Humble Confidence

Today is Monday, the sixth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,461

I’ll confess that I have been slightly confused about when Ordinary Time occurs, partially because of a devotional book I used last year. The primary Church calendar, however, shows Ordinary Time to occur between Epiphany Sunday (usually the first Sunday in January) until Ash Wednesday, and then from Pentecost Sunday (which was yesterday) up until Advent. Hence today beginning the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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.
Lord our God, gather us together in one flock to praise you with one heart and one voice. Let this praise ring out on earth in the midst of all the evils that still confront us. We thank you for your protection, for all the help and deliverance you give us. We thank you for the hope you put into our hearts. We thank you for the hope that we may yet see great things done through the working of your Spirit, for us your children and for all peoples and nations. For your love will not rest until life on earth has come into your hands and all may rejoice. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! 
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. 
Your unfailing love will last forever. 
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
(Psalms 89:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the understanding that the purpose of my life is to love; to love my family, to love Jesus, to love the Church, and to love my neighbor as myself
2. that I don't have any "agenda" for my life, other than the above declaration;
3. that I am a child of God, but also that He has led me down a path of humility in that relationship, because, not only is He my Father, He is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe!
4. that I will be praising God for "ten thousand years and then forevermore" (Matt Redman)
5. that my joy is not dependent upon my happiness; I may not always smile, but there is always hope and celebration in my soul
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! 
Sing about the glory of his name! 
Tell the world how glorious he is. 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! 
Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
 Everything on earth will worship you; 
they will sing your praises, 
shouting your name in glorious songs.” 
Come and see what our God has done, 
what awesome miracles he performs for people!
(Psalms 66:1-5 NLT)
Come and listen, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell you what he did for me. 
For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. 
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer 
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
(Psalms 66:16-20 NLT)

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “confident.” The quote used comes from Maya Angelou.

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.”

Let me say, right off the bat, that I have no problem with the thought of confidence before God. I believe that Scripture teaches this.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

But there is a stark difference between confidence and arrogance. And we must not cross that line when we come before the Lord, in my opinion. I really don’t have a problem with Ms. Angelou’s quote, either, in the context of Hebrews 4:16.

I do, however, have a problem with where today’s reading takes the idea. The writer, Jeanette, applies this to a mindset of prayer, and relates a time when friends at a Bible study told her, “Hold up your head when you talk to God. You are His child. You have every right to come to Him and ask for what you need and want.” (I added the italics.)

This, in my opinion, crosses that line. Especially that bit about asking for what we want. I started to write that I don’t have a problem asking God for things that I want. But that’s not quite accurate. I’ll admit that I do struggle some with asking God for things that I want, but don’t necessarily need. I even struggle with praying for other peoples’ prayer requests when they ask me to pray for something that they want, but don’t necessarily need. It’s not my place to judge, for sure. And I will pray for what they ask me to pray for (unless it’s political . . . I won’t go there), but I will also let God know how I feel about that.

Haha. That last sentence is kind of ridiculous, you know? “I will also let God know how I feel about that.” As if He already doesn’t know that, right??

We say, sometimes, the most foolish things about God and our relationships with Him. He knows everything! He already knows how I feel about that prayer request.

So, do we have a “right” to ask God for anything we want?

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
(John 15:7 NLT)

Here’s the thing. I think there’s a catch there. It’s not a “blank check” as some folks want to believe. Yes, we may ask for anything we want. But I firmly believe that, if I am remaining (abiding) in Christ and His words are abiding in me, that will have a drastic effect on whatever I want! I won’t want the same things.

I can speak from experience on this. Not that I have perfectly nailed down this concept of abiding. Far from it. However, as I work toward that, and when I do abide in Christ and His words abide in me, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, ask for the same things that I would have asked for, earlier in my life.

I find myself praying that God would bless my “enemies” rather than curse them. I find myself praying more for things like unity in the Body of Christ, because that’s one of the more important things that I want when I am abiding in Him.

“Jeanette” naively compares us asking God for something to her own children asking her for stuff. She doesn’t want them to hang her head, but to ask confidently. I would like to see how faithful she is to that belief when her kids come to her in arrogance, asking for something that they want, that might harm them in some way.

Her prayer at the end says, “Dear Lord, help me remember that although You are God, You are also my Father.” I would turn that around. It’s true. He is both. But, lest we get too comfortable, we must also remember that our Father is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. A little humility is in order, I do believe.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Praise the LORD, who is my rock. 
He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. 
He is my loving ally and my fortress, 
my tower of safety, my rescuer. 
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. 
He makes the nations submit to me. 
O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, 
mere mortals that you should think about them?
 For they are like a breath of air; 
their days are like a passing shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NLT)

“You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.”
(Job 42:3 NLT)

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. 
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. 
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. 
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; 
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
(Psalms 39:4-5 NLT)

And look! What more reason for humility do we need than what we find in these Scriptures?? We are but a breath, in comparison with our eternal, infinite, majestic God! “My entire lifetime is just a moment to you!” How could I come before this God with any thought of arrogance, with any though of demanding something that I seem to think I have a right to???

This life is so very short. But eternity is long. And, as the following song says, we will have 10,000 years and then forevermore to sing His praises! Hallelujah.

To me, this is a very stirring moment, as I watch and listen to Matt unable to contain his emotions while singing this praise song.

The same mindset that would have us come before our Father in arrogance also brings us the idea that we should always be smiling. And I think the bottom line in all of this is that we must remember that there is nothing “fake” about being a Christian.

The idea of “fake it until you make it” has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. This life is real. There is nothing, in my opinion, more real than walking in Jesus Christ. He is Reality.

“It is a myth that the Christian always wears a smile. There is a stream of joy that runs through the Christian life and keeps surfacing in praise and glad service. There is a powerful note of celebration in the church’s life and the Christian’s witness. But that is not the kind of smile that maintains itself by ignoring or denying everything that is troubling or difficult.”

I used to work with someone who displayed what I call “toxic positivity.” She could not bear any negative thought whatsoever, about anything.

We do, as followers of Christ, face difficulties in this world. “We must wrestle with unanswerable questions. If we take seriously the commands of God and give ourselves seriously to the task of loving our neighbors and our enemies, we are going to find ourselves in conflict with others, even find ourselves looking silly and naive – a laughingstock, in short.”

We will feel, at times, that God is unfair. I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt that. And, even worse, there is the danger of beginning to think, “If only I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t feel this way. If I just had more faith, these blasphemous thoughts would never cross my mind. If only I could be well balanced and peaceful and accepting of God’s will in my life, like the really good Christians!”

But here’s the thing. As Christians, we are not people who never have doubts or feelings of despair. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you (and probably lying to themselves, as well). As Christians, we are people who believe in spite of those things! We obey God’s commands when we don’t feel like it, and we hope, even when it looks like there is no hope.

I certainly struggle with these things. I look around me, right now, and see very little hope for this nation. It is more divided than I have ever seen it, in my 64 years, and it is, quite frankly, so foolish that I can hardly stand it. The political division in the country right now is asinine. It makes no sense. But guess what? My hope is not in this country. My hope is not in a political party (either one, or any of the alternatives). My hope is not in a president, past, present, or future.

My hope is in Jesus. And when I look around and see no hope, I still have hope because of Him. It is because of Him that I can sing “10,000 Reasons.” It is because of Him that I can go before the God of the universe with humble confidence, and ask for whatever I want, knowing, or at least hoping, that “whatever I want” is also what He wants.

And what does He want? If you’ve read this blog at all, you already know what I’m going to say. He wants us to love Him with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love the saints in the same way that Jesus loves us.

“The picture we have of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shows him agonizing over the decision of the Cross. He struggled with his own feelings. He wrestled with the will of God and finally chose the will of God. And out of this struggle came something we call good news.”

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

Father, there may be too much stuff here, today. There is certainly a lot to pray about. I pray, Father, that people would not be subjected to false teachings. I know that Your Word says they will come. And come, they have, in droves. I won’t name names, but there are certain people that I truly believe are teaching serious error in Your kingdom. I pray for truth to be known. I also pray that we, Your children, would have the confidence to come before You boldly, but also have the sense to come before You in humility. Yes, You are our Father, and You love us. But You are also Almighty God, and have all the power.

I come before You as one who has surrendered any “rights” to anything that I might want. Therefore, when I read Jesus’s words about asking for whatever I want, I take that in context of abiding in Your Word and Your Word abiding in me. I do not have a right to anything I want, because I have surrendered those rights.

I thank You for whatever life I have on this earth. I am grateful for the number of years that I have had, so far, and will graciously accept whatever number of years You grant me, going forward. I pray that, through the rest of those years, I will heed Your Word and do what You have commanded us to do. I pray that I will always shove my opinions into the “back seat,” and simply do my job, which is to love You and love people. And I pray that this example will speak more loudly than ten thousand words.

I thank You for the hope of “ten thousand years and then forevermore.” That hope is what keeps me going, some days. And I look forward with great anticipation to that day when that multitude from every tribe, nation, language, and people will stand before You, arms lifted high, shouting and worshiping Your holiness and Your Name! You are worthy, O Lord, to receive power and glory and honor and blessing! Worthy Is the Lamb! Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!

All glory to You, Lord, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Grace and peace, friends.

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found

Today is Friday, December 14, 2018. Second week of Advent.

Day 22,191

Eleven days until Christmas!!

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.”
Maya Angelou, American poet, 1928-2014
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is zibeline, “a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair, alpaca, or camel’s hair.”

I’m off work today, but did not, as it turns out, go to Mineral Wells for breakfast with Mama. They cancelled the breakfast because of the weather forecast. I suppose there was a chance of some snow or otherwise “wintery” weather. It didn’t turn out that way, but I guess it was better to be safe than sorry, as they say. I’ll plan to do this another Friday in the Spring, sometime.

I do have a couple of plans for the day, though. One is to go out to the library, after 10:00 AM, and get my card renewed. I got an email last week that said it would expire in fourteen days. Apparently, all I have to do is visit the library with my driver’s license, and they will renew it. I will also take the opportunity, probably, to wrap some presents that I have for C. And I need to go over some music for Sunday, as well, and even think ahead to Sunday, the 23rd, which will likely be a more simplified worship time, with strictly Christmas songs.

I’m sure I will also go out and get something to eat for S and me. Or we may order it to be delivered. That remains to be seen.

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

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
Psalm 105:1

Today I am grateful:
1. That it didn’t snow or ice or anything like that. C still had to drive to work, as did many others.
2. That the Lord has seen fit to allow me to participate in leading worship on Sundays (I have been asked to lead the worship time on January 13)
3. For art that expresses the soul
4. That I have the kind of personality that can appreciate such art, for example, poems like “She Walks in Beauty,” by Lord Byron
5. For a day at home that’s not a normal weekend day

“Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth,
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed,
and prosper in that for which I sent it.”

(The Book of Common Prayer, “The Second Song of Isaiah,” Isaiah 55:6-11)

As I read the passage above, and re-read it in the ESV, I am filled with hopefulness for life. We may seek the Lord, and, thus far, He still wills to be found. We are told, in various places, that there will come a day when He will no longer be “seekable.” The Bible describes a terrible “Day of the Lord.”

I have sought the Lord, and found Him. Each day, I seek Him more. Why seek something that you’ve already found? Because I haven’t found all of Him, yet. I know. That doesn’t make much sense. But you see, there is so much to God, so much that I don’t understand, or, as Robert Heinlein coined, “grok.” Therefore, I seek Him daily.

I need His strength to forsake my wicked ways on a consistent basis. My flesh fights against my spirit, leading me toward sin. But I fight along with my spirit, that I might daily turn to the Lord and see His compassion and pardon, and try to know His thoughts.

Verse 11 is a verse that I used to hear my pastor pray every Sunday. When I was a child, Pastor Don Turner was my pastor. I still remember him praying that God’s word would accomplish the purpose for which it was sent, and, as the KJV puts it, “it shall not return unto me void.” Honestly, this is not something that we need to pray for; it is a promise. “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” It shall accomplish . . . it shall succeed!

This morning, I continued reading the passage beyond verse 11. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

May this happen for us, in our lifetime.

Father, help me to seek You today. Remind me that there is still plenty of You that I have not found. I look forward to the day when there is no more seeking. I look forward to the day when there is no more temptation to sin. I look forward to the day when Your people will live in peace and harmony, when there will be no more hatred and fear; the day when we will know as we are known.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

To Old Age and Gray Hairs

Today is Wednesday, April 4, 2018. Day 21,937.

April 4. The day Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

It’s the birthday of the great outfield, Tris Speaker (1888-1958), who said, “The Babe was a great ballplayer, sure, but Cobb was even greater. Babe could knock your brains out, but Cobb would drive you crazy.” (BrainyQuote)

It’s also the birthday of Muddy Waters (1915-1983), who said, “I wanted to definitely be a musician or a good preacher or a heck of a baseball player. I couldn’t play ball too good – I hurt my finger, and I stopped that. I couldn’t preach, and well, all I had left was getting into the music thing.” (BrainyQuote)

Finally, it’s the birthday of Maya Angelou (1928-2014), who said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (BrainyQuote)

The word for today is mythoclast, a noun which means, “a destroyer or debunker of myths.” Probably not a very popular person.

We made it to the Y, last night, and had a decent bit of exercise. We also signed up for their free “Life Change Challenge” sessions, in which we each get three sessions with a personal trainer, just to help us get on track for our goals. S is really excited about this, and we will consider continuing personal training sessions for her if this works out well.

I got a jury duty summons in the mail, for April 19. My boss is going to love that. That was sarcasm.

It took them thirteen innings, but the Red Sox beat the Marlins 4-2, last night. They are 5-1 on the season, and have set some crazy team records. For example, the starting pitcher has not given up more than one run in all six of their season-opening games. That has never been done in the team’s history. They are off tonight, and their home opener is tomorrow against the Rays.

The Rangers finally won another one, as well, beating the Athletics 4-1 behind a more solid Cole Hamels. They are now 2-4 on the season. They play the A’s again tonight.

There is now only one undefeated team, Pittsburgh, who didn’t play yesterday. The Royals and Padres both won their game yesterday, so there are no more winless teams.

156 left to go.

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

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. 
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. 
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? 
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. 
I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. 
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. 
And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt. 

Psalm 71:17-24

Some good words for an elderly person in the closing verses of this Psalm. Indeed, the Lord has taught me from my youth, from my childhood. Sadly, I didn’t always listen. But I believe that he will not forsake me into “old age and gray hairs.” I pray for the ability to proclaim his might to “another generation.” And I may not praise him with a harp, but I will praise him with an electronic keyboard and a guitar, as well as with my lips and tongue. Praise be to the Lord for his mighty acts and wonderful gifts!

Father, loosen my lips! Teach me praise! Give me songs of praise to sing loudly to you! Thank you, Lord, for teaching me since I was a youth, and I pray that I never become too proud to keep learning. I am learning things in this period of my life that are astonishing me, and I love that!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

Faith and Imagination

Today is Monday, September 26, 2016. Eighteen days until Galveston!

Quote of the Day

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

Word of the Day

Tantivy – at a gallop

Today is Batman Day, which I will celebrate in honor of my son-in-law, who is a big Batman fan. Batman first appeared (according to this article) in 1939. In movies and television, there have been quite a few Batmans (“batmen?”), and probably just as many opinions as to who is the best one. I dare say that the most beloved still has to be Adam West, simply because he seems to be a very lovable person. No one really takes that short-lived TV series seriously, though, as it didn’t even seem to take itself seriously. I am of the opinion that the villains cast in those episodes have yet to be surpassed, with the possible exception of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Julie Newmar as Catwoman, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Cesar Romero as The Joker, and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Roddy McDowall as The Bookworm!

It was an interesting weekend, if not somewhat tragic. We had a great time at the USBC picnic on Saturday, in spite of the periodic rain that disrupted the outdoor bowling tournament. The hot dogs served at the picnic were, I believe, the best I have ever eaten. C and I played a round of Cornhole, lost our only game in the bowling tournament (I’m not terribly unhappy about that, as the pair that were not bowling had to be at the other end, resetting the pins . . . lots of bending over), and threw softballs at the dunking tank, where we dunked C’s boss, along with a couple others. I became momentarily famous (as well as feared) as I dunked three people, one of them on my first throw.

The tragedies occurred yesterday, as news broke that a Miami Marlins pitcher, Jose Fernandez, was killed in a boating accident, early Sunday morning. He was 24 years old. The Miami game was cancelled for yesterday, and the pre-game ceremony planned by Tampa Bay to honor David Ortiz was cancelled at Ortiz’s request. Ortiz was seen in tears before their game began.

News also broke yesterday that golfing great Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

(From Praying With the Psalms)

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Psalm 118:21-25

Mankind rejects God’s gift of life, because, due to “the fall,” our minds are “death-conditioned.” But God continues to offer this gift of life, in spite of our rejection. “He comes again and uses what we have rejected to build our lives in salvation and to hold us together in eternity.”

“God, my imagination is faithless and my faith is unimaginative. How often I fail to see and use what is right before me! How often I impatiently discard the very thing you have patiently provided to help me in my need! Overcome all my impatient rejections with your patient acceptance of me in Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Father, give my faith the imagination it needs to see what you have provided and to always choose the right thing when offered a choice. I pray that you would garrison my imagination against the things that the world throws at it in attempts to distract me from faith and right choices. Take over my mind with your Spirit, while opening it to your wonders of life. “You are life, you are love, you bring light to the darkness; you give hope, you restore every heart that is broken; great are you Lord!”

Come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Am Not A Measuring Rod

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou
(BrainyQuote)

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is alliaceous, meaning, “having the odor or taste of garlic, onion, etc.”

Today is Apple Strudel Day. That actually sounds good, this morning. Wish I had some.

Yesterday afternoon, Colby Lewis flirted with perfection. He was perfect through seven innings, as the Texas Rangers battled the Oakland Athletics. The Oakland pitcher wasn’t too shabby, either, but his game fell apart in the seventh, when Ian Desmond launched a line-drive home run. Colby walked a guy on four straight pitches in the eighth, but still had his no-hitter going. He lost that on the first better in the ninth. The Rangers won the game, though, 5-1. They have now won an unprecedented eight consecutive series. Tonight, they face off in interleague play, against the Cardinals of St. Louis.

The Red Sox have been struggling, lately, and lost the series to the Orioles. However, they are only one game back in second place, as they won one of the three games.

It’s Friday! Seems like it’s been a long week. But it’s almost over, and it will be a busy weekend. We will travel to visit my mother tomorrow, and then hang out with R & J on Sunday, for Father’s Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.
For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.
He made it a decree in Joseph when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a language I had not known:
“I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever.
But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81

This psalm presents a “festival” attitude. God desires that we live in a festive attitude toward him. That’s why there were so many festivals/celebrations in the Old Testament. If we, in our common lives, don’t live up to that, it’s not the fault of God or his promises. It is because, as verse 11 says, “Israel would not submit to me,” or, in the version Peterson quotes, “Israel would have none of me.”

“I haven’t asked enough from you, O God – I see that now. Remembering what you have promised and what you have done, I will rejoice in festival celebration, taking what you so generously give and sharing what you so joyously provide. In Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

The Uncritical Temper

Judge not, that you be not judged.
Matthew 7:1

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook a quote from Richard Foster’s Celebration Discipline. “When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.” This morning’s reading seems to go hand in hand with that quote.

Chambers says, “The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual.” Some folks are naturally critical, and in some realms, such as the business world, this can be an advantage. However, “in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism.” It serves to divide the powers of the one who is being criticized. In fact, Chambers says that the Holy Spirit is truly the only one who is in a position to criticize. “He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding.”

We cannot enter into proper communion with God when we are in a critical state. It makes us “hard and vindictive and cruel,” and it makes us think we are superior. I should know. I’ve been there. I tend to be a very critical person. We must, as disciples of Jesus, “cultivate the uncritical temper.” This is a difficult process, and is not something that is done only one time. This is also something that is helped by practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, the subject of the Richard Foster book quoted above.

Jesus has the penetrating vision. Remember what he says, if I see a mote in your eye, I most likely have a beam in mine. When I judge you, I condemn myself, according to Romans 2. “Stop being a measuring rod for other people.” There is always a part of that other man’s story that I do not know!

Father, it’s getting to a point where I am no longer amazed at how much the readings of Oswald Chambers go hand in hand with what I am reading in Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. I pray that these things will take hold in me, as I attempt to walk in your Kingdom and put the words of Jesus into practice. Today, help me to not judge people. I still have issues with that on a daily basis. I pray for your Spirit to calm me and remind me that I have plenty of beams in my eyes, and that there are things about that other person that I just don’t know. Always. Help me to show the love and compassion of Christ toward other people.

Come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.