Working the Plan

Ah, it’s back to Monday morning again. December 19, 2011. Only six more days until Christmas, and 12 days left in 2011. 108 days until Opening Day.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Our Worship Celebration was good (not the best we’ve ever seen, but it was still nice), and Joel brought us a good message that both encouraged the believer and gave the gospel to those who are not believers. After referencing “It’s A Wonderful Life” as his favorite Christmas movie (“White Christmas” is mine), he played with the title and called his message “Jesus Is the Most Wonderful Life of All.” His main point was that “God sent the wonderful life of Jesus to give us the possibility of everlasting life in Him.”

After church, some good friends at church took Stephanie out for lunch (they were supposed to go groom horses, but it was too muddy after the recent rain we have had), while we went out with Rachel and Justin, who came over for the afternoon. We had a wonderful time with them, and Steph had a blast with the family that took her out. We are so grateful to them for befriending Stephanie in this way. It means so much to her, and to us, as well.

Today’s Bible readings:
Revelation 10; Esther 1-3; Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 31:15

Revelation 10 pauses from the blowing of the trumpets for a bit, and another angel appears, coming down from heaven. He carries a scroll, a little scroll, in his hand. When he lands with one foot on the land and another on the sea, he speaks with a voice that sounds like a roaring lion. When he spoke, “the seven thunders sounded.” However, John was not allowed to write down what the seven thunders said. John was then told to take the scroll and eat it. It tasted sweet in his mouth, but it was bitter in his stomach. Then he was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (v. 11) The angel says that, when the seventh trumpet is sounded, “the mystery of God [will] be fulfilled.” (v. 7)

The book of Esther is an interesting book, and from what I hear, almost didn’t make it into the “canon” of Scripture. It is a simple story, really, involving a man named Mordecai, one of the Jews who was carried away from Israel, and his uncle’s daughter, Esther. He was raising her, because she had no mother or father. When the king, Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), commanded his queen to make an appearance, so that he could show off her beauty, she refused. He became so angry that he decreed that she be never allowed to be in his presence again (I’m actually surprised that he didn’t have her killed) and that he would replace her with another queen. Afterward, he sent men out to find “beautiful young virgins” in the kingdom. Esther was chosen, and was groomed for six months to compete for the queen’s position. She won the favor of the king and became the new queen. However, Mordecai had instructed her to not reveal her heritage. At some point Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the king, and revealed it to Esther, who, in turn, revealed it to the king. This will come into play later. In chapter 3, a man named Haman decides he hates the Jews, and goes to the king to devise a plot to destroy all of them. The king, not realizing that his queen is one of the Jews, agrees to the plot.

Micah 5:2–But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Jeremiah 31:15–Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Both of these are Scriptures that were fulfilled at the birth of Christ. The Micah passage, because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the Jeremiah passage, because, after he was born, King Herod had all male children two years old younger, slaughtered.

Father, as I am running short on time (which is so often the case on Monday morning), I praise you for the way in which your prophecies worked out. As our pastor said yesterday morning, the entire Old Testament seems to be pointing toward Christ and his redemption of us from our sins. He is the perfect sacrifice, which replaced the Old Testament system, and which permanently paid the price for our sins. We need never again be worried about having to make restitution to you for our sins, because Jesus has taken the entirety of the sins of his people upon himself. This is truly wonderful, and is worthy of all the praise and thanksgiving of your people.
It need not concern us, Lord, that words from Daniel and John the Revelator have been shut up, sealed up, so that we cannot know what they heard. The reason it does not concern me is that my faith is in you, and I know that you are in control and you are working your plan. I have no need to know everything that will happen. This holds true for my life, as well. I have no need to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know who holds my hand. You, who watch over the sparrow, care more about me than the little bird. I have confidence in this, and I have confidence in your plan coming to its ultimate fruition.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at work. I pray for Stephanie’s day at home. She has no more meetings with her teacher until next year, so I pray that we might be able to come up with a few things to keep her from getting bored. Give us wisdom to help her, Father.

I pray for this coming weekend that there will be peace in our household as we celebrate Christmas together. Keep us all safe, Lord.

God’s plan is at work. He does not need our help, nor does he need our advice. We do not know better than him. All we need is faith to believe that he is in control and that he is working it out.

Grace and peace, friends.

I’m Running To Your Arms

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

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

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

My heart will sing
No other name
Jesus, Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Lord, Direct My Heart…

It’s Friday morning! Finally! Actually, the week hasn’t been that bad. There have been a couple of challenging days at work, but it’s been okay. And we think we have come to some more good answers for Stephanie, but it’s not all worked out yet. Bottom line, though, is that she probably won’t be going back to Keller High School. They’ll either send a teacher to the house to complete her senior year, or she will withdraw. And last, but certainly not least, THE RANGERS WON LAST NIGHT! (Sorry, MT, but at least we’re tied…)

I’m reading a book by Richard J Foster, called Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer. In this book, Foster describes something that I have encountered before, called lectio divina. This is a rather ancient way of reading the Scriptures which involves praying the Scriptures. Not just praying, though, but listening, as well. The art of meditation on Scripture has been virtually lost in today’s church. We are a loud church, these days. Not that I mind the loudness. I believe our praises should be loud. But we seem to be afraid of silence. As I read this book (I may read it twice through…it’s a small book), I intend to try to rediscover this concept which was introduced to me by Eugene Peterson several years ago, as I used a devotional version of The Message.

Today’s Bible readings:
2 Thessalonians 3; Jeremiah 23-24; Proverbs 22:17-23

Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3, asks for prayer. Prayer for him and his associates, but so that the gospel might “speed ahead and be honored.” He also prayed that they might be delivered from evil men. He expresses confidence that the Lord will “establish and guard” the church against the “evil one.”
He offers one final warning, though, against idleness. He uses himself as an example, in the fact that he never ate anyone’s bread with paying for it. Paul admonishes them to steer clear of anyone who walks in idleness. He even goes so far as to say If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (v. 10b) Paul is not cruel. He doesn’t wish someone to go without if they are not able to work. But if you are able, you’d better be doing something productive, he says. Why so insistent? The results of idleness are seen in verse 11. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. I love his play on words there. I wonder if it comes across that clever in Greek? “Not busy at work, but busybodies.” So, apparently, there are people in Thessalonica who aren’t working, but being busy getting up in everyone else’s business. Paul commands them to quietly earn their own living.
Finally, he encourages them to not grow weary in doing good. And if they do have to shun a brother for disobedience, they are not to treat said brother as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (v. 15)
There is a good prayer for us in verse 5. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. We should pray this prayer (or one like it) for each other on a regular basis. It probably wouldn’t hurt to pray it for ourselves! “Lord, direct my heart to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ!”

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:1 The prophet continues in verse 2. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Does this even need an explanation? As I observe the “church” of today, I see countless “preachers” who are guilty of exactly what is being condemned in verses 1 and 2 of Jeremiah 23. Even though these men appear to be outwardly successful and have “congregations” of thousands, their judgment is coming. I don’t pray against them. Rather, I pray that they would open their hearts and eyes to the error of their “preaching,” so that they can begin to lead “their people” in the right path.
Verses 5-6 contain a Messianic promise. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
In chapter 24, God uses a vision of figs to reemphasize what he spoke earlier about the people who willingly submitted to exile being safe. The exiles from Judah were the good figs, and the king of Judah, who remained in the land, and those who fled to Egypt, were the bad figs.

In Proverbs 22, the Lord once again emphasizes how close to his heart he holds those who are poor. Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the LORD will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. We ought always to treat people fairly and justly. Not only are we to be generous, but we’d better be sure we aren’t ripping anyone off, as well.

“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado, from Grace For the Moment.

Father, I pray that you would direct my heart to the love of you and the steadfastness of Christ. I pray this for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. For my wife, for my daughters, for my son-in-law, for all of the members of our lifehouse, for everyone at The Exchange, for our pastor, Joel Engle. Direct our hearts, Lord! You are the creator and master! You hold all things in your hands, and you are in control of all things. Direct our hearts!
As I return to this concept of lectio divina, I pray that you help me to descend with my mind into my heart and come face to face with you there. The idea that you, through Jesus Christ, dwell within me forever, is almost incomprehensible! But it is, according to you word, true. Therefore, I will meet you there. I need not travel hundreds or thousands of miles; I don’t have to go to a certain building at a certain time. You are here with me, all the time. Perhaps, in addition to our mantra, “God is good, all the time,” we should add, “God is here, all the time!” How would our lives look if we actually practiced your presence every moment of every day? That is a stunning question.
Lord, I pray for the kind of faith that Max Lucado describes. I believe I am close to that. I don’t always believe that you are going to just do whatever I want. But I do believe that you will do what is just and right, because you are God and that is your nature.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for Christi and me to have a good day at work. I pray that Stephanie will feel better today. She is complaining of her stomach trouble again. Give her grace through this day, and I pray that we can work things out with the school quickly, so that, if she is to complete her senior year, it can be done in a timely manner.

May the Lord direct your hearts today…

Grace and peace, friends.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…

I actually got in here and started getting some music recorded last night! As always, I’m not satisfied with what I did, but at this point, I may let it go, because I’m just trying to get something in a format that I can send to the pastor of our church so he can listen to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to represent the song I’ve written. However, if I want to go posting it on Facebook or something like that, it needs to be much better. I’m more excited about “church” than I’ve been in a long time. It’s a good feeling.
I made another huge decision yesterday, in light of this new opportunity. I have cancelled my MMORPG accounts. (That stands for Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game.) In other words, after I don’t know how many years, I will no longer be playing World of Warcraft. As silly as that may sound to some people, that was a very tough decision to make. But I’m not going to have as much time to play as I used to.
Okay…on to the devotions. I’m still a little behind from the power outage event on Sunday, so I’ll pick up where I left off yesterday morning.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Isaiah 11-12
11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

This chapter begins with Messianic prophecy. The Holy Spirit will rest upon Jesus as he walks on the earth.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Unlike most humans, Jesus does not judge by what he sees and hears, but by righteousness alone. His judgment is not clouded by opinion, but based in pure righteousness.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Such a beautiful passage. And obviously relating to future events, because I haven’t seen any lions and lambs laying down together lately.

All of chapter 12 is a praise song, which will be sung to the Lord “in that day,” or at the time of the “day of the LORD.”
12:1 You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Proverbs 3:27-35
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”–when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.

Hm….looks like I covered this yesterday. I accidentally went farther than I was supposed to in this chapter yesterday morning. Just to recap, though, we are to be generous people. If someone needs something and we have it, we should give it to them. And we shouldn’t make them wait! We should also not pick fights with people for no reason. (There must be a reason God is having me read this passage twice, right? Hahaha.) Notice, in verse 34, that the humble get favor, and in verse 35, the wise inherit honor.

Matthew 13:31-35, 44-58
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.
32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

What does Jesus mean here? The kingdom of heaven begins small and grows large? It does, indeed begin small, with a “seed” of faith. In another place, Jesus describes the faith that is needed as being as small as a mustard seed. Wait…he doesn’t say “small” there, does he? In Matthew 17:20, he says, He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Could it be that the tiny grain of mustard seed actually has great faith? The seed is small, but is the faith? I’m not sure that “size” is the issue in this verse. But the picture Jesus draws for us here is small growing to large, because leaven is also rather small, but grows throughout the loaf of bread until it fills the whole thing. I used to make donuts for a living (way back in college…it’s how I started getting fat). We would put about 3/4 of a pound of yeast in a big mixing bowl of dough and let it sit for the better part of an hour. It’s amazing how big it grew! it would be overflowing the bowl! That is how our faith should be, right? It should grow to the point that our bowl is overflowing. The kingdom of heaven should eventually be overflowing from our lives to the point that everyone notices.

34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.
35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Matthew is explaining why Jesus spoke in parables. In fact, Matthew quotes from Psalm 78:2 in verse 35. Jesus is making known truths that have, up until this day, been hidden.

4 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

This is how valuable the kingdom of heaven is. So much so that we should give up everything we own to “possess” it. We should be willing to sacrifice anything to obtain it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.
48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.
49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is similar in nature to the parable about the grain and the weeds (or the wheat and the tares, as it may be more commonly known). It is, according to Jesus, the angels who will sort out the righteous from the evil. We really are not responsible to do that. What this means is, if we spend too much energy trying to expose evil, perhaps we are “barking up the wrong tree.” Our energy should be spent trying to bring people to Christ, shouldn’t it? Let’s leave the sorting out up to the angels. That’s their job. That’s definitely worth pondering.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”
52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Remember, at this point, he is no longer in the boat, speaking to the crowds. He is back in the house, talking only to the disciples. They claim they understand what he has been telling them, and that is entirely possible, because the Holy Spirit has granted them understanding. What is Jesus saying in verse 52? I’ll be honest…I’m not 100% positive. But he may be telling the disciples that, now that they have been trained, they will become teachers, bringing understanding to people about the relationship between the old covenant and the new.

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,
54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

The people of Jesus’s home town did not receive him. In fact, they “took offense at him.” So he refused to do miracles there. I don’t believe that he was unable to do them. I believe that he chose not to. The Reformation Study Bible adds this: “Jesus’s refusal to do many miracles in Nazareth was not because he needed the faith of people to empower Him, but because miracles are of little value to those without faith.” Remember when Jesus talked about casting pearls before swine? Here is a perfect example of that statement being acted out.

Isaiah 13-14
Chapter 13 concerns the judgment against Babylon.
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!
7 Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt.
8 They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.

The destruction of Babylon was desolate and utterly complete. In fact, Isaiah goes further to say:
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
20 It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there; no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
21 But wild animals will lie down there, and their houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there wild goats will dance.
22 Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged.

It is interesting that Saddam Hussein began rebuilding Babylon in 1983. He was said to have inscribed his name on the bricks, in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. How did that work out for him? It is also interesting that the UN and Iraqi leaders said in 2006 that they have plans to restore Babylon as a “cultural center.” But all that is from Wikipedia, so who knows if it is reliable?

Chapter 14 begins with a promise that the Lord will, once again, choose Israel and set them in their own land. They will even get a chance to taunt the king of Babylon (vv. 3-21). Verses 12-14 have often been cited as depicting the fall of “Lucifer” or Satan. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ I’m not sure I go along with that. On the surface, it is referring to the king of Babylon. I see no indication of any other meaning in this passage. My belief is reinforced by the lack of any such statement in the notes of the Reformation Study Bible.
Verses 24-27 give an oracle on the judgment of Assyria. Verse 27 declares the power in the purposes of God. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? If God has proclaimed it, it will happen.
The chapter closes with an oracle against Philistia.

Proverbs 4:1-9
1 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
2 for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
4 he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
5 Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Wisdom is personified as a faithful woman who will stick beside whoever has her. Wisdom and insight (or understanding) should be highly prized, and if done so, she will exalt and honor you. Embrace wisdom, and you will get a crown! Note that this teaching is given a son by his father. Parents, you still have something worthwhile to teach to your children, no matter what this world may tell you!

Fascinating Facts of the Faith speaks of a young girl named Agnes who grew up in a home next door to her church in Macedonia. She helped her mother distribute clothing and food to the poor and took it to heart when her mother told her, “When you help people like this, it’s just like helping Jesus.” Agnes left home at the age of eighteen to pursue her calling of helping the poor. “Agnes moved into the slums where the ‘poorest of the poor’ lived. She held the hands of the dying, scrubbed dirty toilets, and taught by example how to administer love and dignity to people others might overlook or ignore.”
We know Agnes as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She spent the rest of her life fulfilling her calling in the most unselfish way I have ever seen. When she won the Nobel Peace prize in 1979, she used the $19,000 prize to build more homes for the poor. When she died at age 87 in 1997, more than 12,000 people attended her funeral. She was quoted as saying “In our action, we are instruments in God’s hand and He writes beautifully.”

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

Father, I pray that I might be more like Jesus, who judges not by sight and sound, but by righteousness. According to Scripture, I have the righteousness of Christ, imputed to me. I pray that I might utilize it more in daily judgments and decisions.
I pray for wisdom and insight. I still have so much to learn. But I pray that I might be a generous and kind person. There must be a reason that you wanted me to read that passage of Proverbs again this morning. Give me the wisdom to ponder it later during this day.
I pray that I might have that faith that is described by Jesus as a grain of mustard seed. I’ve seen a mustard seed, Lord. It’s almost microscopic. But what it grows into is very large. I pray that I might be overflowing with the kingdom of heaven in my life. Again, I don’t want people to notice me, rather I want them to notice you in me. Let your kingdom be what I live for.
Along with that, I pray that this new-found excitement will not dwindle. I seem to have suddenly regained a purpose, Lord, and that has to have come from you. You order our steps and you have a plan that you are working out. Therefore, I believe that you have led us to The Exchange Church at just the right time. Fan this spark into a flame, Father!

I pray for this day, Lord, that it will be a good day, free from large amounts of stress and anxiety. I pray for a smooth process when we go to pick up Stephanie’s school books this evening. And I pray that she and her cousin will have a good time together today, and be safe.

There are friends and family that my parents have brought to my attention, that need prayers, Lord. I pray for all of them, in their physical needs, that they might be okay. I pray for healing for the woman and her son who were injured in a car crash. I also pray for my aunts, one who was injured in a fall, and one who had…was it hip replacement? Be their rock and fortress, Lord…be their healer.

I know…this was very long today, and I’ll be surprised if anyone is still reading. But I’m caught up. Seek that wisdom! There is much benefit to embracing wisdom and knowledge that comes from the Lord.

Grace and peace, friends.