Praying or Dictating?

Today is Monday, August 8. 11 more days until S turns 23!

Quote of the Day

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” – Marcus Aurelius

Word of the Day

Presentiment – a feeling or impression that something is about to happen, especially something evil; foreboding.

Today is Bowling Day! We love bowling! C and I met in a bowling league. And now she works for the rulers of bowling, USBC (United States Bowling Congress).

Today is also International Cat Day. I don’t normally do two “holidays,” but how can I choose between bowling and cats?? I love cats. If I could only have a cat or a dog (we have both in our house), I would certainly choose the cat.

I’ll share a bit of trivia. It was on this date in 1988 that lights first appeared at Wrigley Field, allowing the Cubs to finally join the rest of the baseball world by playing night games. What I didn’t know until this morning was that Phil Wrigley had purchased lights and scheduled them to be installed at the field in 1942. He wound up donating them to the war effort. And so it would be another 46 years.

I feel much better today. Still not 100% right, but much better. We had a good worship gathering, yesterday morning, and I feel like I played well. The music sounded pretty good, over all. Jacob’s message was, as usual, thought provoking and stirring. Much to think about, going forward. And lately, I really like that. I like to have good stuff to “chew on,” as I make my drive to work in the morning.

R & J came over for lunch, which was steaks and mashed potatoes, prepared by C. I was recovered enough from whatever was wrong with me Saturday night to thoroughly enjoy the lunch. It was absolutely delicious! After lunch, we played Cards Against Humanity for a few hours, chatted for a bit, then called in some dinner from Tony’s Pasta and Pizza. Then we talked some more, which got really depressing, because R is having a hard go of it right now. I won’t share details, but if you happen to be one who prays, please lift one up for her, just that some things will fall into place that don’t seem to be currently coming together for her.

It’s back to work, this morning, and then band practice tonight. Long day for me, and I will be tired tomorrow morning. But being able to play my trombone in a band is quite fulfilling.


(From Praying With the Psalms)

May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,
who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!
Psalm 104:31-35

As believers in Jesus, we are in a unique position to realize the impact that creation has in our lives. We live in a world “made and maintained by the Creator God.” I challenge you to just look at creation on a daily basis. Things that we drive by every day can take on a whole new meaning when we examine them in this light.

The final words of this psalm are also the first words, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” At the end, the psalmist adds the “hallelu Yah!” This two word phrase translates to “Praise the Lord,” and is almost exclusively used in Psalms, the first time being in Psalm 104.

“Great and eternal God: I immerse myself in your creation gradually beginning to comprehend the inventive attention you bring to each detail – and then realize that I am one of the details! Hallelujah! Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Prayer in the Father’s Honour

. . . therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:35

“If the Son of God is born into my mortal flesh, is His holy innocence and simplicity and oneness with the Father getting a chance to manifest itself in me?” It is a direct act of God by which Jesus Christ is born in me, and I have to exercise “the right of a child, the right of being always face to face with my Father.”

Am I allowing this realization, this identifying with the Spirit of Christ, or am I quietly and carefully placing him off to the side? In our world today, people are clamoring for the death of God, either directly, or by simply ignoring him altogether. “There is no room here for the Son of God just now, no room for quiet holy communion with the Father.” And here is an interesting question: “Is the Son of God praying in me or am I dictating to Him?”

I need to make room for Jesus. I need to allow the simplicity, solitude, and oneness of Jesus to be born in me, to live in me, to fill me, and to direct me.

Father, I keep praying along these lines, and will continue to do so. I need this life to be realized in me. I need the simplicity and other disciplines that we see in Jesus Christ to become a standard part of my life, that I might, as much as is possible in this world, live the way Jesus lived. Help me to study his life, along with the writings of Paul, to see these characters lived out, and to inspire me to do the same.

Come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

“Confession Is Good For the Soul”

Good morning. Today is Thursday, March 7, 2013. I woke up to the news that Alvin Lee, of Ten Years After, has died at the age of 68. Not a happy way to start the day.

Today is National Crown Roast of Pork Day. I’ve never heard of this, but it looks pretty good.stuffed-crown-roast-of-pork It’s not likely that we will be preparing one of these today.

Yesterday was a pretty typical day around here. Work, then home, then gym. Not much else to report. I had allergies pretty bad all day yesterday, after waking up sneezing at around 4am. It’s better this morning. I don’t know if the pollen is lower, or if my defenses have adapted, or it was the fake Nyquil I took last night (I have finally figured out that the difference between brand names and generics, when it comes to OTC medicines, is the difficulty in opening the package). Either way, I’m feeling much better this morning, so that’s good.

Today, I stop by and weigh in for the Biggest Loser contest. I’ve lost approximately 2 pounds since the last weigh-in. I guess I should be happy with that, but it’s not quite what I had hoped for. Any loss is a good loss, though, and my goal gets that much closer with each pound lost.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in AD 161, Marcus Aurelius succeeded Antoninus Pius as the Emperor of the Roman Empire. He was just a few weeks short of turning 40 when he became Emperor. His first act was to have the Senate make his “younger adoptive brother Verus co-Emperor.” He is, perhaps, most remembered for his Meditations, “a series of fragmentary musings jotted down over his years as Emperor.” Marcus was the last of the “five good emperors,” an era that came to an end when he died and his 18 year old son Commodus “(the villain of the film Gladiator)” took his place.

Today’s birthday is Maurice Ravel, born on this date in 1875. Ravel is most known for his one-movement orchestral piece, Bolero. Oddly enough, legend has it that the piece was originally called “Fandango.” The idea was to have a single line melody repeated over and over, with no development, simply increasing the orchestra each time around. It is, some might argue, quite maddening. Here is a very nice performance of the piece.

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! Psalm 80:7
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. Psalm 71:23

My Father, I pray that you show me something this morning, as I read and meditate on your Word, that will inspire me to live this day looking to your grace.

Today, I am reading Isaiah 30:19-26.

19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.
20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
23 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures,
24 and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork.
25 And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

Isaiah speaks of a time of great blessing for the people of God, a time when he is readily available to all who seek him, even though there may be adversity and affliction present. His guidance will be constantly present, as his people walk with him. Idols will be destroyed and scattered. There will be great blessing of crops and livestock. It will be a time of great healing for his people.

Today, in A Year With God, I begin a new segment on the discipline of Confession. Yesterday was the last reading on the discipline of study. Confession is defined as, “Sharing our deepest weaknesses and failures with God and trusted others, so that we may enter into God’s grace and mercy and experience his ready forgiveness and healing.” When Jesus died on the cross, he took upon himself all of our sins. All we must do is confess and ask his forgiveness, and this requires complete honesty. Sometimes, we attempt to hide our sins, out of shame, as did Adam and Eve. Sometimes, we are even unwilling to forsake our sin, so we even attempt to hide it from ourselves. We must have the courage to shine God’s healing light on our sin, else it can do much damage in our lives (as well as the lives of those around us).

Confession can be simply between the individual and God, or it can also involve another human, one who is trusted implicitly. There are three distinct parts to confession (as described in this book). First is the examination of the conscience, second is sorrow, and third is the determination to avoid future sin. I’m not sure I see the third as an actual part of the confession process, however, without that which is called “repentance,” confession does not accomplish much. We must seek the Lord’s strength, guidance, and courage to avoid further sin; we must love and desire his ways, and hate anything that keeps us from following his truth.

1 John 1:9, a rather famous memory verse, says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Today’s reading is simply called “Confessing Our Sins.” The scripture reading includes the above verse, found in 1 John 1:8-2:1.

1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Right off the bat, a challenge is issued, as is customary on the first day of a new segment. For this discipline, I am challenged, over the next ten days, to make time for confession during my daily prayer time. If this is already part of the prayer time, then I am encouraged to pay extra attention to that particular portion each day. It is suggested to go through the three steps listed above.

It might be necessary to ask God to “reach into the deepest recesses of our soul and show us our sin more clearly.” Believe me, this is a painful request, but God will most certainly honor it. There are other times when we are already burdened by sin, and the act of confession releases a weight from our shoulders that makes us feel as though we are walking on air, afterwards. In extreme cases, where a sin is particularly difficult to release, confession to another might be necessary. Great caution is called for in such cases. Great trust is needed in whoever is chosen to be the confessor. Richard Foster says, “Confession is a difficult Discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin.” It also helps to be part of a church body that does not pass judgment on people for particular sins. My wife and I are blessed to be part of such a fellowship. We are both a fellowship of saints and sinners!

Father, over the next ten days, I pray that you would show me my sin as you see it! Reach down into the depths of my soul and show me where I have failed you (on some days, that reach will not need to be very far). Make me aware of sin, the moment I engage in it, that I might confess immediately. Make me sorrowful over my sin. One of the beatitudes tells us that those who mourn are blessed. I take that to mean mourning over sin. That is why I pray every day that you cause me to be mournful, both over the sin of our people, and my own sin. And then grant me repentance, as even the act of repenting must be a gift from you, lest I should boast that I have done anything of value in my own strength. My God, everything that I possess I have gotten from you. Even repentance for my sin, and the faith to believe in Jesus Christ to save me from my sin. Teach me your ways, O Father, that I may truly walk in your truth.

As this day comes our way, I pray for strength to meet it head on. I pray for Christi, that, as she works today, she might have relief from pain (it does seem to be getting gradually better). I pray that she might have healing in her bones and joints. I pray that her work day will progress seamlessly, without issue or drama. I pray the same for my own work day. I also pray that my company may receive some good news either today or tomorrow. And I pray that Stephanie may be drawn closer to your heart today. Show her the path that you have for her to walk.

I lift up special prayers for two on this day, who have lost their mothers. One named Dawn, a close friend of a lifehouse member, whose mother passed early this morning, and another, Mr. Reynolds, our favorite of Stephanie’s teachers, who lost his mother sometime yesterday. Give these comfort over their loss, and help them find solace in your grace and mercy.

“Confession is good for the soul,” seems to be an old Scottish proverb. Turns out, is also seems to be true.

Grace and peace, friends.

What Do I Pursue?

It’s Friday, October 14th. The vacation week is almost over. But the weekend is just starting. And this afternoon, Christi and I head to Glen Rose to REALLY celebrate our anniversary! We’ll be staying at Paluxy River Bed Cabins, a lovely place created by John and Karen Wells just off the beaten path near Glen Rose. They are on the road to the dinosaur park, probably about five minutes from town. Check out the link, if you live close by and are looking for a place to get away from it all. The cabins are not fancy, but, in our eyes, they are perfect. There’s a small kitchen, they have central A/C, and a hot tub on the huge front deck. Our favorite cabin, the Cedar House, has two big rocking chairs on the deck, perfect for enjoying our coffee in the cool October mornings (it’s projected to be around 55 degrees in the mornings). The four cabins are very private, but still close enough to town that you can enjoy some shopping on the square in Glen Rose. There’s some free advertisement for them.

Steph is not going to school today. But at least we aren’t fighting. Maybe she will go next week. Or maybe she will just decide that she can’t do this and quit altogether. Someday, maybe we’ll figure it out. And she keeps saying she wants to go to college. Really??

Ah, well. On to the readings.

Today’s Bible readings:

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16; Jeremiah 9-10; Proverbs 20:21-30

Paul insists that they have never spoken to please men, but only to please God. They did not come to Thessalonica with words of flattery or with a “pretext for greed,” and did not seek glory for themselves. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (v. 8 ) He goes on to say that he and his associates worked extra hard to make sure that they were not a burden on the Thessalonians while they preached the gospel to them. The good news is that, in verse 13, Paul is giving thanks that the Thessalonians did, indeed, accept the message as the word of God, and began to imitate other churches of God.

The Lord answers a question in Jeremiah 9:12-14. Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the LORD spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? And the LORD says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them. How many times have we heard the ill-conceived advice, “Just follow your heart?” Later in Jeremiah, we will get to verse 17:9, which says this: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? So if you want to follow something that is deceitful and desperately sick, go right ahead. Personally, I have never thought that to be very good advice.
In what do we boast? Do we boast in our wisdom? Do we boast in our strength? Do we boast in our riches? Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (vv. 23-24) That is the only thing worthy of boasting in. I have no wisdom outside of God’s wisdom. I have no might outside of God’s might. And I certainly have no riches besides the overabundant riches of my God.
Chapter 10 is a passage that compares the Lord to idols made of wood and metal. There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might.
Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.
(vv. 6-7) Those who follow after idols are called “stupid and foolish.” They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. (vv. 8-9) No matter how skillful the workers, the silver, gold, and wood is still just silver, gold, and wood. But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. (v. 10a)

Remember the phrase, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord?” Proverbs 20:22 echos that thought. Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you. We are so impatient, though. It is a hard thing for us to wait for anything, especially a God who works on his own timetable and not ours.

Philippians 1:20 … it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
In today’s reading in Tabletalk Magazine, there is a quote from the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, which says, “the truth worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues…” Earlier this year, our pastor stated this in a message: “Life is too short to waste it chasing anything else but Jesus Christ.” What are we pursuing? What am I pursuing? If I am pursuing anything other than Jesus Christ, I am wasting my life. “Our estimation of individuals’ lives, at the end of the day, is related to the ends for which they worked and not how much money they made, the education they acquired, the sizes of their families, or anything else.” (Tabletalk)

Father, I thank you for your grace. I praise you that your plan for us was begun before the foundations of the earth. You are still working you plan…your ONLY plan. I confess to you that I have been guilty throughout my life of pursuing things that do not matter. I still do that. Yes, I am pursuing Christ. But I am guilty of not pursuing ONLY Christ. All other pursuits are a waste of time. Sure, I want to be a good husband and father. But without the benefit of the pursuit of holiness in Jesus Christ, those desires are pointless. I pray that my first and foremost desire will be to chase after Christ and the knowledge of your wisdom.
I pray also that I would follow only you. Let me not follow my own heart, for it is deceitful and desperately sick. Even as my spirit is redeemed by Christ, my heart still suffers from being “flesh.” So I pray that I will ignore my heart and follow only Jesus.
I never foresee that I would worship an idol made of wood, stone, gold, or silver. But do I create my own idols, Father? Have I made idols out of paper (books)? Have I created idols out of vinyl and other materials (records, cds)? Have I worshiped people (baseball players, musicians, even preachers)? I pray that I would not be guilty of doing so. If I trip and fall down that path, I pray that you correct me quickly.
You are good, Lord. I worship you and praise you. It is my heart’s desire to worship you alone.

I pray that we will have a most relaxing time this weekend. Let it be peaceful and reflective, as Christi and I celebrate 26 years together. I pray that our marriage will continue to grow as we grow closer to each other and to you at the same time.

I pray for Stephanie, Rachel, and Justin, as they all stay at our house for the weekend. Let them also have a good time this weekend.

I pray for our pastor, Joel, as he preaches your word this Sunday morning. I pray for the worship celebration at The Exchange, and for Greg Foster as he leads your children in worship.

Take a quick look at what you pursue. Is it worthy?

Grace and peace, friends.