The Face of Jesus

It is Monday, the twenty-fourth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,083

Seven days until Memorial Day.

I’m struggling with WordPress, this morning. For some reason, the page to write a new blog post would not load on MS Edge browser. It does work, however, in Google Chrome, so that’s what I’m using, this morning.

Needless to say, this has put me way behind, this morning, so I need to move on in to the devotional. I will reiterate what a marvelous weekend we had, and that our piece of pie was totally worth the extra points, yesterday. We must not have done too badly, because I was about four pounds down from last Wednesday, when I stepped on the scale, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

It makes no sense.
Why should this happen?
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your plan.

My prayers are so dry.
It feels as if you're not there.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your faithfulness.

I have been hurt.
I am so bitter.
And I fall . . . 
into your arms, and I learn of your humility.

I make the donation.
I cannot afford it.
And I fall . . . 
into your arms, and I learn of your generosity.

It is so beautiful.
I am filled with awe.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your beauty.

I read of your Word.
I sit in your silence.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your love.

I lend a hand to my brother.
I see the smile on his face.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your joy.

Your body is lifted up before my eyes.
I say amen.
And I fall . . . 
into your arms, and I learn of your passion.

I cherish my memories and regret my mistakes.
I close my eyes at last.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your glory.
(Daryl Madden, "And I Fall," cont., from On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful weekend we had, the refreshing and renewal that took place
2. that we have jobs to which to return, this morning
3. that You have given me a thankful and generous heart
4. for the church community we have
5. for Your care for me, that I might care for myself, and then care for others; help me to see Your face in everyone I meet today

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 1

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause briefly to contemplate the “new heart and new spirit” that I believe I have received over the past four days, and pray that it was a permanent transformation, to be carried over into this week of work.

BIBLE SONG

The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless his people Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the LORD— small and great alike.

May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind.
It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence;
it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 115:12-18 NIV)

BIBLE READING

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I pause to remind myself that I am in God’s sweet presence, I re-read these passages, asking, inviting, the Holy Spirit to point me to any particular word, phrase, or thought in them, to teach me something about my life in Christ, this morning.

In truth, there is nothing “new” that I find in today’s readings. This is not always a negative thing. It doesn’t mean that I am not paying attention or “listening.” What I do see is reaffirmations. The reading in Acts affirms what our current church model consists of. We meet together, in a home, and we are devoting ourselves to the Word of God, the fellowship, the breaking of bread together (the Supper) and to prayer. Each of those elements of worship is represented every Sunday morning.

Sometimes, there is more fellowship than Word. Sometimes, there is more prayer than anything else. And sometimes, the precious Word of God takes the bulk of the time. But each one happens every time. And this, regardless of the setting or place, is what worship should be. This is what the community of faith should look like. We could, honestly, do better, during the week. We don’t see each other very often, outside of Sundays. Perhaps we need to pray for the Spirit to help us with that.

Father, I thank You that we have this model to follow in our worship times. I thank You for a group of people who believe in Your Church, and want to observe Your commands as simply as possible. Help us to be more of a community outside of the Sunday morning event. Help us to reach out more to one another, to seek out needs to meet, and help one another with whatever is needed. I believe you have given us all thankful and generous hearts, Father. May Your blessings fall on us.

God of wind and fire,
whoever would have guessed that a ragtag band of Jewish Jesus-followers could be bound together into a movement that would turn the world upside down?
Only because of your Holy Spirit,
who is fully God.
Do that work again in our day,
take wildly diverse people who don't naturally fit together,
and make a peculiar and compelling community,
beautiful because of Jesus.
In his name we pray,
amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 53)

BLESSING

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NIV)

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
(Matthew 25:40 ESV)

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
(Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
(Matthew 9:35-38 ESV)

While I realize that the passage from Matthew 25, the “least of these” passage, speaks of caring for other people, there was an interesting quote in a book I finished over the weekend. The book is called Embracing the Love of God, by James Bryan Smith.

The epigraph for chapter 8, which is called “Caring for Ourselves,” went like this: “What if you discovered that the least of the brethren of Jesus, the one who needs your love the most, the one you can help the most by loving, the one to whom your love will be most meaningful — what if you discovered that this least of the brethren of Jesus . . . is you?” (Carl Jung)

Just something to think about. How can we care for our brothers and sisters if we do not care for ourselves?

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:1-3 ESV)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

Today’s mission: “Live like the sun today, as the light. Shine God’s love on all, regardless of people and circumstances. Shine rather because you’re the light.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Oh, yes, Father! Help me to shine with Your light, today. Help me to see Your face (the face of Jesus) in everyone today, regardless of the circumstances. May I care for others as I care for myself, and may I care for myself (and others) as You have cared for me. Thank you, O my Father! All glory to You!

Lord, give Your people a capacity to see You in all things, “every creature a word or book” from You. I pray for the Spirit to work a mighty work in me, in my brothers and sisters, and in the world. I specifically pray, this morning, for all who are “in the forefront of caring for creation.”

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends. Shalom Aleichem!

It’s Not What I Have Done, But What He Has Done

Today is Friday, December 20, in the third week of Advent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,562

FIVE DAYS until Christmas!

And, fitting for the season, today is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. “Lurking in the murky depths of many people’s wardrobes is a colorful, brash and (in most cases) highly embarrassing novelty Christmas jumper which, were it not for Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, would probably never see the light of day.

“When for [sic] Ugly Christmas Sweater Day comes along, it’s time to stop being ashamed of the contents of your (likely gifted) wardrobe and start busting out the ugly. There is such a thing as ‘so awful you can’t really hate it’ (the nether-regions of Netflix has multiple movies that fit these criteria), and Ugly Christmas Sweaters fit the bill in your wardrobe.”

If you don’t have an ugly Christmas sweater (sadly, I don’t), you can always celebrate Go Caroling Day. And if you’re more of the “Bah! Humbug!” type, you can participate in Sangria Day. Maybe that will help you get through all the people singing and wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.

C brought home about half of her steak last night. I haven’t tasted it, yet, but it looks delicious. She also received a $100 gift card for Morton’s Steakhouses, which, I believe includes Saltgrass. Actually, it includes any restaurant owned by Landry’s.

I think R and J are coming over tomorrow with some insane notion of cleaning out the closet in her old bedroom. So we’ll probably have lunch with them. C and S have a dental appointment tomorrow morning. We need to pick up groceries for all of the Christmas festivities, and we have our “gathered” church time Sunday morning. I still have to pick one more song to lead for that. I’m leading “O Holy Night” for one of them, and our worship leader’s wife is going to sing “Breath of Heaven.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. 
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.

Psalm 55.16-17

Today I am grateful:
1. For the deliverance accomplished by my Redeemer.
2. That God alone is my rock and my fortress and my salvation (Psalm 62.6).
3. That nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.38-39).
4. That God’s love for me is not based on anything that I have done, rather, on what Christ has done.
5. For the joy of the season, joy which is available all year long.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! 
Psalm 70.1
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
Psalm 65.4
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 33.20
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 
And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 
And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 
And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 
For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3.31-35
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. 
Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 
Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. 
Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.

Psalm 62.5-12

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Christ’s Commitment Is To Us, by James Bryan Smith

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

Romans 8.38-39

“For most of my Christian life,” says Smith, “I related to God on the basis of what I did for him.” How true is that for many of us. “If I prayed well, studied hard, served much, and sinned little, then I felt reasonably sure God was pleased with me.” The reverse of that, however, is the accompanying fear that if we fail in any of those things, God will remove his love from us. This also results in a paralysis of our ability “to love God, love myself, and ultimately, love others.”

At one point, I was positive that “my sinfulness would separate me from the love of Christ. Now I am certain that nothing will ever separate me from the love God has made visible in Jesus.”

We would do well to realize that our “feeble attempts at righteousness” have absolutely nothing to do with the way God feels about us. My commitment to Christ is not what matters, in this case. Of course that commitment matters, but what matters more is Christ’s commitment to us. Know this truth: There is nothing that you can do to cause God to love you less than he loves you right now. And there is nothing that you can do to cause him to love you more than he loves you right now.

Don’t let anything build an imaginary wall between you and God.

Father, once again, thank you for this truth that your love for us is not based on what we do, but on what Christ has done.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Lord is in This Place, Even If We Don’t Know It

Today is . . . um . . . Saturday! Yes, Saturday, November 30, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,542

25 days until Christmas!

It’s the last day of November. We’ve had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Yesterday’s visit with C’s niece and boyfriend was very nice. The leftovers were just as good (if not better) as they were on Thursday. We sent most of what was left home with them, after we all helped decorate the house for Christmas. The only thing left is quite a bit of turkey and ham, which is fine with me, as I love snacking on those.

Today, I will be taking Mama back to Mineral Wells, probably right after I pick up our groceries between 11:00 and 12:00. It’s been a good visit, but she is ready to go home. Later today, we plan to put up our Christmas tree, as we all ran out of steam yesterday, and were too tired to do that. C’s niece is planning to come back on Sunday. I believe they are planning to come to our “scattered” church meeting, then have lunch with us, after which her boyfriend will help C get the Christmas lights up on the house.

Ah, yes. Today is Small Business Saturday. Always falling on the day after Black Friday, this day encourages people to remember the “little guys.”

73 days until Spring Training begins.
117 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 115.18

Today I am grateful:
1. For the wonderful time we have had with family over this holiday weekend.
2. For the beautiful Christmas decorations around the house.
3. That the Lord keeps his promises, no matter how long it may take.
4. That the Lord is in this place, even though I may not recognize it.
5. That he has given me faith to believe and to keep faithfully waiting on the provision of the promise.

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Psalm 142.5

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 above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psalm 108.3-4
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Psalm 84.10
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! 
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. 
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. 
For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 81.1-4

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

“Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslave by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

This morning, I’m taking material from two different readings, Faith That Matters and Daily Guideposts 2019.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
Romans 4.18

The “he” in that verse is Abraham. Paul is writing about how Abraham kept hope for the promise of God for an heir of his blood. Granted, Abraham did “run ahead” a little bit when he and Sarah decided to have a child with Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid. The effect of that mistake still holds the Middle East in its grasp. But God was faithful, even though it was quite a few years later. In today’s reading by James Bryan Smith, he says, “God gave them a promise, but in between the promise and the provision they had to be patient.”

I’m sure we all know this feeling. And, in truth, those of us who eagerly await the return of our Savior all know this truth. The promise was made centuries ago, in the days of the New Testament. We are still waiting, some of us more faithfully than others. But we wait. And, unlike the case of Abraham and Sarah, we cannot “help” God with this promise. All we can do is either wait or give up. I choose to not give up.

One of the things that helps me with this is the truth brought forth in the Daily Guideposts reading for today. In Genesis 28, Jacob has a vision in his sleep, a vision of that which has come to be known as “Jacob’s Ladder.” In the vision, angels are ascending and descending on this ladder, and the Lord stands above it. The Lord says to Jacob, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (13-15)

Verse 16 tells us what happened next. “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.'”

That, my friends, is one of the things that keeps me faithful and patient as we wait. I still struggle with sin, both in thought and in deed, and especially in words, but my heart stays true to the One who made the promise. And the fact that he is in this place, even though I may not see him, helps me immensely. On the days that I remember this, I feel much better. When I forget, I struggle more.

So, while we wait, between the promise and the provision, may we remember that the Lord is in this place, whether we know it or not.

Father, thank you for these encouraging truths. Thank you for the fact that you always keep your promises. Help us to remain faithful as we wait, and help us to know your presence, wherever we may be.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Grace and peace, friends!

God Cares

Today is Monday, November 25, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,537

Only three more days until Thanksgiving!

Today is Blasé Day. “Blah-zay.” Not excited about Pumpkin Spice everything? Go ahead and be blasé about that today.

The fact that Thanksgiving is this Thursday also means that we have a three day work week this week! Yay!! Of course, Wednesday will be like Friday, so we may have to work late to finish everything.

C is taking Wednesday off, and the plan is for her to go to Mineral Wells to pick up my mother and bring her to our house for Thanksgiving. I think I’ve already mentioned that. Oh, well. Memory is fuzzy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

Psalm 103.1-2

Today I am grateful:
1. For a new week of opportunities to serve God and people.
2. For the mild weather that is predicted for today (high of 70, low of 53, mostly sunny).
3. That Jesus is preparing a place for me (John 14.2).
4. That there is nowhere I can go where God is not there (Psalm 139)
5. That God cares as much for me as he does for the sparrows (Matthew 6).

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 

Psalm 16.1-2
I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18.1-2
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51.7
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19.7-11

“O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.”
(Agnus Dei)

“Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

(From Faith That Matters)

Does God Care About Me? by James Bryan Smith

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

Psalm 139.7-8

“Most of us have difficulty believing that God really cares for us. We have trouble believing that God is always present, always gracious, and always providing for our needs.” I mean, surely God has bigger problems to deal with than me, right? There’s extreme poverty in third-world countries, there’s always fighting in the Middle East, we’re slowly depleting the resources of our planet, and so on. My problems seem rather small up against those things.

“The Bible describes a god who is so in love with us that he never leaves us.” In the Psalm referenced above, we learn that there is nowhere we can go where God is not there. Top of the highest mountain (Everest or Kilimanjaro, depending on how you count), God is there. Bottom of the Mariana Trench, God is there. Even if we were able to descend to the depths of hell, God would be there. He will no leave us or forsake us.

Jesus reminded is, in Matthew 6, how concerned God is with clothing and feeding the tiny sparrows, so how much more is he concerned with our welfare? There is nothing in our lives that goes unseen. Of course, this is either a great comfort, or it can be somewhat terrifying. For me it’s comfort. When I remember it. Which is the bigger issue for me. I believe it. I just keep forgetting. When I remember, it fills my day with wonder.

Father, I praise you that you are always there/here. Wherever I am, there you are. There is nowhere I can go where you are not. That is a great comfort to me, to know that I am always in your care. Even when it doesn’t appear to be true. Help me to remember that through this day.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

Grace and peace, friends.

Take It To the Lord in Prayer

Today is Wednesday, November 20, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,532

Only eight more days until Thanksgiving!

Today is Wobbly Wednesday. This day is all about a condition known as Nystagmus. This is an eye condition that affects 1 in 1000 people, and is the most common form of visual impairment among children in the UK.

Last night, while our chili was simmering, C and I went out for a walk, and took Tessie (dog) with us. It wasn’t a long one, just around the block, but it was exercise; it was moving. Tessie seemed to enjoy it, too.

Tonight, we will be making dump cakes for our respective work events tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

“Praise God from who all blessings flow;
praise him, all creatures here below;
praise him above, you heavenly hosts;
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
(Doxology)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the motivation to make some life changes.
2. For the ability/talent to praise God with musical instruments and voice
3. That with God all things are possible (Matthew 19.26)
4. That, as I get older, I can still “bear fruit” for the Lord.
5. That whatever worries me, I can take it to the Lord in prayer.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43.3-4
“Splendor and honor and kingly power are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
(A Song to the Lamb)
But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
Psalm 81.11
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19.23-26
Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! 
Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them. 
In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. 
O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. 
Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!

Psalm 99.5-9
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9.2

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant me so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 

Psalm 92.12-15

(From Faith That Matters)

Free From Anxiety, by James Bryan Smith

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4.6

It is possible that anxiety is the “great sickness in our society.” This verse from Paul is one of the more often-quoted verses in his letters. Yet when I look at it, that command seems impossible. “Do not be anxious about anything.” I’m one of those who is doing pretty good if I don’t worry about everything! “The looming national debt, the sputtering economy, the presence of guns in our schools, the spread of AIDS, and the rapidly changing job market create a people who are frightened and anxious about the future.” (The book this is taken from was written in 1995, so this may have changed a little, but not much, I think.)

Why is Paul able to admonish the Philippians (and anyone else who might read this through time) to not be anxious? For one thing, he knew that God “was alive and present and caring for them.” You always hear verse 6 and 7 quoted together. I have started adding verse 5 when I quote them. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” The reason, when I remember it, that I can “be anxious for nothing” is that “the Lord is at hand!” He is with me, and because he is with me, I have nothing to fear. And, instead of worrying or being anxious, I need to turn to God and prayer and supplication.

Peter said something similar in 1 Peter 5.7. “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” It appears that our Lord “actually wants us to bring our cares to him. It is God’s design that we take whatever is bothering us, whatever concerns we have, whatever needs we would like to see filled, to him in prayer.”

There’s an old hymn. Some of you already know where I’m going, I’ll bet. I’m old enough to remember singing these hymns in church. This one is called “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.” Several times in this hymn, you see the words, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” But in the first verse are these wonderful words:

“Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.”

Straight out of Philippians 4.6.

Let me also make this disclaimer. For some, anxiety is a serious illness, and professional help is needed. While prayer is easily seen as “the answer to everything,” the truth is that it sometimes is not. And there is no shame in seeking help for debilitating anxiety.

Father, whatever concerns me today, whatever worries me today, whatever causes anxiety within me, today, help me to remember to simply bring it to you in prayer. Most of all, help me to leave it at your feet once I do bring it to you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

Grace and peace, friends.

Censers and Empty Phrases

Today is Saturday, November 9, 2019. Peace be with you!

Day 22,521

Only three more days until C’s birthday!! (We’re kind of already celebrating!)

Yesterday’s doctor visit went well. I haven’t gotten any results, yet, from the blood work, but it’s a weekend, so it may be Monday before I see those. I’m expecting the results to be mostly good. Of course, I’m taking medications for almost everything, so that probably won’t change. We talked briefly about diet, and I asked some questions about Keto, which a lot of my friends are into. She said a couple of things. First, it is very difficult to maintain, and second, she doesn’t recommend Keto for diabetics. She does, however, recommend a low carb/low sugar diet. Just not trying to get into ketosis. And guess what!! Eggs are great!!! That’s awesome, because the “incredible, edible egg” is one of my favorite foods. While they are higher in cholesterol, I’m taking meds to control that, and, she said, it’s kind of weird how the body works, because the fat consumption that results from me not eating so many carbs will take care of that, naturally.

We also talked a bit about my sleeping trouble. I don’t have any trouble (usually) falling asleep, but every night, when I inevitably have to get up to use the bathroom, I struggle to fall back to sleep. She recommended that I start taking Melatonin. So, I’ve got some on order with our Kroger Click List for today.

I did get a brief scolding for my slight weight gain since last visit. I have to find a way to get some exercise in. I’m eating better for the past couple of weeks, at least for breakfast and lunch. Dinners are sometimes an issue. Got to work on that.

R & J are coming down, later today, and we’ll have lunch to celebrate C’s birthday. We’re thinking about Hoffbrau for steaks. Maybe I’ll get some steamed vegetables instead of a baked potato.

At 10:00, this morning, I have a meeting with our pastor and one other guy (should be two, but the other one can’t make it). It is a meeting about our “scattered” church meetings. In a short time (maybe sooner than I realize), we will truly be scattered, as we split into three different home church groups. And yours truly will be leading one of those home groups. That’s what this meeting is about. For the past two “scattered” Sundays, each of us has been leading one of the groups that all met at the same house. Sort of “trial runs,” I guess. Now, we just get to see how we’re going to figure out who goes to what group. That could be tricky. Me being the self-deprecating kind of person I am, I figure no one will want to come to mine. On the other hand, if ours meets at a cool house (it won’t be our house, I don’t think), maybe people will want to come. Hopefully, the Spirit will put the perfect groups together.

Today is World Freedom Day. We tend to take our freedom for granted in a place like the USA. But there are many countries in the world that don’t have the same kind of freedoms we have. The day, itself, commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall, thirty years ago today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD!
Psalm 135:1

Today I am grateful:
1. For the continuation of the weekend and birthday celebrations.
2. For the freedom that Christ brings to our lives (Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17)
3. That there’s an angel in heaven, offering up incense “with the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 8:3-4).
4. That the Lord knows what I need before I ask him.
5. For the PA that I usually see at my doctor’s office.

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
Psalm 71:2
O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.
Psalm 116:16
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? 
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, 
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

Psalm 116:12-14

There are two readings about prayer, today, that have spoken to me. I’ll try to summarize them together. But first, the scripture readings.

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Psalm 141:2
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 
Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 
and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 
Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Revelation 8:1-5
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:7-8

The first reading was from Our Daily Bread.

In his book, Purpose in Prayer, E.M. Bounds said, “Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.”

We see evidence of this in the scene depicted by John the Revelator. An angel came and stood before God, with a “golden censer.” A censer is an incense burner, typically suspended by several chains, so as to swing it around, spreading around the smoke of the incense. The angel was “given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints.” And then, in verse 7, “the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Can we simply ponder that for a minute? Who are “the saints?” We believe that this does not only speak of people who have been “sainted” by the Church. We believe that we are all considered to be “the saints.” So what is happening here is that our prayers, your prayers, my prayers, are being offered up to God, along with the smoke of the incense. This lends credence to Bounds’s statement about prayer. Once a prayer is uttered, it never dies. It rises up to the heavens (“up” is figurative . . . it’s just where we think “heaven” is), and is offered before Almighty God.

No, I don’t understand this. I never have. In all my years of being a believer in Jesus, and a Bible student/reader, I have NEVER comprehended how our God can coherently pay attention to millions upon millions of prayers! Of course one advantage that he has over us is that he is outside of time. Time is something in which we humans exist. God does not exist in time, as we know it.

But I digress. The point is, our prayers are heard. Our prayers do not die at the ceiling, or when the atmosphere ceases. They rise up to God, along with all the other prayers of the saints.

Now, to the second part, from Faith That Matters. “Jesus promises us that god would respond to our needs,” says James Bryan Smith. But, in Matthew 6, right before he gives us the “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus cautions us to not believe that our eloquence will get us heard any more effectively. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church, very traditional. Every Sunday morning, we had a Call to Worship, a pastoral prayer, three hymns, an offering (with “special music,” usually), a sermon, another prayer, an invitation, announcements, and a closing prayer. Truthfully, there was some comfort in knowing that this was how it was going to be every Sunday. Some of those pastoral prayers (and not just from that pastor, this has been true for most of my life) got quite lengthy and wordy. The tone of voice was also sometimes altered, so as to sound more “holy,” I guess. Sometimes, other men in the church would be called upon to pray. They, too, would put on their “holy voices” and pray eloquently, sometimes quite loudly, and sometimes quite longly.

But the truth is, none of that is necessary, nor does it gain any favor with God. Jesus warned us against using “empty phrases” in our prayers. “Our most gracious heavenly Father, we thank you for this day.” How many prayers did I hear that started like this? No, those aren’t bad words to pray. Nothing wrong with them. But if we pray them just because that’s how we think a prayer should start, they are “empty phrases,” and give no results.

In fact, prayers, truly effective prayers can consist of one sentence. (You don’t even have to say, “In Jesus’s name, Amen” at the end!) Consider this one: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) What about this one: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) And sometimes, all we can manage is “God, help!!”

“Martin Luther said that we should never prescribe measure, manner, time, or place in our prayers because he believed that we should trust in God’s wisdom, which is higher than ours.” In other words, don’t tell God how he should answer your prayer.

The thing is, God looks in our hearts and sees what we need (see the preface to the Lord’s Prayer, above). And the answer to the prayer may not come the way we think, or even quite want. But it will come.

Some time before he passed from this world, my father discovered that the best prayer that we can pray is “Thy will be done.” Jesus gave us that one. He gave it to us in that model prayer from Matthew 6. He also prayed it, himself in Matthew 26. You can’t go wrong with that prayer, especially if you sincerely mean it.

The words of Jesus’s model prayer can be “empty phrases.” But they don’t have to be. There are certain churches that recite it at every single service. I use a book called The Divine Hours as part of my daily routine. It has scripture verses (some of them are quoted above, right after my gratitude list) and written prayers. And, in it, we recite the Lord’s Prayer several times a day. I’ll admit . . . some days I rush through it, almost not thinking. Those times are when it’s “empty phrases.” But there are other times that I say it thoughtfully, even interjecting my own thoughts in the middle of it. And, you can most certainly rephrase it in your own words to make it more personal. Dallas Willard did that: “Dear Father always near us, may your name be treasured and loved, may your rule be completed in us – may your will be done here on earth in just the way it is done in heaven. Give us today the things we need today, and forgive us our sins and impositions on you as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us. Please don’t put us through trials, but deliver us from everything bad. Because you are the one in charge, and you have all the power, and the glory too is all yours – forever – which is just the way we want it!”

James Bryan Smith keeps a prayer journal. As he looks back on some of the entries, he notices several things. “One, God eventually answers all my prayers; two, the answers rarely resemble my requests; and three, the answers are always better.”

So, when we pray, we should remember that, first of all, those prayers do make it to God, trust that; second, he will answer them, sometimes in ways that we don’t expect, and third, his answers will always be better.

Because he’s smarter than us.

Father, I praise you for your great wisdom! I pray that you might impart a little bit of that upon me each day. I thank you that you hear our prayers, and that you know what we need even before we can ask. Purify our hearts, that our prayers will be pure, as well. May they rise up like sweet incense to be offered by an angel before your throne! And may we trust that you know the better answers than we do.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace, friends.

When I Can’t Forget

Today is Sunday, October 27, 2019. Peace be with you.

Day 22,508

16 days until C’s birthday!!

Yesterday was a nice day. The weather was beautiful, and all of our tasks got done without a hitch.

The Astros beat the Nationals 8-1, last night, to tie the World Series. Game five will be tonight, in Washington, at 7:00 CDT. The Astros have at least guaranteed that the series will return to Houston for game six. If the Astros win tonight, I still don’t have a prediction, because that will have meant that the home team has lost every game, so far. That would tell me that the Nationals will win games six and seven. But I’m not about to predict that madness.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, Texas. We are “gathered” this morning, and our gathering begins at 10:15 AM.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Psalm 96:7-9

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship the Lord with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. For the continuation of the lovely weather in our area.
3. That the Lord is my refuge.
4. That God chooses to forget my sin.
5. For the spiritual writings of people who are smarter than me.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43:3-4
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 

Psalm 42:1-2
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
Psalm 18:31
O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. 
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, 
in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 116:16-19

“Almighty and everlasting God, increase in me the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that I may obtain what you promise, make me love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

(From Faith That Matters)

Remember Your Sin Redemptively, by James Bryan Smith

“And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Jeremiah 31:34

The truth presented in this verse is one of those amazing things about God that I have never quite been able to, as they say, “wrap my head around.” I believe it, don’t get me wrong. But as a finite human being, it is beyond my scope of comprehension that a Being can purposefully forget something. This verse in Jeremiah is not the only place that God says he will forget our sins. He will remember them no more, it says.

We believe that God is all-powerful. There are, of course, things that he cannot do. He cannot stop being God. According to his word, he cannot lie. And no, he can’t make a rock so big that he can’t lift it. I’ve always thought that was a stupid question. It traps weak-minded people, not God.

But in this case we see that, if we take this verse literally, God will choose to forget our sins. Have you ever tried to do that? Forget something? Most certainly, the harder you try to forget something the more vividly you will remember it. It’s like if someone tells you not to think about pink elephants.

You’re welcome.

Or when you get what they call an “earworm,” a song stuck in your head. I will not present a certain song so that you don’t get one of those. I’m not a monster, you know.

Regardless of whether God actually “forgets” our sins, we do know that he treats us as if he does not remember them. “God never brings up past sins, and he regards me as if they had never happened at all.”

How, then, should we treat those past sins that we seem to be unable to forget? I’ve made some horrible mistakes in my past. I can’t forget them. So how do I treat them. I like Mr. Smith’s advice, here. “We can choose to remember in a redemptive manner. We can remember the event as a time of real pain but also as a testimony of God’s forgiveness and grace.”

It’s hard to let them go, but in that way, we can. We may never forget them, but the manner in which we remember them can be more redemptive than shame-inducing, which is what our enemy wants.

Father, I thank you for your forgiveness. I thank you that you are, somehow, able to forget the sins that I have committed. I thank you that, somehow, the Cross of Christ covered and erased all my sins for all eternity, past, present, and future. I will never comprehend that fully. Not in my present state, at least. Thank you and praise you, Lord. Help me to remember my own sin in that light.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Grace and peace, friends.

Do Not Be Afraid

“God will never forget me. Like a mother whose child is nursing at her breast, God could never forget me. I am not trusting in myself, nor in my government to protect me. I am learning to trust God, and therefore I am at peace.”

Today is Monday, October 7, 2019. Blessings to you!!

Day 22,488

FIVE MORE DAYS until Galveston and our 34th anniversary!!

For the second Sunday in a row, we lost power in our area. And the cause was almost the same. Sunday before last, a car hit a power pole about a mile from our house, knocking out power for most of the morning. Fortunately, it was back on by the time we got home from church. Yesterday, someone hit a power box a little farther away, but still affecting pretty much the same area. This occurred around 3:00 PM. C was out getting her nails done, and I was happily chugging away on the PS4 with We Happy Few. Zap! Out it went! Fortunately, it was only out, maybe, a couple of hours, I think. Fortunate for more than one reason. We had these really nice steaks that we were planning to cook, along with some mashed potatoes. We had already resigned ourselves to having to put that off until later in the week (our stove is electric), but the power came back early enough that we were able to cook. It was so very delicious, too!

In the baseball playoffs, yesterday, only NL teams played, as the AL teams were traveling. The Dodgers crushed the Nats, 10-4, to take a 2-1 lead in that series, while the Braves squeaked by the Cards, 3-1, also taking a 2-1 lead.

Today, the Astros play the Rays at noon in the Juice Box. The Braves play the Cardinals in St. Louis at 2:00 PM. The Dodgers face the Nationals in Washington at 5:40 PM, and the Yankees get the prime time game against the Twins, in Minnesota, at 7:40. All times are CDT, because that’s where I live. All four games feature the potential to finish the series. I expect the Astros to sweep the Rays. I hope the Twins can win, but we shall see. The NL games, I couldn’t care less about.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. 
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. 

Psalm 69:5-6

Today I am grateful:
1. That it is currently 60 degrees outside, with a projected high of 79 today.
2. For another week of opportunities to serve God and others (maybe I’ll do better this week).
3. That the Lord blots out our transgressions, for his own sake (Isaiah 43:25).
4. For the frequent command in Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”
5. For the abundant provision of God in our lives.

Most gracious God,
by whose knowledge the depths are broken up and the clouds drop down the dew:
We yield thee hearty thanks and praise for the return of seedtime and harvest,
for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of its fruits,
and for all the other blessings of thy merciful providence bestowed upon this nation and people.
And, we beseech thee,
give us a just sense of these great mercies,
such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy,
and obedient walking before thee all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with the and the Holy Ghost be all glory and honor,
world without end.
Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer, Thanksgivings for the Natural Order, 9. For the Harvest

(From Faith That Matters)

Do Not Be Afraid, by James Bryan Smith

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
Genesis 15:1

I am, as a rule, a rather fearful person. Not that I am “afraid,” literally, of a lot of things. Rather, I tend to worry a lot, and worry is really “fear,” just couched in different terminology. I make up things to worry about. I tend to, as my mother says, from time to time, “borrow trouble.”

One of the most often repeated commands in the Bible is “Do not be afraid,” or “Fear not,” or some other variety of phrasing that. The reason I say “one of the most” is that there are some sources who group that particular command with some others and say that the most repeated command in the Bible amounts to “be happy.” Fair enough. But today, this is only about the part of being happy that says “do not be afraid.”

Says James Bryan Smith, “I usually fear something in my life. Planes, trains, and automobiles seem to crash all around us. People I know and love get sick and die. Friends get divorced. Children are abused. It is a dark and frightening world.” (Can I get an “Amen?”) “‘Do not be afraid’ echoes in my soul. Though fear frequently overtakes me, I am usually not afraid for long. I know that God is in control. Even if I should make a mess of things, even if something terrible occurs, I know that God is able to accomplish his ends.

“God will never forget me. Like a mother whose child is nursing at her breast, God could never forget me. I am not trusting in myself, nor in my government to protect me. I am learning to trust God, and therefore I am at peace.”

And there it is. We have a word from the Lord which tells us over and over, do not be afraid.

Maybe someday, I will learn to trust that word.

Father, plant these words deep in my soul, in my heart, in my mind. Make me to know the reality of “do not be afraid,” along with the rest of the commands that instruct me to “be happy.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Grace and peace, friends.

More Like Jesus, More Like God

Today is Tuesday, October 1, 2019. Blessings to you!

OCTOBER!!! My favorite month of the year!!!

Day 22,482

11 days until Galveston and our 34th anniversary!!!!

There isn’t much to write about, this morning. I worked some rare overtime yesterday evening. Not because I “had to,” but because I felt like I needed to. I’m still a bit behind in my area at work, so I’m trying to catch up. Things are changing a little bit, so I’m trying to work the backlog down. It’s certainly not because I’ve been slacking off. The work has been coming in more than usual, making it difficult to keep up.

There was no baseball yesterday. The NL Wild Card game is today. The Brewers will be playing the Nationals in Washington.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. 
God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 68:5-6

Today I am grateful:
1. That our Father is the Father of the fatherless and protector of widows.
2. For God’s provision and stability in my life.
3. That Jesus came to be with us.
4. That Jesus gives us a clear picture of what God is like.
5. That by imitating Christ, we can be more like God.

We give thanks to you, O Lord our God,
for all your servants and witnesses of time past:
for Abraham, the father of believers,
and Sarah his wife;
for Moses, the lawgiver, and Aaron, the priest;
for Miriam and Joshua, Deborah and Gideon,
and Samuel with Hannah his mother;
for Isaiah and all the prophets;
for Mary, the mother of our Lord;
for Peter and Paul and all the apostles;
for Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene;
for Stephen, the first martyr, and all the martyrs and saints in every age and every land.
In your mercy, O Lord our God,
give us, as you gave to them,
the hope of salvation and the promise of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
the first-born of many from the dead.
Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer, Thankgsivings for the Church, 4. For the Saints and Faithful Departed

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Colossians 3:12

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Mark 1:9

In today’s reading from Faith That Matters, James Bryan Smith asks the question, “What is God like?” The short answer is, “Jesus.” He notes that “We often find it difficult to trust God because we know so little about God, for he is greater than we can imagine and too vast for us to comprehend.” This is why Jesus is so important to us. He provides a clear picture of the nature of God. “Even if we had never heard his words but simply watched his actions, we would know something of the character of God.”

The first verb we see in Mark’s narrative, concerning Jesus, is that he “came.” He came to be with us. God chose to dwell among us in the form of Jesus. There are other verbs that Mark uses in his gospel, to describe Jesus. He “taught,” he “cured,” he “took her by the hand and lifted her up,” he “forgave.” He also “sat at dinner,” “had compassion,” and “laid hands” on people. He “blessed,” he “sang,” he “cried out,” he “died,” and he “rose from the dead.” Says Smith, “These are verbs of compassion. If we want to know what God is like, all we have to do is look at what Jesus did.”

I included the verse from Colossians up there, because the attitudes that we are to “put on” are the same ones that Jesus displayed while he walked among us. If we want to see what God is like, we look at Jesus. If we want to be like God, we need to be like Jesus.

Father, help me to be more like Jesus today, displaying compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Grace and peace, friends.

Come As You Are

Today is Sunday, September 22, 2019. May your day be filled with good things!

Day 22,473

One more day until Fall/Autumn!

20 days until Galveston and our 34th anniversary!!!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, 
Psa 66:9  who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

Psalm 66:8-9

Today I am grateful:
1. For the opportunity to worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ
2. That I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
3. That God, in his greatness, communicates/speaks with those of us who are “unimportant”
4. That my sins are forgiven
5. That I did, and can do, nothing to earn or deserve that forgiveness

Grant us, O Lord,
not to mind earthly things,
but to love things heavenly;
and even now,
while we are placed among things that are passing away,
to cleave to those that shall abide;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer, Collects: Traditional, Proper 20

(From Faith That Matters)

God’s Gracious Invitation, by James Bryan Smith

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
1 John 2:12

“There is nothing that we have done or can do to earn this forgiveness, and this is precisely what causes many of us to reject it. We often prefer to be in control, to show that we are worthy, and to prove that we deserve to be forgiven. God’s forgiveness cannot be earned, no matter how hard we try, but there is still something in us that wants to try.”

There are hardly more truthful words that can be spoken or written. I still struggle with this truth, after all these years. I still struggle with this deep feeling of unworthiness. But this morning, as I sit here and read passages of Scripture that tell me that I can do all things through him who strengthens me, my heart is lifted up. I’m not lifting it . . . God is lifting it, through the inspiration of Scripture and others who have read Scripture. It is a miracle, to me, how these readings 1) often fit the exact frame of mind/spirit that I am in, and 2) even fit together, though they come from totally unrelated sources. Unrelated except for the fact that they all spring from Scripture readings.

Let us not be guilty of trying to add to God’s forgiveness. We cannot “add to it, modify and adjust it, to make it more realistic.” God, in the person of Jesus Christ has extended an invitation to us to “come as you are” and accept his forgiveness for our sins. He paid the price.

Here’s the thing . . . we don’t have to clean ourselves up before we come to God. Even when we are believers, and we know that we have sinned, stepped off the path, disobeyed his commands . . . we don’t have to clean up before we come to God! Just like the father in the prodigal son parable, he waits with open arms, and will embrace us before we even have a chance to explain. Because, truthfully, there is no rational explanation. How can I explain that I stepped away from a loving, infinitely beautiful God and Savior to do my own thing for a while?

So we come as we are, and we let HIM clean us up. Remember . . . it was Jesus who washed the feet of his disciples!

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Charlotte Elliott

Father, just as I am, this morning, I come to thee. Lift up my heart, fix my eyes upon you and upon Jesus, my Savior, and upon the Holy Spirit, my comforter and sustainer. May our worship this morning be acceptable in your sight.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1:2)

Grace and peace, friends.