True Success

Today is Friday, the fifteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. It is “Good Friday.”

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,409

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

I’m off work today, as I will be every Friday, going forward, until my schedule changes again, if it does. But the library is closed today, anyway, and, based on what I’m hearing, usually is closed for Good Friday, as all city offices are also closed.

We have a funeral to attend, this afternoon, and are about to get ready to go pick up a good work friend of C’s, and go have lunch together, and then she will ride to the funeral with us, as she also worked for the man who passed away.

I have several book reviews to write, today, at some point. I may not attend the Good Friday service this evening. I have not yet decided on that. And I’m still not sure what we are doing for church Sunday morning.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the Angels (and Ohtani!) 10-5. Included in that game was a grand slam by catcher Jonah Heim, who also batted in another run, and scored at least one more, himself. That was the first grand slam ever allowed by Ohtani, and I think I heard the radio announcers say that it was the first home run hit off of that particular pitch of his. Also included in the game was Corey Seager finally getting his first Rangers home run (he flirted with that a couple days ago, but it was stolen from him by a great outfield catch). They play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, apparently with Matt Bush starting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Good Friday)

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for great discussions/conversations with C and Mama
2. for friends with which to have lunch
3. for the death of Jesus on the cross, which paid for all our sins
4. for a life that has been lived with the "correct" definition of success (obeying God's voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family)
5. that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God"

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”
(Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “success.” This is a tricky one, I think. We need to be careful, of course, how we define “success.”

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.
(Proverbs 16:3 NLT)

There is also this famous verse, not included in the reading for today.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
(Joshua 1:8 ESV)

What is success? When classmates vote “most likely to succeed,” they are probably considering who will “make a name for themselves, earn lots of money, and enjoy an illustrious career.”

I really like what today’s reading says. Written by “Barbranda,” she says “While I’ve had goals, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a master plan. I just take life step by step and make the most of the opportunities that come my way. For me, true success is obeying God’s voice, having love and peace, helping others, and appreciating the blessing of family.” (I added the emphasis)

Indeed, I agree. That is what makes up true success. I have never really had what others might call a “life goal,” or “master plan.” I’ve just kind of plodded along, trying to do that same thing that Barbranda said.

" . . . and step by step You'll lead me,
and I will follow You all of my days."
(Written by David Strasser, aka "Beaker," for Rich Mullins)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
(Luke 23:41 NIV)

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

We need a lot of help “getting our feet on the ground and making sure we are headed in the right direction.” Our ground is, to a degree, “holy ground,” and the “‘right direction’ is toward the Cross of Jesus.'” Unfortunately, a lot of clutter gets into our lives, littering that holy ground, and voices cry out to us, distracting us from the Cross.

We have to cultivate our inwardness, and this must be intentional. “Spiritual practices, including prayer and fasting, are about getting our inside stories straight.” We must realize that a lot of, maybe most of, Jesus’s life happened “behind the scenes, in prayer. . . . It is not enough to become knowledgeable in surface facts. it is not enough to gain access to the biblical reports. We need the inside story, the God-story, that is at the heart of everything.

“Prayer grants access to inwardness, to the God-action that is taking place within us. This God-action is the most distinctive thing about us. it is more important than our circulatory systems, our brain waves, and our skeletal structures. When we realize that huge centrality, we are no longer content with prayers that are brief and occasional expressions of thanks or general laments upward. We want something comprehensive – prayer that is rigorously probing and capable of getting at the entire inside stories of our lives.”

I apologize for the lengthy quote, but, as is so often the case, I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s writing.

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

Father, this is the kind of prayer, this kind of inwardness, that I am looking for. As I walk through this Good Friday, may my heart, soul, and mind be turned inward toward this “inside story.” I want to know Jesus in this way, and I want to be walking on this “holy ground,” toward the direction of the Cross of Christ. Even if I only move 1% closer each day, I am satisfied with that, as it is progress toward true success. And “success” will be realized when I “arrive,” which will not happen until I stand face to face before You.

Help me to know as I am known. Help me to walk in the present, being aware of Your presence always with me, beside me, behind me, in front of me, above me, below me, and inside me.

May all the glory go to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Forsaken for Us

Today is Friday, the second of April, 2021. Good Friday in Holy Week.

Day 23,031

Resurrection Sunday is the day after tomorrow.

C has the day off today. I don’t think we were expecting that, and she didn’t realize it until a week or so ago. I’m not taking the day off.

My mother finally got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! She called me the day before yesterday to tell me that she had finally gotten a call to notify her that it was her turn to get one, so a blessed friend took her yesterday morning.

We also finally got the notification for S’s second dose, which will be next Tuesday morning. I will be taking the day off, and will take her to get her shot.

In other news, the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day, yesterday, was the opposite of spectacular. The pitching for both teams was disappointing, to say the least. By the end of the first inning, the score was 5-5, and by the middle of the second inning, both starting pitchers were gone. In fact, the Rangers’ opener didn’t even last a full inning. Final score, Royals 14, Rangers 10. The Rangers hit no home runs, while the Royals hit three. I was also surprised to find Andrew Benintendi playing for the Royals. I found out later, that he was traded earlier this year, in a three team deal. He was previously with my other favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.

Speaking of the Red Sox, it appears that their home opener was postponed. That happens a lot in the northeast, around opening day. They were supposed to play Baltimore, at Fenway. They will try again today, with Nathan Eovaldi taking the mound for Boston.

The Rangers have the day off. Probably a good thing.

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)

they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
(Psalms 22:13-15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross
  • that, though it is Friday, Sunday’s coming
  • that You, Lord, are not far from me; You are my strength
  • for my mental image of the scene in the midst of the Holy Trinity, between the death and resurrection of Christ
  • for the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world

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

LENT – DAY 39 – GOOD FRIDAY

INVITATION

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29 ESV)

I pause, this morning, to reflect on the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalms 22:1 NIV)

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Psalms 22:7-8 NIV)

They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
(Psalms 22:18-19 NIV)

BIBLE READING

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
(Mark 15:25-39 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit quietly in the presence of the Lord, this morning, remembering that I (as well as all of you) am precious to Him, I read these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to teach me, to draw me in closer, to speak to my soul.

As I read, once again, David’s psalm, which so accurately predicts the scene which we commemorate this day, I notice verse 19. “But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”

As Jesus hung on the Cross, near death (this morning I learned that, as I am typing this blog, it is about forty minutes until the time of Jesus’s death in Jerusalem, as it is 2:20 in the afternoon, at this moment), He knew that His Father was not far from Him. Yes, He will cry out, in a little over a half hour, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But that moment, which may have seemed like eternity, would only last a short time.

And His Father, would, indeed, come quickly to help Him. I can only imagine the scene between the death and resurrection of Jesus. I wonder what was going on in the Holy Trinity during those three days. I expect it must have been quite beautiful, as the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is infinitely beyond what any of us could even imagine.

As Jesus breathed His last, at least one of the soldiers standing there had a glimpse of the Holy, and said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

May the Holy Spirit give all of us the same glimpse today.

Father, today is a somber day. Yes, we call it “Good Friday,” but it is mixed feelings that we have when we commemorate. We know that, without this day, we would be lost; there would be no salvation, no forgiveness of sin, no relationship with You. But it chills our souls and saddens us to see what happened to our Savior on this day. Up to this moment, as He hangs on the Cross, He has been beaten, almost beyond recognition; He has been mocked and scorned; all of it unfairly, as His only crime was making fools of the religious leaders of the day. As I walk through this day, today, may this scene be on my mind; may I ponder it, meditate on it, on the words that came out of His mouth during the event. Yes, I know what is coming. But for today, may I think only on the Cross, and what my Savior endured for our sake.

Crucified Savior,
on this dark day it seems crass and opportunistic to think of your death as an advantage to me.
And yet,
we call this Friday good because through your death,
my old self is crucified,
put to death,
buried with you,
and no longer rules.
Today,
I dedicate my life as an offering of gratitude to you.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 43)

BLESSING

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
(Revelation 5:12 NIV)

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Matthew 27:46 NLT)

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
(John 10:14-18 NLT)

My Savior, Jesus, to say I am grateful that You allowed these things to be done to You is not enough. There are not enough words. I love You, Jesus; thank You; may my life belongs to You; do with it as You will.

Lord, during this day, please give me a depth of gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Give us more of a capacity to know suffering, alongside our brothers and sisters. For any who might be entertaining doubts, today, may Your Holy Spirit give them the glimpse of holiness that the centurion saw. Show them, Lord, who You really are, and what You have done for them.

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.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Today is Good Friday, April 10, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,674

Resurrection Sunday is the day after tomorrow.

C has today off. Her company designates one extra holiday each year. It’s not always the same day. I recall it being Presidents’ Day one year. But it has been Good Friday before. So today, C gets to stay home and not work, as opposed to all the other days when she gets to work from home.

We placed our grocery order with Kroger last night. This time, the first available pickup is tomorrow (Saturday) between 6:00 and 7:00 PM! A bit later than last week. Of course, it is Easter weekend, so perhaps people getting those last-minute orders in for Sunday’s lunch. We’re not planning anything special for Easter. We’ll probably order take-out from Subway like we usually do on Sunday.

This may be the first time in modern history that the church buildings will be empty (at least the ones who are following the rules) on our most important Holy Day of the year. I’ve been pondering what it is that we should be learning from this. Our little group, The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s, has already learned that a building is not necessary to be “The Church.” And it is still possible to be The Church without being able to gather and meet face-to-face. One of our friends brought up the fact that nothing can stop us from celebrating this day, even if we have to do it over Internet technology. I’ll be pondering this even more through this whole weekend.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
(Psalms 142:5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the suffering and sacrifice of my Savior on the Cross.
2. For that beautiful, scandalous night.
3. That Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2.24).
4. That death has died and love has won.
5. That Sunday’s coming.

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalms 71:3 ESV)

But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
(Psalms 88:13 ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

(Psalms 22:1 ESV)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(John 19:1-30 ESV)

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
(Psalms 22:14-22 ESV)

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.

“Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that I, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

“O God, you sent Christ Jesus to be my shepherd and the lamb of sacrifice. Help me to embrace the mystery of salvation, the promise of life rising out of death. Help me to hear the call of Christ and give me the courage to follow it readily that I, too, may lead others to you. This I ask through Jesus, my shepherd and guide.”
(The Divine Hours, The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

(Mark 15:33-41 ESV)

“On this day when we remember the greatest gift of our Savior, His death on a cross, take a moment to consider how we can stand for Jesus as we face trials of many kinds (see James 2:2-4). Think too about our fellow believers around the world who suffer for their faith.”
(Amy Boucher Pye, Our Daily Bread)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
(1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
(Romans 8:22 ESV)

For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
(2 Corinthians 2:4 ESV)

“Suffering is a language, a ‘tongue.’ I used to tell my Christian college students, ‘You can get by in ministry without knowledge of Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, but you had better understand the language of suffering, because you will be ministering to people in pain.
“No picture I’ve ever seen affects me the way the crucifixion does. It’s like Jesus is speaking to me personally, saying, ‘This is how much I love you, Dan.’ It makes me want to live in a way worthy of that price.”
(Daniel Schantz, Daily Guideposts)

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind. As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever.
(Psalms 48:1-8 NIV)

At the time this psalm was written, Jerusalem was the city of God, containing the Temple, the place for atonement. “But after Jesus, who was the final temple and sacrifice for sin, the city of God becomes a community of the faithful both in heaven and on earth.”

This community of the faithful should be “the joy of the whole earth” (verse 2)–“an alternate human society based on love and justice rather than on power and exploitation.” We are that community today, believers in Jesus throughout the world. May we live up to that expectation as we celebrate this weekend.

Prayer: Lord, too many of our Christian communities are ingrown and invisible at best or unattractive at worst. Help me become one small but important part of making my church beautiful to all around it. Amen.”

Truly, Father, may we be this “alternate human society,” and may we be truly based on love and justice, rather than on power and exploitation. Help us to be visible to the world, and, if we are unattractive, may it be because this world hates you, not because we bring it upon ourselves.
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us to live.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

When I Mess Up

Good morning. It is Friday, April 3, 2015. THREE more days until Opening Day!! Last Friday before Opening Day!!

Today is also “Good Friday,” the traditional day of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Today’s Word of the Day, appropriately, is obnubilate. This is a verb, which means, ” To darken, dim, cover, or hide with or as with a cloud; to obscure, render indistinct.” Now, I have no idea if this is intentional, but if you know the story, you know that there was a moment in time, during the crucifixion, that the sky turned black as night, and the sun was obscured.

Besides being Good Friday, today is also Walk to Work Day. Hah!! No way that’s happening!! If I worked, say, a mile from home, maybe. But I’m currently driving 60 miles, round trip, every day to work. I would have had to start at around 10:00 last night to get there by 8:00 this morning. And that’s walking at a pretty good pace. But if you are able, go for it! Or even better, stay at home and celebrate Chocolate Mousse Day!

It sounds as if Christi’s Huddle went okay last night, but I think she more enjoyed the one-on-one time with one of the ladies that she is developing a friendship with. They go out somewhere, afterward, about every other week. She got home a little late, but seemed to enjoy the conversation time.

It looks as though the weather may interfere with our plans to go to Scarborough Faire, this Sunday. There is a probability of thunderstorms, with 60% chance of rain. I guess we will just wake up and see what happens. Tonight, I think we are going to Arlington, to a church (not sure which one) where Dennis Jernigan will be leading a Good Friday Night of Praise.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Of David.
Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.
I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.
Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.

Psalm 26

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “How to Respond When You Falter.”

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Romans 7:19

This is a brief reading, and I don’t think I could summarize it any shorter than I can simply quote it, so that is what I will do.

“Christians do not live only in defeat. But neither do we live only in perfect victory over sin. And in those times when we fail to triumph over sin, Romans 7:14–25 shows us the normal way a healthy Christian should respond.

We should say:

1. I love the law of God (verse 22).
2. I hate what I just did (verse 15).
3. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death (verse 24)?
4. Thanks be to God! The victory will come through Jesus Christ my Lord (verse 25).

In other words, no Christian wants to live this way — in defeat. No Christian settles to live this way. But if we do live this way for a time, we shouldn’t lie about it.

No hypocrisy. No posing. No boasted perfectionism. No churchy, pasted smiles or chipper superficiality.

God save us from blindness to our own failures and the consequent quickness to judge others.

God help us to feel worse about our own shortfalls than the failure of others.

God give us the honesty and candor and humility of the apostle Paul in this text!”

Father, I do love your law. I do hate it when I sin and go against your law. I am a wretched man, still enslaved in a body of death, who looks forward to the redemption and resurrection of this body. I give you thanks and praise that victory will someday be mine, through Jesus Christ!

I pray for this day, that our travel to work will be smooth, and that our work day will be productive and anxiety free. Let us look to the Gospel as we work today, in all circumstances that arise. May you show Stephanie your steadfast love today. I pray that your presence will strong with my parents today, and that you will give Rachel and Justin what the need most for this day.

I pray for many people to understand the meaning of the Resurrection, this weekend.

Your grace is sufficient.

We are not perfect. It pains me when some Christians act as though they are. When we fail, may we be honest and deliberate in our confession. And then celebrate the fact that, even in our deepest, darkest sin, when God looks at us, he feels only love!

Grace and peace, friends.

I Exist For the Sake of Christ

Jesus Christ “is the center of reality and the reason for its existence.”~~Brennan Manning

Well, good evening. It is Friday, April 18, 2014. Good Friday, in fact. Now, let it be known that I do not believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday. The math doesn’t work. But it’s not one of those “hills to die on.” Therefore, I will commemorate and celebrate with the rest of Christendom on this day that is chosen to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. As B.C. once said, “Good Friday: The only Friday truly worthy of giving thanks to God.” Well, I couldn’t find a copy of that particular comic online, but I found this one.

B.C. on Good Friday
B.C. on Good Friday

In honor of Good Friday, I won’t post any other “holidays” that might be occurring today.


It was a good day today, for the most part. I’m still feeling rather useless at work, due to lack of complete system access. I now have a “domain” and can log onto a desktop, but I won’t be able to get into their SAP system until sometime next week. I’ve finished orientation and all of the required training classes and assessments. I missed a question on one of the assessments. That really disturbed me. 😀

Christi had a little fun with a scam caller today. Unfortunately, these scam callers, however, draw in a lot of not so lucky people who aren’t wise enough to not do the things that the callers want them to do. This one calls about Microsoft errors on your computer and offers to fix them. The caller was from India (the number said “unknown”) and said his name was Dale Edwards. Mmmmhmmmm. Sure it is.

I discovered something today that was a little disconcerting. I was called upon by my pastor (as part of the Pastoral Assist Team) to participate in a group text where we were to text back our greatest challenge and greatest joy at this point in time. The challenge was easy. The joy was not. Honestly, I’m not feeling terribly joyful right now. I’m not necessarily unhappy. And I’m not feeling like I’m losing faith. But joy, at least for the moment, is lacking. I know all the right answers. “The joy of the Lo-o-o-ord is my strength,” and all that. And yes. It is. But that joy is, while not stolen, quite buried beneath a mound of uncertainty that prevails in our lives. Yes, we know “God’s got this.” We’ve said it, and we will keep saying it. Our faith is still strong. But it is very difficult to dig out from under that mountain right now. I won’t even blame it on the fact that it is Good Friday, when we are supposed to be morose and contemplative as we think about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. (Personally, I see no reason to be sad on this day. Jesus is risen from the grave. He is NOT being crucified again every year on Good Friday!) Okay, maybe not “morose.” I looked that up, and it means “sullen and ill-tempered.” Anyway. I feel sure that the joy will return to the surface soon, maybe even tomorrow. Who knows? Right now, it’s just not so easy to find.

By the way, my answer in the text was “Hope of future grace.” We are, after all celebrating the resurrection of Christ this weekend, and we have the hope of experiencing the same resurrection one day.

Shoot, I could end this thing right now! But you wouldn’t be that lucky! 😀


(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date in 1521 that this occurred. Well, the actual event, not the movie of it.


Today’s featured birthday is Leopold Stokowski, born on this date in 1882. He was a British orchestra conductor, one of the premier conductors of the early 20th century. He also appeared in the Disney film, Fantasia. But instead of that, I give you Bugs Bunny’s tribute to “Leopold.”


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!
May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 134
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.
Psalm 13:3
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 131
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
Psalm 92:13

“How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen and help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
“When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose,
I will not, I will not desert it to foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”

“Almighty God, who has promised to hear the petitions of
those who ask in your Son’s Name: I beseech you mercifully
to incline your ear to me who have made my prayers and
supplications to you; and grant that those things which
I have faithfully asked according to your will, I may
effectually obtain, to the relief of my necessity, and
to the setting forth of your glory;
through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.”


I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8


Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Matthew 27:26-50


Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “In Christ.”

This is just more than Paul’s normal way of signing a letter. “It was the meaning of time, the focal point of history; it contained the explanation of the universe.” Yes, it is true that God loves us, but he only loves us “in Christ.” We can only return that love through Christ. If you think you love God, and you don’t believe in Jesus, you don’t really love God. Those are harsh words, I know, but it is the truth. Jesus Christ “is the center of reality and the reason for its existence.” For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

Why am I here? Why am I walking around on this planet? The answer is, for the sake of Christ. The angels must answer the same way: “We exist for the sake of Christ.” If the entire creation suddenly became articulate and began to cry out, it would cry out with the same words: “We exist for the sake of Christ!”

“He is the way, the truth, the life, the parable of the Father unraveling the riddle of existence.”

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
Colossians 1:19


Father, I thank you. At this point, today, I cannot say much else. I exist for the sake of Christ. I praise you for the sacrifice that we remember on this day. The truth of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ left heaven, came to earth, died for our sins, and was resurrected on the third day, is the truth that should be resounding from the Church around the world. Instead, the Church is floundering around, crying about things like gay marriage and abortion. We should be preaching the Gospel, and nothing else. This is not “sin management!” This is about Jesus Christ bringing your kingdom to earth and giving us a place in that kingdom as adopted children! Oh, if we could all only realize this and begin to live this “kingdom life!” Well, I guess I could say more, after all. Thank you, Father, for giving me a place in your kingdom, in Christ. Now, give me the strength and power, through the Holy Spirit, to live in this kingdom. And let your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven. Let your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Do with me as you will, I am your servant.

I pray for what is left of this day. I thank you for a good day at work. I thank you that Christi was able to fend off that scam caller. I pray that a job is forthcoming for her, soon. But we will continue to hope and trust that you have this under control. Your grace is sufficient. I thank you that Stephanie is serious about her health, and has already worked out three times today!

I pray for the Hernandez family as they celebrate Marty’s life tomorrow.

Marty and Lesia Hernandez, by Christi Bickley
Marty and Lesia Hernandez, by Christi Bickley

May we truly worship you tomorrow evening, as we celebrate the resurrection of your Son, our Savior.


Grace and peace, friends.

Fueled By Desire

Good morning. It is Friday, March 29, 2013. Today is Rachel’s birthday; our oldest daughter. Happy birthday to you!!

Today also holds other significance. Today is traditionally the day that Jesus was crucified, known in church circles as “Good Friday.” Personally, I do not believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday. But that’s a whole ‘nother subject. For today, I will offer this inspiring video that we saw either last Easter or the one before (time escapes me these days).


Besides being Good Friday, today is also Smoke and Mirrors Day. In honor of this, we should all read a Neil Gaiman book.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of treason for providing Russia with “secret information regarding the construction of the atomic bomb.” Julius had long been a member of the Communist Party in America. During WWII, Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, was an army sergeant assigned to Los Alamos, where the bomb was being developed. Julius and Ethel persuaded David to provide them with secrets. This information was, in turn, passed on to Harry Gold, a liaison with the Soviet vice consul in New York City. From Gold, it made its way to Moscow. The Rosenbergs thought that they would remain undetected, but in 1950, Klaus Fuchs, British scientist (really? British? With a name like Klaus Fuchs??) and Russian spy who worked at Los Alamos, was arrested and admitted supplying data to the Russians. He also had connections with Harry Gold, and the trail eventually led to Greenglass and the Rosenbergs, who were arrested, as well. The trial became very controversial. Greenglass was sentenced to 15 years, and Gold to 30, but both Rosenbergs were sentenced to death. In spite of two years of protests, including a request for clemency from the Pope, the Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953, in Sing Sing prison. Given the electric chair, they were the “first American civilians ever executed during peacetime for treason.” Years later, family and friend still proclaimed their innocence, and Greenglass later admitted that he had been pressured by the prosecution into testifying against his sister, Ethel. However, in 1997, Alexandr Feldisov, “The Rosenbergs’ Russian control officer, confirmed that he had had clandestine meetings with Julius in the 1940s. He did say that he had no knowledge of Ethel’s involvement in the conspiracy.


Today’s birthday (besides Rachel Nowlin!) is Eric Idle, born on this date in 1943. Eric Idle was a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and was always my favorite of the Pythons. Here is a You Tube video that I found that someone made in tribute to him.


Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness . . . make your way straight before me. Psalm 5:8
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. Psalm 118:26
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. Psalm 69:6

Father, I pray that you will lead me, this morning, into your righteousness, showing me something that I have, up to this point, not seen. Make your way straight before me!


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Admiring Who God Is.” The scripture reading is Psalm 99:1-5.

1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!
4 The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

In this Psalm, the people are called to worship, to tremble, to praise the great and awesome name of the Lord. We should be overwhelmed at his presence. This Psalm shows us God who is just and answers the prayers of his people. Other Psalms focus on his acts of creation and deliverance. One of the ways that we worship our Lord is to admire who he is, to spend time during our day reflecting on the character of our God.

It is alleged by many sources that Augustine said, “A Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot.” I like that quote. I’m not sure that Augustine really said it, but a lot of people say he did. Nevertheless, I think it is a good quote, regardless who said it. I should live a life of praise and worship to God. It has been well-stated that worship is more than just singing songs on Sunday morning (or whatever day you go to a worship service). It is a life. It is every minute of every day. Or at least it should be. I’m not there yet. Not even close.


I’m continuing this morning in chapter 3 of The Necessity of Prayer, by E.M. Bounds, called “Prayer and Desire.” If my prayers lack intensity, then I lack intensity of desire; if I lack intensity of desire, there is a good chance that God is absent from my heart. Or at least that the zeal of God is absent from my heart. “True prayer must be aflame. Christian life and character need to ball on fire. Lack of spiritual heat creates more infidelity than lack of faith.” Nothing external can substitute for this. Flowery speech cannot make up for fiery intensity of desire. Positive thinking cannot make up for lack of desire. The spiritual desire is “the basis of unceasing prayer.”

While it is good to have a habit of prayer, we must be careful that it does not become only habit. “Prayer is an indispensable phase of spiritual habit, but it ceases to be prayer when carried on by habit alone.” I must fuel the desire that accompanies the habit. “There can be no successful praying without consuming desire.” May we all have the intensity of desire that Jacob had when he wrestled with God, and said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:26) May we have the intensity of spiritual desire that David experienced when he wrote Psalm 63. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

“The indispensable requisite for all true praying is a deeply seated desire which seeks after God himself, and remains unappeased, until the choicest gifts in heaven’s bestowal, have been richly and abundantly granted.”


Father, again, I pray, increase my desire. By your Spirit, create such desire within me that I, like Jacob, say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” Create in me a thirst for you that cannot be sated by anything besides you! O God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you! I will seek you in the morning, I will learn to walk in your ways! As I continue to read this book on prayer, I ask you to intensify everything about my prayers. Increase my desire, increase my trust, increase my faith. Teach me to truly pray, Lord. I also ask you to narrow the scope of my prayers, so that I am not, as it were, sending out scatter-shots. My heart’s desire is to pray your heart for people/situations. Teach me your heart; give me insight into your heart, that I may pray accurately.

On this day, Lord, we remember the death of Christ. I pray that people everywhere will be drawn to focus on the horrible torture and death that Jesus endured on our behalf. Whether it happened today or yesterday or Wednesday is irrelevant. What matters is that it happened, and it happened that we might live life and live it abundantly and eternally. May we rejoice in this, even while we hang our heads in sorrow at the atrocities that happened to our Savior. But let us take heart and hope as we look forward to Sunday. Yes, it is Friday, and yes, Sunday’s a-coming!

I pray for this day, as Christi and I go to our jobs. Give us a good, productive work day today, and may we face all challenges head on, with your grace as our foundation, looking to you for everything today. I pray for a good time tonight, as we celebrate Rachel’s birthday. And may we have a restful day tomorrow, as we prepare our hearts to worship you on Sunday, with our brothers and sisters in Christ.


May you experience the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus today. And may desire fuel your prayers.

Grace and peace, friends.