Into All the Recesses of My Being

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, February 20, 2013. Only nine days left in this month. Which hasn’t been too bad for a February, I must admit. And baseball is in the air, so it’s getting better.

Today is National Cherry Pie Day. I think they are referring to pastry, not the Warrant song. I wonder if “Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie” counts…

Yesterday felt a lot like a Monday to me. In a way it was, because we took Monday off. But it was a rough day right from the start. Hopefully, today will be better. It finished off nicely with a good Lifehouse group last night, where we discussed the pastor’s sermon from last Sunday, or more accurately, discussed the passage he preached from. Why don’t we say “praught?” Teach-taught. Preach-praught. English is such a strange, inconsistent language. “I before E, except after C.” Weird.

Anyway…today, it’s back to the gym, and I’m continuing to try to work off what I worked back on over the weekend. I’m really getting to dislike weekends. It seems like I always manage to undo my progress during the week. Must be more disciplined on weekends!

Christi got her “bone stimulator” machine yesterday. I’ll take a picture of it later and post it. You won’t believe that this thing is supposed to cost around $4000! She’s already used it twice. This will go on once or twice a day for six to eight weeks. After that, the doctor will determine if surgery is necessary.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1810, Andreas Hofer was executed by firing squad. He lived in the Tyrol area of western Austria, and when Emperor Franz I surrendered the territory to Bavaria, under pressure from Napoleon, Hofer “led a local insurrection to return the province to Austrian control.” He crushed the Bavarians at Berg Isel, and set up in Innsbruck, as “commander in chief of the Tyrol, under the protection of Emperor Franz.” But Franz submitted once again, in October, and relinquished the Tyrol again. Hofer remained defiant, and his continued resistance caused Napoleon to put a price on his head. He fled to the mountains, but was eventually tracked down, and led barefoot back through “snowy mountain passes,” and taken to Mantua. “There Hofer was subjected to kangaroo court-martial, convicted of treason and sentenced to death.” On this day, he was let to face the firing squad. It is said that he refused a blindfold, boldly faced his executioners and said, “Good-bye, wretched world, this death is easy!” He then gave the order to “Fire,” himself. “Thirteen years later Hofer’s remains were brought back to Austria and interred in Innsbruck.”

Today’s birthday is Joel Hodgson, born on this date in 1960. Many of you are probably going, “Who??” Joel Hodgson is the brains behind a cult phenomenon known as MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000). MST3K is a show wherein Joel and his robotic friends make fun of really bad movies, usually sci-fi or horror of some kind. Go ahead…search youtube for it. I would post one, but most episodes are over an hour long.

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! Psalm 57:8

My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. Psalm 71:23

Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. Psalm 68:28

“O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen“~~from The Divine Hours–Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 28:27-29.
27 Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod.
28 Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it.
29 This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.

Just as different grains require different treatment, so the Lord’s judgment is adjusted to circumstances. He who is mocked by the religion leaders is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Setting Our Hearts to Study.” The scripture reading is Ezra 7:6, 9b-10.
6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
9b…on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him.
10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

When Ezra came to Jerusalem, he had three goals. First was to study the Law of the Lord. Study forms the basis for good works and prayer. We can pray without studying, that is true, and we can do “good works” without studying. However, in order to truly understand the foundation for both prayer and good works, we must study God’s word. The second thing Ezra determined to do was to practice what he learned in his studies. Finally, he desired to “teach others what he had learned.” Note in verse 9 that Ezra acknowledges that the “good hand of his God was on him.” His life was knit closely with God, through his deep desire to study and learn. “Ezra’s study of God’s law and his commitment to the law in his own life formed his heart like God’s.” Diligent study can result in more than just “head knowledge. It can bring God himself into all the recesses of our being,” because, as Hebrews 4:12 says, the word of God is living and active. I really like that quote about bringing God “into all the recesses of our being.”

Here’s another quote for inspiration: “The Bible is the loving heart of God made visible and plain. And receiving this message of exquisite love is the great privilege of all who long for life with God. Reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating upon Scripture has always been the foundation of the Christian disciplines. …God has so superintended the writing of Scripture that it serves as a most reliable guide for our own spiritual formation.”~~Richard J. Foster and others, eds., The Life with God Bible

Father, as I read and study your words, especially the passage I have chosen for these couple of weeks, I pray that you would, indeed, bring yourself into all the recesses of my being. My heart’s deepest desire is for you to inhabit every corner, every nook and cranny of my life. Increase my desire to study your word, more than just casual reading, but memorizing and meditating on portions of scripture throughout my day, as I work, as I play, as I exercise, as I eat my meals. Most especially during my driving time, which occupies close to an hour and a half of each day. As I read your word, may it truly be “living and active” in my life, shaping me in every way possible by the power of your indwelling Spirit.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi and I will have a productive work day, free from excessive stress and anxiety. Give Stephanie your heart today, drawing her closer to you and inspiring her with your teaching. Teach us your ways, O Lord, that we may walk in your truth. As I pray for others today, may I be praying your heart for them.

May God bring himself into all the recesses of our being.

Grace and peace, friends.

Growing in Knowledge

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, February 19, 2013. Back to work today, after a three-day weekend.

Today is Chocolate Mint Day. That has to be one of my favorite of the recent “holidays.” I love pretty much any combination of chocolate and mint!

We had a nice weekend, and a pretty productive day yesterday. Christi and Stephanie cleaned Steph’s room. We went out for lunch at Cotton Patch, then got the grocery shopping done, after which Steph and I hit the gym. Over the course of a couple of days, Christi and I watched Rock of Ages, Dark Shadows, and Men in Black 3. Of the three of those, MIB3 was probably my favorite. It was pretty well done, I think, and had a bit of a surprisingly tender ending. Rock of Ages was very interesting. I enjoyed it more than I expected, but why not? It was all about the rock music scene in the mid-eighties, starring Tom Cruise as a washed-up rock icon. I also was not aware that it was a musical. Duh. Dark Shadows was also not bad. As expected, it bore very little resemblance to the Gothic soap opera that inspired it. I would not say that any of the three that we watched were disappointing, because I wasn’t expecting much to begin with.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1945, at 859am, the first of three waves of Marines landed on the shores of Iwo Jima, a five-mile-long strip of an island, 700 miles south of Tokyo, Japan. After four days, they would take Mount Suribachi, the site of the famed picture of the flag-raising.
The island would not be secure for another 26 days. 6000 U.S. soldiers (Marines and Navy) would lose their lives in this battle, but only 1000 Japanese survived to be captured. The island would become a “forward base for B-29s and their fighter escorts taking part in the air offensive against Japan.”

Today’s birthday is Smokey Robinson, born on this date in 1940. Most famous with his group, the Miracles, I’m giving you a clip of my favorite Smokey Robinson song, “The Tears of A Clown.”

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Psalm 32:11

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18

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

I pray, O Lord, for a glimpse of you as I enter into this time of reading and meditation on your Word.

Today I’m reading Isaiah 28:23-26.
23 Give ear, and hear my voice; give attention, and hear my speech.
24 Does he who plows for sowing plow continually? Does he continually open and harrow his ground?
25 When he has leveled its surface, does he not scatter dill, sow cumin, and put in wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and emmer as the border?
26 For he is rightly instructed; his God teaches him.

The picture given here is an exaggerated example. The farmer does not continuously plow. If all he ever did was plow, he would never gain any harvest. There is a process which must be followed. The one who does the process correctly is shown as being one who is “rightly instructed; his God teaches him.”

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Knowledge of God.” The scripture reading is Colossians 1:9b-10.
9b we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

The truth that we get from faith is not strictly head knowledge, nor is it “abstract and impractical.” “Rather, it is knowledge of the God who acts purposely in history to bring people to live lives fully pleasing to God through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.” We, as believers, are expected to grow in the knowledge of God and to mold our lives to it. This is the anchor of the kind of life that God desires from us. If we get this knowledge wrong, if we substitute feeling for theology, it leads to broken lives. Many people misunderstand “theology.” It’s not some deep, dark, mysterious foggy concept that is only for the extreme intellectual. Theology is nothing more than the study of God. Any believer, any Christian, must have a sound theology. The feelings are valid, but they must be coupled with the knowledge. “…without true knowledge of God our piety will go astray. We will have no basis for interpreting our piety and our spiritual experience.” This is why Paul prays consistently for his brothers and sisters to increase “in the knowledge of God.”

I’m challenged to consider these words as I reflect on the passage I’ve chosen for this segment of study. Has wrong knowledge had a negative impact on me or someone I know? What do I rely more heavily on–knowledge or experience? And how can we become more balanced? I’ll be honest. I’m probably one who relies much more heavily on knowledge than experience. Perhaps too much to that extreme, but I hope that I am becoming more balanced as I grow older, and, hopefully, closer to the Lord.

Father, I pray that, as I read your Word and study it, that I will grow properly in the knowledge of you. May Paul’s prayer for all the saints in Colossians be true in my life, as well. May my knowledge increase in order that my experiences might be properly interpreted. I pray that I will never stop learning about and growing closer to you. I pray for a deeper, more intimate knowledge of you, Lord.

May this day bring blessing to me and my family as we go about our daily business. I pray that Christi and I will have a productive work day, full of you and your Spirit. Give us grace to face any challenge with equal grace. I pray that you might give us an opportunity to help someone find your peace today. I pray that you will draw Stephanie closer to you today. I pray for her success as she rolls toward her workout goal for February.

We are to grow in the knowledge of God as we grow more mature in him. The only way to do this is through the discipline of study, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

Grace and peace, friends.

One Teacher

Good morning. Today is Monday, February 18, 2013. It’s Presidents’ Day in the U.S. At some point in the past, someone up in the guvmint decided to combine all the Presidents’ birthdays into one Monday February holiday. For some strange reason, Christi’s company took today off, so I took a vacation day.

In addition to being Presidents’ Day, today is also National Battery Day. I’m hoping that’s the noun “battery.”

We had a nice day yesterday. The worship celebration went very well, I think, and the pastor’s message was a good one, concluding his series on “Love Is…” Yesterday’s message was, in my opinion, a classic. I’m not exactly sure what the title was, but the “Big Idea” was “Love never fails, because God never fails.” The passage for the message was 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, a passage that most church-going people are so familiar with that it may have lost its meaning. However, to revisit that passage and really pay attention to it is important. The first point, from the first three verses, was, “Our actions must be motivated by God’s love, or our life is meaningless.” Joel made this quotable statement: “Loving God and loving people are the only holy motivations.” The second point, based on the more descriptive section, was, “Love is not an abstract foggy concept, but a concrete and clear reality.” So…what is love? Love…
is patient
is kind
does not envy
does not boast
is not arrogant
is not rude
does not insist on its own way
is not irritable
is not resentful
does not rejoice at wrongdoing
rejoices with the truth
bears all things
believes all things
hopes all things
endures all things


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1478, George, Duke of Clarence, was drowned in a “vast butt of Malmsey.” Malmsey is, apparently, a very sweet wine that comes from Greece. George, Duke of Clarence was the younger brother of King Edward IV. Being very ambitious, George had repeatedly plotted to take the crown for himself. In January of 1478, Edward, having had enough of this, had George “tried before the Lords of Parliament and condemned to death for treason.” Edward was hesitant to kill his own brother, but Parliament insisted. “Legend has it that George, terrified of the pain of the axe, requested that he be drowned in his favourite drink. And so it was that, on 18 February 1478, George, Duke of Clarence, was gently lowered into a vast butt of Malmsey, to die with a sweet taste in his mouth.”

Today’s birthday is Johnny Hart, born on this date in 1931. Johnny was the creator of the well-loved comic strip, B.C. Along around 1977, Hart began inserting overt Christian messages in B.C., which created some controversy, and even had individual strips that were not published by some papers. One of the most famous was this Easter strip from 2001.
Hart passed away in 2007, but the comic strip continues, written by Mason and Mick Mastroianni, grandsons of Hart, along with Perri and Patti, his daughters, as well as his wife, Bobby.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! Psalm 31:24

You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. Psalm 12:7

You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. Psalm 71:21

Father, I pray that you show me something of your greatness today, as I read your Word. Increase my strength today.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 28:14-22.
14 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem!
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”
18 Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.
20 For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.
21 For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work!
22 Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord GOD of hosts against the whole land.

The rulers of the land are foolish and arrogant. Have they truly, intentionally, “made a covenant with death?” I don’t know the answer to that question. But by refusing the law of the Lord and scoffing at his prophet, by default, they certainly have. They have made lies their refuge and taken shelter in falsehood, as does anyone who finds shelter anywhere but in God Almighty. The “precious cornerstone,” that which has been tested and proven sure, is Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “One Teacher.” The scripture reading is Matthew 23:1+4, 6a, 7b-8.
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,
3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
6a …they love…
7b …being called rabbi by others.
8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.

I don’t always like pulling pieces of verses, but this one works okay, because it doesn’t change the meaning of the passage. This is part of a discourse that Jesus is giving in the Temple. The scribes and Pharisees are being criticized, even though they studied scripture “in minute detail and memorized huge chunks of it.” But they still did things that were contrary to the messages that they studied. As Jesus’s followers (and learners), we are admonished to not accept titles such as rabbi, father, or teacher, because we have only one teacher. Here is a quote from The Life with God Bible:
“We can often use the Bible in ways that stifle spiritual life or even destroy the soul. This happened to any number of people who walked with Jesus…For many, their very study of the Scriptures prevented them from recognizing who he was and putting their confidence in him (John 5:39-47). And later, Peter speaks in very grim terms of people who can ‘twist’ Scripture ‘to their own destruction’ (2 Pet 3:16)…
“If we want to receive from the Bible the life ‘with God’ that is portrayed in the Bible, we must be prepared to have our dearest and most fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our associations called into question. We must read humbly and in a constant attitude of repentance. Only in this way can we gain a thorough and practical grasp of the spiritual riches that God has made available to all humanity.”

Father, I pray that, as I read your words each day, I will read humbly. Let me not read with some preconceived notion of what I am going to find. May I approach the scriptures daily with a renewed sense of wonder at what I am going to find that day. Even when I read a favorite passage, may I, by your Spirit, be looking for something new, something I have never seen before, rather than simply reinforcing what I already believe. Shake my beliefs to their very core ever time I crack open your Word, because my beliefs are always clouded by the flesh and by my poor judgment. Prune away anything that does not fit your truth. Teach me your ways that I may walk in your truth. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

I pray for the remainder of this day. May it be a day of rest and relaxation, and may Christi and I thoroughly enjoy each other’s company for the rest of this day. I thank you for the opportunity to have days off from work with my wife. I pray your blessings on our day.

Remember, when you read the Bible, we have one teacher. There is nothing wrong with hearing counsel from men, but the ultimate teacher is Jesus Christ. Pray for understanding through the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Good morning. Today is Saturday, February 16, 2013.

Today is Do A Grouch A Favor Day. Is there a “Mr. Wilson” in your life? (For all you young people, he was Dennis the Menace’s neighbor.) Do something nice for him. See what happens. “What if I’m the grouch??” Well…stop being grouchy, K?

Well. It has been a rather strange few days around here. Over the last few days, there has been a frantic manhunt in the DFW area after a couple of Miami cops were blithering idiots made a small mistake and let a convicted killer get away, while sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot in a rental car. I don’t have time to talk about how many things were wrong with this entire scenario. This guy was being transported from Miami to Las Vegas, and it was wrong from the beginning. He was on the loose for several days, while local schools were on high security alert. According to reports from Stephanie (and she should know, she’s been tracking this thing since it started), he was shot and killed last night at Grapevine Lake.

In the meantime, the entire world was watch an asteroid that flew by the Earth, close enough to give a friendly wave (somewhere around 12,000 miles away, I think). That’s pretty close. BUT…while everyone was watching the asteroid

Some “experts” are saying that the meteor explosion was twenty times more powerful than the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. At first,I had a serious problem believing this. 45,000 people were killed on the day of the Hiroshima blast. 1000 people were injured yesterday in the meteor explosion, and none killed. However, there is something to consider. The Hiroshima bomb was detonated at around 2000 feet. The meteor exploded miles above the surface. It was one of those days where you feel like you’re living in a science fiction movie.

Christi and I, as promised in yesterday’s entry, went out to Hoffbrau Steak House last night, but we were unable to have prime rib. It seems that they had temporarily run out. We got there around 6pm, and were told that they were out of prime rib, “until 7:30.” Okay. What happens at 7:30? Does the meteor drop prime rib from the sky? Do they kill the fatted calf? More likely, the next batch is defrosted, is what I’m guessing. But it was okay. We both had a Rib-eye steak, and it was delicious! How will this affect my weight loss journey? Meh. I only gained .4 pound this morning, so I’m not worried about it. Sometimes, you just gotta have steak.

Today, Rachel and Justin are coming over for a visit. Who knows what we will do? I’m sure we will have either lunch or dinner, and maybe play a game, and likely sit around and watch some TV. Should be good times.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1940, “a British destroyer operating under Admiralty instructions intercepted a German supply ship making her way home along the coast of Norway.” The HMS Cossack chased the Altmark into a fjord where she ran aground. The cargo that was rescued consisted of “300 sailors of the British Merchant Navy, the capture drews of nine merchant vessels sunk the previous autumn.” Norway, being neutral, protested the violation of her waters, but to no avail.

Today’s birthday is Edgar Bergen, born on this date in 1903. Bergen was famous for his ventriloquism act with his “partner” Charlie McCarthy. He passed away in 1978. Here’s a clip of the two of them at an AFI tribute Orson Welles.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Psalm 107:8-9
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Psalm 5:1
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you during this time of devotion and meditation.

Today I’m reading Isaiah 28:11-13.
11 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people,
12 to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear.
13 And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

In this passage, Isaiah throws the taunts of the religious leaders right back in their faces. In Hebrew, these words, “precept upon precept, line upon line” appear as “sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav.” It almost looks like a children’s taunt. I can easily see the faces of people throwing that taunt at Isaiah in the passage I read yesterday (verse 10), and then Isaiah turns it right back on them in verse 13. In essence, the word of God meant nothing to the religious leaders of the day. It was nothing more than “blah, blah, blah.” In fact, Eugene Peterson translates verse,
So God will start over with the simple basics
and address them in baby talk, one syllable at a time—
“Da, da, da, da,
blah, blah, blah, blah.
That’s a good little girl,
that’s a good little boy.”
And like toddlers, they will get up and fall down,
get bruised and confused and lost.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Directions for Living.” The scripture reference is Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,
20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

This passage is part of God’s instructions for the king that Israel will ask to have over them. The law that is referred to, “approved by the Levitical priests,” was that which gave the Israelites their instructions for living. They were to keep God’s laws, exhibit his love, and express his righteousness.” Even the king was required to read the Word of God regularly, and keep it close to his heart. The king must know “his proper place before God. He must fear the Lord, demonstrating that he knows he is a creature and has power only at God’s discretion. We would do well to seek the same understanding.” As I begin the study of my selected scripture passage (see yesterday’s entry), I am challenged to begin with this prayer:
Father God, you have provided Scripture as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Help me to make the most of this precious gift. Give me the gift of understanding and the discipline to return to your word again and again, for my flesh is so weak and easily distracted or frustrated when the task grows difficult. I ask that you kindle in me a desire for learning more of you, so that I may come to your word with the joy and delight of the psalmists. In your name I pray. Amen.
The passage that I have chosen for the next ten days is the book of 1 John. Five brief chapters, able to be read in a single sitting of just a few minutes.

Father, I pray that, as I read the book of 1 John over the next couple of weeks, you would grant me a fresh understanding of the words therein. Give me a new vision for life, “directions for living,” from you word, as I read and study it. I have always believed that your word is ever-living, and brings new insight to me every time I read it. I don’t expect to be disappointed in this instance, either. As I read each day, may my eyes and spirit be open to what you have to say to me, and may it work its way deep down into my soul. Kindle that desire for me to learn more of you. Give me delight and joy in finding you in your word. Give me focus and guard me against the things that so often distract me.

I pray for the rest of this day. I pray for travel safety for Rachel and Justin as the make their way to us. Give us a good visit this afternoon, and may we get good rest over this weekend. As I practice for the worship celebration later today, may my fingers move smoothly over the keys, producing beautiful music to your ears, and prepare my heart and soul to worship you with the rest of the body at The Exchange tomorrow morning.

The Bible gives us “directions for living,” drawing us closer to God as it teaches us about him. In fact, an old acronym for it used to be “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Bible Study

It’s about time Friday got here! Today is Friday, February 15, 2013.

Today is National Gum Drop Day. If all the rain drops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain that would be. Yes, and it would hurt! Can you imagine lemon drops falling from the sky? I mean, sure, they would be tasty (and frozen, because it’s really cold up there), but they would be like little hail stones, breaking car windows and stuff. Not to mention your teeth, if you were silly enough to stand there looking up with your mouth open. Sometimes, people who write kids’ songs (and Skittles commercials) just don’t think these things through. Now it would be totally different if we just walked out of the house every morning to find a yard full of lemon drops and gum drops. Like those Hebrew children and their manna. That would be way cool. Of course the candy would have dirt on it. And maybe bugs.

Okay…enough about candy! Moving on…

Stephanie had her training session last night, and I worked out on the elliptical again. Tonight, though, Christi and I plan to go to Hoffbrau steak house because they are having their semi-yearly Prime Rib special, and my love loves prime rib! I will do my best to make a healthy choice so as to not undo the progress I’ve made this week.

Christi should get her yearly bonus today. That will be nice. I don’t get those. 🙂 Oh, and we are both off on Monday! Yay!! I’m taking a vacation day because, for some strange reason, Christi’s company gives her President’s Day as a holiday. That will be nice.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1898, the battleship Maine exploded and sank in the waters of the Havana harbor, off the coast of Cuba. She had been sent there to reassure Americans who lived in Spanish-owned Cuba. As Captain Charles Sigsbee recalled, “I was enclosing my letter in its envelope when the explosion came. It was a bursting, rending, and crashing roar of immense volume, largely metallic in character. It was followed by heavy, ominous metallic sounds. There was a trembling and lurching motion of the vessel, a list to port. The electric lights went out. Then there was intense blackness and smoke.” 260 of the 350 men on the ship died as the ship sunk. Even though no one knew what had happened, William Randolph Heart began a media campaign, blaming the Spanish, and by April, the Spanish-American war had begun, which the Americans won quite easily. “In the pride of victory, the public began to forget about the Maine. Also forgotten was the fact that for many years no one really knew why she had blown up or who was responsible. But in 1976 a study by the US Navy indicated that the most likely cause was an accidental detonation in the ship’s coalbunker, entirely the fault of the Maine herself and her crew.”

Hmmm…and we think it’s a new thing that the media creates situations out of nothing…in this case the media, spurred on by Hearst, created a war!

Today’s birthday is Matthew Ward, born on this date in 1958. (Hey, we’re only a month apart!) Matthew was the brother in the sibling “Jesus Music” pioneering group, Second Chapter of Acts.

For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Psalm 25:11
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Psalm 109:26
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you and your glory this morning, as I lift up my soul to you.

Today I’m reading Isaiah 28:9-10.
“To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast?
10 For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”

This appears to be a sarcastic quote from the hardened leaders spoken of in the previous two verses. They are speaking about Isaiah, the prophet.

Today, in A Year With God, we begin a section on the discipline of Study. Study is defined as “The intentional process of engaging the mind with the written and spoken Word of God and the world God has created in such a way that the mind takes on an order conforming to the order upon which it concentrates.” From the time that the Lord laid down the law, study has been an important part of the “with-God life.” The best way to learn more and grow closer to God is to study his written Word. “What we study, what we concentrate on, becomes ingrained in us. Study transforms us from the inside out.” Psalm 111:2 says, Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.

Today’s reading is called “Learning from Scripture.” The scripture reading is 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

While most of us realize the importance of the Bible in our spiritual walk, most of us also realize that we don’t study it enough. I’m right in there with that group. According to Richard Foster, “what Christians today most lack is the study of long passages of Scripture.” I’m challenged by this book to select a long passage of scripture and read it each day over the next ten days, asking the Spirit to illuminate it for me, to show me its meaning. There are different tactics that can be used in this process. I might begin by repetition, reading the passage over several times, perhaps even aloud. Next is concentration, seeking, perhaps, to memorize parts of the passage (or all of it). After this, I might want to consider the interpretation of the passage, perhaps even reading what a commentary has to say about it. The final step would be reflection, thinking on what the passage has taught me.

I’ll think about what passage I want to use during the day today. Then I will embark on this challenge to see how it goes. Right now, I’m thinking about the book of 1 John. But we’ll see.

Father, it is my desire to learn more from you and to grow closer to you. It is also my desire to increase in love, both for you and for all people. It sounds very easy to talk about loving “all people,” but when we realize that “all people” also includes the ones right around us that annoy us the most, that becomes not such an easy task. I pray that, through the study of Scripture, and meditating on what it teaches me, that my love will increase. I have been praying each day that the characteristics of love, as defined in 1 Corinthians 13, would be stronger in my life, and made manifest each day. I still find that this is incredibly difficult sometimes, as the flesh doesn’t want to love that which annoys it. Take my life and mold it to what you want it to be, Lord. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth.

I pray for this day. I ask that Christi and I would have a good work day today, and that you would protect us by the power of your Spirit. If any challenges come our way, may we immediately look to you for guidance and strength, not resorting to fleshly devices. I also pray for Stephanie today, that you might draw her closer to you.

Your grace us sufficient.

Bible study is an important discipline in the “with-God life.” I will endeavor to meet the challenge to find a way to include more of it in my life.

Grace and peace, friends.

Becoming Prayer

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

Today is National Tortellini Day. Have yourself a nice serving of those funny shaped little pastas filled with meaty or cheesy goodness. Just don’t try making one yourself. Unless you’re a “Masterchef,” of course…in which case, go right ahead. Make some for me while you’re at it.

We got our tax return yesterday! Woot! I just checked our checking account balance this morning, and there it was! And Christi is supposed to find out today what her bonus will be this year. There’s not much else going on right now, though. Stephanie and I continue to work out, getting to the gym last night, and we plan to go back tonight. I’ve lost 16 pounds total since the beginning of the Biggest Loser contest at work. That’s not bad…but it should have been better. Weekends are the biggest challenge. I actually dropped into second place last Friday. But we have six weeks to go from today, so anything can happen. Unfortunately, one of those weeks includes our getaway weekend to Glen Rose for my birthday. I’m still eating pie. I will not go to Glen Rose without having pie at The Pie Peddlers. And I see that it is their tenth anniversary this year. Congratulations to them! Also congratulations to them for being voted “Best pie in Texas” by viewers of the Texas Country Reporter.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1945, the German city of Dresden was bombed by British bombers. Dresden was a city that had been built up during the late 17th and 18th centuries, into a “Baroque bijou whose only rivals in beauty were Vienna and Prague.” “So brilliant was the city that it earned the nickname of ‘Florence on the Elbe.'” But on February 13, 1945, 773 British bombers dropped over 2300 tons of incendiary explosives that created a “self-sustaining firestorm with temperatures over 1500 degrees centigrade.” About 90 percent of the “inner city’s 28,000 houses were destroyed, including 22 hospitals. Three centuries of architectural magnificence were incinerated in a single night.” Over the next two days, American forces joined in, but were said to have only attacked railway yards. To this day, there is debate over the number of civilians killed in that attack, and the leader of the attack, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, was so criticized later, that he moved to South Africa. He claims that the attack was approved by “more important people than I.”

Today’s birthday is Peter Gabriel, born on this date in 1950. Gabriel came on the scene in the mid sixties as the lead singer and front man of the prog-rock group Genesis. He left Genesis in 1975 to pursue a solo career, which is highlighted by his most commercially successful album, So. Here is a clip of a newer arrangement of his song, “The Rhythm of the Heat,” performed with a symphony orchestra.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah. Psalm 67:1
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Psalm 31:1
Father, I pray this morning, not for blessing, but for vision. Show me something in your word today to keep me looking to you throughout this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 28:7-8.
7 These also reel with wine and stagger with strong drink; the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are swallowed by wine, they stagger with strong drink, they reel in vision, they stumble in giving judgment.
8 For all tables are full of filthy vomit, with no space left.

The leaders of the people have become useless and hard of heart. Their visions and judgments are affected by sensuality.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Prayer-Based Community.” The scripture reading is Acts 1:13-14.
13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.
14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

This scene is seen shortly after the ascension of Jesus. The disciples are forming “new communities of faith based on prayer and worship. Prayer is the centerpiece of communal life.” It also plays heavily in the individual disciplined life. Over and over, we find various disciples waiting on God in prayer and “then exploding into action as God’s spirit propels them into the world.” We see in Acts 4:31, the result of one of these prayer meetings: And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

This question is asked: “What do you think it would feel like to be so connected to God that your petitions are his, that you have ‘become Word,’ as this quote calls it?” Then the following quote is given, from Andre Louf in Teach Us to Pray. “Prayer is the superabundance of the heart. It is brim-full and running over with love and praise, as once it was with Mary, when the Word took root in her body. So too, our heart breaks out into a Magnificat. Now the Word has achieved its ‘glorious course’ (2 Thess. 3:1); it has gone out from God and been sown in the good soil of the heart. Having now been chewed over and assimilated, it is regenerated in the heart, to the praise of God. It has taken root in us and is now bearing its fruit; we in our turn utter the Word and send it back to God. We have become Word; we are prayer.”

Yes! This is exactly what I’m chasing! I desire to be “so connected to God” that my “petitions are his.” How I would love to see the Lifehouse I attend explode into the world with the power of the prayer that the disciples experienced. I believe that we are close…yet still so far.

Father, I pray this morning to become this connected with you. I know that my flesh holds me back. There is too much competition from the “stuff of earth” that competes for my allegiance. I pray that you whittle away at this. Prune me until I see nothing but you. Perhaps this is a silly prayer, because I have responsibilities on this earth that require me to see things other than you. But the point of the prayer is that I desire to eventually be so connected to you that I am not distracted from my mission by trivial things. Get me to a point where I am so connected that my life is a prayer; that I am truly praying without ceasing, because, as Andre Louf says, I have become prayer. I pray for you to get me to that place.

I pray for this day. Give Christi and I a good work day today, with your Spirit shielding us from stress and adversity. Should challenges come our way, give us the grace that we need to meet them head-on and show your grace and mercy to all around us. I pray that you surround Stephanie with your love and grace today, giving her purpose and drawing her heart into yours.

I pray for the prayer life of the community that we are involved in to explode, just as that of the disciples.

Your grace is sufficient.

i believe the kind of prayer described here to be a definite possibility. I’m challenged to become more immersed in him and his word.

Grace and peace, friends.

Not My Will, But Yours

Good morning, and welcome to Tuesday, February 12, 2013. It’s two days before Valentine’s Day. Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Today is National Lost Penny Day. Does anyone else think that we should totally do away with pennies? I rarely use cash any more anyway, and certainly have no use for pennies. From what I understand, it costs more to make one than it is worth.

Christi’s visit with the new doctor went very well, yesterday. She felt very comfortable with the doctor and is supposed to get some kind of “bone stimulator” device that will, allegedly, stimulate bone growth. She is supposed to use it for 30 minutes each night before bed, for 6 to 8 weeks. If that doesn’t do anything, then the next step will be surgery, putting pin in the foot. This doctor, comparing the December X-ray with yesterday, says that it actually looks like there has been some healing in the foot. So that’s good news.

Stephanie and I worked out last night. It was my 19th day of working out for this year. Yes, I keep track of that. Most days, I take a picture of the exercise machine display and post it on Facebook. Last night, the display shut off before I could get the picture. Oh, well.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
Let’s see what I missed over the last couple of days. On Sunday’s date (February 10) in 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Yesterday, February 11, in 1847, Thomas Edison was born. I didn’t realize that his first invention was an “electric vote-recording machine that was immediately rejected by the Massachusetts Legislature, probably because it restricted politicians’ ability to rig the vote.”
On this date, in 1554, “a beautiful and intelligent sixteen-year-old girl was beheaded for treason.” The girl was Lady Jane Grey. Her cousin was Edward VI, and in 1553, he was sick and dying. Grey’s “devious father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland,” convinced Edward to designate Jane as the heir to the throne. She was a devout Protestant and the great-granddaughter of Henry VII, so she seemed perfect, “especially for those who feared Mary [Tudor]’s morbid Catholicism and her desire to marry Spain’s equally Catholic heir to the throne, the future Phillip II.” Four days after Edward died, Northumberland and his group of followers proclaimed Jane as queen. However, it soon became clear that the majority of the country would not support this, as Mary was Edward’s sister “and the legitimate daughter of Henry VIII.” As Jane’s support waned, she abandoned her brief reign (nine days), after which her and her father were both imprisoned in the Tower of London. Jane’s father was pardoned, and she likely would have been, too, had he not plotted further, along with Sir Thomas Wyat. Wyat “raised an army to depose Mary by force,” but his plot ended badly, as they received no local support. After this revolt, along with her father’s support of it, Jane was sentenced to death. She first had to watch Northumberland and her husband Guildford beheaded, from her window in the tower. One hour later, she was taken. Five days earlier, she had written to her father, “Yet can I patiently take it, that I yield God more hearty thanks for shortening my woeful days.”

Today’s birthday is Joe Garagiola, born on this date in 1926. Joe was a major league baseball catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs, and the New York Giants. Yes, I said “New York Giants.” His career ended in 1954, after which he eventually became a broadcaster.

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD. Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Psalm 135:1, 3, 5
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
Father, I pray that you show me something of yourself this morning, as I look into your word for inspiration and motivation. Give me grace for this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 28:5-6.
5 In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people,
6 and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

Not much to say about this one. The Lord will be glory and beauty to his people, and will establish justice and strength.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Reconciling Ourselves to God’s Will.” The scripture reading is Mark 14:32-39.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.
34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?
38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.

In this passage, we see a part of Jesus that we can most certainly identify with. It is obvious that Jesus, knowing full well what was coming, did not really look forward to enduring it. He sincerely asked the Father if there could be any other way. “Yet not what I will, but what you will,” he said. He “knows what he should do, but he desperately hopes there is another way to do it.” Who among us has not been in that situation before? While it is true that this passage affirms Jesus’s humanity, I believe that it also affirms that “our spirituality can express weakness and pain and fear and reluctance.” The ending phrase of his prayer is a great model for us to follow. “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” We should not end our prayers with an expectancy that God is just going to give us what we want. Time and time again, I have heard people thanking God in advance for what he is going to do, ending their prayers with a self-assured sense that God is going to give them exactly what they want. I don’t agree with this thought, nor do I find it in scripture anywhere. I do, find, however, these words of Jesus Christ, which tell me that, yes, it is okay for me to pray for something, but I must also realize that whatever God wills is going to take place, and I need to be okay with that. Jesus was obedient to the point of death, even though he desired another way. “This prayer comes from a lifetime of spiritual formation.”

Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.
May your will be my delight today.
May your way have perfect sway in me.
May your love be the pattern of my living.
~~Richard J. Foster, Prayers from the Heart

Father, each day I pray for various things on my prayer list, things that relate to others, things that relate to myself, and things that relate to the Church. Each day, help me, by your Spirit, to reconcile all of these with your will. While I do not always know what your will is regarding various people in my life, I can realize that your will may be different than what I am praying. As I mature in this prayer life, I desire to be praying your will, so that these times become fewer. But I pray with all my heart this morning that I might be able to sincerely echo the words of Jesus when he said, “Yet not what I will but what you will.” May I echo this in every prayer, for every person, for every situation. Not my will, but yours be done, O Father!

I pray for my family in this day. I pray that Christi and I will have a good work day today, and that we will be shielded by your Spirit from adversity and anxiety. Not that we would not experience any, but that we would not fall prey to them. Seal our hearts with yours and draw us into the center of your holiness. I pray also that you would draw Stephanie closer to your heart today and show her your love for her.

Your grace is sufficient, and your will will be accomplished, I am confident of this.

It is always good to remember when we pray, that God’s will supersedes our will. May we all be able to echo this prayer of Jesus.

Grace and peace, friends.

Intercession Is Negotiation!

Good morning. Today is Monday, February 11, 2013.

Today is National Peppermint Patty Day. Raise your hand if you thought Peanuts before you thought of York Peppermint Patties. My hand is up.

Yesterday, Christi and I watched nine consecutive hours of The Walking Dead. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. With any TV show. Not even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And they still haven’t killed all those zombies! We are, however, completely caught up, now, and can watch the new ones as they come on. Perhaps we should start on Downton Abbey, now, the other TV show that everyone talks about. I don’t know…we still aren’t caught up with all the CSI variations.

Yesterday’s worship celebration went pretty well. We learned another new song from “Jesus Culture,” called “Rooftops.” Not a bad song. I have to say that my favorite song that we are singing right now is probably Chris Tomlin’s new, “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies).” That can be found on his latest release, Burning Lights. The pastor preached a message from Romans 8:28-39. The message was called “Love Is A Game Changer.” The points were 1) God’s love is always working for his children’s best interests; 2) God is FOR his children and spares no expense in blessing them; and 3) Bank on the fact that nothing can stop God’s love for his children. Just to clarify in case there is any confusion on this, it was not a “prosperity gospel” sermon. Our pastor doesn’t preach that false gospel. It was a message of encouragement from one of the most powerfully encouraging passages in all of scripture.

Today, it’s back to the old grind. Christi has an appointment with the new podiatrist this afternoon. We’ll see how that goes. And since it’s Monday morning, I probably won’t have time for history and birthdays.

Father, I pray that you would give me some inspiration this morning to live this day looking to you. May I keep my eyes fixed on you today.

Today I’m reading Isaiah 28:1-4.
1 Ah, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is on the head of the rich valley of those overcome with wine!
2 Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong; like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters, he casts down to the earth with his hand.
3 The proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim will be trodden underfoot;
4 and the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is on the head of the rich valley, will be like a first-ripe fig before the summer: when someone sees it, he swallows it as soon as it is in his hand.

The arrogance of humanity before the Lord will be overcome and cast down. The “one who is mighty and strong” in verse two could be a reference to Assyria, that nation so often used by God for judgment.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Negotiating with God.” The scripture reference comes from Genesis 18:17a, 19a, 20, 23-26, and 32.
17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…
19 For I have chosen him…
20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave.
23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

I have always found this passage fascinating. First, God debates, among himself, about telling Abraham what is about to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah. He decides to tell Abraham, after which commences this bout of negotiations, because Abraham is, of course, concerned about his nephew, Lot. The book states that “God is ultimately swayed by Abraham’s intercession and influenced by his righteousness.” I’m not so sure about that. For one thing God knew that he wasn’t going to find ten righteous people in those cities. And since ” all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment,” (Isaiah 64:6) I doubt that God has ever been influenced by a man’s righteousness. However, the Lord God does allow Abraham to think he is winning a negotiation with him. What this does remind us, though, is that this relationship with God is one of conversation, not of dictatorship. Even though God is sovereign and does what he will, we can converse with him and, perhaps, even “negotiate” with him.

“[Our prayer] objective must of course be in accordance with God’s will…A wise seeker after God had better study the laws of God and adapt his prayer to those laws. There is no great mystery concerning the will of God, in so far as it applies to our small selves. God’s will is written into His nature, and the nature of God is love. Therefore, when we pray in accordance with the law of love, we are praying in accordance with the will of God.”~~Agnes Sanford, The Healing Light

So…is it okay to “negotiate” with God? I would say that, in a case like Abraham’s, perhaps so. Abraham, after all, was negotiating to save the life, perhaps even the soul, of another. Burt Reynolds, at the end of “The End,” was bargaining with God for his own selfish reasons. I would not venture to do that. I think the above quote would give us a good guideline for whether a “negotiation” is called for.

Father, I would not presume to bargain with you in prayer, most of the time. However, much of our prayers are already negotiations, in effect, for we are attempting, through our humble (hopefully) pleadings, to change the course of someone’s history. We have friends and family on our hearts who need healing, salvation, and other things in their lives. We are negotiating with you on their behalf. I suppose, after reflecting on all of this, that intercession is negotiation. How about that? You have taught me something new this morning. Can I change your mind? That is something I will not know for certain until I meet you face to face. But I know that prayers have been answered. I cannot presume to understand your ways, but I trust them. Thank you, Father, for your blessings in my life.

I pray for my family today, Lord. I pray that Christi and I will have a good work day, and that you will draw Stephanie close to you during this day. I pray that Christi’s visit with this different doctor today will give some result that may give her hope for someday walking without this pain. I continue to pray that you would heal her.

I suppose that any type of prayer to God is a form of negotiation. That’s a revelation I was not expecting. I love when that happens!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Humility Of A Child

It appears to be Thursday morning. I’m still a little groggy as I start this today. I’ve been staying up to watch Red Sox v Rangers games. And for the most part it has been great fun for me. But I won’t go into that here. There are more important things to do on this blog. So i’ll get right to it.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 18:1-14
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them
3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

What is it about humans that we always want to be the greatest, the best? We do have a competitive spirit, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Jesus pretty much turns it upside down here. If we want to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” we must “become like children.” What does that mean? Verse 4 offers a pretty good explanation: humility. We must be humble like children, and we must receive each other in our humility. However, if, by our own irresponsibility or pride, we should cause one to sin…It would be better if we had had a mafia burial (cement shoes, as it were, in modern terms). Jesus goes on to talk more about temptation.

7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Temptations are a necessary evil, but we had better not be the source of them! Then Jesus repeats something he said back in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus certainly was not advocating self-mutilation (I’ve never seen a Christian with no hands or eyes). We know that it is not the hand or eyes that cause temptation or sin, but the mind and heart.

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
11 [For the Son of Man came to save the lost.]
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(Verse 11 is not in the older and more reliable manuscripts.) So what is Jesus talking about here? Is he really talking about children, still? I don’t think so. Remember, he is using the child to represent God’s redeemed “children.” Can we take this to mean that we each have an angel (or multiple angels?) representing us before our Father in heaven? Interesting question. Then he compares us to sheep again. And after this comparison, I must take verse 14 to be specifically speaking of the elect. Jesus speaks of ownership…the man in the parable has a hundred sheep and one is astray. When he finds it, he rejoices. He does not love that one more than the other 99. “God elects, seeks out, and preserves not only His church as a whole, but each individual within the church.” (Reformation Study Bible notes on verses 12-14) There is a suggestion that Jesus may have had Ezekiel 34:11-16 in mind when he said this. 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Isaiah 28
He starts out with a judgment against Ephraim, who is described as being a drunkard. Verse 2 seems to describe Assyria as the are about to come down on Ephraim to bring God’s judgment. But, as always, there is a thread of hope in verses 5-6: In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. But God’s people (even the priests and prophets) had become as drunkards…hard-hearted, sensual, even sarcastic. They speak in verse 9, insulting Isaiah, saying To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? But God will speak to the people himself, saying in verses 12-13, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. That line, “precept upon precept, line upon line,” is a a taunt that was thrown at Isaiah, but he throws it right back at them.
It is said that the rulers of the people have made a covenant with death (v. 15), and that they have made lies their refuge and falsehood their shelter.
16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”
18 Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.

Psalm 118:22-24 seems to be related to verse 16. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Note the context for verse 24. I don’t suppose there is anything wrong with us quoting that on Sunday morning before our worship services, but it’s not the context of the verse. The “day that the LORD has made” is the day that Jesus became the cornerstone!
Back in Isaiah, notice the standard of measurement in verse 17. Justice and righteousness are the standards. The lies and falsehoods of the religious leaders and rulers will be swept away.

Proverbs 7:1-5
Solomon is really stressing the importance of avoiding the “adulteress!” But he begins chapter 7 just as he began the section in chapter 6, verse 20.
1 My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you;
2 keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
3 bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend,
5 to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.

We are encouraged to be cling closely to wisdom, so that it might keep us from a multitude of sins.

Father, I pray for wisdom each day of my life. I pray that you would give me the wisdom and knowledge to live a successful life in your eyes. Let me not be tied to the ideas of success that come from this world, but, rather, let me see success as you see it; a life lived holy before you.
Let me not be one who is “in haste” or “put to shame” by the Cornerstone that you have placed. I pray that I will be, as it were, broken by this Cornerstone…broken to the point of ultimate submission to Christ. I pray for the humility of the child that Jesus spoke of. Let pride not be a stumbling block for me, and I pray fervently that I never be a source of temptation or sin to another child of God! I believe that I am one of your sheep, Lord! I praise you that you elected me, sought me out, and are preserving me in your tender care. You are my rock and my fortress, my shelter to which I can run.

As I pray for this day, Lord, I hear thunder outside, and have heard some rain. We praise you for the rain, and would ask that we get more. The lakes in our city are depleted beyond recognition. Give us rain to replenish the earth.

As I life up our nation’s leaders, Lord, I pray for wisdom for President Obama and Vice President Biden on matters of domestic and international policy. The president is seeking counsel from others as he works on a plan to try to get our nation back on its economic feet. I pray that they will have wisdom, and I pray that you would bring our nation back to the place of financial stability.

Give us a good day today, Lord. I thank you that Steph had a great day at school yesterday, and pray for another one. Let her not be overly anxious from the thunder outside right now. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at our jobs today.

The humility of a child…this is no small feat for us. (I said “FEAT!”) We can only do it with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.