Christ’s Light in the Darkness . . . Right at Home

Today is Monday, the eighteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,412

I hope everyone who observes the day had a blessed Easter, yesterday. We were blessed to be able to have the Supper with our little group, after we read several of the Bible accounts of the resurrection event. We noted differences in the Gospel narratives, and celebrated the power that comes from knowing and walking with Jesus in our lives. We also spent some time praying together.

The Night of Worship that was to take place this coming Saturday has been postponed, but we are considering having a sort of prayer meeting, at some point in the near future. I’m going to suggest combining the two and kind of re-tooling the NoW thing.

This week is a “light” week for me, work-wise. I only work Tuesday evening, four hours, and Thursday, eight hours.

The Texas Rangers continue their losing ways, and lost three of the four games against the Angels. Yesterday’s loss, the second by pitcher Martin Perez, was 8-3. The highlight of that game was a two-run homer by Adolis Garcia. They have today off, after which they will begin a six-game west coast run, starting in Seattle, Tuesday. The Rangers are now 2-7 for the season, in last place in the AL West, but only 3.5 games behind the first place Angels. Jon Gray will be back in the lineup Tuesday, to take the mound against Seattle.

The Red Sox beat the Twins 8-1, yesterday, finally getting above .500. The two teams are playing another game today. That seems odd, to me, because series don’t usually go through the weekend into Monday. Oh, well. Update: I just discovered that today is “Patriot Day” in Boston, and the game is played at 11:10 EDT. It is also the day of the Boston Marathon. The Sox are 5-4 for the season, in second place in the AL East, only a half-game behind Toronto.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Monday in Easter Week)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
(Psalms 46:10-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm continuing to reflect on the wonder of the resurrection of Jesus, and that the celebration doesn't end just because Easter Sunday is over
2. that the Word of God is near me, in my mouth and in my heart
3. for habits and rituals (like this one) that help me get closer to God
4. for the call to serve one another and be Christ's light in the darkness, in our own sphere of influence
5. for Abraham's example of hospitality
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
(Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

I found this, by Timothy Keller, through Facebook, this morning, and thought it was great. There is a lot of pain going through our little church group, right now, and I shared it with all of them. “On the Day of the Lord—the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue—on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace.” ~ Timothy Keller

Today’s prayer word is “ritual.” There is a quote from Victor Hugo included. “It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky . . . a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.”

I’m a fan of ritual. I’ve got habits. Who doesn’t, right? Even in the shower, I have a ritual. Just the other day, my brain misfired, and I failed to switch hands with the scrubber at the right time, and I’m pretty sure my right arm didn’t get washed that day. I have a cup of herbal tea every night, shortly before I go to bed. And I listen to a meditation recording on one of two different apps, as I fall asleep. Except for last night, because I forgot to charge my headband headphones. And guess what? I didn’t sleep very well, last night!

What’s the difference between a ritual and a habit? Turns out, in order to be a ritual, there must be some meaning behind it. So I guess my shower habit is not, in fact, a “ritual.” The cup of tea, I believe, is, though, because I believe it helps me relax and prepare for sleep.

Rituals aren’t necessarily good, though. To some people, ritual in the church is boring. I like it, myself, and am fond of what might be considered more “high church” worship. Don’t get me wrong, I love some contemporary worship, as well. I would love to find a church that combined the two, but so far, I have not. What’s funny about this is that the Catholic church, the “highest” of high church, was probably on the forefront of introducing contemporary worship music to the masses, back in the late sixties and early seventies.

The key is in intention and meaning. If you do something just to do it, it’s a habit or a routine. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist Church where exactly the same thing happened every Sunday morning, in the same order. It was weird when something was added or left out. Was there meaning or intention behind that? Or was it just the way we’ve always done it? I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect there might have been a little of both. But you know what? I found comfort in that routine. I could always count on those things happening . . . those three hymns between the pastoral prayer and the offering; that “special music” right before the sermon; and the benediction that signaled that we could finally go home.

I am engaging in ritual right now. Every morning (not always at the same time) I sit down at this computer and start reading Bible passages, along with several devotional materials, and typing this blog. There is most definitely intention and meaning involved. The intent is twofold; one goal is to grow myself spiritually and connect more with the Holy Trinity; the other is to maybe inspire or motivate someone else to do the same. I used to write these moments in a paper journal, but one day I decided to begin recording them online. 1) That saves paper and space; and 2) other people might benefit from my journaling.

Recently, in the past couple of years, I have developed a ritual of sharing at least five things every day for which I am grateful. The intent here is not to show how spiritual I am, but, rather, to inspire others to also be grateful for the things that they have in their lives.

So rituals can be good things. I firmly believe that they help me in my efforts to draw closer to God and walk in His kingdom.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful that You created me as one who thrives in ritualistic settings. I pray that my habits and rituals, each day, will continue to help me to draw closer to You and weed out habits that aren’t good, as well as characteristics in my personality that are not healthy or helpful.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:45-49 ESV)

We frequently make the mistake of thinking that the only way we can do “great things” for Jesus is going on adventures. We want to go on that mission trip to Africa or Mexico or somewhere. Or sometimes, we even stay in our own state, but we have to get away from our local area.

As Logan Eliasen was returning from a somewhat adventurous vacation trip to Colorado, he struggled with purpose. “What am I doing here” he asked himself. But then he realized he was asking the wrong question.

“What can I do here,” he then asked.

“Here, in Iowa, I have relationships with people I care about. Here, Jesus has provided me with opportunities to share His love with others. Here, I can be Christ’s light in the darkness.”

That is huge and profound. Our “witness” begins at home.

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
(Matthew 10:5-7 ESV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

Father, let us not be so quick to need to get away from our own neighborhoods to do Your work. Remind us that we can be Christ’s light in the darkness right in our own yards, on our own streets. As for our little house church, Lord, I struggle with what kind of impact we can have. But we can do the same. We can be Christ’s light in the darkness at Brandon’s house. And we can shine in his neighborhood. After all, if we can’t shine there, what makes us think we can shine in Africa??

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!
(Hebrews 13:1-2 MSG)

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.” They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.” Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.” Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.
(Genesis 18:1-8 MSG)

“Caring for others is the best thing we do. We are at our best when we are attending to the needs of others: hurts and pains, sorrows and disappointments, despair and grief, confusion and dismay. Speaking words of encouragement, binding up wounds, giving direction, sharing trouble – when we are doing these things, we are being fully human.”

We may not always do a great job at these things, and sometimes we may even do them badly. But we still need to be about caring for others, because only then are we “fully human.” And it’s not something to be done only when we “feel a gush of sentiment.” It should be part of “life together as people of God.” And we shouldn’t stop doing it just because we may not have done a good job at it.

Abraham is one of our best examples of this. Three men show up at his tent, one day, and he greets them enthusiastically and invites them to stay for a meal. “He did not treat them as interruptions to his prayers or as intrusions on his pilgrimage.” There is no indication that he knew, yet, that the men were angels.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, said, “There are no ordinary people. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

So we go full circle back to the idea of routine, habit, and ritual. This is where caring happens, in the so-called “ordinary.” It begins in our neighborhoods, where we live, and where we “go to church.” It doesn’t start on the great adventures to Africa or Mexico or even the next state over. It starts here, where we live.

“Abraham in front of his tent. A hastily prepared meal. Angels unawares.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I confess . . . I haven’t done a great job of this. I hardly know my neighbors. Motivate me to connect with them a little better, to reach to them, to see if there is anything I can do to serve them. And then I pray you guide us into service in the neighborhood where our church meets. And, most of all, help us to serve one another within our own little body of believers. Jesus, You told us to love one another the way You have loved us. I have not done well at this, either, so help me be better at it. Help me to love!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Wait; Hope; Be Still and Know

“If the word God or the experience of God is tribalized or nationalized or privatized, it is falsified. A packaged god is no god at all.”

Today is Holy Saturday, the sixteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ flood your soul today.

Day 23,410

Yesterday certainly didn’t feel like a day off work for either of us. But it was a good day. We picked up C’s friend (that she used to work with) at 11:30, and headed over to Posada’s for lunch. We had a great lunch, along with some great conversation, mostly M and C catching up on things. Then we went to the funeral, which was a great celebration of a good man’s life. A couple of his family members gave a great eulogy of his life and their experiences with him. The family was huge. There were more family members there than non-family members.

I intended to compliment the pianist who played, but didn’t get a chance to. He was very good, and during the prelude to the funeral, he launched into a minor-key variation of “Rock of Ages” that was phenomenal!

After the funeral, we took M home, then went to Tom Thumb, nearby, because I had accidentally ordered the wrong kind of fruit for my fruit pizza that I was planning to make to take to work today. We bought some other stuff while we were there, including some flavors of Nick’s ice cream that we had never seen before. I wish our Albertson’s carried more of those flavors!

I made the fruit pizza, and while I was putting all that together, C made our regular pizzas for dinner. I did not attend the Good Friday service, as I had already decided while we were on our way home from the funeral. There was no way I could have done it, after everything else. We watched one episode of a British series called Vexed (we are in season 2 of 2). Then we watched the Rangers almost beat the Angels. I say “almost,” because at one point they were ahead 6-2, but then gave up 5 runs in the very next inning, and 2 more later, to lose 9-6. In Boston’s home opener, the Twins beat the Red Sox 8-4.

The Rangers play the Angels again today, at 6:05 CDT, with Taylor Hearn taking the mound. The Sox play the Twins again, at 4:10 EDT, with Tanner Houck taking the mound for Boston.

I will be working from 9:30-6:15 today. We will be gathering at our house church in the morning, and we need to pick up some supplies for the Supper so we can have communion together.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Holy Saturday)

Know,” by Daryl Madden

I heard a soft whisper
Here, surrounding me
With peace in the quiet
Of simply to “be”

What should I do?
Surrender my will?
A comforting Word
Just simply “be still”

A rising desire
Of wisdom bestow
A simple lesson
“Be still and know”

What should I know?
To simply be awed
“Be still and know
That I am your God”

A prayer of perfection
This dialog shows
With patience and grace
His love overflows

I love this treatment of Psalm 46:10, one of my favorite verses. This my prayer, this morning, that, in all of my life, I could “be still and know.” Please support this poet by checking out his other poems at the link provided.

But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.
(Isaiah 40:31 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the celebrations of life that this weekend brings
2. for Easter cookies
3. for hugs and the warmth that being loved can bring
4. for waiting, because it makes us trust in You while we are waiting
5. for the potential in my life to be stretched, as I look for new challenges, new people, and new experiences

The prayer word for today is “warmth.” The context appears to be that of being loved, and the need for human touch in our lives.

“The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.” ~ Oscar Wilde

The writer of the reading, Carolyn, speaks of her husband and his habit of hugging. I, too, am a hugger. I love giving hugs; I love receiving hugs. Hugs bring a warmth to one, that is almost indescribable. “For me,” says Carolyn, “warmth equates to love, contentment, and safety.”

I once felt as though I had received a hug from God. I will cherish that moment for all of my days, as I have never felt anything else like it.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, may I not fail to give out warmth today, in the form of love and acceptance toward those around me. I pray that I might display Your great love toward others, as I walk through my day. Let them see it on my face; let them feel it radiating from me. And maybe there might be a hug or two, as well.

As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.
(Luke 23:55-56 NLT)

There are some very wise words, in today’s Guideposts reading, written by Logan Eliasen. “Waiting means acknowledging events aren’t under our control.” That made me do a double-take. He’s right, you know. When you are waiting for something, you do not have control over that thing, at that moment in time.

Last night, I had to wait a couple of times. First, I had to wait while the cookie dough cooked (for my fruit pizza). Then I had to wait for it to cool, before I could spread the cream cheese mixture over it. During those times of waiting, there was nothing I could do to speed things up. Those events were completely and utterly out of my control.

But then, Logan brings it home. “But waiting doesn’t mean events are out of control.” (emphasis mine) “Because, ultimately, God is in control.”

So simple, so true, and so profound.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
(Psalms 130:5-6 ESV)

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
(Lamentations 3:25 ESV)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help me to be a better “wait-er.” I don’t like waiting. Logan is right. It means that, while I’m waiting, I have no control over the thing for which I am waiting. Tom was also right. The waiting is the hardest part. I’ve waited for test results before. I remember struggle to sleep, while waiting on test results that would not be delivered in less than two weeks. That was excruciating, because I had no control over it; I had no control over the outcome. But, what I do have control over is my trust in You while I am waiting. Help me to trust in You when I have no control over things in my own life. Help me to only “worry” about things over which I have control, which is not much. I trust in You, Father. My times are in Your hands.

“If the word God or the experience of God is tribalized or nationalized or privatized, it is falsified. A packaged god is no god at all. This fact is not always easy to live with.”

Read that again. I will wait.

This is a serious issue, and the modern church (institution) in the USA is really struggling with this. Getting it to admit that struggle would be an entirely different thing.

“Our tendency, most of the time,” says Peterson, “is to reduce God to the dimensions of our lives and make him the custodian of our comforts. We get a piece of the gospel that makes us feel good, and we decide to specialize in that part, leaving out everything else.”

But if we want to be a “real church,” we can’t disregard others, as we like to do when we create our little like-minded groups and exclude others from them. (I’m stomping on my own toes, here, folks.)

“We have to reach out, letting our lives be stretched with new challenges, new people, and new experiences.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray that You help us to not be guilty of reducing You and Your truth to the “dimensions of our lives.” I pray that we not be guilty of just hanging out with like-minded people and excluding others. I confess that this is very difficult. We get too comfortable, and we want to stay that way. Help me to stretch myself, as I walk in Your kingdom, and as I walk through this world. May the rest of this year be a benchmark year for me, Father. I am fully aware of what I am asking for. Well, maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m not aware at all, because I have no idea what is coming. But I am willing to wait for You and to watch for Your hand in my life as You move and act.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

As we move toward Resurrection Sunday, may we patiently wait for God, considering what the disciples endured during these couple of days that must have seemed like an eternity to them, having lost all hope. May we not lose hope; may we believe!

Grace and peace, friends.

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. Maundy Thursday.

May the peace of Christ be with you and within you.

Day 23,408

According to a couple of sources, “Maundy” comes from the latin word for “command,” and Maundy Thursday commemorates the command that Jesus gave His disciples, at the Last Supper, to love and serve each other. I did not know this until today. Or at least if I did, I had forgotten, which is entirely possible.

I’m pretty sure my brain is full, so that now, whenever I learn something new, I forget something old. I wonder what I just forgot?

Today will be my second Thursday in the computer center at the library. If it is anything like last Thursday, it will go by fairly quickly, as it was pretty busy, at least busier than my normal Fridays were.

I’ve started another chicken soup (not Italian, but that one was very delicious) in the crock pot for tonight’s dinner. I will have my bowl after I get home, around 8:30.

The library is closed tomorrow, for Good Friday, which, from what I hear, is normal. So I suppose it is a good thing that I switched to Thursdays, so I won’t miss any hours. C is also off tomorrow, but it will be somewhat busy. We are attending a funeral tomorrow afternoon, of the father of one of her coworkers. And then, tomorrow evening, I plan on attending a Good Friday service at the Lutheran church that we went to a few weeks ago. As for Sunday, I’m still not sure what is happening with our house church.

The Texas Rangers had yesterday off. The Boston Red Sox evened up their record, beating the Detroit Tigers 9-7. At 3-3 for the season, they are in third place in the AL East, tied with the Yankees. Today, the Rangers will face Ohtani and the Angels. Dunning will start for the Rangers.

While most of us haven’t been paying attention, the Cleveland Guardians have scored 45 runs, 44 of those in the last four games. In one game, they beat the KC Royals 17-3. They play the Giants tomorrow, so we’ll find out, then, if they are “for real.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, both really good.

Going Before You,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I AM
levelling
mountains

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

This is so true. God goes before us, sometimes levelling mountains we can’t even see before we get to them.

Where God Lives,” by Daryl Madden

And where God lives
We find beauty
His Word of peace
Flows joyfully

And where God dwells
A binding be
So intimate
Of unity

And where God grows
So peacefully
In nourishing
Community

And where God shares
His grace for free
His gift of love
Abundantly

We enter through
Humility
My prayer this day
Come live in me

Yes, Lord, please come live and dwell in me, today. Please show your support to both of these artists by visiting their websites at the links provided.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the prospect of a beautiful day, based on the weather forecast
2. that wherever God lives, I find beauty
3. that God shares His grace with us, freely and abundantly
4. for God's grace and forgiveness that completely erase our past sins
5. for the ability to repent (say goodbye) and follow in the steps of Jesus (say hello)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
(Acts 4:31 ESV)

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “goodbye.” At first glance, I thought it was speaking of saying “goodbye” to a person. But this is not the case.

I won’t share the opening quote for multiple reasons, but it says something about the difficulty of saying “goodbye,” especially succinctly.

There are times in our lives when we need to say “goodbye,” not to people, but to either circumstances or parts of our lives, from which we have moved on, or need to move on. And I think therein lies the crux. There are times when we truly need to move on, but we hesitate, not unlike Lot’s wife, as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah. We look back longingly at something, and, oddly, sometimes that something might even be an illness or condition we have suffered from for a long time. It’s like we get attached to that, even though it may have caused us much pain.

For myself, it’s usually more the need to move on and say goodbye to attitudes or ways of responding to certain life situations. My biggest struggle, which I have, I believe, been fairly open about, here, is moving on from being judgmental toward people. And I think more people struggle with that than are willing to admit.

So, perhaps I will spend some time, today, thinking about what I need to say “goodbye” to.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

There is another word for this concept. It is “repent.” I used to think that “repent” meant to turn away from sin with great sorrow. That’s not what it means (even though the dictionary indicates that). The word literally means, in Hebrew, to turn back or turn around; retreat. In the New Testament Greek, it means to think differently or reconsider. So, essentially, “repent” means to change the way one thinks about something. Sorrow and regret may or may not be involved.

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
(John 13:9 NLT)

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
(Psalms 51:7 NLT)

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

When we “repent,” or say “goodbye” to certain things in our lives, and truly let them go, as previously stated, it is like turning around and changing direction. And then, if we were to turn back and look at where we had been, by the grace of God, we can no longer see those tracks.

It’s like walking through a patch of snow and then turning around to see your tracks erased by newly fallen snow. That’s what the grace of God and His forgiveness are like. When we repent, when we change our way of thinking, our past sins are erased. They are not just covered, but it is as though they never happened. And in some, almost “magical” way, it is absolutely true that they never happened. I believe that, while consequences for some actions may always be with us, God can change our past. That is what the blood of Christ does for us, as it washes us “whiter than snow.”

(Gratitude to Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022)

In a reading called “On Religion and Faith,” Eugene H. Peterson addresses the difference between religion and faith. And I find this to be relevant to the discussion on repentance and saying “goodbye.”

“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
(Luke 18:8 NLT)

“Surely he will find religion (institutions, creeds, documents, artifacts, and the like), but he may not find faith. Faith is deeply personal, dynamic, and ultimate. Religion, however, is faith’s expression. For example, religion is concerned about institutions (churches), documents, statements of belief (Bible and theology), and our convictions and moral codes. Religion is important but not ultimately important.

“Religion is a means, not an end. Faith is the only end.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

And repentance happens by faith, not by religion. You can quote creeds and attend institutions and proclaim moral codes all day long, but until you follow Jesus Christ by faith, you accomplish nothing at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. You make life more difficult and miserable for people around you.

Father, we need a fresh revelation on the difference between religion and faith. There is a lot of religion in our world, right now, and many people are running away from the “church” (institution) because of it, in an attempt to actually find faith. Help us to focus more on deeply personal and dynamic faith, and follow in the steps of Jesus. Help us to say “goodbye” to bigotry and prejudice and judgment, and to turn around, repent, and say “hello” to grace and forgiveness.

Thank You for the grace and forgiveness that washes us clean, like freshly fallen snow, and makes it appear that our past sins have been erased. Truly it is said that You cast our sins as far as the east is from the west, which, if considered in a straight line, is infinity. Perhaps we do not consider that enough. Perhaps Resurrection Sunday is a good time for that.

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.

Elohim

Today is Friday, January 22, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,961

Yesterday, I noticed a problem with WordPress. Some of my “reusable blocks” had been corrupted, or something. I was able to edit the ones that were affected, last night, but I had to delete one of them. The problem with that is that it deletes that block in every past blog in which it was used. This is a definite flaw in their system.

I also just noticed that some of the text was gone from my “footstool” entry a couple days ago. That’s sad, because I won’t be able to recreate that. If I continue to notice issues like this, I may be forced to go back to the old “classic” editor for the blog, which will mean more actual html coding. Or I may just stop using reusable blocks, altogether. We shall see.

Friday has arrived, our last day of work for the week. So far, there are no unusual plans for the weekend. We have been collecting socks for homeless people, and I think tomorrow is the day we are supposed to gather all of those up, but at this point, I have no idea how that is supposed to happen. We may all need to drop ours off at one person’s house.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
(2 Corinthians 9:11-12 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For the miracle of my heartbeat
  • For the food I am eating for breakfast
  • For the true fear of God, which is driven by reverence and awe, rather than guilt or punishment
  • That every breath I take is a gift from You; may I breathe deep Your grace and mercy
  • For You, Elohim, and that all that I know about You is infinitesimal, compared to what there is to know.

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 17

INVITATION

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
(Psalms 126:3 NIV)

BIBLE SONG

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
(Psalms 19:7-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

For many years, I have loved the words used to describe God’s Word in the second half of Psalm 19. But this morning, for perhaps the first, I noticed that verse that says the fear of the Lord is “pure.” This helps us understand what it means to fear the Lord, in the right way.

Fear that comes from guilt, that is, fear of punishment, is not “pure.” It is driven by sin. If I am afraid of God in the same way I was “afraid” of my parents after I had disobeyed them, that is not “pure” fear.

The true and correct fear of God is driven by reverence and awe, mostly awe, I would think. For example, if we are smart, we fear the amazing power of a lion or tiger. We may feel safe when viewing them at the zoo or other wildlife preserve setting, but we know their terrible strength, and that they would just as soon eat us. This example, of course, fails just as any earthly example that attempts to define an infinite God . . . I’ve referenced Daniel Amos’s song, “Darn Floor Big Bite” here before. The idea behind the title is a gorilla attempting to describe an earthquake. Terry Scott Taylor’s idea is that man attempting to describe God is pretty much the same.

“You are beautiful; a terrible, terrible sight,” says the song of God.

So, if I am fearing God properly, purely, it is not a fear driven by guilt. And why should it be? Several days ago, I wrote about my past being erased . . . the sins that I have committed, forgiven and erased. Not just covered up; not just pretending they never happened; truly and eternally erased!

Father, I thank You for these truths, and for the psalmist’s descriptions of Your Word, and his demonstration of what true, proper fear looks like. Help my fear of You to be like this fear, pure and everlasting. Help me to remember that You have erased my past sins, like chalk from a chalkboard, gone forever. There is no guilt, there is no more need for shame. There is no need for the kind of fear that Adam felt when he hid from You in the garden. Thank You Jesus! And I thank You that I am, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, born from above, by the Spirit. Now let the Spirit’s wind blow in me as Jesus described!

"Faithful God,
I confess that I'm hopelessly lost trying 
to justify my life,
a posture of heart that leads me
to all sorts of evil,
unable to do good.
But thank you for the joy of new birth
through your Holy Spirit.
Empower me to live as your beloved child today.
Amen."
(Heidelberg Catechism 8)

BLESSING

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
(Ephesians 5:8 NIV)

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
(Psalms 73:26 NLT)

Some words to ponder, from Daily Guideposts 2021:

“I was arrogant before the phone call. I had forgotten that I am powerless and God is limitless. I had forgotten that every breath I take is provided by the One who designed and formed me. I do nothing on my own.” (Logan Eliasen)

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”
(Matthew 6:26 NLT)

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19 NLT)

“In a world defined by anger, our lives are narrowed into bitterness and violence. In a world defined by fear, our lives become anemic and timid. In a world defined by God’s love, the result is eternal life.” (Eugene Peterson, A Month of Sundays)

Today’s wisdom from Jonathan Cahn goes hand in hand with my discussion about God from the Psalms passage.

“The reality of God is so transcendent, so awesome, and so beyond, that there’s no word in any language that can express it. Not even the word God can express the reality of God. The word Elohim is letting you know that whatever you think God is, He’s more than that. No matter how good you think He is, He’s better. No matter how beautiful, majestic, and amazing, He’s more beautiful, He’s more majestic, and He’s more amazing. No matter how awesome you think He is, He’s more awesome than that. And no matter how beyond you think He is, He’s even beyond that. What does Elohim reveal? It reveals that no matter how much you think you know of God, there’s always more to know, so much more . . . and so much more than so much more. So never stop seeking Him. For His Name is Elohim, and of His awesomeness, there will be no end.”

It’s worth noting that the word Elohim, the first word for God used in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 1:1, is plural.

“The Mission: Today, seek to know God as one who doesn’t know the half of Him. Seek to know Him more, and afresh, as if for the first time.”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis 1:1 NLT)

For more reference, read Job chapter 38. I won’t quote the whole chapter here.

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Father, I thank You for these mysteries that continue to have such an impact on my life. Whatever I know of You, compared to what there is to know, is infinitesimal. So, today, I ask that I might know You a little bit more, that I might know more of Your beauty, Your majesty, Your amazingness, and Your awesomeness. May I know You as beyond as You are, as Other as You are, and may I feel comfortable in this. While my fear of You will be driven by awe, let my love for You be just as powerful. And then let that love for You drive my love for others and my service to them.

Lord, I thank You for the call on my life to serve You. May I be faithful to do so in all aspects of my life; in my home, in my community, and at my workplace. Help me, along with all of Your children, work harder to serve the “common good.” I also lift up, today, anyone who might be starting a new career, a new life of some kind. May You show them Your face and kindness in their new venture.

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Setting Me Aside

Today is Saturday, August 29, 2020. Peace be with you.

Day 22,815

Nine days until Labor Day, our next holiday in the US.

The weekend has arrived. C is still recovering from her hand surgery, but doing well. I decided to try the grocery pick-up service at Walmart Neighborhood Market today. I’ve already placed the order and have the pickup scheduled for 1-2 PM this afternoon. That should work out fine. I did not order any produce, from them, and will make a side trip to Sprouts, hopefully before I pick up our order. It will be interesting to see what substitutions have to be made.

Update on that. I decided to order the Sprouts stuff for delivery from Instacart. It will be interesting to see how that works out. It is supposed to be delivered by 1:00 PM.

We are currently in the middle of our virtual WW Workshop. I lost 1.4 pounds last week, for a total of 68.8 pounds since we began this journey in February.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know you, and desire nothing save 
only you. 
Let me hate myself and love you. 
Let me do everything for the sake of you. 
Let me humble myself and exalt you. 
Let me think of nothing except you. 
Let me die to myself and live in you. 
Let me accept whatever happens as from you. 
Let me banish self and follow you, and ever desire to follow you. 
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you that I may deserve 
to be defended by you. 
Let me fear for myself, let me fear you, and let me be among 
those who are chosen by you. 
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in you. 
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of you. 
Let me cling to nothing save only to you, and let me be poor 
because of you. 
Look upon me, that I may love you. 
Call me that I may see you, and forever enjoy you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Forsake Myself for Jesus, by St. Augustine of Hippo)

We will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 115:18 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the weekend, to rest and relax for the coming work week
  2. For continued success in our weight-loss journey
  3. That You are my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living (Psalm 142:5)
  4. That You want me to consider others to be more significant than myself (Philippians 2:3). Yes, I am grateful for this. Doesn’t mean I do a very good job of it, but I am grateful that we are supposed to do this.
  5. For Your steadfast love that is great above the heavens, and Your faithfulness that reaches to the clouds (Psalm 108:4)

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
(Psalms 142:5 ESV)

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
(Psalms 108:3-4 ESV)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
(Psalms 84:11 ESV)

Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one.
(Luke 9:18-21 ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!
(Psalms 99:5-9 ESV)

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.

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

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

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
(Proverbs 18:1 ESV)

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV)

I love Logan Eliasen’s contribution to Daily Guideposts 2020 for today. Springing of of the verse in Philippians, he proceeds to tell a simple story of a time when he went on a date with a young woman. When they got to the ticket window, she insisted on paying. This made him uncomfortable, and he struggled with this for a few minutes afterward.

He finally realized that she had done something that made her happy. He was not being a burden on her. And when he accepted this, it became a blessing to him, as well. If he had more aggressively insisted on paying, he would have taken a blessing away from her.

This is a great illustration, in my opinion, of the Philippians verse. While Paul does not forbid us from looking out for our own interests, he challenges us to also look out for the interests of others.

This is so difficult for our Western culture, let alone Western Christianity. We are so me-centric. Instead of “me, too,” we are mostly “me, only.” This can’t be more clearly illustrated than by the inexplicable controversy over wearing a silly mask to protect others from potential spread of COVID-19.

But that’s not all. How many church splits have happened because people refused to obey verses like Philippians 2:4. If I go into any topic with the idea that “it’s my way or the highway,” then we fail. I fail. Automatically.

One of the results of this is that we wind up wanting to isolate ourselves from everyone. Granted, we are having to do that, right now, to a large degree. But we can be separated without being isolated. We are not having church in person, right now, but if I refused to engage in our weekly virtual meeting, I would truly be isolating myself, and that would be a case of looking out for my own interests and not those of others.

In Romans, Paul even goes so far as to tell us to consider others as more important than ourselves! Oops. Sorry. That’s the verse before the other verse in Philippians, up there, Philippians 2:3

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
(Philippians 2:3 MSG)

Seriously, we are very bad at this. And those of us who follow Christ should be leading the way in this kind of behavior.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory. All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols— worship him, all you gods! Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, LORD. For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
(Psalms 97:6-9 NIV)

I believe this fits right in to the above discussion. Hear me out, please.

“We must forsake our idols (verse 7),” says Timothy Keller.

“Idols are often good things that have become ultimate sources of meaning.”

Interesting definition. How many of us are guilty of making ourselves an idol? I’m sure we would all loudly proclaim, “Well, I certainly do not worship myself!” But what is your/my ultimate source of meaning.

My heart’s desire is that my ultimate source of meaning be God/Jesus Christ. But my heart is wicked and deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). And I keep having to pray for God to “unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).

“Let God’s love and regard for you be the new ground of your identity.”

And when this happens, we can also say, “I’m important, but not all-important. I’m just a way to serve God.” Then obeying Paul’s command to look out for the interests of others, and to consider others more significant than ourselves will fall right in line.

“Lord, Your grace has cut down the tree of sin in my life, but the stump and its roots are still there and go deep. ‘Lord! Must I always guilty prove, and idols in my heart have room? Oh! Let the fire of heavenly love the very stump of Self consume.‘ Amen.” (John Newton, Dagon Before the Ark)

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Father, there is so much to pray for in this. First, I always pray that You would unite my heart, as it is always divided between You and other things. These other things are “mini-idols.” Help me to put them away and serve only You. And in serving You, help me to follow through with considering others as more significant than me and looking out for their interests as well as my own. I pray for Your Church, especially in America, that we would all do better at this.

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!

Train me, GOD, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear. From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord; I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to.
(Psalms 86:11-12 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.