Of the Wicked, Peace, and the Good News

Today is Tuesday, the 13th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you always.

Day 23,651

Twelve days until Christmas.

Update on the Covid situation at our house: S tested positive again, this morning, much to her dismay. She is feeling much better, more like her usual self, and hates having to wear a mask when she comes out of her room. C and I both tested again, this morning, and both are still negative. So that’s good. But we have activities and appointments on Thursday, for S, that will need to be canceled, I suppose. At this rate, we are going to run out of our “free” home tests.

Also, we are in a tornado warning until 8:45, this morning. It is 8:30 as I am typing this.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, 
who forsake your law.
(Psalms 119:53 ESV)

A lot of folks might read that verse and focus immediately on the word “wicked,” thereby justifying their own “indignation” at all people who think differently than they. I prefer to focus on that bit about forsaking God’s law. Anyone who forsakes God’s “law,” based on this, can be thought of as “wicked.” And if you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I believe that the entirety of God’s law is summed up in two commands that Jesus gave us. Love the Lord your God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. It is my opinion that the majority of the people who focus on justifying their own indignation toward who they consider to be wicked, are, in fact, wicked, themselves, because they fail in at least half of Jesus’s commands.

The bottom line is that we had best be careful anytime we start feeling indignant toward anyone.


Lord our God, may our lives be awakened, for you send your Spirit to blow through heaven and earth and you stir everything to life. May we long for your Spirit’s prompting. Grant that we not be overpowered by evil and sin. May we be born anew to be fighters for the highest good on earth, which leads into heaven. Hear the prayers of all people far and near who are sighing for the Savior. We pray for them all as we pray for ourselves, and you will hear our prayer. You will send power to lift up their hearts and souls so that there may be a great throng of your joyful people on earth. In spite of all the misfortune, adversity, and danger in the world, there will be a people exulting from one end of the earth to the other, a people trusting in you and sure of victory through the great grace you give in answer to our prayers. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 
Ezekiel 36:26–27, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for all the prayers being lifted up by all the saints; in Your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers
  2. for the promise of victory in Christ
  3. for the great and everlasting love the Lord has for us who fear Him
  4. for the admonition to imitate Jesus Christ
  5. for all true followers of Jesus Christ, the community of saints

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21 ESV)

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
(Isaiah 48:22 ESV)


But from everlasting to everlasting 
the LORD's love is with those who fear him, 
and his righteousness with their children's children—
(Psalms 103:17 NIV)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so great is his love for those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, 
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 
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. 
The life of mortals is like grass, 
they flourish like a flower of the field; 
the wind blows over it and it is gone, 
and its place remembers it no more. 
But from everlasting to everlasting 
the LORD's love is with those who fear him, 
and his righteousness with their children's children— 
with those who keep his covenant 
and remember to obey his precepts.
(Psalms 103:11-18 NIV)
And now these three remain:
 faith, hope and love.
 But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
(Luke 5:10-11 NRSV)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1 NRSV)


Who are we imitating? How did Jesus’s disciples learn to “share the Gospel?” For that matter, what was/is “the Gospel?”

If I were to ask that last question on Facebook or some similar social media platform, I would get all kinds of answers. Most of them would probably things like, “Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered and died on the cross and was buried and rose again on the third day for our sins.” Then verses like Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9 would get quoted.

All of these things are true. But what is “the Gospel?” Jesus made it much simpler than all of this.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
(Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)

The Gospel, the euaggelion, the “good news,” is that “the kingdom of God has come near,” in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are called to believe that.

The way Jesus’s disciples learned to share this is that they spent approximately three years walking with Him. When I think about the kind of relationship that those twelve guys had with Jesus, I am very close to committing the deadly vice of envy.

I struggle, in the twenty-first century, to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that He is here, with me, in the person of the Holy Spirit. I do believe that. But it is a struggle to maintain the intimacy of that relationship, with everything in this forsaken world screaming at me, full volume!

Between that and the fact that I am dust, and that this “treasure” that I possess is in this fragile, feeble “jar of clay,” and there are days that I simply feel like giving up.

But I press on. Because I know that’s the right thing to do. And I pursue that relationship, that intimacy.

So the disciples had a three-year, in-depth course on walking with Jesus and sharing the good news of God. Fast forward a few thousand years, and we find week-long courses on how to “witness.” I took several of those, back in the day. I learned lots of individual Scriptures by heart, some of which are rather yanked out of context.

But there is something that is blatantly missing in all of those crash-courses on witnessing.

The relationship. We are not taught how to walk with Christ, and we are not taught that that piece of life is an absolute requirement to being able to effectively share the Gospel. Maybe it was assumed? But I think it’s a dangerous assumption to make, that everyone who shows up at a “Witness Involvement Now” course, or an “Evangelism Explosion” course, is already walking that deep, intimate relationship with Jesus.

It took twelve men walking with Jesus for three whole years before they were released into the world, and even then, they occasionally got it wrong. How on earth do we think that we can learn it in a week, without the actual presence of Jesus teaching us, Himself?? Especially when walking with Christ on a daily basis is not even mentioned as the most important piece of the “puzzle.”

There’s a verse up there from Isaiah 48. It’s the last verse of the chapter.

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
(Isaiah 48:22 NRSV)

What on earth, you are probably asking, does this have to do with sharing the good news?

Maybe nothing. But I think peace has everything to do with it. Who are the wicked? Remember? According to that verse in Psalm 119, at the very top, it is those who forsake the law of the Lord.

They do not know peace. They cannot know peace.

There is a lot of “unpeace” in today’s “church.” There are myriads of alleged followers of Christ who don’t seem to have much peace in their lives. And I’ll confess that there are days when I don’t feel much peace. The last week has been a real struggle for me. There have been multiple days when I really struggled to come up with five things for which I am grateful.

When we forsake God’s law, when we fail to love Him with our entire being (all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength), and when we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not have peace. And this truth is wildly visible in the world around us, today.

And if we don’t have peace, there is no way whatsoever that we will be able to effectively share the good news that God’s kingdom is at hand. We can say the words, sure. But it will have no effect, because, truthfully, who would want any part of a “kingdom” that didn’t produce peace?

Now. Back to that business of imitating. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” On the surface, that may sound arrogant, and I will admit that Paul does come across as arrogant, sometimes. But look more deeply. Paul is trying to imitate Christ, so that he will be imitable. He only wants people to imitate him if he is imitating Christ.

And that should be our goal. We should all be attempting to imitate Christ to the point that others would be safe imitating us. I don’t want anyone imitating me if I am not successfully walking with Christ in that deep, intimate relationship, similar to what His disciples must have had, being right there with Him for three years.

If we can successfully imitate Christ, we will be following His commands, which sum up the entirety of the Law and Prophets, and we will have peace. Then we will be able to successfully share the Gospel with this desperately dying world.


Father, have mercy on us. It breaks my heart to see the lack of peace, in general, among those who claim to be following Jesus. Show us, Father, how to have that deep relationship, that walk with Christ, that His disciples had. By some miracle, help us to have as strong a relationship with Him as His disciples had, when He walked with them in person. I find myself envious, sometimes, of the lives of those twelve.

Help me to walk with Jesus in such a way that I am always at peace, and, consequently, be able to effectively show the good news that Your kingdom is at hand, has drawn near, and is available for any and all who desire to walk in it. But we must be, I must be walking in it, truly, before I can share that news. Otherwise, I am nothing more than a faker, a poser.

Help me to love You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength; help me to love my neighbor as myself, and help me to love the community of Saints as Christ loves us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Turn, Turn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Today is Wednesday, the ninth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his awesome photography at the link provided.

Day 23,372

The A/C and heater people are supposed to arrive, this morning, between 9 and 10. The work should take most of the day. It is currently pretty cool outside, at 36 degrees, but should get up to around 60 by mid-afternoon.

An update on my computer situation. I finally got all of the files moved to Dropbox, but when I opened up the PC, I couldn’t tell which part was which. I’m also not 100% sure which part is making the noise, so I’m not going to try to swap out the hard drive myself. I have talked to the Computer Center manager at the library, so when I go to work Friday, I will take it with me, and he has agreed to look at it. I’ll take the new hard drive with me, as well.

There’s not much else to talk about, this morning. I’m starting a new devotional book, as I finished Symphony of Salvation, yesterday. The new one is also by Eugene Peterson, called On Living Well.

You might notice that I have not addressed world events that are going on. That is intentional. There are plenty of places you can read/hear about that. My purpose here is to present the Word of God in the best way I can, as positively as I can. My goal is encouragement, not discouragement. I know that I occasionally point out issues and shortcomings in the Church. But that is because I love the Church and I want to see her flourish.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place -
the Most High, who is my refuge -
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
(Psalm 91:9-10)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Church, the community of saints, faithful and true 
2. for angels who minister to the saints
3. for Salt of the Sound and their beautiful, inspiring music
4. for the way God works in my devotionals
5. for those times when the things of earth go strangely dim

John Henry Newman speaks of Daniel’s two recorded fasts. The first one, I believe was for ten days, in which neither Daniel nor the three Hebrews we know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ate any meat or any of the king’s delicacies. The second was for three weeks.

The result of the first fast was that Daniel and his three friends were all stronger and healthier than the king’s people. On the second fast, Daniel was visited by an angel.

Newman keys in on the angel visit, and notes that, when Jesus was fasting in the desert for forty days, He was visited and helped by angels. “And so we too may well believe, and take comfort in the thought, that even now, Angels are especially sent to those who thus seek God.” Newman then takes note that Elijah, as well, was strengthened by an angel. We also have record of Cornelius, the Gentile, being visited by an angel when he was fasting.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91:11-12)

The devil is well-aware of this promise, says Newman, “for he used it in that very hour of temptation. He knows full well what our power is, and what is his own weakness. So we have nothing to fear while we remain within the shadow of the throne of the Almighty.”

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
(Psalm 91:7)

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5 ESV)

“The Word was first. The Word was previous to everything else. Before we were conceived and took shape in our mothers’ wombs, before we were born, before anything happened, there was the Word.”

Before anything else existed, sun, moon, stars, trees, flowers, fish, governments, hospitals, schools, “there was the Word.”

I can’t paraphrase this stuff . . . it’s too good.

“If the Word were not first, everything else would have gone awry. If the Word were second – or third or fourth – we would have lost touch with the deep, divine rhythms of creation. If the Word were pushed out of the way and made to be a servant to the action and program, we would have lost connection with the vast interior springs of redemption that flow out of our Lord, the Word made flesh.

“When the Word is treated casually or carelessly, we wander away from the essential personal intimacies that God creates . . . by his Word.” (Emphasis mine)

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

It is the season of Lent. We are “supposed” to give up something. I did see a TikTok by a reverend that I respect and follow, suggesting that, maybe, instead of trying to force ourselves to give up something, perhaps we should try to add something positive, such as trying to pray for a person every day.

But this is a “season,” as indicated in Ecclesiastes 3. Almost everyone is familiar with the next ten verses or so of that chapter. Pete Seeger helped us all with that. The Byrds probably made it more famous than Pete, but he wrote the song.

I’ve read over this many, many times, in my life, but it is always “time” to look them over again. The many “times” or “seasons” that the writer of Ecclesiastes notes are as follows:

A time to for birth and a time for death
A time to plant and a time to reap
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to destroy and a time to construct
A time to cry and a time to laugh
A time to lament and at time to cheer
A time to make love and a time to abstain
A time to embrace and a time to part
A time to search and a time to count your losses
A time to hold on and a time to let go (there's a whole bunch of us who need to learn that one)
A time to rip out and a time to mend
A time to shut up and a time to speak up
A time to love and a time to hate
A time to wage war and a time to make peace
(I used The Message for these)

And, as we work our way through the season of Lent, perhaps giving things up and perhaps adding things, there is one thing that we need to do. We need to “Turn” our eyes upon Jesus. It is always time for that.

Today’s prayer word is “ponder.” Isn’t that fitting, based on what I’ve just written?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

“Ponder,” of course, means “to think about.” To think about carefully, to chew over, to meditate. Unfortunately, we tend to ponder over the wrong things, sometimes.

I have to interrupt myself and simply be awestruck over how my Father works these things out, how all of this works together, this morning. The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Becky,” writes about trying to go to sleep at night, but as soon as her head hits the pillow, she starts pondering her day, her family members, and then the world and the future and . . . well, you get the picture.

In her case, “ponder” is more like “worry.” And I have most certainly been there. But the writer of Philippians would have us ponder different things. And I’m sure, if he were around today, he would agree with the song above the purple line, and say that all of the things in that verse are summed up by saying, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Because, most assuredly, when you do that, the things of earth grow strangely dim.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help us all to turn our eyes upon Jesus, during these times, so that the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Not that we stop caring, may it never be! But that we stop worrying, fretting, fearing. We are Your children . . . have mercy on us . . . teach us how to obey Your commands to “fear not.” Help us to live Isaiah 41:10 every day, ever minute, throughout all of those many “seasons” listed above. There is NEVER any reason for us to fear, Father!

NOTHING can separate me from Your love in Christ Jesus. None of the things mentioned in those two verse, nor anything else that we could possibly imagine. And, most beautifully, not even my sin can separate me, because of the powerful and efficacious work of my savior Jesus Christ, my Lord! Your Word made flesh, existing before there was anything else, and who will come again to make all things right.

All praise and glory to You, my Father, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.