Gifts In Community

Today is Saturday, August 5, 2017. Day 21,695. Fourteen days until S’s and J’s birthday!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is consuetude, a noun, meaning, “custom, especially as having legal force.”

Today is Mead Day! I’m a huge fan of mead! Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage, resembling wine, but heavier, and honey-based. Hence, it is very sweet and thick. It’s also quite hard to find. Each year, when we visit Scarborough Renaissance Festival, I make sure to grab a glass at one of their beverage sellers.

I had to work late, yesterday, but only until about 5:30, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last two Fridays. We had a nice evening at home, just eating our dinner and watching TV. Then I played Fallout: New Vegas for a little while on the Xbox 360. I think I might be getting close to finishing that game.

The Red Sox pulled off a win over the Other Sox when Mitch Moreland hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning. They are now three games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The Rangers didn’t fare so well, losing 8-4 to the Twins. They are in fourth place in the AL west, 18 games out. They are only 4.5 games out of the wild card spot, but if they continue to play just below .500 ball, they aren’t going to make it this year. And with the mediocre pitching they have (made even worse by dumping Yu Darvish for virtually nothing), it’s not likely to get better.

Today, we have some preparation to do, in order to get ready for the floor people to begin on Monday morning. C bought some plastic totes to start putting stuff in, especially from shelves that will need to be moved. Some shelves won’t have to be unloaded, as they will slide easily. Others, such as the cabinet full of records in our bedroom, certainly won’t slide and will have to be emptied out.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 
sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

Psalm 66:1-3
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:22
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92:4
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

John 14:27-28
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

(From Practice Resurrection)

It’s been a while, but I’m getting back to this book, as I am close to completing chapter 2. This chapter focuses on part of Ephesians chapter 4. Paul is instructing us that we need to grow up, to come to maturity, in Christ. One condition of growing up is that we “take up responsibilities commensurate with our strength and understanding.” In order to exercise these responsibilities, we have to have received the Spirit of Christ, which he sent to us at Pentecost, ten days after the Ascension.

We grow up in “a profusion of gifts.” Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8) Jesus, upon ascending to the right hand of the Father, has launched his rule by giving gifts. These gifts “turn out to be ways in which we participate in his kingly, gospel rule.”

Whether we realize it or not, we understand the language of gifts. We begin as a gift. “We don’t make ourselves. We don’t birth ourselves.” And immediately after we are born, we begin getting gifts. Food, clothing, shelter, all of these things are gifts to us from the beginning of our lives. Paul even says, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?” (The Message) Eventually, all of these gifts begin to develop and mature into strengths and responsibilities. This begins in what we know as adolescence, one of the more awkward periods of our lives. But awkward and turbulent as it is, it is the time when we begin to grow into adult responsibilities, using the gifts that we have received, thus far. It is when we begin to learn to exercise the gifts in community.

Paul begins to list gifts. In Ephesians 4:11, he lists five: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. “These are gifts that equip us to work alongside and in company with Jesus.” They are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (v. 12). “We are being invited into a working relationship in the operations of the Trinity.”

One thing is important to understand, and I find that I have agreed with Peterson for many years on this. “Too often the gifts have been understood individually, conferred on us to be used as we have willingness and aptitude and inclination.” Peterson flat out says, “This is wrong.” As we remember that the work is the work of the Trinity, and we are invited to be fellow-workers with Jesus, Peterson says, “Any one of us, at any one time, may be given any of the jobs. We are in on this together. This is not specialty work–this is the community at work.”

Paul lists gifts many times in his letters. No one list is definitive. No one list names all of the gifts. John Stott has counted at least twenty distinct gifts in the writings of Paul. Some are very noticeable and dynamic (if you watch carefully, you will see that these are the ones highlighted by the more “charismatic” fellowships), while some are quite unsensational, such as doing acts of mercy. “The diversity of gifts adds up to a unity of function. There can be no rivalry among either gifts or the gifted.” That last sentence is so very important, and we fail at it so often. If we begin to see ourselves being jealous of other peoples’ giftings, we are completely out of sync. And, yes, I have been there, so I can speak from experience. If I’m looking at someone else and judging whether or not they deserve that gift or whether they are “doing it right,” I am absolutely wrong! I am focusing on the wrong things, altogether. We must be together, we must be for each other, and if someone has been given a gift by the Spirit, we should be encouraging.

I will say that we can’t rule out the possibility that someone might think they have a gift that they don’t really have. That’s a different topic that won’t be covered here.

“What Paul insists on is that everything we do in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit is an obedient exercise of some aspect of the work of the Trinity that we get in on as we become mature enough to do it.” We must never think that we are doing it on our own, in our own power, or that we are the originator of these gifts. Remember Paul’s words in Corinthians. “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

Father, I pray for the spiritual sensitivity to be aware of the giftings that you give me, and the assignments that you give me as I live in community with other Christ-followers. May we all be the same in this. All of us are, at any given time, gifted with different gifts, strengths, and responsibilities. Likewise, we all have different weaknesses. May we recognize these and know that all of us together can make a cohesive unit that can operate with great efficiency and productivity in your Kingdom. Let us be for one another, encouraging one another in the diversity of gifts that we have. And let us never get arrogant about our gifts, but humbly acknowledge that you are our Source for everything.
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.

Identification in Prayer

Today is Saturday, August 6, 2016. 13 more days until S turns 23!

Quote of the Day

“The hardest thing is to take less when you can get more.” – Kin Hubbard

Word of the Day

Bumptious – offensively self-assertive.

Today is Mead Day. Mead is my favorite of all of the alcoholic beverages, and the hardest to find. It is referred to, in some cultures, as “honey-wine,” and is very sweet and slightly “heavier” (I call it thicker) than most beverages. I am usually only able to get it at Scarborough on on our yearly trip to the Ren-Faire. I may have to see if I can scrounge some up today.

My work day was pretty good, yesterday. In fact, I didn’t have much to do for the last hour I was there, so we got to leave on time. C, on the other hand, had some production issues and wound up having to stay pretty late. She didn’t get home until after 7:30. We watched a couple of TV shows and went on to bed. I didn’t even stay up late and play games, because I was pretty tired.

Another reason I didn’t stay up late was because I am taking my car in to the dealership this morning for a 10:00 AM appointment. I have a brake light out and something is leaking underneath, so I want to get it checked out. I’m hoping it’s not something really expensive or time consuming. I already had to replace a battery this week.

The Rangers got shut out by the Astros, in Houston, last night. They couldn’t touch Dallas Keuchel; only got three hits off of him. Martin Perez had a bad third inning, giving up four runs. Final score, 5-0, Astros. In LA, the Red Sox did some shutting out of their own, beating the Dodgers 9-0, “while Scully danced over the airwaves.” Steven Wright, the knuckle-baller, got the win, while Scott Kazmir took the loss. Wright pitched the complete game, making it his fourth complete game for the season! Unfortunately, both Baltimore and Toronto also won, so no ground was gained in the standings.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Praying With the Psalms)

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.

There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
Psalm 104:24-26

“The range of creation, from small to great, is staggering. There is an intricacy and extravagance in living forms that embraces rotifers and giraffes, dragonflies and whales. Clearly, there is exuberance and delight in the Creator.”

I had to look up “rotifer.”
Rotifer

“‘All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful; the Lord God made them all. . . . He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well’ (Cecil Frances Alexander, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

The Cross in Prayer

In that day you will ask in my name . . . John 16:26

We think, too often, that the Cross is something we have to get through. But the only way we get through it is to get into it. “The Cross stands for one thing only for us–a complete and entire and absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is nothing in which this identification is realized more than in prayer.”

Jesus told us that the Father knows what we need before we ask. Then why ask? Because the purpose of prayer is not to get answers from God. “Prayer is perfect and complete oneness with God.” If we only pray to get answers, we will get frustrated with God. Answers do come, but not always in the way we expect or desire them. And our frustrations show that we have not fully identified ourselves with Jesus in our prayers. “We are here to be living monuments of God’s grace.”

We must beware of trying to attach blame on someone or something else when our prayers seem to go unanswered. “You will find there is a reason which is a deep instruction to you, not to anyone else.”

Father, help me gain this deep identification with Jesus, both as I live, and as I pray. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Teach me the way of praying not just to get answers, but to be deeply identified with Christ in the Cross.

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.

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

Good morning. It is Saturday, August 1, 2015. Welcome to August.

Tough choice for word of the day, today. So tough, I’m not choosing. I’m going to give you both of them! The word of the day from Merriam Webster is skulduggery, a noun, meaning, “underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; also : a devious device or trick.” I’ve always been a fan of that word. The other one, from dictionary.com, is noctambulous. I mean, who couldn’t love that word, right? It means, “of, relating to, or given to sleepwalking.” So let’s see if we can get on with some noctambulous skulduggery, here!

Today is Mead Day. No, not Margaret. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made with honey. It is similar to wine, but much, much sweeter. It is also very difficult to find, being a throwback to the days of knights and ladies of the court. Every year, when we visit Scarborough Renaissance Festival, I make it a point to have a glass of mead. It’s quite delicious, in my opinion. Perhaps I will see if I can scrounge some up, today, but I have my doubts.

I wound up working until just shy of 6:00 PM last night. Christi and I actually got off work at almost the same time, so that turned out okay. She stopped and got our Sonic drinks, and I ordered pizza. We didn’t stay up too terribly late, because she had to get up and go in by 6:00, this morning. But she’s already back home, and everything seems to be working correctly, which is good news.

We don’t have much planned for today, I reckon. We’ll get some lunch, and have our prayer and worship gatherings this evening. Tomorrow, we will go get our groceries, along with some for Christi’s mom and step-dad. Usual Sunday stuff. After that, who knows. Perhaps we will go bowling this weekend. We have decided that we don’t need another activity added to our weekly schedule, so we won’t be bowling in a league, just yet. Beginning Monday, I have band practice again on Monday nights; I have Huddle on Tuesdays; Christi has bowling on Tuesdays (currently over, but they are planning a winter league); Christi has Huddle on Thursday; we have church on Saturday. If we add a bowling league to that already frenetic schedule, we will have something five nights a week. That’s just too much. Maybe after our Huddles are done, we will look into something, but who knows. For now, we will stick to casual bowling on Sunday afternoons, whenever we get the chance.

The Rangers and Red Sox both won again, last night. The Rangers have a three-game winning streak on, while the Red Sox have won two in a row, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. Cole Hamels, newly acquired by the Rangers, will be pitching in tonight’s game.

On this date in 1876, Colorado became the 38th U.S. state. In 1902, the U.S. bought rights to the Panama Canal from France. In 1941, the first Jeep was produced. In 1944, Anne Frank made the last entry in her diary. On this date in 1966, Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, after which he took numerous guns to the Tower on the campus of the University of Texas, where he killed 14 more people and wounded 32 others, from the observation deck of the tower. The tower was closed for a while, reopened and closed again several times, due to suicide jumps, 9/11, and other events. It has been open to visitors since 2004. On this date in 1981, MTV aired its first music video. It was, as is commonly known, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Buggles. I’m not sure when MTV played its last music video. (Sarcasm, there.)

Today’s birthdays include Claudius (Roman Emperor), William Clark (American explorer), Frances Scott Key (Star Spangled Banner), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Dom DeLuise (American actor/comedian), Yves Saint Laurent (French fashion designer), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Tommy Bolin (American musician), Robert Cray (American blues musician), Joe Elliott (English musician, Def Leppard), and Madison Bumgarner (American baseball player). Also born on this date was my granddaddy, D.W. Vinson.

Joe Eliott is the lead singer for the rock group Def Leppard. He turns 56 today, and they are still touring. I think they are going to be playing in the DFW area soon. One of my work associates keeps asking me if I’m going to see them. 🙂 Here is their hit, “Pour Some Suger On Me.”

Notable deaths on this date include Marc Antony, Calamity Jane, and Charles Whitman (see history notes above).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 30 and Matthew 9. In Genesis 30, we pick up the ongoing tale of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob. Leah has had four children, and Rachel has had none. “Give me children, or I shall die!” she declares to Jacob. Jacob, flustered, says, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” So Rachel gives Jacob her servant, Bilhah. Because that worked out so well for Sarah, you know.

Leah’s sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Through Bilhah, Rachel had Dan and Naftali. Then Leah decided to get in on this act, since she had stopped having children. She sent her servant, Zilpah, in to Jacob. Zilpah had Gad and Asher. After this, Leah conspired with Rachel to get the mandrakes that Rachel had found. Apparently mandrakes had some kind of fertility characteristics. So, then, Leah had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. After this, Rachel had Joseph. That’s eleven, so far. Oh, and there was a daughter in there, who barely gets mentioned, Dinah.

At this point, Jacob starts trying to get away from Laban. It takes some scheming, as we will find out, for Laban was every bit as good a trickster as Jacob.

Rich Mullins wrote a song about this whole ordeal that Jacob went through.

In Matthew 9, we get a truncated account of Jesus’s healing of the paralytic that was brought to a house by friends. After this, Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector, to follow him, and has lunch with him. This gets criticism from the Pharisees, because they really hate tax collectors. Matthew gives us quick accounts of Jesus raising a girl from the dead, healing a woman who had been sick for twelve years, healing two blind men, and casting a demon out of a man who had been unable to speak.

At the end of chapter 9, Jesus gives this instruction to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Today’s Psalm from Heart Aflame is Psalm 89:34-35.

I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David.

(From Solid Joys)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Today’s reading is “Our Weakness Reveals His Worth.”

Our suffering magnifies Jesus Christ’s worth and power. This is God’s design for us. And this is grace, because our greatest joy is to see “Christ magnified in our lives.”

Right before the verse above, from 2 Corinthians, Paul had pleaded with the Lord to remove what he simply called a “thorn in the flesh.” We have no idea what this means. There is never any indication of what this “thorn in the flesh” was. We only know that the Lord refused to remove it from Paul’s life, responding, instead, with the verse that is quoted above. “God ordains that Paul be weak so that Christ might be seen as strong on Paul’s behalf.”

This is one of those things that is seen to be foolish by those who do not believe as we do. But we know that, if we appear to be self-sufficient, God does not get glory. Instead, we get glory. That is not our goal, nor our desire. Remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

So Paul, as he experienced this grace, rejoiced in it.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Living by faith in God’s grace means being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus. Therefore faith will not shrink back from what reveals and magnifies all that God is for us in Jesus. That is what our own weakness and suffering does.”

Father, may my faith not shrink back when suffering is ahead. I have not truly suffered for your sake. I cannot ever say that I have. But I have been weak before men, and will continue to do so, if being weak makes you appear to be stronger. I am surrounded by men who act as though they are strong. I pray daily that all of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ will rejoice in our weaknesses that make you stronger. May we say, along with Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I pray for this day, that you will be glorified in what we do today. May our prayer and worship gatherings be strong in you today. May we lift your name high, both in prayer, and in worship. May we rejoice in you, and may we hear the proclamation of your word, and receive what you have to tell us today.

Your grace is sufficient in all things.

May we rejoice in our weakness, knowing that it makes Christ appear stronger.

Grace and peace, friends.