Abide

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Today is Monday, the sixteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,440

C is home today, as she hasn’t been feeling well for a couple days. In fact, she is currently at Care Now, getting checked out. We believe it is nothing more than the usual sinu-bronchitis that rolls through every year. No fever, so far, just sinus pressure and chest congestion.

I’m taking Mama to a podiatrist, this morning, to deal with an ingrown toenail that flared up late last week. Otherwise, things are pretty good around here.

As noted below, I visited Living Word Lutheran Church, yesterday morning, and had a wonderful time of worship and communion with them.

The Texas Rangers won the last game of the series with the Red Sox, 7-1, behind the solid pitching of Martin Perez, who is now 2-2 for the season. He gave up one run in the top of the fifth, and the Rangers answered with a Cole Calhoun solo homer in the bottom. Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the score was still tied 1-1. The Rangers had two men on base when I said to my mother, “They need to get a run, here, so Perez can get a win.” El Bombe must have heard me, because he promptly hit a three-run homer, to put them ahead 4-1. Cole Calhoun, not to be outdone, followed up with another solo shot, to make it 5-1. Later in the game Garcia (the aforementioned “El Bombe”) hit another homer, this one for two runs. So all seven Rangers runs were the result of four home runs by two batters. Quite a day for Calhoun and Garcia. And Perez, who I believe I heard the announcers say has a 0.86 ERA over his last few starts. That’s pretty amazing.

The Rangers are now 14-19 for the season, back in fourth place, one game ahead of the Athletics. Their next game is today, as LA Angels roll into town for a series. Gametime is 7:05 CDT.

That loss put the Sox at 13-21 for the season, still in last place in the AL East, a half game behind Baltimore. Their next game is tonight, against the Astros, who have been winning a lot, lately. Gametime is 7:10 EDT, in Boston.

The Yankees (25-9) continue to dominate MLB, still having lost only nine games. The Cincinnati Reds (9-26) still haven’t won ten games, and to add insult to injury, pitched a combined no-hitter against the Pirates, yesterday . . . and lost 1-0. The struggling Detroit Tigers have the longest current win streak, at three games, and Baltimore has the longest current losing streak, also three games. The Dodgers still have the largest positive run differential, at +70, but are only one run ahead of the Yankees, who have +69. The Reds have a run differential of -65.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, we thank you that you have revealed life in Jesus Christ. Grant that we may enter this life through the grace you have given us to recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord, to believe in him, and to hope for all the good still to come as the fruit of his suffering and resurrection. May the glory of the Living One be revealed to the dead throughout the whole world so that even the dead and the unbelieving may be awakened and see his life. Keep us true to what you have given us. Strengthen our faith and endurance in all our trials. Let your name soon be honored among all people so that hatred may cease and the coming of your great day may be foretold in changed hearts and changed thoughts. Protect us this night. Bless us and help us again and again as you have promised. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
(John 17:3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that through Jesus, we know the way to eternal life
2. that there is hope for all good things still to come as the fruit of Jesus's suffering and resurrection
3. that I am able to abide with Jesus, and He with me, and that, no matter what circumstances may befall me, I have the confidence that God is with me
4. for the call to humility, and the command to slander no one and avoid quarreling (Titus 3:2); Father please help me in this
5. that words like "abide" and "humility" are realities in which we are to walk, not just vague concepts to ponder

Today’s prayer word is “abide.” I love this word, and perhaps I can explain why.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
(John 15:1-8 ESV)

The reading only featured part of verse 4, but I felt the need to post eight verses, for context.

What does it mean to “abide?” The Greek word in this verse is menō, which means “to stay (in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy): abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry.” In fact, the NLT uses the word “remain,” rather than “abide,” which is also true of the NIV. However, I really like the way Peterson puts it in The Message.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.”
(John 15:4 MSG)

So, to abide with Jesus, and to have Him abide with me, means that I dwell with Him, in Him, set up house in Him.

In 1847, Henry Lyte wrote a hymn, known as “Abide With Me.”

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Such comforting words for all possible circumstances, up to, and including, our eventual passing from this life. “Help of the helpless;” “O Thou who changest not;” “I triumph still if Thou abide with me;” and “In life, in death.”

Here is a beautiful arrangement of that hymn, one of my favorites, by Salt of the Sound.

Oh, my Father, You are, indeed, the “help of the helpless,” for that is truly what we are, in most cases. We think ourselves so strong, sometimes, and so “on top of things,” when in reality, we are largely clueless. But You, God! You have all things in Your hands and all things under Your control, no matter how chaotic things appear on the surface. Things seem to be “progressing” exactly how You said they would, and why would we be surprised about that? The sad thing is, there are different groups of people who will think different things when they read what I just typed. No matter. You know what is in my head and my heart, and You know that I am trying my best to promote love in this world.

So, I pray, along with my musical friends and Henry Lyte, “abide me!” I do need Your presence, “every passing hour!” Sometimes I am aware of Your presence, sometimes I am not. Life is much more sweet when I am aware of it, but I know that You are there, all the time. I believe that You are abiding with me, and I pray that You help me to also be always abiding in You, as well.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
(James 4:10 NLT)

Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
(Psalms 95:6 NLT)

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
(Matthew 5:5 NLT)

For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”
(Romans 14:11 NLT)

I visited a Lutheran church, yesterday morning. Living Word Lutheran Church in Grapevine, TX. My good friend and former pastor has been attending there since the Christmas season, last year. He was also there, yesterday, so I sat with him. There were two significant things that happened. The first was when one pastor led the prayer of confession at the beginning. Here are the words that she read, at one point: “By the mercy of God we are united with Jesus Christ, and in him we are forgiven. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At that moment, not only did I get serious chill bumps, but I also wept a little bit.

But the other thing is more in line with the Scriptures I have shared above. When this (and I’m sure others as well) church observes Communion, which has, in recent years, become the central piece of the worship experience for me, the people go up to the altar and kneel to receive it. The pastors come around on the inside of the circle and hand out the bread and the wine. It is a tremendous experience for me. The first time I visited there, I was weeping as the pastor handed me the wafer.

It takes humility to kneel. We don’t like that, in general, especially in Western culture. But Jesus commands it. God desires it. All throughout Scripture we are commanded to humble ourselves, worship, and bow down.

Father, I pray for more humility in my life. Once again, I realize what a dangerous prayer this is, but only dangerous to my pride. I recognize the facts; I am nothing without You. I believe in the words of John the Baptizer when he said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” This should be the “mantra” for every single Christian on the face of the earth. It should be the chant of the saints everywhere. “He must increase; I must decrease.” As we abide more and more in You, in Christ, we know this truth, we are humbled.

Father, I also pray that we understand that words like “abide” and “humility” are not just words, but realities in which we are to live. The same is true for words like “love,” and “sin,” and even words like “Jesus,” and “Holy Spirit,” and “grace.” Too often, Lord, these become nothing more than words or hazy, vague concepts in which we claim to believe. But when we see these as realities in life, things become much more concrete. Jesus is real; He walks beside me in the form of the Holy Spirit, every day. As St. Patrick prayed, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise . . .” This is reality, Lord! it is reality that I need to dwell, to abide, to remain in You and You in me. This is something that I desperately need to know, deeply within my soul.

So, today, Lord, help me to abide in You; help me to have humility, as I abide; humility that, when I see someone post something on social media that I don’t agree with, to simply pray and move on. Humility that gives me the capacity to not speak evil of anyone, no matter what they say the believe. And, above all else, the humility to truly love my neighbor as myself and love the community of saints in the way that Jesus loved us. Reality, Father.

(Above prayer inspired by words from On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Refiner’s Fire

Today is Monday, the seventh of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,370 (the number of days since I was born)

In only six days, that number will make an even number of years, as I celebrate yet another revolution around the Sun.

Have you ever noticed that all of the other stars/suns that we can see, out there in the vastness that is space, have official names? Polaris, Sirius, Antares, and one of my favorites, Canis Majoris (which actually turns out to be the name of the constellation, but most of the stars in that constellation have that as part of the name). Our star is just “The Sun.”

Ditto for all the moons. Saturn has Titan (and apparently eighty-one others??). Jupiter has Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, and a host of others as well. Earth has “The Moon.” I realize we call it “Luna” sometimes (named after our cat, of course), but that is just Latin for “moon.”

I had the most marvelous experience, yesterday morning. As indicated, C and I went to visit a Lutheran church in Grapevine, Living Word Lutheran Church, along with Jacob, our friend and former pastor. He has been attending there since Advent of last year. I thoroughly enjoyed the service, C not quite as much as me, because the music was unfamiliar and a bit awkward for her. It was also very structured/liturgical, and she isn’t as fond of that as I. And, admittedly, the congregational singing was a bit awkward for me, as well. The two hymns that were sung were familiar words with different melodies than I’m used to.

My two favorite parts, though, were the sermon, which, in my opinion, was awesome, and the Communion (Supper). The sermon was about the Transfiguration of Jesus, and was, again my opinion, the best sermon I have ever heard on that subject. Pastor Kari Malinak (yes, a woman) made a connection between what the three disciples saw and what John saw on Patmos during his Revelation vision. If that is realistic, no wonder the disciples were said to be “terrified.” She also made a very specific emphasis on the word “listen,” when the Father spoke from heaven and said, “Listen to Him.” And, finally, at the end of the passage, which included Elijah and Moses, who represent the Prophets and the Law, both of them were gone, and “only Jesus” was left, which was the title of the sermon.

I plan on visiting that church again, perhaps at an early service, after which I should still be able to make it to our 10:15 gathering for our house church.

Today, there will be some laundry, some vacuuming (done by the robot, of course), and a grocery delivery between 10-11. If the Scripture references look different, it is because I am in the process of copying files/programs to Dropbox so I can swap out the D drive hard drive in my PC, and cannot currently use my Bible program.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“What Prayer Is For,” by Daryl Madden

We want to be valued
Cherished at our core
Come let Jesus love you
That’s what prayer is for

In uncertain times
Don’t know what is in store
Come now trust in God
That’s what prayer is for

We are needy souls
Always wanting more
Come ask of the Spirit
That’s what prayer is for

When all seems hopeless
Knees fall to the floor
A miracle’s needed
That’s what prayer is for

In ways of beyond
Let us each explore
For wisdom of divine
That’s what prayer is for

That’s exactly what I am after, each morning, with this blog. Please check out more of Daryl’s poems at the link provided.

"Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that easy yoke of Jesus
2. for examples of the need to be persistent in prayer
3. that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6)
4. for the process of refining me, even though it may hurt, sometimes
5. that all of the plans my Father has for me are for my good

As I continue looking at the discipline of fasting, this week the book takes me to a selection from John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons. In this selection, the connection between fasting and prayer is emphasized.

It is noted that prayer is one of our weapons in our conflict with the powers of evil, and that deliverance from evil is one of the objects of prayer. Therefore, he says, passages that speak of us addressing our Father, in prayer and fasting, “do, in fact, declare the conflict and promise this victory over the evil one.”

I might note that, in some translations of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:13 says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

The author then brings up the parable of the persistent widow, which we find in Luke 18:1-8.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

In this parable, says Newman, the widow represents the Church in prayer. She is both earnest with God, as well as against her adversary. And our adversary is described in 1 Peter 5:8-9.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at examples from Jacob, Moses, and Daniel.

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Today’s prayer word is “refine.” I like this one, because I want God to be constantly refining me, even though that process sometimes is painful.

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.
(Psalm 12:6, ESV)

And any refinement in my life is meant for my good, not for my harm.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11)

All of this, that I might live, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6)

Father, I am so grateful for the fact that Your plans for me are always for my good, and not for my harm. It is because of promises like these that I feel safe in Your love, and that, as Dallas Willard said, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.

Refine me, Father, in Your love. Make me more pure and more suitable for Your kingdom. I know that this process is painful, at times, but I don’t care. If I have to suffer to be better, I will willingly suffer. Doesn’t mean I want to suffer, mind you. But I am willing.

I thank You for the good teachings on prayer and fasting. I thank You that You have strengthened me, thus far, on this Lenten journey, and that my “fast” has been mostly successful, so far. And the parts that have not been so successful have at least been brought to my awareness, that I can take note of my shortcomings and make efforts to fix them.

I also thank You for the wonderful time of worship I experienced, yesterday morning. I pray for Your blessings on the pastors of Living Word Lutheran Church (as well as all pastors who are faithfully teaching/preaching Your Word and following the words of Christ).

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.

God and Love are Inseparable

Today is Sunday, the sixth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,369

Later this morning, I plan to attend the 11:00 service at Living Word Lutheran Church with my friend, former pastor, and fellow blogger, Jacob Seay. I’m looking forward to the new experience.

Yesterday was a good day, although it seemed rather long. I remember looking at the clock at around 2:30, thinking “We still have three and a half hours!” But, as usual, things picked up during the last hour. C brought Mama up to the library just before my lunch break, so I was able to spend a little time introducing her to my friends/coworkers that were there, yesterday. Since it was Saturday, and there were no extra programs going on, we had a smaller staff, yesterday.

After work, I cooked our standard dinner for Saturday, which is burgers and fries. C only had fries, and Mama had some leftover food from lunch at Boston Market, so only S and I had burgers.

Today being Sunday, we will, of course, have Applebee’s for lunch, I’m sure. I may invite Jacob to have lunch with us. C may or may not go to the service with me. At this point she is still undecided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan:
Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations;
and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us,
let each one find you mighty to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen."
(Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the First Sunday in Lent)
By wisdom a house is built, 
and through understanding it is established; 
through knowledge its rooms are filled 
with rare and beautiful treasures.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for an opportunity to attend a worship service outside my "comfort zone," this morning
2. for the way love is intricately associated with God
3. for the promise of God's love and His help for me to love others
4. for the promise that, if I seek Him, I will find Him
5. for the zeal of God to accomplish His purposes

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24:17-18 NIV)

I just ran across this in my daily reading plan, and thought it worth contemplating. Everyone would do well to consider this instruction.

“The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God. . . . The basic and biblical Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related. If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way. If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated.”

Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love.
(2 John 1:6 MSG)

Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
(1 John 4:15-16 MSG)

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
(1 John 2:15-17 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

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

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
(Psalms 63:1 ESV)

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”
(Isaiah 55:6 ESV)

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live;”
(Amos 5:4 ESV)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
(Matthew 7:7 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “zeal.” This word, especially in today’s society, tends to have a negative connotation. However, the definition of the word is strictly positive. “Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.” Now, whether one’s cause or objective is positive or negative can certainly be debated.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:7 ESV)

Some synonyms we might hear for “zeal” are passion, intensity, hustle, and determination. These have a tendency to be intimidating. The truth is, though, that God does not tire or grow weary. His throne will be established “from this time forth and forevermore,” and it is “zeal” that will accomplish this. “God’s zeal flows from His heart – inviting me along for the ride. Inviting me to trust Him.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I want to add that, in my opinion, there is no cause worthy of my own zeal, other than the cause of Christ. This includes many of the “causes” that well-meaning Christian people assign the majority of their zeal toward. I may mildly get behind a “cause” that I agree with, but as far as expending major energy in that direction, the majority of my zeal goes to Christ and His kingdom.

Father, I pray for Your zeal for Christ to overtake me and consume me. I want no part of any human cause or objective, but only Yours. I also pray for Your zeal to accomplish great things in me, to accomplish whatever You desire in my life.

The words above, about love, always convict me. I have long been aware of the importance of love, and know that any true thoughts about the subject must contain thoughts about You. As Peterson stated, we cannot love truly without dealing with You, and we cannot deal truly with You without loving. Show us how to love, Father, how to truly love, selflessly, setting aside our own pride and prejudices, setting aside our selfishness and arrogance. Teach us to love.

I also pray for help in constantly seeking You. You have given us plenty of instruction and admonition to seek You while You may be found. You have let us know that there will come a day when You will not be found by those who refuse to seek You now. I cannot pretend to understand how things are going to play out at the end of days. I believe that You will have enemies who will fight against You. And I do believe that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. But I don’t know how the ending “judgment” will look, and strongly believe that anyone who claims such knowledge is delusional. Just give me faith in seeking You, Father, and help me lead others to You through Christ.

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.