Of Courage and Contemplation

Today is Saturday, the first of October, 2022, in the twenty-sixth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,578


Lord our God, we thank you for your gospel, the great, good tidings we may carry in our hearts to give us joy in this present time, even though on all sides people are in anguish and agony. We thank you that your gospel fills our hearts with compassion, enabling us to help carry what many have to suffer. Show us our need of you so that we can receive your help. If we must be the first to suffer all kinds of pain and distress, may we do so joyfully because we have been promised blessing in the midst of all the pain. May we continually honor your name, praising you for the good news of your kingdom, for the promise that everything must work together for good through Jesus Christ the Savior. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 
(Romans 12:12, 15 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the compassion with which it fills my heart
  2. that all things work together for good through Jesus Christ
  3. for the privilege and ability to simply sit and contemplate our God
  4. that all of humanity is created in the image of God
  5. for the strength that God gives, the courage to go on when we are afraid

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
(Romans 14:8-9 ESV)

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3 ESV)

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. 
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! 
Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity." 
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 
let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 
before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.
(Psalms 96:1-13 ESV)

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
(Psalms 31:24 ESV)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
(Matthew 14:27 ESV)

Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name
Earth has no higher bliss.
(Frederick William Faber)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

What is courage? The word is mentioned a few times in Scripture. First, I will tell you what it is not. It is not the absence of fear. That is a false belief that comes from toxic masculinity. There are a lot of guys out there who think that doing something “manly” (aka, “stupid”) makes them courageous.

Courage, though, is the ability to do something that frightens you. It is also “strength in the face of pain or grief.” It is not the absence of these things. It is the ability to move forward in spite of them.

It takes courage to follow Jesus, especially in these times. But Jesus speaks peace to us, just as He did to His disciples when He met them on the water. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

We’ve noted, multiple times, that the command “fear not,” along with its variations, is the most often repeated command in the Bible. My opinion is that, if I weren’t already afraid, Jesus wouldn’t have to say that to me. To me, it’s more of an encouragement than a command. I don’t think He is saying “fear not” as a directive, as much as He is saying, “Hey. It’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.”

One of the best ways to embrace this idea is through meditation and contemplation. Now, those are two entirely different things (and those who are more of the “fundamentalist” persuasion really detest those words, for reasons I will never quite understand). Meditation involves a sort of “chewing” on passages of Scripture, while contemplation is pretty much what that little poem up there says. “Sit and think of God;” “To think the thought, to breathe the Name.”

Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is simply sit and breathe the name, “Jesus,” over and over. I can tell you from experience (scoff if you want) that it helps; it is good for the soul. Faber isn’t far off when he says, “Earth has no higher bliss.”

Here’s the rest of that poem:

I love Thee so, I know not how

My transports to control;

Thy love is like a burning fire

Within my very soul.

Father of Jesus, love’s reward!

What rapture will it be,

Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,

And gaze and gaze on Thee!

O Spirit, beautiful and dread!

My heart is fit to break

With love of all Thy tenderness

For us poor sinners’ sake

Father, I know the joy, the bliss, of simply sitting and thinking of You, thinking thoughts of You and breathing the Name of Jesus. What strength, what courage, can be supplied by doing so. I thank You for this privilege, this ability. I praise You that, in Your divine omniscience, You ordained that I should be introduced to these things in my life.

I thank You, also, for the confidence that comes from knowing that we have been created in Your image. I don’t fully understand what that means, since You don’t have an “image,” exactly. Perhaps “likeness” would be a better word. I pray that, as I grow in You, I would become more like You. And, as I become more like You, may I more and more heed the common words in Scripture, “do not be afraid.”

I am moved, this morning, by the words from Romans 14, Lord. Whatever I do, be it living or dying, I belong to You. I am Yours, Father, to do with as You will. I simply pray for the courage to walk in the way in which You direct me.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Things We Know, by Daryl Madden

Let’s make a list
Of the things we know
Starting with how much
Our God loves us so

We have a purpose
There’s nothing to fear
We always belong
And God always here

His mercy never ends
Forgiveness of our sins
He prepares our way
Before each day begins

No matter of the form
When we say a prayer
Something of beyond
Is happening right here

Just how we are blessed
Showered by His grace
To receive and share
Our joy to embrace

Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link provided above.

Grace and peace, friends.

Fixing the Mind

Good morning. It is Friday, October 2, 2015.

Today’s word of the day is peripeteia. This noun means, “a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in a literary work.” The last month for the Texas Rangers has certainly been a peripeteia!

Today is Name Your Car Day. While I don’t refer to it often, my Hyundai Sonata is named Amadeus.

So the Texas Rangers won last night, beating the Angels 5-3. This accomplished two things. It eliminated the Angels from contention for the division championship, and it clinched at least a Wild Card spot for the Rangers. Their magic number to win the division is now 1. Houston remains in the second Wild Card spot by 1 game. The Twins and the Angels are tied, 1 game behind the Astros. There are three games left, and anything could happen between those three teams.

The Red Sox finally lost to the Evil Empire, giving the EE a playoff spot and their 10,000th win. The thing is, the Sox were playing some secondary players in the game, which is fine, since the game really didn’t matter to them. They did pretty well, too, in my opinion. The score was 4-1, which is a respectable baseball score. As far as standings go, there is a three-way tie for fourth place in the AL East (or last place, if you want to look at it that way) between the Sox, the O’s, and the Rays. Again, with three games remaining, anything could happen. The Sox close out their season with the Indians. Baltimore finishes the season against NY, who wants to have home field advantage for the WC game. Tampa finishes against Toronto, who is fighting with KC for the best record in the AL, which would give them home field advantage for all AL playoff series.

Yesterday was another pretty heavy day at work, but I left at 4:30, because Thursday is Christi’s Huddle night. As I meditated on yesterday morning’s devotion, it occurred to me that I was, once again, guilty of allowing people and circumstances to steal my joy. As a result of that, I had a pretty good day, yesterday, maintaining a joy in the Lord that I am not always able to maintain. The verses from yesterday spoke to me frequently, throughout the day. I hope to continue that trend today, especially in the face of impending overtime, this evening.

Tomorrow will be our last Saturday worship service, as Sunday mornings will begin next weekend, when we are in Mexico.


(From Heart Aflame)

but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols, which became a snare to them.

Psalm 106:35-36

” . . . we are more inclined to follow the example of the bad than of the good. . . . nothing is more dangerous than associating with the ungodly; because, being more prone to follow the vice than virtue, it cannot but be, that the more conversant we are with corruption, the more widely it will spread.” (p 276)

Calvin goes on to say that the utmost care and caution are necessary, for he knows that we must associate with such people in our lives. How would we be salt in the earth, otherwise? This is why we must take care to be deeply entrenched in the Word and prayer.

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

In this section, Timothy Keller begins looking at three stages of meditation described by John Owen, British theologian, in his book, The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. To begin with, Owen makes a distinction between meditation, Bible study, and prayer.

It is distinguished from the study of the word, wherein our principal aim is to learn the truth, or to declare it unto others; and so also from prayer, whereof God himself is the immediate object. But . . . meditation . . . is the affecting of our own hearts and minds with love, delight, and [humility].

Owen’s first stage is what he calls fixing the thoughts, “selecting and getting a clear view of a truth from the Bible.”

By solemn or stated meditation, I intend [first] the thoughts of some subject spiritual and divine, with the fixing, forcing, and ordering of our thoughts about it. . . . [It is] the actual exercise of the mind, in its thoughts, meditations, and desires, about things spiritual and heavenly. . . . They mind them by fixing their thoughts and meditations upon them.

Keller goes on to describe and illustrate several methods of getting “such a clear view of a text.” The first is to read a biblical text deliberately, asking ourselves four questions:

  • What does this teach me about God and his character?
  • About human nature, character, and behavior?
  • About Christ and his salvation?
  • About the church, or life in the people of God?

As an example, Keller leads us to John 2:13-22, where Jesus drives the money changers out of the temple.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

What can we learn about God from this text? “We might see that God cannot be taken lightly, that he is holy. In his presence, his ‘house,’ it matters how we live.

What can we learn about ourselves from this passage? “It might strike us how important it is to concentrate on him during worship, and not daydream about other affairs.”

What about Christ and salvation? “Jesus is not only predicting his resurrection here, but he is also claiming that he is the ultimate temple, the bridge over the chasm between God and humankind.”

And what about the Church, God’s people? “We see how important it is to learn the Scripture, even though it may take time and patience to understand and rejoice in its teaching.”

We will continue later with other methods and examples of meditation, based on Scripture passages.

Father, as I continue to learn about meditation and prayer, I pray for the discipline to take passages of Scripture and ponder them in these various ways. I tend to rush through reading, and even thinking about passages, largely because I have read them so many times. Help me to slow down, to stop and ponder, even passages that I have had memorized since I was very young. Take these truths and implant them in my heart!

I pray for this day, that our travel to and from work will be safe and smooth. I pray for Christi’s day, that it will be a good day, without stress. Show your joy to her and help her be a beacon of light in the darkness. I pray that same for my work day. Help me to maintain the joy that I know in you; make it truth in my life. May I display your kingdom in all kinds of circumstances. I pray that we might not have to work terribly late, this evening.

I also pray for the rest of our family. For Stephanie, Rachel, Justin, and Mama, may you show grace and love to them today, drawing them to your light and peace.

May you bring comfort to the community in Oregon, shattered by the senseless violence of yesterday. In light of this and other troubling circumstances in the world, I say . . .

Come, Lord Jesus!

The first stage of meditation, and possibly the most difficult in our culture, is fixing the mind. May we be able to successfully fix our minds on Christ and his truths.

Grace and peace, friends.


“We are not concerned with our own perfection or our own wisdom or even our own happiness. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus, and we receive from him everything, literally everything, we need to run the race and to make light of the difficulties we have, whatever they are.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Saturday, August 16, 2014. I am up early, getting ready to go to work at 7:00am.

Today is Rollercoaster Day. I wish I could be riding roller coasters today. Hershey Park has a lot of them. But it’s a long way to Pennsylvania. . .

I worked an hour late yesterday, mainly just ease the work load for today. There will be a few boxes left to receive, then it will be just make ready for everything that QC has finished checking. I’m hoping I don’t have to work the whole eight hours today. I’ve put in a few hours of overtime that would make up for it if I get to come back home early.

I don’t know if I will make it in time for church this evening. Last time, I was really tired after the Saturday work day. Just have to wait and see.

Christi will be starting the new job on the last Friday in August. The reason for starting on Friday has to do with insurance coverage. She needs to officially start work before the first of September so she can begin her insurance coverage on October 1.

Oops. It’s getting late. . .


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:3
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5:11-12
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 146:5-10

Today’s Gospel reading

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Rise, O Sleeper!”

“One definition of salvation is ‘an ongoing process of becoming increasingly conscious.'” Sadly, many of us sleepwalk through our spiritual lives, in a state of numbness. “Kierkegaard saw that the basic human problem is that all men are bored.”

Jesus calls us to wake up. “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:46) “It is daily meditation that leads us to full wakefulness.” We become spiritually mature by “living in harmony with ourselves and with God.” When we take time to meditate, we take our eyes off of ourselves. “We are not concerned with our own perfection or our own wisdom or even our own happiness. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus, and we receive from him everything, literally everything, we need to run the race and to make light of the difficulties we have, whatever they are.”

Meditation takes the burdens off of our hearts because we become aware that there is only one thing that is truly essential, and that is living in harmony with God. This also makes us realize that we cannot lose.

So then let us not sleep, as others do,
but let us keep awake and be sober.

1 Thessalonians 5:6

Father, I pray that I can be better at meditation. I spend a lot of time (at least for me) praying every morning, but how much time do I spend in silent meditation. I try to maintain silence after I finish praying on my morning drive to work, but I catch myself talking to myself or some imaginary passenger in the front seat. Teach me to be silent. That seems to be a thing that modern man, at least in our culture, has lost. We seem to, for some reason, fear silence. Teach me to be silent. Teach me to meditate. Teach me that lightheartedness that knows that the most important thing for me is to be in harmony with you through Christ, and to know that I cannot lose, because I am your child.

I pray for this day. May I have safe passage to work and back. I pray for Christi as she does her usual Saturday morning errands. May she experience your peace in the midst of her mundane chores. I pray for Stephanie today, that she will be drawn closer to your heart, and that, as she helps in the children’s activities at church tonight, you will bring her blessing and peace. I pray for tonight’s worship time, that your name will be lifted high.

Your grace is sufficient.

I plan to spend my drive to work this morning in silent meditation on the grace that God has lavished on us.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Discipline of Meditation

Ah, it’s Saturday morning. June 15, 2013. Five more work days on this account, and I get a week off. We’re thinking about going to Galveston. Haven’t found a place to stay yet, though. We can’t afford to go back to Cancun, just yet, so Galveston is the closest thing we have. We might even consider South Padre. Christi’s looking into that right now.

Today, we are traveling to a much closer place, Mineral Wells, where we will celebrate Father’s Day with my Dad. We’re going today, because we have a lot going on tomorrow. We’re saying “Farewell” to two of our pastors tomorrow at church, and that’s going to eat into the afternoon time. Rachel and Justin will be coming over, I think, so our family will be together for the afternoon.

Amber the Cat ate a little bit of food on her own, both last night and this morning! We are so happy. There were a few tears of joy last night, when she followed me into the kitchen/breakfast nook and managed to get up on the breakfast table, her usual place to eat. I sprinkled some of her usual treats on the table. She nuzzled them around a bit, but never picked one up. So I put some of the kitten food that we got with Trixie on the table, and Amber started eating it! A wonderful development!

Today is “Smile Power Day.” It’s true; there’s a lot of power in a smile. Smile at someone today.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1381, at the height of the “Peasants’ Revolt,” one of the leaders of said revolt, Wat Tyler, was killed after drawing a knife during parley with King Richard II, after the peasants occupied London. Tyler drew a knife during a scuffle, but was killed by the sword of William Walworth, the Mayor of London, who had accompanied King Richard to the parley. As the peasant army reached for their weapons, “Richard rode out to them alone, ordering them to obey him, their true King. Miraculously, the mob obeyed, and the crowd dispersed. The Peasants’ Revolt was over.” Soon afterward, the other leader of the revolt, John Ball, was caught and hanged.

Today’s birthday is Waylon Jennings, born on this date in 1937. I picked Waylon, well, because he was a legend. I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but I do appreciate the pure country of Waylon and have always enjoyed the work he did with Willie. I have, in fact, been to Luckenbach, Texas. We lost Waylon in 2002. Here is a video clip of Waylon doing “Good Hearted Woman.” He is joined by Willie, and, apparently, a host of other stars. He’s being introduced by Chet Atkins, and I swear that’s Michael McDonald playing piano behind him.

Honorable mentions go to Edvard Grieg, 1843, Harry Nilsson, 1941, Julie Hagerty, 1955, Wade Boggs, 1958, Helen Hunt, 1963, Bif Naked, 1971, Neil Patrick Harris, 1973, and Tim Lincecum, 1984.


In case anyone is curious (if anyone has happened to notice the tag, The Divine Hours on all of these posts), I begin each day’s devotional by praying through the “Morning Office” in The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle. The scripture references that follow are taken from that book, and occasionally one of the prayers in the book. However, I always quote the ESV, where she uses The Jerusalem Bible in the book.

Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85:7
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! Psalm 65:4
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! Psalm 84:1
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Psalm 84:2

Father, I pray for a vision of your steadfast love this morning. You have brought me near, to dwell in your courts. May I truly be satisfied with this goodness that you have shown me. My heart and flesh sing songs of praise to you, my God!

Today, in A Year With God, I begin a section on the discipline of Meditation. Meditation is defined as, “Prayerful rumination upon God, his Word, and his world.” Right off the bat, the book acknowledges what I already know. “Many of us worry that ‘meditation’ has a ring of the occult or of Eastern religion.” I would add “New Age” to that, although the term “New Age” has been around for so long that it could hardly be called “New” any more. But scripture is replete with “references to God’s people meditating on his word, pondering Jesus or ‘higher things,’ reflecting on the beauty of creation.” Eastern meditation seeks to empty the mind, while, in Christian meditation, we seek “to fill ourselves with God, to form a more complete attachment to Christ.” We attempt to be more attentive to God in meditation. We desire to allow God to direct our thoughts. While it is true that meditation is closely linked with prayer, the focus is more on listening than talking. It is “more devotional than analytical.”

Our society is losing touch with the art of this discipline, as we seek to do everything faster and easier. We “want to learn and pray and read as quickly as we can, so we can get to the next item on our to-do list.” The act of meditation, “thinking about God with no set agenda,” is a difficult task for us. This makes it all the more essential in our spiritual formation. In Psalm 145:5, David says, On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

The first reading begins the first ten day segment and is called “Meditating on Scripture.” The scripture reading is 2 Timothy 2:7.

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

The task, right off, is to spend the next ten days meditating over a specific passage. ” . . . ponder it, think it over, and muse on it until it becomes part of us.” A very short passage is recommended, perhaps just one sentence. Suggestions range from the “I am” statements of Jesus, a proverb, a line or stanza from one of the Psalms, or a teaching from an epistle.

“Aim to enter the passage as an active participant, imagining yourself hearing Jesus say the words, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of that day.” (Not so sure I want to experience the smells, thank you very much.) The task is not to study the passage, but, rather “to be initiated into the reality of which the passage speaks.” (Richard Foster) Jesus taught us that he is still with us, to teach us and to instruct us. We want to allow him to do just that in this process.

I will begin this task by meditating on my “life verse,” which is Psalm 86:11. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Father, as I begin this next task, learning more on the discipline of meditation, teach me something new. Show me something new about yourself as I meditate on different brief passages of scripture. Draw me deeply in that reality that is expressed. Teach me to walk in your truths, to abide in your word. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. May my thinking on your word become as natural as breathing. May your word fill me like the air that surrounds me.

I pray for this day and this weekend. Give us safe travel to Mineral Wells, later, as well as safe travel for Rachel and Justin as the come down from Denton. May our time with my parents be blessed and relaxing. I also pray for tomorrow’s time at church. I know it will be emotionally charged, but I pray, too, that worship will happen, and that we will not focus too much on what we are losing, but on what you have planned for us. It’s all about you, Lord, it’s not about Joel and Ben. May you fill the worship band with your Spirit as we worship you with our instruments and our voices. May you fill Jacob with your Spirit as he preaches to us, and takes over the leadership of our church.

Your grace is sufficient.

I’m excited about re-learning and advancing in this discipline. I’ve kind of lost touch with it. I pray that others might join me in meditating on God’s Word.

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Be A Milksop!

Good morning. It’s Saturday, July 7. We got to sleep in again today. Nothing much to do today.

Oh, my. Today is “Chocolate Day.” That is certainly worthy of celebration!

On this date in 1930, the building of the Hoover Dam began. On this date in 1865, Mary Surratt became the first woman executed by the Federal Government, because of her alleged involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. On this date in 1900, Wyatt Earp was killed in an Arizona saloon.

Last night, I learned that my Great-Aunt Peace, passed away. She was my Grandmama’s sister-in-law, sister of my Grandfather that I never knew, as he passed when my Dad was a boy. She was the last one living of those brothers and sisters, as far as I know. I wasn’t real close with her, and hadn’t seen her in a long while. However, I am Facebook friends with a few of her family members, a niece, a great-niece, and a great-granddaughter, I believe. These were closer to her than I was. Prayers would be appreciated for their comfort during this time. She was in her nineties, I believe, and had not been well for a while.

Father, I pray that you will show me something of yourself this morning.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 37. This one is another gem, full of great verses.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
[“Befriend faithfulness” could also be rendered “feed on faithfulness” or “find safe pasture.”]
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (3-4)

That is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. Not because I believe it promises that God will give me whatever I want, because I don’t believe that. I believe that it tells me that if I delight myself in him, then he will shape the desires of my heart to match his desires. And that is what I desire.

A large part of this Psalm is counseling the reader to not let the prosperity of the wicked bother him.
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!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Wait…patiently…words that we don’t like in our modern society.

And here’s one that gives me great comfort.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.
I will stumble, and even fall, but the Lord keeps hold of my hand.

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.
There is a major goal of mine. If the law of God is in my heart, my steps will not slip. While it is true that this is a good justification for Scripture memorization, it is more than just memorizing. A lot of people seem to think that just memorizing Bible verses will help them in their quest for holiness or whatever it is that they are after. But we must remember…memorization is nothing more than head knowledge. This verse says that the law of the Lord is in his heart! We must learn it! This goes back to my verse for this year, which I have not visited lately. Joshua 1:8 says this: This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. It’s more than just knowing the words…we must meditate on it. Chew it up. Spend time thinking about it, pondering it, and allowing the Spirit to work it into our very being.

David closes this Psalm with these words:
The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

There are so many good concepts in this Psalm that we can learn. But they take a lifetime to master. Especially that waiting patiently part.

My Utmost For His Highest

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14

“If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult.” What? But the person who led me to Christ promised me that life would be easy now! Are we guilty of this? Do we lie to people to try to get them to receive Christ? “Come to Jesus, and all your problems will be over!” But, as Chambers says, here, “The Christian life is gloriously difficult…” Our pastor, Joel Engle goes beyond that. He says, “The Christian life is not difficult; it’s impossible!” The KJV in the above verse is translated, Enter ye in at the strait gate. There are several definitions of “strait.” A more archaic definition is “strict, rigorous.” That could certainly fit, couldn’t it? But it also means “closely fitting; restricted, or tight.” The ESV and other versions render it “narrow.” Is that too simple? Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates these verses in The Message: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easy-going formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention.” Wow. How many of us are trying to life this life in our “spare time?” That cuts right to the quick, doesn’t it? Chambers asks, “Do we so appreciate the marvelous salvation of Jesus Christ that we are our utmost for His highest?” Do we? I fear that I do not!
I am saved by the sovereign grace of God, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I did nothing to earn that. But I must work that salvation out “in practical living.” This takes practice. This means that we need to be about learning those precepts (not just memorizing them), meditating on those verses. “If we obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has put in us by His Spirit, then when the crisis comes, we shall find that our own nature as well as the grace of God will stand by us.” We can’t just live our lives, tending to God in our spare time, and then blame him when the crisis comes and we fail! Look at The Message translation again: “The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention.” (Emphasis mine)
“Thank God He does give us difficult things to do! … God’s grace turns out men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not milksops.” (An ineffective, indecisive person.) This life is impossible. We cannot do it without God; without the indwelling Holy Spirit. “It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the noble life of a disciple of Jesus in actual things.” It is “vigorous and requires total attention.” It’s not a part time job.

Father, I confess that it is only your grace in my life that keeps me from throwing my hands up in the air and giving up. Yes, this life is hard. I have failed you so many times, but you keep bringing me along. As I have read these Scriptures and this reading from Chambers this morning, I realize how far I still have to go. I was cruising along thinking that I was doing okay. But I’m still treating your grace, this life, like a “part-time” thing! I am not “meditating” on these Scriptures, on these precepts. Lord, I pray for the influence of the Holy Spirit in my life, to cause me to remember these things. To make me remember during my days that I need to be pondering your words. I read them in the morning…I even pray on the way to work. Ooh… But then what? Do I remember during my work day to lift up prayers? Not very often! It’s time to get serious. I’m going to be working on memorizing some verses over the next few weeks. But I pray that they not just be memorized. As I memorize verses and learn precepts, may they get transferred from my head to my heart. Yes, Lord, this life is beyond difficult! It is impossible. But with you, all things are possible!
Enough beating myself up. Time to get moving.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray for Christi’s health, that today, as she gets some rest (she even slept until 10am!) that she will begin to feel much better. Place your healing hand on her, Lord, that she will get over whatever is afflicting her. I pray for all of us, as we continue this journey to better health. Give us success and motivation to continue working out and eating better. Let us not slip back into unhealthy habits. I also pray for Susie, as she works on some health goals. We celebrate with her as she met her goal for last month. Give her the grace, courage, and strength to make her next goals. Thank you for making us an inspiration to others.

I pray for Nansii, Lord, a friend, who was to have her gall bladder out yesterday (that’s two friends in two weeks). I have not heard an update, so I don’t know how it went. I pray, though, that this surgery took care of the problems that she was having. I pray for comfort and strength for her husband, Bryan.

I pray for the leadership of our church, Father, that they will be constantly sensitive to the Spirit, in knowing how to direct our fellowship. This morning, I pray for Jeremy Edgar, the director of our worship ministries. He is busy every Sunday morning, running around making sure everything is working right. I pray that you give him wisdom as he leads us all in the worship ministries, and I pray that you would give me peace and help him find time to actually worship during the worship celebration time. I thank you for his leadership and the heart that he has for leading and inspiring people.

I pray earnestly that all of us, your people, will live holy lives by the power of Jesus Christ. May you help us all, by the power of the Spirit to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and help us to all make living for you a full time occupation, not just a part time job.

Your grace us sufficient.

Give your all to Christ. Don’t be a milksop.

Grace and peace, friends.

I’m Running To Your Arms

It’s Wednesday morning, October 26. Our daughter’s second anniversary is in five more days. Whoa! So is Halloween! What a coincidence! To celebrate, we bought bags of candy! Hahaha…

I want to start out with some song lyrics this morning. Why? Because I woke up in the middle of the night with the words of this song running through my head.

“Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world, forever reign

My heart will sing
No other name
Jesus, Jesus”

Here’s the song “Forever Reign,” by Hillsongs:

Today’s Bible readings:
1 Timothy 5; Jeremiah 33-34; Proverbs 23:29-35

Paul continues to instruct Timothy about relationships, now within the church. Verses 1 and 2 are interesting. Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. I love this. We are to respect our elders! I am not to rebuke an older man. (I know I’m not Timothy, and I’m not young, but I sincerely believe that this applies to me, as well.) We should treat older men and women as we would our parents. Okay…assuming our parents were godly people. If your parents are scumbags, then we don’t want to be treating good church people like that. We are also to treat younger men and women as brothers and sisters, and with the women, Paul adds this line, “in all purity.” This means no flirting with the younger women! All relationships in the body of Christ should be of the utmost purity.
Verses 3-8 are also interesting. The church had a special place for widows, just as the Lord holds them in high regard. However, Paul insists that, if they still have some family, their families should take care of them, and they should continue learning “to show godliness to their own household.” (v. 4) A true widow is one who is truly all alone. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (v. 8 ) This is serious business. We cannot abandon our earthly families. Again, I’m perceiving this as within the household of faith. There are sometimes rifts in families when one becomes a believer if the others aren’t, especially if the family has a strong connection to another religion, such as Jews or Muslims. In those cases, the family abandons the one who convert to Christianity.
Okay, so a widow can’t be “enrolled” (I guess in the program that provides for them?) unless she is at least 60 years old, and has shown good moral character. There’s a pretty strenuous list of qualifications there in verses 9-10. Younger widows should not participate because their passions can still draw them away. They might want to get married again, or even worse, be “idlers, gossips and busybodies.” Oh, my. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. (v. 14) Again, he states that if a believing woman has family who is widowed, she should take care of them, and not allow them to be a burden on the church, so that the church can care for “those who are really widows.” (v. 16)
Paul shifts his focus slightly, in verse 17, to elders who “rule well.” They are worthy, he says, of “double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (v. 18 ) Our pastors should be well compensated! Sure, it’s not all just about money, but the person responsible for the spiritual well-being of the flock should not be scraping by on a pittance. I mean, he doesn’t have to drive a Rolls Royce, either, but he should be taken care of. False charges should not be allowed or listened to. No charge against an elder should even be heard unless at least three people can verify it.

Jeremiah gives us another great promise from God in 33:3. Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. This is the kind of promise that involves something that I have been reading about recently. Meditation. Lectio divina. If we are going to allow the Lord to show us “great and hidden things,” we have to learn how to listen! We must be silent. I used to “rip” vinyl records to my computer while I was doing my devotions. I’ve quit doing that. I need silence! In order to stop and listen to what God might be saying to me, I must have silence. What’s even more difficult, though is silencing my brain! In our modern society, that is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m working on it. Later in chapter 33, there is a passage that describes the eventual messianic reign. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.” Further, the Lord declares that the permanence of this covenant is like the permanence of night and day. Also, the descendants of David will be like the host of heaven and the sands of the sea.

Father, I praise you for the promise of the coming kingdom of Christ. I look forward to the day when Jesus reigns; to the day when we will no longer be ravaged by temptation and sin; to the day when we will no longer experience pain and suffering; and to the day when we will worship you for all eternity. “I can only imagine when all I will do is forever…forever worship you.” I thank you for the promises that you have made in Scripture. Today, I have read one that tells me that if I call on you, you will show me things that I have not seen before. I pray that I will be faithful in calling on you. During this day, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind me frequently to think on that verse, to spend time meditating on it (as time and work allows), and to listen for your voice throughout the day. I am also aware that your voice can come through many different media, so I need to be alert for that.
I pray that I will have an appropriate attitude towards both younger and older Christians. Let me treat my elders as I would treat my parents. This works for me, because I have godly parents, and respect them greatly. Let me treat younger Christians as brothers and sisters. However, I pray that I would never develop a condescending attitude towards those younger than me, because I always disliked when I was treated that way. We all have things we can learn from each other.

Father, the words of “Forever Reign” continue to run rampant through my brain. Let these words be true in my life today, that I am running to your arms, and that the riches of your love will always be enough for me. Reign in my heart and mind and life today.

I pray for the work day for Christi and me today. Let it be a smooth day. I pray for Stephanie’s meeting with her mentor this morning. She is so looking forward to that. I pray for my parents, for whatever they have in store today. Lord, I have prayed, but not put it in these blogs…I pray for my father. He has Inclusion Body Myositis, but you know that, don’t you? I pray that you would strengthen his body against this disease. You are the great healer; the Great Physician.

Lord, I pray for the eventual home of The Exchange. We are all praying for this together. Let us not run ahead, but do exactly what you want. It is your plan, it is your church. Do with us as you will.

I pray for my brother in Christ, Andy, who has a job audition this coming Saturday morning in California. I pray that he can make it there and that it will go well for him. He needs some relief in his life, Father.

Run to his arms. Share in the riches of his love. Nothing compares to his embrace.

Grace and peace, friends.