Today is Monday, the 27th of February, 2023, in the first week of Lent.
May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!
Yesterday morning was wonderful! The entire worship service flowed in an almost miraculous way. The sermon for yesterday was “Forgive One Another.” They worked lyrics from the solo I sang both into the sermon, as well as into the congregational prayers. The song went very well. I believe it was better in the second service, as my nerves were settled a little bit by then. And it helped that I received many gracious compliments after the first service. I was almost overwhelmed by the positive feedback. But just as much credit goes to the music director. It was she, after all, who found the song that worked so well with both my voice and the flow of the service. And she is an excellent accompanist, as well.
As soon as the video appears on You Tube, I will post it.
Today should be a rather chill day. There are a few household chores that need to be done, but I got groceries delivered on Saturday, and I don’t think we are in desperate need of anything today. I might actually get some music practice in, today. I don’t have anything specific that I am working toward, at the moment, other than choir songs, but I can still practice.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep your precepts. (Psalms 119:134 NRSV)
Lord our God, we come into your presence. Hear our prayers, we entreat you. Let your will be done among us; let your will be done for each one of us individually, and for our time. Let everything go according to your will, even if the way leads through tribulation, fear, and need. For in the end your goal will be reached. In the end you will fulfill your purpose, and your kingdom will come. Your kingdom will come to the honor of your name and for the redemption of all people still suffering on earth. Let your Word bring us blessing. May we go forward joyfully in the patience of Jesus Christ until times change, until a new day dawns and we are allowed to see your glory and your peace. Amen.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
(Revelation 2:10 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- that God’s purpose in His Kingdom will be fulfilled; He is in total control, regardless of how it appears
- for strength to endure through tribulation, fear, and need
- for the wonderful worship service we had, yesterday morning
- for the large love (chesed) of God, and that we humans are also capable of loving in this way
- that God is able to bring amazing beauty out of the wilderness of Lent
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV)
This is an important thing to remember, when engaging in Lent. We ought not go around broadcasting what we are doing for Lent, whether it be a fast from something or adding something meaningful to our life. It should be, essentially, a secret between self and God. There are three people who know what I am doing for Lent, this season. My wife, my mother, and one of my pastors. No one else will know, at least until after Easter.
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, "God is great!" (Psalms 70:4 NRSV)
Say it with me: “God is great!” “Great are You, Lord!”
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Psalms 30:11-12 NRSV)
Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. (Psalms 111:1-4, 7-10 NRSV)
"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see. Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear. Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand. So shall I turn to you and be healed."
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.
"Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our cares on you who cares for us: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of this love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen." (The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?'” David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD has bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on my distress, and the LORD will repay me with good for this cursing of me today.”
(2 Samuel 16:10-12 NRSV)
Shimei son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan, and said to the king, “May my lord not hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem; may the king not bear it in mind. For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore, see, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.” Abishai son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?” But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should today become an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” The king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.
(2 Samuel 19:18-23 NRSV)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; (Isaiah 35:1 NRSV)
He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye.
(Deuteronomy 32:10 NRSV)
A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 40:3-5 NRSV)
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
(Mark 1:12-13 NRSV)
How exquisite your love, O God!
(Psalms 36:7 MSG)
First, I want to point out the mercy that David showed Shimei in 2 Samuel. This has always been a beautiful story to me. Shimei comes out of nowhere, throwing rocks and showering curses on David. David’s advisors want to behead Shimei. “No,” says David, “perhaps God has sent him to curse me.”
David had some pretty severe faults. But he truly was, in the big picture, a man after God’s own heart. I don’t know of any other human being that is as good at showing mercy as David was. He had at least two opportunities to kill Saul, who was trying to kill him. Yet he refused to lift a hand against “God’s anointed.” Would that we could all have the same mindset when it comes to retaliation.
Yesterday, in Sunday School, Pastor Eibel talked about Israel’s retaliation against the man who raped their sister, Dinah. “Violence begets violence,” he said, multiple times. And he reminded us that, while we ought not tire of seeking justice, “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.
Second, I want to talk about Lent. When we consider that the basis for Lent is Jesus’s time in the wilderness before He began His “public ministry,” we know that He fasted for 40 days. At the end of the 40 days, He was tempted by Satan. So, at its roots, the Lenten season is bleak, a wilderness, a kind of desert.
But oh, the things that the Lord can grow out of wilderness. “The desert shall rejoice and blossom!” says Isaiah. Our various activities throughout this season can, if we will allow them, produce beautiful results. We must be faithful and diligent, and allow God to work His will in us.
Third, let’s talk about love. (What, again??) The word for “love” in Psalm 36:7, is “chesed.” I have spoken of this Hebrew word, many times. It is also frequently translated “steadfast love,” and sometimes, even “mercy.”
Eugene H. Peterson says that the word “chesed” is a “large word. We don’t have a single word in the English language that can do it justice, “so we revert to the use of adjectives to bring out the distinctive quality and broad reach of this love: steadfast love, loyal love.”
Many times, as in Psalm 36:7, chesed is used to refer to the love of God. but we are “also capable of loving this way, even though we never seem to get veery good at it. Chesed is love without regard to shifting circumstances, hormones, emotional states, and personal convenience.”
(Quotes from Leap Over A Wall, quoted in God’s Message for Each Day)
GREAT ARE YOU, LORD!! O, my Father, how magnificent is Your Name in all the earth, and throughout the heavens! I praise and worship You, this morning. We have so many reasons to praise You. The primary reason is simply because You are God! In additions, we praise You for Your forgiveness of our sin. Thank You for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that paid the price for our sin. Thank You for erasing our sin when we believe in Christ and follow Him.
Now, I pray, Father, that You help us to be obedient and forgive each other. Jesus said that we are to forgive each other, even if someone sins seven times against us in the same day! He also advised our brother, Peter, to forgive “seventy times seven” times, which we assume to be indicative of no limit. There is also no provision in there for the asking of forgiveness by the offending person. In short, we are to forgive them whether they seek it or not! Help us to do this, Lord. Make Your Holy Spirit strong within us!
Help us to show the kind of mercy that David showed, both to King Saul, who was actively trying to kill him, and to Shimei, who threw rocks at him and cursed him. Enlarge our hearts, Father, that we might be quick to overlook offense and consider that, perhaps, You have sent it our way for testing and strengthening.
Thank You that You can bring beautiful things out of the wilderness of Lent, Father. We know that Lent is not necessarily a “biblical” season. Nevertheless, we find great value in observing it, as we consider the 40 days that our Savior spent in the wilderness. For all who are observing Lent, this year, I pray that You give us wisdom and strength; that we might fulfill our commitment, and that we might also keep silent about it before others. It is between You and us.
Finally, Father, thank You for Your great chesed, Your “large love,” as Peterson called it. Your love is indeed large, Father. It is larger than anything. And it is most certainly larger than our sins. Help us to love in the same way You love. Help us to both love You and to love our fellow humans as we love ourselves.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.