Generosity Begets Generosity

Good morning. Today is Friday, the seventh of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas.

May God’s peace flood your soul, today.

Day 23,311

Sixteen days until Hamilton, assuming it doesn’t get cancelled.

I remain concerned that it will, still, as the new cases of Covid continue to break previous records. The U.S. had 751,000 new cases, yesterday.

Regarding the Church calendar, I will mostly be following whatever Pray As You Go says, this year. I’ve already noticed that they begin counting “Ordinary Time” next week. The resource I used last year counted the entire time between yesterday and Ash Wednesday as the season of Epiphany, and didn’t begin counting Ordinary Time until after Easter. If you’re confused, join the club. I will say that Pray As You Go is a ministry of Jesuit Ministries in Great Britain.

I’ve already done better with my “aspirations” for the new year. I’ve definitely done more reading, and am already just over sixty pages away from finishing my second book of the year (A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins), and we are still in the first week! Several nights, this week, after we have finished dinner and our TV watching, rather than crank up a video game, I have simply sat on the coach and read a while.

I feel like I’m doing a little better with the praying. That can always improve, but I’m finding myself stopping and whispering a quiet prayer any time I receive a prayer request on FB (or Tik Tok, but I haven’t gotten very many there, yet).

However, I have yet to make any music, this year. It will come, I am confident.

I had a great four hours, yesterday, at the library, but it is really messing up my “what day is this” bit on this week. I had to ask C if this was Friday. Of course, I always get to work on Fridays, in the computer center. This is also my week to work Saturday, which has not happened since before Christmas. In fact, I have not worked a Saturday since December 18th, and that was an “extra” shift for me.

I don’t really have much else, so on with the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

Father, I ask You to be present in this time. I know that You are here, but I am asking for something deeper, more of an awareness of that presence. As I read various portions of Your Word, this morning, I pray for wisdom and insight into what lies ahead for me today and in my life.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. 
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you. 
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. 
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is with me, and there is no reason for me to be afraid of anything (unless I wander off the path)
2. that God is my refuge and my strength, my fortress and my hiding place
3. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
4. that God doesn't need perfect people to do His good work (he manages to use me, after all)(for proof of this, read Judges)
5. that every good and perfect gift comes from God
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

“How do I know my words and actions are bringing me closer to God? What things make me turn away from God?”

These are good questions for reflection. These days, I’m seeing a lot of videos on social media about “deconstruction” of faith. It is a disturbing, yet understandable trend. A lot of it stems from, unfortunately, the political climate of the past four-plus years, and the rabid association of the “white evangelical church” with the “extreme right.” Some of the people who are deconstructing seem to have abandoned faith altogether, while some continue to seek Jesus, but outside the confines of the traditional “church.”

It is my opinion that one cannot leave the “Church” (capital C), while it is totally possible to leave the “church.” The reason I say that is because the Church is the Body of Christ. And if one is truly a member of the Church, one cannot leave it.

For these people, their words and actions may or may not be bringing them closer to God. For some, it is obvious that they are drifting further from God. So how, indeed, do I know? And note that the questions are not in regard to anyone else but me. This is a personal reflection. It is not for me to reflect on whether your words and actions are bringing you closer to God.

If my words and actions are bringing me closer to God, I believe that my words and actions will, in turn, reflect that. It is somewhat cyclical. If I am being drawn to love others (yes, here we go again), then I think that I am drawing closer to God. If my heart is full of compassion, I believe I am growing closer to God. If we keep reading in the fourth chapter of 1 John, I think we see this to be clear. If I am growing closer to God, then I am growing in love.

If my words and actions indicate bigotry and hatred, I am most definitely not growing closer to God. And, I am learning, I cannot afford to watch or listen to too many of these deconstruction videos, because they can cloud my thinking. I don’t have good answer for these people, nor do I intend to debate them. That is not my place; not my “ministry,” if you will. I am not a “Christian apologist.” My job is to love God and worship Him, and to love and pray for other people. I will say this, though. If you are a person who feels that “Christianity” has hurt you, one of two things is true, in my opinion. Either what you encountered is not “true” Christianity, or what you were looking for was not real Christianity, but some kind of personal validation. Real Christianity, true followers of Christ, is not in the business of hurting people.

Jesus, I ask You to help me recognize both the things that draw me closer to You and the things that tend to draw me away from You. Help me to be faithful to love and pray for others, and to love and worship You. Remind me to allow others, who are more gifted in that area, to debate with the deconstructionists. Also, please remind me of the truth of the words, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

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.

In Symphony of Salvation, in the piece about the book of Judges, Eugene H. Peterson makes this statement: “God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work.”

I’m going to let that sit there for a minute.

“God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work.”

This may shock some people, but, if you read the book of Judges, it is hard to disagree. I have made mention of this fact, in previous entries, but possibly the most often-repeated phrase in the book is, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

“It is always something of a shock to enter the pages of the book of Judges and find ourselves immersed in nearly unrelieved mayhem.”

I’m sorry (no I’m not), but did anyone else just see this?

The beauty of the story is that God works with us “in whatever moral and spiritual condition he finds us. God, we are learning, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people.”

Lift your hearts high, O Israel, with abandon, 
volunteering yourselves with the people—
bless GOD!
(Judges 5:9 MSG)
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, 
for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 
See, I am doing a new thing!
 Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Today’s prayer word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “giving.”

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 
(James 1:17 NIV)

“Giving” can mean a lot of things. Or at least it can be seen in a lot of different ways. I don’t really want to talk about how much C and I give to others, because I never want to appear to be boastful about it. But know this. When you give to someone, out of the kindness of your heart, or, honestly, even if it is out of a sense of obligation (but remember, “God loves a cheerful giver”), that gift comes from God. It may have come out of my heart or my bank account or my pocket, but if it is a “good and perfect gift,” it originated from God.

And yes, I believe that gifts that we give to people can, indeed, be “good and perfect.” Because I believe that the opposite of the statement is also true. (“Opposite” is probably not the right word.) If every good and perfect gift comes from God, then it can also be said that every gift that comes from God is good and perfect. So if I give a gift, and it comes from the heart of God, and I am simply the channel, then that gift is “good and perfect.”

How does this apply to prayer? I can pray to be more giving. I can pray that God opens my eyes to needs today, as I interact with people, that I might give something to help that need. That could be time, money, attention, or anything else that I might have. It might just be a friendly smile or greeting, a notion of love.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, needs love.

Father, I am grateful that You are able to use people who are not necessarily “good,” nor are we perfect, to do Your good work. Thank You for the examples of people in the Bible, people who are jerks, people who are sinful, people who just aren’t very nice or good, sometimes, yet You used them in Your plan to bring salvation to the world. This means that You can use me, even me, and You have, and You continue to, so I am blessed and honored and humbled by this.

I thank You that You have placed a generous, giving heart within me, but I do not rest on that. I believe I can do better, and You can help me do so. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:38 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

On Being Priests

“As priests through the blood of Christ we live to pray for others, to work among them, to teach them, and to bring them to God. To be a priest is not an idle, self-seeking occupation. it is a compelling power to enter into God’s presence on behalf of those in and out of the kingdom.”

Today is Saturday, December 1, 2018. Welcome to December!

Day 22,178

24 days until Christmas!

“Soul meets soul on lovers’ lips.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet, 1792-1822
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is mayhem, “willful and permanent deprivation of a bodily member resulting in the impairment of a person’s fighting ability,” or, “willful and permanent crippling, mutilation, or disfigurement of any part of the body.” Also, “needless or willful damage or violence.” Or, it could just be that guy on the Allstate commercials.

I was out of work by 5:30 PM, yesterday! It was amazing! We watched an episode of True Detective on HBO, a show we had never seen before, but I was interested in. I like it, but it’s a little hard to follow, as they keep jumping back and forth in time. I started playing a Playstation game, but was falling asleep in my chair. We wound up in bed before 10:00, which is early on a Friday night.

After I finish my blog, this morning, I’m going to have coffee with our pastor. I just wanted to have some conversation with him, about a book we read as part of the Renovare Book Club, as well as some other things that have been on my mind, lately.

We plan to put our Christmas ornaments up, this evening. We got everything else up last week, but didn’t get the ornaments hung, yet. We finally ordered our new ornament for 2018 this morning. With the exception of one or two that may have broken along the way, we have a dated ornament for every year we’ve been together. With those, along with ten ornaments for our daughters’ first five Christmases, and others that have been given to us along the way (some of which our daughters made), we haven’t had room for standard Christmas ornaments in years. I rather like that. We feel like our tree is unique in that respect. It is entirely personal and meaningful to us.

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

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
Psalm 54:6

Today I am grateful:
1. For a brother/friend to have conversation with
2. For the work of the Holy Spirit in my life
3. For books that share the lives of the “saints” of old
4. For the colored leaves of Autumn (even though it’s remarkably short in Texas)
5. Family, both blood and spiritual

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

1 John 1:8-9

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 
and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Joel 2:12-13

I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 
I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

Luke 15:18-19

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 
and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Daniel 9:9-10

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, butting up an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

(From Power in Prayer, Andrew Murray)
A Perfect Priesthood

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

I’ll confess. Growing up Southern Baptist, this “priesthood” stuff always confused me a little bit. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve understood it more.

“The blood of Jesus carries with it His victory over sin and death. It, in turn, inspires us with a consciousness of His power to conquer sin and every enemy.” Jesus is our “priestly King,” and He manifests His power in us from within. It does not come “from above or from the outside.” It comes from within us, because the Holy Spirit dwells within us, making us “kings and priests.”

The reason, says Andrew Murray, that Jesus is “seated as a priest on the throne of heaven,” is “so that man may be blessed and that God may be glorified in him.” Jesus lives “for others, to bring them near to God.” He reveals the “kingdom of God in us and through us.” And, in addition, “He makes us priests that we might serve the living God as well, that we might be filled with His Spirit so as to be a blessing to others.”

“As priests through the blood of Christ we live to pray for others, to work among them, to teach them, and to bring them to God. To be a priest is not an idle, self-seeking occupation. it is a compelling power to enter into God’s presence on behalf of those in and out of the kingdom.”

When we yield ourselves to God and allow Him to make us kings and priests, we live in the “joyous certainty” that we are one with Christ, who has won the victory, and that in Christ, we are more than conquerors.

Father, thank You for helping me grow to understand the concept of priesthood in Your kingdom. I thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit, and pray that I might be filled with the Spirit daily. Grant me the understanding that comes with this filling, and help me to live a life worthy of the calling that I have received in this life. May I be faithful to enter into Your presence “on behalf of those in and out of the kingdom.”
Even so, 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.