From This Time Forth and Forevermore

Gotta get busy. It’s Monday morning, and I have to get finished earlier.

Prayer concerns for this week. It’s going to be a weird week for me. I have a colonoscopy scheduled for Friday morning. First one. I can’t eat any food after Thursday morning at 800, and then I have to drink the gross stuff Thursday night. Sources say I should pretty much camp out in the bathroom. There’s nothing wrong that we know of…I’m just at “that age” where the doctor thinks I need to have one.

Stephanie had a rough Friday last week. We got emails and phone calls saying she was hearing voices again, telling her to hurt herself. Fortunately, Christi had finished the class she was taking (got an 89 on her test!!), so she went to pick her up. We have an appointment with her psych doctor Thursday afternoon at 2pm. We’ve told her that if there are any “issues” at school today, she’s just not going back until after the doctor visit. But she had a pretty good weekend, and seems to be doing better.

Today’s Bible readings:
Galatians 5:1-12; Isaiah 59; Proverbs 14:10-18

It is my opinion that Galatians 5:1 is the key verse of the book. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. This is what Paul has been telling the Galatian Christians the whole time. Don’t go back to the slavery of legalism! We are free from this trap! As he specifically relates this to circumcision (which was the main point of contention), he tells them that if you submit to one point of the law, you are responsible to keep the whole thing. And this is the argument when people say that they hope they can be “good enough” to get to heaven. Let me make one thing perfectly clear (I am not a crook?): YOU CAN’T BE “GOOD ENOUGH” TO GET TO HEAVEN!!! I can’t stress that enough. If we could be “good enough” to get to heaven, why on earth would God have gone through the pain and suffering of becoming human, being tortured, and dying??? God requires perfection. If we have broken even the smallest of his laws, we have blown it. The first time you lied to your mother, you blew it. You can’t be good enough! That’s why we need Jesus. That’s why we need faith, and the grace and mercy of God!
Anyway…Paul makes his point about the “value” of circumcision in verse 6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. This kind of goes back to the end of chapter 2, as well. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (vv. 28-29). Paul just added “circumcision or uncircumcision” to that equation.
Paul makes another appeal in verses 7-12, wondering aloud who was causing all this controversy. In his final statement in our passage today, he expresses a desire that whoever is responsible for this trouble would go ahead and “emasculate” themselves. Ouch. That’s cold. But the person who causes trouble in God’s church had better be ready for some serious consequences. Also, if we are going to be “teachers” in the Church, we had best be sure that our teachings are Biblical.

At the beginning of Isaiah 59 is a verse which tells us that makes a “separation between you and your God.” but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (v. 2) As Isaiah describes the wicked, he says, The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. (v. 8 ) As we try to make our way through life with no justice, without Christ in our lives, We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. (v. 10) But the Lord saw that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one to intercede, then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. (v. 16) So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” Amen!

Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. There are many of these “ways” that seem right to men. All but one end in “death.” We’re speaking of spiritual death here. Only the way of Jesus ends in “life.” Verse 13 is not one of the more encouraging verse of Proverbs, either. Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. But we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Laughing at a gathering, pretending to have a good time, when our heart is aching inside. We can hide the grief with outward joy, but eventually, we will have to face it.

Father, I pray that there will be joy in my life. Not used to hide sorrow or grief, but true joy that flows out from my relationship with you. I praise you for the truth at the end of Isaiah 59, expressing that your Spirit will be with us “from this time forth and forevermore.” That is wonderful and encouraging news.
I pray that we, the Church, will not fall back into legalism, Father. Let us rely wholly and fully on your grace for our salvation and our sanctification. It is the blood of Christ that does both. We have no part in it at all.

Father, I pray for this day. I ask that you give Stephanie a good day today. Relieve any anxiety that she might experience. If she begins to feel anxious about something, I pray that your Spirit will calm her. I pray that Christi will have a good day today, after having been gone to the class all last week. And I pray that my Monday will be a good day at work, as well.

Celebrate his salvation today, and rejoice that it is eternal.

Grace and peace, friends.


A good Thursday morning to all. I appreciate all the prayers and positive thoughts for Stephanie yesterday. She had a better day. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better. She had a couple of chats with her favorite assistant principal, and some arrangements were made that I think will make things better going forward. We are going to continue with the positive talk of letting her know that we believe in her.
I believe that I had a reasonable amount of success in bouncing back and focusing on my two verses yesterday. You remember, Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. I think I’ll keep doing that today. And I’m going to keep trusting that he knows what he’s doing with Stephanie, as well.

Today’s Bible readings:
Galatians 2; Isaiah 54; Proverbs 13:7-13

In Galatians 2, there is some controversy as Paul and Barnabas, along with Titus (a Greek) go to Jerusalem. A group that Paul refers to as “false brothers” tries to enforce circumcision on the Greek believers, but Paul did not yield to them “even for a moment” (v. 5), “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” Paul has no regard for people who seem to be “influential.” When James and Peter (whom Paul calls Cephas) and John see that Paul had been entrusted with the gospel to “the uncircumcised,” they “gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas” and Paul. (v. 9)
In verses 11-14, Paul confronts Peter for some “unbrotherly” conduct. Peter was eating with Gentiles, but when “certain men” came “from James,” he “drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.” (v. 12) See? Politics even invaded the New Testament Church. Isn’t that sad? In fact, Peter’s conduct even influenced Barnabas. Paul called them all out. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (v. 14)
Then in one simple phrase in verse 15, Paul summarizes the entire gospel: we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Verse 20 is a favorite memory verse: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. In verse 21, Paul states that if we could be justified by works, or through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Living this life by faith goes hand in hand with the two verses that I have been meditating on, Proverbs 3:5-6. Trusting in God with all my heart is living this life in the flesh by faith in Christ.
Galatians is all about grace!

According to the first few verses of Isaiah 54, the “children” of Jerusalem will “spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations, and will people the desolate cities.” The people of God will be all over the world. And no matter what happens in the physical realm, the Lord’s “steadfast love shall not depart from” us, and his “covenant of peace shall not be removed.” (v. 10) These are words of great comfort to believers in a volatile world. Note that there are some places in the world where it is not safe to openly declare Christianity. Regardless of what some of my more “conservative” friends believe, the USA is not one of those places. We don’t even have the smallest clue what it means to be persecuted for our faith. There may come a day when we do, but it is not yet.

Proverbs 13:13 is interesting. Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. Sure, I could apply it strictly to the Bible, God’s Word, the “Holy Scriptures.” And I do believe that revering God’s word will bring reward. But look deeper. Think about something as mundane as traffic laws. In a sense those are “the word.” I know they aren’t “THE Word.” But they are words. Written law. And if we despise them, we will, eventually, bring destruction on ourselves. Running red lights and stop signs will, ultimately, result in a crash. But if we keep “the commandment” (thou shalt not run a red light?), we will be reward with no tickets, no fines, and a safe driving record. (I realize that, sometimes, we get crashed into by OTHER people who “despise the word.” Happened to me more than once.) You may think I’m just being silly, but I’m not. The point is, this proverb is not just about spiritual stuff. And, no, I’m not a perfect driver who keeps all the laws, all the time. I was just using that as an example.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Dennis Jernigan reminds us today, in Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers, that there will be times when we cannot feel or sense the presence of God in our lives. Yet we know that he has promised to never leave or forsake us. So what do we do in those times? That is where “faith comes into play.” “When we cannot feel or sense His presence, faith that He is true to His Word is what gets us through.” Sounds simplistic, I know. But it’s true. And I can attest to the fact that faith is what got me through Tuesday night, when struggling with Stephanie’s behavior at school that day. Faith is what enabled me to wake up Wednesday morning and declare to her, with conviction, that I believe in her. Faith will win out, if we use it.

Father, I thank you for the gift of faith. I know that there are plenty of moments in my life that I would not have made it through without faith in you. I also know that there are plenty of moments when I did NOT exercise my faith. Nevertheless, I am grateful that you have given me faith. I thank you for the days of meditation this week, as I have focused on Proverbs 3:5-6. It’s a little sad that I chose those verses in January, and have waited until September to truly begin to focus on them. But a lot has happened in this year, and the events of the past few months, especially in “church life” have had a tremendous impact on me. I believe you are working mightily in my life right now and I praise you for that.
Father, I thank you for the grace that Paul preaches in Galatians. We are not justified by our works, and that’s a marvelous thing. We would be in dire straits if that were the case, for we could not satisfy your demands without your grace in our lives.
I don’t want to just come up with words in this prayer today…I feel like it’s done. I’m not sure why that is, but I know that I have looked into your word and found meaningful portions to chew on. I pray that these will occupy my mind and spirit throughout this day. I pray that Stephanie will also stop and think about you and Jesus during this day, especially if she gets stressed. I pray that she will not get stressed today. Let it be a good day, even better than yesterday, and help her to remember that her parents believe in her. More than that, help her remember that you love her more than anybody else does.

I pray for Christi’s day in her class. I pray that this class will ultimately be of some benefit to her career. I pray that I will have a good day at work, too.

Faith. When we can’t feel God…faith. He is there, whether we can feel it or not. Faith.

Grace and peace, friends

What Do We Deserve?

It’s Tuesday morning, and I don’t have anything clever or pithy to start out with. I guess my brain is still waking up. So, I guess I’ll jump right into the Bible readings.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Proverbs 8:12-21
In verse 13, we get one definition of what it means to “fear the LORD.” The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. Please note that it does not say that we are to hate those who do evil. Too many times, Christians get that confused. Am I saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner?” Well, okay. Yes, I am. But I prefer not to use that worn out cliche. We need to hate evil. Yes. Because God hates evil. But we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s kind of difficult to do if we are busy hating them because we think they do evil. There is a part of wisdom that includes knowledge and discretion (v. 12). Too often we judge people without either one of those characteristics of wisdom. Wisdom also walks in “the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice (v. 20).

Matthew 20:1-16
I’ve always loved this parable. Jesus tells of a vineyard owner who goes out and hires some laborers at the beginning of the day, for a day’s wages. Every few hours, he goes back to the marketplace and hires some more workers, all the way up until the “eleventh hour.” When it came time to pay, he lined them up, starting with the last ones hired. When the ones hired at the eleventh hour got paid for working a whole day, the ones hired first thought surely they would get more. When they only got a day’s wages, they were angry. ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ (v. 12) The vineyard owner replied, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (vv. 13-15) Once again, Jesus says, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Life with God is all about grace. We fall into a dangerous trap when we start believing we deserve anything at all from God. I don’t deserve anything from God! And I have no right to look at the person next to me and expect the same blessing they have received. So what if I’ve been a Christian since I was nine or ten years old? So what if I have spent most of my life “serving the Lord?” (Have I really? Out of my 53 years, I would really be afraid to see a graph showing what percentage of those years was truly used in “serving the Lord.”) The point is, God gives grace as he sees fit. If this parable were to happen in real life today, there would be lawsuits, the ACLU would get involved, and I’m sure that the vineyard owner would be forced to pay more to the people that worked longer. There will be no such thing with God, at the judgment. God is the judge. He is the final authority. And he gives what he gives to whom he will give it, and we have no right to complain.

Isaiah 34-35
Chapter 34 is all about the judgment of the nations. It is pretty gruesome, actually. But I believe verse 8 explains it pretty well. For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
In contrast, chapter 35 speaks of the return of the ransomed to the kingdom. After the previous judgment, the land will be restored. The return of the redeemed will be a beautiful thing.
8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Proverbs 8:22-36
Wisdom, still being personified, was present before the world was created. Her advice, at the end of the chapter:
33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

Matthew 20:17-34
After Jesus foretells his death yet again, a strange request is made. The mother of James and John comes up and asks Jesus a question. “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Whoa! I can’t help but wonder if James and John were embarrassed by this request. Perhaps not, though, because they seemed to be right there with her. Jesus’s response was, “You do not know what you are asking!” He then proceeded to ask them if they were able to drink from the same cup that he has to drink. Their response, quite shockingly, was “We are able.” Normally, the idea of the “cup” indicates extreme suffering, and in Jesus’s case, it signified the outpouring of God’s wrath, to the point of death. These disciples would experience suffering and death for the sake of Christ, but “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Understandably, the other disciples were just a little miffed. The ESV uses the word “indignant.” At that point, Jesus has to remind them (again!) that the last will be first and the first will be last. The natural order of things gets turned upside down in the kingdom of God.

As they were leaving the place, Jesus healed a couple of blind men, who, in turn, followed him.

2 Kings 18; Isaiah 36
So we’re back in 2 Kings, and Hezekiah takes the throne. He was a good king, who did right in the eyes of the Lord (v. 3).
5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.
6 For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses.
7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.
8 He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

The rest of chapter 18 concerns Assyria’s attacks on Samaria and Jerusalem. At one point, there is a lengthy speech from the Rabshakeh of Assyria, mocking Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah for trusting in the Lord. Isaiah 36 is almost verbatim the same words in 2 Kings 18.

Proverbs 9:1-9
Wisdom calls out from the street to all who would hear.
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Father, I pray for your wisdom this morning. Let me eat of the bread and drink of the wine of wisdom. I would leave my “simple ways” and walk in the ways of your insight.
I trust in you, Father, no matter what our enemy may throw in my direction. I know that you have loved me all the days of my life. No matter how I feel each day, I realize that I have never lived a day without love, for you have loved me. No matter what my actions, on any day of my entire life, there has never been a time that you did not love me. I have been clean because of the word that you spoke in me. I have been forgiven by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ.
I pray for continued understanding of the concepts that Jesus was teaching in the last few days of readings. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Positions of power and authority, of riches and wealth, mean nothing in your kingdom. What matters in your kingdom is that we serve each other and you, out of the love that issues from our hearts. Let my service to you have no underlying motives of any gain. When I get up early on Saturday to go help set up for the worship celebration, let it be purely from a motive of love for you and your kingdom. Let it be for joy. Let me never seek to be “ahead” of another believer.
I look forward to the day that is spoken of in Isaiah 35. I believe this is a picture of the day when you will reign supremely over all creation. The description is beautiful.
I understand that I do not deserve any blessing from you. I have understood this for many years, Lord. I know that everything that I have is given to me by your grace and mercy. Let me never fall into the trap of believing that I have deserved any of this.

I pray for this day, Father. I thank you that Steph had a great day at school yesterday, and that her teachers think she is doing well. I pray for another great day today. I pray for a good day at work for Christi and me. Let it go smoothly today, without stress or anxiety.

Fill us with your grace today, Lord. Let our cups overflow.

It is important, I believe, to understand the depths of God’s grace, especially in light of the fact that we do not deserve anything from him.

Grace and peace, friends.

Trust In the Lord

Friday finally got here (one of these days, I might leave my misspellings in here instead of backspacing and typing over them…it would be funny), and boy, am I glad! But, oddly, the week seems to have gone by fairly quickly. Especially the parts where I was sleeping.
Yesterday, some really dark clouds passed over where I work. For about two hours. Nothing. Not a drop. Someone said it “drizzled,” but I never saw it. I walked outside and smelled rain, but didn’t see any. Maybe I forgot what it looks like and it was really there. It did, apparently rain in some places in Fort Worth, though, so that’s good. The best part? It didn’t hit 100 yesterday! Funny, though…the projected highs for the next ten days are all over 100. There are slight chances of thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. We’ll keep praying.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 11:20-30
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus is pronouncing judgment on cities where he did miracles, yet they refused to repent. Perhaps, Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon would still remain had such miracles been displayed in them.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There are some important words here. First, Jesus is thankful that those who suppose themselves to be wise are not given the truths that Jesus is giving to “little children.” Then he declares that he has the authority of the Father. Then notice: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” This is very important. There are many people who believe that there are many roads to God. Jesus declares that to be false right here. Jesus Christ is the only way to God. This falls within the concept that either Jesus was exactly who he declared himself to be, or he was a blatant liar, or he was a madman. I choose to believe he was exactly who he claimed to be.
Jesus extends his invitation, not to the strong, but to the weak and weary. He will give us rest for our souls. Who among us is not “heavy laden?” We all labor with something. I am not self-sufficient. I cannot bear the burdens of this life on my own. I need Jesus, and his burden is light. Why is his burden light? Because he is God, and has infinite strength!

Isaiah 7
When Ahaz was king, Pekah king of Israel partnered with Syria to attack Jerusalem. When Ahaz found out, he was afraid. But the Lord sent Isaiah to him to reassure him.
7 thus says the Lord GOD: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'”

Then the Lord told Ahaz to ask for a sign, “let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz was not willing to put the Lord to the test. So the Lord said he would give a sign anyway. And here was the sign:
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.
17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah–the king of Assyria.”

Between the time of Ahaz and the time the prophecy of Christ comes to pass, the land will be devastated. The remainder of the chapter describes the desolation that will come. All which is a foreshadowing of the last judgment. There is much other speculation about this prophecy, which I have neither the time nor the understanding to get into.

Proverbs 3:1-10
There is admonition to remember the teachings that are being taught here, with the reward being a long life of peace. There are a couple of verses in this chapter that have been very popular memory verses over the years:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Pretty good advice. From my experience, when we lean on our own understanding, it usually gets us in trouble. But I think we shouldn’t stop at verse 6. For verses 7-8 continue the thought: Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Then finally, there is promise that if we honor God with our wealth, we will never lack for anything.

In Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado writes about God’s patience. “God is often more patient with us than we are with ourselves.” Well, that pretty much goes without saying, doesn’t it? But as he elaborates, the truth becomes evident. Which of us doesn’t wonder about our salvation when we stumble? When we sin, don’t we begin to doubt our security, wondering if we were truly converted? “If we have the old desires, then we must not be a new creation.” But Max would have us remember Philippians 1:6. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. You see, we are not finished, yet.
Then, right across the page, in the evening reading, Max speaks of God’s forgetfulness. I believe these two go hand in hand. Jeremiah 31:34 says, And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” You see that last phrase? “I will remember their sin no more!” And this is not the only place in Scripture that tells us that fact. God is the God of perfect grace. He forgets sin. Period. “He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges.” God has what Lucado calls “loving forgetfulness.” Talk about good news…

Father, I cannot utter enough words to tell you how grateful I am that you have forgotten all of my sins. It is a beautiful and terrifying thing, all at once, to ponder your nature. It is truly unbelievable that you can do this, but you say you can, and I believe it. Thank you, Father!
I pray that I will follow the advice of Proverbs 3:5-8, and trust you totally, with my whole heart and my whole being, rather than leaning on my own understanding. I pray that I will live my life fearing you and turning away from evil.
Lord, I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the only way to you. Therefore, I have given my life to him. I pray that I can live a life worthy of Jesus. Let the power of the Holy Spirit flow through me and make me grow closer to you day by day.

Lord, we thank you for the break in temperature yesterday, along with the rain that fell in some places. We pray that more will come soon, to replenish our water supplies and refresh the earth. We also pray for more relief from the heat as we, hopefully, get close to the end of summer.

I pray for this day, Lord, that it will be a good work day for Christi and for me. I pray for the bowling party tomorrow, that it will be well-attended, and that everyone will have a great time.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Grace and peace, friends.

Marvelous Grace

I’m running late this morning, so my other blog update may be after lunch. You can find it at THIS LINK.

It’s looking to be a restful Saturday, which is needed. Christi is going up to help Rachel clean their old apartment. I was not required to go. So I’ll be “entertaining” Stephanie for part of the day.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 5:13-32
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We are continuing the Sermon on the Mount today. First, Jesus describes the disciples as salt and light. Oh, let me be sure and point out something, here, that I should have pointed out yesterday. Jesus is talking to his disciples! He is NOT talking to the crowd of people surrounding them. He is teaching his disciples. THEY are the salt and light of the earth, not the random crowd. As disciples, we are responsible to be open about our faith, sharing God in whatever way we can with the world around us. We are not to hide our “light,” but to let it shine.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Contrary to the teachings of the Church of Christ, the law is still in effect. Not that we live “under it,” but that we are still to teach it and try to do it. But we also have to understand the purpose of the Law, which was to point out our sin to us and point the way to Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law, but he did not abolish it. What does that mean for us? Jesus continues to explain in the remainder of this chapter.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

This is some very difficult teaching, isn’t it? Here, Jesus deals with the law concerning anger. We are to attempt, at whatever the cost, to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I may need to take some action, still, on this topic.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

More difficult teaching on the topic of lust. Most of us guys would be up the creek on this one, were it not for grace. There is an intensity here, in which we must curb our thoughts and keep them under control. If I followed these commands to the letter, I would have no eyes. In fact, I would have been blind before I got out of high school. Here’s some comment from the Reformation Study Bible. “Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation; not the eyes or hands cause lust, but the heart and mind. Christians must not only avoid the act of adultery (‘hand’), but also those things that would lead to a lustful attitude (‘eye’).”

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Yet more difficult teaching on divorce. It is allowed, but only on certain grounds. “Irreconcilable differences” is NOT one of those grounds. Is marriage allowed after divorce? Some of my favorite pastor/authors say “never.” I don’t agree, but I’m not going out on that limb today.

Micah 5-6
Chapter 5 contains a Messianic prophecy in verses 2-5. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.

The latter part of chapter 5 describes a remnant that will be saved. Then chapter 6 speaks of what God has done for Israel, and then what is required. But he passes by the sacrifices and offerings, in favor of justice. 6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 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? Do we see these things in our world today? Very little; very little.

Ecclesiastes 8

We are admonished to keep the commands of the king, fear God, and continue to be joyful and eat and drink. We cannot know the deepest ways of God. “Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.” (v. 17)

Father, I promised Stephanie I would be ready to go in two minutes. I confess misusing my time once again this morning. I’ve done better, earlier in the week, but getting to this part first and dealing with other things later. But on Saturday, I thought I could do it differently.

I pray that my light would shine before the world, Lord. Let me not hide it. Let me be proud to be your servant and your child. Let my salt have good flavor to it. I pray that I would be able to succeed in living your purpose for me. Let my mind and heart be pure as I try to live by the precepts in the Sermon on the Mount. I will fail. Yes. But let me not just lay down when that happens. Pick me back up by the power of your Holy Spirit, set me back on the path and give me a shove. With you in my life, I can succeed.

I pray for the future of this family. There is much change coming within the next year. Help us to help Steph prepare for the future. Give us the tools we need to do right by her. I pray that she can have a life of her own.

I pray for Christi as she travels to help Rachel clean up the old place. I pray that their moving continues to go well, and that everyone will be safe.

Give us a good day today, and I pray for our worship tomorrow.

As we consider Jesus’s “hard sayings,” we must also consider grace. We cannot live a perfect life. We can strive for it, but we will fail. Let us not “beat ourselves up” because of that, but get up, take hold of the glorious grace of God, and keep going!

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace Is…

I’m changing the order this morning. As of today, I will be doing this blog first, and then proceeding to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit. I need to stop short-changing myself and God in this devotional blog, so I’m doing it first.
Before I get into the Bible readings, I will say that we heard a most amazing message, yesterday morning, taken from Romans 3:9–22. It was a message about sin. That’s right. We rarely hear messages about sin in this day of hesitation to do anything that makes people not feel good about themselves. But, even so, that was not the purpose of this message. The purpose of this message was…encouragement. Right. No, really. And the main point of the message, that he repeated several times, was “Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” My favorite part of the message was when he completely trashed the popular evangelical comparison of our plight to someone who has fallen overboard from a boat, and someone in the boat throws a life preserver out to us, and all we have to do is grab hold of it and hold onto it. The problem with that comparison is that, over and over again, we are told in Scripture that we are DEAD in sin. The last time I checked, a dead man, floating in the water, has no power to grab hold of anything! And this, people, is why it is GRACE! “Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 2:13-23
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

As soon as the wise men had left their house, God told Joseph to get out of there! This was to protect them from what comes next.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Herod lets his “true colors” come out, at this point. He is furious at being tricked and kills every male child in the country, two years old or under (which is another indication of how old Jesus probably was by the time the wise men got there). Notice that each of the above actions is also a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

This really needs no extra commentary; it is all pretty self-explanatory. But notice, yet another prophecy fulfillment. Oddly enough, the Reformation Study Bible points out that there is no exact OT reference that says that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” The point of this entire passage is that no early king could thwart God’s plan to bring the King of kings into the world.

Amos 7-8
In the beginning of chapter 7, the Lord shows Amos two visions of what is to take place. Amos pleads for the forgiveness of Israel, saying, “O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” In both cases, it is stated that The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD. Did God really change his mind? I’m not fully equipped to answer that. I have always taken literally the statement that God makes when he says that he is not a man, that he should change his mind. But there seem to be instances where he is moved to show mercy, based on the intercessory prayer of someone. Now, I say “there seem to be…” Things are not always what they seem.
Then God shows Amos a plumb line, a tool that measures whether or not something is straight. He tells Amos that the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. (v. 9) Immediately after this, Amos is accused of conspiracy before Jeroboam. He is told by Amaziah to flee and never again prophecy at Bethel. Amos’s response to Amaziah was this: Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land. Don’t ever tell a prophet not to prophecy.

Chapter 8 is a very desolate chapter. It begins with the Lord showing Amos a basket of summer fruit. How weird is that? There is an explanation in the Reformation Study Bible notes that I would not know otherwise. It says that the Hebrew word for “end” sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for “summer fruit.” Any Hebrew scholars out there that can verify this? The prophecy of chapter 8 comes to a head (in my opinion), beginning with verse 9. “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land– not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

All of these prophecies will come true as Israel is destroyed. I can’t help but compare verse 11 with our modern age. We do still have preachers who truly preach the “words of the LORD,” but they are getting fewer. Many preachers preach their own words, sawing and hacking at the Word of God until it is almost unrecognizable. It may not be too long before our own land has a “famine…of hearing the words of the LORD.”

Ecclesiastes 3

I can’t read the first 8 verses of this chapter and not think of that song. The Byrds, Roger McGuinn, and his Rickenbacker guitar. Always wanted one of those…Anyway. (I’m not sure why there are random scenes from “Forrest Gump” in this video.)
The truth and wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is almost staggering. It is true. There is a time for everything under heaven. It takes great wisdom to know when it’s time to dance and when it’s time to mourn. There is a segment of modern society that can’t tell the difference. It’s always time to dance. And the encouragement of verse 8…there will be a time for peace. There really will be.
Verse 11 also tells us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” And that “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” Once again, the “preacher” says that the best thing is for man to “eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.” (v. 13)
Verses 16-22 affirm that all beings come to the same end. All go back to the dust. Verse 21 is interesting. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? It is worth noting that in 12:7, the “preacher” states that the spirit returns to God, who made it.

Father, I think you that everything has its time. I also thank you that you have made everything beautiful in its time. I praise you for putting eternity into our hearts. Especially for directing my own heart to follow after you instead of mindlessly chasing after the things of this world. I do enough chasing after the word as it is. I shudder to think what circumstances I would be in if you were not in my life.
I pray for this world, Lord, and the way your word is treated in it. I pray for a return to true, biblical preaching. I pray that your Spirit would touch everyone who calls themselves a “preacher” and change their hearts so that they stop adding their own words to your words. Let them preach only the truth.
I thank you again, that you have led us to a place where we can worship. Stephanie loves it as well, and that makes us very happy and grateful. I pray now that you help us get “connected” with other believers in this fellowship.

I pray for Christi’s day today. The big project seems to have gone well, but there will be aftermath as they work to tweak things. I pray that she not have to work a lot of extra hours this week. I also pray for rest for all who were involved in the project over the weekend.

I pray for my day at work today. Let this day be smooth, and this week, as well.

I pray for Gina, Lord, Diane’s sister. Their family needs great comfort and healing right now, Father. Wrap your arms around them and hold them tightly. Let them feel your great love today!

Thank you for restoration in friendships, Father.

“Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

Grace and peace, friends.

In the Midst of the Storm, God Is Still There

It’s Wednesday morning, and we had a few more thunder-boomers last night. I think we got some more rain, too. Of course the problem with this is, the fear of the storms gets Stephanie all anxious, so we had a little struggle last night. It’s all okay, now, though.

Not much happened yesterday. It was a pretty normal day. Work went pretty well for me, and was typically stressful for Christi. Afterward, we went to Fogata’s for dinner, then came home and watched Monday night’s episode of “Master Chef.” It’s a very interesting cooking show, headed up by Gordon Ramsay, owner of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

The Red Sox lost to the Padres 5-4 last night. And the Rangers won 5-4. Weird. They beat the Astros again (sorry, Tom), who are currently the only team in MLB playing under .400. Big Papi didn’t get a hit, so it’s back to zero on Beat the Streak. Sigh. He was my pick for Home Run Beat the Streak, too.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
1 Corinthians 8
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Once again, Paul is addressing a question asked in a letter from the Corinthians to him. How I wish we had some of this correspondence! This time, they have asked him about food offered to idols. Apparently, some Corinthians were attending pagan feasts just to eat the food, and other Corinthians thought this practice was sinful. The first thing Paul notes is that “knowledge puffs up.” And doesn’t it ever?? I should know…I’ve been guilty of letting that happen to me. You see…I’ve been reading the Bible since I knew how to read, which would mean that I’ve been reading it for approximately 48 years (give or take a year…I don’t remember exactly when I started reading). I’ve read it from cover to cover at least 15 times. That knowledge used to puff me up. I got over that. God reminded me that just because I read it certainly doesn’t mean I understand it all (I certainly don’t). Knowledge must always be tempered with grace.
And that’s pretty much how Paul answers this question. Basically, he tells the ones who believe that there is nothing wrong with eating the food because idols are nothing but pieces of wood or clay that they are right. BUT…if someone truly believes that it is wrong, then it IS wrong for THEM! Talk about moral relativism! I remember a preacher once proclaiming from the pulpit, “I condemn any Christian who watches an “R” rated movie!” WHAT??? But, you see…that was his conviction. He believed in judging a book by its cover. I don’t. I don’t believe that, just because a movie is rated “R” means that it is sinful to watch it. But I will not flaunt my belief in front of someone who believes differently, nor will I tell them that I think their belief is stupid. Grace. We need to have grace. Paul goes so far as to say that, if it would prevent a brother from stumbling, he would never eat meat again! Verse 12 is powerful. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Nuf ced.

2 Chronicles 12-13
Chapter 12 recounts Rehoboam’s turning from the Lord, and the subsequent plundering of Jerusalem by Shishak, king of Egypt. However, Rehoboam humbled himself and was spared.
In chapter 13, Abijah, Rehoboam’s son reigns. He only reigns three years. He was a good king, though, and defeated Jeroboam in a huge battle, with the Lord’s help.

Psalm 120
1 A Song of Ascents. In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
2 Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

With Psalm 120, we begin the reading of a series of Psalms that were sung as the people made their way up to Jerusalem from various parts of Israel. This one begins with the proclamation that the Lord answered a call of distress. But it closes with a lament that the Psalmist dwells among a violent people.

Each day I get an email devotion from Dennis Jernigan. Today’s seems especially appropriate. I don’t recall what song he is referencing, but it begins with the quote, “Does the sun stop shining just because of the storm?” Also quoted is John 1:5, which says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. He speaks of how, when we are in the midst of life’s storms, we frequently are able to see only the storm surrounding us. But when real storms occur in our area, the sun continues to shine, up above the storm clouds. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I have flown over the clouds in an airplane and seen the brilliant sun shining, even though it was not visible from the ground. Our God is like that. In the midst of the thundering, swirling, violent storms of life, our God remains present, shining for us, just as the sun shines above physical storm clouds. He is able to protect us, guide us, and love us through whatever storms come our way.

Father, I pray that, during the storms that we face, both physical and spiritual, we will never forget that you are still with us. It is easy to forget. It is easy to take our eyes off of you and look at the wind, the lightning, the hail, and other physical manifestations. Peter took his eyes off of you and looked at the waves. He immediately sank. That’s what happens to us when we stop looking at you. We sink. We get bogged down in the cares of the world, because we have forgotten that you are always above the clouds, shining gloriously! Help us to remember this. Help us to keep our eyes on you.
Father, I pray that you will always help me to temper my opinions with grace. When I am faced with someone who doesn’t see things the way I do, it doesn’t mean I’m right. Just because I’ve read your Word all my life, doesn’t mean I understand it perfectly. Someone else could bring something fresh to the conversation that I have never considered. My age and experience means nothing. What matters is our sensitivity to the Spirit in all matters. I pray that your Church would be the same. Let us be unified in our faith, Lord, as we worship and serve you together.

I pray for another work day, Lord. And as I go about this day, I want to remember some of the things that you give us that we take for granted. Air, for example. How often do we thank you that we have air to breathe? How many times have I thanked you for gravity? For the way this earth is formed and created to sustain our lives? I pray, Lord, that this day will be a good day. I especially pray for Christi today, as she has to endure a difficult meeting. I’m praying other things that I’m not typing.

We had storms last night. There may be more today. But the sun always shines, just as the Lord always shines above our “storms.”

Grace and peace, friends.

People Everywhere

It’s finally Friday. And the sad thing is, I’ve only worked two days so far this week. But it seems like it’s been a whole week. Yesterday was a hard day. It just seemed like things kept happening all day that needed immediate attention. Not complaining, mind you…the day went by REALLY fast.
Today is Stephanie’s last day as a junior. She has one final to take today, and she’s done. We’ll probably celebrate by going out tonight for dinner. It’s been a challenging year with many ups and downs, but, for the most part, I would say it’s been good.
The Rangers beat the best team in the AL last night, the Indians, 7-4. So they stay a game and a half ahead of the…wait, who? The Mariners?? Huh. How about that!

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
John 16:17-33
The disciples still don’t get it. How many times has he explained? So they’re asking themselves, “What does he mean when he says, ‘A little while and you won’t see me, and again a little while and you will see me?'” (v. 17) Jesus explains some more, telling them that they will have sorrow while the world rejoices, but soon, they will have joy when he sees them again. He then encourages them about prayer again, telling them, Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (v. 24) At the end of the chapter, he tells them that the reason he has told them these things is so that they will have peace. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (v. 33)

1 Chronicles 19-20
In chapter 19, David sends messengers to comfort the son of the Ammonite king who just died. But the son’s advisors give him bad advice. They captured the messengers, shaved off their beards and cut off their garments at the hip. This, of course, was very humiliating to the men, so David advised them to remain at Jericho until their beards grew back. The Ammonites, realizing their mistake, geared up for battle. Joab and the armies of David defeated them along with the Syrians, who had come out to help the Ammonites. However, the process, the Syrians made peace with David. Chapter 20 tells of the conquest of Rabbah, and of the defeat of more Philistine giants.

Psalm 106:24-48
The remainder of this Psalm tells of the Israelites’ refusal to follow the rules of the Lord. But the grace and mercy of God is displayed in verses 43ff, and the Psalmist finishes with a prayer for deliverance.
43 Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.
47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)
Once again, Dennis Jernigan gives us a devotion about people on the street. Only this time, it’s about the crowds. We can get so overwhelmed by the crowd that we somehow manage to forget that there is anyone else around us. People won’t talk to you; they won’t look you in the eye. I can speak from experience…I have been in the Bronx. The people there, in general, WILL NOT TALK TO YOU! We were looking for something. No one would help. The ones who did respond said, “I don’t know you!” “If we are to be kingdom-minded people we need to be able to step away from the busyness and see into the individual lives of those we run across and present them with Jesus. One smile or one kind word could be the key that unlocks the door into that person’s life.” It sounds simplistic, doesn’t it? Yet I believe it’s true. The problem? It takes time and energy that most of us aren’t willing to expend! And it takes risk. Anytime you open yourself up to someone else, there is risk. But what risk is too much for us, seeing that the Son of God gave his very life for us?
(From Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers, by Dennis Jernigan)

Father, I thank you for these words today. I pray that you give me the sensitivity to be aware of people around me; of their needs, hurts, and desires. Let me not get so wrapped up in my own world that I don’t notice that there are other people around me. I see that this theme has been recurring over the last couple of days. Perhaps you are preparing me for another avenue of ministry soon. I think I would like that. I’ve noted recently that I feel rather “homeless,” in that I don’t currently have a “church home.” I hope that you are preparing something for us in that area.
I am always and eternally grateful for your mercy, Lord. That which is proclaimed in the Psalm that I read this morning, that you deliver, that you show mercy, even when we fail to follow you properly. You are longsuffering and patient, Father, and I praise you for that, because I am so, well, just flat stupid sometimes! But I’m selfish; I’m self-serving. As C.S. Lewis said, “All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you. I never had a selfless thought since I was born. I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through: I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.” (From “As the Ruin Falls,” by C.S. Lewis) It’s true, and he wrote it so well. But you see through all that, and you see something worth saving! Thank you, Lord!
Thank you for the peace that comes from knowing Christ. The world around us is in constant turmoil, changing daily. Challenges come at us hard and fast. Yet, we can know peace through Jesus Christ. Thank you, Lord.

I pray for Stephanie’s last day at school, Father. Let it be a good one, and I pray that she does okay on her final exam today. I pray for Christi’s day at work, that the stress level would be less than usual. Give her some peace today.
I continue to pray for Andy, in California. I pray that he will get the help he needs and be able to get on his feet again. He needs a place to live, and a job of some kind.

Take a look around you today. See the people. Really see them. And then unlock yourself.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Sure Foundation

For the first day since Monday, it was not below freezing when I woke up this morning. And the roads are mostly dry for now. There might be a little more rain and/or snow today, but it is supposed to remain above freezing. And I don’t really want to talk about the weather any more.

I’ll just jump right into my devotion this morning.

Matthew 7:25
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

…Yeshua! Yeshua! The Rock where we stand!…
Alexander Hamilton has been quoted as saying, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” There seems to be a prevalent thought in today’s society that you can do anything you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone else or don’t bother me. But that’s a dangerous ethic. I’ll admit that I’m pretty liberal in my beliefs of what people should and shouldn’t be allowed to do. But there are certain areas that I will stand my ground on. I’m also easily swayed by opinions. If I’m on the fence at all on an issue, a good argument will sway me. Unfortunately, an equally good argument will sway me back the other way. Once again, though, there are some things that I am not on any fence about. The Lord is my God. Jesus is my savior. Jesus is the only path to God. These are things I will never falter in believing. These are my foundations. “A man without a foundation can be swept away like sand on a beach or blown around like autumn leaves on a windy day.” There is also an element of fear in life without a sure foundation. Jesus is my Solid Rock. As the old hymn says, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
(From Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers, by Dennis Jernigan)

Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

The questions we ask sometimes give away our lack of understanding.
“How can God be everywhere at one time? How can God hear all the prayers which come to him? How can God be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” Have we stopped to consider that the physics of heaven might be just a bit different than ours? Or that God’s “ears” are different from our ears? Is God bound by a body? We know that God is spirit, so the idea of him being all places at once becomes a little less hard to accept. The point is…we tend to limit God by our lack of understanding. We try to put God in a “box.” And he won’t fit. One of the great things about God…he invented grace. So he gives grace when humans can’t. People may not be able to forgive us, but God can and does. “God always gives grace.”
(From Grace for the Moment, by Max Lucado)

Today’s Bible readings:
Luke 19:28-48
As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (vv. 37-40)

Exodus 23-24
Psalm 37
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (v. 4)
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (vv. 5-6)
(From Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington)

Father, I am so very thankful for the grace that you give to all of your children. I praise you for the ability to be everywhere at once. I don’t have to understand how you can achieve that, nor do I need to comprehend how you can hear my prayers (or read them!) while millions of other people are speaking, thinking, typing, or writing prayers at the same time. This morning, at any given moment, a literal multitude of people will be singing praises to you all at once. I wonder what the scene in heaven is as millions of believers praise and worship you at the same time. I am so anticipating the day when we will all be together, worshiping you as one, before your throne. But in the meantime, your grace will carry us through.
Father, I pray that you will help me to delight myself in you, so that the desires of my heart will be your desires! Help me to commit my way to you; help me to trust in you completely.
I am also thankful that you have placed my feet on the solid, sure foundation of Jesus Christ. May I never stray from that foundation, Lord, regardless of the tide of public opinion.

I pray for Bill and Laurie this morning. I also pray for Dodge as he contemplates his future.

We don’t really have to understand how God can hear all our prayers. I admit that I’ve pondered that very question before, because I am limited by a human, finite body, and therefore, my mind thinks in human, finite terms. But, ultimately, I really don’t need to understand it. I just need to accept that it is true.

Grace and peace, friends.