Just Another Word . . .

Today is Monday, July 4, 2022, in the fourteenth week of Ordinary Time. It is Independence Day in the U.S.

May the peace of Christ be in your heart today!

Day 23,489 (the number of days since I was born)

Yesterday was pretty chill. We didn’t do much. C spent the day cataloging my father’s collection of 78 rpm records. And she is back at it, this morning. After entering two storage boxes of them (approximately 125 records), she estimated that, so far, we had as much as $12,000 worth of records, at the high limit. One of the records in the collection is Elvis Presley’s recording of “That’s Alright” on SUN Records, which recently sold for around $3000.

I killed two bosses in Elden Ring. If you know anything about that game, you know how ecstatic I was! That may be the most ridiculously difficult video game I have ever played.

Today promises to be even more “chill.” I might venture out to the grocery store, at some point, and a family member has some scripts ready at CVS (if the pharmacy is open today). We don’t do much to “celebrate,” these days, especially if it involves being outside, where the projected high temp today is 101. By the way, next Monday’s projected high . . . 110!

The Texas Rangers lost to the Mets, yesterday, 4-1. So they lost that series, 2-1. They are 37-40 for the season, tied with Seattle for second place in the AL West. 13.5 out of first place, and now five games out of the Wild Card spot. They play the Orioles in Baltimore, today at 12:05 CDT. Shoutout to kristianw84!

The Boston Red Sox managed a win, yesterday, beating the Cubs 4-2, but lost that series 2-1, I believe. The Sox are 44-35 for the season, in second place in the AL East, 13.5 out of first, and back in the first Wild Card spot. They play the Rays today, at Fenway Park, at 1:35 EDT.

The Athletics continue to have the worst MLB record, at 26-55. The Astros have the longest current win streak, at six games. Someone steal their trash cans. Please! The Nationals and Giants are tied with the longest losing streak, at four games. Today, the Nats have the worst run differential, having been outscored by 117 runs. The Pirates and A’s are tied with -116. The Rangers are now at +13, and the Red Sox are at +59.

We might switch things up for dinner tonight. We normally have chili for dinner on Mondays, but we might have our homemade pizza on cauliflower crust tonight, instead.

Happy fourth of July to all of my U.S. friends. Well, the rest of you can have a happy fourth, too, you know.


Lord our God, our Father in heaven and on earth, we ask you to bless us, your children, for we want to be your children and nothing else. We want to have our joy and delight in knowing that we belong to you, the almighty God, who began and who will complete redemption on earth through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Bless your Word in us. Give us courage in suffering and distress, for we are allowed to serve you in all circumstances, even when we find it bitterly hard. Your name shall be honored in us, your kingdom shall come. As surely as the earth endures, everything shall happen in accordance with your will, on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
(Romans 8:31-32 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the joy and delight I have in belonging to God
2. that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
3. for the way Jesus summed up the law and prophets with those two commands
4. for the freedom to surrender my rights, and to love and serve others
5. for a Monday with the whole family at home

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" 
Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
 And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. 
(Mark 12:28-34 ESV)

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
(Mark 12:38-40 ESV)

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 ESV)

The word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is statutes.

You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
(Psalms 119:68 ESV)

In today’s world, a “statute” is a “written law passed by a legislative body.” For today’s purposes, though, a more archaic definition is needed. “A law or decree made by a sovereign, or God.”

Interestingly, of the 27 times that word occurs in the ESV, 22 of them are in Psalm 119. And, of the 176 verses in Psalm 119, all but maybe two of them mention some form of the Word of God; statutes, decrees, law, word, testimonies, precepts, commandments, rules, and so on.

There are some, of course, that we are no longer expected to live by. For example, we no longer sacrifice animals to cover our sin. Jesus did away with that. We also believe that it is okay for us to eat bacon (I started to say “for breakfast,” but bacon is not just for breakfast).

There are some, of course, who would pick and choose and attempt to shackle us with some of the Old Testament rules. Interracial marriages, for example. I once had a conversation with a rather ignorant person who proclaimed, “The Bible says not to do that!” To which I responded, “The Bible says don’t eat pork, too.” She had nothing to say to that.

I had another conversation with a guy who declared that the pastor has to be a man because the Bible says he is to be the husband of one wife. “So he has to be married, too, right?” This person was not willing to follow his own logic.

Whether you support interracial marriages, eating pork, or female pastors is, in my opinion, largely irrelevant. Jesus summed up all of this and narrowed it down to two commands. (Oh, no. Here he goes again.)

It just happens to be quoted up there, from my daily reading plan for today. Mark 12:28-34. And Paul has this to say in Romans 13.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 
(Romans 13:8-10 ESV)

“The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

All of it.

So there are all the “statutes” you need. And Psalm 119 still holds relevance, even when we narrow down the entirety of the law to those two commands of Jesus. And I still find myself having to ask God to teach me, because I still find that I struggle to get it right.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 
(1 Peter 2:16-17 ESV)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
(2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV)

There’s going to be a lot of talk about “freedom” today. And a lot of people talking don’t really understand what it means.

Freedom does not mean being able to do whatever you want to do. Especially when someone thinks it applies more to what they want to do and less to what someone else wants to do.

Freedom does not mean pushing for laws to keep people from doing something you believe is wrong. If my “religion” says something is wrong, then I don’t need to be doing it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. And if I try to create law that keeps you from doing it, that becomes religious oppression, not freedom.

Hypocrisy runs rampant, these days, and, I fear, all of us are guilty of it at some point. “I support medical freedom!” said a bunch of people who didn’t want to have to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But those same people are celebrating the overturning of Roe v Wade. Hypocrisy.

Abortion activists say that banning abortions will not make them less frequent, only more dangerous. They aren’t wrong. But that’s the same argument that gun rights activists use, too. And most (not all, of course) gun rights activists are on the side that opposes abortion. And most abortion rights activists oppose guns.

See the dilemma? See the hypocrisy on both sides? This is but one reason that I do not enter into these arguments. I have my opinions. I’ve discussed that, here, and I’m not sharing them here.

And trust me, I’ve been guilty of plenty of hypocrisy.

Freedom, according to Jesus, according to Paul, is so we can serve. That sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Free to serve. I’m free to be a slave. But, hey. Kris said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” And if, in my truest notion of freedom, I give up all of my “rights” to God, I truly have “nothin’ left to lose.” Because there is nothing that any government or activist group can take away from me.

And, therefore, I am free to follow those two commands, to the fullest degree.

"The church is characterized as a community of people who must take God seriously.
"No, be careful as you listen. I'm not saying that the church is that group of people who take God seriously. Sometimes we don't. There are many of us who go for long times without taking God seriously What I am saying is that the church is that group of people who must take God seriously. We can't go very long without being interrupted, because God is going to interrupt us.
"God won't let us get by with our religious lives very long on our own terms. He keeps invading and keeps interrupting."
(On Living Well, Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am so very grateful for the freedom that I have. But that freedom comes from You, it does not come from any army or government. And the freedom that I have cannot be taken away by any army or government, either, because, as Jesus said, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free, indeed!” And free I am, because the Son has set me free!

Freedom does mean that I have nothing left to lose, because there is nothing in this world that I am grasping to hold onto. Sure, I have a lot of stuff, and there are things that enjoy using, in this world. But they are just that, just “stuff,” and have no eternal meaning, whatsoever. This is something that You have taught me over the past decade or so, as You have grown in me this true sense of freedom.

I pray that we, Your Church, could more readily understand these truths, and understand better what it means to be free to serve others and to love others. While it may be challenging, the commands are simple and easy to understand. We are to love You with all of our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Then we are to love the brothers and sisters, the community of saints, the same way Jesus, Himself, loved us.

And the way Jesus loved us was to give His life. And yet, we cry because we had to wear a paper mask. God have mercy on our souls. Help us all to step back from our hypocrisy and look at truth. And then help us to love one another the way Jesus wants us to.

Thank You for interrupting us.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

I still prefer this version

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Fret

Good morning. It’s July 4, 2012. We have the day off today, as it’s a holiday in the U.S. This particular July Fourth is tainted by the loss, yesterday, of an actor/singer/entertainer that was one of the last of a dying breed. R.I.P., Andy Griffith. Your legacy will live on.

(Some of these illustrations seem to have come from MAD Magazine)

Of course, today is “Independence Day.” But did you know that today is also “Sidewalk Egg Frying Day?” So says the Hallmark Ultimate Holiday app. I’ve never tried that, myself, although I’m sure it has been hot enough a time or two.

It was on this date in 1776 that the United States declared independence from Great Britain. On this date in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died. On this date in 1927, playwright Neil Simon was born. On this date in 1855, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was published. Reported by a different source, it is also on this date in 1845 that Henry David Thoreau moved to walden Pond in Concord, MA.

I’ve been there. At that time of my life, it was the most beautiful nature scene I had ever seen. It’s still right up there.

Christi is feeling much better. Thanks for the prayers. We are looking forward to enjoying this day with Stephanie, Rachel, and Justin. We’re planning to cook out later, sirloin steaks, corn on the cob, asparagus with mushrooms, onions, and garlic; all cooked on the grill. You wrap pour olive oil on the asparagus, onions, mushrooms and fresh garlic, wrap it in foil, then grill it. Delicious! After that, we will have our choice of strawberries with angel cake and cool whip, mini-cupcakes that Christi brought home from work yesterday, or whatever else happens to be around. Good times.

Father, I pray for some inspiration today to keep me focused on you for this day. Grace for today only, is all I seek.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 34. This Psalm is full of great verses, offering hope to those who seek refuge in the Lord. It gives promise of deliverance to all who fall into trouble. As previously noted, the Lord never promises that we will not have trouble. However, he does promise to deliver us from trouble.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

My favorite verse in Psalm 34 is verse 8. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! I challenge anyone who does not believe in the goodness of the Lord to “taste and see.”

My Utmost For His Highest

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. Psalm 37:8

“Fretting means getting out at elbows mentally or spiritually.” What?? For the life of me, I can’t find anything telling me what that means. The closest thing seemed to indicate a state where the shirt sleeves were so worn that the elbows were showing. I guess if we are fretting that much about something, then that condition would apply.
Of course, it is always easy to say things like, “Rest in the Lord,” or, “Fret not.” But then something happens. Something upsets the proverbial apple cart, and our lives get all topsy-turvy. We are suddenly thrown into tumult, and all we can seem to do is fret. I’ve been there. My apple cart has been shattered before. I’ve stood in my living room and declared that God had abandoned us. Praise his name, it was not true…I was wrong, so very wrong, and confessed the sinfulness of even thinking a thing like that. I tell you three times…God never abandons his children!
Somehow, I have to get myself into a state where I am not even able to fret. “Fret not” is one of “God’s great don’ts.” “This ‘don’t’ must work in days of perplexity as well as in days of peace, or it will never work.” Here is an important statement: “Resting in the Lord does not depend on external circumstances at all, but on your relationship to God Himself.” So, you see, when I was thinking that God had abandoned me, my relationship was a bit shoddy, wasn’t it? If my relationship to God is solid, I will find that I am not able to fret over anything.
“Fussing always ends in sin.” Yes. Anxiety and worry are indications of how wicked we truly are. “Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way.” Jesus never fretted over anything, because he was not here to get his own way. He was out to get his Father’s way. Here is another important statement: “Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God.” Yes. Worry is always sinful! Always!! If we are truly resting in God and dwelling in his shadow, we can live our lives without fretting. There’s the challenge, isn’t it? “All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.” And that phrase segues perfectly into tomorrow’s reading.

Father, I confess that my mind has been scattered this morning while I’ve been reading these things. But, nevertheless, you have reinforced in me the need to stop worrying about things. Why do we worry so much? It seems to be a curse of the human nature. Everyone I know worries about something. We just can’t seem to help it. Yet you tell us not to. I pray that you will so fill my spirit in the days ahead that I will find it utterly impossible to fret. May I be so immersed in your Spirit that there is no room for anxiety. I have no desire to be wicked, Father. Yet I find wickedness in me daily. The flesh battles against the spirit every day, and this will be the case until we are brought home with you. Therefore, I pray for the help of the Spirit to be prepared for the battle each day, having put on the “armor of God” each and every day.

I thank you for your very great and precious promises, Lord. Especially the ones that I find in places like Psalm 34. Yes, there will be troubles. But you promise to bring us through them, out the other side. I believe that there are certainly times that you do protect us from trouble; there have to be, otherwise, we would always be experiencing trouble. But when you do allow trials to come into our lives, we simply must rely on you to deliver us, rather than letting anxiety fill our lives. There is the challenge, and there is my commitment, to do my best to rely on you, trusting you for all things in my life.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray for safe travel for Rachel and Justin as they make their way to our house today. I pray that we will have a safe and joyful time this afternoon. I pray for safety for all people who travel today, and for the many fireworks displays that will be going on tonight, I pray for safety in those.

I pray for my parents today, too. Give them your grace and peace in whatever they find to do today. I also pray that we will find time to visit with them again, soon.

This morning, as I pray for our church, I pray that you continue to keep our young people safe at camp. I pray that they are experiencing you above all other things that they might experience at this camp. May they find you this week. I pray for those who don’t already know you, that they will be saved. I praise you for the report of Ava getting saved last night. For those who are there who are already in covenant relationship with you, I pray that their knowledge of you will deepen, and their relationships become more solid. May everyone there experience your peace this week.
I also pray for the leadership of our church, beginning with Zach Schroeder, the pastor of our youth. Give him extra grace this week, as he continues with the youth at camp. I praise you for his spirit and passion. This morning, I lift up Becca Bartlett, who is a leader in the children’s ministries. I know that Stephanie sometimes works with her in the preschool area during the worship celebrations. I pray that you give Becca your grace and peace as she serves. I thank you for her heart to work with children and teach them. I pray your blessings on her and her family.
May you give our leadership your clear vision on where our church is to go. I pray that they will follow only you.

I pray that the message of Christ will flourish in our world today.

Your grace is sufficient.

Today’s message is simple. Don’t fret. On the other hand, it’s not so simple, is it?

Grace and peace, friends.