Pay Attention

Today is Sunday, the fifth of June, 2022, Pentecost Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,460 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you are so near us and that we may be near you. We thank you that throughout our days we may be people who listen to you with all our hearts and minds, a listening people who can receive what is good and true for our lives and who can witness to the power you give us through the Savior. Protect us in all things. Look into our hearts and into the situation of each one of us, where many things are still faulty and unclear. Deliver us from evil, for the kingdom shall be yours. From you the power shall come. Your glory shall radiate from our lives, and we shall praise and thank you forevermore. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is near to us and we may be near to Him
2. that God has a clear view of all things in my life that is yet faulty and unclear
3. for the greatness of our God, even though that word falls far short of getting it; we cannot fully comprehend His majesty and glory
4. that God allows us to take part in the work that He does on this earth
5. for the joy we receive from meeting together to praise God
What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. 
We will fulfill our vows to you, for you answer our prayers. 
All of us must come to you. 
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all. 
What joy for those you choose to bring near, 
those who live in your holy courts. 
What festivities await us inside your holy Temple.
 You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
 O God our savior. 
You are the hope of everyone on earth, 
even those who sail on distant seas.
(Psalms 65:1-5 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “attention.”

Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD; hear my urgent cry.
(Psalms 86:6 NLT)

In this context, the psalmist is asking God to pay attention to him.

Pay attention, GOD, to my prayer; bend down and listen to my cry for help.
(Psalms 86:6 MSG)

But attention works several ways. While it is perfectly fine to entreat the Lord to pay attention, or hear, us, we must also pay attention to Him.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT)

I didn’t notice that little bit that says, “Listen to him,” until probably less than a decade ago. It was at that point that I began paying much closer attention to those “red letters,” the words of Jesus. And it was at that point that I began focusing so much more on love instead of judgment.

But there is one more aspect of attention, isn’t there (at least)? We must, absolutely must, pay attention to one another.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 NLT)

It is crucial that we pay attention to what is going on around us. We must keep, not only our spiritual eyes, but our physical eyes open. Why? Because, as James tells us, “faith without works is dead.” This does not mean, at all, that we are working for our salvation. Rather, it means that, if we are not doing the work, there is no faith! Faith proves itself by the works that it does.

If we claim to be following Christ and do nothing whatsoever to help the hungry or thirsty or stranger or naked or sick or in prison, then we are just blowing smoke. If we are only offering “thoughts and prayers” to people, we are doing no good. I am, of course, in no way diminishing the efficacy of prayer. But that phrase has become a substitute for action.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
(James 2:14-20 NLT)

Pay attention!

Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 NLT)

GOD is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 MSG)

“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”
(2 Samuel 7:22 NLT)

“Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”
(Job 36:26 NLT)

How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!
(Psalms 147:5 NLT)

How do you describe God? Is “great” adequate? What about “magnificent?” We have many words. Marvelous and glorious; strong, powerful.

There are four phrases in the above verses that really speak to me. In 2 Samuel, it says, “There is no one like you.” In Psalm 145, it says “he can never be praised enough.” In Job 36, it says, “God is greater than we can understand.” And, in Psalm 147, “His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

We try, because we have to. We need words to tell our God how great we think He is. But those words fall so far short that it’s almost ridiculous. We must acknowledge the truth of those four phrases. It is beyond comprehension. We simply cannot truly fathom how great our God is.

I am somewhat blown away by the following video. It is Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great Our God.” But it is being sung in many different languages. I got some serious chill bumps as I listened and watched. How fun is it, how stirring is it, to listen to a song you know being sung in another language? Because you know what they are saying, even though you don’t understand the language.

Celebrate the greatness of our God with me. Use whatever words you have. He will still be magnified and glorified, even though He is so much greater than we could ever understand.

Pay attention!

Father, today, help me to pay attention. May I pay attention to You, and may I pay attention to my brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else around me. Help me to keep my eyes open to what is going on around me. Help me to see what You are doing around me, that I might join in and support Your “cause,” which is the only cause truly worthy of my support.

I know You do not need my support. You do not need anything from us. If you were hungry, you would not tell us, because You own the cattle on a thousand hills! But You choose to utilize us in Your work.

I praise You for Your greatness, Lord. Your majesty, Your glory, Your magnificence. You are marvelous and wonderful and every one of those words, even if we combine them all into one thought, are nowhere enough to describe You. Even the nonsense word that Mary Poppins made up doesn’t come close. But yet we must try. We must use words, because that’s what we have. We have language. So help us to use our language appropriately. When we try to describe You, help us to have the right attitude and motivation behind that description. And help us, dear Lord, to never take Your name in vain. Help us to honor You properly, and honor the name of Jesus in the best ways.

All praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Do not be one who stretches out the hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving. If you earn something by working with your hands, you shall give a ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor shall you grumble when giving, for you will know who is the good paymaster of the reward. You shall not turn away from someone in need, but shall share everything with your brother or sister, and do not claim that anything is your own. For if you are sharers in what is imperishable, how much more so in perishable things!
(The Didache, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.