No Needy Persons

Today is Friday (Friyay?), the twenty-eighth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,087

Three days until Memorial Day!

At this point, I don’t know what this three-day weekend will hold, besides going to Mineral Wells on Sunday so that S can join FBC. She is so excited. She got her membership packet and card, yesterday, and probably got the card filled out last night.

We are not, as it turns out, planning to visit Scarborough Faire on Monday, as the guy who is going to repair/install our new pool equipment, wants to do that Monday afternoon. I’m fine with that, as we need to get that fixed. We can’t discern if there is more damage to the pool, itself, until we get the equipment running. Hopefully, the rain will hold off on Monday, but the chances of rain have been upped to 60% Monday.

Of course, we all know that, once we hit mid-June, it won’t rain for a couple of months, at least.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Amen."
(The prayer of St. Richard of Chichester)

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.
(Psalms 22:22 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the knowledge of Your presence here, this morning
2. for the work of Jesus Christ in our lives, rendering us blameless before You
3. for Your Word, which leads me along the path that I am to walk; it is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
4. for the way You have guided us to care for one another's needs
5. for the fullness of joy in Your presence; contentment; pleasures forevermore

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 5

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 meditate on Your presence, to ponder the “new heart and . . . new spirit” within me, asking for guidance through this time with You. Teach me by Your Holy Spirit.

BIBLE SONG

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
(Psalms 119:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I remind myself that I am in Your presence, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I linger on these passages. May You teach me something about my life in Jesus Christ as I read and meditate.

Is my way blameless? Hardly. Do I walk according to God’s Word? I certainly try. That is the goal of each day. I try to live and walk according to His statutes, and I hope to seek Him with my whole heart.

But “stuff” happens and gets in the way of all of these things. This is where I stop and acknowledge that the Lord does, in fact, remember that we are but dust. He knows our frailty. And, because of the precious blood of Christ, He does not see my faults, because they are erased. So, effectually, yes, I am blameless!

As are all of us who call the name of Jesus and walk in His ways. Are we all one in heart and mind? Sadly, that does not appear to be the case, in this day and culture. The enemy has sneaked in with faulty ideas that many have latched onto, and division is caused. The sad thing is that the divisions are mostly over things that don’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things.

I recently listened to a podcast, with John Joseph Thompson, of True Tunes. In it, he had the pleasure of interviewing the queen of CCM, Amy Grant. It was a fascinating interview. Did you know that she is sixty years old??

How can Amy Grant be sixty??? I think she will forever be fifteen in my mind.

Anyway, she said something in that interview that will forever stick with me. She talked about two jobs and a prayer. The two jobs are to love God and love people. I’m certainly down with that, as those are the two “greatest commandments” that Jesus emphasizes, and He proclaims that the entirety of the law and prophets can be summed up in those commandments.

The prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, which has a very strong emphasis on forgiveness.

Once, earlier in her career, she was asked about her opinions on controversial subjects, such as homosexuality. Her response was that she doesn’t think her opinion on those things is included in the job description for those two jobs.

How brilliant! I love this, and believe that I have already adopted this philosophy regarding all such issues.

My jobs are to love God and love people. My opinions (and trust me, I DO have them!) are, for the most part irrelevant to those jobs.

I believe that the early believers had this kind of mindset among themselves. And the result of this is seen in verses 33 and 34.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.
(Acts 4:33-34 NIV)

There were no needy persons. They took care of one another, which was part of the “new command” that Jesus had given the disciples before He departed earth.

Our little church group is attempting to emulate these early believers. I personally believe that some of the things we have accomplished are astounding, small as we are. And that is largely because of the giving model we have adopted. You see, we have no building to pay mortgage or rent on. We have no “staff” to pay a weekly or monthly salary. I suppose we might have “elders,” although none of us would be quick to assume that title.

We all set aside our regular giving money (call it “tithe” if you must), and some of us put it into a separate bank account created exclusively for that money. It sits there until we become aware of a need, and then we gladly, generously provide for that need.

It is with great caution that I say that we (C and I) recently gave $4000 to a family whose van had been repossessed, so they could get it back. This is not to boast in our own generosity, but to simply illustrate the benefits of this model.

Outside of that, we do not share with others what we do with our money. It is between us and God.

I’m not knocking “traditional” church. There are great benefits to it, and there are certainly some aspects of it that I miss. But I do enjoy the model that we are using with our little band of believers, and I believe that it follows closely with what the early believers did.

Father, I give You praise for the examples of the early church that we receive from the book of Acts. I also thank You that, in Christ, I can say that I am “blameless.” This does not mean that I never do anything sinful or wrong. But it does mean that, because of the work, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, You do not see those sinful or wrong acts. They have been perpetually erased. This, as the psalmist says, is to wonderful for me, too lofty to attain. But I know it is true, and Your Spirit validates it within me. May I walk in ways that are worthy of these truths today.

Generous God,
your Spirit dwelling among your people,
working your salvation deep into our daily lives,
is a thing of simple beauty--
powerful grace,
freely flowing forgiveness,
lavish giving.
Continue to make us full players in Christ's redemption story through the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
(Westminster Shorter Catechism 29)

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)

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:16 NLT)

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

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NLT)

The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.
(Proverbs 11:1 NLT)

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness.
(Proverbs 16:11 NLT)

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
(Isaiah 5:20 NLT)

Father, as I walk through this day, may it be with justice and fairness, treating all people as equals in Your eyes. You make the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. At least half of the world has no clue how merciful and gracious You are! Help us to show them, Father. Help us to show them Your mercy and grace, rather than meanness and wrath and injustice. Bring us to our knees in repentance for our injustices, our racism, our prejudices, and our unfairness. Teach us that You are the measure of good and evil, of accurate scales and balances, not any human. Thank You for the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore found in Your presence!

Lord, give me great wonder at the sacrifice of Jesus. May it never become commonplace to me. May we have the capacity to suffer when others suffer and to rejoice when others rejoice. Please increase the generosity of our hearts; may it be ever-expanding.

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!

He Is For You

Today is Thursday, the twentieth of May, 2021, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,079

Today is Glen Rose day!

We put in our grocery order at Albertson’s last night, scheduling the pickup at noon today. We can’t check in to our cabin until mid-afternoon (I can never remember the time), so there’s no hurry. We’ll get the groceries, and grab a few Subway sandwiches for S. Then we’ll get packed and head on our way.

As far as plans for the weekend, there aren’t any, other than to simply relax and soak in the peace. C went to the library on her way home from work, yesterday, and checked out some books to read. I am in the process of deciding which books to take with me. I’m not going to take the book I am currently reading, called House of Leaves, simply because of the size of the book. It’s a large paperback, on the scale of some kind of school workbook, and is difficult to hold. It’s better read flat on a table. Definitely not hot tub material.

So I’ve chosen a few smaller paperbacks, all spiritual in nature. I’m also charging up my Kindle for the trip and will pick out one or two books to have in the front of my library there. I’ll also probably grab a science fiction paperback by either Heinlein or Williamson.

Of course, I won’t get all of those read, but it’s all about selection.

I’m also charging up my tablet. There may or may not be blogs tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday. No promises. We don’t have wi-fi there, so no lap top. If I do decide to blog, the format will be somewhat different and shorter, too.

I might take my guitar. I haven’t decided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“We live in a stressful world. Jesus urged us time and again not to worry. We try, but it always seems to creep back in. Our prayer time with God is a wonderful time to combat stress.

“This is a reflection of recommitment, of saying that I am not God. This is a prayer of letting go and sitting in the light of God.”

"The poison of stress and worry
drip off my shoulders,
falling into you,
glimpsing the vision,
gaining the perspective of truth,
turning over the reins,
refocusing on love,
basking in the light."
(Daryl Madden, "Refocusing," from On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

I’ve been listening to Rich Mullins more, lately, and thinking about his life, thanks to the True Tunes Podcast and John Joseph Thompson. Lately, this lyric has been speaking to me, from his song, “Brother’s Keeper,” on the album of the same name.

"My friends ain't the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are
And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper"

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that this extended weekend has arrived
2. for the promise of no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain
3. for my Twisted Pine Cinnamon Coffee Cake coffee, which seems especially good, this morning
4. for Your glorious and majestic deeds, Your righteousness which endures forever, and Your provision for all Your creation (Psalm 111)
5. that Jesus is for us

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

EASTER – DAY 47

INVITATION

“Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
(Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

I pause, quietly, to briefly consider my life, where it has been and where it is going. Some pretty deep introspection going on.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
(Psalms 111:1-7, 10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:24-28 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

In this peaceful setting, I quietly linger over these passages, reminding myself that I am in the peaceful and loving presence of my Father. The Holy Spirit makes His presence known to me, filling this space, both inside and outside me.

I am drawn to the word “culmination” in the Hebrews passage. Webster’s isn’t much help, here. They define “culmination” as “the action of culminating.” So I have to click again.

To “culminate” means “to reach the highest or a climactic or decisive point.” That’s one of the definitions, and I believe the one that fits the context of Hebrews 9:26.

Can this be tied in to the Psalm passage, as well? I believe so. The “glorious and majestic” deeds of the Lord most certainly include the appearance of Christ at the “culmination” of history.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”

Our world is full of sanctuaries made with human hands. The Temple was one of those. But Jesus’s sacrifice was not made through one of those man-made temples. It was done in the literal presence of the Father, in heaven, itself. And, unlike the sacrifices of goats and bulls, which had to be made year in and year out, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was done once; once for all.

Back to this word. “Culmination.” At the climax of history, Jesus arrived on the scene. Everything up to that point was pointing to the arrival of Jesus Christ. And everything since looks back to Him.

The Old Testament represents everything that happened before Christ. The Gospels are the story of Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection. Everything after the Gospels points back to that life and the effect it has on our lives.

Jesus Christ is the culmination of all history. Literally, nothing else matters.

Without the context of Jesus Christ, life is meaningless. Seriously . . . what’s the point?

I apologize for the ponderous nature of this entry. I’m struggling to adequately express my thoughts, this morning. This doesn’t seem cohesive. I trust the Spirit to bring it together, but it may not happen before I’m finished, this morning.

Father, I trust in You and Your ways. I trust Your Spirit to teach me all things regarding Your Word, Your precepts, and understanding them. I don’t expect this to occur in a single hour or day, or perhaps not even a single lifetime. I am fully persuaded, though, that, on that great day, when I arrive Home and see You face to face, I will understand everything, even though now, I “see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13). Help me to fathom the culmination of history, to dwell in that moment of the life of Christ, to know Him as best I can, and to embrace Him, His love, His mercy, His life, His cross, His resurrection. I do believe! Help my unbelief!

Jesus,
two little words that mean the world: 
for us.
You are for us,
and all you do,
good Savior,
is for us.
Your birth,
your life,
your death,
your resurrection,
and now your ascension are for us,
for our good.
As you have been for us,
may your people be for others. 
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 46)

BLESSING

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)

As I considered these things, this morning, and the words “for you” came up, I was drawn to a song. It’s quite long; it’s repetitive, not many words, but it is so very powerful. It’s simply called “The Blessing.” I’m going to share it here.

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family
And your children
And their children
And their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you
And beside you
All around you
And within you
He is with you
He is with you

In the morning
In the evening
In your coming
And your going
In your weeping
And rejoicing
He is for you
He is for you

He is for you

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
(Ephesians 1:3 ESV)

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Matthew 19:26 ESV)

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
(Proverbs 11:25-26 ESV)

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 5:16 ESV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

Father, as I consider You, the source of all light, this morning, let me be one who reflects Your light, rather than absorbing it and giving nothing back. I seek true transformation, Lord, into the image of Christ, who is the image of You. Be in me as Christ is in You and You are in Christ. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, the representation of You and the Son. Transform me into deeper degrees of glory. Let me be one who waters, not one who holds back.

Thank you for being for us.

O Lord, give us growth in holiness. Help us to understand holiness, that it is not legalism or abiding by a set of rules, but life in You, in Christ, simply walking in His way, His truth, His life. Uncover the idols in my heart, Father, in all of our hearts, whether it be that habit that we just can’t let go of, or that politician or political party that we put our trust in; bring down those idols, Father!! Forgive us, Lord, and may we embrace that forgiveness in our lives. Then give us the grace and mercy to extend that forgiveness to all around us.

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!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Shalom Aleichem, friends.