It’s All About Love. Still. Again.

Today is Wednesday, the 18th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always.

Day 23,687

I’m due in at the library at 9:15, this morning, so I won’t dally.

Update on that: I seem to have come down with a bit of a chest cold. I don’t feel terrible, but don’t feel great. After a text conversation with my manager, it was advised that I stay home and take care of myself. I don’t work tomorrow, anyway, so I feel confident that, by Friday, I will be better. I’m negative for Covid, so it’s not that. I feel like it’s related to weather and/or air quality, i.e. Mountain Cedar and so on.

Yet another thing I love about my library job. I have worked way too many places where the response would have been, “We really need you here, today,” rather than, “You stay home and take care of yourself.” ❤

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I am yours; 
save me, for I have sought your precepts.
(Psalms 119:94 NRSV)

Lord our God, be with us. Touch us with your Spirit so that our hearts may receive something from you. Let us find joy even in a life of struggle and temptation. Let us find joy in every need we face, even in the agony of death. Protect us through your Word, and let it always be a light to us so that we can follow you and do your will. Be with us on all our ways. Guide everything with your hand until the goal for all humankind is reached and we may rejoice over all the trials and testing because in the end the glorious prize can be won. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, . . . Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 
(James 1:2, 12 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that joy can be found in even the most unpleasant circumstances
  • for the hope of the crown of life, promised to those who love the Lord
  • that we are chosen by God, in Christ, appointed to bear fruit
  • for mercy
  • for love; may we truly understand and obey the commands of Jesus

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34-35 NRSV)


You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
(John 15:16 NRSV)


We're watching and waiting, 
holding our breath, 
awaiting your word of mercy.
(Psalms 123:2 MSG)

Not as Scripture to work from, this morning, which gives me more of a challenge. I’ve got some good verses, but do they fit together at all?

The Lord has chosen us. Jesus said as much, speaking to His disciples. There was a period of my life when I was a strict, five-point Calvinist. I’m not quite so firm in that, any more. I shifted back a little; the pendulum swung back toward the center. Earlier in my life, I was more Armenian (but didn’t really have a clue what that meant). I was introduced to “Calvinism” in seminary, and it fascinated me. Certainly there is plenty of Scripture to support the theology. May not all five points, but at least some of them.

But there is also Scripture to support the theology of “free will.” And what happens when we try to put God in a box is that, well, you just can’t. That’s what happens. You cannot put God in a box. He is greater than any box you could try to fit Him into. And His ways are not our ways. As soon as you try to fit Him into one particular theology, you’re going to find Him busting out of it with His ways, not yours.

I still believe that I am chosen by God. There’s not doubt in my mind about that. And I also believe that I will walk on this earth until He is finished with me. Maybe not, necessarily, “walk,” you know, but at least be alive. I have this somewhat fatalistic belief that I cannot die until God is finished with me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to test that theory by standing in the middle of Loop 820 during morning traffic.

God’s purposes cannot and will not be thwarted by humans. We are chosen by Him to bear fruit. “Fruit” can mean a lot of different things, though, not just other believers. There is a very narrow interpretation of that, in evangelical circles, that believes that that only refers to getting more people to pray that “sinner’s prayer” (which is nowhere in the Bible, mind you, and neither is any notion of “inviting Jesus into your heart,” but that’s a topic for another day).

If you read around the verse from John 15, up there, it brings more understanding. Verse 17, for example:

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
(John 15:17 NRSV)

Also, check out verses 12-14:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
(John 15:12-14 NRSV)

Why has it taken us so long to figure this out? I mean, down through the ages, there have been individuals who got a glimpse of this truth. We celebrated one of them a couple days ago. MLK, Jr. had the right idea.

So we killed him.

Makes sense . . . we killed Jesus, too, and we would probably do it again, today.

Think that’s harsh? Then you’re not paying attention. There is still enough bigotry in this world, that if Jesus showed up today, preaching what He preached in the Gospels, certain groups of humanity would crucify Him all over again.

But here’s the challenge. We are supposed to love those people, too. One of the things that I have said, in recent years, is that if you hate the haters, you’re just another hater. What makes us different from the world is not the things we don’t do. That’s a common notion, that we are supposed to illustrate our difference from the “world” by abstaining from things.

The problem is, there is no consistent list of what things we are supposed to be abstaining from. One group thinks it’s alcohol and R-rated (or worse) movies. Another group thinks it’s dancing and cards (but dominoes are okay). More groups pick on homosexuality or abortion. Everyone has their “pet sins.” Oh, I almost forgot about divorce. That’s a big one, too.

In my opinion, Jesus was very clear about the main thing that should separate us from the world.

Love.

Love your enemies. You believe in God? Good for you, so do the demons. No doubt, some would point out that that passage also teaches that “faith without works is dead.” Yes, it does. And the “works” that we do are born out of love. When we feed the hungry, we do it because of love. When we clothe the naked, we do it because of love. When we visit the prisoners and sick, we do it because of love. When we take care of widows, orphans, and refugees, we do it because of love.

It’s all about love. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. Jesus loves us to the point of death, giving up His life for us. Jesus commands us to love one another in the same way, and He tells us that all (ALL) of the Law and Prophets are summed up in two commands . . . love God and love people.


Lord, have mercy on us. We have lost our way. We read Your commands to love one another, and, instead, we focus on the Law, the things we should not be doing.

Have mercy on us. Teach us Your ways, that we might walk in Your truth, and realize the importance of love in this world. There is way too much anger and hatred running through Your Church, today. I know that there are people who are following Your commands and doing the right things. Unfortunately, they don’t make as much noise. May Your favor rest on all who are quietly going about the business of following the commands of Jesus.

Help me, Father, because I struggle to love the people who won’t show love, themselves. I have no desire to have any hatred in my heart toward anyone. Anyone. I have no human “enemies,” and refuse to consider any human being my enemy. Help us to come together, Father, to be unified in our love for Christ, for You, and for one another.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Revive Us Again

Today is Tuesday, the 27th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,665

Five days until 2023!

Today is my first day back to work at the library since last Wednesday. Then I don’t go back until Friday. I am scheduled off for New Year’s Eve. The library will be closed next Monday for New Year’s Day, but I never work on Mondays. I will be in at my normal time of 4:15 PM, today.

Today’s header photo is taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided, and view more of his photographs!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are good and do good; 
teach me your statutes.
(Psalms 119:68 ESV)

Jesus tells us that God, alone, is “good.” And if we believe correctly, we believe that everything that God does is also “good.” We sometimes call people “good,” but it is only good, relative. No one but God is truly good. Once, when answering the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” R.C. Sproul was quoted as saying, “There are no ‘good’ people.” Perhaps that is a bit extreme, but in comparison to God, none of us can be said to be “good.” When we call each other “good,” we are comparing ourselves to other humans.

Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we come into your presence and ask you to show yourself to us as the true, great, and almighty God, who can shed light into our misery and change it all, letting us find reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. Protect and help us with your mighty hand. Let every country and nation see your grace and see the victory over all sin and injustice. Let your justice come on earth, and let peace fill every heart and show in every life. May all that happens to us serve the good. Help us always look to you, our Lord and God, for you have power to rule everything and to turn everything to its right purpose. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. 
Luke 1:68–69, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that some of our friends are having a wonderful time celebrating Christmas in New York City
  2. that everything that happens to us, in some way serves the good (Romans 8:28)
  3. for the possibility of peace in every heart
  4. for the love of God, that makes us His children, rather than slaves who fear Him
  5. for the Incarnation, the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, 

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
 make his paths straight. 
Every valley shall be filled, 
and every mountain and hill shall be made low, 
and the crooked shall become straight, 
and the rough places shall become level ways, 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
(Luke 3:4-6 ESV)

God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.
(Ephesians 1:5 CEV)

God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father.
(Romans 8:15 CEV)

Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world did not know who Christ is, they don’t know who we are.
(1 John 3:1 CEV)


John Henry Newman writes this on the birth of Christ:

“The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds, became flesh, though remaining what He was before. He became flesh as truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been changed into flesh. He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother’s eye fixed upon Him, and to be cherished at a mother’s bosom. A daughter of man became the Mother of God–to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him what condescension! What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not only a helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were possible to a sinless soul. What were His thoughts, if we may venture to use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite, when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His? What a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man! Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)


Will you not revive us again, 
so that your people may rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NRSV)

What is “revival?” When I read that verse from Psalm 85, I immediately thought of an old hymn, “Revive Us Again,” written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay.

We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

Refrain:
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv'n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav'n. 

Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

In my early years as a “music minister” (that’s what it was called in Southern Baptist life, back in those days), I took part in half-week to week-long meetings that were mistakenly called “revivals.” They were not revivals, I eventually learned. They were evangelistic rallies. The problem is, there usually weren’t very many people at those meetings who needed evangelizing. It was the essence of “preaching to the choir.”

I eventually learned what true revival means. You see, you can’t “revive” someone who has never been “alive.” Paul, in Ephesians, says that, before we came to know Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). I believe that this hymn captures the true spirit of revival, in the last verse.

They whole hymn is a prayer. It is a prayer of praise, primarily, but with the added phrase, “revive us again.” And then, in the final verse, comes the real prayer for revival, as we ask the Lord to fill our hearts with His love, and rekindle our souls “with fire from above.”

This is a prayer by the Church, asking for God to revive His Church, rekindling our hearts with His holy fire. In the fame way, Psalm 85:6 asks for revival, “so that your people may rejoice in you.” Revival is no more for the lost than Revelation 3:20 is an evangelistic verse. But that’s a topic for a different day.

Psalm 85 is also a prayer, as are many of the Psalms. This is fitting, that both this psalm and the hymn are prayers, because true revival will not happen without prayer.

“An extraordinary spirit of prayer, urging believers to labor fervently in their supplications, is a sure sign of approaching showers and even floods of blessing. . . . If there is to be revival–a true, divine outpouring of God’s Spirit–it will correspond with wholehearted prayer and faith.” (Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)

As 2023 approaches, I will be spending some time reflecting on the past few years. That right there is a scary thought. For the most part, I would just as soon forget every year since 2019. And not just for the pandemic. But, as I reflect, I try to keep my spiritual eyes turned on myself, not toward others. It is far too easy to be critical of other people. I struggle with that, and always have.

My reflection needs to be on what I have accomplished or failed to accomplish. And as I look forward to another year of prayer, I will be praying for true revival in God’s people; praying that the Church can step away from nationalism and “patriotism,” and focus on God’s Spirit being active in our lives. But here’s the thing. It needs to begin in me. Hence that bit about focusing more on myself than on others (understand that I’m speaking about reflection and self-assessment, not about loving others, here). And that reminds me of yet another old hymn that says, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.”


Father, I am grateful, beyond measure, for Your great love for us, the love that has given us the right and ability to be Your children, to call ourselves by Your name, and to walk in Your kingdom. However, we get too easily distracted by the things of this earth. I love the old hymn, Father, that tells me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, so that the things of the earth will “grow strangely dim.” Lord, Your Church needs this now, more than ever.

I pray that as a new year approaches, You will send revival to Your people. I pray for a Spirit of encouragement upon us, that we might be encouraged to dwell with You as You dwell with and within us. I pray that we will truly turn our eyes upon Jesus. And let this begin in me, Lord. I have been praying for and hoping for a “love revolution” within Your people, Father. That, too, must begin here, in my heart. I cannot force someone else to love, but I can hope to inspire.

Help us to embrace the Spirit of Christ in our lives, and consider, daily, what He sacrificed in order to come to us. It was more than the death on the cross. We see that as the primary sacrifice, most of the time, but John Henry Newman gave us so much more to think about, as we consider what He left behind to place Himself in the hands of mortal human beings.

Thank You, Father, for this indescribable gift.

Even so, come quickly, 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.

How Can I Love?

Today is Saturday, the 17th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.

May you know the peace of Christ, and His presence, today.

Day 23,655

Eight days until Christmas!

Due to circumstances involving the health of various people in our family, our Christmas Eve gathering has been postponed until January. C’s Covid test from the doctor’s office came back negative, so that’s good news. And it seems that the coughing is somewhat better, as I don’t recall any spells during the night, last night.

It’s my Saturday to work at the library, so I will be in there at 9:30, this morning. Next week, I only work two days, Tuesday and Wednesday. The library is closed Friday, Saturday, and Monday, for the Christmas holidays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The LORD is my portion; 
I promise to keep your words.
(Psalms 119:57 ESV)

Lord our God, we thank you that you have given us the light of life, that we can now learn how to live, and that through your great grace we may understand life in direct relationship with the Lord Jesus, who was crucified and who rose from the dead. Grant that the power of Christ may be made visible in us. Grant that his life may become our life, that we may leave behind all doubts and anxiety, even though we are often surrounded by darkness and night. Keep us in your Word. Let your will hold sway over all the world, for your will must be done in heaven, on earth, and down to the lowest depths. Let your will be done on earth as in all the heavens. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eyewitnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. 
1 John 1:2, Phillips

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the light of life, Jesus Christ, the life that “appeared before us,” of which John and His fellow disciples were eyewitnesses; the light that dwells within us, today
  2. that, because of this Light, we can, at least partially, understand our own lives, in relationship with Him
  3. for the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding
  4. for love; God’s love for us, our love for Him, our love for one another
  5. that our God is able to do abundantly far more than all we could ever ask or imagine

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
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.
(Philippians 4:4-8 ESV)

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
(2 Corinthians 9:6 NRSV)


Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
(1 John 4:7 NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
(Romans 12:10 NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:3-6 NIV)


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
(Ephesians 3:14-17 NRSV)


How do we accomplish this thing called love? Even the musicians know that there is something supernatural about love.

Are you ready for the thing called love
Don't come from me and you, it comes from up above
(Jerry Lynn Williams)

We cannot do it on our own. I dare say that the majority of us know this, by now, from experience. Who among us doesn’t have family members who stretch their capacity to love to its very limits?

Yet we are commanded to love one another. In fact, Jesus tells us, quite bluntly, that if we do not do this, then we do not love Him, and we do not love God. And not only are we commanded to love one another, we are commanded to “honor one another above yourselves.”

Wait. I not only have to love this person, I have to put them ahead of me???

I am a human, a jar of clay, made out of dust. I cannot do this. Not only can I not do this, the society, the world, in which I live encourages me to do the opposite.

I think Paul has some good news for us, though.

First, he assures us that we have not been left alone, and that God will finish what he started in us. When we became believers in Christ, the Spirit of God began to dwell within us and He began to work. And, out of the riches of His glory, He strengthens us in our inner being with power through that Spirit, so that, what? We may be rooted and grounded in LOVE!

Andrew Murray says that every believer should wake up with these words on their lips: “My Father will strengthen me today with His power as He is strengthening me even now in my inmost being through His Spirit.” (The Believer’s Daily Renewal, quoted in Power in Prayer) In addition, he says that “we are to be content with nothing less than the indwelling of Christ by faith, a life rooted in love and strengthened to know more of the love of Christ.”

Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, dwells within us, daily. This is not negotiable. This is something that we truly have no control over, if we are true believers in Christ. It is a plain and simple fact. He is here. He dwells within me.

My role in this is to acknowledge and accept this truth and walk in it, daily. What I can control is my response to it. I can, in fact, ignore His presence. I know this from experience. You probably do, too, if you are honest with yourself.

Can I be aware of His presence 24/7. Not likely, because I do sleep during some of that. However, Frank Laubach believed that we could be aware of His presence by forcing our minds to be aware of Him at least once a minute, during our waking hours.

Trust me, I have not come anywhere close to accomplishing this, but I do believe it to be possible. I believe it because I also believe Dallas Willard’s claim that we, as human beings, have the unique ability to control what we allow our minds to focus on. We can direct our thoughts. Furthermore, we have the possibility of taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10).

This is how we love. This is how we can obey the commands of Christ to love one another, to put others before ourselves, and to love Him unconditionally. This is how we surrender.

“We bow to God the Father in the name of the Son. We ask Him to strengthen us through the Spirit for one purpose: that Christ may dwell in our hearts. The whole heart becomes the scene of the blessed operation of the Trinity through the inner and outer life. As our hearts grasp this truth, we give glory, through Christ, to Him who does more than we can ask or imagine by His Holy Spirit.” (Murray)


Most Holy Father, I ask for this very thing, today. I am finding myself more and more cognizant of Your presence, lately, and I am embracing this. I’m still frail and feeble, and still have moments where I fail. But I feel stronger in You. I feel more capable of love. Help me to keep working to set myself aside in favor of others, in all areas of my life. All areas.

Gayle Sayers famously said, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, I am third.” I would amend that middle part to say “everyone else is second.” I believe that is what You want from us, from me. I cannot control what anyone else does or says or thinks or believes. I can only control me, and I want to allow You to do that.

So strengthen me, Father, through the Spirit, in my inner being, that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith, and that I may be rooted and grounded in love.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NRSV)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
(Philippians 4:23 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Rumors or Reality

Good morning. It is Wednesday, the nineteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,323

Only four days until Hamilton! I’ve gotten both emails and phone calls encouraging me to visit the Bass Performance Hall website to see protocols for entering the theater, so it appears to be on schedule.

I’m up before C, this morning. She gets up at 6:45 when she’s working from home. I sometimes sleep until she gets up, but this morning, I was awake, so I got up. I will admit it was a rough night of sleep with the new CPAP machine. It’s different, and I think the pressure is lower. I just have to get used to it. I believe it will get better.

I work from 9:15-6:15 today, in circulation. The schedule has settled back into normality, now, so that’s good. Last night went well, and there were only a couple of carts to be shelved. A third one was added, later, by the tech services folks, but I didn’t have time to get to it.

I’m moving on to the devotional, because I don’t want to run out of time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.
"Silent, surrendered, calm and still,

open to the word of God.

Heart humbled to his will.

offered is the servant of God."

“In all that is going on around me, all the movement, all the noise, Can I find a moment of calmness and stillness now, Can I feel God’s presence here,  And surrender myself to it, Opening myself to listen to God’s word?”

Father, still my heart and soul as I enter into Your presence, seeking life and wisdom from Your Word. Guide my meditations, this morning.

And David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 
And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth." 

And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!" 

Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 
And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 
And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 
And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 
The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field." 
Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 
and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand." 
When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 
And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. 
The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 
Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 
(1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 ESV)

This is a long, familiar, passage of Scripture, often referred to as the story of David and Goliath. Often cited in sporting events, we see an underdog defeating the favorite “champion.” We often celebrate when an underdog wins (unless the favorite was the team we always root for, of course).

But we go deeper into this story. The thing that I take away from it is nestled in verse 37. The faith of David is seen in his statement to Saul. “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul had no comeback to this, and simply told David to go, “and the LORD be with you.”

It is easy to see David as being cocky and arrogant in this story. He was young. We really don’t know, I don’t think, how old he was, but they keep calling him a “youth.” The Hebrew word is “na’ar,” which literally means, “a boy” or “a girl,” somewhere between birth through adolescence. But he was old enough to have worked as a shepherd, and he had, reportedly, killed a lion and a bear in that service. And arrogant as he seemed, he credited the Lord with those feats.

And he was ready to give God all the glory in this battle, as well. As we look at the different “players” in this story, Saul, Goliath (and his shield-bearer), David, and God (mentioned eight times), I see God as the most important. That may be obvious to some, but maybe not to others. I believe that the Lord directed that stone, as it flew from the slingshot in David’s hand.

There is an aspect to this story that we don’t, I believe, often consider. In the midst of the miracle, there is something we miss. David was a child. Maybe he was twelve or thirteen. Maybe. But he was most definitely younger, by at least a few years, than the minimum age that we in the U.S. determine a young man or woman old enough to go to war. He grew up in a culture that was well-familiar with battle and war. And he willingly, as a child, went out to fight against and kill a man.

This is not simply some fairy tale, with a glamorous ending. This is life in the trenches, and, perhaps something that should be considered as we ponder the miracle. To me, it is chilling. It is brutal. But, to David, it seems to have been just another day. The reason I even bring this up is because it is far too easy for us, sitting in our easy chairs, to judge others.

I never had to go fight in a war. I was never in the military. I missed out on the draft, by the grace of God, I say. Others weren’t so lucky. Some of my friends enlisted and served willingly. God had other plans for my life. And I am grateful beyond measure that I never had to face any of that. So I read this story, now, from a slightly different perspective, understanding that I don’t truly understand anything about war and its elements. There is also a lot I don’t understand about how God works and the things He does. But I, like David, trust Him to fight my “battles” for me.

Father, in this tale of underdog beats champion, I see Your strength and I see Your purpose. I see Your orchestration of events. But it is easy for me to look at this history, which I have read hundreds of time, and see how You worked through it. In fact, every time I read it, I can see more of You. It’s not so easy to look at current circumstances and feel the same way, because we haven’t seen the outcome. We have no idea what is “around the bend” for us. What I do know, though, is that, as I walk in Your Kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be. And, like David, I trust in Your hand to provide and protect me. And, like Job, I can firmly say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

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

(From Pray As You Go)

As I quoted a verse from Job, it reminds me of Eugene H. Peterson’s chapters on Job in Symphony of Salvation. I find it interesting that Peterson thought Job to be important enough to dedicate four chapters to the book. The fourth one is called “Entering the Suffering,” and primarily deals with our tendency, as humans, to try to prevent and/or alleviate suffering.

Peterson cautions against doing like Jobs “friends,” who pontificated while believing that they could actually “fix” his troubles, or make him “better.” I addressed that in a previous blog entry.

“We may look at our suffering friends and imagine how they could have better marriages, better-behaved children, better mental and emotional health.” The first thing we need to know is that, regardless of how well-intentioned (or even accurate) our assessment may be, “we don’t really understand the full nature of our friends’ problems.” Never, EVER tell someone, “I know how you fell.”

No. You don’t. Even if you have been through the same thing, yourself, you most certainly DO NOT KNOW HOW THEY FEEL!

A second thing to understand is that they may not want our help or advice. Notice that Job never asked his friends for advice.

There is an ironic third thing to understand. “More often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more. When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.” This thought is directed more toward people who have this fallacious idea that God never wants His people to suffer.

So, looking back up there at our natural tendency, which is to prevent or alleviate suffering, perhaps we should not focus on that, but, rather, simply focus on “entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able – entering the mystery and looking around for God.” Don’t feel sorry for the person who is suffering. “Look up to them, learn from them, and – if they will let us – join them in protest and prayer.”

Granted, it is difficult to know exactly how to follow Job’s lead, here. But we do know that God finally spoke. His answer, though, wasn’t exactly what Job was looking for.

And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: . . . 
Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!  . . . 
"And have you ever ordered Morning, 'Get up!' told Dawn, 'Get to work!' So you could seize Earth like a blanket and shake out the wicked like cockroaches? . . . 
"Can you get the attention of the clouds, and commission a shower of rain? Can you take charge of the lightning bolts and have them report to you for orders? 
(Job 38:1, 4, 12-13, 34-35 MSG)

The book of Job should be read “prayerfully and meditatively” as we face questions that arise during suffering, when our lives don’t turn out the way we planned or expected. We can ask the questions . . . there is no harm in this. We may get stock answers from “friends,” but we keep asking, maintaining our dignity in suffering. Eventually, we realize that “suffering calls our lives into question, not God’s. The tables are turned: God-Alive is present to us. God is speaking to us.”

“I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”
(Job 42:5-6 MSG)

Father, may we all stop living by rumors and strive to know You in reality.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I pray that, as I walk through this day, I will be aware of the suffering of people. Perhaps not anyone I encounter directly, but simply knowing that there are people who are suffering. If any of my friends enter into such suffering, help me have the wisdom to enter into it with them, not offering advice or help, but, rather, simply being with them. When things don’t go the way we expect, may Your Spirit enable us to ask hard questions of You, boldly, not unlike David as he faced Goliath, knowing that You can take it, and will not be angered or offended at our questions. Most of all, make Yourself known to us, through all of our life-circumstances, good or “bad.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The revelation of GOD is whole and pulls our lives together. 
The signposts of GOD are clear and point out the right road. 
The life-maps of GOD are right, showing the way to joy. 
The directions of GOD are plain and easy on the eyes. 
GOD's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, 
with a lifetime guarantee. 
The decisions of GOD are accurate down to the nth degree. 
God's Word is better than a diamond, 
better than a diamond set between emeralds. 
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring, 
better than red, ripe strawberries. 
(Psalms 19:7-10 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have the ability to read, and comprehend what I read
2. for the ability to quiet my soul and know the presence of God
3. that I have learned to trust in the Lord in all circumstances
4. that my life has been relatively free from suffering and has been peaceful
5. for the Word of God and the value it has in my life

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Mediator

Good morning. Today is Friday, the seventeenth of December, 2021, the third Friday of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,290

Only eight more days until Christmas!

I successfully obtained a new fan, yesterday. It seems louder than the old one, which is odd, because it is virtually the same fan, but a different color. We may have to set this one on medium speed, rather than high speed. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with me waking up before 5:30, this morning. I did go to bed a little earlier than usual, last night, but that was because today is a workday for me. I’m working my normal Friday shift, today, 9:15AM to 6:15 PM, in the computer/media center.

Tomorrow, I’ll be working an extra shift, filling in for an associate who needed the day off. I don’t have to adjust anywhere else, because I’m losing sixteen hours out of next week, due to the Christmas holidays. We are closed both Friday and Saturday for Christmas, and I would have been scheduled to work both days.

I made Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken for dinner, last night, so there will be leftovers to take for lunch today. Yum!

I just stumbled across this on the page that opens when I open a new tab in MS Edge. Someone is confused.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A View of the Unseen, by Daryl Madden

Awake this day
A gift to see
The light arise
One of beauty

To pause this day
Upon a view
To still the soul
Of more pursue

To pray this day
Of vision cast
Of way beyond
One that will last

To know this day
Of the unseen
To let the Spirit
Intervene

Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at the link provided above.

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, 
looking to Jesus, 
the founder and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, 
so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my joy is based on You and Your faithfulness, rather than on my circumstances
2. for the strength obtained from meditating on Your Word
3. that You have done great things for us
4. that, no matter how far I may stray, You always bring me back, and have never allowed me to completely lose sight of You
5. that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between You and us, and that He game Himself as a ransom for us

for we walk by faith, not by sight.
(2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY

INVITATION

What a beautiful sight! 
On the mountains a messenger announces to Jerusalem,
 "Good news! 
You're saved. 
There will be peace. 
Your God is now King." 
(Isaiah 52:7 CEV)

I pause, briefly, to consider the joy of knowing Jesus, and the strength and endurance obtained by this.

BIBLE SONG

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, 
we were like those who dreamed. 
Our mouths were filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy. 
Then it was said among the nations, 
"The LORD has done great things for them." 
The LORD has done great things for us, 
and we are filled with joy. 
Restore our fortunes, LORD, 
like streams in the Negev. 
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, 
carrying sheaves with them. 
(Psalms 126:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 
(1 Timothy 2:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of God, I read these passages again, noticing how He might be speaking to me through His Word. I dwell on any words or phrases that jump out at me, allowing my heart to respond in prayer. I take refreshment in His presence.

Father, I confess, this morning, that it seems like this “race” has been long, the road, long and winding, kind of like that Beatles song. You have given me endurance, and my joy remains intact, even thought there have been many times it has been threatened. But You have kept me looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, the source of both my faith and my joy. He is the center of my being, and, in Him, I dwell in the center of Your holiness.

I confess, too, that I do not always remain in that center. I frequently stray. Yet You are patient and kind, bearing with me through all of my foolish wanderings. And You have never allowed my feet to stray too far, so far that I lose sight of You completely. I am grateful for this.

I thank You for Jesus, the one true mediator between You and us, and that He has given Himself as a ransom for us, purchasing us with His blood. This, too, gives me great joy, because I know that this purchase was permanent and cannot be reversed.

Help me to be faithful to pray for all people, especially those mentioned in that passage from 1 Timothy, “kings and all those in authority,” so that we may, as Paul said, “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” It truly is Your desire that all people be saved, so I pray to this end, and ask that You help me to be a channel of blessing and grace to everyone with whom I come in contact.

I also specifically pray for those who are living in poverty and injustice on this day. I pray that You would raise up the right people to rescue them. Give us, too, the capacity and willingness to suffer with others. And give extra strength to all who are being persecuted for their faith.

"Lord God,
You defy all my tidy categories for understanding You,
especially at Christmas.
What a paradox the incarnation is -
true God and authentic humanity knit into one person,
Your Son,
Jesus Christ.
I worship You for this marvelous mystery -
as true God You conquered death by Your power,
and as a real human You died for me in the weakness of Your flesh.
Amen."

BLESSING

Praise the Lord, 
the God of Israel!
He has come to save his people.
(Luke 1:68 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Take It Seriously

Today is Sunday, the twenty-ninth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,180

Eight days until Labor Day

This will be a challenging week, but I’m up for the challenge.

I’m working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (total of twenty hours) at the library. Thursday, C has back surgery at 9:30 in the morning. We have to have her at the surgery center by 7:30. She will have either a one night or two night stay over at the surgery center.

Friday, Cleopatra (Siamese kitten) is getting spayed. For the record, this was scheduled before the back surgery, but since C will be staying at the surgery center for at least one night, this is not a problem at all. I will drop Cleo off between 7:15-7:30, and, if C is getting to come home on Friday, I can head over there and wait for the many hours it takes them to process her release.

I’m supposed to work at the library on Saturday, eight hours, but if C doesn’t get to come home until Saturday, I won’t be able to work the full day. Both my direct manager and the circulation manager are aware of this possibility, and seem more than willing to be flexible with me on this. Fortunately, I’m not scheduled the following Monday at the library, so I will have a couple days to recover from all this.

C will be off work for at least three to four weeks, but may be able to work from home after three weeks. It may be six weeks before she is recovered enough to go to the office. For this reason, as previously mentioned, we elected to cancel our Galveston trip for this year. We may, however, and I have not discussed this with her, try to grab a few nights in Glen Rose, on a week when I’m off for a few consecutive days.

We went bowling, yesterday, and had a great time! It was fun to bowl at the center where C works. There was only one other person bowling, so it was pretty quiet. After we finished, we stopped by their pro shop to have a ball plugged and re-drilled for me. It was C’s ball, but she doesn’t use it any more, and I like it, so the pro will plug the thumb hole and move it to fit my grip. He only has to drill out the fingers and put inserts into those holes.

Today, we have our church gathering, but we are continuing to Zoom for now.

Today is Pony Express Day, celebrating those brave souls who risked their lives to deliver the mail, “back in the day.”

The word for today is memoriter. In adverb form, this means, “by heart; by memory.” “There are certain subjects of study, which must, of course, be learned memoriter.”

Today’s quote is from Plato: “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.”

Birthdays for August 29:

1632 John Locke, English empiricist philosopher; influential Enlightenment thinker and "Father of Liberalism" (Two Treatises of Government), born in Wrington, England (d. 1704)
1809 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., American physician and author (Old Ironsides), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (d. 1894)
1811 Henry Bergh, Founder of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), born in NYC, New York (d. 1888)
1906 Lurene Tuttle, American actress (Father of Bride, Julia), born in Pleasant Lake, Indiana (d. 1986)
1915 Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress (Casablanca, Cactus Flower), born in Stockholm, Sweden (d. 1982)
1916 George Montgomery, American actor (Battle of Bulge, Hallucination), born in Brady, Montana (d. 2000)
1917 Isabel Sanford, American actress (Louise-Jeffersons/All in the Family), born in NYC, New York (d. 2004)
1920 Charlie "Bird" Parker, American jazz saxophonist ("Ornithology"), born in Kansas City, Kansas (d. 1955)
1923 Richard Attenborough, English actor and director (Gandhi, Jurassic Park, Young Winston), born in Cambridge, England (d. 2014)
1926 Elizabeth "Betty" Lynn, American actress (The Andy Griffith Show--Thelma Lou), born in Kansas City, Missouri
1936 John McCain, American war hero and Republican politician (Rep-Arizona, 1983-2018, Presidential nominee 2008), born in Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone (d. 2018)
1938 Elliott Gould, American actor (M*A*S*H, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), born in Queens, New York
1939 Joel Schumacher, American film director (Lost Boys, Batman), born in New York City (d. 2020)
1940 James Brady, U.S. press secretary (wounded during Reagan assassin attempt), born in Centralia, Illinois (d. 2014)
1941 Robin Leach, English TV host (Life Styles of Rich & Famous), born in London, England (2018)
1942 Sterling Morrison, American rock guitarist (Velvet Underground - "Sweet Jane"), born in East Meadow, New York (d. 1995)
1943 Dick Halligan, American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger (Blood Sweat & Tears, 1967-72 - "Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie"), born in Troy, New York
1945 Chris Copping, British rock bassist and organist (Procol Harum, 1969-77), born in Middleton, Lancashire, England
1947 Temple Grandin, American animal welfare and autism expert, born in Boston, Massachusetts
1953 Rick Downey, American rock drummer and vocalist (Blue Oyster Cult, 1981-85)
1953 Speedy Gonzales, Warner Bros. cartoon character created by Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series), first debuts in "Cat-Tails for Two"
1958 Michael Jackson, American recording artist, dancer, and King of Pop ("Thriller"; Billie Jean"; "Bad"), born in Gary, Indiana (d. 2009)
1959 Rebecca De Mornay, American actress (Hand that Rocks Cradle), born in Santa Rosa, California
1963 Elizabeth Fraser, Scottish singer (Cocteau Twins - "Heaven OR Las Vegas"), born in Grangemouth, Scotland
1971 Carla Gugino, American actress, born in Sarasota, Florida
1975 Kyle Cook, American rock guitarist, and banjo player (Matchbox Twenty - "Bent"; "Unwell"), born in Frankfort, Kentucky
1980 David Desrosiers, Canadian rock bassist (Simple Plan, 2000-20), born in Montreal, Quebec
1986 Lea Michele [Sarfati], American actress and singer (Glee), born in The Bronx, New York

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He Himself is my contemplation;
He is my delight.
Him for His own sake
I seek above me;
from Him Himself I feed within me.
He is the field in which I labour.
He is the fruit for which I labour.
He is my cause;
He is my effect.
He is my beginning;
He is my end without end.
He is, for me, eternity.
(Isaac of Stella)

But God is my helper. The Lord keeps me alive!
(Psalms 54:4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that You are my helper
3. for Your great love that reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness that reaches to the skies
4. that You are my strength and my fortress, and I can sing to You, regardless of my circumstances
5. for peace

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK FIFTEEN – DAY ONE

INVITATION

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
(Psalms 57:9-10 NIV)

During this quiet moment, I contemplate the great love and faithfulness of the Lord, which reaches to the heavens. This is a poetic way of saying that His love and faithfulness know no limits.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, LORD.

They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied. But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.
(Psalms 59:1-3, 14-17 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:
“‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'” Aaron remained silent.
Then the LORD said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses.”
(Leviticus 10:1-3, 8-11 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue to be aware of the presence of the Lord, I linger over these passages, meditating over their truths and contemplating what speaks to me, this morning.

In the passage from Psalm 59, I see the truth that, no matter what circumstances are facing me, whether it be enemies, snarling like dogs, or a really busy, challenging week ahead, which includes mildly risky surgery on a loved one, I can sing of the strength and the love of the Lord, for He is my fortress and my refuge, regardless of the circumstances in front of me.

In the passage from Leviticus 10, I see a grave warning in the consequences suffered by Nadab and Abihu. This is stressed in what the Lord said to Moses, “Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.”

This tells me that we should never approach our God in a manner that is glib or aloof. Not to say that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. I certainly believe He does, and I believe that Jesus laughed much. However, when we come before God, bringing offerings, sacrifices, or worship, we must take it seriously, and we must examine both ourselves, as well as the attitude behind our offerings. I also can’t help but wonder, based on the Lord’s instruction in verses 8-11, if Nadab and Abihu might have been drunk when they acted the way they did. Just something to ponder.

Father, I praise You for Your strength, for Your love and faithfulness, which know no limits. Your grace exceeds all of our sin and our guilt, not only in the past, but what I might do today, and going forward into the future. Such magnificent grace, Father! Such marvelous mercy, strength, and faithfulness. Thank You for being my refuge and my fortress, where I can hide and take strength for whatever is facing me. Help us to take You more seriously when we bring offerings to You, whether they be physical offerings or sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Let us not be glib or aloof when approaching You.

I pray for the risen Christ to dwell richly in my heart, bringing spiritual renewal and refreshment into me, by the Holy Spirit.

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.

"Holy God,
how do I worship you without getting killed?
How do I live with you and not be undone?
Keep me from a paralyzing fear of your holiness and justice,
as well as from a breezy chumminess.
To you,
mercy-filled and mighty,
just and gentle God,
I offer everything I think,
say,
or do as a pleasing sacrifice to your glory and honor.
Amen."

BLESSING

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
(James 1:27 NIV)

The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
(Psalms 146:9 NIV)

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
(Isaiah 1:17 NIV)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:40-46 NIV)

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.

A Divine To-Do List

Today is Friday, the sixth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,157

Thirteen days until S’s birthday!

C and I had a lovely time, yesterday afternoon. I consider myself fortunate (or blessed, perhaps, is better) to be married to someone who works for USBC, and to have such an opportunity.

I had the privilege of watching some of my favorite PWBA bowlers, yesterday evening. We arrived just in time to see the beginning of the 4:00 PM match play event. In this event, the top twelve bowlers in the tournament face off in pairs for six games. They switch lanes and opponents between each of the games, so they are constantly moving around.

I learned a few new names, and saw some familiar faces. One bowler that I was familiar with, Shannon O’Keefe, did not make the match play rounds, but I was able to see her and actually got an autograph.

We saw Verity Crawley, the UK’s first ever professional woman bowler, Daria Pajak, from Poland, Diana Zavjalova, from Latvia, and a new name to me, Dasha Kovalova, from Ukraine. Dasha was in the lead for the match play, and stayed there through all six games. Another new name for me was Birgit Noreiks, from Germany. At the beginning of the round, Dasha was in first and Birgit was in second. Verity was in fifth. The way it works is the top four, by pin count total, wind up in the final ladder elimination event.

After four games, we decided to go ahead and leave, because we were 1) hungry, 2) tired, and 3) hungry. During those four games, we saw second through fourth places shift drastically, with Diana Zavjalova being in second at one point, but eventually dropping all the way to ninth place. There were no less than four bowlers contending for that fourth spot for the finals.

At the end of the round, we learned later, the order was Dasha (there was never any doubt), Jordan Richard (Maumee, OH), Birgit, and Verity. Unexpectedly (at least for us), Birgit won all three of the ladder elimination rounds to win her first singles PWBA title. It was great fun, and I think that I will be trying to keep up a little more with these ladies, going forward. There are three more tournaments happening at the IBC (International Bowling Campus), going through next Tuesday. Who knows? We may wind up attending another session. I think it would be great fun to watch a final round, and the next one is tomorrow night at 8:00 PM CDT.

Now for some good news. Make that awesome news.

Yesterday afternoon, around 2:45-ish, I got a phone call from the Hurst Library, offering me the Library Aide position for which I interviewed Monday afternoon! It is, of course, contingent upon me passing the drug screen and background check. I am so excited! And now I wait for an email from their HR folks, with information on getting the screenings done. As soon as that is done, we will discuss hours and start date. I indicated, of course, that I would be available immediately.

I will be floating between circulation, shelving, and the computer center, and will likely be working a full shift on Tuesdays (11:00-8:00), some Saturdays, and various hours on other days that they are open. It’s only twenty hours a week, so it appears that I will be working only three days a week, most weeks.

Of course, I am still waiting to hear from Social Security. My application is still in “step 2,” being reviewed by a representative. This step, they say, could take two to four weeks.

I got my final paycheck from CEVA today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number:
(Job 5:8-9 ESV)

Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen!
(Psalms 41:13 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for new and exciting opportunities;
2. that You do great, unsearchable, and marvelous things without number (Job 5:9);
3. for the sport of bowling;
4. that You have created me to delight in You and find fulness of joy in Your presence;
5. for the example of Joseph as he trusted in You through all of his circumstances;
6. for the cross of Jesus Christ.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK ELEVEN – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Respect and obey the LORD! This is the first step to wisdom and good sense. God will always be respected.
(Psalms 111:10 CEV)

As I pause to reflect and attempt to shut out distractions, I meditate on the great, unsearchable, and marvelous works of the Lord, both in my own life, and throughout history.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
(Psalms 37:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
(Genesis 39:1-2, 6b-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages a second time (at least), looking for truths that I have yet to notice, or, perhaps, have forgotten about. May the Spirit guide my reading and meditations.

So, in answer to my prayer, I am drawn to something previously not noticed in the Psalms passage. While today’s reading is not the whole chapter, the portion that is highlighted begins and ends with the same command (or admonition, if you prefer).

“Do not fret.”

What are we not fretting about?

“Those who are evil;” “those who do wrong;” “when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Almost every time I log on to Facebook, I see quite a bet of “fretting” from my more “conservative” friends. In fact, that seems to be their favorite form of exercise, always complaining about all the “evil” (read “democrats”) that they see around them. Fret, fret, fret.

But God’s Word expressly forbids this activity, doesn’t it? This, of course, leads me to believe that the majority of these “fretters” (not to be confused with “fritters,” which are delicious) don’t really know God’s Word as well as they would have you believe.

Never mind how confused they are about what is actually “evil.”

What, then, are we supposed to do, instead of fret?

There’s actually a very clear list of things.

1. Trust in the Lord and do good (v. 3)
2. Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture (v. 3)
3. Take delight in the Lord (v. 4)
4. Commit your way to the Lord (v. 5)
5. Trust in Him (v. 5)
6. Be still before the Lord (v. 7)
7. Wait patiently (v. 7)

Now, let’s look at Joseph, in light of this list.

We discussed Joseph’s arrogance and impetuousness, in earlier posts. Today, we will look at some positive traits.

I think it is well-implied that Joseph did not fret. Oh, his brothers fretted, yes, sir. But we aren’t shown Joseph even being in any kind of despair. He trusted in God, through all of the trials that he was forced to endure.

While in Egypt, he did number two, up there. He dwelled in the land. To be truthful, he didn’t have a lot of choice, but we don’t see him scheming on how to get out of prison. He dwells there, biding his time, and actually enjoys “safe pasture.”

While he is there, he delights in the Lord and trusts in Him. And most of all, he waits patiently. If you have read, or are familiar with, the rest of the story, you will see that his waiting and patience pay off in a big way. Joseph eventually becomes second only to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt, which results in a place for his father and brothers to eventually come live and survive the famine.

Which, by the way, was the fulfillment of one of the dreams that he told his brothers about, and we will read a little more about that tomorrow.

These are things that I have been in the process of learning, over the past few years. I’m not perfect. I still fret, sometimes. I don’t fret about the same things as some of my friends, because we see different things as “evil.” Nevertheless, regardless of what your definition of “evil” is, God commands us to not fret over it.

After all, what is “fret” but another word for “worry?” And what is worry but a waste of time (and possibly sinful, as well). To quote the Master, Himself,

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
(Matthew 6:27 NIV)

Father, thank You for the example of Joseph, and how he trusted You through all of the things that resulted from his brothers’ extreme jealousy. Thank You for this “divine to-do list” of things that can keep us from fretting. Most of all, for the idea of delighting myself in You. Delight is such a happy word, to me. To delight myself in You means that I take great pleasure in You. And according to one of my favorite verses from Psalms, at Your right hand, there are pleasures forevermore, as well as fulness of joy. I have delighted in You; I have trusted in You; and You are in the process of 1) giving me the desires of my heart, and 2) making my righteous reward shine like the noonday sun.

Lord, please increase our gratitude for the cross of Jesus Christ. I pray for relief and justice for those who are living in poverty and suffering injustice. Where possible, may I be a used in that relief. I pray for grace and peace for all who are mourning a death, and for those who minister to them. Have mercy, dear Lord. Kyrie eleison.

"Sovereign God,
sexual temptation surrounds us today.
Like Joseph,
may my heart be yours,
so I will refuse to sin against you.
Fill my heart with such love for you that I might resist temptation,
keeping your temple,
my body,
clean and holy.
In Jesus' name,
amen." 

BLESSING

I pray that God will greatly bless you with kindness, peace, and love!
(Jude 1:2 CEV)

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
(Psalms 77:11 NIV)

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
(Isaiah 46:9 NIV)

Is is possible that we forget too easily? Is that why we fret so much?

Father, help us to remember Your great, unsearchable, and marvelous works!

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.