Into the Core of My Being

Good morning. Today is Saturday, February 23, 2013.

Today is National Banana Bread Day. Don’t throw away those over-ripe bananas sitting on your counter! Make some delicious banana bread with them!

Stephanie got in her 12th workout of the month last night! Woot! She has met the challenge that was issued! I think that she might have been “re-challenged” to add a couple more days, but that’s no problem…there are still five days left in this month.

Yesterday was my supervisor’s last day at my company. So next week, my hours are shifting by thirty minutes, which is not too bad. If we win the contract renewal, I’m supposed to get a promotion. Not to management (which is okay with me), but to a higher level hourly position. I would appreciate any prayers that you might feel compelled to offer up on that. We should know something within a couple of weeks. Even if we don’t win the renewal, I should still have a job. It will just be in a different department, on a different account. I’m hoping to stay put. I like my job.

Today should be a pretty typical Saturday. Grocery shopping, probably right after I post this entry, maybe a couple more errands, lunch, practice, and then maybe working out again tonight. Oh, that reminds me…I dropped back into second place in our Biggest Loser contest. That’s okay, though. I’m not worried. I finally recovered from last weekend’s overindulgence, and am moving forward for next week. I plan to retake the lead next week. 😀

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 303, “soldiers and city magistrates,” under the order of the Emperor Diocletian, broke into the most important church in Nicomedia (the 4th century “de facto capital of the Roman Empire”), and, “finding no idols to destroy, burnt the Holy Scripture and then levelled the building to the ground,” thus beginning one of the most intense persecutions of Christians in history. “The next morning, Diocletian issued his famous edict ordering the destruction of churches throughout the Empire.” Diocletian had established himself as a “sort of living god, the son of Jove, whom ordinary mortals could approach only prostrate and supine, to kiss the hem of his robe.” (Was insanity a prerequisite to be an Emperor, or was it something that happened afterward?) Of course, those pesky Christians refused to worship the Emperor! That, in Diocletian’s eyes, weakened the state. As Christians resisted, Diocletian issued more edicts, each more harsh than the previous. “Finally, in April 304, Diocletian commanded all Christians to worship the Roman gods on pain of death, and Christian refusal led to an atrocious slaughter, including feeding believers to the lions.” Just one year later, Diocletian abdicated (due to ill health) and retired to his birthplace where he died in 316. “Ironically, the mausoleum in which he was buried is now a Christian church.”

Today’s birthday is Johnny Winter, born on this date in 1944. Winter is a legendary blues guitar player, possibly most noted for his recording of Rick Derringer’s song “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo,” which can be seen in this clip.

As an added bonus, here’s a clip from three years ago of Johnny Winter and Derek Trucks performing “Highway 61” at a Crossroads Festival. Look! Same guitar!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Psalm 84:8

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Father, Show me something of yourself this day, as I read and meditate on your Word. Give me grace enough for this day only.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 29:5-8.
5 But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly,
6 you will be visited by the LORD of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.
7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, all that fight against her and her stronghold and distress her, shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.
8 As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched, so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.

In spite of the impending judgment against Jerusalem (Ariel) in the preceding verses, the Lord declares that her enemies will soon be like the dust, blown away in the wind.

In Touch magazine reminds me today that it is difficult to remain thankful if prayer is not a regular part of the life with God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 has three commands. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances… Perhaps it is not a coincidence that “pray without ceasing” is in the center of those three.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Eating God’s Word.” That sounds funny, doesn’t it? But here is the scripture reference, Ezekiel 3:1-3.
1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”
2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat.
3 And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.

If we are to believe this encounter, Ezekiel literally ate a portion of scripture, part of a scroll which contained “words of lamentation and mourning and woe,” according to chapter 2, verse 10. The chapter divisions are unfortunate, in this case. “Ezekiel internalizes the word of God until it becomes a part of his being.” It tasted sweet to him, surprisingly. But what does Psalm 19:10 say about the law of the Lord? It is sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. There is another scroll in the Bible that is eaten, by John, in Revelation 10:10. In this case, it tastes sweet, but becomes bitter in his stomach. But this account of Ezekiel gives us a glimpse of what the disciplines of the spiritual life can do for us. “Through prayer and study, worship and service, we regularly digest God’s word into the core of our being, where it feeds and transforms us.” Our lives consist of flesh and spirit, between which there is a constant battle. When we “digest God’s word into the core of our being,” we feed the spirit, making it stronger for the battle. When we fail to do this, the flesh becomes stronger, and we find ourselves stumbling more often.

I’m challenged to continue interpreting the passage I’ve selected (and let me confess that I’m not keeping up with this challenge very well), while reflecting on the following quote:
“As I spent time chewing over the endless assurances and promises to be found in the Bible, so my faith in the living God grew stronger and held me safe in his hands. God’s word to us, especially his word spoken by his Spirit through the Bible, is the very ingredient that feeds our faith. If we feed our souls regularly on God’s word, several times each day, we should become robust spiritually just as we feed on ordinary food several times each day, and become robust physically. Nothing is more important than hearing and obeying the word of God.”~~David Watson, Fear No Evil: A Personal Struggle with Cancer

I have a couple of comments on this quote. One is that, in meditation, I must reflect on more than just the “endless assurances and promises” in the Bible. Too often we focus so much on the promises that we forget about the commands. Yes, there are some great and glorious promises in the Bible, that are worthy of my attention. But if I forget about those commands, especially the ones that tell me to love the Lord my God with every part of my being, and to love my neighbor as myself, and, even more importantly, to love other believers as Christ has loved us, then I’m not balanced, and those promises are nothing more than words on paper. I also shy away from statements that say, “Nothing is more important than…” These statements are always subjective. Everyone has their own idea about what is most important in the Christian life. All you have to do is listen to three different sermons from churches all over the country to hear three different opinions on what is most important or what “it’s all about.” Jesus gave us what is most important. Love God…love people. Everything else falls into place below those two commands. That being said, I will not discount the thought behind the quote above. Reading and “chewing over” God’s word is very important to the spiritual life, the “with-God life.” And I am quite fond of this concept of “eating God’s Word.”

Father, I pray that my life will be characterized by the consumption of your words. May I be faithful in reading portions of scripture daily, and then “chewing over” them throughout each day. Make me more faithful in the meditative part of this idea. I read part of your words every day, pretty much without fail. But how much have I taken to heart? How much have I, like Ezekiel, “eaten?” Not enough, I know this. Whether it is a lengthy passage, such as the one that I am supposed to be reading each day, or just a verse or two that I encounter in my daily prayers, I ask that you would prompt me by your Spirit to remember them, chew on them, and digest them, daily. Make them a part of the core of my being, the central part of my life each day.

I pray that this day be one of rest for us, even as we go about doing things that must be done today. Prepare my heart for playing in worship tomorrow, and prepare my fingers as well, as I practice the songs for tomorrow. I pray for each one of the band members that will be playing/singing tomorrow, Jordan, Terry, Will, Summer, and Renee. Fill us all with your Spirit as we worship you tomorrow.

We, of course, will not literally eat our Bibles, as Ezekiel and John the Revelator did. However, it is to our great advantage to “chew over” and “digest” portions of God’s Word each day.

Grace and peace, friends.