Inexpressible Joy

Today is Sunday, the fourth of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,124

Today is U.S. Independence Day, the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

It’s 46 days until S’s birthday!

I don’t have a lot of time, this morning, as we plan to leave the house at 8:30 AM, to drive to Mineral Wells, pick up Mama, and head to FBC for their morning worship service, which begins at 10:15.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I wound up losing 1.4 pounds at my weekly weigh-in, putting me at a total of 121.6 pounds lost since February of 2020. I am at my lowest point in this journey, and am hoping that I have finally breached the month-long plateau that I have been stuck on. I also would really love to hit that 125 pound mark next Saturday morning, so Kim, our exiting coach could give me my award for that milestone. But that’s over three pounds in a week, which is not likely.

Something funny happened, yesterday. After we had our brunch of leftover Pecan-crusted buttermilk chicken, C went out to shop for countertop material. It turns out she doesn’t like the way the new paint on the cabinets looks with the original, dark green countertops. So we are looking at some kind of lightish grey stone to replace them with.

Anyway, while she was gone, I decided to put in a delivery order with Albertson’s. When I did the grocery shopping on Friday, at Tom Thumb, I wasn’t impressed with their selection of grapes, so I had only bought four bags. I ordered six more from Albertson’s, along with four more pints of Nick’s Triple Coklad ice cream, and some more bananas. We go through bananas about as fast as we go through grapes, around here.

When C got home, she walked through the door with bags from Albertson’s. About four more bags of grapes, as well as SIX pints of Nick’s Triple Choklad ice cream!

We had to unload and rearrange our freezer, which resulted in some very old things at the bottom being thrown away. But we have plenty of ice cream. You might think we have plenty of grapes, too, but you have no idea.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let me seek then
A new way pursued
The gift of silence
And solitude

Where everything touched
Is turned into a prayer
In drawing to soul
Your Presence is here

Where the sky is my prayer
The wind in the tree
The birds and light
Your prayer within me

Our being of dwelling
Through gift of creation
For my soul is a prayer
Of Your incarnation
(Turned Into A Prayer, by Daryl Madden)

This poem was inspired by a quote from Thomas Merton: “Let me seek then, the gift of silence and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into a prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer…”

The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.
(Psalms 33:16-19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You watch over us, especially those of us who rely on Your unfailing love; it is that unfailing love that upholds my very life.
2. for inexpressible and glorious joy.
3. that because of Your great gift to me, even though I have not physically seen Jesus, I still love Him and believe in Him, resulting in an inheritance in heaven that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
4. that You surround us with Your favor as with a shield.
5. that, as long as You reign in our hearts, there is a possibility of spiritual unity.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK SEVEN – DAY ONE

INVITATION

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.
(Nahum 1:7 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to meditate on the goodness of the Lord, my refuge in times of trouble. I continue to give Him thanks for upholding my life as He watches over me. I am grateful for His care. This is a never-ending circle. He cares for me, because I trust Him, which causes me to trust Him more.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.

Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.
(Psalms 5:1-4 NIV)

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
(Psalms 5:11-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, I linger over these passages, looking for ideas that stir my soul.

There is a gladness that comes in the confidence of knowing that the Lord is here, and that He hears the prayers that come out of my mouth (or from my fingertips, or even out of the end of my ink pen, as I write them in my prayer journal). The psalmist has such confidence in this that he waits expectantly after lifting up his prayers to God.

How often do we do this? When we pray, do we wait expectantly, afterward? Or do we hurry through “inJesus’snameamen” at the end and then go on about our business, virtually forgetting that we even just asked the Might Creator of the universe for a favor?

Prayer is an important work. One of the benefits, I believe, of starting a physical prayer journal, rather than keeping prayer request on an app on my electronic device, is that, when I write these prayers (because that’s what I do, now . . . I actually write a prayer in the book, rather than simply recording a prayer request), I am actually praying! I’m not just writing a prayer. As I write, my mind and my spirit are lifting those words up to our Father in heaven.

There is also a certain weight to this, because you begin to realize that people are depending on you to do this. Some are more flippant than others about their prayer requests, but they are all depending on me to pray.

The passage in 1 Peter is magnificent, filled with hope! We have this “new birth into a living hope,” and our inheritance can “never perish, spoil or fade!”

And look at verse 5: “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” And look at verse 12 of Psalm 5: “Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

Who is righteous? Once again, I will insist that this has nothing to do with how “good” I am. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ, because it is His righteousness that is imputed to me. I am “righteous” because He is righteous. Therefore, I am shielded by God’s power and favor.

The trials that come during our lives serve to prove our faith, says Peter. And this faith, this gift from God, so that no man can boast, means that we love Jesus, even though we have never seen Him. And, says Peter, even though we do not see Him, we still believe “and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Father, I praise You, as Peter did, for these truths. Thank You for this inexpressible and glorious joy that fills my soul, even in the midst of various trials that come to our lives. And those “trials” that we face are nothing compared to some of the trials and persecutions that Your children have faced throughout the eons. Nevertheless, You surround us with Your favor as with a shield. Praises be to You, Father! Keep me walking in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, as I go through these days.

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.

Lord of my longing,
I have hopes that live deep within me and make my heart ache--
for a place to belong,
for beauty,
for love to satisfy my heart,
for shalom for this broken world,
for home,
to be with you.
I reach out to the source of these desires,
the risen Jesus,
the guarantee of a restored world and my resurrection.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 45)

BLESSING

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
(1 Peter 5:10 NIV)

Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors?
(Malachi 2:10 NLT)

Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives!”
(Genesis 13:8 NLT)

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
(John 13:34 NLT)

Just some thoughts about unity on this national holiday.

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Father, this morning, give us fellowship with the risen Jesus, as we worship together, not only with a local congregation, but with all the community of saints around the world. Please give us spiritual renewal and refreshment on this day.

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!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Eyes Fixed

Today is Friday, the second of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,122

Two days until July 4th!

It’s Friday, and C and I both have the day off! Our four-day weekend is officially here.

And of course, I was awake at 5:30 AM.

Part of that was probably because I am looking forward to meeting up with an old friend, this morning, and knowing that I needed to be sure and have time to get this blogging thing done beforehand.

The other part of it is because I’m getting older and sleeping is becoming something with which I struggle. At least getting enough. The quality of my sleep, when I’m sleeping, is fine.

Anyway . . . that’s the only thing in the works for today. I’m toying with the idea of getting the grocery shopping done, though. We’ll see about that.

The Texas Rangers beat the Athletics again, yesterday afternoon, taking the series 2-1. They won by a score of 8-3, and Joey Gallo hit yet another bomb, making this, I think, five games in a row in which he has homered. The Rangers remain in last place, 16.5 games behind the Astros, who must be cheating again. Or still. I’m not sure they ever stopped. They (the Rangers) will take on the Mariners tonight, in Seattle.

The Boston Red Sox continue their streak, now having won seven in a row. They mercilessly destroyed the Royals, yesterday afternoon, beating them 15-1 at Fenway. The KC team didn’t score until the top of the ninth. The Sox continue to hold first place in the AL East, 3.5 games ahead of the Rays. They have to play in Oakland tonight. I always feel bad for AL East team fans when they have to play on the west coast. It’s bad enough for us, in Texas, when the games start at 9:00 PM or later. For people on the east coast, their games don’t start until 10:00 PM.

I suppose I should rephrase that. I only feel bad for Boston fans. I don’t ever feel bad for fans of any of the other AL East teams.

Boston is in a virtual tie with the Giants for best team in MLB, with SF being ahead by .003 percentage points. The Giants are on a four-game losing streak. The Dodgers are right behind them both. And wait . . . who’s that in fourth place over all?? The Other Sox?? Where did that come from?

The Diamondbacks managed to win a game, but that didn’t help them much, in terms of their bottom of the heap status. They remain in last place over all with a paltry .277 percentage. Our Rangers are fourth from the bottom, at .395.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

The LORD frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.
But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.
(Psalms 33:10-11 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You do frustrate the plans of the nations, and teach us to not put our hope in human beings.
2. for this long weekend; may it be restful and enjoyable.
3. for a visit with a good friend, this morning.
4. for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.
5. that fixing my eyes on Jesus will enable me to run my race with perseverance.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK SIX – DAY SIX

INVITATION

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.”
(Daniel 2:20 NIV)

I pause to think about the presence of the Lord, and the impact this has on my daily life. He is always here; always surrounding me and always filling me. I’m praying that I might more often realize this truth and know His presence.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”

But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.

From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
(Psalms 3:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over these passages, I seek the knowledge of the presence of the Lord, to rest in Him. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me into truth that I might carry into my day, that would have a positive impact on my walk in the Kingdom.

I find difficulty identifying with today’s Psalms passage. I don’t have any “foes,” that I know of. Sure, I have challenges each day, especially at work. But none of the people through whom those challenges come can seriously be considered “foes” or “enemies.”

Nevertheless, I do believe that the Lord is a shield round me, and He does lift up my head. I do lie down and sleep, and I wake up again, because He truly does sustain me. And most days, I can feel the truth of verse 6, and do not fear anything.

So maybe I can identify with it more than I thought. I just don’t find comfort in praying for the Lord to strike anyone on the jaw or break anyone’s teeth.

The Hebrews passage is one of those more famous Bible passages. The encouragement therein is tremendous. The “great cloud of witnesses” of which the writer speaks can be found in chapter 11, the “Faith Hall of Fame.” We are truly surrounded by this great cloud, by the witness of the community of saints from throughout history. There are literally hundreds or thousands that have come after the Bible was written, as well.

For example, we know of one of John the Revelator’s own students, Polycarp, who was martyred for his faith. John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, John Huss, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliot, and many others surround us as part of that great cloud of witnesses.

So since we are surrounded by this great cloud, the Hebrews writer encourages, let us “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” and run our race with perseverance.

The way to do this is found in verse 3. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? And some days it is definitely easier than others. How do we run this race? We fix our eyes on Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

That’s how to run this race. It’s the only way to run this race effectively and successfully. Many (myself included) have tried other ways . . . it never works. Jesus is the only Way; the only Truth; and the only Life. He is the only way to succeed.

Father, I praise You for the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and all that this means for us. Help us all, beginning with me, to throw aside all of the garbage that we get stuck in, the sin that so easily entangles, or, as the KJV puts it, “doth so easily beset.” For it truly does beset me, when I allow it to. Help me to turn my eyes on Jesus, keeping them fixed on the light of His glory and grace, that the things of the earth will grow and remain dim and out of focus. I want to focus on His face, Lord.

Pioneer and perfecter of my faith,
I need help when troubles come,
faith flags,
and I feel like giving up.
As you kept focused on the joy set before you,
keep my eyes fixed on you.
You were forsaken so I might be accepted,
and you were delivered to death so I could be given life--
may that rich hope keep me steadfast.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 44)

BLESSING

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NIV)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
(Isaiah 43:2 NIV)

Lord, go with me today; if I pass through any waters or rivers, keep my head above them; if I walk through the fire, protect me from burning. Be my provider and protector throughout this day, and all of my days.

Father, give me the deepest gratitude for the cross of Christ. I pray for relief for all who are living in poverty and who suffer injustice. I also pray for all who suffer with some form of physical illness and those who care for them.

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!

Amazing love, how can it be
That You, my King, would die for me
Amazing love, I know it's true
Now it's my joy to honor You
In all I do, I honor You
Jesus, You are my King

Grace and peace, friends.

My Anchor Holds

Today is Wednesday, the thirtieth of June, 2021. Last day of June!

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,120

Four days until July 4th! Only two more days to work this week!

The weather is unseasonably not hot. Today’s high is projected at 89 degrees, with a 42% chance of rain. There is a moderate chance of rain every day for the next ten days, which is very strange for the first part of July, in Texas.

Meanwhile, I have heard that Portland, Oregon, and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, hit over 110 degrees, this past weekend. Very strange.

The Texas Rangers continue their win streak (now up to four games), beating the Athletics in Oakland last night, 5-4, behind a couple of home runs from Joey Gallo. They will play again tonight, starting at 9:40 CDT. They remain in last place, but have improved to only 16.5 games out, and seven games behind the Angels.

The Boston Red Sox have won five in a row, as they beat the Royals last night, 7-6. Those two teams will meet up again today, at Fenway Park. The Red Sox moved back into first place, and are two games ahead of the second place Rays.

The Giants of San Francisco remain the best team, with a 50-29 record, while the Diamondbacks are holding the worst spot, at 22-59.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.
(The prayer of St. Patrick)

The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.
He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
(Psalms 33:6-7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your great power, demonstrated in creation.
2. that wherever I am, You are present.
3. that I have the hope of Jesus set before me, to which I have fled, which is an anchor for my soul.
4. that You watch over the way of the righteous.
5. that You have created the Body exactly the way You want it.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK SIX – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.”
(Daniel 2:20 NIV)

As I sit in the presence of the Lord, this morning, I consider the fact that He simply spoke words and everything came into begin. “He breathed the word, and all the stars were born,” says the psalmist. Amazing.

BIBLE SONG

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
(Psalms 1:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
(Hebrews 6:13-20 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue to rest in His presence, I look for any word or phrase that speaks to me, guided by the Holy Spirit to meditate on these thoughts.

I am drawn to the last verse of the Psalm passage, that says, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” I believe I have experienced this watchfulness all of my life. I cannot explain, in any other way, my life. God has watched over me.

The truth is, though, that I don’t feel very “righteous,” at any given moment. But if I read and understand Scripture correctly, I don’t really have any righteousness of my own, anyway. Any righteousness that I possess comes from Jesus Christ, imputed to me by His great work on the cross and in the resurrection.

And in this work, I have hope, which is the word I grasp from the passage in Hebrews. I also take note of that word, “fled,” in verse 18. I like the idea that we have “fled” to take hold of hope, and this hope is an “anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

This hope even takes me “behind the curtain” of the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where Jesus has entered on my behalf.

This is mystical language, and I embrace it. This anchor of hope is what keeps me going, day after day. In truth, my life has been pretty easy. Of course, there have been challenges, and times that I have perceived as difficult. There have been times of high stress and anxiety.

But, taken in a broader perspective, my “difficulties” do not compare at all to those of some. And my anchor holds, and grips the Solid Rock.

Father, I praise You because of who You are. “You spoke the word and all the worlds came into order.” You merely breathed and the stars were formed. Yet, still You love me. You have given me hope, the hope of Jesus, which is an anchor of my soul, and carries me through my days. Help me to walk in the easy yoke of Jesus, allowing Him to lead me along. Lead me on, Jesus; lead me on.

Promise-keeping God,
to believe is to commit myself,
to give my heart away--
a scary proposition.
But you woo me like a lover,
making clear your intentions and making certain your promises by giving your guarantee in Jesus,
who has already given himself fully for me.
May this hope be the anchor of my soul.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 22)

BLESSING

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NIV)

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part!
(1 Corinthians 12:18-19 NLT)

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NLT)

Unity in Christ. The Body of Christ will eventually be exactly the way God has designed it. And my opinions will not factor into that, not one iota.

For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
(Psalms 92:13-14 NLT)

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:1-5 NLT)

Father, I praise You that there is no longer “Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female,” in Your Body. Help us, Your Church, to embrace these truths and stop treating people differently, based on these “natural” divisions. You have designed the Body exactly the way You want it, and we do not know better than You! Help us to accept our place in Your Body and do the work that we are supposed to do, that which has been appointed for us, prepared in advance, for us to walk in. O God, my Father, help me to remain in Christ, that I might bear much fruit for You.

I pray, this morning, for all governments, world leaders, and all needs of our world. A broad, sweeping prayer, but needed, nonetheless, because the world needs You. I pray specifically for the continent of Australia, this morning. May Your presence be known in their midst, today. I also pray for affordable housing for the poor. You care about the poor, Father, the widows, orphans, and others who may be oppressed and rejected. May they be cared for today.

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!

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
(John 15:12 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Let’s Dance!

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-ninth of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,119

Five days until July 4th.

I’ve learned, recently, that Elton John is planning a concert in Arlington at Globe Life Field. In September. Of 2022. He’s calling it the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.” Just typing that almost brings tears to my eyes. Elton has been a significant part of my life. His music has brought me great joy since my early adolescence. I still remember playing his songs on the piano at my best friend’s house in Mineral Wells.

I have never seen him live. However, I’m just not comfortable purchasing tickets for a concert that is fifteen months in the future. Elton is no spring chicken, and neither am I. Anything could happen in the next fifteen months, as we have seen in the previous year. I’m sure the prices will be ridiculous, too. Maybe when it gets closer, I will see if I can scrounge some tickets.

Do I have a favorite Elton John song? That’s a tough one. There are so very many. I lean heavily on his first single (I think), “Your Song.” But I also love a couple of his more obscure songs, both of which are quite dark (remembering that Bernie Taupin wrote most of his lyrics). “Ticking,” from his Caribou album, and “All the Young Girls Love Alice,” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” the opening track from the same album, is also right up there with my favorites.

If I had to pick a favorite album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would win, hands down. There’s maybe one song on that whole album (four sides on vinyl), that I don’t care for, and I even sing along with that one when it comes on the radio. That would be “Bennie and the Jetsssssss.”

Well, enough of that. Time is ticking, ticking, ticking, into the future.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

It can be frustrating
Things beyond my view
Today let me focus
On what I can do

I desire so much
Change my will to profess
Not things that I want
But on things that I’m blessed

So many places
In this world to see
May I be present here
And view it’s beauty

Of my perspective
Let it be reversed
Not to focus on me
But to put others first

Let me not fool myself
Because it’s not about me
But only by letting
Gods’ love flow through me
("Change of Focus," by Daryl Madden)
Divine Design
The way is made clear for you,
above, below, all around,
a fresh Spirit wind’s rising

©2021 S. Michaels
A Line in the Sand
(‘High-Haiku’ 7-7-7)

Yes, two poems today.

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
(Psalms 33:5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You love righteousness and justice; O that Your people would, too!
2. that the earth is full of Your steadfast love; help us to find it and embrace it, as well as share it.
3. that You call for raucous, boisterous praise in Psalm 150, and we have all the reasons we need to comply.
4. that Jesus Christ, when He completed His work, because the source of eternal salvation for us all.
5. for the promise that, if I seek You with my whole heart, I will surely find You; O Lord, make me whole-hearted toward You! Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name!

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK SIX – DAY THREE

INVITATION

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.”
(Daniel 2:20 NIV)

I pause, quietly, to reflect on the way that You make clear for us. We muddy it ourselves, don’t we? Open my eyes, Lord, that I might see the way that You have marked for my soul. Change my focus, that I might not try to see things that are beyond me, and that I might not focus so much on myself.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, 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. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 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)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
(Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in the presence of the Lord, this morning, and I do know that He is here, I linger over these passages of Scripture, asking the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and meditations, and my prayers.

Praise, praise, praise, praise, praise . . . that’s the boisterous theme of Psalm 150, and what a fitting way to end the “prayer book of the Bible.”

Praise Him with trumpet, harp, lyre, guitar, tambourine, dancing, strings, pipes, cymbals. A couple of the translations use the word “loud” instead of “resounding,” in verse 5.

This praise is not somber, gentle, and quiet. It is loud and raucous! Think back of David dancing when the Ark of the Covenant was reclaimed.

And we have so much to praise Him for, beginning with our own salvation and going all the way back to everything that He has done for His people in history. One of the reasons that I like to keep reading the Old Testament is to see His mighty acts for His people throughout history.

One of the things that we have to praise Him for is found in the Hebrews passage. We have this “great high priest,” Jesus, who has “ascended into heaven.” He has been “tempted in every way, just as we are,” yet He “did not sin.”

We talked about this very thing, last Sunday morning. What a joy to know that our “high priest” can empathize with us! Because of this, we have verse 16, which encourages us to approach the “throne of grace with confidence!” And at this throne of grace, we find mercy and grace “to help us in our time of need.”

Why do we hesitate? Why do we deceive ourselves and think that God is not interested in our needs? I’ve been guilty of it. I seldom pray for myself. I don’t want to “bother” God with my petty needs/wants. This, I believe, actually dishonors Him.

For one thing, I don’t think God is ever “bothered.” Not like we are. He is infinite, eternal, and exists outside of our concept of time (I like to call this “omni-chronological). So it is impossible for us to “waste His time.”

So let’s approach that throne with confidence and boldness, and find the grace and mercy that we need. Just look at Abraham’s boldness when he pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah to save his nephew’s life. You can find this in Genesis 18:22-33.

I’ve struggled, in the past, with that bit in Hebrews 5 about Jesus being “made perfect.” Wait a minute. Wasn’t He always perfect? Our English translations leave us wanting, at this point. The actual word in that verse, that is rendered “perfect” in some translations, is teleioo, which literally means, “to complete, accomplish, consummate, consecrate, finish, fulfil.” It can also mean “perfect,” but I believe the context would lean toward one of the other meanings. The NLT even uses the word “qualified.”

So the way I read this is, “once He finished His work, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”

And that is another reason for boisterous, raucous praise.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I’m not very boisterous, at the moment, and am praising You quietly. But who knows what might happen on my drive to work, if I manage to find the right music to spur me on. I thank You for all the reasons that I have to praise You. Most of all, I thank You for that perfect, completed work of Jesus Christ, which has become the source of my eternal salvation, which can never be taken away from me.

High King of heaven,
when you approached Adam in the garden,
he hid and covered himself.
I praise you that I can now boldly approach you without fear or dread because Christ fulfilled all obedience for me.
May that encourage vibrant prayer as I grab hold of what you are ready to give,
help and grace in my time of need.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 23)

BLESSING

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NIV)

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13 ESV)

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.
(Song of Solomon 8:6 ESV)

Father, help me to seek You wholeheartedly today. Again, teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your Name. Help me to receive Your Word today, always as something new, something that I know not yet. Let me not become so familiar with Your Word that it is meaningless to me. Let me read every passage, every letter, as though I am reading it for the first time, and asking, “What does this mean?”

Lord, give us a love of and commitment to the communities in which You have placed us, both physical and spiritual. Please equip us to serve in unique ways in those communities, as we carry the Gospel around in our “jars of clay.” I specifically lift up any who are beginning new jobs or careers.

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!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Final Word

Today is Sunday, the twenty-seventh of June, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,117 (the number of days I have existed on this planet).

Seven days until July 4th!

I’ve got my second cup of coffee, and I’m ready to roll!

It’s Sunday morning, so we have our worship gathering at 10:15. I believe we are going to be reading Psalm 33 and beyond (hopefully), this morning. We have started singing again, and will be singing Pat Barrett’s “God Is So Good,” along with “Great Are You Lord.” There will likely be one other song, but Brandon has yet to let us know.

Psalm 33 is a good place to start, this morning, too, as it starts out talking about singing and music played on stringed instruments.

Yesterday was a good day. It was a little strange, but good. As we were unloading our grocery order from WNM (Walmart Neighborhood Market), we realized that they had given us “seeded” grapes instead of “seedless” grapes. Yuck. So while I put groceries away, C drove back to Walmart to switch those out, which turned out to be a much more tedious task than you would expect, especially considering that it was their mistake.

It appears that they even confused themselves, because, while they gave C a gift card for the amount of the grapes (just under $20), I also got an email telling me that a refund had been issued to our debit card. So they may have refunded them twice. I’m not sure how to handle that one. I’m all about honesty, and all, but some mistakes are hard to fix. We had a similar mistake with Albertson’s a couple weeks ago.

I had ordered eight pints (my standard order) of Nick’s Triple Choklad ice cream. They called me to tell me that they only had four, and asked if I would like to get a different kind. I chose their Mint Choklad and another flavor to fill out the eight pints.

I was charged for those two flavors, but the four pints of Triple Choklad did not appear on the receipt, even though we received them in the delivery.

Things that make you go “hmmm.”

C also went out and got her oil changed and returned some library books, and then got started on her latest kitchen project, the aforementioned painting of the kitchen cabinets. She took all the doors off and took them to the garage where she sanded and primed them. Then she sanded and primed the surfaces in the kitchen. She has already gotten an early start and has applied the first coat to the parts in the kitchen (only on the side next to the refrigerator), and will probably get the doors painted after church.

I’m sure we will have Applebee’s for lunch today. I’m planning on having that Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp again. That was delicious! And well worth the 17 points.

Speaking of points, I gained a pound at WW yesterday. I was prepared for it, though, as I do check my weight throughout the week. It’s frustrating, but I keep reminding myself of several things. First, I have lost 120 pounds since February of 2020. So when one number has a + next to it instead of a -, I focus on the other number.

The other thing is that I have had multiple mediation changes over the last month, which has to have some effect on my body. Oh, and another thing. Plateaus happen. Just like back at the end of last year when I was trying so hard to hit that 100 pound loss mark. It took me almost a month to lose that last pound! So here I am again, roller-coastering around a plateau, which I will get past. In fact, this morning, I am at the lowest weight so far, on this journey, so that’s encouraging.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

From ibelieve.com

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
(Psalms 33:3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the joy that is in my soul, this morning, that pervasive sense of well-being.
2. for an opportunity to worship together with brothers and sisters in Christ, along with the community of saints, world wide.
3. that Jesus is Your "final word."
4. that, in Jesus Christ, all the fulness of You lives in bodily form.
5. that You are a stronghold for the oppressed and downtrodden.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK SIX – DAY ONE

INVITATION

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.
(Daniel 2:20 NIV)

I pause, briefly, in Your presence, to praise Your Name; all wisdom and power belong to You. Cleanse me, daily, from my sinfulness and teach me new songs that I might truly shout for joy, both in Your presence, and in the presence of the saints.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
(Psalms 148:1-4 NIV)

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
(Hebrews 1:1-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages again, asking the Spirit to guide me to truth, to something that I can carry with me, into this day, and beyond.

As we continue to approach the end of the Psalms, the them continues to be praise, purely praise. Each psalm begins and ends with a hallelujah. This reinforces, to me, the idea that praise should be the central theme of my life. It goes hand in hand with joy, which is, once again, a pervasive sense of well-being, that cannot be sullied by circumstance.

Walking in the Kingdom of God, where everything is much better than I could possibly imagine, praise and joy should be natural. Doesn’t mean I’m always happy, mind you. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. I can have joy and still be sad. I can even have joy and be angry about something, but that’s a little trickier, because my anger is usually sinful.

Likewise, I can praise God in any situation. Know this, though. If I can praise the Lord through a rough or bad situation, it does not mean that I am praising Him for that situation! People who try to do that are tricking themselves, which is never good. And it doesn’t work, either. True joy and praise will be evident in a person’s life.

What the Hebrews passage does is, in a sense, solidify God’s “final word.” Of course, this reminds me of a song, and if you are familiar with Michael Card, you already know which one I am thinking of.

God used to speak through prophets and in other “various ways.” But, according to Hebrews, which is Scriptural truth, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

Prophets are “in the past.” Do I believe that there are no more “prophets?” I think I do. I believe that there are no more “prophets,” not in the biblical sense, as I believe that there are no more “apostles.” There are a lot of people out there who call themselves “prophet” and “apostle.” Actually, there are more who consider themselves “apostle.” The woman who spoke at my mother-in-law’s funeral service called herself an apostle. I follow another WordPress sight, on which one of the writers calls himself “apostle.”

I’m not going to argue with you if you think you are an apostle. I just don’t believe that you really are.

Because God speaks through Jesus, now. Jesus is His Final Word. In fact, Jesus is THE Word, just as He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Jesus is everything.

The universe was created through Him, according to the author of Hebrews (reminder . . . we don’t know who that is). I’m not at all sure how that worked, but I believe it because it is what the Bible says.

And verse 3 is perhaps one of the most powerful verses in the New Testament.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
(Hebrews 1:3 NIV)

Compare that to Paul’s statement in Colossians 2:9.

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.
(Colossians 2:9 NLT)

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.

Father, it is so easy for me to praise You when I am reading these truths. Thank You for Jesus! I take great comfort in knowing that He is Your final word! This doesn’t mean that I don’t need to read the words written by Your prophets of old, as they are also Your words. What it does mean is that we need to stop looking for other words. I might be wrong about there not being any more apostles or prophets. I fully admit that. And I will leave it to You to change my mind, if I am. But no human will change my mind. We are so arrogant, Father, to presume that we might be either one, apostle or prophet. I would never make that presumption. I’m just another man, trying to do my best to live in Your Kingdom and walk in the teachings and steps of Jesus, Your final word. Help me to show Him to this world in everything that I do, think, and say.

Creator and sustainer of all things,
scientists seek the mysteries that hold the universe together,
a theory that explains everything.
But you already have a name for that reality.
It's Jesus,
who upholds heaven and earth and everything in it.
He is the still point in the universe,
the clearest expression of your mind,
the sustaining word that holds everything together.
In the name of him who holds and keeps my life,
amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 27)

BLESSING

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NIV)

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:4 ESV)

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
(Psalms 9:9 ESV)

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
(Proverbs 11:25 ESV)

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
(Proverbs 19:17 ESV)

There are some serious sermons in these verses. If we know (and believe) that the Lord is a “stronghold for the oppressed,” it should terrify us to think that we were not doing the same. If my God cares for the oppressed, I had better be doing the same. Not only that, I had darned sure better not be doing the opposite!

Remember my previous discussions on what constitutes wickedness? People who do not care for the oppressed (or who might even be doing the oppressing) are, most definitely “wicked.”

And just look at the truths presented in Proverbs. I don’t believe these are technically “promises,” as some would say. I think they are just facts. If you bring blessings to people, you will be “enriched.” That is a consequence of your blessing. If you water someone else, you, yourself, will be watered. And if you are generous to the poor, the Lord will repay you, in some way, as though you were lending to Him. I know this truth from experience.

Father, I thank You that You have placed generosity in my heart. However, let me not get too comfortable, thinking that, just because I have been generous to the poor and needy in the past, that I’m all good. There is still much to be done, in this world, to care for the oppressed, the rejected, the poor, the widows and orphans, all the people about which You care greatly. So let me care about them, as well. Keep putting these thoughts in my head and in my heart, that I might use the resources with which You have blessed me to turn around and bless, or “water,” someone else. May my motivations be pure, at all times, never seeking just my own interests, but looking out for the interests and well-being of others, as well. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Lord, may we know Your resurrection hope and joy, this morning, as we worship You together. Give us power and willingness to share the gospel in our lives, as we walk through each day, showing this world a living Christ. Please give strength and hope to all persecuted Christians around the world today.

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.

Armor

Today is Saturday, the twenty-sixth of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,116

Eight days until July 4th.

The weekend has arrived. C is planning on painting the kitchen cabinets today. Or at least beginning the project. In fact, she is getting ready to head up to Ace Hardware as I am typing this.

We have our grocery pickup order from Walmart Neighborhood Market set up to pick up immediately after our WW Workshop, and also have a delivery scheduled from Albertson’s between noon and 2 PM. If you wonder why both are happening, please refer to previous posts about the Great Grocery Store Conspiracy that prevents us from getting everything we need/want at one store.

The only other thing I have to do today is get my car inspected. so that I can order my new license tags, which expire at the end of this month.

Also, since the upcoming week will be shortened (I’m taking PTO on Friday), I have plans to meet up with our previous pastor, Jacob, at a coffee shop on Friday morning. Among other things, I want to discuss with him my recent thoughts on Jesus and politics.

Update. I ran out of time, and had to leave for WW. I’m finishing this afterward, because I didn’t want to hurry it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

With a simple pause
Found in the view
A morning of blessing
Of light pouring through

Nothing to earn
And nothing to do
Just of the receiving
A gift blessed from You

One of the drawing
The feeling, belonging
Found in the comfort
The deepest of longing

This simple being
Of aligning the way
Discovers the treasure
Of pausing to pray
("A Morning of Blessing," by Daryl Madden)

Praise the LORD with melodies on the lyre; make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
(Psalms 33:2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the weekend, to rest and refresh for the upcoming (and short) work week.
2. for the blessing of pausing to pray during this time.
3. that You equip us with "armor," with which we can defend ourselves against our enemy, who is not flesh and blood.
4. for Your Word.
5. for prayer.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 7

INVITATION

You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I pause for a moment, attempting to drown out distractions, and consider the wonderful music that the Lord has placed in my life and in my soul. I look forward to praising Him with the keys and strings of the piano, tomorrow.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.
(Psalms 147:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
(Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages slowly and deliberately, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts, meditations, and prayers. Guide me to truth, Lord!

As the Psalms wind down (I believe we will begin again at Psalm 1, for the second half of the year), the theme of praise continues. We see each one begin and end with the simple phrase, “Praise the LORD,” translated from “hallelujah,” which is what that word literally means.

We see the care of the Lord for the brokenhearted and exiled, the oppressed and rejected, downtrodden. The Lord cares greatly for people in these categories, and so should we.

But we also see the scope of the Lord and His mighty power. He knows how many stars there are. Science has no clue how many stars there are. The Lord not only knows the exact number, He has a name for each one! Try wrapping your brain around that for a second.

The Lord also loves humility, and casts down the wicked. I’ve discussed this idea of “wickedness” before, in this forum, and the best I can do is to define it as those who do the opposite of what the Lord loves. So, in today’s context, the wicked are those who do not care for the brokenhearted and exiled, the oppressed and rejected, downtrodden.

The passage in Ephesians is quite famous, known as the “armor of God” passage. But the key phrase, to me, is that one that says that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but the powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil.

We are not each others’ enemies, people! If you are a Republican, the Democrats are not your enemies! And vice versa! Satan is our main enemy, and he, I am fully persuaded, is having a field day with the Church as we bicker and fight among ourselves over politics.

So what are these pieces of armor?

First is the “belt of truth.” Not your truth, or my truth, but THE truth. What is the truth? I think a better question is “WHO” is the truth? Jesus is THE truth. He is where we can find truth, and His words and teachings and actions depict truth for us.

Next is the “breastplate of righteousness.” What is that? I’ll be honest and say that I’m not 100% certain, but I do know that the only righteousness I have is what comes from Jesus. This “breastplate” cannot possibly be my so-called “good works,” because all of my own righteousness, according to Isaiah, is nothing but filthy rags.

Our feet need to be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” We need to be ready to move, but that readiness needs to reflect peace. While our fight may be active, it should be as peaceful as possible. Even Paul tells us to, as much as it depends upon us, be at peace with all people.

What that means is that we should not be starting fights. I don’t care what you believe, liberal or conservative or moderate . . . if you are out there simply starting fights, you are a tool of the enemy!

Then we have the shield of faith. Our faith protects us from the “flaming arrows” of the evil one. And just to remind you, again, this “evil one” is not a human being.

We have a helmet of salvation. I’m not sure why this one isn’t first, to be honest with you, because if you don’t have that helmet, you certainly aren’t going to have any of the rest of these.

There is only one weapon. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Some folks seem to believe that this is so you can “smite” people with it, or beat them about the head and shoulders with it. I would not agree with this stance.

“But the Word of God is profitable for rebuking,” they might object (2 Timothy 3:16). Fair enough. But please make sure that it really says what you are claiming it says. And maybe, just maybe, that correcting and rebuking is intended toward those of us who actually read and study it, or meditate on it, not to be used as an offensive weapon.

After all, swords can also be used defensively, to deflect the blows of the enemy.

Finally, after all of this “armor” is in place, the key is to bathe it all in prayer.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
(Ephesians 6:18 NIV)

Father, I thank You for all of this “armor,” which we can employ to assist us in our defense against our enemy. I thank You for showing us that our enemy is not of the flesh and blood variety, but spiritual in nature. Therefore, our fight is also spiritual, not physical. I pray that, each day, as I walk out into this world to do what needs to be done that day, that I would not leave any pieces of this armor behind, especially that sword, “which is the word of God.” And let Your Word, indeed, be profitable for teaching me, for correcting me, for rebuking me, and for training me in righteousness.

Captain of my life,
help me grasp the cosmic battle that rages in my heart and throughout the world.
I'm in a fight far beyond my strength and understanding,
so I pray that you make me wise and strong.
Outfit me with all your spiritual armor,
so that I can stand and not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle.
In the name of Jesus,
amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 127)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

“This is what the LORD says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”
(Isaiah 44:6 NIV)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
(Revelation 22:13 NIV)

God, in Jesus Christ, is the beginning and the end, the First and the Last. He also the Source, and He is our Destination. Perhaps it is not as clear, here, but He is also everything in between

Father, I thank You that You are my Source and my Destination, and everything in between. In short, You are my life. In Jesus Christ do I live and breathe and have my being. It is all You, and it is all through grace. I owe everything to You.

Lord, I ask that Your Church would flourish everywhere, filled with Your Spirit, and equipped with all that You have given us. I pray for worship that glorifies You, and that “gathers, unites, and blesses” Your people. And today, I specifically lift up all who might be experiencing a renewed faith commitment or profession of faith.

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!

Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
(Ephesians 6:23-24 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Wise Living

Today is Friday, the twenty-fifth of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,115

Nine days until July the fourth!

I had an interesting day at work, yesterday, as one of the web tools that I need was inoperable all afternoon. This, while prohibiting me from doing one of my tasks, enabled me to make great progress on my other task, so it was a bit of a mixed blessing.

C had a couple of doctor’s appointments, yesterday. The first was with her primary doctor, who declared that there was no way he was going to put her on Wellbutrin. Instead, he has prescribed Depakote, another medication that, while primarily designed to prevent seizures, also helps with mood disorders. She trusts her primary physician, as she has been seeing him for a number of years, so she started taking that last night.

She also had an appointment with her back doctor, a follow-up after the shots that she got a couple weeks ago, and they are going to do more injections. I’m not sure when that is supposed to happen.

She is thinking about painting our kitchen cabinets, this weekend. I’m okay with that. C likes having projects to do, so I’m all for that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

God, my Father,
You have promised to remain forever with those
who do what is just and right.
Help me to live in Your presence.
The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when
Jesus, your Son, became man like us.
I want to obey His commandment of love
and bring Your peace and joy to others.
Keep before me the wisdom and love
You have made known in Your Son.
Help me to be like Him in word and deed.


(Prayer to Live in God’s Presence)

Let the godly sing for joy to the LORD; it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
(Psalms 33:1 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your promise to be with us always.
2. for the music in my heart as I live a life of gratitude to You.
3. that I am not to put my trust in "human beings, who cannot save" (Psalm 146).
4. that You already know my heart and my anxious thoughts; point them out to me, Lord, and root them out.
5. that You will lead me in the path of everlasting life.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 6

INVITATION

You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I am briefly pausing, this morning, to reflect on the love and presence of the Lord, quieting my spirit, because I’m behind schedule, and my spirit is tempted to hurry.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.
(Psalms 146:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:8-20 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit here, aware of the Lord’s presence, in spite of the feelings caused by being behind schedule, I meditate on these Scriptures, asking the Holy Spirit to direct my prayers.

I am immediately drawn to verse 3 of Psalm 146. This threads in with my recent thoughts (which I have yet to begin to seriously research) on Jesus and politics. The importance of this verse came to light during and immediately after the recent Presidential election. “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” Add in “presidents,” or “kings,” or “Prime Ministers,” or any other type of political leader.

They are all “human beings, who cannot save.”

Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Justin Trudeau . . . all “human beings, who cannot save.”

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
(Mark 12:17 NIV)

What belongs to God? Our trust; our hope; our worship.

I would include not putting our hope in “princes” in the list of things that Paul would include in the Ephesians passage, as he tell us to live wisely and not be foolish. And remember, this passage comes on the heels of yesterday’s, which ended with the admonition to imitate God, who loves us, and that we should “love like that” (The Message).

Today’s passage tells us to be filled with the Spirit.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-20 NIV)

We are called to be children of light, not walking in darkness.

Father, help me to walk in the light today. Help me to be one who “speaks” in “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” May I sing and make music from my heart today, as I walk through this day, in Your presence. Yes, remind me, constantly that, no matter where I am, I am in Your presence. May my words, thoughts, and deeds be filled with grace today.

God of light,
you call me to be a child of light,
but often I live in gray-tones and shadow.
Inspire me to walk each day in the bright light of your holiness.
As I join with others to sing your praises,
may my whole life be a song of gratitude and love to you,
that others may begin to hum along.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 29)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
(Psalms 139:23-24 NLT)

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG)

Just as the psalmist prayed, Father, search me, today. You already know my heart, inside and out, in more depth than I am able to even know myself. You already know my anxious thoughts. Calm them today, root out anything that is offensive to You, and lead me in the way everlasting.

I pray, Lord, for the ability to, as Christ taught us, deny myself and serve others, today. Give me the commitment and ability to do justice and show mercy in all things today. I pray specifically today for civil courts and judges.

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.

The Way of Love

Today is Thursday (pre-Friday), the twenty-fourth of June, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,114

Ten more days until July 4th!

How is your summer going? Do you like summer? I, personally, do not. But my opinion of summer is pretty irrelevant, isn’t it? It’s not like it’s going to go away just because I don’t like it. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and October my favorite month.

The announcement came yesterday, via a mid-afternoon email, that masks are no longer required at our work facility. I immediately took mine off, as did many others. Some kept theirs on. I don’t question that decision. In fact, I honor that decision. The company is following recent CDC guidelines concerning masks and fully-vaccinated people. However, the company is leaving the decision up to individuals and allowing us to make those decisions on an honor system. In other words, no one will be required to provide proof of vaccination.

Shaming others for their decision to wear/not wear a mask is strictly forbidden.

The Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-3, last night. They have won two out of three, so far, in a four-game series that concludes this afternoon. I just warned C that there is an afternoon game. She works practically right across the street from Globe Life Field.

The Rangers, sadly, are firmly entrenched in last place, 19 games out of first and 9 games behind the fourth place team.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, 
I have sought you. 
I became weary and I labored. 
O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and 
never to cease seeking you. 
Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance.
 Give me the strength to seek you, 
for you help me to find you and you have more and more 
given me the hope of finding you. 
Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. 
Preserve the first and heal the second. 
Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. 
Where you have opened the door to me, 
welcome me at the entrance; 
where you have closed the door to me, 
open to my cry; 
enable me to remember you, 
to understand you, 
and to love you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)

Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
(Psalms 32:10-11 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your unfailing love that surrounds us; help me to rejoice in You today, and to be glad
2. for all of you out there, the community of saints
3. that You are constantly turning my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29)
4. that most of what You do is love us; help me to imitate You
5. for the power of Your awesome works and great deeds

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 5

INVITATION

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

As I pause to reflect, this morning, I enjoy the truth that God has, many times, over, indeed turned my darkness into light. If you are experiencing darkness in your life, this morning, try to allow Him to turn it into light; scale that wall!

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of praise. Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
(Psalms 145:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
(Ephesians 4:17 NIV)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:25-32 NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s holy presence, this morning, I linger over these passages. What stirs my soul? Where is the Holy Spirit leading me?

The psalm passage is purely praise, and they all are from this point on. The last five psalms are nothing but praise and worship, a fitting end to the “prayer book of the Bible,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it.

Verse 4 is stirring. “One generation commends your works to another.” I have experienced this, as I have sat in a room full of people of multiple generations, from children to people older than I, and we have together celebrated the mighty works of God in our midst. One of my favorite times of year has always been when the youth come back from camp and tell their stories to the grownups. Always so inspiring.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians continues to encourage us in one direction. Ultimately, that direction is to love one another. I land in that place a lot, in this blog. I wonder why.

That was kind of sarcasm, that last statement.

Today’s reading, split into several pieces, begins by admonishing us to not live “as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” “Gentiles,” in our culture, would simply refer to those who do not believe in Jesus. Their thinking is futile, their lives, to a great degree, meaningless.

Verse 25 begins a list of things to do and not do. Put of falsehood and speak truthfully; don’t let the sun set on your anger; don’t give the devil a foothold; don’t steal, but work for your living (note the reason for working . . . not to provide for your family, but so you can “have something to share with those in need”); no unwholesome talk out of your mouth, but only speak that which is “helpful for building others up;” do not grieve the Holy Spirit; get rid of malice, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander; be kind and compassionate to one another.

This is all summed up in the first two verses of chapter 5.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)

I like Eugene Peterson’s rendering of these verses.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)

“Love like that.”

Father, help us all to love like that. Start with me. Today. Now. As I walk into this day, of which I am laying the foundation right now, let me love like Jesus loved. That has been my central theme for a long time, now. Help me to watch what You do and then do it. And since mostly what You do is love us, let me imitate that.

Word of Life,
I love the everydayness of this gospel life,
that honest speech is included in holy living.
How necessary it is in this age of spin and hype,
where falsehood spreads with viral intensity.
Teach me to speak as Jesus lived,
full of grace and truth.
Guide all my words--
spoken or written--
by your love and the needs of others.
In Christ's name,
amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 112)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.
(John 15:12 MSG)

I’m not making this stuff up, y’all. See? It’s coming at us from multiple sources. This is from today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2021.

Again, Father, please help us to love like Jesus loved. Help me to walk in the way of love.

Father, give us spiritual renewal today. Grant us deep repentance, and help us to accomplish racial reconciliation.

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!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

How to Walk Worthy

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-third of June, 2021.

May the peace of God dwell in your hearts today.

Day 23,113

Eleven days until the fourth of July.

I don’t have a lot to write about this morning.

But I will say that C had a visit with a doctor yesterday, who showed her that her mental capacity was just fine. Some of her tests even showed extreme high results on the scale. He believes that her issues are purely stress and anxiety-related. I am in agreement with him on this. We will be praying about that, for sure.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

All of your needs continue
to be met in Me, drink from
My Living Waters, drink deep

©2021 S. Michaels
A Line in the Sand
(‘High-Haiku’ 7-7-7)
("Wellsprings," by S. Michaels)

The above is from another favorite poet that I discovered on WordPress. She has graciously given me permission to share her work here.

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
(Psalms 32:8-9 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You will guide me along the the best pathway for my life.
2. that all of my needs can be met in You; give me to drink from Your Living Water.
3. that my coffee is especially good, this morning.
4. that You are my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, and my refuge (Psalm 144)
5. that those who hope in You will renew their strength; renew mine, this morning, Father!

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 4

INVITATION

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I pause during this moment to consider the peace that comes from knowing that the Lord guides me along the best pathway, and praying that I will pay attention to His guidance.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.

I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,

to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David.
(Psalms 144:1-4, 9-10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I sit in this quiet place, resting in the presence of the Lord. I ask the Holy Spirit to convey a message to me from these Scriptures, something that I can take into my day of work, fraught with stress and anxiety, as I lay the foundation for this day. I remind myself that,

no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV)

Verse 2 of Psalm 144 is one of those psalm verses that I love to read. Full of words like fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, and refuge, verses like this give me great comfort. A few days ago, it spoke of God being our hiding place. What great comfort to know that I can “hide” in God, resting under His “wings.”

And then that big question, that always looms in the mind of those who lean toward the spiritual . . . what are we that You even care about us, God?? We are nothing but a breath, a mist that dissolves in the morning sun, yet You care for us, and enough to die for us! Back to Psalm 139 . . . such knowledge is too wonderful for me.

O, Lord, give me new songs to sing to You!

Is it possible to even live a life worthy of this? How do I manage to live a life worthy of the calling I have received, as Paul instructs us?

He proceeds to tell us, beginning in verse 2 of Ephesians 4. And, as the song says, “the first cut is the deepest.”

“Be completely humble and gentle,” says Paul. There’s that word that so many of us are struggling with, these days. Humility. Western culture hates that word. Our culture is all about asserting yourself, standing your ground, standing up for your “rights.”

Jesus would call us to do none of those things. Recall, if you will, Jesus standing trial before the mighty Pilate. He would answer nothing, and would not defend Himself at all. Remember my thoughts from yesterday about Jesus and politics. I still haven’t done any more research on that, but I’m thinking I will find that He was not involved in politics very much, if at all.

“Be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

“Keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I struggle with reconciling Paul’s instructions to us with David’s statement about “training my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” I don’t have a clear answer on that, at the moment. I’m just dropping some honesty, here.

How do we walk worthy of our calling? Humility, gentleness, patience . . . hey. Wait a minute. Where have I seen those qualities before??

Just last week, I believe!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

Father, draw me deeper in to Your Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Help me to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. I confess that I struggled with this yesterday, under the high level of stress, currently, at work. When that stress returns, this morning, help me to hide myself in You, my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer. Grant me humility, gentleness, and patience. Oh, those are such dangerous requests, aren’t they? But I am honestly, sincerely, asking for those qualities to surface in my life. I want to shine for You, Lord, displaying the love of Jesus in every step.

Our only God and Father,
I'm tempted to make church a consumer thing,
to think of it as a vendor of spiritual goods and religious services that keep me happy and satisfied.
Remind me that I share in Jesus through this body,
the church,
a covenant community where I have obligations to others.
Make me ready to serve others for the joy of Jesus.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 55)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
(Isaiah 61:1 NLT)

Father, as I walk through this day, renew my strength. Show me the abundance of Your blessings in my life (I don’t have to ask for these blessings, as You freely give them)! May I soar on wings like an eagle, and run without weariness. May Your Spirit be upon me, that I might proclaim Your good news to all, in whatever way they need to hear it. Free the captives, Lord, release the prisoners from the bondage in which they are trapped.

I lift up all national and local communities, Father, both spiritual and physical. Be our protector today, shielding us from all things evil. I specifically pray for the European continent, this morning, asking for Your glory and grace to shine in their midst. I also lift up those who advocate for justice and peace, in our land.

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!

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Deep and Wide

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-second of June, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,112

Twelve days until July 4th

I actually don’t have anything to write about, this morning, that I can think of. Nothing memorable from yesterday. I could whine about the stress level at work, but I’m choosing not to.

I will say one thing about some thoughts that I have had, recently, regarding Jesus and politics. I need to do some studying and research before I come to any conclusions, but it seems to me that Jesus had very little involvement in politics. At one point, He said, “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and render unto God what belongs to God.” And when He was asked if His disciples should pay taxes, He simply asked whose picture was on the money. That’s pretty much it.

As I said, I need to do more study and research to follow up on this, but it could be some interesting study. The only reason I’m even having these thoughts is because of my intense frustration with my brothers and sisters in Christ who seem obsessed with things political. I’m pretty sure I’m going to discover that Jesus couldn’t care less about politics.

But that’s a topic for another day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.
(Psalms 32:7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You truly are my hiding place; may I run to You when I feel threatened during the day.
2. that, if I only pay attention, I can hear Your songs of victory that surround me! (Zephaniah 3:17)
3. for the hope of understanding the width, depth, height, and length of the love of Christ, and to know that which surpasses knowledge.
4. that nothing can separate us from this love.
5. that I don't need to worry if I'm "good enough." You have already made that determination! Help me to trust You!

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 3

INVITATION

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I pause, briefly, quietly, resting in Your presence, meditating on the fact that You are my hiding place, and that You light the way of my path, so that my feet know which way to go.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
(Psalms 143:1-2 NIV)

Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
(Psalms 143:7 NIV)

For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
(Psalms 143:11-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in Your presence, I read these passages, asking Your Holy Spirit to guide me in prayer and meditation. I am laying the foundation for my day, at this moment.

There are things in my life that would lead me to cry for mercy. Spiritual things, physical things, mental things, things involving work, things involving family. You know what these things are, Father. I don’t need to air them out in this forum.

If the Lord were to hide His face from us, we would dissolve into nothingness. No one is truly righteous before Him, outside of the righteousness of Christ, which is added to our lives because of His work.

Do we consider our motivation when we ask for things from the Lord? In verse 11, the psalmist asks out of a desire to make the name of the Lord famous. “For your name’s sake, O Lord,” he prays. We pray, often times, out of selfish desires. And saying certain words in those prayers doesn’t help. Do we think for a moment that we can “trick” God by tacking on, “in Jesus’s name, amen” at the end of a prayer?

As it says in other places in Scripture, do not be deceived, God is not mocked.

Be honest and forthright in prayer. Let your motivation be pure. If it is selfish, it is selfish, and that’s fine. Don’t try to hide that. Sometimes, I pray out of selfishness, and sometimes I pray with a heart’s desire to see God’s name glorified. Both prayers are fine. Really. What’s not fine is trying to hide that selfishness with “magic words.” You might as well say “abracadabra” in your prayer.

Speaking of prayer, that prayer in our Ephesians passage today is one of the most wonderful and marvelous and powerful prayers in Scripture. While it may not be more so than Jesus’s model prayer (the one we call The Lord’s Prayer), it ranks right up there among my favorite Bible prayers. I have prayed this for people before.

My favorite part begins in verse 13 (I’m not sure why we have a verse division in the middle of a sentence when a new sentence starts in the same verse).

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)

I remember the old Sunday School song, “Deep and wide.” “There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.” That fountain is God’s love. Paul writes these words, praying that we, along with all the other saints, would grasp the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. And then he says something spectacular. He prays that we would “know this love that surpasses knowledge.”

How can you even do that?

Can you know something that you can’t know??

I don’t know. But I sure want to try.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, its width, length, height, and depth, and that love surpasses all knowledge. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain.

But I will still attempt to know it, and to attain it.

Father, I love You, and I love Your love for me. Help me, along with all of Your saints, to know this love that surpasses knowledge, and to comprehend, to grasp, to “grok” the width, the length, the height, and the depth of this love. Help me to know something that cannot be known. And if I can’t know it on this side of the veil, get me as close as I can possibly be.

Father in heaven,
make my life a Christ-home,
fully furnished with his grace,
beauty,
and strength.
Today I guard in my heart the gospel declaration that I am approved and accepted in Christ.
In faith,
I claim for myself the righteousness of Jesus and apply all his power and riches,
the fullness of God in me.
Fill me with your love.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 22)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
(Exodus 3:11 NLT)

“O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
(Jeremiah 1:6-8 NLT)

O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right.
(Psalms 31:1 NLT)

“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”
(John 15:16 NLT)

Are you worried about whether you’re “good enough?” You are. And let God decide that!

Father, I have struggled with thoughts of whether I am good enough for You and Your work. Help me to trust You, for You have already decided that, yes, I am good enough. In You, I am more than adequate for the work that You have prepared for me. All glory to You, Father! For Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me in the paths that I should follow!

Lord, this morning, I pray to be able to work out the calling to serve and follow You into the workplace and community. I pray for the well-being of my community. Help me to make it a better place to live. I pray specifically, this morning, for all people who struggle to maintain commitments in their lives.

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 all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.