Look For the Green

Today is Sunday, December 20, 2020. The Fourth Sunday in Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,928

Only five days until Christmas!

Sadly, we must leave this place, this morning, and return to life as we know it. But at least it will be another short work week, as we are both off Thursday and Friday again, for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

We have not yet nailed down what those are going to look like, but have a couple of phone calls planned today.

Yesterday was pretty relaxing. C spent time in the hot tub, and we both spent some time sitting down by the river. At one point, I said I had “peace like a river.”

Peace like a river

I could do that every day.

We tried a couple more geocaches around the Glen Rose town square, but the only one we found was a virtual cache. One appeared to be in an area that was surrounded by “Private Property” signs, and the other was related to a place inside the state park. But the virtual one was cool.

We also discovered a new book store on the square, that just opened last week. That was very exciting. C was even willing to buy some books, just to support them!

We ordered some chicken and shrimp fajitas from a local restaurant, sans tortillas and cheese, and took them back to the cabin. They were delicious! And I’m pretty sure they had cactus in them. 😎

This morning, we have decided to not cook breakfast. We will be packing up to leave by 11:00AM, so we’ll have less to clean up. Plus we will be stopping by Applebee’s on the way home, for our Sunday lunch.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭96:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

TODAY I AM GRATEFUL

  1. For the songs of the birds outside our window
  2. For the serene setting of the Paluxy River below the cabin
  3. That I do not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day (Psalm 91:5)
  4. That, in Your kingdom, things are far better than I could ever imagine
  5. That You are my Shepherd, and I lack for nothing

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭90:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭65:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭91:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:18-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭113:1-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Cry of the Church
“O Lord, hear my prayer and let my cry come unto you. Thanks be to God.”
THE SHORT BREVIARY

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

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


ADVENT: PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF THE WORD

Day Twenty-two

“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in?”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:8-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭16:25-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:26-38‬ ‭ESV‬‬


“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬


“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“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;”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬


“Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭143:1-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬


As the Psalms wind down, Psalm 143 is in stark contrast to what we will see in the final chapters.

This morning, however, I want to point out the contrast between Psalms 143 and 23. Perhaps it is no coincidence that I was led to read both of them today.

Psalm 23, along with John 3:16, is probably one the most well-known passages in the Bible. And rightfully so, as it is one of great comfort.

In Psalm 23, the Lord, our Shepherd, is said to make us lie down in green pastures, and restore, or refresh, our souls.

In Psalm 143, our enemy pursues our soul, crushes its life, and makes us “sit in darkness like those long dead.”

In Psalm 143, the psalmist lifts his hands to God, for whom he desperately thirsts. In Psalm 23, God leads him to still, quiet waters, from which he can drink, satisfying his thirst.

In 143, the psalmist prays that God will show him the way to go. In 23, he declares that the Lord leads him “in paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake.” In between those, we have Psalm 32:8, which says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

Unfortunately, there will be times when either Psalm will fit what we are going through. May we remember, when we feel our enemy (who is NOT flesh and blood) crushing the life from our souls, to pray in the way David prays in Psalm 143. Then, when we find that green pasture, in the middle of the chaos, we can celebrate with Psalm 23, and boldly proclaim, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”


Father, I know there are times when our enemy would crush my soul and try to make me sit in darkness. But You will always lead me to the light, to the paths of righteousness, for the sake of Your great name. I praise You for this, and I praise You that, because You are my Shepherd, I will lack for nothing, and that, in Your Kingdom, things are far better than I could ever imagine.

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Surely Goodness and Mercy

It’s Saturday morning, June 23, 2012. Today is “National Pink Day.” The color or the pop singer? I don’t have any of either one, I don’t think. It’s also “Typewriting Day.” I certainly don’t have any of those, any more. Or do I…? There just might be one out in the garage. However, I am “typing” on a “qwerty” keyboard on this here ‘puter.
Historical events are lame today. (At least any that I’m interested in…) According to one source, the first typewriter patent was awarded on this date in 1868 (hence the “holiday” named above). For some reason, my “This Date in History” site does not acknowledge that. On this date in 1902, “Mercedes” was registered as a brand name. On this date in 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman was released, starring Michael Keaton as the “caped crusader.” I don’t think Helena Bonham Carter was in it. That’s pretty much it. Oh, sure, other stuff happened, but, as Dr. House would say, it’s not interesting.

Christi got through a pretty satisfying week at Supermedia. Things are going well for her, she got a computer (although it has problems), and her old phone number back. No office, but she’s got her own cube, which is much more than she ever hoped to have at Sabre. Most of all, she feels appreciated. If you could see the difference in her countenance when she comes home from work every day…it’s a beautiful thing. The grass is not always greener…

Bart had surgery yesterday, and it is reported to have gone very well. Hopefully, whatever has been afflicting him is taken care of, now.


Father, I pray for some inspiration today that will help me live this day in the power of the risen and ascended Christ. Teach me your ways, Lord. Teach me to pray.


Today, I’m reading Psalm 23. I almost don’t have to read it, right? Even the most casual of church-goers knows at least the beginning of what is probably the most famous passage from the Bible. I dare say it is more well-known than John 3:16. (I bet more people just know the reference of “John 3:16” than actually know what the verse says.) But there is a reason for Psalm 23 being so well known. It is, in fact, one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Doesn’t that just leave you feeling peaceful and serene? Green pastures, still waters, the restoration of the soul…it’s as if David is describing a retreat. And well, he may be. After all, that is the purpose of a true “retreat,” isn’t it? For some reason, in our world today, people will organize a weekend activity and call it a “retreat.” In the course of this activity, there will be no time for rest and restoration. Instead, there will be non-stop seminars, classes, and “team-building” activities. That’s not a “retreat!” I believe that it would be of great value to individuals and, perhaps, couples to engage in true retreats where they get away from the normal day-to-day drudgery, to a place where no one or nothing can bother them, and just “be” for a day or two. Christi do that twice a year. We travel about 90 minutes from home, to a little town called Glen Rose, where we stay in a cabin on the Paluxy River. No telephone, no television, no wireless internet…just peace and quiet. And a hot tub on the front porch. We relax. We talk. We read. We revel in the overflowing grace of God. That’s a retreat. Still waters…green pastures…restoring my soul. And then, he leads us down the right path, calmly and serenely.


My Utmost For His Highest

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

Jesus was intimate with grief. We are not “acquainted with grief” in the same way he was. We get through times of grief; we endure them. What is the reason for grief? What is the reason for sorrow?
As we begin our lives, we are not reconciled to the “fact of sin. We take a rational view of life and say that a man by controlling his instincts, and by educating himself, can produce a life which will slowly evolve into the life of God.” But there is something present we have not counted on. This thing upsets all our calculations. “Sin has made the basis of things wild and not rational.”
Sin is a fact (this, is always a very unpopular subject…it makes people very uncomfortable); it is “red-handed mutiny against God.” And here is a key statement…”Either God or sin must die in my life.” Hey, now…that’s a pretty extreme statement! Yes, it is. But it is true. And God is not going to die in my life, therefore, it must be sin that does. If I allow sin to run free in my life, the life of God in me will die. If I allow God to rule in my life, sin will die in me. Those are the only two possible choices. It’s kind of like the idea that some have that there are “many roads to God.” There aren’t. There are only two roads, and they lead in opposite directions. However, let it be known, that, in the Christian’s life, it is never too late to kill sin. There is never a point where we cannot suck it up and destroy sin in our lives and allow the Spirit of God to rule. I should know. There have been several times in my life where the life of God was nearly extinct in me. But there was always a spark. And that spark has been fanned into a roaring flame. Does that mean I will never sin again? Of course not. But sin has lost the extreme power and crippling influence that it used to have on me.
So what does all this stuff about sin have to do with grief? “In our mental outlook we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin as the only explanation as to why Jesus Christ came, and as the explanation of the grief and sorrow in life.” There’s the answer.


Father, I’ll be honest…I’m not sure where to start this morning. I have enjoyed the beauty of Psalm 23, and certainly desire that setting in my life. However, I also know that this cannot be a constant setting for us. I desire your goodness and mercy, or your steadfast love, to follow me all the days of my life, and I celebrate that this is true. Every day, I sense the presence of your great love for me. I would sense it more, though, and, being aware that this sounds like a selfish prayer, it is, deeper down, not so selfish. The reason I would sense more of your great love is so that I might be more aware of your presence daily, and, therefore, be more apt to pray like I breathe. Constantly, unceasingly breathing out prayers for people; for their lives, for their spirits, for their families, for their circumstances. Make me more aware of your presence and more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit each day, each hour, each minute. Lord, I want to be an intercessor for you, because I strongly believe that this is your desire for me.
I pray that we understand that sin is the cause of grief in this world; that it is why Jesus had to come to our world, and that he was intimately acquainted with grief. How much grief must it have caused to have to leave his place next to you and enter into this ugly world of sin? I cannot even begin to imagine the shock. But we are very grateful that this happened, as we have a gateway into relationship with you because of it. Thank you for this provision, Lord.

I pray for this day, Father. Christi has much that she would like to get accomplished, as it is a day with no firm plans and no deadlines. I pray that you help us use our time wisely today. I pray for safety as we travel around town. I also pray for an ongoing sense of your presence, even as we do the most mundane tasks like shopping for groceries. I also pray that we will take time to rest and prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s worship celebration.
I pray for the leadership of our church, Lord. Give them wisdom and direction to know where you want our church to be and what direction it is to head. I pray specifically for Ben Carr as he is bringing a message tomorrow. I pray that you give him the words that he needs to speak and open our ears to hear what your Spirit is saying to us. May everything we do bring glory to you, Father.
I thank you that Bart’s surgery went well, and pray for a speedy recovery. I pray that you continue to comfort and strengthen Renee and the kids during this time. I pray that brothers and sisters will step in to help meet any needs that come up during his recovery. I also pray that whatever was afflicting him is done; over. I pray for his healing.

May we all experience times of rest and restoration as described by Psalm 23. Lead us to quiet waters; make us lay down in “green pastures.” And then, lead us down the right paths. Teach us your ways, Lord, that we may walk in your truth. Unite our hearts to fear your name. May we bring glory to you, Father.


Even though you walk through the valley of deepest darkness in your life, fear no evil, for God is with you. I pray that all who read this today may feel strongly the presence of his steadfast love today.

Grace and peace, friends.