Stephen and the Spread of the Gospel

Today is Monday, the thirty-first of May, 2021, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,090

Today is Memorial Day, the idea behind which is to commemorate the soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty. Hence, “Memorial.” Most working people, unless they work retail, have the day off. Which is why I’m just now getting around to posting this blog, this morning.

34 days until July 4, our next major holiday. It falls on Sunday, this year, so my company is giving us Monday, the fifth, for our holiday. C’s company is giving them an extra holiday on Friday, July second, this year, so I’m taking a PTO day for that day. We will have a four-day weekend. At this point, we have not made any plans, but you can bet they won’t be for any outside activities. Not in July, in Texas. No, sir.

Today, the Church celebrates the angel’s visitation to the mother of Jesus, Mary.

We had a beautiful day, yesterday. The drive to and from Mineral Wells was nice and uneventful. We enjoyed getting to visit Mama’s church for their Sunday service, even though their senior pastor did not preach. They had a guest speaker, a missionary with Mission Aviation Fellowship, Luke Bryant, along with his wife, Joy, and at least their oldest son.

I have to confess, my first thought, when I heard there was a missionary speaking, was, “Great. We’re going to be there until 1:00 PM.” When I saw he had slides, I adjusted that to 2:00 PM.

However, his presentation was relatively brief, with not too many slides, and totally relevant to the ministry that he supports. His story was heart-warming, and he was atypically honest about some struggles that he recently went through. I felt guilty for my cynicism.

The highlight of the morning, of course, was at the end, when S presented herself for membership in the church. In case you missed this, she began speaking with their pastor a few weeks back about joining the church as a non-resident member. She has connected with him and the church family, and has been watching their broadcasts each Sunday morning, on the Internet. I know that she misses the feeling of “belonging,” as the little church that we are part of has no “membership,” no building, no pastor, none of the traditional accoutrements of “church.” Yet, by New Testament standards, we certainly qualify as part of the “Church.”

All that being said, we were perfectly fine with S joining the church, especially since it’s her Grandma’s church. And Grandma was, understandably, proud as could be. Also, it was her first time to attend church in person in over a year, and she was encouraged by how well she felt that she did, so I believe she will try to go back, at least occasionally.

We had a nice lunch from Mesquite Pit, after church, and after sitting and chatting for a while, we headed back home around 2:30 or so. The rest of the afternoon was, after getting the trash set out to the curb, just resting. There might have been naps.

Today, there are no plans. We are hoping that the 84% chance of rain might hold off and we can get our pool equipment repaired. We might have lunch from Applebee’s, and we have steaks and corn on the cob ready to cook with the sous vide cooker, for dinner.

Update: We have already received word that our pool guy will not be here today. He forgot that it was Memorial Day when he scheduled it. Fair enough. He should get a holiday, too. He says he will be here tomorrow, which is C’s normal work at home day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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 wonderful day we had yesterday
2. for an extra day off, this week, to refresh and recharge for the coming work week
3. that You neither slumber nor sleep as You watch over us
4. for the martyrdom of Stephen, which resulted in the Gospel being spread throughout the known world
5. for the privilege (and responsibility) to pray for all people, including, and especially, those in authority over us

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 2

INVITATION

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:5 NIV)

After a few interruptions, I am pausing, now, to center my spirit, meditating on Your unfailing love and faithfulness.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

And Saul approved of their killing him. [Stephen]
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
(Acts 8:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I try to become more aware of God’s presence, this morning (a bit of a challenge, for some reason, as my focus is drifting quite a bit), I linger on these passages, inviting the Holy Spirit to point me toward a word or phrase upon which to meditate.

I’m sure I have previously noted that the series of psalms called “A song of ascents” were songs that were sung by people as they made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I have heard it said that the first phrase, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains,” or “hills” in some translations, is an indication of expected danger. The hills along the road to Jerusalem were good hiding places for bandits, or so I’ve heard.

So, as a traveler would walk along the road, he might look at the hills and wonder who would help him, should a bandit do a sneak attack on him or his group.

One of my favorite sayings about God comes from this psalm. In fact, Felix Mendelssohn composed a beautiful song from it, as part of his oratorio, Elijah. “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

I suppose we don’t think about that often, do we? Our God, our Father in heaven, doesn’t need to sleep. He is always watching over us, so when that expected danger shows up, He is there to protect us.

The psalmist declares, in verses 7 and 8:

The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:7-8 NIV)

Does this mean that I will never get hurt?

That’s a question that has much more depth than I can even tackle, this morning. The short answer is no. But it is much more complicated than this. I heard a song, last week, by Vince Gill, called “Threaten Me with Heaven.” No, I don’t normally listen to Vince Gill, but it came up on the True Tunes Gallery Mix Tape on Spotify. The idea behind the song is that the worst thing any human being can do to me is threaten me with heaven. In other words, yeah, they can kill me, but what is the end result of that?

Jesus encouraged us to not fear those who could kill the body.

It is also good to remember that these psalms are poetry; they are songs. It is dangerous to try to build a theology from just Psalms. The idea behind Psalm 121 is that, because of the fact that our God never slumbers nor sleeps, we have, ultimately, nothing to fear. “Bad” things are going to happen to us. You might remember me sharing something from a wonderful book that I read, called Prayer in the Night, where the author stated that God doesn’t promise to keep bad things from happening to us. God didn’t even keep bad things from happening to Himself.

But, ultimately, we are in His protection, and nothing can happen to us that does not meet with His approval first. I am fully persuaded that this is the truth.

I mean, just look at what happened to Stephen! (Good segue, right?) God allowed him to be stoned to death by a rowdy bunch of self-righteous Pharisees, the leader being a young man named Saul.

And while, on the surface, this might appear to be a “bad” thing (he was “harmed” after all, was he not?), look at the result of it. There is a reason people like Stephen are referred to as “martyrs.” His death resulted in mass persecution of these new-fangled “Christians,” which resulted in them being scattered, which resulted in those being scattered boldly and fearlessly preaching the Word wherever they went!

Because of the death of Stephen, the Gospel began to be spread throughout the known world.

And Stephen? He got heaven out of the deal, after a very brief time of temporary pain. And during that pain, Stephen had a vision of Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God.

Of course, another result of all of this was what happens to Saul in chapter 9 of Acts. You’ll have to read that for yourself, because that’s not part of today’s devotional.

Father, I thank You that You neither slumber nor sleep. I confess that I have wondered, sometimes. Maybe not wondered if You were sleeping, but wondered if You are looking down here, paying attention to the mess that is going on on this planet You made. Even within Your Church, things seem to be a mess, as division seems to be running rampant. I know that Jesus did not die for us so we could bicker and fight over politics. Please forgive us, Father! And deliver us from the enemy’s tactics. Drive us back toward unity over the things that really matter, which, according to Your Son, are loving You and loving people. We have two jobs.

As the model prayer, quoted above, states, I pray, Lord, that Your great Name would be honored and revered throughout the world. I pray for Your Kingdom to come on this earth, and that Your will will be done (as I fully believe it will) on earth as it is in heaven. May You protect us; provide for us; and forgive us. And may we forgive others, just as You have forgiven us. Thank You for washing away all of my sin with the blood of Your Son.

Sending God,
thank you for not allowing your church to get stuck in Jerusalem,
limited to one location or bound to one era.
Instead,
your church fits and functions in any and every context,
spread across the world and yet joined in heart and will,
united in one and the same Spirit.
Thank you that I am part of this amazing community of faith.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 27)

BLESSING

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV)

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT)

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
(1 Timothy 2:8 NLT)

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases.
(Proverbs 21:1 NLT)

Father, I confess that I have been lacking in my prayers “for all people.” Certainly I pray each day for individual requests, as they come to my attention. But my prayers for “kings” and “all who are in authority” have been lacking for some time. Grant me repentance of this lacking and draw me closer in, that I might fulfill my obligation in this matter. Make it my heart’s desire to obey these commands. Two jobs, one prayer. Make my life line up with these, Father! All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Lord, may You give us all a “wide appreciation for the beauty and complexity of creation.” I can personally attest to the wonder of traveling while looking around at Your creation and envisioning the trees praising Your Name, and the fields shouting “glory!” to You. I pray that we humans would do a better job of caring for creation. I especially lift up all who might be suffering persecutions for their faith, today. While we, in the U.S., have not endured such persecution, there are many places in our world today where this kind of thing still goes on. May You protect them, and give them the same kind of boldness You gave Stephen as he faced his accusers.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! For the LORD will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the LORD himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster. On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:14-17 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends! Shalom Aleichem!

Peace With God

Today is Sunday, the thirtieth of May, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,089

Tomorrow is Memorial Day!

Today is also Holy Trinity Sunday.

We are up and getting ready to go to Mineral Wells, this morning. I don’t have a lot time, because we need to leave the house by 8:30. So I won’t get into any personal stuff, not that there is much to get into anyway.

There is a bit of sad news. We lost BJ Thomas and Gavin McLeod both, yesterday. McLeod, whom I knew best from Love Boat, was 90, and I believe Thomas was 78. I don’t know about Gavin, but BJ had been in poor health for a while, as I remember a previous announcement that he was suffering from some kind of cancer.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Follow the light--
and turn your life around.

Read the page in Scripture--
and turn the words over in your mind.

Acknowledge the grace of God--
and turn it into faith.

See the love around us--
and turn it into praise.

Stand firm in your faith--
and turn the other cheek.

Grow closer to our Lord--
and turn away from sin.

Thwart the spread of bitterness--
and turn to forgiveness.

Know of his resurrection--
and turn to joy.

Turn away from darkness--
and turn to the light.
("Turn to God" by Dayrl Madden, from On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the LORD.
(Psalms 26:12 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace in my soul, this morning
2. that, because of the work of Christ, I am eternally at peace with You
3. that there is nothing that can disturb that peace
4. that You answer me when I call
5. for the mystery of the Holy Trinity

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 1

(This will start over each week, from now until Advent)

INVITATION

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:5 NIV)

I pause during this moment to briefly meditate on the presence of God and His love, poured into our hearts.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.
Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.
What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush.
Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
(Psalms 120:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I leisurely read these passages again, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and meditations.

The Lord answers me when I call out to Him. Maybe I am in distress over something. Maybe I’m just dissatisfied about something, maybe even dissatisfied about the way He is responding or not responding to something.

Don’t tell me you have never felt that way. Just read the Psalms. Even the great and might David, the “man after God’s own heart,” felt that way at times. And God never chastised him for it.

But the point is, God will respond in some way. More often than not, it is a gentle nudge in my spirit. But sometimes, circumstances seem to redirect.

Also of note, in Psalm 120, is this idea that God is not too fond of deceitful lips. Be careful what you say, both to Him, about Him, and to others and about others. One of the more grievous sins (although I truly believe that God does not categorize sins) seems to be that of gossip.

Please note that the Bible never says, “Thou shalt not lie.” The command, one of the “big ten,” says,

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:16 NIV)

“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:16 NLT)

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:16 ESV)

The Message, not a literal translation, is the only one that even uses the word “lie,” but then qualifies it with “about your neighbor.”

No lies about your neighbor.
(Exodus 20:16 MSG)

Just some food for thought, here, telling us that we really need to be careful with the words that come out of our mouths, especially when talking about our “neighbors.”

As for the Romans passage, the first word that jumps out at me is “peace.” Because we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God! Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we are in an eternal state of peace with God!

And through this progression of events, named in verse 3-4, we have hope, in which we are not put to shame. The invitation verse for the week is verse 5. The book chooses to omit the first phrase for the invitation, which says, “And hope does not put us to shame.”

Shame is a nasty tool of the devil. It may be one of his biggest tools against Christians. Shame is debilitating. Shame will make you sit still and do nothing, wallowing in self-pity, because you believe that you are not worthy of anything that God has done for you and that He could never use you to do anything good.

Shame is brought on by people who will attack your worthiness (sometimes even parents, but thank God, not mine). “You’ll never amount to anything,” people may tell you. Or you may tell yourself that.

Lies.

Remember the Psalm??

Remember the commandment??

You are not to even bear false witness about YOURSELF!!

I tell you the truth, these words are coming to me, as I type, and I am fully persuaded that they are coming from the Holy Spirit.

You are enough! Because of the work of Jesus Christ, you (if you have called His name, and begun to follow in His words and steps) are enough! And because we are justified by faith, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, we are in a state of peace with God, which is now and forevermore!

There is nothing that can disturb that peace!

Well, nothing except shame, which is a lie, and only disturbs my peace from my direction.

I once heard an oversimplified definition of “propitiation,” on of those fifty-dollar theology words. The definition was, “God is not mad at you any more.”

Oversimplified, yes. But true. More lies from well-meaning preachers. God is not mad at you. If you are in Christ, all of your sins have been erased, past, present, and even future. You are, I am, enough.

Please take some time to rest in that, this morning, especially if you are one who struggles mightily with your own worthiness.

Father, I praise You for the work of Jesus, because of which I am eternally at peace with You. Am I perfect? Not even close. Do I still sin? Daily, maybe even hourly. Are you angry with me? Not the way I understand it. I love You, Father, and I am so grateful for the work You have done in my spirit, over the past few years. I am thankful for the peace, the love, and the way You are gradually (gradually because I’m so darned stubborn) transforming me into someone who spreads that love, and who loves his neighbor. Keep transforming me, Lord. Don’t stop.

Three-personed God,
you are a wonder.
God the Father our Creator,
God the Son our Deliverer,
God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier.
United and yet each unique,
sole God but not solitary,
three and yet one.
Thank you for this mystery:
that at the heart of the universe is a communion of love.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 24/25)

BLESSING

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV)

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.
(Psalms 4:8 NLT)

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”
(Genesis 28:16 NLT)

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
(Psalms 46:1 NLT)

Father, thank You for being my refuge and strength. Thank You for giving me rest and sleep each day. Thank you for moving a universe to answer our prayers. Or maybe thank You for leading us to pray for things that are already happening.

Lord, please give us resurrection hope and joy, this morning, as we join with the communion of saints in worship, around the world. Give us faith and strength and boldness to share the Gospel of Christ in love. May we all experience a deeper fellowship with You, the Triune God.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends. Shalom Aleichem!

True Freedom

Today is Saturday, the twenty-ninth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,088

Two days until Memorial Day, and the long weekend has begun.

Today should prove to be somewhat a relaxing day. We have our grocery order in, and will pick it up right after our WW workshop, which is at 10:30 AM. I should lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 pounds since my last weigh-in, which was two weeks ago.

We will, of course, have to make a trip to a different grocery store. There seems to be some kind of conspiracy afoot, which prohibits us from being able to get everything we want/like at the same grocery store. For example, we like Kraft’s fat free shredded cheese, which can be found at Walmart Neighborhood Market or Winco, but not Albertson’s or Kroger. We like Nick’s ice cream, which can only be found at Albertson’s in our area. Albertson’s, apparently, does not carry Del Monte vegetables (at least they aren’t available to order on line), and we like Del Monte’s zesty chili flavor diced tomatoes, which we use in our “homemade” chili on Monday nights. Walmart doesn’t have the brand/type of microwave popcorn that we want.

So you see the dilemma. This week, we placed the online order at Walmart Neighborhood Market, but a trip to Albertson’s (at least) will be necessary for the Nick’s ice cream. Their “Triple Choklad” is the bomb. It’s Swedish ice cream, low fat and sugar, and a whole pint can be eaten for nine WW Smartpoints. I usually eat half of the pint for four points.

Some good news, continued results from our weight loss journey. I checked my blood pressure this morning, and it was 94/59, which is right on the cusp of being too low. The top number is okay, but the bottom is below 60, which is considered low. I shot off a message to my doctor, who replied back, telling me to hold off on my bp meds for today, and resume them tomorrow, but stop taking the hydrochlorothiazide. Continue checking the bp. If it elevates to normal range, stick with the current dose of Lisinopril (40mg) with no HCT. If it stays below 100 on the top, cut the Lisinopril in half.

One of my “whys” for being in WW is to reduce/eliminate medications. So it’s working. I have recently had my diabetes med cut in half, and now the bp med is being reduced. Perhaps, after my next checkup in August, I can eliminate the cholesterol medication, as well. I don’t know, though. I do eat an awful lot of eggs, since they are zero points on our WW plan. Hahaha!

Anyway, as of this morning, in my “birthday suit,” I am 12.8 pounds away from being in “Onederland” (that’s under 200 pounds in WW jargon). Based on my current rate, that should be achievable by the end of July, I think. Which means that, by my next doctor visit, I should be under 200 pounds, even in clothes! That will be call for a great celebration.

Tomorrow, as previously mentioned, we will be heading to Mineral Wells, to FBC, so that S can join the church, as a “non-resident” member. She is very excited about this.

Monday will be a day to rest and refresh. And hopefully get the pool equipment repaired.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the LORD will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
(Psalms 22:26 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for another long weekend to rest and refresh
2. for the way I have felt Your presence through this past week
3. for the color purple
4. for the freedom of walking in Your Word
5. that You make everything beautiful in its time

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 6

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

As I briefly pause, this morning, I am pondering the beauty of colors in the world, and giving thanks to You for all the different colors that we can see.

BIBLE SONG

May your unfailing love come to me, LORD, your salvation, according to your promise;
then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I trust in your word.
Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.
I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands because I love them.
I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.
(Psalms 119:41-48 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
(Acts 5:12-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages, I linger, inviting the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and meditations. What words or phrases speak to me, giving me insight into my relationship with Christ? What do I learn, resting in His presence, this morning?

I am especially drawn to Psalm 119:45, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” I believe this relates to Jesus’s statement that the truth will set us free. I do believe that there is a certain freedom that is a benefit of walking on the path of God’s Word. If we consider that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that adds even more to this thought.

Jesus is the Truth, so I can walk in freedom. This does not mean that I can do anything I want to do. There are too many people who mistakenly believe that that is what is meant by “freedom.”

But what it does mean is that I don’t have to worry about what others think about me. It means that I don’t have to conform to the world and its belief systems. It means that I don’t have to be influenced by popular culture. And it means that my only “influencer” is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, holy Trinity.

When I read the passage from Acts, I wonder, as I have before, if we will ever see such testimony of the power of God in our modern society. People were trying to position themselves so that even Peter’s shadow could pass over them! Where is that kind of faith today? Instead, we have the almost comic displays, with people like Benny Hinn and the like.

The only solution I can come up with is more prayer and more centering on God’s Word, focusing on His power in our lives. And it means more righteous living. Not that my righteousness can accomplish anything, because it can’t. But by being attached to the vine, this branch can bear much fruit, and that is the only way that it can bear fruit.

Father, I thank You for the freedom in which I can walk, when I am following Your path, Your Way, which is Jesus and His teachings and example. I have two jobs in my life: to love You and to love people. Everything else is peripheral, including my opinions about things, which are not in the “job description” for those two jobs. Help me to remember that those are my two jobs, the two greatest commands, and that Jesus gave us a “new commandment” to love one another, even more deeply than we love our “neighbor.” Help met to daily walk in that freedom, and show us Your power in our world, Lord! I want to be able to point to Your works and show people, to boast in Your power and majesty!

Jesus,
what a wonder you've given me in the Holy Spirit.
Not some impersonal energy or vague force but your life,
your very presence in me.
Thank you for the peace,
power,
gifts,
and all your blessings the Holy Spirit pours out in my life.
As you make me share in all Christ's blessings,
may I share the miracle and wonder of your life with all.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 53)

BLESSING

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

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV)

Lord, may we make time, today, tomorrow, and ever day, for what is really important.

Lord, may Your Church flourish throughout the world. May we present worship that glorifies You, and may our worship gather, unite, and bless Your people, as well as everyone else around us. Make us a blessing even to people who do not believe. I especially pray for those who work in caring for the youngest of children. Make their spirits gentle and loving.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You saw that coming, right?

Grace and peace, friends! Shalom Aleichem!

No Needy Persons

Today is Friday (Friyay?), the twenty-eighth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,087

Three days until Memorial Day!

At this point, I don’t know what this three-day weekend will hold, besides going to Mineral Wells on Sunday so that S can join FBC. She is so excited. She got her membership packet and card, yesterday, and probably got the card filled out last night.

We are not, as it turns out, planning to visit Scarborough Faire on Monday, as the guy who is going to repair/install our new pool equipment, wants to do that Monday afternoon. I’m fine with that, as we need to get that fixed. We can’t discern if there is more damage to the pool, itself, until we get the equipment running. Hopefully, the rain will hold off on Monday, but the chances of rain have been upped to 60% Monday.

Of course, we all know that, once we hit mid-June, it won’t rain for a couple of months, at least.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Amen."
(The prayer of St. Richard of Chichester)

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.
(Psalms 22:22 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the knowledge of Your presence here, this morning
2. for the work of Jesus Christ in our lives, rendering us blameless before You
3. for Your Word, which leads me along the path that I am to walk; it is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
4. for the way You have guided us to care for one another's needs
5. for the fullness of joy in Your presence; contentment; pleasures forevermore

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 5

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to meditate on Your presence, to ponder the “new heart and . . . new spirit” within me, asking for guidance through this time with You. Teach me by Your Holy Spirit.

BIBLE SONG

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
(Psalms 119:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I remind myself that I am in Your presence, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I linger on these passages. May You teach me something about my life in Jesus Christ as I read and meditate.

Is my way blameless? Hardly. Do I walk according to God’s Word? I certainly try. That is the goal of each day. I try to live and walk according to His statutes, and I hope to seek Him with my whole heart.

But “stuff” happens and gets in the way of all of these things. This is where I stop and acknowledge that the Lord does, in fact, remember that we are but dust. He knows our frailty. And, because of the precious blood of Christ, He does not see my faults, because they are erased. So, effectually, yes, I am blameless!

As are all of us who call the name of Jesus and walk in His ways. Are we all one in heart and mind? Sadly, that does not appear to be the case, in this day and culture. The enemy has sneaked in with faulty ideas that many have latched onto, and division is caused. The sad thing is that the divisions are mostly over things that don’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things.

I recently listened to a podcast, with John Joseph Thompson, of True Tunes. In it, he had the pleasure of interviewing the queen of CCM, Amy Grant. It was a fascinating interview. Did you know that she is sixty years old??

How can Amy Grant be sixty??? I think she will forever be fifteen in my mind.

Anyway, she said something in that interview that will forever stick with me. She talked about two jobs and a prayer. The two jobs are to love God and love people. I’m certainly down with that, as those are the two “greatest commandments” that Jesus emphasizes, and He proclaims that the entirety of the law and prophets can be summed up in those commandments.

The prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, which has a very strong emphasis on forgiveness.

Once, earlier in her career, she was asked about her opinions on controversial subjects, such as homosexuality. Her response was that she doesn’t think her opinion on those things is included in the job description for those two jobs.

How brilliant! I love this, and believe that I have already adopted this philosophy regarding all such issues.

My jobs are to love God and love people. My opinions (and trust me, I DO have them!) are, for the most part irrelevant to those jobs.

I believe that the early believers had this kind of mindset among themselves. And the result of this is seen in verses 33 and 34.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.
(Acts 4:33-34 NIV)

There were no needy persons. They took care of one another, which was part of the “new command” that Jesus had given the disciples before He departed earth.

Our little church group is attempting to emulate these early believers. I personally believe that some of the things we have accomplished are astounding, small as we are. And that is largely because of the giving model we have adopted. You see, we have no building to pay mortgage or rent on. We have no “staff” to pay a weekly or monthly salary. I suppose we might have “elders,” although none of us would be quick to assume that title.

We all set aside our regular giving money (call it “tithe” if you must), and some of us put it into a separate bank account created exclusively for that money. It sits there until we become aware of a need, and then we gladly, generously provide for that need.

It is with great caution that I say that we (C and I) recently gave $4000 to a family whose van had been repossessed, so they could get it back. This is not to boast in our own generosity, but to simply illustrate the benefits of this model.

Outside of that, we do not share with others what we do with our money. It is between us and God.

I’m not knocking “traditional” church. There are great benefits to it, and there are certainly some aspects of it that I miss. But I do enjoy the model that we are using with our little band of believers, and I believe that it follows closely with what the early believers did.

Father, I give You praise for the examples of the early church that we receive from the book of Acts. I also thank You that, in Christ, I can say that I am “blameless.” This does not mean that I never do anything sinful or wrong. But it does mean that, because of the work, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, You do not see those sinful or wrong acts. They have been perpetually erased. This, as the psalmist says, is to wonderful for me, too lofty to attain. But I know it is true, and Your Spirit validates it within me. May I walk in ways that are worthy of these truths today.

Generous God,
your Spirit dwelling among your people,
working your salvation deep into our daily lives,
is a thing of simple beauty--
powerful grace,
freely flowing forgiveness,
lavish giving.
Continue to make us full players in Christ's redemption story through the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
(Westminster Shorter Catechism 29)

BLESSING

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

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:16 NLT)

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NLT)

The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.
(Proverbs 11:1 NLT)

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness.
(Proverbs 16:11 NLT)

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
(Isaiah 5:20 NLT)

Father, as I walk through this day, may it be with justice and fairness, treating all people as equals in Your eyes. You make the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. At least half of the world has no clue how merciful and gracious You are! Help us to show them, Father. Help us to show them Your mercy and grace, rather than meanness and wrath and injustice. Bring us to our knees in repentance for our injustices, our racism, our prejudices, and our unfairness. Teach us that You are the measure of good and evil, of accurate scales and balances, not any human. Thank You for the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore found in Your presence!

Lord, give me great wonder at the sacrifice of Jesus. May it never become commonplace to me. May we have the capacity to suffer when others suffer and to rejoice when others rejoice. Please increase the generosity of our hearts; may it be ever-expanding.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends!

His Love Endures Forever

Today is Thursday (pre-Friday), the twenty-seventh of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,086

Four days until Memorial Day

The week seems to be moving by pretty fast, for me. Only today and tomorrow, and then another long weekend, because Monday is Memorial Day.

The weekend will be different. On Sunday, we plan to drive to Mineral Wells and attend my mother’s church worship service. The reason being that S, our autistic daughter, desires to join their church as a “non-resident” member. She began communicating this to their pastor, with whom she is friends, and he spoke with me on the phone one afternoon, and I am fine with it, so we are moving ahead. S has been watching their service broadcasts for a while, now, so she enjoys them. Plus, it’s her grandma’s church. And I believe Mama will go with us, and that will be the first time she has attended church “in person” in well over a year.

So it will be an exciting day.

Monday, the holiday is still a bit up in the air. We are considering going to Scarborough Faire, but that has not been solidified.

C visited her back doctor, yesterday, and is going back next Thursday to get two injections. Her back is pretty messed up. She read me a lot of medical terminology which can be summed up by my statement. The doctor wasn’t terribly encouraging that the injections would give permanent relief and believes that surgery is imminent. We can hope though. And pray, right? So let’s pray for C’s back to get better.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let me be alive in this moment,
aware of your presence.
Let me be fully present for you,
enveloped by your grace,
enriched by your love,
rising above and into the letting go.
(Daryl Madden, "Stop," in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

The LORD lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted!
(Psalms 18:46 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a couple of good work days, praying for another one
2. for Your presence, as You make Yourself known to me
3. that Your love endures forever (Psalm 118)
4. for my eyes and ears, which You have made to see and hear
5. that You have changed my heart

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 4

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause in the quiet to briefly reflect on Your presence. Knowing that You are with me, being aware of Your presence, and “being present” for You make for a sweet time of devotion.

BIBLE SONG

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”

When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
(Psalms 118:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
(Acts 4:23-24a NIV)

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
(Acts 4:29-31 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I linger over them, reflecting on the words on the page, inviting the Holy Spirit to draw me in and teach me something about my life in Christ. I enjoy Your presence, during this moment.

“His love endures forever.” What a comforting phrase that certainly bears repeating. It is a statement that is made, I would venture to guess, almost as many times as “fear not.” In truth, the two phrases go hand in hand. I have nothing to fear because His love endures forever.

It has been said before, and will be said again. There is nothing that you can do to cause the Lord to love you more than He already does. There is also nothing You can do to cause Him to love you less then He already does. Your actions have no bearing whatsoever on the steadfast love of God!

Isn’t that almost the best news you’ve ever heard? Now, if we can just bring ourselves to believe it, maybe we can stop thinking that God is mad at us all the time.

I said “almost,” because the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf must be the best news. But the two are closely linked, are they not?

In light of the Lord’s steadfast love for me, what, indeed, can mortals do to me? Sure, they can cause me pain, but all pain is temporary. I will not fear, because the Lord is with me; He is my helper.

And those last two verses in today’s Psalm passage . . . It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Those two statements are worthy of believing, and I believe them to the point that I almost don’t care about politics at all, any more.

Father, I praise You for Your holy presence with us, daily. You never leave us; You are always present, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Whether we are aware of that presence is entirely a different matter. I pray that, today, I might be more aware of Your presence as I walk through this day. May Your Spirit surround me; may I know Your presence in me, outside of me, in front of me, behind me, beside me, above me, and below me. Help me to know this steadfast love, and to fully trust in You. Give me boldness, as the disciples prayed for in Acts, and “stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:30). Fill us all with Your Spirit, that we might speak Your Word boldly.

Listening God,
you invite us to pray,
to call on you and change our world.
How bored you must be with our sometimes safe and harmless prayers.
Saturate our lives with the Holy Spirit so that we know what to pray,
who to pray for,
and how best to pray.
Holy Spirit,
shape up the ways we pray,
quickening our hearts and expanding our expectations so that we may live our faith more boldly.
Amen.
(Westminster Larger Catechism 182)

BLESSING

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

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
(Matthew 13:16 NIV)

“My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it.”
(Job 13:1 NIV)

Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both.
(Proverbs 20:12 NIV)

I will praise the LORD at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
(Psalms 34:1-3 NLT)

No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
(Romans 2:29 NLT)

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

Father, thank You for eyes that see and ears that hear. For many years, these eyes and ears, while not completely blind and deaf to Your truths, were shaded by the well-meaning principles of humans. As I grow older and closer to You each day, I push aside those human principles and try as best I can to rely only on You and Your Spirit, and to see and hear with purely spiritual eyes and ears. Help me in this journey, Lord. Keep opening my eyes and ears to Your glorious truths, that I might fully live in Your kingdom.

Lord, please gift Your people with spiritual renewal today, and grant us deep repentance as we consider the sinfulness of our lives, even still. May You bring us into new relationships with people who may not have heard or believed Your Gospel message.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends!

Been with Jesus

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,085

Five days until Memorial Day, the next holiday in the US, and another long weekend!

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. I was still quite busy, and am still quite behind on my tasks, but my mindset was better, and I believe I approached issues in a more healthy way. We’ll see if I can continue that trend today.

I don’t have much else to write about, this morning. So I’ll move on in to my devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
(Psalms 18:3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the intensity of Your beauty, and the beauty of Your creation, which makes all other issues seem insignificant (footstool problems)
2. that, having You, I lack nothing
3. that Your love toward us is great, and Your faithfulness endures forever (Psalm 117)
4. that, whatever is going on in our lives, God has got it handled
5. that we can reach out and find healing in the hem of Your garment, in Your wings

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 3

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to quietly consider the truth that, having God, I lack nothing at all, and have no reason to fear anything. This world is a perfectly safe place for me to be. Everything is grace and enwrapped in love.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 117:1-2 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
(Acts 4:8-13 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I become aware of the presence of God, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, I read these passages again, asking Him to move me toward a particular word or phrase, teaching me something about my life in Christ.

The truth of the shortest Psalm is very basic, yet also powerful. The Lord’s love toward us is, indeed, great. So great that He created everything out of love, because He is love. This is why it is said that “everything is enwrapped in love.” And, truly, His faithfulness endures forever.

In the Acts passage, Peter and John are being questioned concerning the lame man that was healed in the previous chapter. They had been asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?”

What we see is their answer. Peter makes the basic and great proclamation in verse 12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

“No other name.”

And then, in verse 13, the greatest compliment that could be paid to someone, in my opinion, is stated.

“They took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

Would that people would say that about me! I want to live my life in such a way that people think that about me.

Father, I praise You for Your great love for us and for Your never-ending faithfulness. I thank You for Your marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe, and, truthfully, pretty much bestowed on every creature on the planet, whether they realize it or not! I thank You for the testimony of Peter, that there is, indeed, no other name by which we may be saved than the name of Jesus. I pray that my life will reflect His words, His walk, and His countenance, as I move through my day today. I pray for a level head and spirit, through all circumstances that are already coming my way. May my reactions be holy and Christlike.

Breathe on us,
breath of God;
infuse our everyday lives with a majesty and glory that only comes from your Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
Fill our lives with a boldness that isn't bluster but simply the overflow of your eternal life in us.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 11)

BLESSING

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

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)

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NLT)

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

There seems to be a theme in these verses . . . don’t worry. God’s got it. Let it go.

“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: Throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue cord. When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the LORD instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God.”
(Numbers 15:38-40 NLT)

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”
(Malachi 4:2 NLT)

Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
(Matthew 9:20-22 NLT)

When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.
(Matthew 14:35-36 NLT)

Interestingly, the word translated “wings” in Malachi 4:2, is “kanaph,” and can also mean a flap of clothing. The word for “fringe” in Matthew is “kraspedon.” According to Jonathan Cahn, the words are interchangeable. So the woman who touched the fringe of His robe, and all the people who touched the fringe of His robe . . . they all found healing in His “wings.”

Lord, may we find healing in Your wings today. Let us not be afraid to reach out and touch You with our infirmities, with our problems, regardless of how insignificant they may be. The smallest of problems can be an unpassable mountain for some, and You are there for us, available for us to reach out and touch You. All glory to You, Father! Breathe on us, Holy Spirit!

Lord, may You and Your blessings be present in all national and local communities, today. I specifically lift up the continent of Africa, today, that You might be present in all things and circumstances there, and be their protector and provider. I pray for all areas of hunger, famine, and poverty today, that none would go hungry. Help us to be Your vessels of provision where we can be, and lead us to those whom we can help.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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)

Grace and peace, friends. Shalom Aleichem!

Feelin’ Groovy

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fifth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,084

Six days until Memorial Day

Today is also the 64th anniversary of the wedding of my parents. My father, of course, has not been with us for six years, now. And while his passing is beginning to feel like a more distant memory, it doesn’t mean he is missed any less. I would ask those of you who pray to say a prayer for my mother on this day.

Yesterday was certainly a mixed bag. I feel, in some ways, that I failed in carrying on what was accomplished over our “retreat” weekend. How quickly the anxiety of work flooded back in. By mid-day, I felt quite down, but by the end of the day I was feeling better, more level. Some days (most days) it’s like an emotional/psychological roller-coaster. Hopefully, today, I can keep it more level.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

This, of course, is what I need to remember when anxiety begins to flood into my spirit.

I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
(Psalms 9:1 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for another day of living, to celebrate life and know Your presence, in spite of circumstances
2. for the wonderful life that my mother and father had together
3. for the wonderful life that C and I have together
4. for the color blue
5. for the admonition/encouragement to stop . . . slow down . . . meditate . . . to be still and know that You are God

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 2

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause for a moment to reflect on life, along with all the benefits that our Father has provided, in His grace. Life is good because God is good.

BIBLE SONG

What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD— in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 116:12-19 NIV)

BIBLE READING

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk.
(Acts 3:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over these passages, this morning, I invited the Holy Spirit to dwell within me, and to cause these words to dwell in my spirit, teaching me more about my life in Jesus Christ.

The question at the beginning of the Psalm passage is, in my opinion, rhetorical. There is nothing that I can “return to the LORD for all his goodness to me!” Nor does He, I believe, expect me to.

I do not believe that God gives us gifts so that we will appreciate Him more, or so that we will bless with Him with thanksgiving and praise. I believe God gives us gifts because He loves us! Because He IS love!

That being said, I still choose to thank Him and praise Him, and sometimes, it is because of those gifts. Other times, it is simply because He is. Sometimes, as in this past weekend retreat, I feel such a marvelous sense of His presence and love that joy floods my soul, and I cannot help but praise Him and thank Him.

Other times, I confess, it is harder work to do so, because I don’t feel it. Times such as yesterday, during the work day. We are human, and we are not perfect. This is why we have these experiences that are like roller-coasters. But He is patient with us, hallelujah! He knows we are “but dust.”

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:13-14 NIV)

I also think it is important to note what the psalmist does say in answer to his own question. “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.” It seems that the best thing we can do, in response to His goodness, is to depend upon Him; to call on His holy Name.

We can also turn around and channel those gifts and blessings into others, as Peter and John did in the passage from Acts. Gold and silver are not always the best ways to help people.

Father, I praise You for Your goodness to me, and that You do all of these things because You love us. I believe that we, Your people, Your sheep, are precious to You, and that You are constantly looking for ways to bless us. May Your Holy Spirit dwell within us and cause us to lift up the cup of salvation today and call on Your Name! The best thing we can do today is to depend on You for everything, because You are our source of everything. You are my source; You are my destination. You are the Alpha and Omega and every letter in between! All praise and glory to You, Lord.

Giver of every good gift,
you never send your people off empty-handed but always outfit them with good things--
your guiding presence in the fiery cloud,
the manna that rained down from heaven on the wilderness trek.
Thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit and all his gifts for the journeys you send us on.
Make us freely generous with all your gifts to bless the world,
the very reason for which you sent us.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 51)

BLESSING

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

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
(Psalms 145:5 ESV)

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
(Psalms 95:4-5 ESV)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
(Isaiah 40:28 ESV)

Sometimes, the message is most adequatly expressed by the words of a song, and many times that song is not even intended to be “religious.” For example, a favorite of mine by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, “The 59th Street Bridge Song,” better known, perhaps, as “Feelin’ Groovy.”

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
(Psalms 46:10 ESV)

Father, thank You for these encouragements to be still and know; to stop and meditate; to simply slow down and know Your truth, which is Jesus Christ, Your Son. Fill me with Your Spirit today, that I might not know the anxiety of yesterday. The tasks of the day will be the same as they were yesterday, along with the incessant demands on my time and work. My reaction is the only thing that I can control, so fill me with Your loving Spirit and let me know Your love and grace and presence as I go through this day.

Lord, I pray that You give us all love and commitment for the communities in which You have placed us, both physical and spiritual. May You equip us to serve “in uniquely Christian ways in the public arena.” And I specifically pray, today, for all who work in education. Most of them are off for the summer, but not all. May You give those who are summer vacation good, healthy rest, and may You give strength to those who continue to work during the summer.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends. Shalom Aleichem!

The Face of Jesus

It is Monday, the twenty-fourth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,083

Seven days until Memorial Day.

I’m struggling with WordPress, this morning. For some reason, the page to write a new blog post would not load on MS Edge browser. It does work, however, in Google Chrome, so that’s what I’m using, this morning.

Needless to say, this has put me way behind, this morning, so I need to move on in to the devotional. I will reiterate what a marvelous weekend we had, and that our piece of pie was totally worth the extra points, yesterday. We must not have done too badly, because I was about four pounds down from last Wednesday, when I stepped on the scale, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

It makes no sense.
Why should this happen?
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your plan.

My prayers are so dry.
It feels as if you're not there.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your faithfulness.

I have been hurt.
I am so bitter.
And I fall . . . 
into your arms, and I learn of your humility.

I make the donation.
I cannot afford it.
And I fall . . . 
into your arms, and I learn of your generosity.

It is so beautiful.
I am filled with awe.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your beauty.

I read of your Word.
I sit in your silence.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your love.

I lend a hand to my brother.
I see the smile on his face.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your joy.

Your body is lifted up before my eyes.
I say amen.
And I fall . . . 
into your arms, and I learn of your passion.

I cherish my memories and regret my mistakes.
I close my eyes at last.
And I fall . . .
into your arms, and I learn of your glory.
(Daryl Madden, "And I Fall," cont., from On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful weekend we had, the refreshing and renewal that took place
2. that we have jobs to which to return, this morning
3. that You have given me a thankful and generous heart
4. for the church community we have
5. for Your care for me, that I might care for myself, and then care for others; help me to see Your face in everyone I meet today

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 1

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause briefly to contemplate the “new heart and new spirit” that I believe I have received over the past four days, and pray that it was a permanent transformation, to be carried over into this week of work.

BIBLE SONG

The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless his people Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the LORD— small and great alike.

May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind.
It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence;
it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 115:12-18 NIV)

BIBLE READING

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I pause to remind myself that I am in God’s sweet presence, I re-read these passages, asking, inviting, the Holy Spirit to point me to any particular word, phrase, or thought in them, to teach me something about my life in Christ, this morning.

In truth, there is nothing “new” that I find in today’s readings. This is not always a negative thing. It doesn’t mean that I am not paying attention or “listening.” What I do see is reaffirmations. The reading in Acts affirms what our current church model consists of. We meet together, in a home, and we are devoting ourselves to the Word of God, the fellowship, the breaking of bread together (the Supper) and to prayer. Each of those elements of worship is represented every Sunday morning.

Sometimes, there is more fellowship than Word. Sometimes, there is more prayer than anything else. And sometimes, the precious Word of God takes the bulk of the time. But each one happens every time. And this, regardless of the setting or place, is what worship should be. This is what the community of faith should look like. We could, honestly, do better, during the week. We don’t see each other very often, outside of Sundays. Perhaps we need to pray for the Spirit to help us with that.

Father, I thank You that we have this model to follow in our worship times. I thank You for a group of people who believe in Your Church, and want to observe Your commands as simply as possible. Help us to be more of a community outside of the Sunday morning event. Help us to reach out more to one another, to seek out needs to meet, and help one another with whatever is needed. I believe you have given us all thankful and generous hearts, Father. May Your blessings fall on us.

God of wind and fire,
whoever would have guessed that a ragtag band of Jewish Jesus-followers could be bound together into a movement that would turn the world upside down?
Only because of your Holy Spirit,
who is fully God.
Do that work again in our day,
take wildly diverse people who don't naturally fit together,
and make a peculiar and compelling community,
beautiful because of Jesus.
In his name we pray,
amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 53)

BLESSING

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

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
(Matthew 25:40 ESV)

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
(Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said 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.”
(Matthew 9:35-38 ESV)

While I realize that the passage from Matthew 25, the “least of these” passage, speaks of caring for other people, there was an interesting quote in a book I finished over the weekend. The book is called Embracing the Love of God, by James Bryan Smith.

The epigraph for chapter 8, which is called “Caring for Ourselves,” went like this: “What if you discovered that the least of the brethren of Jesus, the one who needs your love the most, the one you can help the most by loving, the one to whom your love will be most meaningful — what if you discovered that this least of the brethren of Jesus . . . is you?” (Carl Jung)

Just something to think about. How can we care for our brothers and sisters if we do not care for ourselves?

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:1-3 ESV)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

Today’s mission: “Live like the sun today, as the light. Shine God’s love on all, regardless of people and circumstances. Shine rather because you’re the light.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Oh, yes, Father! Help me to shine with Your light, today. Help me to see Your face (the face of Jesus) in everyone today, regardless of the circumstances. May I care for others as I care for myself, and may I care for myself (and others) as You have cared for me. Thank you, O my Father! All glory to You!

Lord, give Your people a capacity to see You in all things, “every creature a word or book” from You. I pray for the Spirit to work a mighty work in me, in my brothers and sisters, and in the world. I specifically pray, this morning, for all who are “in the forefront of caring for creation.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends. Shalom Aleichem!

Praise and Petition

Today is Monday, May 25, 2020, in the seventh week of Easter. Peace be with you!

Day 22,719

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is the day when we remember all military service people who have died. To my knowledge, I had two grandfathers and an uncle who served. There may be more that I’m unaware of.

We had a great virtual worship gathering, yesterday morning. We discussed three passages in Paul’s epistles, each one being a different prayer that he prayed for those who would read the letter. Then we finished by looking at the “Lord’s Prayer” from Matthew 6. We spent a good deal of time praying for each other, afterward. And we have planned to reunite next Sunday at Brandon and Kristin’s house. A Zoom gathering will still be available for those who are not ready to meet together, yet. Those who wish to wear masks will do so. “Social distancing” will be encouraged.

C and I have been watching a show from the WGN network, called “Almost Paradise.” It features one of our favorite actors, Christian Kane, as a “retired” DEA agent who has bought a gift shop in a beachside resort in the Philippines. The problem is, he just can’t seem to get away from the crime and drama, so he winds up helping the local police department in each episode. Christian Kane plays Eliot Spencer in “Leverage” (which, by the way, is scheduled to come back sans Timothy Hutton), and Alex Walker, his character in “Almost Paradise,” seems to be pretty much the same character, except in this show, he doesn’t take all the ammo out of the guns. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Kane first appeared on our radar when he played Lindsey McDonald in twenty-one episodes of “Angel,” the “Buffy” spin-off.

Today, there are no plans. We are, of course, off work. There’s a nice steady rain going on outside. Actually, according to the forecast, it’s going to rain pretty much for the rest of May. Yesterday, the forecast showed rain all the way until June 2. That has backed off a little, as of this morning.

As mentioned, previously, today is also the 63rd anniversary of my parents’ wedding. My father passed from this life to the next a little over five years ago. My mother was actually able to get out of the house last Thursday, when she went to Stephenville with a couple of friends. I don’t believe she got out of the car. Her friend’s son needed to take care of some business down there (I think it’s “down”), and suggested that his mom and mine travel with him. She had a great time. That makes me happy.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father."
Charles de Foucauld

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!
(Psalms 96:2-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the gentle rain outside
  2. For the good discussion we had in yesterday’s worship gathering
  3. For Your commandment to love one another
  4. That You call us “friends”
  5. That You have not rejected my prayers or withheld Your love from me (Psalm 66:20)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalms 21:13 ESV)

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 96:11-13 ESV)

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
(Luke 1:39-45 ESV)

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
(Psalms 147:7-11 ESV)

Even so come, Lord Jesus!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

“Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)


As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

(John 15:9-17 ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:7-11 ESV)


I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
(Psalms 66:17-20 NIV)

There are two principles of prayer represented in this passage. First, praise should always accompany petition. The psalmist cries out to the Lord, but also has praise on his tongue. “Expressions of need should go along with confession of God’s greatness . . . and thanks to him ahead of any answer for whatever his wise response and timing will be. This settles the heart even before you get any answer.”

I like this notion of settling the heart. If I decide, ahead of time, to be satisfied with whatever answer God gives me, in response to my prayer, it will be that much better for me.

The other principle seen is “not perfect holiness but a sincere willingness to turn away from sin” (see verse 18). Joshua learned, in chapter seven of the bible book named after him, that it is useless to ask God for something when you are being disobedient.

“Lord, show me my ‘cherished’ sins–the ones I confess but into which I keep falling. This is because I want to stop but I don’t want to stop. Don’t let me dishonor you by being divided in my loyalties. Amen.”

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)


Father, as I have prayed countless times, teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to fear Your name. Help me to stand firm against temptations to fall into the same old sins again and again. I do not cherish them in my heart. To be sure, I loathe them. Yet, as Paul describes in Romans 7, I find myself doing what I do not want to do. Yet, if I truly did not want to do it, I would not do it. Mold me and make me, after Thy will!

Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us praise as we petition.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number:
(Job 5:8-9 ESV)

Remembrance

“His love in times past forbids me to think he’ll leave me at last in troubles to sink.” ~ John Newton, Begone Belief

Today is Sunday, May 24, 2020, the seventh Sunday of Easter. Peace be with you.

Day 22,718

Memorial Day is tomorrow.

I just wasted at least a half hour trying the new WordPress editor that will be launched soon. Just like all of the other new editors they launch, it will not work for me. Maybe I’m too old and set in my ways, but I cannot get it to do what I want it to do. For example, the poem that I will put in, below the lines, kept coming up as a paragraph, with no line breaks. And if you hit “enter,” to space the lines out, you get double-spacing. I would rather stick with the old editor, where I can use HTML whenever I want to make things look like I want them to. Even adding the horizontal lines took three or four times longer than simply copying and pasting HTML code, which is how I do it now. Maybe I can find a support page that will make it easier, but for now, I will stick with the old-school editor.

We will be having our virtual worship gathering soon (10:15). This morning, we will discuss the possibility of meeting at Brandon and Kristin’s house next weekend. If we decide to do this, we will still offer the Zoom option, for those who are not comfortable meeting together, yet. The three of us leaders are okay with going ahead with this. I’m probably the more cautious of the three, which is ironic, because I was the only one opposed to stopping the in-person meetings, back in March. Go figure. But I think we will be fine. As long as Kristin doesn’t try to spray us down with Clorox when we walk in the door.

C worked in the yard, yesterday, mowing both front and back yards, and cleaning out the old plastic storage shed we have in the back corner. We thought we might have to toss the whole shed, because it seemed to be falling apart. But in the process, C discovered that, for reasons neither one of us can remember (the thing’s been there, probably eighteen years, at least), we put it on top of a wooden pallet, which was also on top of cinder blocks. Of course, the pallet had rotted out, so the shed was not resting level. So, C got rid of the pallet, and it seems to be fine. We use the shed to store pool toys, such as floats, noodles, balls, water guns, and so on. We used to keep chemicals in it, but we no longer keep those, because we pay someone to handle that for us.

We went to Bill’s drive-by birthday celebration, yesterday evening, which was great fun. We got to see and chat with a lot of friends for a few minutes (until another car appeared behind us), which was very good. Then we picked up Subway for dinner, and came back home.

Outside of our church gathering, I know of no plans for today. C will probably come up with something to do. That’s what she does, you know.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.”

Charles de Foucauld

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
(Psalms 98:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ
2. That our “worship gathering” is more than just watching church leaders on a video from their church stage (I’m not knocking that, if it’s what you like; I prefer interaction with people)
3. That the glory of the Lord endures forever (Psalm 104)
4. For the connection we have with all the saints, through the Holy Spirit
5. For the remembrance of Your love in the past, that keeps me confident in the present

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
(Psalms 51:10 ESV)

I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
(Psalms 119:141 ESV)

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
(Psalms 71:8 ESV)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:6-9 ESV)

May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 104:31-35 ESV)

“Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

“We need human connection; God designed us that way! Painful seasons of loneliness point to that need. Like the people of the early church, it’s important for us to engage in the human companionship our well-being requires and to offer it to those around us who also need it.”
(Kirsten Holmberg, Our Daily Bread)

What a timely word for our little band of believers, as we discuss gathering together again, next Sunday! Yes, we need that human connection!

I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you— vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.
(Psalms 66:13-16 NIV)

In the first part of this psalm, the psalmist has remembered the work of God in the lives of His people. The result is that he is “filled with gratitude and confidence. It is our part to remember these deeds and praise God, so that our hearts remain confident and trusting in all circumstances.” John Newton wrote, in his hymn Begone Unbelief, “His love in times past forbids me to think he’ll leave me at last in troubles to sink.”

The most important “deed” to remember is “Jesus’s sacrifice of his own life for you. Remembering God’s past love is the only way to face present stress with confidence and poise.”

“Lord: ‘Since all that I meet shall work for my good, the bitter is sweet, the medicine is food; Though painful at present, wilt cease before long, And then, O! how pleasant, the conqueror’s song!’ Amen.” (Also from John Newton’s Begone Unbelief)

Yes, Lord, I pray that I shall always be reminded of the love that You have had for me/us in the past, including the ultimate expression of love made by Jesus in His sacrifice for us. Help me to remember, and help me to know that these things prove to me that You will never leave nor forsake us, ever.
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us to remember.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.” Job 5.8-9

Grace and peace, friends.