help me to love You with all of my being, love my neighbor as myself, and love my brothers and sisters as You have loved us, thereby fulfilling the totality of the Law and the Prophets. I also pray that all the peoples will praise You, Lord, as You deserve and are worthy! All glory to You, Lord!

Resurrected Lord,
you're different now.
Ascending to the Father,
your humanity takes on a new and startling form.
You're immortal but still fully human,
full of resurrection life yet quick to respond to our needs.
Like Mary,
may we see you through our tears and hear you call our name.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 19)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.
(John 11:25 ESV)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
(Romans 6:5-6 ESV)

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
(1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV)

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
(Matthew 4:13-16 ESV)

So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
(Matthew 4:24 ESV)

Lord Jesus, I praise You for being the resurrection and the life. Thank You for the life that You bring us when we step into the Kingdom and into Your easy yoke. We are united with You in the Cross, and we are united with You in the resurrection life. May this “body of sin” be brought to nothing, so that You may be glorified in the life that You bring to us. We look forward to our final resurrection, at the end of all things and the beginning of all new things. Thank You for the “good news” brought to the poor, the brokenhearted, the liberty to the captives and prisoners. Thank You for the comfort that You bring us when we turn to You!

Lord, I pray that You would give me (as well as all Your people) a love and commitment for the community in which You have placed me. I speak of the physical community as well as the spiritual community. May You equip me to serve in unique ways in these communities. I specifically pray for those who work in the news media, today. Lord, I believe that there are believers in that vocation, just as any other. I pray for their strength, that they may always tell the truth, and may they report news, not opinion. Help us to know which news is real and which news is fake.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.