Good and Trouble

Today is Thursday, the twenty-first of October, 2021

May the peace of God reign in your lives

Day 23,233

Seventeen days until Daylight Saving Time ends

As is pretty typical on or around Thursdays, I don’t have a whole lot to write about, this morning. I did some grocery shopping, yesterday, and not much else. I’m doing a few other household chores today, and hope to get a good deal of reading done. The library book I am reading is due tomorrow, and I’m not sure I’m going to get it finished.

The Red Sox are heading back to Houston, down 3-2, after another lackluster performance, yesterday. The sad thing is that Chris Sale actually put on a stellar performance from the mound, only giving up one run on a home run, early in the game. Unfortunately, the Houston pitcher was perfect through five innings, something that has never happened at Fenway Park. And then, as if they weren’t behind enough, Alex Cora showed that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes and put Martin Perez in, again, in the ninth, to hand the Astros two more runs. Red Sox lose 9-1. Oh, well. It will be one less thing to worry about.

I have neglected to mention . . . we will be closing on the refinancing of our mortgage next Tuesday. We will be paying off both car loans after the refi, and we plan to channel the money we have been paying on the cars into the mortgage payment, and theoretically could have the house paid off in less than ten years. The main reason was to get a lower interest rate, but we will take advantage of the opportunity to pay off the cars early. I don’t foresee either of us entering into a new car loan any time soon. Both of our cars are less than five years old. I think mine is a 2019, and C’s is likely only the year before that.

Today is Reptile Awareness Day. Lizards, anyone?

Today’s word is shivaree. “A mock serenade with kettles, pans, horns, and other noisemakers given for a newly married couple; charivari.”

Today’s quote is from Jonas Salk, American scientist. “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” Reminds me of one that I don’t know who originally said it, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Significant birthdays on October 21:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet (Rime of the Ancient Mariner), 1772-1834
Sir Georg Solti, Hungarian conductor (Chicago Symphony), 1911-1994
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, American jazz trumpeter, 1917-1993
Whitey Ford, American HoF baseball pitcher, 1928-2020
Ursula K. Le Guin, American Science Fiction author (The Lathe of Heaven), 1929-2018
Manfred Mann, British rock musician (The Mighty Quinn, Blinded By the Light), 1940 (81)
Elvin Bishop, American rock guitar player (Fooled Around and Fell in Love), 1942 (79)
Judith Sheindlin, American television personality (Judge Judy), 1942 (79)
Lee Loughnane, American musician and songwriter (Chicago), 1946 (75)
Keith Green, American Christian musician, 1953-1982
Rich Mullins, American Christian singer/songwriter, 1955-1997
Carrie Fisher, American actress (Star Wars, Shampoo), 1956-2016
Steve Lukather, American rock singer, guitar player (Toto), 1957 (64)
Speaking of trouble . . .

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Jesus wants us to receive the love he offers.
He wants nothing more than that we allow him to love us and enjoy that love.
This is so hard since we always feel that we have to deserve the love offered to us.
But Jesus wants to offer that love to us not because we have earned it, but because he has decided to love us independently of any effort on our side.
Our own love for each other should flow from that “first love” that is given to us undeserved.” (Henri Nouwen, Receive Jesus’ Love)

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
(Psalms 79:13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the love of Jesus, undeserved, yet freely given
2. that I am alive and breathing
3. for a raise at my library job (yes, already!)
4. for passages of Scripture with which I must struggle
5. that my enemy can bring nothing against me that God has not approved (don't agree? Read the book of Job)

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-TWO – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

I praise God, because he did not reject my prayer or keep back his constant love from me.
(Psalms 66:20 GNB)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to reflect on the love of Jesus, as stated by Henri Nouwen, above. It is such a marvelous truth to realize that He loves us unconditionally, even though we have done nothing to deserve such love.

BIBLE SONG

The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
(Psalms 110:1 NIV)

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.
(Psalms 110:4-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
(Job 2:7-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over these passages, I seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in meditating over them. These are not the easiest of passages to apply to current life situations.

I’ll be honest . . . the psalm is not one of my favorites and is a bit off-putting, especially when trying to ascertain how it applies to us, today. I believe that the first part refers to the Father speaking to the Son. The designation “LORD” should be translated from the Hebrew “YHWH,” or “yehovah.” The other “Lord” is translated from variations of “Adonai,” which means “sovereign” or “ruler.”

References to Melchizedek are always confusing, too. Basically, Melchizedek was the king of Salem, who just appeared to Abraham in Genesis 14. There are some who believe that Hebrews teaches that he was actually the pre-incarnate Christ. However, I don’t think I go along with that teaching, and passages like Psalm 110 seem to rule that out. Nevertheless, Melchizedek is a mysterious character in the narrative, having no explanation of where he came from or anything.

Psalm 110, though, proclaims that Christ (the “Lord” referred to in these verses) is a “priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

The latter verses of the psalm seem pretty violent, and I won’t pretend to comprehend verse 7 at all. I believe the main thing to get from Psalm 110 is the preeminence of Christ.

And the main thing I get from the Job passage (after I get through shuddering at the image of a man sitting among ashes, scraping boils off of his skin with piece of pottery) is Job’s response to his wife when she encourages him to “curse God and die.”

It’s a very wise response and one we would all do well to ponder. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Again, I don’t know if I believe that Job was a real person or if this is just allegory that teaches us things about God and His relationship with His people. I do know that there are people out there who would have us believe that any “trouble” we receive in life comes from the devil.

I don’t agree with that stance. God most definitely brought trouble on Israel. He sent trouble to David. Now, granted, most of those times of trouble were caused by their own actions. But Job had done nothing wrong. And while it is true that the boils and calamities were technically caused by Satan, they were allowed by God.

So I will gracefully (sometimes not so much, I admit) accept whatever comes my way. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, you know.

Father, I am grateful for all of the good that You bring to my life. And I know, as Scripture tells me, that even the trouble that comes my way comes through You, and You work it all out for my good, because I do love You, and I am called according to Your purpose. I say these things with all humility, especially in light of the love of Jesus, so freely given, yet so little deserved. I praise You for Your great love for us, Father! Give me strength to endure any trouble that comes my way, with the grace that the Holy Spirit enables me to display. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth.

I pray that all of Your Church will have a deeper understanding of the gospel and what it means for us. May we have the full experience of life as Your adopted children, and please give us vibrant prayer lives.

"God of severe mercy,
like Job,
eventually I will lose everything -
whatever treasures I have,
my family,
my health,
my life.
This bitter reality challenges my core motives:
why am I following You?
Who am I living this life for?
Yet in this I rest:
I belong to You,
come what may.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!
(Matthew 5:8 GNB)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalms 34:18 NIV)

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
(Psalms 55:22 NIV)

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 NIV)

Psalm 55:22 is a great verse to read after considering the truths brought forth in Job.

Thank You, Father, that You will never let us be shaken.

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.

On Waiting

Today is Wednesday, the ninth of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,099

25 days until July 4th

I totally forgot Father’s Day is coming. Or Fathers Day, or Fathers’ Day. However you want to put it. It’s eleven days until Father’s Day.

My blood pressure seems to have stabilized. This morning, it checked at 110/70. Pretty much perfect. I also lost about a half pound on the scale, which is encouraging. Weird, because I don’t normally lose weight in the middle of the week, but encouraging. I try not to take too much stock in the daily weigh-ins, and WW even discourages that. But the new scale we got a few weeks ago comes with an app (doesn’t everything, now?) and wirelessly communicates data to the app. So I step on it (the scale, not the app) every morning.

If you haven’t been reading, I’ve recently made some doctor-directed medication changes because my blood pressure had gotten a bit on the low side. I have been taking blood pressure medication for years, but with all of this weight loss (120+ since February of 2020), my blood pressure has lowered as well. Changing the meds caused me to have some rather unexplainable weight gain in the past week. Hopefully, that is leveling off, as well.

I don’t have much else to write about, so on to the real purpose of why I’m here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

THIS MORNING'S PRAYER, by Daryl Madden

Draw in the fresh air
Turn gaze up high
Losing oneself
In the blue sky

Exhale completely
Fill senses deep
Allowing the present
Moment to seep

Sounds of surrounding
Of comforts embrace
Blessings of peace
Born by Your grace

Soul of the filling
Our being of here
Light of consuming
Of this morning’s prayer

For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
(Psalms 27:5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. this morning's time of prayer and meditation; teach me, Holy Spirit
2. that I am hidden in Your sanctuary, out of reach on a high rock
3. that You call us to fight against our culture of instant gratification
4. that You call us to wait
5. for the grace in which I stand

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 3 – DAY 4

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

At this point, I pause to reflect on being hidden in the sanctuary of the Lord, high on His rock, out of reach of evil.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
(Psalms 130:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:1-11 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I take this moment to rest in God’s presence, I linger over these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in, deeper, pointing out specific words or phrases on which I need to focus.

I see the word “wait” occurring five times in Psalm 130. That tends to make me think it might be important. You think? I find it interesting that he says, “my whole being waits.” The ESV renders that, “my soul waits.” And while my whole being, my soul, is waiting, I put my hope in God’s Word.

Waiting is something that western culture doesn’t like. In fact, we hate waiting. We hate waiting so much that we pay Amazon a yearly fee in order to get faster deliveries. In our defense, we get a lot more than that for the yearly fee, like streaming TV and movies, and those faster deliveries are also at no extra charge. Believe me, the yearly fee more than pays for itself.

But look at our TV watching trends. We can now binge an entire series of a show on Netflix or Amazon Prime in a day or two, without having to wait until next week for the next episode to be released. HBO has not catered to that, by the way. They still release episodes the old fashioned way, a week at a time.

But then we have to wait a whole year for another season. Ugh!

God wants us to wait, though. Just look at that famous verse in Isaiah 40.

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31 ESV)

The results of “waiting” are tremendous.

And this idea, even though the word, itself, is not included, is represented further in our Romans passage for the day. Romans 5:3 speaks of suffering. We hate that almost as much as we hate waiting. But look at the benefits of suffering (and waiting). Perseverance, character, and, finally, hope.

Perseverance is a sort of waiting, isn’t it? One definition of perseverance is, “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

Ooh. “Delay.” A sort of synonym for “waiting.”

It is sad to me that everything that is encouraged in today’s Scripture readings goes against almost everything Western culture embraces. This causes me to kick back against our culture. This is why, as I wrote yesterday, I am striving to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” from my life (thanks, Dallas Willard).

Believers in Jesus need to fight against the culture. We need to be different. We are called out people, right? We are supposed to be “peculiar.” I know a lot of believers who are peculiar, all right, but in the wrong ways. Hahaha!

The Romans passage also speaks of “this grace in which we now stand.” I love this line, and it makes me think of a song by the late Keith Green.

That nothing lasts
Except the grace of God
By which I stand in Jesus
I know that I would surely fall away
Except for grace
By which I am saved

Father, I thank You for this grace by which I stand in Jesus. I thank You for the faith that You have given me, my whole life long. I pray that You will help me to wait, for my whole being, my soul, to wait for You, and while I wait, hope in Your Word. Where else can I find hope? Help me as I continue on this journey to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

Sacrificial God,
how can I comprehend a deliverer who gives his life for powerless rebels,
for us even though we were your enemies?
Your love in Christ's death is the matchless wonder of the world--
your greatest glory,
the world's deepest hope,
and our sweetest joy.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 26)

BLESSING

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.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:5-7 ESV)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
(Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

More words we don’t like in this culture. “Subject,” “humility/humble,” “obey,” “submit.”

Father, as I read more words that our culture hates, I embrace the thoughts that they conjure. Help me today, to be humble, submissive, obedient. Again, help me to wait and be watchful for where You are working, and hoping in Your Word, that I might have perseverance, character, and hope. All glory to You, through the Son, by the Spirit.

Lord, I lift up all national and local communities to You. May Your presence be known in our midst, and Your protection be over us. May Your grace fall on all who work in the healthcare profession, especially those who must care for the dying. May You be present in the midst of all courts and judges today, that justice be served in all cases.

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!

In the midst of my troubles and stress,
my Lord,
my wishes, hopes, and desires
rest in your gracious hands.
Help me accept your will and direction.
Please come alongside me,
my advisor and confidant,
my savior and friend,
my Lord and my God.
Let your will be done.
("Comfort Me in Trust," by Daryl Madden, in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace By Which I Stand

Today is Saturday, January 9, 2021.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,948

Either I’ve got a serious case of allergies going on, or I have a mild cold. Since the only thing seemingly affected is my nose and face, I’m thinking it is allergies. My nose was running like a sieve, yesterday. And I sneezed quite a bit. No coughing or respiratory issues, though. And, most importantly, no fever. Plus I can still smell and taste, so I think I’m okay. My coffee tastes wonderful, this morning.

I slept with some essential oil called “Breathe” on a cotton puff behind my CPAP machine, last night. Believe it or not, the stuff smells a lot like Vicks VapoRub. Boy, does THAT bring back some memories!! My mother used to rub that on my chest when I was sick. And we had one of those vaporizer thingies. Good times.

We have our WW Workshop, this morning, at 10:30. For reasons, I cannot ascertain at this moment, I’m not losing weight, right now. It’s weird. I know it will turn around, though. It is doubtful that I will make my 100 pound mark, this morning. At this point, I’m just hoping I don’t gain again! Whatever happens, I will not allow it to ruin my day. I know I’m still doing the right things, so it will turn around.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • For Your grace that has appeared, offering salvation to all people
  • That You did not discriminate between peoples when You offered that salvation
  • That it is by grace that I am saved, and by grace that I am able to stand
  • For the story of the Gospel, which I can “preach” to myself over and over, in order to bring encouragement to my faith
  • That You have been working in me to remove attachments to the physical world

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 4

INVITATION

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. . . . The appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Titus 2:11, 13 NIV)

BIBLE SONG: PSALM 7:1-5, 8, 17 (NIV)

LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands—
if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe—
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.

Let the LORD judge the peoples. Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High. 

BIBLE READING: ACTS 15:5-11 (NIV)

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

The phrase that speaks loudly to me, this morning, is “He did not discriminate between us and them.”

There is a deep lesson to be seen here. The opening verse, the “invitation” into these meditations, corroborates this thought. Paul, in his letter to Titus, said that the grace of God has appeared, offering “salvation to all people.”

When God sent Peter to speak to Cornelius, the floodgates opened up. Suddenly, the message of the Gospel was open to everyone, not just the Jews!

Do you remember Simeon’s prayer in the Gospel of Luke?

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-32 NIV)

Before Jesus had taken a step or even been able to stand up on His own, it was prophesied that He would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” And now, here in the book of Acts, this is coming to fruition.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of us who are believers, followers of Christ, in the United States of America, are probably Gentiles. There are some Jewish Christians among us, as well, but most of us are probably Gentiles.

Were it not for the fact that God allowed Peter to go talk to Cornelius, were it not for God showing Peter that vision of the sheet and the unclean animals, where would we be today?

It is the fact that “He did not discriminate between us and them” that has given us salvation!

The last verse of our reading from Acts sums it up perfectly.

We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
(Acts 15:11 NIV)

So, where am I going with this? I’ll tell you. In light of these truths, these indisputable facts, how dare we act in any way that is discriminatory in our day and age!

We, as believers in Jesus Christ, as those who claim to follow in His steps, have no room for discrimination of any kind. By grace we have been saved, and by grace we must live. If we act with hatred toward any group of people, if we act as though we are superior to any group of people, we are walking in a way that says we have forgotten the grace that was shown to us.

And believe me when I say I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else. I struggle with this, perhaps as much as anyone. Not so much in the realm of race, mind you, but there are other areas where I sink into the pit of thinking I’m better than another group of people because of this, that, or the other. It is simply not true; a lie from the devil, himself.

The title of my blog has been, from day one, “Reveling in the Overflowing Grace of God.” (At one point, I did change the spelling of “reveling.”) It is by that grace that I am saved. It is by that grace the the Gospel came to us Gentiles, in the first place. And it is utterly and completely by His grace that I was born into a country and into a family where it was possible for that Gospel message to reach my soul.

I have done nothing, and continue to do nothing to deserve this.

It

Is

All

Grace

There’s an old song by the late Keith Green, called “Grace By Which I Stand.” The chorus goes like this:

Nothing lasts
Except the grace of God
by which I stand in Jesus
I'm sure that my whole life would waste away
Except for grace
By which I'm saved

Father, I praise You for the grace by which I stand. I thank You that You sent Peter to talk to Cornelius, and that those leaders had those meetings, and agreed that it was okay for the Gospel to reach the Gentiles, and that the burdens of the Law would not be placed upon them. Thank You for Peter, Lord. Now, may I walk through my life in the same way, leaning so heavily on this grace that I dare not treat any other group of people with disdain or hatred. We are all, when it comes to sin, indeed “in the same boat.” And none of us has a way out, other than the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ. So, whenever I begin to feel superior to that coworker who is so obnoxious and rude, please let Your Spirit remind me, whether by nudge, shove, or smack up side the head, that we are all the same, and all in need of Your great, overflowing grace!

"Jesus Christ,
light of the world,
as the Magi came from far away
to bow down and worship,
gather your church from every place.
Never let your church be bound,
confined,
or limited to certain places or persons,
but always ready to receive
those who seek to worship you,
and whom you are seeking.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession 27)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV)

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
(Hebrews 12:3 MSG)

So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe.
(Hebrews 3:1 MSG)

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
(Hebrews 12:2 MSG)

I confess that I may have briefly taken my eyes off of Jesus, earlier this week, but only for a moment. He IS the centerpiece, the cornerstone.

I’ve been learning quite a bit from this book, which my mother gave me for Christmas, last year. In today’s reading, I learn the Hebrew word for heaven, which is shamayim, and the Hebrew word for earth, which is aretz.

It is noted that any Hebrew word that ends with “im” is plural. Therefore, the word for “heaven” is plural, while the word for “earth” is not.

“That which is earthly is singular. That which belongs to the physical realm is finite. Everything that is physical is limited. That’s why, no matter how much of the earthly realm you get, no matter how many earthly possessions you possess, it can never fill you or bring you completion.”

In short, a life focused on the physical is a life of limitation.

While we cannot escape living in the earthly realm, we don’t have to live of it. “You must deal with earthly things, but you don’t have to fill your heart with them. Set your heart on that which is heavenly. Fill up your heart with that which is spiritual. For heaven is shamayim, and shamayim has no limitation. And, therefore, a heart filled up with that which is spiritual and that which is heavenly . . . becomes unlimited.”

The Mission: What are your possessions? Today, let go. Free up your heart of its earthly possessions. And fill it up with the spiritual and heavenly.”

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:9 ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

Father, You have worked in me, over the past decade or so, to lessen my attachments to the physical things. I am not one who is typically caught up in material goods. There are aspects of the physical life that still hold on to me, though, from time to time. Help me to truly be “in the world, not of it,” however cliché that sounds. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You and on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith.

Father, I pray for all communities, throughout our land. May those of us who are believers rise up in those communities and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, thereby bringing the Gospel to them. Today, per the suggestion from my devotional book, I lift up the continent of Australia, and ask that Your Gospel would be fruitful in that place, that it would be freely preached, and that You would open the ears of the people to hear it. I also lift up all military personnel and peacekeepers, especially right now, during this time of political turmoil, such as I have not seen for at least five decades. I also pray for the family of the Capitol police officer who was killed in Wednesday’s violence. May You bring them peace.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.


Keep On Running

Today is Saturday, October 21, 2017. Day 21,772.

Ten days until C’s knee replacement surgery.

Carrie Fisher, who was born on this date in 1956 (died in the celebrity massacre of 2016), said, “I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know. It was something I always did.”
BrainyQuote

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com is ducky, which means, “fine; excellent; wonderful.” But, and please correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think I have every heard this word used in any sense other than sarcasm. “Well, that’s just ducky!”

Today is <em>Reptile Awareness Day. You know, just in case you weren’t aware that reptiles exist?

I haven’t had time for personal update, much, this week. I’ve been trying to make sure that I have adequate time for my devotions, each morning, which is the more important part of the day. But there hasn’t been much going on, anyway.

Except for the part where someone got hold of my social security number somehow, and started opening credit card accounts. Yes, sir, I have been Identity Thefted! I may have mentioned a little over a week ago (can’t remember) that someone had gotten into my AT&T mobile account, stored a credit card with a Wisconsin address and PAID almost $1000 toward our account. We still can’t figure that one out. I changed my password and deleted the credit card. As far as I can tell, there has been no further activity there.

The next day, I received a strange call on my cell phone. I didn’t answer, because I didn’t recognize the number, but it showed being from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Yes! Another Wisconsin thing. Turns out, it was a number from the Kohl’s corporate headquarters. They left a message, too, with a call back number (different from the originating number). So, I called the other number. I had a strange conversation with a woman, who said that the message had been an investigator. But she couldn’t tell me anything about why, and started asking for personal information. So, I ended that call, as I didn’t feel comfortable giving that out.

About a week later, we received several disturbing things in the mail. There were two letters from Kohl’s. One stating that I had shoplifted some merchandise from a store in Fresno and was responsible to reimburse them $350. The other one was that a credit card had been opened in my name, but some of the information on the application was not verifiable, so they were wanting to verify if it was me.

We first called the number on the letter about shoplifting. Again, we had a very strange conversation with a woman who didn’t seem to know anything at all about the situation. All she would say is that if we filed an ID theft report and forward that to them, it would clear it up. When we asked to speak to a manager, she said there weren’t any. At Kohl’s corporate office. No managers. We ended that call, and tried the other number about the credit card. We got slightly better results, there, but it was still not handled well.

That same day, we also received a credit card from Target and a credit card from WalMart, neither of which I applied for. I immediately called the numbers on the backs of both cards. The guy I spoke with at Target was extremely helpful (I’m not 100% positive, but I’m pretty sure he was also in the United States, which I’m 99% sure the Kohl’s people were NOT), and informed me that the fraudulent people had, in fact, used the $500 temporary limit, but that I would not be responsible for any of it. He said the card would be turned off immediately, and that I would receive a form in a few days that I need to complete and send back. The WalMart people were just as helpful and professional as Target. They did, however, forward me to someone with the bank that backed the card. There had been no usage on that one, but it was also turned off immediately.

I called our local police department to report ID theft. They took down information for a report, but since nothing happened in our city, they couldn’t file an official identity theft report. I get that. But at least they have the data.

I also filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission. That seems to be the most important thing to do. And I emailed that report to Kohl’s on Friday. In addition, I put a fraud alert on all three credit reporting companies. I’m seriously considering putting a credit freeze on all three of them today. That will cost me a little bit, but it would, no doubt, be worth it.

Oddly enough, after most of these phone calls, and after dinner was ready, we sat down to eat, and decided to watch last Sunday night’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” with John Oliver. After spending a few minutes going over some recent news reports, John Oliver settled into the week’s story. The Equifax security breach. I swear I am not making this up!!

We got the Kohl’s credit card in the mail, yesterday.

In other news, the Dodgers made quick work of the Cubs, beating them in the NLCS 4-1. At least the Cubs won a game. The Yankees, after falling behind 2-0 in Houston, proceeded to win three consecutive games in NY to go ahead 3-2 in the ALCS. But last night, back in Houston, the Astros put it to the Yankees, beating them 7-1. The final game of that series is tonight at 7:00 CDT. The World Series begins Tuesday night.

I have also learned that today is the 62nd anniversary of the birth of Rich Mullins, who died in 1997. Here is a video of his song, “The Color Green.”

I also just became aware that today is also Keith Green’s birthday. He was born in 1953, while Mullins was born in 1955. Green died in 1982. Here is his song, “O Lord, You’re Beautiful.”

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Psalm 95:2
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Psalm 84:8
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 
Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Psalm 57:7-11
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
John 10:14-17
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:3-5

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Hebrews 12:1

In today’s reading, Julie Garmon writes, again, about her daughter, Katie, whose divorce was final in April (unspecified year). In August of the same year, she had “double hernia repair surgery.” Katie planned to run a half-marathon in October, only six weeks after the surgery.

Julie was skeptical regarding the health safety of running so soon. But Katie insisted that it was something she needed to do.

At 7:55 AM on the day of the race, Katie texted her mother “Say a prayer that I finish strong.” Julie texted Isaiah 40:31 back to her. They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Later, another text came. “Pray. Mile 8. This is hard.” Julie texted back, “Praying. I love you!”

Then came, “Mile 10. Can barely move my legs. Pain in my side. Keep praying.” Julie really wanted to say, “Just quit!” But she wrote, “I’m praying. Text me when you finish!”

Then, a little after 10:00 AM, came the photo of Katie crossing the finish line! She called Julie and said, “Thanks for praying, Mom. When I wasn’t sure if I could keep going, I knew you and God wouldn’t let me quit.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve want to just quit this race, to lay everything down and just live however I want to. I have watched numerous friends fall along the wayside, as the years have gone by. One in particular, with whom I went to high school and grew up in Sunday School, is pretty much an atheist, now. Another dear friend, while I think he still believes, won’t set foot in a church.

How have I held on? There’s nothing special about me. I’m not a super-Christian with super faith. I’ve had sin in my life that would make some of you run and hide. There are only a couple of explanations as to how I have endured some of the circumstances that have come my way. One is the grace of God, because he chose me and will not let me go. The other is the same thing that kept Katie going in the story above. My parents praying. And, most certainly, grandparents, too, when they were still on this earth.

Not only have I stayed the course (not perfectly, again, please, please understand that . . . I strayed off of said course plenty of times), but I am discovering new things about God, faith, and this life in the Kingdom every single day! And I’m almost sixty years old! God is so good, so beautiful, and so loving!

So, pray for your children, and keep running the race set before you, knowing that, if you “wait for the LORD,” your strength will be renewed.

Father, thank you for all that you have done for me and my family. Thank you for praying parents and grandparents. Thank you that you remind me to pray for my own children. I pray that you always draw them closer to you. And thank you for continuing to teach me new things so that my faith doesn’t grow stale.

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

Grace and peace, friends.

RAIN!!!

It’s Saturday morning.

IT’S RAINING AT THE BICKLEYHOUSE!!! (At least it was when I started writing this…)

Oh, thank you, Jesus!! No storming…not pouring…just a slow, steady rain…the perfect kind. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a while.


Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 12:1-21
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”
3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The beginning of this chapter is all about the Sabbath. Jesus and his disciples went through some grainfields on the Sabbath, they got hungry, so they picked some grain. Since the Jewish religious leaders had manufactured several thousand mini-regulations about the Sabbath, they said that Jesus’s disciples were “doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” Apparently reaching down to pick some grain was “work.” I don’t know how tall grain grows…they may not have even had to reach down very far. But Jesus asserts himself as “lord of the Sabbath.” He also quotes from Hosea 6:6 when he says “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” The Sabbath controversy continues…

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue.
10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”–so that they might accuse him.
11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

In this event, Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees. He declares that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The religious leaders, as is so often the case, have completely missed the meaning of the Sabbath. Was this the beginning of their conspiracy? They are now trying to figure out how to get rid of this threat to their authority. So much of the religious leaders’ misunderstanding transferred into our own legalistic society. I remember growing up, when there were laws prohibiting what could or could not be bought on Sunday. Honestly, I don’t know if these “blue laws” had any religious beginnings or not, but it seemed silly that you couldn’t buy a pair of pantyhose on Sunday. And furthermore…Sunday isn’t even the Sabbath, is it? I remember riding with an acquaintance once on Sunday after church, and we saw someone mowing his yard. “I wish people wouldn’t do that,” he said. How did we even get to a point where we considered Sunday equal with the Sabbath? I’ll be blunt here…we don’t observe the Sabbath, and I don’t believe we are supposed to. However, I also don’t believe that people should work seven days a week. People need rest. Even the earth needs rest, as evidenced by the Lord’s commands about not planting a field once every seven years. We all need rest. But is one day more significant that any other? I don’t believe so. I don’t even believe it matters what day we worship. In fact, we should worship, in some way, every day! There is no Biblical standard that says we should worship on Sunday. It was simply chosen as a day of worship because Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. Moving on…

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all
16 and ordered them not to make him known.
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Jesus sort of went into hiding for a bit after this. He kept ministering to people, but would not let them speak openly about him. Matthew says that Jesus is fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah (42:1-3), which declares that Jesus will become a hope to the Gentiles (the actual text in Isaiah says “nations” rather than “Gentiles”). I don’t know about you, but this Gentile is glad that Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

Isaiah 8
This passage begins by speaking of a coming invasion from Assyria. Because the people refused the gently flowing stream, equated with the Lord and his provision, then the rushing might river of Assyria would sweep over them. In verses 11-15, Isaiah is given some instruction that we would all do well to follow.
11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.
13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Honor the Lord as holy, and he will be your sanctuary. He will be a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to those who are opposed to you.

During the time that the Lord would be “hiding his face” from Israel, they would begin to seek the aid of spiritists and mediums. “Should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (v. 19) It never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who will visit or consult “psychics,” but will not even darken the door of a sanctuary or lift up a pray to Almighty God. People will believe that the dead can speak to them, but will not believe that El Shaddai, who lives, can come to their aid! The result of these days, for Israel, was “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.” (v 22)

Proverbs 3:11-18
The first part of this passage tells us not to despise the Lord’s discipline, because that means he loves us. Then he says that gaining wisdom is better than the profit gained from gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.

Wisdom, which is seen as more precious than riches, can bring you riches, as well as reputation!
<hr?
Today's reading from Fascinating Facts of the Faith talks about a “controversial, sold-out, talented, blunt, gospel singer” who “absolutely refused to accept the spiritual status quo. His sermons set to music plowed a new course for what Christian music could be.” His name? You may have already guessed it…Kieth Green.

I’ll never cease to be amazed at how this young man could talk and play the piano like that at the same time!

I wish these two videos had been together…the first one segues straight into the second one.

Keith was raised Jewish, but became spiritually restless. He ran away from home, “looking for spiritual fulfillment,” which led him to experimentation with “drugs, eastern mysticism, and free love.” He met Melody when he was nineteen. They started exploring things of faith together, and were married at twenty. After exploring everything else, Keith finally turned to Jesus and opened himself to Christ. “Christ revealed himself to Keith in a deep and profound way.” Afterward, Keith and Melody began to open their home to drug addicts and rejects. His music was powerful and direct, just as the two examples above. But it was also reflective and worshipful, in the case of “O Lord, You’re Beautiful,” and “Your Love Broke Thru,” co-written with Randy Stonehill, who actually stayed at his house for a while during those days.
Keith’s life was tragically cut short (at least in human terms…I’ve no doubt that he died exactly when he was supposed to) in 1982, in a plane crash on their property in Lindale, Texas. His wife, Melody, still carries on Last Days Ministries.


Prayer from The Valley of Vision

THIRD DAY MORNING: GOD CREATOR AND CONTROLLER

Most High God,
The universe with all its myriad creatures is yours,
made by your word,
upheld by your power,
governed by your will.
But you are also the Father of mercies,
the God of all grace,
the bestower of all comfort,
the protector of the saved.
You have been mindful of us,
given us a goodly heritage–
the Holy Scriptures,
the joyful gospel,
the Savior of souls,
We come to you in Jesus’ name,
make mention of his righteousness only,
plead his obedience and sufferings who magnified the law both in its precepts and penalty,
and made it honorable.
May we be justified by his blood,
saved by his life,
joined to his Spirit.
Let us take up his cross and follow him.
May the agency of your grace prepare us for your dispensations.
Make us willing that you should choose our inheritance and determine what we shall retain or lose, suffer or enjoy;
If blessed with prosperity may we be free from its snares,
and use, not abuse, its advantages;
May we patiently and cheerfully submit to those afflictions which are necessary.
When we are tempted to wander,
hedge up our way,
excite in us abhorrence of sin,
wean us from the present evil world,
Assure us that we shall at last enter Immanuel’s land where none is ever sick,
and the sun will always shine.


Father, I was especially drawn to the line in the above prayer that asked you to “excite us in abhorrence of sin.” I must admit, I’ve never thought of it quite that way. But wouldn’t that be wonderful? If you would make us excited to abhor sin? We all know we are supposed to avoid sin and temptation, but there are always things that are more attractive to us…things that we ought not say or do that we actually like saying or doing. But if we could be led to abhor those things, and actually be excited about it! That would be most amazing. So yes, Lord…I pray that you would excite me in abhorrence of sin! Wean me from this evil world. I so look forward to entering Immanuel’s land, where no one will ever be sick again, where the sun will always shine (but it won’t be 109 degrees every day), where there will no longer be any temptation to distract us. What a glorious day that will be!
I thank you for the legacy that Keith Green left behind, Father. I thank you for the songs that he wrote that still inspire countless people. Thank you for putting it into his heart to challenge us to be more like Jesus.
I pray that as we live our lives, we would not fear the things that many people fear. Let our hope and trust be in you, and you alone. Let us not seek the advice of men (especially dead men), but seek your face when we need guidance. I pray that I would honor you as holy, Lord, and let you be my sanctuary.
I pray for that wisdom that is more precious than jewels. I don’t care so much if I get riches. Sure, they would be nice, but I just want to have your wisdom in my life, so that I know that what I am doing is what you want me to be doing.
I thank you for the teachings and example of Jesus, Lord. I thank you that he is Lord of the Sabbath, and that we don’t have to be afraid of the traditions of men, but to simply be obedient to your commands and precepts. I praise you for the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ.

Lord, I pray for this day. Thank you for the rain!!! It is beautiful, Father! We cannot thank you enough for it.

I pray for the party today. I pray that it will be a successful celebration for Stephanie’s birthday, her friend’s birthday, and for the group of kids going back to school in a week. I also pray for this school year, Lord, that it will be the best year ever for Stephanie. Right now, our goal is to see her walk across the stage to get her high school diploma next year. In order for that to happen, she needs to be in better control of herself this year. I pray that you would help her to do that.


Thank God for the rain, today. Seek his wisdom rather than riches.

Grace and peace, friends!