The Vital Connection

Good morning. It’s Thursday, May 3, 2012. Today is “National Lumpy Rug Day.” I swear I’m not making this up. Today is also the birthday of Niccolo Machiavelli. I don’t really know this stuff. I have to look it up.

For some reason, I don’t have much introductory stuff to talk about this morning. Yesterday was a pretty average day. Christi’s day went okay, even though she got more responsibility thrown at her. My day was pretty good, definitely better than Monday and Tuesday.

We have our lifehouse group tonight, which is always interesting. Never a dull moment, it seems like.

I’m still thinking about yesterday’s reading about patience. I have to ask myself if I’m in danger of becoming spiritually satisfied, or if I have given up on the vision that I have had. Or…has my vision changed? That is something that I have to seriously consider.

Father, I pray for some insight today, some wisdom that will guide me along the path of righteousness today. Help me to live this day looking to the risen Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:18

Chambers speaks of our obedience costing other people. I have to figure out exactly what he means by that. He speaks of a danger of interceding with people in sympathy. I think I understand that. Sometimes we pray for God to get a person out of a situation, but he has them in that situation for a reason. “Whenever we step back from identification with God’s interest in others into sympathy with them, the vital connection with God has gone, we have put our sympathy, our consideration for them in the way, and this is a deliberate rebuke to God.” That was a lengthy sentence, but I think it ties this all together. We can’t let personal sympathy or prejudice get in the way of vital intercession. We say “I will not allow this thing to happen,” and we are instantly “out of vital connection with God.”
He caps this reading off with a statement that seems, at first glance, to be not quite related. “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.” All too often, discernment leads to gossip. Gossip becomes a “prayer request.” We must guard against this with all sobriety. In order to seriously intercede, we must be “completely and entirely identified with God’s interests in other lives.”

Tabletalk Magazine

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

Yesterday, Tabletalk mentioned two benefits of Christ’s resurrection, our justification and sanctification. Today, a third benefit is mentioned, coming again from the Heidelberg Catechism. The resurrection of Christ is “a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.” We can get a glimpse of that truth from the passage quoted above, in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus is called “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Paul was addressing an apparent error in the chapter, one that taught that most, if not all, of the “end times” events had already happened. (There is an eschatological system today that believes this…it’s called “Preterism.”) There were many who believed and taught that there would be no physical resurrection of the dead. Some taught that the resurrection had already occurred, and others taught that it was spiritual only. Both views were heretical. “Though our spirits dwell with Christ when we die, they will be reunited with our glorified physical bodies on the last day, and we will dwell in a new heaven and earth (Dan. 12:1-2; Rev. 21:1-4).”
Paul uses an agricultural metaphor in the verse. The “firstfruits” of the harvest are a “foretaste and sure sign of the full harvest to come.” When Paul described the resurrection of Jesus as “firstfruits,” he indicated that “our resurrection will be of the same kind as our Lord’s.” Both “are physical, bodily resurrections.”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 24; Psalm 10; 2 Samuel 15

Luke 24 continues as thought there is no break between the two chapters. “They” went to the tomb on the first day of the week, “they” being the women referenced in verse 55 of chapter 23. The ones who “saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” When they got there the stone was rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there. Two apparent angels appeared next to them and asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” I tell you, those are some of the sweetest words ever spoken. The angels called upon them to remember the things that Jesus had told them. They went back and told the disciples. The disciples who had been the ones who walked most closely with Jesus for the past few years. Their reaction was that “these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.” (v 11) I shouldn’t be too hard on them…I probably would have felt much the same. Or would I have been more like Peter, who “rose and ran to the tomb?” The very same day, he appeared to two nameless disciples (well…I’m sure they had names; we just don’t know them) on the road to Emmaus, who, in turn, went back to the eleven remaining main disciples, reporting their encounter. As they were all talking together, Jesus just appeared in their midst, saying, “Peace to you!”
Now, indulge me just a moment, here. I simply cannot help thinking that there must have been a sparkle of mischief in Jesus’s eyes when he did that. Don’t you think he might have been having just a little bit of fun, skipping along beside the two disciples on the Emmaus road (yes, I did say “skipping”), saying, “Whatcha talkin’ about?” and then just, whoosh, appearing right in the middle of the whole lot of them in Jerusalem? The probable expressions on all their faces must have been priceless. Anyway, Jesus encouraged them to touch him and see that he was real, flesh and bone. Then he asked them for some food, and ate with them. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures about him, and promised that they would be “clothed with power from on high.” (v 49) They wall went out to Bethany together, where he ascended into heaven. Needless to say, they were filled with great joy afterward.
I assure you, I don’t take the resurrection of Christ lightly. I hope no one is offended by the way I portrayed it. I just can’t help but think that Jesus wasn’t all totally somber during those events. I believe that Jesus, being human as well as divine, did, in fact, have a sense of humor.

In Psalm 10, the Psalmist bemoans the godlessness of the wicked, who believe that God either doesn’t exist, or that he simply is so high that he doesn’t see them and their despicable acts. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (v 4) He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” (v 11) The Psalmist begs God to rise up and remember the afflicted. It ends with this proclamation. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (vv 16-18)

In 2 Samuel 15, Absalom conspires to steal the hearts of the people away from David, resulting in David having to flee Jerusalem.

Father, I pray this morning for a little more understanding of intercession. I believe in praying consistently for others. It is difficult, though, to always know how to pray in certain situations. We pray for healing, we pray for deliverance, we pray for material needs to be met. All of these things are good, but do we truly understand your mind and will for those for whom we are praying? That is what true intercession is about. I pray that you would help me to be fully identified with your interests in the lives of others as I pray for them. Let me not be swayed by sympathy. Let me not pray for someone to be delivered from a situation just because I feel sorry for them. It is more important to pray for your will to be done, and that is where discernment comes into play. We must be wise when we pray, not just throwing words out there.

I thank you for the assurance of the resurrection, provided to us by the resurrection of Jesus. I believe in this, Father, no matter what skeptics may say. You have given me faith to believe, and I cherish and embrace that faith. The resurrection of Christ has given me justification, sanctification, and assurance of what is to come.

I continue to pray for the patience to wait for the vision that you have given me. However, I must work while I wait, and I pray for both inspiration and motivation to do so. As I follow you through reading Scriptures and meditating on them, as well as through prayer, I ask for guidance by your Spirit, for direction in my life. Let me know what I am to be doing during this time. If you have shown me, then open my eyes so that I may see it.

I pray for this day, that Christi will have a good and productive day at her new job. I pray for the tension to decrease as she becomes more familiar with the environment and people. I pray that expectations will not be unreasonable, and that she will be able to set limitations on demands that are placed on her. I pray for Stephanie today, that she will get homework done and turned in as her teacher visits this afternoon. I pray that my day at work will also be a smooth day with no issues.

May we maintain our vital connection with God.

Grace and peace, friends.

Reach Beyond What You Already Have!

Good morning to you! It’s Wednesday, May 2, 2012. It’s already 72 degrees. Ugh. With 78% humidity. The high is supposed to be 90. But the humidity should go down some as the day progresses. I’m not looking forward to summer.

Christi and I have talked some more about the job situation. She’s going to try to ride it out. I think she has some attitude differences from some of the ones who have quit so easily. Plus she got a compliment from the person in question yesterday. Granted, it was only one sentence in an email. But, from what I heard, that may be the equivalent of a cake and ice cream party! So we will see. We had a good talk about it this morning, and I think we are both feeling the same way about it. We’ll see if she still feels that way after today.

I keep forgetting to update about the water bill we received last Friday. We looked at the meter Saturday afternoon, and it was clearly misread. They sent someone out yesterday to do another reading. They left a note on the door saying that it was, in fact, misread. However, they didn’t right down the correct ready. I’ll display patience and give it a few days before I start calling again. I can check the bill online to see if they have adjusted it yet.

Not much else going on right now, so I’ll get on into the devotional.

Father, I pray for some “face time” with you this morning. As I seek your face this morning, I pray that you will grant me some wisdom that will help me live this day in the shadow of your grace.

My Utmost For His Highest

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

What an interesting verse for us to have on this day! I must forward this to Christi! The reading begins like this: “Patience is not indifference; patience conveys the idea of an immensely strong rock withstanding all onslaughts. The vision of God is the source of patience, because it imparts a moral inspiration.” Moses, it is said, endured because he had a vision. When we have a vision of God, we are not devoted to any “cause.” We are devoted to God alone. When (and I say “when” because it is certain to happen) we get a time of spiritual wilderness, with no apparent word from God, we must endure. “…the power to endure is there because you see God.”
The evidence that I have a vision is that I am reaching for more than I have already grasped. I should NEVER be spiritually satisfied. There is a danger of, once reaching the desired thing, sitting back and saying, “Okay, I’ve got it, now I can rest.” “Our reach must exceed our grasp.” Once I obtain what I reached for, I must keep reaching for the next thing. “If we have only what we have experienced, we have nothing; if we have the inspiration of the vision of God, we have more than we can experience.” I can never relax.

Tabletalk Magazine

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

The Heidelberg Catechism (yes, they are still talking about that), give three benefits of the resurrection of Christ in the answer to question 45. The first is that we have been enabled to “partake of the righteousness He earned for His people.” The second is that we have been raised to a new life by his power. Jesus was raised, “never to suffer death again.” Since we are united with him in this resurrection, “we are raised with Him to new life. We are ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Col. 3:3) and enjoy incorruptible and imperishable life.” There are, of course, aspects of this that will not be experienced until our physical resurrection. Nevertheless, it is ours today.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 23; Psalm 9; 2 Samuel 14

In Luke 23, Pilate tries to pawn Jesus off on Herod. Herod was actually glad to see Jesus, because he wanted to see some tricks. When Jesus didn’t do any tricks, Herod sent him back to Pilate. Neither man had found anything worthy of accusation in Jesus, but both treated him with contempt. Verse 12 says that Herod and Pilate became good friends that day. The crowd, however, would not be satisfied, as they had been riled up by the religious leaders. The rest of the chapter chronicles the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. Verse 55 explicitly states that “the women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” This refutes any claim that they went to the wrong tomb on the morning after the Sabbath.

Psalm 9 has some great verses (once again, I have to question the wisdom of singling out verses…but we all do it; and face it…verses from Psalms are much more inspiring than verses from Leviticus, right?). I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (1-2) The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. (9-10) I just sent verses 9 and 10 to Christi in an email. Very appropriate for us today!

In 2 Samuel 14, Joab sends a woman to the king to convince him to let Absalom come back home. David consents, but says he must stay in his own dwelling and not come see the king. Absalom lives there for two years, never seeing his father. It is stated in the chapter that Absalom was very handsome and had beautiful hair, which he only cut once a year. When he cut it, it weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of five pounds, if I’m calculating correctly (200 shekels, if anyone wants to figure it out). That’s a lot of hair! Finally, Absalom sends Joab to get him an audience with the king. Joab is not successful. Absalom sets Joab’s field on fire. For some reason, I find this particularly amusing. That’s one way to get someone’s attention! Absalom finally gets to see his father, bows before him, and they kiss each other.

Father, I thank you for the encouraging words of Scripture that you have placed in front of me today. I pray that I will never be spiritually satisfied and that my reach will always go beyond that which I already have. I pray that you give me a fresh vision, and that, by the power of your Spirit, it will be maintained within me. I will not be satisfied until I see you face to face! May I have patience in the midst of all the storms that come our way. May I have the faith that believes that the vision will not die; it will come to pass! Your grace is sufficient!

I thank you for the benefits of the resurrection of Christ in my life. I praise you that I have life that is incorruptible and imperishable. I may not realize all the benefits of this life, yet, but I believe it is mine in Christ. I pray that the Spirit will help me put sin to death in my life every single day.

I lift up Christi to you in light of the verses in Psalm 9. You are a stronghold for the oppressed, O Lord! I pray that you be her stronghold today; this week; all this month. Show her your power as she attempts to make this job situation work! You are stronger than any man, Lord! Your grace is stronger than any situation we may encounter. We know your name and we put our trust in you!

I pray that Stephanie will have a good day and get her homework done for her teacher today. Keep her on track for graduation.

I lift up my parents to you today. Give them strength for their life, that they may be able to do what needs to be done this day. Give them enough strength for each day. That’s all any of us needs.

Never be satisfied, spiritually. Reach beyond what you already have.

Grace and peace, friends.

Have I Seen Jesus?

Good morning. It’s Monday, April 9, 2012. The day after Easter. I have been told that this is called “Bright Week.” I had never heard that before. But it makes sense. Suddenly, things are looking up.

We had a wonderful day yesterday. We drove to Mineral Wells to go to church with my parents. It was my mother’s birthday and Easter, and we enjoyed a very nice worship service at First Baptist Church Mineral Wells. They are a pretty traditional church, so we sang several hymns. It was nice to sing some of the hymns again. “Low In the Grave He Lay,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and “Crown Him With Many Crowns.” We also sang “My Redeemer Lives,” the Hillsongs one. The choir sang “O Glorious Day,” the modernized version of “One Day.” Then a group of ladies did a fine job on “Was It A Morning Like This.” The pastor’s (Nathan Buchanan) message was very good, entitled “The Three Crosses,” and taken from Luke 23:32-43. Oh, and I almost forgot…at the beginning of the service, we were presented with this video:

S. M. Lockridge…”It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin'” Yes, and Hallelujah!!!

After church, we all went back to their house, where Rachel and Justin were waiting for us. We gave my Mom and Dad her birthday present. We got them a table with a couple of chairs for the back deck. They are high chairs with a high table. This is so my Dad, who has Inclusion Body Myositis, can sit in a comfortable chair on the deck to read, drink coffee, or whatever. He cannot get up from a regular chair (at least not easily), due to loss of leg strength. But if the chair is higher off the ground, he can. I thought my mother was going to cry. She might have a little bit. Apparently, we found the perfect gift. It was a very good feeling. We had lunch at the local Pastafina restaurant, a delightful Italian eatery. I had Shrimp Fra Diavolo, “Shrimp sauteed with garlic and herbs in a mildly spicy marinara sauce.” It was quite delicious. And I gained 1.6 pounds yesterday. Oh, well. It was for a good cause.

Father, at this, the beginning of a new work week, I pray that you would show me something that will help me live this day looking to the face of Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. Mark 16:12

“Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus.” What does this mean. For one thing, Chambers tells us that we need to make a distinction between what we perceive Jesus to be and what he has done for us. “If you only know what He has done for you, you have not a big enough God; but if you have had a vision of Jesus as He is, experiences can come and go, you will endure ‘as seeing Him Who is invisible.'” I’ve spent a large part of my life in the first half of that last sentence. I am only just beginning, I think to move into the second half. Have I literally seen Jesus? No. I don’t know anyone who has. But I believe I am beginning to “see” him with my spirit; to get a glimpse of who he is more than just what he has done for me.

Tabletalk Magazine

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18

The Heidelberg Catechism, question 35 tells us that Christ was just like us, with the exception of sin. “He possesses all that is necessary to be truly human and has experienced what it means to be a human creature who is wholly dependent on the Creator.” Jesus did no attempt to live independently of God the Father, unlike those of us who are “fallen.” Satan even tempted Jesus to give up this dependency with “fantastic rewards.” Isn’t that what our temptations are? Rewards that never seem to quite pan out to be what they were presented as? But the fact that Jesus resisted these temptations is the focus of the Hebrews passage above. This enabled Jesus to “make propitiation for the sins of the people.” He went before us in the battle against evil and temptation, and this showed us that the only way to survive is to rely totally on God. And, since he endured these temptations, he can sympathize with us when we go through temptation. This gives us an ally in this battle.

This seems to relate to the reading from Chambers. This is a good “vision” of who Jesus as, as well as what he has done for me.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 10:1–24; 1 Sam. 13–14

Father, I pray this morning that I might increase in my knowledge of who you are. May I see Jesus for who he is, more than for what he has done for me. May I experience you as God Almighty. May the desire of my heart be more toward you than your blessings or even your empowerment. I do pray for the Spirit to enable me, but I would rather just see you and know you. For me, that is more important. And I believe that if I can achieve that, then there is no limit to what this life can accomplish in your name. Father, I desire to be a man after your own heart. I don’t believe that I could ever be as great in your kingdom as Paul or David. And I do not seek to be “great.” I simply seek you.

I thank you for the day we had yesterday. The entire day was a wonderful experience. I thank you for the messages we heard yesterday at FBC. May your blessing fall on them as they try to do your will as they perceive it. May you show them what they need to do for you in Mineral Wells.

I pray for this day. May Christi and I have good work days. I pray for Stephanie’s meeting with her teacher, and her later visit with her psychiatrist. We have a good report for him, so it should go well. I thank you for Stephanie’s good days lately. Continue to work in her, Lord, that she might grow and mature, both physically and mentally, as well as spiritually.

Your grace is sufficient.

Have you seen Jesus?

Grace and peace, friends.

Jesus Is Lord

Today is Thursday. I’m pretty sure of that. April 5, 2012. It’s 54 degrees right now. High of 80 today. Right now, in Detroit, it’s 36 degrees. The high will only be 51 there, but sunny. Why do I care about Detroit? Because the Red Sox are opening their season today against the Tigers in Detroit. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, baseball season begins today. Of course, if you are a Marlins or Cardinals fan, it began last night. That reminds me…checking scores. Cards won 4-1. Kyle Lohse threw seven no-hit innings! Wow. Anyway…Red Sox begin today at noon central time. Rangers begin tomorrow afternoon, at home against the Other Sox. What a boring home opener, right? I’ve never understood why the season almost always begins outside the division. Someone I know suggested that the season should open with interleague play and rematch the World Series from last season. I don’t like that idea…but then I’m not a fan of interleague play anyway.

We got in our workout last night. I did the elliptical machine for 45 minutes, but when I stopped, the display went off almost immediately! This is frustrating, because I take a picture of the display every night with my phone, and post it on Facebook for accountability. No picture this time. The funny thing is that the elliptical is now becoming my favorite exercise. Funny what a difference almost 50 pounds makes! There won’t be a workout tonight, because it’s Lifehouse group night for our church.

Christi has only five more working days at Supermedia.

Oh, and today, I guess, is Maundy Thursday. I really don’t know what that means, other than the Thursday before Good Friday. And I’m still not convinced that Jesus was crucified on Friday, but that’s a whole different blog subject…I won’t go into that today. It really doesn’t matter.

Father, I pray that your Spirit will show me something that will inspire me throughout this day. Keep my eyes open to the Risen Christ today.

My Utmost For His Highest

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “…remain here, and watch with me.” Matthew 26:36, 38

There is something unique about the experience in Gethsemane; something which we can never know. We can understand that the agony experienced is “the agony of God and Man in one, face to face with sin.” But we can never know it. Gethsemane was the “gateway into Life for us.” Chambers believes that Satan returned for one last push at Gethsemane. “Satan’s final onslaught against our Lord as Son of Man is in Gethsemane.”
The agony experienced is “the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Savior of the world. The veil is drawn aside to reveal all it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God.” If it is true that Satan returned at Gethsemane, it is also true that he was, once again, overthrown and defeated. Jesus rose up from that place and met his destiny without hesitation. Because of this, we can all now go through into God’s presence.

Tabletalk Magazine

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20

One of the first confessions of the Christian church was, “Jesus is Lord.” Many who lived under Roman rule were martyred for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.” The Apostles’ Creed confesses Jesus as Lord. But what is our reason for calling him Lord? This is addressed in the Heidelberg Catechism question 34. We call him Lord because we belong to him…he has purchased us. Therefore, we owe him “our highest allegiance.” Since he has bought us, he has the rights of lordship over us. It is also heresy “to believe that Jesus could ever be our Savior without being our Lord. As Christians, we are bound not only to confess Him as Lord with our mouths but to prove that He is our Lord by doing His will.”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 8:26–56; 1 Sam. 1–3

In Luke 8:26-39, Jesus casts out the demon(s) named Legion. The man inhabited by them had been severely tormented. Jesus cast the demons (at their own request) into a herd of pigs, which, consequently, ran headlong off a cliff to their deaths. The people of the region asked Jesus to leave them. Some say it was because they were mad about the pigs. However, the Bible says it was because “they were seized with great fear” (v 37)
The next section, 40-56, contains two miracles. Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, came to Jesus, fell at his feet, and begged Jesus to come to his house and heal his twelve-year-old daughter. On the way, Jesus’s robe was touched by a woman who had “had a discharge of blood for twelve years.” I wonder if there is any significance to the two “twelves” in this passage? I just thought of that. Anyway…she is immediately healed, but her attempt at anonymity is foiled, because Jesus felt the power leave him. He calls her out, but then comforts her and tells her that her faith had made her well. He continues on, and heals Jairus’s daughter, who, by that time, appeared to be dead. This story is the basis for this song by Don Francisco:

1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book, just as the Kings and Chronicles. 1 Samuel is estimated to cover 115 years. The author is unknown. The book records “the transition from the last judge, Samuel, to the first king, Saul.” (Chrispin) “It traces through the lives of Samuel, Saul and David the shift from Israel’s theocracy (God as King) to the monarchy of a united kingdom. It then records the anointing, training through service and fugitive years of David,” closing out with Saul’s “sad decline and death.”

1 Samuel begins with the story of Elkanah and his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah had no children, yet, but Peninnah did, and did her best to annoy Hannah with that fact. Hannah would weep about her barrenness. Finally, one day, when they were in Shiloh for the yearly sacrifice, Hannah was weeping and praying before the Lord. She made a vow that, if the Lord would grant her a child, that she would give the child to him all the days of his life. The priest, Eli, saw her lips moving and assumed she was drunk. She explains to him, and he blesses her, telling her to go in peace, and praying that the Lord would grant her petition. Eventually, her prayer was answered, and she gave birth to Samuel, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “heard of God.” When Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple in Shiloh and handed him over to Eli, keeping the vow that she had made. Chapter 2 records the passage of time as Samuel grew. His parents would visit him each year, and his mother would bring a robe that she had made for him. Eli’s sons were wicked, abusing the system of sacrifices, but “Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man” (v 26). The Lord eventually rebukes Eli and rejects his household as priests. Chapter 3 records the famous call of God to Samuel. Samuel hears his voice spoken, but mistakenly thinks Eli has called him. This happens several times, but finally, Eli figures out what is going on, and tells Samuel to respond with “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” He does so, and the Lord speaks to Samuel about what is about to happen in the judgment on Eli’s house. Samuel is afraid to tell Eli, but Eli coaxes it out of him. Eli’s response was, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”

Father, I praise you for the experience at Gethsemane. I, along with all Christians, praise and thank you that Satan was ultimately defeated from Gethsemane to the cross, and on to the empty tomb. As the day of celebration of the resurrection approaches, I celebrate this truth. We serve a risen Savior, and he truly is in the world with us today. May your name be blessed and praised forevermore! I also praise you that he is Lord. I pray that he would be Lord over my life…that I would gladly submit to his lordship every day. This has been a struggle for me (I’m sure I am not alone in this) in days past. I confess that I have not done a great job of submitting to the lordship of Christ, over the years. But I pray for more success in this. May your grace and the power of the Holy Spirit help me do this.

May I be like Samuel in responding to your call when it comes to me. Speak, Lord, for your servant hears. Open my ears to your truth. Open my ears to your calling on my life. Open my eyes to the Risen Christ and make me your servant; your slave.

I pray for this day. May Christi and I have a good work day. I pray for Stephanie’s day at home, that she might continue to get her work done and get caught up in school.

Jesus IS Lord!

Grace and peace, friends.

Dark Night (Not “Knight”)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, April 4, 2012. For those of you who saw any news yesterday, we (along with everyone we know) are safe and sound after several tornadoes ripped through the DFW area. Sirens went off in pretty much every area of the metroplex yesterday. Here’s a clip of one of them tossing trailers around like pieces of paper.

Stephanie was pretty scared for a little while, but everything stayed pretty calm around our house. At work, we got warning sirens and small hail, with a good bit of rain in a short time, but that was about it. There was a lot of destruction in the area, though, and many people weren’t quite as fortunate. Our prayers are with them this morning.

We had a good workout last night, but Stephanie’s trainer injured his foot yesterday evening before it was time for her session, so that has been postponed until next Tuesday. She still did a great job last night, though, working out on the elliptical machine and following that with some resistance training.

Father, I pray that you show me something today that will help me live this day looking toward Christ. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, may my spirit and thoughts be drawn toward the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

My Utmost For His Highest

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. John 16:32

Jesus is speaking to his disciples in this passage, and, though it may sound as though he is rebuking them, he is not. In face, in the next verse, he says that he has said these things so that they may have peace! Their problem was the same as our problem today. Our interests are divided. Our faith is real, but it is “disturbed.” “After we have been perfectly related to God in sanctification, our faith has to be worked out in actualities. We shall be scattered, not into work, but into inner desolations and made to know what internal death to God’s blessings means.” What does that mean? Before we go through this experience, “our faith is bolstered up by feelings and by blessings.” But when God brings us into that place of “inner desolations,” or, as John of the Cross called it, “the dark night of the soul,” we can praise God regardless of our state of blessing. Our faith is no longer dependent on our circumstances. Let us not despair, for this all comes by the sovereign hand of God. “Are we prepared to let God do as He likes with us–prepared to be separated from conscious blessings?” That’s a good question isn’t it? At first, the inclination is to say, “YES!! Wait. What? No blessings? Hmm….” Initially, this proves that we are not so much interested in God as we are his blessings. “You only love me for my money.” What these disciples to whom Jesus was speaking were about to experience would surpass any kind of “dark night” that we will ever experience. And they came out with a faith that could move mountains.

Tabletalk Magazine

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Today’s reading brings up an interesting point. How can Jesus be God’s “only Son” if we are also God’s children? The answer is not as complicated as it might seem. This is also dealt with in question 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism. The difference is, fundamentally, a difference in nature. “Our Savior is in Himself the Son of God; we are the Father’s children only by adoption.” While it is true that all people are “God’s children” because he is their creator, “there is more to being God’s children than creatureliness.”

“Inherent sonship entails sharing in the Father’s moral perfection, partaking of His majestic holiness, doing only what the Father does, and possessing the fullness of His deity.” It’s pretty obvious that I don’t fit those qualifications! None of us does. Jesus Christ is the only one who can meet those requirements. We, however, have the privilege of calling God “Father” by being united by faith to Jesus. We can be called God’s children because, in Christ, God has adopted us and made us his own.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 8:1–25; Ruth 1–4

Luke introduces some women who were followers of Jesus. Mary Magdalene is one of them, and some suppose that she is the woman spoken of in Luke 7. However, there is really no evidence of that. This is followed by the parable of the sower. After the disciples ask for an explanation, Jesus explains the parable. It is important to note that, out of all of the soils, only the last one represents a person who is truly saved. The others are, mistakenly, sometimes thought of as being saved but “falling away.” One other thing to note. Soil can do nothing to improve its own ability to grow seed. I cannot make myself “good soil.” That is entirely in the hands of the sovereign God. At the end of today’s reading, Jesus calms the storm on the lake.

The book of Ruth is the third of the historical books in the Old Testament. Authorship is unknown, but could be Samuel. Jewish tradition supports this possibility. The time of writing is also uncertain. The book records a love story during the time of the judges. “It shows the light of God’s integrity shining through faithful individuals, against a very dark background.” (Chrispin) Ruth is included in Matthew’s genealogy. Both David and Jesus have ancestors found in this book, validating its historicity. “The book of Ruth challenges us to be selflessly faithful to others, and that we need to cultivate godly integrity rather than exercise selfish opportunism.” (Chrispin)

Within the first five verses of chapter 1, Naomi (Ruth’s mother in law) loses her husband and both of her sons, and is, quite literally, left alone. She decided to return to Judah, her homeland, and her daughters-in-law were going to go with her. She told them to stay behind in Moab, their home. One stayed, but Ruth refused to leave the side of her mother-in-law. As she insists on going, Ruth says the famous words in verses 16-17. But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Somehow, this has become popular in weddings, even though, contextually, that doesn’t fit at all! In chapter 2, Ruth goes out to glean in the fields. This was a practice of following along behind the reapers, picking up any grain that they might have left behind. It was perfectly legal. In fact, the law of God commanded that they not pick up anything that they dropped, just for this purpose. Anyway, Ruth “just happens” to wind up in the field of one Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s late husband. He sees her gleaning and says, “Whoa! Who is SHE?” (That was a paraphrase.) Apparently, Ruth was quite fetching to gaze upon. When he finds out, he tells her to not go to anyone else’s field for gleaning. He fed her lunch, and then told his men to drop a little extra for her.
In chapter 3, Naomi gives Ruth a little “push,” telling her to observe a custom in their land that would romantically attach Ruth to Boaz. It had to do with uncovering his feet and laying down at them, while he was sleeping. I have no idea what this means. I think she asked him to marry her. However, there was a “kinsman-redeemer” that had first dibs on her. (These customs are so foreign to our culture.) In chapter 4, Boaz approaches the nearer kinsman-redeemer with the situation. This man, who remains unnamed, cannot take on this responsibility, for fear of endangering his own inheritance, so he takes off his shoe and hands it to Boaz. Another one of those strange customs. So Ruth and Boaz were married. They had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of David, the king.

I’ve always loved the story of Ruth. It’s romantic and has a happy ending. And it fits into the story of the history of Israel and the lineage of Jesus.

Father, I praise your name that we are safe from the storms of yesterday. I lift up prayers for all the people who suffered loss of property during this storm. I pray that many will come to their aid to help them restore their lives to a semblance of what they were before the storm. Let them not be left alone during this time. May the circumstances be an opportunity for your light to shine out of darkness.

I thank you for times of darkness that come to our lives; times where blessings seem few and far between. For it is through these times that our faith is solidified. It is through these times that we come to know you as our sovereign Lord. It is through these times that our interests are chiseled down to where it is YOU that we desire, and not just your blessings! May we be forgiven for desiring your blessings more than we desire you, Lord! But that is how we are. We are petty humans, with selfish desires. We were made that way, and it is very difficult, nay, impossible for us to change this way of being. Only you can change us, Lord, and it is most uncomfortable when you go about doing it. But I will not shy away from the discomfort. We have battled through some dark times, Lord, and come out with faith that is (dare I say it?) unshakable! I’m not putting my faith out there for testing, necessarily, but I believe that you have brought us to a place where our faith is strong, and that it depends not upon your blessing for its strength. My faith is in you, Father, not in your blessings. I will believe in you whether I can see blessing or not. I will never again (I hope) stand and say that you have abandoned me when things don’t go the way I think they should. Your grace is sufficient. YOU are sufficient, even when I cannot SEE your grace!

I thank you for adopting us as children. You have made us brothers and sisters in Christ, part of a family that spans the world and all eras of time. It is truly a blessing to be part of this family, Lord, and to look back as I read historical accounts of Scripture, and see that, through your sovereign hand, I am related to people like Abraham and Ruth. What a joy it will be, when we get to heaven, to be united with all of the saints that have gone before us, and all that will come after us.

I pray for this day, Lord. May it be a good day at work for Christi and for me. I pray that Stephanie will get some more of her work done and have a good meeting with her teacher today. Guide me in my prayer time as I travel to work this morning.

Let us find hope in God and trust him when the “dark night” comes upon us; when we cannot see those blessings, let us keep faith in God and God alone.

Grace and peace, friends.

What Might Have Been

It is Tuesday morning, April 3, 2012. Good morning. See how I mixed that up? It’s 68 degrees right now. High should be 79, slightly cooler, with a 60% chance of rain today. Hopefully, some rain will relieve the horrible humidity we’ve been having lately.

The Cardinals and the Marlins (who now have the ugliest logo in MLB…it looks like an upside-down Whataburger sign from the seventies) will play the first game of the season tomorrow. I know…Oakland and Seattle already played in Japan, but I’m not counting that. And I just read that the Red Sox closer needs thumb surgery. Can’t we even get the season started this year before this kind of stuff starts happening???

I guess I’d better focus on something else, right?

Father, I pray for some word today that would inspire me to live today looking to Christ. Every day has potential to expose carnality in my spirit. May that be destroyed in me. Not suppressed, but destroyed.

My Utmost For His Highest

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:42

When Jesus had entered the gates of Jerusalem, the people had been stirred to cry out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But “a strange god was there, the pride of Pharisaism; it was religious and upright, but a ‘whited sepulchre.'”

Chambers asks what blinds us on “this day?” Do I have a “strange god” that rules over me? A disposition of pride of some sort? Am I blind to “the things that make for peace?” “It is an appalling thing that we can be in the place where the Spirit of God should be getting at us unhinderedly, and yet increase our condemnation in God’s sight.” (Side note…while I understand his sentiment, there “is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!) But the point is made…”God holds us responsible for what we do not see.” Why are they now “hidden from your eyes?” Because we would not yield. These are the things, when we look back on our lives, that “might have been.” I have those in my life, too. And I do, occasionally, look back on those “might have beens” with great sadness. However, when that happens, I don’t languish there. What’s the point? “God never opens doors that have been closed.” You can’t go back. You can only go forward, through new doors that God will open, even though he occasionally reminds us that there are doors that were closed due to our own stubbornness. “Never be afraid when God brings back the past. Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God with its rebuke and chastisement and sorrow.” Only God can turn what “might have been” into a glorious future for us!

Tabletalk Magazine

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Yesterday’s reading described how we share in the anointing of Christ as “Prophet, Priest, and King.” Today’s speaks of how we will “reign with Jesus over creation.” The passage quoted above is used in the texts that support question and answer 32 in the Heidelberg Catechism. Part of the answer to the question, “But why art thou called a Christian?” is “afterwards I reign with him eternally, over all creatures.” Paul states in 2 Timothy that if we persevere, we will reign with Christ. I’ll be totally honest and say that I’m not really sure what this is going to look like. However, I think it is safe to say that, in the meantime, we are to “reign over our sinful passions, bringing our minds, wills, and affections into submission to Jesus by the power of the Spirit through His Word.”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 7:31–50; Judg. 19–21

Jesus speaks, in Luke 7, of how they just can’t win. John the Baptist arrived on the scene, not eating much and drinking no wine, and it was said of him, “He has a demon.” So Jesus shows up and eats and drinks, and is called a glutton and drunkard. “Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” (v 35) The next incident that is described is stunning in its imagery. Jesus is at the house of Simon, which is somewhere in Galilee. So this is a different event than the one that happened in Bethany, at the house of Lazarus. In this event, a woman who was an alleged prostitute bursts into the dinner party, breaks open a bottle of very ointment and pours it on the feet of Jesus! Her tears fall on his feet and she washes them with her hair as she anoints them. What an amazing picture this is. Simon thinks less of Jesus for even allowing this woman to touch him, but Jesus then puts him in his place with his question about who will love more, the one who is forgiven less or the one who is forgiven more.

Judges 19-21 contain a dark chapter in the history of Israel. It involves a Levite and his concubine, who are travelling. The circumstance that happens in Gibeah is very similar to what happened with Lot when the angel of the Lord visited him in Sodom and Gomorrah. The end result of the whole thing is that Gibeah, a town of Benjamin, winds up being destroyed by the rest of the tribes of Israel, and no one will give their daughters for wives to anyone in the tribe of Benjamin. Further measures must be taken in chapter 21 to provide for this. The final verse of Judges says it all: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (21:25)

Father, there are times in my life when I look back at what might have been, had I been immediately obedient to the call of your Spirit. But I do not dwell on those times, because they are long past, and those doors are long closed. I see them, however, as admonishment and encouragement for the future. i pray that, as I am drawn closer to you in this life, if I see an opportunity that you have provided, I will be obedient to what I sense the Spirit telling me, and take advantage of said opportunity. There are things that I am feeling right now, at this time in my life, and, even though I am very unsure of what the future holds, I sense that there is work for me to do. I pray for faithfulness to this work. Help me arrange my time properly, that I might avail myself of any opportunity that you provide. There may be things that are now hidden from my eyes, but I believe with all my heart that there will be new things that my eyes will see!

When I picture the woman anointing the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her tears and hair, I feel much the same way as she did. I know the things for which I have been forgiven, and they are many. There are sins in my life which I believe to be horrible, and you have forgiven them all. Not only that, but anything that I might do from this day forward has also been forgiven. For this I praise you, and if I could, I would wipe your feet with my tears and hair. (Anyone who has seen a recent picture of me will surely get a laugh out of THAT!) Nevertheless, the sentiment holds…I love you and praise your name, O Lord, and am very grateful for the forgiveness that has been provided by our Savior.

I pray for this day. May Christi have a good day at her job, and may her stress level wind down as her days draw near at the current job. I pray for Stephanie as she gets ready for another meeting with her teacher today. I pray that she will get more homework done and get those grades caught up. We have only a couple of months left in this school year. I pray for a good and productive day at my job. Help me use my time wisely today.

I pray for our church right now, as we are in the midst of a search for a worship leader. My you bring the perfect person into our fellowship to lead us weekly into your presence, worshiping you with all of our being! I pray for this coming weekend’s Easter services. The gospel will be preached, and I pray that ears will be open to hear it. May we joyfully celebrate the resurrection of Christ this Sunday.

The memory of what might have been can be transformed into what will be, if we will keep our eyes open to the Risen Christ. We cannot change what has past, but we can be open to the future.

Grace and peace, friends!

The Heart of God

Good morning. It’s Friday, March 30, 2012. Let me emphasize that Friday part! Yes.

And now for the big news. Ladies and gentlemen, much to my surprise, I am the “Biggest Loser” at my work place! Yes, I was surprised with an envelope with my name on it that said “1st place,” yesterday morning. Inside said envelope was the cash prize of $400! Yes, indeed. I seriously almost started crying right in front of all those people. I got a huge round of applause from everyone there, including the guy who came in third. It was truly an awesome moment. What am I going to do with the money? Well, it could be said that I’ve already spend about half of it on new clothes last weekend. And tomorrow (Saturday), we’re going to Denton to treat Rachel and Justin to dinner for Rachel’s birthday. And we are NOT going to worry about what we eat for this meal. We are going to celebrate with one “bad” meal, but only one. And it probably won’t be all that bad, because we’ll be back at Frilly’s Cajun seafood restaurant. We won’t be eating burgers and fries or pizza. And, as promised, this should be the last time I mention the “Biggest Loser” contest. I will, however, occasionally update my progress on my weight loss journey, which, as of this morning, is at 47 pounds since January 15.

Father, I pray for wisdom for today. I pray that your words will teach me something new today or remind me of something old. Equip me to live this day looking to Jesus.

My Utmost For His Highest

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede… Isaiah 59:16

Why do many people stop praying and become hard towards God? According to Chambers, it is because “we have only a sentimental interest in prayer.” What does this mean? I believe it means that, in general, we only pray for ourselves and our immediate concerns. Sure, I’m largely guilty of this. I pray for me and my day. I pray for my wife and her day. I pray for my children and parents. Occasionally, when I know of a need, I pray for others. But am I truly interceding? Chambers also says, “Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other.” I read this back in 2004 and wrote in the margins that I didn’t agree with that statement. But I think I’ve grown some since then (I hope so, anyway). He goes on to define intercession as getting “the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray.” Do we worship God or do we argue with him? “We hurl our own petitions at God’s throne and dictate to Him as to what we wish Him to do. We do not worship God, or do we seek to form the mind of Christ.” Yeah. I think I get it now. Our prayers…”God, heal so and so. Save my relative. Do this, do that. InJesusnameamen.” What if we were able to lay hold of his mind about the person for whom we are praying? What does that mean? What if we were so close to the Lord from worshiping him that we were able to know what his desire was for a certain person? This is intercession…feeling God’s heart toward a person. And this takes worship.

Tabletalk Magazine

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4

One of the most important titles for Jesus is Christ. Many people think that’s part of his name. But it’s not…it’s a title, which means “anointed one.” The Heidelberg Catechism asks, in question 31, why Jesus is called “Christ.” In the Old Testament, there were three major offices of people who were anointed with oil. The priests who offered sacrifices were anointed with oil (see Exodus 30:30); the kings who led God’s people in battle and ruled them were also anointed with oil (see 1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13); the prophets who were chosen to deliver God’s word to the people were also anointed with oil (see 1 Kings 19:16).

We see Jesus described as having these three “offices” in the New Testament. As the “anointed one,” he is Prophet, Priest, and King. “As the incarnate Word of God, Jesus is far better than any prophet who came before Him because He is the fullest revelation of God to humanity (John 1:1-18). Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin, making His priestly work effectual for salvation (Heb. 10:1-18). He is also the Lord of glory–the diving King of creation and ultimate expression of what kingly rule should be (1 Cor. 2:8).”

The passage quoted above describes the threefold office of Jesus. He is the ultimate Prophet of God. He is the final Priest of God, having sat down at God’s right hand after making the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. And he is the King, having inherited his name and creation from his Father. This Christ is worthy of our highest allegiance. “As our Prophet, He guides us in the paths of righteousness through His Word. As our Priest, He guarantees the salvation of those who trust Him through His atonement and intercession. As our King, He leads us to final victory over sin, Satan, and death.” He is truly worthy of our worship!

The Bible Panorama

Luke 5:17–39; Judg. 9–10

In the first section of the Luke passage, we are given the story of the paralyzed man whose friends let him down through a roof, so that Jesus could heal him. Jesus, seeing their faith, said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” When the religious leaders grumbled about this, Jesus asked them which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk?” So he said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins…I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Immediately, the man did exactly that. The people were amazed and said, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” It should be pointed out that the religious leaders said, in their grumblings, that only God can forgive sin. Jesus, by his next actions, proved that he is, in fact, God.

Judges 9 recounts the story of Abimelech, his conspiracy to rule Israel, and his ensuing downfall. He was brought down by a woman who threw a millstone out of a tower onto his head. Judges 10 tells us that Tola and Jair were the next two judges of Israel. After them, “the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” so God sold them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites. The Philistines will be heard from much more in Israel’s history.

Father, as I pray to you today, I seek the wisdom that comes from knowing your heart. I seek to know your heart so that I might pray properly. My desire is to worship you in such a way that I can know your heart toward the people for whom I am praying. I understand that this is not a task to be taken lightly, nor is it a simple task. My prayers are so shallow, at times. I pray a lot of the same things, but I don’t consider them to be “vain repetitions,” because I am praying for things that have not yet happened. I continue to pray for them for that reason. Give me the heart of an intercessor for others. I am too calloused about the needs of others and too much wrapped up in my own little world. Draw me out, Lord. Draw me out of my comfort zone. Let me not be guilty of hurling requests at you like a petulant child. I need to know your heart. Let me start by knowing your heart for my family. What is your desire for my wife and children? I desire to pray along those lines, not just toss out “canned” prayer requests.

May I truly worship Jesus as my Prophet, Priest, and King! I recognize the significance of those offices, Lord, and bow down to Jesus in worship. Let my worship be from my heart, understanding as much as possible those roles in my life and in my world. I pray that more people in the world would recognize that Jesus is, indeed, the anointed one, and that he alone is worthy of our worship and allegiance.

I pray for this day, Lord, and ask that today would be a good day for us. I pray that Christi’s stress level would continue to decrease as her time with Supermedia draws to a close. We are so thankful that you have gotten her away from there! I thank you for our success in losing weight over the last few months, and pray that it will continue throughout the rest of this year. It is our desire to be healthier so that we can be more active, and enjoy life more fully. And may we enjoy the abundant life that you have provided us.

I pray that my time travelling to work this morning will be well spent, as I continue to voice my prayers for family and friends on the way.

May we seek to know the heart of God as we pray for others in our lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Sword For the Lord and For Gideon!

Good morning. It’s Thursday, March 29, 2012. Today is Rachel’s birthday! Happy birthday, Rachel!!! Your mother and I love you very much. Hopefully, you know that.

This morning, I will find out who the winners are in the “Biggest Loser” contest at work. Hopefully, I will be in the top three. I finished out losing 46 pounds in 10 weeks (not too shabby, eh?), with a 12.64% weight loss from my original weight. Tomorrow morning, when I announce whether I was a winner, will be the last time I ever mention this contest in this blog.

Last night, we didn’t feel like working out. But we did anyway. Honestly, it made me feel better. Tonight is Lifehouse meeting for church, so we will miss tonight. I didn’t want to miss two nights in a row. So I forced encouraged us to go last night.

I can finally write about the good news that Christi has received during the past couple of weeks. She has a new job! Beginning on April 16, she will be working for Sabre Holdings, a global technology company. She knows a few people that work there that used to work with her. In face, she just told me that a few people are calling it “Supermedia West” because of the number of ex-Supermedia people there. She is taking a little bit of a salary cut to move, but it will be worth it.

Father, I pray for some inspiration today, both to help me live this day looking toward you and to help me get through this day. Yesterday was tough, and today has potential to be equally stressful. When the stressful moments hit today, remind me by your Spirit what you taught me this morning.

My Utmost For His Highest

You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Luke 12:40

In a reading entitled “Our Lord’s Surprise Visits,” Chambers says, “The great need for the Christian worker is to be ready to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn.” Can you even imagine? What would my life be like if that was my main focus? There are certainly thoughts that would never surface if that were the case in my life! Some of the places I have found myself in in the past…if I had been ready to face Jesus, I would never have been in those places. Chambers states that it’s not easy. That, my friends, is the understatement of the century. The great need is not my beliefs or my creeds or even whether I am any use to Christ. The need is to be ready to face him.

“Jesus rarely comes when we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections.” I can attest to that, as well. If we are ready for his “surprise visits,” we will stay true to the Lord. “It is not service that matters, but intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This will give our life the attitude of child-wonder which He wants it to have.” YES! We must stop being “religious” and start being “spiritually real!” I’m reminded of this song by The Choir:

That’s the kind of attitude we are supposed to have…

“If you are ‘looking unto Jesus,’ avoiding the call of the religious age you live in, and setting your heart on what He wants, on thinking on His line–you will be called unpractical and dreamy; but when He appears in the burden and the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. Trust no one, not even the finest saints who ever walked this earth, ignore him, if he hinders your sight of Jesus Christ.”

Tabletalk Magazine

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19-20

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the gospel “because it tells us about the work of God in salvation.” Only the Creator can save us from sin, according to the biblical gospel. We can’t make ourselves right by doing good works, because even the best of those are tainted by sin. There is no other being that can save us, and all other “gods” are “demons in disguise,” or simply just total fabrications of imagination.

“God is the perfect Creator and the perfect Savior. To look for salvation anywhere else but Him is to confess by one’s deeds that Jesus, in whom the fullness of deity dwells (Col. 1:19-20), is not a perfect Savior and, therefore, that God is not a perfect Savior.” This is why we insist that salvation is accomplished by the work of God in Christ alone. If we look outside of this, or attempt to add anything else to it (baptism or sacraments), “we detract from the glory that belongs to the Lord alone.”

These truths are dealt with in the Heidelberg Catechism in question 30, which states that if anyone looks in any of these other places or people, they deny that Jesus is the only Savior. Since I am mostly Baptist, there is no danger that I will attempt to turn to Mary or any of the saints for my salvation. However, there is still plenty of risk of falling into the trap of thinking that obedience will somehow gain me favor with God to keep me saved. I cannot earn God’s love! This a major truth and cannot be emphasized enough. There is nothing I can do to make God love me any more than he already does, nor is there anything I can do to make him love me less! We have to be careful that this truth does not breed arrogance, however. I attempt to remain humble in this belief, as I am so very aware that I do not deserve this great love which the Father has lavished upon me. It is purely his gift, by his good pleasure! He loves me because he chose to love me, not because of anything that I have done or will do.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 5:1–16; Judg. 7–8

This section of Luke tells the account of the time when Jesus told Simon (he wasn’t being called Peter yet) to put his boat to the deep and let down his nets “for a catch.” Simon objected that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but did so anyway. They caught so many fish that their nets were breaking and they had to call for help to bring them all in. Simon’s reaction was to fall on his knees at the feet of Jesus and cry out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Don Francisco has a good song that tells this story.

The next brief portion of Luke 5 describes the healing of a man with leprosy. After this, Jesus’s fame began to spread and great crowds began to gather “to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Even during these times, he would find solitary places to pray.

In Judges 7, Gideon starts with an army of several thousand men. The Lord said, “That’s too many. Tell everyone who is afraid to go home.” Miraculously, there were still 10,000 left after 22,000 went home. So Gideon had 10,000 insane men. God said, “That’s too many. Send them down to the water to get a drink.” So the Lord divided them by how they got a drink. Okay, so here’s the division: The ones who scooped water with their hands and lapped it out of their hands were chosen. The ones who knelt down to drink were rejected. I’ve heard sermons on how one way made the men better soldiers because they were more prepared and blah, blah, blah, blah… No. There really is no reason given for this distinction, and as is seen eventually, it really didn’t matter what kind of soldiers these men were, because God would win the battle. The Lord said, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you…” If I were Gideon, I would have said, “Wait. What???” Then I would have hightailed it back to the tent for another piece of fleece. “Okay, God…this time could you make HALF of the fleece wet and the other half dry?” But Gideon took his 300 men, armed with jars and trumpets (right), down to the Midianite camp. They smashed the jars, blew the trumpets, and shouted “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” The Midianites were struck with such terror that they ran around killing each other, then fled. The other tribes of Israel helped capture and round them all up, and Midian was defeated.

Father, I thank you for the words that you have shown me today. I pray for this readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn of this day. I pray for the Holy Spirit to enable me to live this day “looking unto Jesus.” May I live in such a way that, if he appeared to me, I would not be embarrassed or ashamed. But may I also have the recognition that Simon Peter had, that, even in my current state, I am still, in comparison to what I will one day be, “a sinful man.” Yes, I am saved. Saved by your grace, saved by your work in Christ alone. But I still sin, daily. Your grace alone keeps me in your arms. I will not, as Peter did, however, cry out for you to leave me. My cry is to never leave me or forsake me. Stay with me, my Lord! Keep me in your arms of love and grace. Give me the child-like “wide-eyed wonder” that worships you forever.

I pray for this day, Lord. First, I lift up a prayer for our friend Jennifer (this is a different Jennifer, but you know that) who experienced some weirdness yesterday evening. The last report we heard, everything was okay, after suffering a headache, facial numbness, and lack of vision in one eye. But cat scans showed nothing irregular and she was feeling okay, so we give you praise. I pray, though, that everything is okay. We should, hopefully, see them tonight, at lifehouse meeting.

I pray for Christi’s day today. I pray that her stress levels would melt away, as she counts down the days to the new job. We give you praise for this new opportunity, Lord! I pray that my day at work will be better today. I had such stress yesterday that my stomach was hurting. Help me work through this day with your face as my focus, and, even if things don’t go great, let me not stress so much about it. You are in control.

Your grace is sufficient!

We can have the faith of Gideon, who routed an entire army with 300 men, because we love and know the same God, who really did the routing. May we worship him with “wide-eyed wonder!”

Grace and peace, friends.

Lord, Plant My Feet On Higher Ground

It’s Tuesday, March 27, 2012. It’s a cool 59 degrees, this morning, but the high will be in the mid eighties. It looks like March will give a final gasp of storminess, Friday, with potential thunderstorms in the forecast. If the forecast holds true, April will start out rather mild. I can’t see the Easter forecast yet…it doesn’t go that far.

My mother’s birthday is on Easter this year. So we will be visiting with her that day. If they are able, we will attend church with them. If they are not, we won’t…we’ll just visit with them and have lunch. What??? Not go to church on EASTER??? You know…I really don’t have that much of a problem with that. For the true Christian, Easter is just another Sunday. *Fights off excommunication threats…* Seriously…we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every Sunday! In fact, that’s why we attend church on Sunday (well, most of us do…there are a few branches that still believe Saturday is the day that we should worship).

There is one more day in this “Biggest Loser” challenge. If I ever talk about doing something like this again, someone please remind me how weary I am of this competition. I will be so glad after that final weigh-in tomorrow. At this point, I have to say that, no matter what the result of the competition, everyone who ended up losing weight is a winner. I’ve been in third place for several weeks. If I at least stay in third, I win some cash. If I can advance to second or first, I win more cash. I toyed with the idea of not eating at all today. But frankly, it’s just not worth putting myself through that. I’ll be very strict today, though. If I can drop one more pound by tomorrow morning, I will have lost 46 pounds in 10 weeks…almost five pounds a week! And a total of 12.64% loss! I’m sorry if some are getting tired of hearing about this…it won’t be nearly as prevalent after Thursday (the day the winner is announced).

Enough of that stuff…

Father, I pray that you will teach me something today. Give me something to “chew on” as I travel to work today. Keep me mindful throughout this day of what you have shown me this morning.

My Utmost For His Highest

“Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Revelation 4:1

If I think I am living up to the highest standards I can, God will challenge me to go higher. “When you get higher up, you face other temptations and characteristics.” Oddly, both Satan and God will used the “strategy of elevation” in our lives. When the devil gets us in an elevated place, our whole sense of propriety gets screwed up. We get high and lift up ourselves! And it’s like being balanced on a tightrope…we don’t dare move for fear of spoiling it. “But when God elevates you by His grace into the heavenly places, instead of finding a pinnacle to cling to, you find a great tableland where it’s easy to move.” What a great word picture that is! There is safety in God’s “high places!”

Chambers challenges us to compare this week in our “spiritual history” to the same week last year. So I looked back at this day’s devotional blog last year. Turns out it was Sunday. I’m not sure where we went to church that day…probably City View Church. We had not yet discovered The Exchange. Although I can’t see a lot of difference between that writing and today’s, I know that God has definitely called me to a higher place. In light of this, Chambers also encourages, “Never let God give you one point of truth which you do not instantly live up to.” That’s why I pray for something to chew on as I drive to work…something to ponder during the day. If God shows me something here, I don’t want to forget about it by lunchtime. It needs to become part of my life. This is the great challenge with morning devotions, you know. Making something real out of them…it’s terribly easy for it to just be a cursory few minutes of casual Bible reading. As soon as God reveals something me, I need to start living it!

Tabletalk Magazine

“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.” Matthew 1:20-21

Tabletalk continues looking at the Heidelberg Catechism, which, in turn, is examining the doctrines in the Apostles’ Creed. Question 29 focuses “on Christ’s role as Savior, looking to the name Jesus and its significance.” The passage quoted above is one that shows Jesus’s role as Savior being tied in with his name. The name Jesus is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yehoshua, or “Joshua,” which means “Yahweh is salvation.” “In that child, the name ‘Yahweh is salvation’ reached its fulfillment because it was given to the incarnation of Yahweh Himself.”

It was said that Jesus would save his people from their sins. There are two aspects of this truth. The first is that he would, indeed, save us from the penalty of sin through justification by bearing the wrath of God on the cross. The second is that he would save us from the power of sin through sanctification. “Having been exalted to the Father’s right hand, Christ pours out His Holy Spirit on His brethren that they might receive new hearts, empowering them to stare down sin and live in holiness.” I like that phrase, “stare down sin.” So, we see that the role of Jesus was not simply to save us from the penalty of sin, but also to enable us to live a life with power to resist sin.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 4:1–30; Judg. 1–3

In the Luke passage today, it begins with the temptations of Jesus. This came at a time when he would be physically weak (as well as emotionally) because he had just fasted for forty days. He was hungry. And the devil tempted him first at that point of weakness. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” We know that Jesus could have done that…he fed 5000+ people with a few loaves of the stuff. But Jesus, even in his weakened state, did not succumb. His defense has been touted for centuries as evidence of the importance of Scripture memory. Jesus quoted Scripture at the devil. In all three of the temptations, Jesus was ready with a verse of Old Testament Scripture. Of course, the devil knew some of that, too, because, in the final temptation, Satan quoted from the Psalms. After the temptations, Jesus went back to Galilee, “in the power of the Spirit,” and it was then that he began teaching in their synagogues. After that, he went to Nazareth, where the people got all indignant with him because he was, after all, just a carpenter’s son.

Today I start reading Judges, the second of the historical books of the Old Testament. There are differing opinions as to when it was written, possibly between 1043 and 1004 BC. The author is also not clear, but could be Samuel. The MacArthur Study Bible says that the Jewish Talmud names Samuel as the author. Some of the key things in Judges are Israel’s failure to completely conquer Canaan, the appointment of thirteen judges to rule Israel after the death of Joshua, Israel’s roller-coaster ride between faithfulness and decline, highlighted by the constant repetition of the phrase, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…” Chrispin states, “The reminder is that humanity is unable to rule itself righteously without divine involvement.”

Judges 1 chronicles more of the battle to conquer Canaan, including the capture of Jerusalem. However, it ends with the tragic listing of tribes that did not successfully drive out the inhabitants, instead subjecting them to forced labor. At the beginning of chapter 2, the angel of the Lord calls them out on their disobedience. They are told that, as a result, “I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” Almost immediately after the death of Joshua, the slide begins. 2:11 says, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals.” The remainder of chapter 2 seems to be a summary of what is to come. Chapter 3 lists the nations that will be a hindrance to Israel, and then begins the stream of judges. First was Othniel, then Ehud. After Ehud was Shamgar, who only got one verse.

Father, I do pray for you to take me even higher. But not so that I can look down and proclaim, “Look at me, how high I am!” Why then? Because I desire to be closer to you. I also desire to walk around on this “tableland” that Chambers speaks of. I long for safety in your arms. Do I feel safe now? Yes, to some degree I do. While there are always little things that threaten my peace, I rarely feel threatened, right now. Nevertheless, there are still things that trouble me. For some reason, my spirit was troubled yesterday evening. I don’t know why. I just know I was in a bad mood. I pray that your Spirit would take over when I get like that…give me your peace. Let not my heart be troubled. You, the sovereign God of the universe, have deemed it acceptable to fellowship with me, and others like me. I, who am nothing, am able to converse with you, who are everything! This truth is more than I can fathom. I feel safe, yes. I feel joy. Let my circumstances not dictate my feelings of safety and joy, though. Peace is from you, not from this world. Nothing in this house can bring me peace. You are the only source of true peace in my life. So let me climb higher, being prepared to face a totally new set of temptations and challenges that come with this. I am not satisfied to stay here. Draw me closer.

I thank you, Jesus, for your role of Savior, both in justification and sanctification. I believe that we, too often, focus only on the justification and not enough on the sanctification. You have given us the power to resist sin. I have experienced this ability…this power. It is amazing. The very thought that, through the power of your Spirit, I am able to resist sin which plagued me at other points in my life…this is, again, something that I am barely able to comprehend. But I praise you for this!

Father, I pray for memory…give me Scriptural ammunition to use against temptation. I thank you for the example of Christ, who withstood all of the possible temptations that Satan could throw at him.

I pray for Jennifer this morning, Lord, who finds herself in a less than satisfactory home situation. I pray that you strengthen her to deal with this in a positive way.

Your grace is sufficient.

Let us find that “tableland,” not a treacherous peak, where we are safe with God and able to walk around in his presence.

Grace and peace, friends.

As For Me and My House…

Good morning. It’s Monday morning again. March 26, 2012. Hard to believe it’s already almost April! Hard to believe OPENING DAY IS JUST OVER A WEEK AWAY!!!

Ahem. Sorry. But yes, Opening Day is either next Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, depending on who you follow. There is one game on the 4th, Cardinals v Marlins. The Red Sox open against the Tigers on the 5th (I’ve already played that game on MLB 2K12, the Sox win 17-2), and the Rangers open against the White Sox on the 6th. The highly hyped debut of Yu Darvish will be on Sunday, the 8th, I believe.

We had a pretty good weekend. The Lasik surgery for Rachel went well, and her followup visit Sunday morning was good. She is reading at 20/20 and has already posted a photo of herself on Facebook, sans glasses. I hope she enjoys hers as much (probably more) than I have. It’s pretty amazing.

Father, I pray for inspiration for my week. Show me something of yourself today that will help me live my life in the light of your grace today. Draw me closer to you.

My Utmost For His Highest

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

I’ll admit it…this verse has always worried me. Every time I read it, I wonder, “Am I pure enough? Is my heart pure?” Chambers reminds us that it is not “innocence,” but something more. Of course, my “heart” is long past being innocent. Somewhere along the time when I told the first little “white lie” to my mother. Don’t pay any attention to that, Mother… I never lied to you. (Whoa! That lightning was really close!)

“Purity is the outcome of sustained spiritual sympathy with God.” I like that statement. Now, most of us, when we hear “sympathy,” think of sadness. We buy “sympathy” cards when someone loses a loved one. However, the word really means something like this: Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. So when I stand with God, closely understanding or identifying with his feelings, I am being sympathetic with God. Thanks to the sacrificial work of Christ, our heart is pure. But what gets “sullied” is what Chambers calls the “bloom on the outside.” God does not protect us from this, because it is in this way that we realize the importance of “maintaining the vision by personal purity.” Our vision depends on our character.

“God makes us pure by His sovereign grace, but we have something to look after, this bodily life by which we come in contact with other people and with other points of view, it is these that are apt to sully.” We must work to keep the inner part right with God, but it is also a struggle to bring the “outer courts” into harmony with this purity. And, truthfully, as soon as we allow the flesh to win out, the inner, spiritual understanding gets fuzzy. “If we are going to retain personal contact with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean there are some things we must scorn to do or to think, some legitimate things we must scorn to touch.” Notice that he says “some legitimate things!” There may be some things that are perfectly alright for some that will not be perfectly alright for me. I am my own keeper when it comes to the purity of my own heart. I cannot depend on the work and/or opinions of another. Don’t misunderstand…there is great value in having a brother alongside in the battle; an accountability person, so to speak. But I must know what things will tarnish my own spiritual vision and keep myself far from those things.

Tabletalk Magazine

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

It was noted a few days ago that the knowledge of God’s sovereign providence gives us the benefit of having patience in adversity. But there is more. This knowledge also can give us the “assurance of salvation and confidence that we will persevere in a state of grace until the end of our lives.” The Heidelberg Catechism, question 28, points to the Scripture quoted above as evidence of this. The context of the passage is one of the greatest sections of Scripture. Paul has spent chapter 7 discussing “the believer’s war against remaining sin,” and then points us to our justification in Christ in chapter 8. The above passage gives the assurance that “God cannot stop loving His people.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love! NOTHING! Those are two of the most beautiful verses in all of the Bible. “If we belong to Christ today, we will belong to Him forever.” Not even my own sin can separate me from his love!


The Bible Panorama

Luke 3; Josh. 22–24

John the Baptist begins preparing the way for Christ in Luke 3. He preaches and baptizes people (hence his “title”). In verses 16 and 17, he describes the coming Christ. “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

In Joshua 22, the tribes that had decided to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan have finished fighting with the others and return to their allotted lands. When they get there, they build an altar, as a witness that they are part of Israel. However, the other tribes misunderstood. They thought that the tribes on the east side were building it to have their own altar for burnt offerings, and actually gathered troops to go to war with them! It was quickly explained, however, that this was just a witness for their children, so that, at some point in time, the children of the tribes on the west side could not say, “What have you to do with Israel?” The eastern tribes assure the western tribes that all is well, and the explanation is satisfactory. Doomsday averted. (Shoutout to anyone who gets that obscure reference.)
In chapter 23, Joshua charges Israel to continue to be faithful and keep the words of the Lord. He is getting close to death. As Joshua closes out in chapter 24, the covenant is renewed at Shechem, and Joshua utters the famous words in verse 15, And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua dies and is buried, and then, finally, the bones of Joseph are buried in Shechem. I guess they’ve been carrying his bones around all this time.

Father, I pray for the purity with which I will be able to see you. Keep my vision clear. Let my outer “bloom” remain unsullied as I walk this earth. Let me live my life each day in the light of your grace, never straying over into the darkness. You have delivered me (more than once) from the miry pit of sinfulness, and I desire to stay that way. This life is for you; the spiritual vision that I have is for you, and I desire to live life looking at your face. Keep the eyes of my spirit open to the Risen Christ in my life.

I praise you for the assurance that, as I am yours now, I will be yours for eternity. Nothing can separate me from your love, and that is why I can do what the title of this very blog says; I can revel in your overflowing grace! I praise you for this, Father!! I life my hands in worship to you. Let my life be an act of worship each day. Keep me from edging over into carnality during my day, as I interact with people and events. Keep me out of “the box.”

Father, let it be true of me and my family, the same as for Joshua. Let it be said of us, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I praise you that you have drawn this family into your Family.

I pray for this day. Christi has a doctor appointment this morning. I pray that it will go well…just a check up. I give you thanks for the news we received last week, that I still can’t really divulge here. Your grace is amazing. I pray that Stephanie will have a good visit with her teacher today, and that she will make more strides in getting caught up on her homework.

May we work to keep our inner vision pure.

Grace and peace, friends.