Good morning. It is Sunday, August 23, 2015.
Today’s word of the day, from dictionary.com, is quiddity. Although one might think so, this word has nothing to do with Harry Potter. This noun means 1. “the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing,” or 2. “a trifling nicety of subtle distinction, as in argument.”
Today is Ride the Wind Day. This could involve anything from skydiving to parasailing to making paper airplanes. Or maybe just watching an airplane.
Yesterday turned out okay. We got the grocery shopping done in good time, wolfed down some Sonic for lunch, and headed to church. Our prayer and worship gatherings were good, and Jacob’s message had to do with paying attention to how God is trying to “break into our lives.” It was a brief message, but well-focused.
Today, we are going to Mineral Wells, to go to church with my mother. We haven’t done this in a very long time. The last time we went to church with her was back when my dad was able to go, so it’s been several years. We will meet her at the church, because she will be going to Sunday School with her friends. Rachel and Justin plan to meet us for lunch. We are really looking forward to a good day, as we celebrate Justin’s and Stephanie’s birthday (which was on the same day, Wednesday).
On this date in 1305, William Wallace was hung, and drawn and quartered, by Edward I, for high treason. In 1784, western North Carolina (now part of Tennessee) declared itself an independent state, named Franklin. It was never accepted as part of the U.S., and only lasted four years. In 1904, the automobile tire chain was patented. I assume this is the one made for driving on ice. On this date in 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, presumably for crimes they did not commit. Woody Guthrie wrote a song about them.
Today’s birthdays include King Louis XVI of France, Ernst Krenek (Austrian composer), Gene Kelly (American dancer/actor), Vera Miles (American actress), Mark Russell (American comedian), Sonny Jurgensen (American football player), Barbara Eden (American actress), Rayfield Wright (American football player), Keith Moon (English musician, The Who), Rick Springfield (Australian singer/actor), Shelley Long (American actress), Julio Franco (Dominican baseball player), River Phoenix (American actor), Jay Mohr (American actor/comedian), and Christian Beranek (American graphic novel writer).
Julio Franco is a professional baseball player who turns 57 today. He was born the same year as I was, and is still playing professional baseball, although in Japan, not the U.S. He is a player/manager for the Ishikawa Million Stars. Here is a clip of a grand slam he hit as a pinch-hitter in 2005, when he was 46. He became the oldest player to hit a grand slam home run with this hit.
William Wallace, Luis Ponce de Leon, Increase Mather, Rudolph Valentino, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Nicola Sacco, Oscar Hammerstein II, Hoot Gibson, Shamu, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bobby Bonds, and Maynard Ferguson are among notable deaths on this date.
Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 97:1-6.
The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.
“When God draws near to men in mercy, and they fail to welcome him with proper reverence and respect, this implies impiety of a very aggravated description. The Psalmist intimates that those who should despise God in the person of his only-begotten Son, will feel in due time and certainly the awful weight of his majesty.” (p 236)
(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)
After giving us four rules for prayer, John Calvin gives us a fifth “rule.” The fifth rule is “the rule of grace.” Basically, what Calvin says is that we must not think that God will reject our prayers if we do not follow the other four rules rigidly. Likewise, following a set of rules does not make our prayers worthy to be heard. “Nothing we formulate or do can qualify us for access to God. Only grace can do that.” In fact, it is only when we realize that we cannot keep the rules, and recognize that we need God’s mercy, that we “become people who begin to keep the rules.” It is very similar to the purpose for the Old Testament Law. “The rules do not earn or merit God’s attention but rather align our prayers with who God is–the God of free grace–and thereby unite him more and more.”
Timothy Keller uses the example of flipping a light switch to turn on the light. The switch, itself, provides no power. But it does connect the power to the light bulb. “In the same way, our prayers have no virtue to procure us access to the Father. Christ has done that.” However, our prayers can connect us to him. If we pray without humility or without confidence and hope, we block the sense of God’s presence. These errors “are failures to pray in Jesus’ name.”
What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? Many people see it as a magic formula, that if we tack on the literal words, “In Jesus’s name” at the end of every prayer, then God will automatically answer our prayers. But praying in Jesus’s name “is not a magic formula. We must not think it means that only if we literally enunciate the words ‘in Jesus’ name’ will our prayers be answered.” God has been known to even answer the prayers of people who don’t have faith in Christ. “To pray in Jesus’ name means to come to God in prayer consciously trusting in Christ for our salvation and acceptance and not relying on our own credibility or record. It is, essentially, to reground our relationship with God in the saving work of Jesus over and over again.”
Father, as I ponder what it means to pray in the name of Jesus, I pray that your Spirit would remind me, over and over again, of my relationship with you through Christ, and that, any time I pray, if I am connected rightly to you, then I am praying in Jesus’s name! But help me to remember the “rules.” I must come to you in humility, in joyful fear, with confidence and hope, and submissive trust, praying at all times, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I must be accepting of whatever your will is, in all cases. My prayers must be grounded in these things. However, over-riding all of these, my prayer must also be grounded in grace, having the confidence that you will hear me, even if I forget to have confidence, and knowing that the Holy Spirit is interceding for me, in moanings that cannot be uttered.
Father, I pray for this day. I pray for safe travel for us, as well as for Rachel and Justin. I pray for some good worship as we meet with my mother for church, this morning. I lift up her pastor, Nathan, that you will speak the Gospel strongly through him, this morning, and that you would open the ears of all who are in attendance at First Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, that they would hear the truth of the Gospel this morning. May our visit today be full of your grace.
May we be satisfied in you, that you may be glorified in us.
May our prayers truly be in Jesus’s name, exemplifying humility, trust, confidence, hope, and grace.
Grace and peace, friends.