In the Watches of the Night

Today is Tuesday, the twentieth of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,567

Only two more days until Autumn begins!! (Which, as has been duly noted, means absolutely nothing in Texas, as it is still 90 degrees outside.)

And, once again, the high temperature for yesterday was two degrees below the predicted high of 95. We are running about six degrees higher than the average for this time of year.

Today’s high is projected to be 96. The record high for this date occurred just last year, at 100 degrees.

C and Mama are currently at Mama’s doctor appointment, as she is seeing a new doctor here in Fort Worth, for the first time. I hope they like him.

I’ll be working my half-day, this evening, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. C will be working from home the rest of the day, after the doctor appointment, and I will probably go out and pick up Subway for lunch today.

There were only nine baseball games, yesterday, none of which involved my two favorite teams. However, the Mets, I am told, clinched a playoff berth, yesterday, when they beat the Brewers 7-2. I read that this was their first playoff appearance since 2016. Comparatively, though, six years isn’t such a long time. According to one source, the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, and they are on track to get a Wild Card spot, this season.

The Astros clinched their division, yesterday, to be the second team that has clinched a division, this season. However, I’m confused, because Seattle has sixteen games left, and they are fifteen games out. So that “clinching” shouldn’t happen until Houston wins their next game or Seattle loses one, as Seattle’s E# is 1. If Houston has clinched, there should be an “E” next to Seattle.

Update: I’ve dug a little more deeply into that situation. If Houston lost the rest of their games (not likely) and Seattle won the rest of theirs (also not likely) they would be tied, in which case the head-to-head record would be used to determine the record. Houston beat Seattle 12-7 this season. So there you go.

The Dodgers won again, so their chance to beat the win record is still alive. They must win fifteen of their last sixteen games. They are, of course, still atop MLB with 102-44. The Nationals and Athletics both lost, so the Nats are still on the bottom, at 51-96. The Mets have a five-game win streak going, and the Pirates, Phillies, and Diamondbacks all have four-game losing streaks. The Dodgers have a run differential of +332, and the Pirates are at -214 (the Nats are at -213).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, our Helper, we thank you for walking among us and for letting many experience your protection. Even when we are dying, you protect and help us so that we need not pass into death but may enter into life. So may our hearts be lifted up to you. Grant that the light in us remains undimmed, and that we may come before you in sincerity. Lord God, create good out of evil. Let light dawn in the darkness. Fulfill your promise, for our hearts are not concerned with human desires but with your promise. You will carry it out, and we will be able to say, "Our faith was not in vain, our hope was not in vain. Lord our God, you have blest us a thousandfold." Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts. 
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
(Psalms 145:3-5 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the love of family and friends
  2. for the wonderful works of God, past, present, and future
  3. for my soul that desires to meditate on the Lord in the watches of the night
  4. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which is better than life
  5. for the admonishment to “be still before the Lord”

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. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
 beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life, 
my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live;
 in your name I will lift up my hands. 
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
 and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed, 
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8 ESV)

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
(Psalms 119:148 ESV)

“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”
(Lamentations 2:19 ESV)

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 ESV)

Initially, I am drawn, once again, to the “steadfast love,” or chesed, of God. In this case, the psalmist (reported to be David) says that the steadfast love, or mercy, of God is better than life. This stands to reason, because without that steadfast love, there would likely be no life.

But then I am drawn to the middle verses of this psalm; verses 5-7.

I have been physically satisfied (even beyond satisfied) by “fat and rich food.” This is the comparison that David gives for his soul when he remembers the Lord in his bed at night. He speaks of meditating on the Lord during the “watches of the night.”

This made me remember one of the prayers for Compline from the Book of Common Prayer.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

I remember reading a great book about that prayer, by Tish Harrison Warren, called Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.

I really want to get into the habit of practicing Compline and “examen” before I go to sleep each night. Tragically, I keep forgetting. Examen is the practice of a detailed examination of the conscience, typically done at the end of the day. As a spiritual discipline, though, it goes deeper than just checking the conscience. It examines the day; what went well, what didn’t go well? What could have been better? How did I react to certain situations?

These are the kinds of things that I think about when I consider the “night watch,” or remembering God “upon my bed.” I’ve gotten out of the habit of the “bedtime prayers” that I grew up with. It is something that I really need to get back into.


“Release yourself from the bondage of your own judgment. Love yourself without condition. Love yourself through the walls of defensiveness and the darkness of your deeds. Love yourself beyond whatever you deserve for such is the love of God.” ~ Adolfo Quezada, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
(Psalms 37:7 ESV)

“Be still” is translated “rest” in the KJV. The Hebrew word is damam, which can be translated “to be dumb,” or “to be astonished,” but also means “cease,” “hold peace,” “quiet self,” “rest,” “be silent,” and so on.

Is this not the same sort of thing that happens when we remember the Lord upon our beds, meditating on Him during the watches of the night?

How many of us go to sleep at night worrying about current events or things that happened during the day that trouble us? And how many times do these worries cause us lack of sleep?

This is one of the purposes of Compline and Examen. To quiet the soul before trying to sleep. One thing I do every night (now that I think about this) is to turn on a meditation app that I have on my phone. It’s called “Abide.” They have great, Scripture-based sleep meditations. I have a set of headband-headphones that I put on (so that it doesn’t bother my wife), and I start one of the meditations. They allegedly last up to forty minutes, but I have yet to make it to the end of one of them.

This isn’t the same thing as purposeful examination of the conscience and the day that preceded, but it certainly can’t hurt anything to fall asleep listening to Scripture.

This verse, though, instructs us to not worry about evildoers or those who prosper. Eugene Peterson translated that verse this way:

Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
(Psalms 37:7 MSG)

In this, we are shown patience and endurance by the Holy Spirit. Waiting requires great patience; resting in the Lord requires great patience and faith.


Father, help me to wait and rest better. I pray for Your Holy Spirit to remind me, each night, to examine the day, to check my conscience, to see how I could have done better, and also how I could have done worse. Help me to remember You on my bed, and meditate in the watches of the night. If I have trouble going back to sleep, simply draw my thoughts and meditations toward You in prayer.

Thank You for these words of worship and wisdom, and help me to apply them to my life today.

Even so, please come quickly, Lord Jesus!


“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.” ~ Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer

Grace and peace, friends.

Look

Today is Saturday, the fourteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of May.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,438

I initially published this without coming back up and adding a few things.

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be in the circulation department of the Hurst Public Library, today.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Boston Red Sox, last night, 7-1. Not a good showing at all, as Rick Pivetta pretty much shut down the Rangers bats, and the notorious Boston bullpen didn’t have to work very hard. Dane Dunning got his second loss of the season. The Rangers are now 13-18 for the season, but remain in fourth place in the AL West, as the Athletics also lost. The Sox are 12-20, still in last place in the AL East, 12 games behind the Yankees. The two teams will play again today, at 6:05 CDT. Glenn Otto will start for the Rangers.

The Yankees continue to hold the best record in MLB, with 24-8 on the season. The Reds continue to have the worst record, but also continue to improve, as they have a three-game win streak. Since the Tigers won, yesterday, the Reds are now the only remaining team that has yet to win ten games. They are 9-24.

The Astros continue to have the longest win streak with 11 consecutive wins. The Rockies and Blue Jays continue to have the longest losing streak, now at five games. The Dodgers have the highest positive run differential, at +74, and the Reds have the highest negative differential, at -62. The Rangers are close to the middle of the pack, with -11. Last night’s loss by six runs tied the worst lost they have had this season.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, almighty and holy One, whose glory shines upon the earth so that we may find joy in you and may live rejoicing in all your loving-kindness, spread out your hands in blessing over all people. Spread your blessing over the happy and the sad, over the courageous and the weak. Shepherd them in your love, in the great grace you have given through Jesus Christ, confirmed in us through the Holy Spirit. Do not let us remain degraded and worthless. Lift our hearts above what is transitory, for you have given us something eternal to live by. Help us every day so that we can reach the goal you have set for us, for many others, and finally for all peoples of the earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
(Romans 5:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we have peace with God because of what Jesus has done
2. for the light and truth of God, sent out from Him to guide me into His presence (Psalm 43)
3. for the example of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, given by Jesus in Matthew 6
4. for Paul's command in Romans 12 to outdo one another in showing honor to each other
5. for the community of saints, in which we all help each other stay on the path
Send out your light and your truth; 
let them guide me. 
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
 to the place where you live. 
There I will go to the altar of God, 
to God—the source of all my joy.
 I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God! 
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 43:3-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “blossom.” Algernon Charles Swinburne, English poet, is quoted as saying, “Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”

This is not a word that appears in Scripture very often. It is normally associated with Spring. The appropriateness of this reading for today would largely depend, I suppose on where one lives. It’s mid-May, so “Spring is in the air, right?” Except I live in the DFW area of Texas, where we are currently edging toward triple-digit temperatures. We already had our “week” of Spring.

However, I do find some references to “blossom” in places like Isaiah.

The time is coming when Jacob’s descendants will take root. Israel will bud and blossom and fill the whole earth with fruit!
(Isaiah 27:6 NLT)

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
(Isaiah 35:1 NLT)

The LORD will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.
(Isaiah 51:3 NLT)

Then there are a couple references in the last chapter of Hosea.

"I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. 
“O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” 
Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.
(Hosea 14:5-9 NLT)

It is the Lord’s great mercy and grace that give life. When our hearts feel barren, or bereft of hope, the Holy Spirit will cause us to blossom with new life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray for Your grace and mercy to flourish within Your people, blossoming into hope and joy, as we walk through this world in Your kingdom. We definitely have reason to be concerned, if we allow our awareness to focus on the wrong things. But help us to focus on You, and on Your promises, those “great and precious promises” that You have given us, that we might share in Your divine nature.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
(Romans 12:10 NLT)

This is something that I will never stop writing about, whenever the opportunity arises. This verse comes right on the heels of verse 9, which I have featured a few times, here.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

There are, of course, a variety of translations for verse 10. While the NLT says “take delight in honoring,” the ESV words is, “Outdo one another in showing honor,” almost making it a competition to see who can honor each other the most. How cool would that be, if the church (small c) would do that, rather than people seeking their own honor? The NIV simply says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Not so much a competition, just a simple act of looking at someone else as being more important than one’s self. I like that, and the NLT, a little better. Because, if we take the mindset of the ESV and attempt to outdo one another, then it might be done in the pretense that is forbidden in verse 9.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.
(1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT)

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
(Colossians 4:5-6 NLT)

Here’s the thing. We never know when someone is in desperate need of some grace. When someone cuts us off in traffic, or drives aggressively, we seem to always assume that that person is just rude and inconsiderate. But, in truth, we know absolutely nothing about that person (more than likely). I believe that the Lord would have us assume something different. I believe that, if we are going to make the mistake of assuming (we all know what happens when you assume, right?), we should err on the side of grace, and assume that something is troubling that person. What if we prayed for them instead of grumbling, or, ever worse, flipping them off?

The world is in desperate need of grace, right now, and I fear that what it is seeing from the “church” (small c, again) is anything but grace. They are seeing whining and complaining about “freedoms” and “rights.” When, all the while, the Gospel message is telling us, quite plainly, that we are supposed to be honoring one another above ourselves, even to the point of outdoing one another in this effort.

I also believe that this is what we will see coming out of the true Church (Capital C, the Body of Christ). There’s an old Gospel song that I used to sing. “The Church Triumphant (Is Alive and Well).” That’s true, when you use the capital C Church, the Body of Christ. Not so much the “church,” which is, for the most part, a human institution.

Father, teach us to live in the country of grace, where we willingly and eagerly honor one another over ourselves. Help us to take our focus off of “freedoms” and “rights,” and remember that we have surrendered those to You. Yes, in Christ, we have been made “free,” but this freedom is the freedom that enables us to obey Paul’s commands in Romans 12, to not just pretend to love, but to really love, and to outdo one another in showing honor, to consider others to be more significant than ourselves. By doing this, we will show the world that there is truly a better way to live.

In light of the recent examination of some of Martin Luther’s words, in the past week, we might also consider that our reaction toward people might be a symptom of our own failure to trust God with our anxieties. Consider the following questions.

  1. “Are there time when I am crippled by anxiety and stress? Do I sometimes take my feeling of worry and anxiety out on other people in my circle? How can Jesus’ counsel help me with this?”
  2. “What concrete steps might I take to develop a deeper trust in God?”

The reference to Jesus’s counsel in the first question refers to the passage in Matthew 6 that was examined during those readings from Martin Luther.

Jesus spoke of birds and flowers, so it might be wise to do what He said to do. Jesus said, “Look at the birds. . . . Look at the lilies of the field.” Don’t just think about them. Actually go out and look at them; watch them.

At one point, Luther mentions “the concern of love.” This, we believe, is “a focused concern for the well-being of others,” while a “greedy concern,” well, you can imagine . . . it refers to the concern of the selfish heart.

These are all issues with which we must wrestle, ourselves. There is no cookie-cutter answer, for all of our circumstances are unique. Luther’s writing gives us “the idea of a life free from ulcer-generating anxiety,” and leaves us “with the responsibility of translating the reality into [our] life circumstances.” And, to help us, “we have as many teachers and preachers as there are birds in the air, as many theologians and masters as there are flowers in the field.”

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

Father, these are words that help us to continue to grapple with the issues of loving one another and considering one another more significant or honorable than ourselves. When we get caught up in “greedy concern,” we are focusing on our own needs and our own selfish hearts. And I certainly know how selfish my own heart can be. I still grapple with this, every day. Your Spirit, though, helps me set self aside and care more for others, and I thank You for this! I pray that this would be a common occurrence within the confines of Your Church, Father. May the Body of Christ live as Christ lived, caring for each other, and caring for those around us.

I also pray, Father, that You remind us how much we need each other to keep us on the path. It is too easy to lose our focus and forget that our lives are pretty much simply wrapped up in You and us. When I began this journey of faith, it was You and me. But things get cluttered and I frequently lose my way as I get sidetracked by things of the world and distracted by my own selfish ways. When I get back in community, when we, the Church, embrace one another and greet one another and pray for one another, it gets back to where it is just us and You. Jesus, Your Son, is the center of it all. Help us to keep Him the center.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
(John 13:34-35 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Poetry of God’s Love

Today is Friday, the thirteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,437

I had a fine day in the Computer Center, yesterday. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I was able to help most of the patrons who needed it without any assistance from the manager. There were a couple of instances that required his assistance, and one of those turned out to be something that was wrong with the program on one of the computers that is supposed to wipe all the memory when it reboots at the end of a session.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the KC Royals, 3-1. They also won the series, and I swear I heard one of the announcers say that the Rangers have not won a “rubber” game at home since 2001?? Anyway, the Rangers are now 13-17, still in fourth place, still seven games out of first, and still a half game ahead of the Athletics. They begin a weekend series against my other favorite team, tonight, the Boston Red Sox, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox did not play yesterday. They remain 11-20, and are in last place in the AL East, 12 games out!

The NY Yankees (23-8) continue to hold the best record in MLB, two games ahead of the cross-town Mets. The Yankees are the only MLB team that has not lost at least ten games. The Cincinnati Reds (8-24), while still holding the worst record, have been improving. They are only one game behind the struggling Detroit Tigers (9-23). And those two are the only remaining teams who have yet to win ten games.

The Houston Astros have the longest current win streak (10), while the Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays both have four game losing streaks. The LA Dodgers continue to hold the largest positive run differential, at 76, while the Cincinnati Reds hold the largest negative differential, at 68. That’s all the stats I care to give you, today.

I have an appointment at the Atlas Vein Clinic at 10:30, this morning, where they will look at the results of my wearing compression socks for the past twelve weeks, and we will discuss the next steps. I doubt, at this time, that I will proceed with any procedure, just yet, as I still need to schedule a colonoscopy (Wheee!!) in the near future.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, whose light shines out of the darkness and gleams brightly into our hearts, we thank you for all the goodness you allow us to see. We want to see your goodness clearly and have confidence in it, no matter how much around us is dark and disquieting. We want to remain firm and full of trust, looking to what you have put into our hearts so that we may come to know you. Be with us with your Spirit. Lead us to realize ever more clearly that we are made for your honor. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the light that shines out of the darkness into my heart that I might know the glory of God
2. for the Lord's unfailing love, poured out over me
3. that we are God's poetry, still in the process of being written
4. for the Lord's comfort in times of suffering and sorrow, and that we can turn around and provide that same comfort to others who suffer and mourn
5. that not a single thing has ever been accomplished by worrying about it
6. for the "congregation" with which we gather each Sunday morning, a group of people "who have decided, together, to pay attention" (Eugene Peterson)
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 
I thirst for God, the living God. 
When can I go and stand before him?
(Psalms 42:1-2 NLT)
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 42:5 NLT)
But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, 
and through each night I sing his songs, 
praying to God who gives me life.
(Psalms 42:8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is a Greek word, “poiema.” The word is traditionally translated “workmanship” in most translations of the Bible, in Ephesians 2:10.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

The NLT renders it “masterpiece,” and the NIV says “handiwork.” The interesting thing is that this is also the word from which we derive our English word “poetry” or “poem.” From this, we can get the beautiful image that we are, in fact, poetry that God is writing. A recent translation, called The Passion Translation, renders this verse:

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
(Ephesians 2:10 TPT)

In recent years, I have become a bigger fan of poetry, and have even ventured into the writing of Haiku, from time to time. Most Haikus that have been seen in this blog, unless otherwise accredited, were original. To learn of this meaning of this word gives me great delight.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Your amazing love;
You are writing on my heart;
Lovely poetry

Father, I thank You for the beauty of this word, and its various meanings. There are times when poetry says things to me that normal prose cannot convey. I don’t quite understand why, other than to know that You have given my hear the ability to appreciate beauty in many things. This gives me great delight, and it helps me to delight in You! I pray that You continue to write Your great poetry of love in my heart and in the hearts of all of Your children. I also pray that, in the writing of this poetry of love, You erase all of the meanness and hatred that still resides in the human heart.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
(Isaiah 58:11 NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18 NLT)

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 NLT)

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT)

Father, maybe someone needs to see these verses today. I thank You for the comfort You give those who mourn, for we all have mourned at one point in our lives, and we will all mourn again, surely. Until the day when we all get to heaven, and there is only rejoicing, there will be mourning and sorrow on this earth. It is inevitable. So we praise You for this comfort that You give. I also pray that You would help us who have been comforted by You give comfort forward to those who are suffering in sorrow. As Your Word tells us, You are our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. You comfort us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1).

Martin Luther, in The Place of Trust, reminds us that we daily see examples of God’s provision, right before our eyes. He urges that we allow these illustrations to persuade us to “lay aside your anxiety and your unbelief and to remember that you are Christians and not heathens.”

He paraphrases Jesus’s teachings from Matthew 6. “Since you are Christians, you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”

Then Luther says, himself, “If nothing grew in the field unless we were anxious about it, we would all have died in our cradles; and during the night while we are lying asleep, nothing could grow. Indeed, even by worrying ourselves to death we could not make a single blade of grass grow in the field.”

He goes on to say that we are, in effect, godless people, when we refuse to give up our anxiety in the face of such overwhelming care from our Father.

I love the example of what it would be like if nothing grew unless we were anxious about it. It is a humorous example, but also quite true.

Let us take to heart Jesus’s final statement in that passage.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

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

Father, I thank You for these teachings of both Jesus and the examples by Martin Luther. I am quite grateful for the teachings of the ancients that we still have available. I am grateful for the technology that has preserved the words of these people, that we might learn from them. Certainly, they all had their flaws, and we are not going to agree with every word that they said or wrote, but we can still extract diamonds from their library of work. Give us discernment as we look at the words that came out of those eras.

Help us to stop worrying. People are full of fear and worry, right now, over worldly circumstances that truly have no bearing on eternity. Inflation and gas prices have absolutely nothing relevant to us, when we consider Your kingdom. All of these things are mild inconveniences in the face of the treasure that we have awaiting us in eternity. So give us stronger faith, that we might stop the worrying and focus on what is waiting for us, and how we might lead other people into that glory.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
(Romans 8:18 NLT)

Eugene Peterson’s reading today, is a simple, single sentence. “A Christian congregation is a group of people who decide, together, to pay attention.”

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

I love this. “Pay attention to what??” you might ask. I can’t speak for Peterson, but my answer would be “anything and everything.” We pay attention to God and His Word. We pay attention to what is going on around us. However, we don’t worry or fret or complain bitterly about what is going on around us (we might, but we should not). Rather we pray about it, and we look forward, with great anticipation to that inheritance that awaits us.

Father, I am grateful for the congregation with which I gather each week. We are a group of people, I believe, who have decided to “pay attention.” Help us to follow Your commands to love You and to love others. Help us to be even better at paying attention to Your Word, as well as to events around us. Help us to not be ones who moan and complain about things, but, rather, look at the world through the glasses of faith; faith in You, faith in Christ, faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us, provide for us, to continue to save us, and, eventually, to lead us Home, where we will live forever in Your glory.

I pray desperately that You would inspire Your people to stop fretting and worrying about things because of this main reason; when the unbelievers see Your children doing nothing but moaning and complaining (and being angry, to boot), it certainly does nothing to draw them into Your kingdom. And I believe that is one of the things we are supposed to be about . . . even though it is Your job to draw them in, I believe that we might be making Your job a little bit more difficult than it should be.

“If the world hates you because of Jesus, that’s fine. If the world hates Jesus because of you, that’s a problem.” ~ seen in several TikTok videos in the past week.

Grace and peace, friends.

Love Beyond Reason

Today is Tuesday, the tenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,434

Yesterday seemed a little busy, but not terrible. I got C’s oil changed and filled up her car with gas, as planned. I also got several loads of laundry completed, and then cooked chili for us for dinner, last night.

Mama and I watched most of the Texas Rangers game in NYC, but they lost, 1-0. It was obviously a very close game. Both pitchers pitched well, the Yankees pitcher flirting with a no-hitter. In the end, the Rangers got 2 hits and the Yankees only got 3, but they were able to plate the run. John Gray, the starter, did pretty well, and was not pegged for the loss. The Rangers are now 11-16 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Athletics, who broke their losing streak yesterday. The Rangers begin a series with the KC Royals today at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Boston Red Sox did not play, yesterday. That’s good, because it meant they didn’t lose. Hopefully, the rest did them some good, and they can maybe refocus and win a few. They face the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta tonight at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees are back on top of MLB, with 20-8 record, being the third team to have 20 wins. The LA Dodgers (19-8) are only a half game behind them. The Cincinatti Reds have a win streak! They have won TWO IN A ROW! They still have the worst MLB record, at 6-23, but they are only 2.5 games behind the Tigers. There are now only three teams who have yet to win 10 games; the Reds, the Tigers, and the Royals. Let’s hope the Rangers can keep that true for the Royals. The Astros continue to hold the longest win streak at 7, and the Tigers now have the longest losing streak, at 6. The LA Dodgers have, by far, the biggest run differential, at +70, while the Reds have the biggest negative at -74.

It’s Tuesday, so I work tonight, from 4:15 to 8:15, at the library. It’s my “heavy” week, so I will also be working tomorrow and Thursday, have Friday off, and work Saturday. I think there might be plans for C and Mama to go to Mineral Wells on Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, bless us who have become united in our hope in you and in our expectation of your help on this earth, where people live in all kinds of foolish ways. Bless your Word within us. Grant us your Holy Spirit to restore life and gladness to our hearts, even in grief and suffering. Grant this not only in the distress of the whole world, but also in our own lives as long as we remain on this earth. Let signs be seen on every hand that you help us and give us a strength we can rely on. You help us in all circumstances every day, every year, ever anew. For this we thank you and praise your name. Amen.
(Today's daily prayer from Plough)
Trust in the LORD and do good. 
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 
Commit everything you do to the LORD. 
Trust him, and he will help you. 
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, 
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:3-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the safety that I feel in the presence of God
2. that, in Christ, there is no difference between any of us; we are all equal in Him
3. for the hope of the full realization of my salvation, my inheritance in heaven; may I wait patiently and confidently
4. that God cares for us more than He cares for the birds of the air; this should give us great confidence in Him
5. for the various platforms of social media that are available to spread the positive message of the Kingdom of God; I pray that people would stop using them to do harm and spread harmful words

Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
(Job 40:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “differences.” Author Tom Robbins is quoted as saying, “Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.”

In many ways, everyone is different. According to science, everyone has a unique DNA string, with very few exceptions. In many ways, we are alike, as well. Everyone has at least one doppelganger in this world.

While Mr. Robbins has a good point, all too often, we focus too much on the differences. Much ado is made about the differences between, say, male and female. And there are people out there that are proud of their difference. Some people want to be known as outside the norm.

But here’s the thing. According to the Bible, in the eyes of God, there is no difference. No, that doesn’t mean we are made out of cookie cutters. It doesn’t mean that we are rolled out like doughnut dough and run through that machine that cuts out fifty doughnuts that all look exactly the same.

What I mean by this, and what I believe Paul meant, is that, in Christ, we are all equal. It has been said, and I have quoted this here, before, that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Here’s what Paul says:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28 NLT)

Here is another passage that brings the same kind of message:

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

Where the NLT says “no matter who we are,” the NIV says, “there is no difference.”

So, yes, let us celebrate differences, as long as we are looking at them in a positive light. As soon as you use “differences” as a way to place yourself ahead of someone else or make yourself feel more important than someone else, you have crossed a line into sin. Because, here’s another word from Paul:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for the differences in all of us that keep things interesting. But I pray that we not use differences as a way to discriminate against others. It makes me sad that I see a lot of that going on, these days, and, at times, even using Your name as an excuse. That ought not be, Father. I pray that Your Spirit would intervene in these cases and change hearts and minds to view everyone as equal under Your gaze. This, I believe, falls under Your command to love one another. So, please help us to do that. May we embrace differences, but not use them.

King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.”
(Daniel 4:1-3 NLT)

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
(Romans 8:24-25 NLT)

This is the essence of hope. We are looking forward to something that we do not yet have, and we wait. Sometimes not so patiently, and most definitely, not always confidently.

If I’m being honest (isn’t that a strange phrase? I mean, shouldn’t we always be “being honest?), I do not always wait patiently. If my wife would read that statement, she might fall on the floor laughing. I do believe I’m getting better, though. Confidence is another thing entirely.

I’ve always had this problem. My faith is not an issue, when it comes to what I believe God can do. I’m just not always confident that He wants to or He will. So I wait, sometimes not patiently, and sometimes not very confidently.

But there are things that I am both patient and confident about. One of those is the “future grace” (a John Piper-ism) of my inheritance in “heaven.” This is something that I hope for, because I do not yet have it. In one sense, I do have it, because it is, I believe, set aside for me. But in a more tangible sense, I do not yet possess it, because I cannot see it or experience it.

So I hope. And, even though I have been “saved,” I do have salvation, I am also still waiting for salvation to be fully realized. I long for the reality of this, yes, with all my heart. But I wait. Patiently and confidently. And that changes the way I look at the world.

Father, I thank You for this hope that I have. For if I was not confident of my eternal inheritance, I would have no hope. And, frankly, I do not see how anyone can survive, in this world, without hope. My hope in Christ is what allows me to look around me and see all the trouble and still keep going. That hope is what keeps me from despair. And that hope is also what keeps me from chasing after “causes” that are not relevant to Your Kingdom. Help me to walk more confidently and patiently in that hope, Father.

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? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
(Matthew 6:26-27 NLT)

Here is something that addresses that struggle that I have with confidence in my waiting. In The Place of Trust, Martin Luther also addresses this, and, quite handily, puts us to shame as he speaks of the birds being our “schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men.”

Finally, he says, “Now, since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and of casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more. Thus this is an excellent illustration that puts us all to shame. We, who are rational people and who have the Scriptures in addition, do not have enough wisdom to imitate the birds. When we listen to the little birds singing every day, we are listening to our own embarrassment before God and the people. But after his fall from the word and the commandment of God, man became crazy and foolish; and there is no creature alive which is not wiser than he. A little finch, which can neither speak nor read, is his theologian and master in the Scriptures, even though he has the whole Bible and his reason to help him.”

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

I find this both amusing and shaming. Amusing because of the way Luther presents it to us, but shaming, because it is true. Any amount of worry that I might experience falls to the ground when I consider the truth of Jesus’s words. And, when I acknowledge the truth of those words and embrace it, the weight that is taken from my shoulders is immense. We have no excuse, my brothers and sisters, to worry about anything. We have ever reason to live like the birds. Not that we don’t need to work for our living, because that is our lot in life. We need to do that for which we were created. The birds can do that for which they were created, and the Lord takes good care of them. We have our own purpose, and when we are walking in that purpose, we will have all that we need.

Of course, “need” is the operative word in that sentence.

Father, I thank You for the truth of these words, and I thank You that they arrived on the heels of a brief discourse about my struggles with confidence. There will always be doubt in my mind when it comes to certain prayers that I lift up. I don’t know if it is Your will or plan to heal someone from a disease. I don’t know what You have in store for someone who is suffering or struggling with something. But I do know that You are there with us, and that everything we do, we do in Your presence. I also know that You love us beyond measure and beyond human reason.

If we could fill the ocean with ink and make the sky a parchment, and attempt to write Your love on that parchment, it could not contain all the words, and it would drain the ocean dry. Help me and help all of us to embrace this love, this love beyond human reason, and to live our lives in confidence that You will care for us like You care for the sparrows.

These words from Eugene Peterson, to a large degree, sum up the way I feel about my presence here, and on other forms of social media.

“My first and continuing pastoral purpose in this pulpit is that you confess Christ personally. As a pastor, I have never wanted to be a moral policeman. Your morals are not that interesting to me. I am not interested in rewarding you when you are good or punishing you when you are bad, nor as a pastor have I wanted to gather large crowds here for religious entertainment. It makes little difference to me whether there are many or few in this place. Religious crowds are the easiest crowds to gather. But increasing the number of people under one roof has never been a conspicuously successful way of involving people in what is essential. The pastoral act that is central to me is to introduce God at his personal best (Jesus, the Christ) to human beings at their personal best.

“That is exactly what I hope happens here each week. I don’t want merely to tell you about this great story I have been reading in this book (the Bible); I want you to meet the Author. And he has told me that he wants to meet you–to involve you in a new story he is making. I can arrange the interview.

“Do you see why I have little interest in entertaining you with gossip about God? Do you see why I have little interest in lecturing you about what kind of life you ought to lead? There is something far more interesting and more to the point about introducing you personally to the personal God so that you no longer talk about God but to him. I long for you to confess Christ personally and get in on the new creative work that God is writing: the story of your salvation.”

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

Obviously, I’m not a pastor with a pulpit. But I am a person with a forum, a form of media that I use to proclaim a message. I might be guilty, at times of “lecturing,” but that is only because I desire to see people doing what Jesus commanded us to do, which is to love God and love people.

One thing I do not do is beg for followers or try to manipulate people into following me. That is something that I find quite annoying on TikTok and other social media platforms (YouTube, as well, although, at this point I do not have a YouTube channel), the constant begging and trying to attract followers. I couldn’t care less what that number is. Oh, sure, I’ll admit that it felt good to see that I now have over 1000 followers on WordPress, but that is not my intent; that is not my purpose. That just means that there are that many more people who will be introduced, in some way to Jesus.

My favorite part of the piece by Peterson is the bit where he says he wants people to be talking to God, rather than talking about Him. And that is why I include my prayers in this blog. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to not only think about, meditate on, and contemplate God and the Scriptures, but I want to also encourage people to pray.

Father, I thank You for this platform that has been provided, and the freedom I have to express my beliefs on said platform. I thank You that this goes out all around the world, and that it is available for people to see almost anywhere. I do realize that there are exceptions to this, because of various circumstances. I pray for this blog to reach people for Your kingdom, for Your “cause.” I believe with all my heart that Your cause, the Gospel of Christ, is the only cause worth following and fighting for. I pray that someone will read these words, today, and get a glimpse of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that they might being to experience Your love beyond reason.

I don’t even have to know about it. I send out these words with the confidence that You will work through them. I have the same confidence in Your Word, because You have said that Your Word will not return to You without serving its purpose. I also pray that You would, as far as it serves Your purpose, “redeem” all forms of social media, that they would be used for good and not harm. All praise and glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

Praise Him Anyway

“We cannot take a word of Jesus here and think on it for a few minutes, then admire and act there. This is a world-determining and life-transforming person we are involved with. No detail of our lives is exempt from his energetic, eternal work.”

Today is Monday, the ninth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,433

We had a most wonderful day, yesterday. Our gathering at the house of Brandon and Kristin was a great time. A couple brought “cronuts,” which are “donuts” made out of croissants. They were quite delicious. We simply had a great time fellowshipping, then we read some Scripture and took the supper. We kind of didn’t leave time for prayer this time, but will work on that next week.

The baked potatoes and steaks were marvelous. Even though I cooked them, I will boast just a bit and say that we never had a better ribeye at Hoffbrau, and theirs are pretty darned good.

C and I had a great time at our massage, as well. Those people do a magnificent job. The environment is so very calm and peaceful, and the way they do a couples massage is so tranquil. It was just amazing. We plan on trying to get over there at least once a quarter. They have a monthly membership, but we kind of feel that that would be too often and it might lose its “specialness” if we do it that often.

The Texas Rangers managed to split the double header with New York, and, while I’m disappointed that the win streak ended, I’m proud of them for holding their own against the current best team in MLB. (Scratch that . . . after yesterday, the Dodgers are back on top, thanks to the Rangers!) The first game, they lost in the bottom of the ninth, 2-1. Dane Dunning pitched spectacularly, and had five innings of no-hit ball. Glenn Otto started game two, pitched very well, but gave up 2 runs. Garrett Richards got the win, as they tied and went ahead in the seventh inning, first on some smart base running by Jonah Heim, and then a two-run shot by Brad Miller.

So the Rangers hold fourth place, with a 11-15 record, two games ahead of Oakland, who has now lost nine consecutive games. The Rangers finish this series in NY with a makeup game today, at 12:05 CDT. I will likely watch at least part of that game.

The Red Sox . . . man. I don’t even want to talk about them.

As previously stated above, the LA Dodgers now hold the best record in MLB, at 19-7. The Mets, however, were the first team to win 20 games. The Reds won a game!! Actually, the seem top have won two, since the last time I looked, because they are 5-23, now. Still firmly entrenched in the cellar, but things may be looking up. The Athletics now have the longest current losing streak, at nine games. Unfortunately, the current best win streak belongs to the Astros. This, too, shall pass.

Today, I have a couple of things to get done. Most importantly is getting the oil changed in my wife’s car and filling it up with gold gas. This is a sort of carryover Mother’s Day “gift.” I told her to take my car to work today, and I would take care of those things for her.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, our God and Father, we thank you that in all the misery and night on earth you have let your hope dawn as a light shining for all your people - all who honor your name, all who dwell in Jesus Christ through forgiveness of sins and through resurrection to a new life. Praise to your name. Praise to Jesus Christ. Praise to the Holy Spirit, who can comfort, teach, and guide our hearts. O Father in heaven, we can never thank you enough that we are allowed to be a people full of grace, full of hope, and full of confidence that your kingdom is coming at last to bring salvation and peace for the whole world. Amen.
(Today's Daily Prayer at Plough)

“No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”
(Isaiah 60:19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for hope that dawns as a light shining for all of God's people
2. for God, my everlasting light and my glory
3. that, no matter what is going on around me, I can praise and thank God, anyway
4. for the compassion, mercy, and unfailing love of God; I pray that He helps me to display those characteristics in my own life
5. that things in God's kingdom are far better than we could ever imagine; therefore, I will not focus on what appears to be "bad" around me

God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.
(Acts 19:11-12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “anyway.” Interesting choice, but a good one, because it takes into account anything that may occur in our lives and says, “I will praise You, anyway.” The choice of Scripture is fitting.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 NLT)

I rather like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased this:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to GOD. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on GOD’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 MSG)

The writer of today’s reading, Bob, compares the word “anyway” with the word “whatever,” which he notes was used extensively by his teenaged offspring.

“‘Whatever’ signaled indifference; ‘anyway’ signified determination. ‘Whatever’ implied helplessness; ‘anyway’ indicated strength. ‘Whatever’ suggested stagnation; ‘anyway’ denoted motion.”

Bob calls Habakkuk’s passage, there, the “anyway prayer.” And even though the text doesn’t use the word “anyway,” it can be paraphrased from the word, “yet.” Even though these things may or may not happen, I will praise the Lord, anyway.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I can easily embrace the words of Habakkuk, this morning. Even though there may be things that challenge me, threaten to dishearten me, I look to You for comfort and strength, and I will praise You anyway, because I believe, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
(Psalms 103:8 NLT)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT)

So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
(Romans 9:16 NLT)

Father, since You have shown such compassion and mercy and unfailing love, who are we, who am I to not do the same? We have fallen far short, I fear, in those categories, in general. While I do see examples of Your love and mercy, if I look hard enough, what is more visible is many of us refusing to display the characteristics that Jesus displayed when He walked on the earth. His words, His commands, tell us to love one another, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love You. Help me to do these things, Father, in the same way that Jesus did. Mold my heart, Father, to love more.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
(Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Martin Luther discusses this passage in The Place of Trust. This life on earth does not last forever. Therefore, expending energy on gaining property and wealth is a waste of our time. Jesus tells us that we cannot serve both God and “mammon,” which means, in a sense, wealth as an evil influence, or “the devil of covetousness.”

There are certainly things with which we must be concerned in this life. We do need food; we do need clothing; we do need shelter. But we must not “worry” about these things, to the point that it is all our heart thinks about. There is a fine line between making sure we provide for ourselves and our families and obsessing over the procurement of more stuff and money.

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

Father, I pray that all of us would be able to follow Jesus’s words on dealing with possessions and money. While I don’t believe that You expect all of Your people to sell all their possessions and give everything to the poor (that was only commanded to one individual that I know of), I do believe that You would have us hold on loosely to our possessions, especially considering that everything we “own” has come from You. So help us to not worry about things and know that, just like the flowers and birds, You are going to take care of us.

What does the word “salvation” mean? We think we know, because the word is so common in our vocabulary. But, in a sense, it has almost become a cliché.

Eugene Peterson says, “it refers to action that exceeds our comprehension even as it invites our participation. We need to return to the word with fresh attention, with lively curiosity, over and over again, and discover anew the central action of the universe. Jesus is ready to save.”

Salvation is what Jesus is up to. It is His “hidden” agenda, although it really isn’t all that hidden. But the thing is, those of us who name His name and gather to worship Him must be willing and ready to “enter into his act of salvation.”

This does not mean we “work” for our salvation. Not at all. Participating in it and working for it are two completely different things. We have to understand that “salvation” is not a “one and done” thing. This is a fallacy that may or may not have been propagated by certain preachers.

“We cannot take a word of Jesus here and think on it for a few minutes, then admire and act there. This is a world-determining and life-transforming person we are involved with. No detail of our lives is exempt from his energetic, eternal work.” (Emphasis mine)

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

One big problem that I have observed is that there are way too many people who think that participating in, or entering into, this salvation means nothing more than evangelism. They think that by “preaching the Gospel,” that they have done their job. This is, apparently, based on the fact that the last thing that Jesus said to His was what we call “The Great Commission.” But it seems to me that Jesus spent a lot more time talking about this:

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
(Matthew 25:35-36 NLT)

For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
(Matthew 25:42-43 NLT)

I would recommend reading the entire passage, which, by the way, is not described as a “parable.”

The words and ways of Jesus are not meant to be observed and appreciated from afar. They require a response. It is not possible to simply think that Jesus was a “good teacher.” That, my friends, is absurd. He claimed to be God.

Supposedly C. S. Lewis said this thing, but I don’t care if it was him or someone else, because it is logical and true. Either Jesus was who He said He was, or He was a lunatic, or He was a liar. Those are the only three choices. A “good teacher” is not one of those options.

I believe that Jesus is who He said He was. Therefore, my life needs to reflect that, and it requires more than just preaching or teaching the Gospel. It requires that I sacrifice myself, my resources, my possessions, all that I have, in His name.

It’s a work in progress, this “salvation” thing. Back to that thing I said about “one and done,” it’s not something that just happens, and that’s it. We must immerse ourselves in this “world-determining and life-transforming person.” If we claim to follow Christ, and someone who is “down and out” asks us for something, and our response is “Get a job!!” there is something wrong; there is something very wrong.

Father, I please forgive us for when we get so self-absorbed that we can’t see the plight of those around us who are hurting. Forgive us when our eyes are all on ourselves and our “rights” and our bank accounts and how much we have to pay for gas, instead of maybe things we can do to help others. Help us to remember those words from Habakkuk, way back up at the beginning of this. When gas prices are high, when inflation is out of control, when things simply look bleak all around, I will praise You anyway. Because, truly, when we are in Your kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine. I will not focus on what is “bad,” especially since “good” and “bad” seem to be somewhat arbitrary in human eyes, anyway.

Thank You for the great salvation of Jesus Christ, and all that He has accomplished for us in Your name. I pray that You would help me to be involved in that salvation, and that I would keep my eyes open, to see where You are working in this world, and to join in, with all my heart and soul, as I walk in Your kingdom. All glory and praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Known By God

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the twenty-fourth of November.

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,267

Thanksgiving is tomorrow!

We got the outside lights up, yesterday. And of course, one of them is already not lighting up. It’s possible it is just a bit loose in the connector. That happens sometimes, especially with a brand new set. We might have a chance to get the ladder back out, later today, and try to fix it. Of course, as well, it is the next to the top light on the house.

I finished a game on my PC, last night, after work. I got home from the library, cooked some eggs and toast for a quick dinner, and sat down to play Cyberpunk 2077. I knew I was close to the end, because, in a recent session, I reached one of those points where you get a warning asking if you’re sure you want to keep going, because there’s not going back from this point. Sure enough, I completed the story line.

As the ending approached, there were multiple choices to be made. There were at least three different choices as to who I wanted to take with me for the final fight, and then, at the very end, there was a very important choice, as well. I like the ending that I got, but am aware that, similar to Fallout 4, there are multiple ending possibilities. Makes me want to play the final sequence again, making different choices, just to see what happens.

But not for now. According to the Steam app, I have put 265+ hours into the game. Time for something different. Hahaha!

Today, I’m working from 9:15-6:15. I’m off tomorrow and Friday, for Thanksgiving holiday. I would have been off tomorrow, anyway. However, I will be working from 1:00-5:00 next Thursday. The circulation manager asked me if I would work that shift, since I’m going to be short hours on that pay period, and she needs help with coverage that day, so I said, “sure!”

Oh. I forgot to mention that we have another cat in the house. We got this one from the Watauga shelter, and she is already two years old and spayed, so we don’t have to worry about that. She is a tabby who looks a lot like S’s cat, Honey. We have decided that she will be called Magnolia. We will probably call her Maggie or Mags, for short.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

What Is A Blessing?, by Daryl Madden

What is a blessing?
But a share of
A taste of heaven
A gift of Gods’ love

Of nothing deserved
But one of pure grace
Let us receive it
With a grateful embrace

A treasure to cherish
Shared in many ways
If we are aware
We will be amazed!

Just a reminder
Of this message true
As a child of God
You’re a blessing too!
LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all my friends and family; you are, indeed, a blessing to me
2. that I am alive and breathing, and have awakened to another new day
3. for the Light of Jesus Christ in my life
4. that I can sing praises to You and make music on various instruments
5. that You know me, intimately, as You know the number of and the names of all the stars in the heavens

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
(Luke 2:52 ESV)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers,
you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.
You need milk,
not solid food,
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness,
since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature,
for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV)

Father, make me more like Jesus, increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with You and those around me. Make me mature in Your Word, living on the “solid food” that comes from constant immersion in it.

Arise,
shine,
for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
(Isaiah 60:1 ESV)

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake,
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven
and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning,
and his clothing white as snow.
And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women,
Do not be afraid,
for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here,
for he has risen,
as he said.
Come, see the place where he lay.
(Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)

“Awake,
O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:14 ESV)

For you are all children of light,
children of the day.
We are not of the night or of the darkness.
(1 Thessalonians 5:5 ESV)

Father, may the Light of Christ shine on and through me, today.

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

“Step out of the traffic!
Take a long, loving look at me,
your High God,
above politics,
above everything.”
(Psalms 46:10 MSG)

As I pause during this quiet morning, I am struck by the Light that is Jesus Christ. My heart’s desire is to be “alive and awake,” shining brightly, in this world of darkness, with the Light of Jesus. I stop to take a long, loving, look at my Father, who is present with me, at all times.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
(Psalms 147:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
(Jonah 1:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that have stirred within me. I linger over them, giving them my attention. Is there something within about which I need to ask God? I pray my life to my Father and rest in His presence.

Do you know how many stars there are? Does anyone? God not only knows the number of stars, He “determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.” Yes, I do realize that this is poetry, not theology. But it gives us insight into the infinite wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of our God. “His understanding has no limit.”

If He knows every star and calls it by name, how much more does He know each of us? God Almighty, the Creator of everything that we can see and much that we cannot see, condescends to know us. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows everything that I am going to do and say today. He knows what I am going to think.

Yet, still He loves me. He remembers that we are only dust.

This causes me to do what Psalm 147:7 tells me to do. “Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.” I don’t have a harp, but I have instruments, and I can use them to make music to God. I also have a voice, with which I can sing praises to Him.

Father, I praise You for Your knowledge of us! You, who created everything, have made Yourself known to us, just as You know us. Someday, when we see You, face to face (as much as will be possible), we will know You as intimately as You know us. But, for now, we cannot handle such knowledge; it is too wonderful, we cannot attain it. As I go through this day, may this knowledge carry me through all challenges that I might face. Give me Your wisdom and shine in me with the Light of Jesus Christ. May His light be visible in me. All glory and praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

"Father,
never let Your salvation,
Your free choice of me,
make me lax or arrogant toward others.
Never let me forget that You've chosen me for both a special relationship as Your child and a special service,
becoming a channel of blessing for all.
In Christ's Name,
amen."

BLESSING

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on
and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.
For such persons loyally in love with God,
the reward is life and more life.
(James 1:12 MSG)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Utterly Meaningless

Today is Sunday, the thirty-first of October, 2021. It is Halloween.

Day 23,243 (the number of days since I was born)

Seven days until Daylight Saving Time ends (fall back . . . you can’t say you weren’t warned!)

There are a number of reasons that today is significant. As already mentioned, it is Halloween. I really enjoy this “holiday” (I don’t really consider it a holiday, because we don’t get the day off from work, if it falls on a work day.), and the celebrations have been going on for a few days, already. I saw some very cool costumes at the library yesterday, as we had a family event yesterday afternoon. My favorite was the son of one of the other library aides (who, next week, will no longer be an aide, but a part time assistant librarian!) who came dressed as a dalek from Dr. Who.

That’s not his costume, of course . . . that’s just an image to show you what a dalek looks like.

Another reason this day is significant is that, 504 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, today is deemed “Reformation Day.”

But, for us, today is the most special because, twelve years ago, today, our oldest daughter, R, got married to J. So we wish them a “Happy Hallowversary” every year on this day!

I think I already mentioned that our church group is not gathering this morning. At this point, I don’t have any plans to attend elsewhere. We will also not be home to hand out candy, this evening, which is probably a good thing, because it means we did not buy any candy, and the last thing we need is overflow Halloween candy laying around our house. Those bite-sized candy bars find a way of always falling in my mouth, you know. Yesterday, at the library, I “accidentally” ate three giant Lemonheads.

We will be going to a friend’s house for “Halloween chili” tonight. That’s one of our favorite events of the year. I think S might even be planning to dress up as a kitten. I might wear my “wizard costume,” which consists of a black trench coat, a felt hat, and a walking stick. Impressive, eh?

There are no other plans for today. And my next shift at the library is Tuesday evening. Did I mention that I got my Covid booster last Thursday? I can’t remember if I did. But I was really tired all day yesterday, and felt a little icky Friday night. But at one point Friday night, I finally got up and took some Advil, so I felt pretty normal yesterday, but just really tired. My left arm is still marginally sore, but not too bad.

The Braves won again, last night, to take a 3-1 lead over the Astros, in the World Series. I’m hoping they can put it away tonight. I suppose I should be more interested in it, if I’m truly a fan of baseball. But I’m not, and it is what it is, right?

I may have forgotten this, yesterday, but I’m still reading The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. I’m close to finishing and should finish it this afternoon.

On to what’s truly important.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Finding Light, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

October ending
seasons come and go,
the River winds on
 
Selah (Psalm 19:8)
©2021 S. Michaels
Strong Tower(Haiku/5-5-5 & Psalms/Proverbs Faith Notes)

I will give thanks to you,
O LORD,
among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
(Psalms 108:3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, though seasons come and go, Your love remains steadfast and sure
2. for the love of family and friends
3. that You are my God and will be my guide, "even to the end" (Psalm 48:14)
4. that the earth is filled with Your love; remind me to look for it every day
5. that I'm not stuck living in the past, but am freely moving forward with You; all praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FOUR – DAY ONE

INVITATION

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
(Psalms 48:14 NIV)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to reflect on my life. It is filled with love, both Yours, and that of family and friends. When I forget about that love, and focus on self and negativity, please remind me of the love.

BIBLE SONG

You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees.
(Psalms 119:57-64 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-5 NIV)

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages over again, I look for words or phrases that stir my heart. I either silently, or possibly out loud, repeat them, meditating, forming prayers in my spirit.

I do love Psalm 119, as long as I am not expected to read the entire chapter (176 verses!) in one sitting. Almost every verse in the psalm mentions, in some form or fashion, the Word of God. It is a symphony of praise, and epic poem, to God’s Word. If you have a version in which the chapter is broken up into groups of eight verses, you see a Hebrew letter designated at the beginning of each group.

If you could read Hebrew (I can’t), you would notice that each verse of that group of eight verses begins with that Hebrew letter that is at the top of the section or stanza. Oddly, we do not know who wrote this psalm.

In the section I’m reading today, although the NIV does not feature this, the Hebrew letter is Heth. The KJV shows it as CHETH, which may be more accurate, because each of the verses begins with a word that starts with ch.

I love the thought of God as my “portion” (v. 57). To me, this indicates that God is enough. He is all I need.

I don’t know that I could ever honestly say that I have actually sought the face of the Lord “with all my heart” (v. 58). It is most definitely something to which I aspire, though.

Verses 63 and 64 also speak to me. I consider anyone who fears the Lord and follows His precepts to be my friend. That does not mean that everyone who claims to be “Christian” will be my friend. There are many who use that label who obviously do not either fear God or follow His precepts. And the statement that the earth is filled with God’s love is something that we all need to be reminded of, frequently. I make mention of this in the prayer following today’s invitation.

I always love getting into Ecclesiastes. It’s a fun book to read, even if it is a bit confusing, sometimes. While its authorship is commonly attributed to Solomon, I am not 100% convinced that this is the case. To me, it is not clear who wrote it, and I have no guesses at all as to who else it might have been, other than Solomon.

And you know what? I really don’t care who wrote it. “The Teacher” wrote it. Some (the respectable Matthew Henry included) would argue that the fact that it says “Son of David,” and “king in Jerusalem” prove that it is Solomon, as he fits both of those descriptions. However, the words “king in Jerusalem,” may describe David, not “the Teacher.”

If read in the wrong spirit, one might immediately find Ecclesiastes to be an exercise in futility, and somewhat depressing. I mean, the thought that “everything is meaningless” can be somewhat discouraging, right?

Some translations, such as KJV and ESV, use the word “vanity,” rather than “meaningless.” The Message uses the word “smoke.” I rather like that. The Hebrew word literally means “emptiness” or “vanity,” so those translations are pretty much correct. But another word could be “unsatisfactory.” I like that, too. It could even be said to mean “transitory.”

Why does the Preacher/Teacher say this? He gives examples. We go to work every day. What gain do we get from this? In our modern day, we get paid with the currency of the land. What do we do with that? We pay bills, we buy things. But, ultimately, it is nothing. In fact, in these days, it’s all pretty much pretend money, anyway. I hardly ever see cash, and the only think I use it for, any more, is to tip my Sonic carhop when I’m at one of the few Sonics that won’t turn on mobile tipping.

We have reached an era that, for many of us, cash is “meaningless” or “vanity.” That scares a lot of people who take Revelation way more literally than they should.

The Teacher looks at generations that come and go, while the earth just keeps on turning. I am alive today. I have lived twenty-three thousand, two hundred and forty-three days (it looks a lot longer when I type it). That’s a lot of days. Or is it?

If you take the creation story literally (which I both do and do not . . . don’t hurt yourself trying to figure that out), the earth has been in existence for somewhere between six and eight thousand years. If you believe some scientists, it has been in existence for billions of years.

I’m just going to go with the six thousand number. If that is correct, and it would be the minimum time that the earth and universe have been in existence, that is more than two million days.

That kind of makes my 23,243 pretty petty, doesn’t it?

So I’m alive today. I might live another twenty or thirty years. Or less or more. Only God knows. But then I will be gone. No one knew me before 1958. And very few will remember me after I’m gone. A handful, likely. And when they’re gone, no one will remember me.

Meaningless. Vanity. Everything is utterly meaningless.

The sun comes up; the sun goes down, and then it runs back around so it can come up again. It’s a meaningless cycle.

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping . . . into the future.”

And then, the Teacher nails the coffin shut by telling us that there is, quite literally, “nothing new under the sun.”

Hah! He never got to see iPhones, right?

See?? Are you depressed yet??

I’m not, actually. Because I kind of understand where he is coming from and where he is going. But you have to read it all in context, and, frankly, it’s rather unhealthy, mentally, to read only the few verses that are highlighted today, and just stop. That really does leave us in a dark, dark place.

If I look only at these things, then, yes, it can be very depressing. But I do not only look at these things. I can honestly, and happily, in fact, look at all the devices of this world, both physical and not, and proclaim, along with this Teacher, that they are “utterly meaningless,” nothing but “smoke” and mirrors.

In the grand scheme of things, in the broad picture of eternity, everything in this room, where I am sitting, that I can see with my eyes . . . all meaningless. “It’s all gonna burn!” Perhaps these words that I am typing are even meaningless.

Unless, one day, someone happens to stumble across this blog, and it miraculously leads them into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. At that point, it will mean everything in the world to one person.

And that’s kind of why I’m doing it. One of the reasons that I keep it up. That, and my mother enjoys reading it.

So, while we don’t come up with any firm purpose from today’s reading, we must know that knowing God and His wisdom is what provides the only real meaning in life. What is the meaning of life? As much as I like to say it, it is not, in fact, “42.” It is to know God, and to fear Him. To spread His love to everyone . . . to “pass it on.” It is to follow Jesus Christ into territories that make us uncomfortable, and to set aside many of these things that truly are meaningless and vanity, that we might walk in His Kingdom and follow in His steps.

Father, I praise You, even for the meaninglessness of the material world around me. I do thank You for many of these material things; things which can, in fact, be used to provide meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence. But let us not get too attached to these things, which will not survive us for very long. Some of these things may outlast me, physically, but as we live with You for eternity, they will, in fact perish. May we use them wisely and “hold on loosely” to them, always being aware that someone else may need them more than we. Keep me aware of any needs that I might be able to provide with the resources You have provided us. And let us not think to heavily on the thoughts that all is vanity or utterly meaningless, as we might truly find ourselves in a dark place, mentally and emotionally. There is really no reason for us to go there, in light of the fact that our world, our universe, is filled with Your love!

May we, Your people, be filled with resurrection hope and joy. May we all be equipped to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whenever opportunities arise.

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.

"God of heaven and earth,
what is the purpose of it all?
The endless cycle of life brings with it questions that don't find answers in the available light under the sun.
With You,
however,
I get the larger view beyond this world.
I trust You,
God in heaven,
for everything I need for life under the sun -
including intellectually satisfying answers to my biggest questions.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 NIV)

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
(John 17:17 NIV)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
(John 16:13 NIV)

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
(Matthew 27:26 ESV)

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
(Luke 6:37 ESV)

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”
(Luke 13:12 ESV)

There’s a common word in these three verse, at least in the Greek text. The word that is translated “released,” “forgive/forgiven,” and “freed,” is all one Greek word, “apoluo.” Literally, it means, “to free fully, relieve, release, dismiss.”

So from this fact, we can get the following truth.

“If you don’t forgive, you won’t be released. You’ll stay bound and imprisoned.” But the same word speaks of healing. So forgiveness is linked to healing and the lack of forgiveness to the lack of healing. Those who cannot forgive cripple themselves. And the same word speaks of moving on and being sent forth for the purposes of God. If you don’t forgive, you won’t be able to move on or to let go of the old. Nor will you be able to be sent forth and fulfill God’s calling for your life.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

I read those words, and I think of the many people that are close to my age who do nothing on social media other than moan and complain about how things used to be. They are constantly mocking younger generations, thinking themselves to be superior because they know how to write in cursive and can drive a stick shift.

These folks need to wake up! They are stuck in the past, unable to move on, to let go of things that simply don’t matter any more! And they appear so very hateful and angry all the time, with no hint of forgiveness or release. I pity them; my heart hurts for them. I am so very grateful to God that He has allowed me to not get stuck in that mode. I frequently skip over a lot of those “Who remembers _______?” posts that I see on Facebook. Yeah. I remember. But I don’t live there any more. I live in 2021, where nobody needs to know how write in cursive any more. Where the only reason to drive a stick shift is if you have a fancy sports car.

And just to prove I’m not stuck in the past, here is some really nice music that I discovered, this morning. I’m not one of the “old guys” who are constantly saying that all of today’s music is “crap.” Thanks to Derri Daugherty of The Choir, for the recommendation.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Though He Slay Me . . .”

Today is Friday, October 31, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,878

Twelve days until C’s birthday. What does she want for her birthday? No one seems to know.

Today is Halloween. Today is Reformation Day (the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg). Today is the occurrence of a “blue moon” (two full moons in the same month). Tonight we will set our clocks back an hour (technically, the change is at 2:00 AM on Sunday . . . whose crazy idea was that??) to return to Standard Time. All of this in the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic.

Then, to top it all off, we have learned that the iconic James Bond, the best James Bond, Sir Thomas Sean Connery, has died.

And all of this before it’s even 9:00 AM!

The only thing we have to do today is go to our WW Workshop at 10:30. This, thanks to C, who decided to go do the grocery shopping yesterday, during her lunch hour. We all had prescriptions ready, and mine was at the Kroger Pharmacy, so she just decided to go ahead and knock out the groceries.

So, with great fear and trepidation (mildly exaggerated), I plan to spend some time in here, this afternoon and see if I can get ProTools working on this PC. Last Saturday (and Sunday), I got all the software I need downloaded. At least I think I did. There are still a couple of things on the laptop that I need to see if I can get on this PC, but they aren’t essential. I have yet to crank up ProTools, here, though, and get it configured. So I will try that, this afternoon. I’m not yet sure what I will try to record.

I need a planning session to make a plan as to what I want to record in the future, because right now, it’s all just a jumble in my brain.

We will not be having our church gathering tomorrow, as too many people are out of pocket. Based on a conversation with Brandon, yesterday, it appears that it might be must C, him, and me. There wouldn’t necessarily be anything bad about that, but we all tend to agree that we don’t want to read ahead with the majority of our folks not there. And the way our group is structured, we certainly have that flexibility.

The increase in Coronavirus numbers at the end of this week is terrifying, to say the least. Yesterday, we had 101,461 new cases! Roughly ten thousand more than Thursday, which was roughly ten thousand more than Wednesday! I have no idea what is going on, but I do know that the general population, based on what I don’t see, doesn’t even notice, and doesn’t care any more. Texas actually didn’t “win,” yesterday, as Illinois had 7164 new cases, higher than our 6819. To put all this in perspective, we were averaging around half of yesterday’s total when all of the stay at home orders were in place.

I will remind everyone, once again, at least my readers in the U.S., to remember to move your clocks back an hour, either tonight before bedtime, or, if you prefer, in the morning when you wake up. Truly, an extra hour of sleep doesn’t mean much to me, any more, as I rarely can sleep past 6:30 in the morning, anyway.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, 
I have sought you. 
I became weary and I labored. 
O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and 
never to cease seeking you. 
Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance.
 Give me the strength to seek you, 
for you help me to find you and you have more and more 
given me the hope of finding you. 
Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. 
Preserve the first and heal the second. 
Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. 
Where you have opened the door to me, 
welcome me at the entrance; 
where you have closed the door to me, 
open to my cry; 
enable me to remember you, 
to understand you, 
and to love you. 
Amen.
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
(Psalms 103:20-22 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the weekend (finally here), to rest and refresh for the next work week
  2. For Martin Luther and his 95 Theses
  3. That Your plans stand firm forever, and Your intentions can never be shaken (Psalm 33:11)
  4. That God is mightier than any storm (or pandemic) that we are going through
  5. That, “though He slay me, I will hope in Him”

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:1-3 ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
(Isaiah 30:15 ESV)

But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.
(Psalms 33:11 NLT)

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar,
“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”
And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”
Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.
“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:9-17 NLT)

A Psalm of David.
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
(Psalms 15:1-5 ESV)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

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)

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
(Job 1:18-22 ESV)

“On any give day, we can go from feasting to mourning, from celebrating life to processing death, or some other life challenge. Our lives can swiftly be reduced to ‘sticks and bricks’ – financially, relationally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. But God is mightier than any storm. Surviving life’s trials requires faith that’s focused on Him – faith that enables us to say with Job and others, ‘May the name of the Lord be praised’ (v. 21).”
(Arthur Jackson, Our Daily Bread)

This is a great word for these times. There are many lives that have been disrupted and shattered by this pandemic. And many may be wondering why? What is God up to? What is He trying to show us?

I don’t have answers to any of those questions. I’m not that wise. But I can confidently proclaim, along with Mr. Jackson, that “God is mightier than any storm.”

So, as we pray through these days, remember this. We do not have to be defeated. These times are hard, and they are tougher than we are. But they are not tougher than our God. He will prevail. And, as Job said later, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Father, I praise You that You are mightier than any storm or pandemic that we are facing. We need not be defeated, because You win! I praise You that I am able to say, along with Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” I love you, Lord!

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!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Repentance and Regeneration

Today is Thursday, April 11, 2019.

Day 22,309

Thirty-seventh day of Lent

Twenty-eight days until our Vegas trip!!

Quote of the Day

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”
Martin Luther, German leader, 1483-1546
BrainyQuotes

Word of the Day

Alacrity ~ cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness. (Dictionary.com)

The Texas Rangers scored in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth to beat the Diamondbacks 5-2 last night. Lance Lynn got the win for the Rangers, and Kyle Bird notched a save. Logan Forsythe made a magnificent catch to end the game. Hunter Pence got his first home run of the season. The Rangers are now 6-6 on the season, tied for fourth place in the AL West. They have the night off, and will play Oakland tomorrow.

The Red Sox were off last night, so they didn’t lose. They resume their first home series with Toronto tonight at 6:10, with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound.

The KC Royals are currently the worst team in baseball, at 2-9. However, there are three teams, including the Boston Red Sox, that are 3-9. That list also includes the Rockies and the Marlins. The Mariners continue to roll and top MLB with a 12-2 record.

C had a checkup with her cardiologist a couple days ago, and everything is good. If you recall, she has a small aneurysm, but it has not grown. He told her to come back in October, and if it hasn’t grown any, she won’t have to go back.

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

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
Psalm 21:13

Today I am grateful:
1. For leftover Subway sandwiches to take to work
2. Milder weather and temperatures
3. For love
4. For the God-given desire to repent
5. For the great salvation provided by our Lord

That it may please thee to preserve all who are in danger by reason of their labor or their travel,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for,
all women in childbirth,
young children and orphans,
the widowed,
and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to visit the lonely;
to strengthen all who suffer in mind, body, and spirit;
and to comfort with thy presence those who are failing and infirm,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
(The Book of Common Prayer, The Great Litany)

(From The Root of the Righteous, A.W. Tozer)

Today’s reading is “No Regeneration without Reformation.”

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1:16-18

The offer of pardon for sins in the Bible is conditioned on the intent to reform on the sinner’s part. The word “intent” is the most important word in that sentence. We don’t want to give the false message that you must reform before you can be forgiven. Nothing could be further from the truth. But there is a popular “theology,” popular when Tozer was alive, and popular today, that seems to think that our pardon “depends upon faith alone.”

While faith is certainly necessary, repentance is also necessary. Repentance means to change your thinking about your way of life. It means that you desire to change. Can you imagine a church full of sinners, claiming to be forgiven and regenerated, who still love sin and haven’t changed their ways?

“The converted man is both reformed and regenerated. And unless the sinner is willing to reform his way of living he will never know the inward experience of regeneration.”

Before we can get to Isaiah 1:18, we must deal with verses 16 and 17.

But, once again, we must emphasize that it is the intent that matters. Do I intend to forsake my sin? Do I desire to change? That is enough to get it started. I don’t have to be perfect to be saved. But I do have to want to forsake my sins.

Father, I thank you for giving me the desire and willingness to repent and forsake my sinful ways. I thank you, as well, for the regeneration that you have given me through the life and blood of Jesus Christ. Please empower me to walk in your kingdom today.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Grace and peace, friends.

He Is Risen Indeed!

Today is Sunday, April 1, 2018. Day 21,934. Resurrection Sunday!

“He is not here, but has risen.” Luke 24:6

Martin Luther (not his birthday) said, “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” BrainyQuote

The word for today is shavie, a Scottish word which means, “a trick or prank.” It is, after all, also April Fools Day.

We definitely had an adventure last night. We arrived in Granbury around 2:00 PM, as planned, which, it turned out, was way too early. We got our rehearsals over with and had a couple hours to spare before the event was to begin. But our pastor and one other brother went into town and got us some Golden Chick to eat, so we had a little “breaking of bread” (or chicken) together.

The event went well. I think we, as a band, did quite well, and there seemed to be a definite spirit of worship. The whole thing finished up around 8:30, and we got home (after a quick run through a McDonald’s drive through in Weatherford) just after 9:30.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering, this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street in Fort Worth. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15. This morning, we will be celebrating with an Easter Breakfast!

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

To the choirmaster. Of David, for the memorial offering.
Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! 
Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! 
Let them turn back because of their shame who say, “Aha, Aha!” 
May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” 
But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

Psalm 70

May all who seek the Lord rejoice and be glad in him!

(From Daily Guideposts 2018)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Romans 6:5

When we envision Jesus, do we just see Jesus, or do we see the resurrected Jesus? Perhaps that is just semantics, but I think it is important how we view Jesus. Do we believe in the resurrection? Then we should see Jesus as resurrected. This gives us hope for our broken lives. And trust me . . . all of our lives are broken in some way. Some of us are much more broken than others.

As Carol Kuykendall attended her Easter morning celebration, she looked around her and saw stories of faithfulness and hope. Then she saw the signs of brokenness all around her, but it was brokenness that had come to celebrate the resurrection, in hopes of the Easter message. “A family raising other people’s children; a widower learning to find a new way in a life alone; people in financial crisis, unemployment, and homelessness; folks in broken relationships. Here we were, all together, waiting to hear the Easter message that Jesus’s death and Resurrection promises eternal life with Him in heaven, where there will be no more pain or stress or loneliness or death.”

Sometimes I wish I attended a more formal, traditional church, where the Easter service would begin with the minister proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is risen!” And the congregations responds, “He is risen indeed!”

“Let the celebration begin!”

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Acts 2:24

Hallelujah, my God! Thank you for the Resurrection, which gives us all hope. If there were no resurrection, we would be wasting our time at “church.” In fact, if there were no resurrection, there would be no church. There would be no real life. I cannot imagine a life without it. My hope is in you in Christ. May your presence be made known today at our worship gathering, as we celebrate Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
Luke 24:1-12

Grace and peace, friends.