Great Are You, Lord

Today is Monday, the 27th of February, 2023, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,727

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.


Redeem me from human oppression, 
that I may keep your precepts.
(Psalms 119:134 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from

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. 
"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. 
(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.


Today is Monday, the 20th of February, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,720

Only two more days until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. I will be attending an Ash Wednesday service at Living Word Lutheran Church, where I will be singing in the choir. It will be the first Ash Wednesday service I have ever attended. Fortunately, it is my Wednesday off, so I can make it easily.

I am also scheduled to sing a solo in both the 8:45 and 11:00 services, this coming Sunday morning. I’m a little excited (and nervous) about that.

It was nice to be able to “sleep in,” this morning, as I have not been able to do that since last Thursday. And I don’t have a lot on my plate for today. Monday household chores, and a possible trip to the grocery store. I probably need to go in person, today, as there are a couple of specific things I need.

C and I had a lovely time, yesterday. After I got home from the early church service, we headed up to Oklahoma, to the Winstar casino. We do this a couple or three times a year, just for fun. We don’t take it seriously, at all. This was an unusually successful trip for us. For the first time, ever, both of us left ahead. I put $20 in the first machine I played, and that was all of my money that I spent for a couple of hours. At one point, I was up to $300. I quit with just over $100, which means I cleared $80 for the afternoon. C spent $100, but left with $101, so she cleared a dollar. But a win is a win, right??

We almost decided to quit after about ten minutes, because C had won a $172 jackpot, and I almost immediately won a $150 jackpot (we were playing the same game, side by side).

What makes it more enjoyable is that, about a year or so ago, we discovered that there is an entire section of the casino that is non-smoking. And this time, we found that they have really modified that section, as it has its own restaurant and a shop, which it didn’t have before. We didn’t eat there, though. We actually only stayed about two hours, I think.

C is working from home, today, due to some hip pain she has been experiencing. If you are of the praying sort, we would appreciate your prayers in that matter. It looks like a hip replacement is in her future, but we don’t know how far into that future.


Truly I love your commandments 
more than gold, 
more than fine gold.
(Psalms 119:127 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from

Lord our God, we thank you that in spite of all the evil, we may look toward the good and toward a change for the better. For your love, your Spirit of love, can be with us. In spite of all that has gone wrong, we can change. Through genuine faith we can become worthy in your sight. Everything can turn to the good. The nations can become glad, rejoicing in life because you are working among them to help them change. Amen.

My child, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, 
for the LORD reproves the one he loves, 
as a father the son in whom he delights.
(Proverbs 3:11-12 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the Word of the Lord, more precious than gold
  • for the fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord
  • that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord
  • that Jesus is preparing a place for me, that where He is, there I may also be
  • for music, which so adequately expresses what I am feeling

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

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 NRSV)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; 
my body also rests secure. 
For you do not give me up to Sheol, 
or let your faithful one see the Pit. 
You show me the path of life. 
In your presence there is fullness of joy; 
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:9-11 NRSV)
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. 
Believe in God, believe also in me.
 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. 
If it were not so, would I have told you 
that I go to prepare a place for you? 
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
 I will come again and will take you to myself,
 so that where I am, there you may be also. 
And you know the way to the place where I am going."
(John 14:1-4 NRSV)

[Love] rejoices in the truth.
(1 Corinthians 13:6 NRSV)

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
(Ephesians 6:14 NRSV)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 NRSV)

“Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow,” says Eugene H. Peterson, in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (quoted in God’s Message for Each Day). We will experience pain and suffering, hardship and trials, in our lives, but they will not be able to drive out our joy.

One reason for this is that it is God who gives us this joy. We do not work it up in our own lives; it is not something that we develop or something, even, that money or fame can buy for us.

When we are joyful, we feel good about God, not about ourselves, necessarily.

Just today, I realized that the picture I have always had in my head, concerning the “poor widow” in Jesus’s story up there, walked solemnly up to the offering coffer and sadly placed her two pennies in it. There is no indication whatsoever that her countenance was sad, or lowered, during this action. None at all. We truly have no idea how she approached the altar. She very well may have been quite joyful in the presenting of this offering.

It makes more sense to think that, actually, as Jesus also taught us not to appear sad or pitiful when we fast. Rather, we are to appear as though everything is normal. In other words, we are not to attempt to draw anyone’s attention to what we are doing when we perform spiritual activities.

Joy does not depend upon circumstances. Happiness does. But one can be joyful while not being happy.

Another reason for joy is what John Piper called hope in “future grace.” We have the assurance from Jesus in John 14. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” He said. He is preparing a place for us and will return and take us to Himself, “That where I am, there you may be also.”

If we truly believe this, then there is nothing that can happen on this earth that can affect our joy. And, in the words of Dallas Willard, “This earth is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

Father, I am grateful for joy in my life. You have provided joy, and the joy that I have received from you cannot be tainted by anything the world can do. While my happiness can ebb and flow, my joy will remain constant. Help me to remember this when I feel like it is decreasing. Remind me that my joy is based on You and Your consistency, not me and my lack of the same.

You remember that we are dust. You have forgiven all of our sin, past, present, and future. Jesus is preparing a place for us, that where He is, there we may also be. All is well, and all manner of things shall be well. Things in Your kingdom are far better then we could ever imagine.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

“What Is That To You? Follow Me!”

Today is Monday, the 13th of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you always.

Day 23,713

Worship was good, yesterday. The choir did well, I think. The director seemed to think so, as well. As soon as the video becomes available on You Tube, I will share it. The full service is up, but they haven’t split the choir anthem off, yet.

The rest of the day was very chill. C was tired from working most of Saturday and well into the night (I think she finally came to bed at about 1:30 Sunday morning). She got our taxes done, yesterday, which is nice. Especially nice, because we are getting a hefty refund, this year. I got my reading in, during the afternoon. I have a goal of reading at least one hour per day, which has been helped by my usage of the Bookly app, which an online friend recommended last year. It is different from Goodreads, as it allows you to track your reading in real time, and add quotes and thoughts while you are reading. I have read a total of 140 hours, with 8754 pages since I began using the app. Average reading speed is 62.5 pages/hour. I have also read for 125 consecutive days. I’m thinking it’s longer than that, but that’s just since I began using the app.

I typically read for an hour each evening before going to bed, but sometimes, like yesterday, I will do my reading in mid-afternoon. I have read fifteen books, so far, this year. My goal is to read sixty books this year, and I am eight books ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads. I might finish one today, as I have about eighty pages left in my current book.

Today is my normal day to do housework. There will be laundry to fold (it got washed Saturday), and a few other things, as well. But before any of that, I must get the important thing done.


My flesh trembles for fear of you, 
and I am afraid of your judgments.
(Psalms 119:120 NRSV)

Is this not how we should all feel about God Almighty? Yes, He is love, and yes, He loves us with an everlasting love. But this idea that we shouldn’t fear Him, as well, is, I believe mistaken. I mean . . . didn’t we fear our parents, especially when we knew we had been disobedient?

Daily Prayer from

Lord our God, we thank you for helping us again and again. Praised be your name for all you do for us and for all your help in many dangers and hardships! We trust you completely and have faith in you through Jesus Christ, the Savior. He reveals your grace everywhere, in every hardship, giving us the courage and freedom to look toward your kingdom. Help us remain courageous when we have to face suffering, for we want to be your disciples in Jesus Christ, the Crucified One. He has made suffering holy, that our suffering too may bear fruit for you in time and in eternity. Amen.

Accept whatever befalls you,
 and in times of humiliation be patient. 
For gold is tested in the fire,
 and those found acceptable, 
in the furnace of humiliation.
(Sirach 2:4-5 NRSVA)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the mild weather over the next few days (maybe a little rain, too)
  • for the grace of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, which gives us the courage and freedom to look toward, and walk in, the Kingdom
  • that Christ has set us free to live a free life (Galatians 5:1)
  • for the truth that God owes me nothing
  • for trials to keep us humble

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. 
At an acceptable time, O God, 
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. 
With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; 
let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. 
Do not let the flood sweep over me, 
or the deep swallow me up, 
or the Pit close its mouth over me. 
Answer me, O LORD, 
for your steadfast love is good;
 according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
(Psalms 69:13-16 NRSV)
Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, "The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior." Gideon answered him, "But sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian." Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you." He responded, "But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The LORD said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them." Then he said to him, "If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you." And he said, "I will stay until you return." 

So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the LORD; and Gideon said, "Help me, Lord GOD! For I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face." But the LORD said to him, "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die." Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD, and called it, The LORD is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.
(Judges 6:11-24 NRSV)

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
(Matthew 6:26 NRSV)

Christ has set us free to live a free life.
(Galatians 5:1 MSG)

God does not owe us answers.

God does not owe us anything, period.

There are certain sects that consider themselves “Christian” that act as if they think God owes them all kinds of things; prosperity, health, you name it.

Consider the story of Gideon. Gideon encounters the angel of the LORD. Note that it says “THE” angel, not “an” angel. There are some who believe that when it is so designated, that this was a physical manifestation of the pre-incarnate Son of God. Anyway, when the angel blessed Gideon, Gideon responded by asking questions.

“But sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Now, note the Lord’s response in verse 14. Also note that He is no longer called “the angel of the Lord.” He is now called “the LORD.”

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.”
(Judges 6:14 NRSV)

The first thing that I notice here is that God does not even acknowledge Gideon’s question!! He just commissions Gideon to do the job.

There is a similar encounter between Peter and Jesus. Jesus had just restored Peter, who had, as we know, denied Him three times, just as prophesied. Jesus had also prophesied what kind of death Peter would experience (according to John). Then this happened:

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
(John 21:20-22 NRSV)

Jesus did, unlike the Lord, in Gideon’s case, acknowledge Peter’s question. But His answer was, essentially, “That is of no concern to you. Follow me.”

We would do well to heed these encounters. While we are not discouraged from asking God questions (unless you’re Job, maybe), God, in no way, shape, or form, has any obligation whatsoever to answer them. And we have no right to be upset, angry, or even mildly aggravated if He does not.

My obligation is to follow Christ. What happens to anyone else in their journey of is no concern to me. I may certainly rejoice with them when something “good” happens, and I may certainly mourn with them when something “bad” happens, but that is the extent of my concern. If I get “bad” news, I have no right to point at someone else and say, “But what about him??”

Truthfully, I don’t even have the right to ask God, “Why have You allowed _________ to happen??” He might well say, “What is that to you? Follow me!”

I believe that this even relates to the verse from Galatians 5. It’s part of my freedom in Christ. I am free to live a free life, and in this free life, I am free from the cares of what happens to someone else. I am free from feeling like I have to compare myself to anyone else.

I am free to follow Jesus, to love God, and to love others as myself.

Father, I praise You for this freedom. I also praise You for Your, um, “position?” I’m not sure how else to phrase this. You are God; we are not. You are the highest authority, God Most High, King of all Creation, Ruler of the universe, all that we can see and all that we cannot see. You created creatures in the depths of the ocean that human eyes will never see. I have heard that there are species in the rain forests that will live out their existence before any human will ever lay eyes on them. You hold all the wisdom of all the ages in the palm of Your hand.

I am dust.

Therefore, I have no right to question You. And You have no obligation to answer me when I do. I will not presume to ask why evil is allowed to exist. I will not presume to ask why one person gets riches and fame, and another person (who may be better at what they do than the first person) does not. I will not presume to ask why “bad” things keep happening to a certain family. It is of no concern to me why. What is of concern to me is how I react when those things do happen to people. What will I do to help, or to alleviate the suffering? That is of much more importance than answers why.

Father, I pray for all of Your children, that we would not question You, but, rather, heed the Word of Christ, who said, “What is that to you? Follow me!” May we be true and faithful followers of Christ in this world.

Thank You for the freedom that we have to do this, to live a free life of following Jesus.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
(John 8:31-32 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.

One People, One Voice

Today is Monday, the 16th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,685

I made it through the weekend! Saturday’s choir retreat was fun, and educational. Our trip to Mineral Wells was productive and fruitful. And yesterday was pretty amazing. The choir did well (at least I think we did . . . I haven’t listened to the recording, yet), the worship service was good, and I did fine at the orchestra rehearsal afterward. I was introduced as a new member in both morning services, and in the orchestra rehearsal. Then, last night, I went back for the small group that is discussing C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. What an invigorating discussion! It’s a great group of people.

Today should be a normal Monday. Grocery shopping, laundry, a little housecleaning. It is MLK Day, today, so a lot of businesses are closed, including banks and the Post Office. C had to go to work, though. Our library is also closed today, but I never work on Mondays, so it’s just another day for me.


If your law had not been my delight,
 I would have perished in my misery.
(Psalms 119:92 NRSV)

As I launch into morning prayers, my spirit is drawn to a line that we repeat in the Lutheran worship service: Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. May I delight myself in His Word, this morning.

Dear Father in heaven, we come before you and thank you with all our hearts. You know all that we are thankful for. Continue to sustain us, we pray, and give us strength for the paths on which you lead us. Even when we must suffer and fight long, hard battles, we know that everything has its right purpose and will still lead us to your goal. For all this we praise and thank you. Protect us in mind, heart, and spirit. Keep us courageous, and lift us above all discouragement through your Spirit, who will renew our lives forevermore. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

I will extol you, my God and King, 
and bless your name forever and ever. 
Every day I will bless you, 
and praise your name forever and ever.
(Psalms 145:1-2 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that the Lord has caused me to delight in His Word
  • for strength for the path on which God is leading me
  • for the ability to sing to the Lord and bless His name
  • for the hope of that day when all peoples will sing the praises and glory of God, together in one tongue
  • for the act of worship, the response of the creature to the Creator

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 NRSV)
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; 
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 NRSV)

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!

We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalms 21:13 NRSV)

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 is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world with righteousness, 
and the peoples with his truth.
(Psalms 96:11-13 NRSV)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 
And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." 
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 
Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
(Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV)
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; 
make melody to our God on the lyre. 
He covers the heavens with clouds, 
prepares rain for the earth,
 makes grass grow on the hills. 
He gives to the animals their food, 
and to the young ravens when they cry. 
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
 nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; 
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, 
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
(Psalms 147:7-11 NRSV)
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. 
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - Concluding Prayers of the Church)

You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the LORD.” You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the LORD.
(Exodus 28:36-38 NRSV)

At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.
(Zephaniah 3:9 NRSV)

May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. 
May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.
(Psalms 72:17 NRSV)

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 NRSV)

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV)

The moment I called out, you stepped in; 
you made my life large with strength.
(Psalms 138:3 MSG)

There is a passage (or two) in Revelation that always gives me chill bumps. It excites me, it creates in me a deep longing for Home, and for that day when the Kingdom of God becomes tangible Reality.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NRSV)

This “worship service,” which may last for ten thousand years, for all we know, is magnificent in its scope. When I read that verse from Zephaniah 3, this morning, it made me think of this passage in Revelation. In Zephaniah, the Lord promises to create a universal language, a “pure speech,” that all people may call on the Lord together. I believe that is what we are seeing in Revelation 7. The multitude from every nation, from every tribe and people and language, is standing before the throne, singing praise in one voice, in one language.

We have all been made one “people,” already, in Christ, but are still splintered into various groups. On that day, we will finally all be one, in true unity.

No doubt, we will all be surprised in heaven. Now, I’m speaking, here, in a kind of “fantasy,” because we truly don’t know what, exactly, this is going to look like or be like. We have hints, but there are details that we don’t know. So bear with me. I have to think that every person is going to be surprised to find someone in heaven that they didn’t expect to be there. I’m sure there will be some who are surprised to find me there.

And, God forbid, there will likely be someone there you didn’t want to see there. Tell the truth. Everyone has at least one person like that in their lives, right?

Right now, one of the things that excites me the most about that day when “we all get to heaven,” is that there will be no politics. There will no “conservatives” or “liberals,” just as there will be no male or female or Jew or Greek, as Paul tells us in one of his epistles. I know some people who believe that there will be no Democrats in heaven. Boy, are they going to be surprised.

But, in a sense (not the one they think), they are right. Because when we leave this earth, when our spirits are resurrected (if we are already dead) and united with a new body, all of those labels will be left behind. All of our countries will be left behind. All of our foolish, petty allegiances that we hold so dear on this earth, will be left behind. There will be no United States or Canada or Ukraine or Russia.

There will only be the most beautiful mosaic of saints, singing together in one voice, in one language, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

As I used to hear some folks say, if that don’t light your fire, your wood’s wet.

Father, I am so very grateful for this image of heavenly worship. I long to be there. I can’t wait to be there, to know this new language, this new tongue, and to sing this new song with all the saints and angels and elders, multitudes upon multitudes, singing the praises of Jesus Christ for ten thousand years. Or however long it takes. We will have all eternity. My soul magnifies the Lord! My spirit cries out for joy!

And this vision makes me cry out, all the more,

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

But in the meantime, I pray that we would start practicing. Not just practicing the worship; many of us do this every Sunday morning. But practicing the unity, getting used to the idea of singing together with multitudes of people from every nation and tribe and tongue, so that it won’t be as big a shock when we land there. Teach us, Father! Teach us Your ways, that we may walk in Your truth; give us undivided hearts that we might revere Your holy name! Let us give thanks to You with our whole hearts, today and every day.

All glory and honor to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:28-29 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends!

So Much Wonder . . .

Today is Monday, the 9th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany. I will be attempting to follow the calendar, going forward, of the church I am attending, which is Lutheran.

May the peace of Christ find you hale today.

Day 23,678

It’s going to be a rather busy week, even though I only have two shifts at the library, this week. Part of that is because of new church involvement. S has a therapy appointment tomorrow morning, and is also scheduled for an activity on Thursday evening. I have my first choir practice Wednesday night, and a half-day choir “retreat” at the church on Saturday morning. There is also a men’s Bible study and breakfast on Saturday morning, before the choir retreat. But it starts at 7:30, and I’m not sure I can get myself up early enough to do all of that.


My eyes fail with watching for your promise; 
I ask, "When will you comfort me?" 
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, 
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
(Psalms 119:82-83 NRSV)

In Your mercy, Lord hear our prayers.

Lord our God, we thank you that we are allowed to live in your love. We thank you for your promise that all the suffering on earth shall come to an end. Hear us when we turn to you with all we have on our hearts. We are weak, but you are strong. May we hope and trust in your strength. May our life, with all its practical concerns, remain in your hands until the day when you will act in might and the whole world will know the forgiveness of sins and will praise and thank you evermore. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that we are allowed to live in the love of God, through Jesus Christ
  • for the promise that, one day, all suffering will end
  • for the knowledge that, in Christ, our labor is not in vain; may I be steadfast and immovable, always excelling in His work
  • for wonder
  • that the Lord on high is mighty and sovereign (Psalm 93)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
and all that is within me, 
bless his holy name. 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
and do not forget all his benefits—
(Psalms 103:1-2 NRSV)
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
 I have no good apart from you."
(Psalms 16:1-2 NRSV)
I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, 
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 NRSV)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; 
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(Psalms 51:7 NRSV)

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
(Mark 1:9-11 NRSV)

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, 
O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come. 
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. 
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. 
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; 
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
(Psalms 65:1-5 NRSV)
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)
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. 
"Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
(Luke 5:26 NRSV)

"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?"
(Exodus 15:11 NRSV)
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
(Psalms 33:8 NRSV)

More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, 
more majestic than the waves of the sea, 
majestic on high is the LORD! 
(Psalms 93:4 NRSV)

It was pretty easy to see today’s theme. Wonder. There are always times, in the lives of believers, when they simply must stop and look around. Now, while it is true that the verse from Luke 5 refers to the reaction of the crowd when Jesus healed the paralytic that was brought in by his four friends, Walking in Grace writer Rick Hamlin uses it as a springboard to think about a time when God arranged a scene of wonder for him to view, while out on a daily run.

I have seen, personally, many such scenes of wonder. Not while running. I don’t run. If you ever see me running, you should probably also run. Away from whatever I am running from.

I have seen majestic mountains in Wyoming, Colorado, Tennessee, and other places. I have seen waterfalls that have left me breathless, in Wyoming and Oregon. I have seen the beauty of the desert, and the majesty of the ocean. As the Newsboys song, “In Wonder” begins, “So much wonder . . .”

Often times in my life, I have simply been astounded that anyone could look around this creation and not believe in a Creator. Personally, I think it takes greater faith to believe that all of this is an accident.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. Today, it is simply about wonder. So I encourage you . . . take a moment today, or sometime this week, and simply gaze at something in wonder. It might be the night sky. It might be a forest or a lovely park setting. It might be your children or grandchildren, for they, too, are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It might even be your own hands. Have you ever done that? Have you ever just looked at your hands, moved your fingers, and been in awe of God’s majesty? I have.

Father, I celebrate the wonder of Your creation today. I praise You for all the beauty which You have given us, and much of it for no other reason than to lift you up and worship You. When I consider that there are creatures in the depths of the sea that no human eye will ever see, it makes me wonder even more. So much that You created simply for Your own pleasure. Perhaps, someday, when we are in Your presence, face to face, we will see some of these things, as we celebrate eternity with You.

I thank You for the calling that You gave us in Jesus Christ, the calling to be Your children. I pray that I will walk with You the way Enoch walked with You. I pray that I will follow the commands of Christ to love You and love my neighbor, and then to love the saints even more deeply.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Small Acts Bring Big Results

Today is Monday, the 2nd of January, 2023, in the second week of Christmas. It is the ninth day of Christmas.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,671

For a lot of people (unless you happen to work in retail or restaurant industry), today is the observed holiday for New Year’s Day. As far as I know, the banks are closed, and there will be no mail delivery. C is off work today, and will be headed back in tomorrow after a whole week off, as she took vacation between Christmas and yesterday. I don’t ever work on Monday, so it’s just another day for me. “Just another manic Monday.”

I don’t really feel that way. It’s just a line from a song.

I wondered, this morning, how many sermons were preached, yesterday, on 2 Corinthians 5:17?


I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, 
and that in faithfulness you have humbled me.
(Psalms 119:75 NRSV)

O Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers. I am praying, this morning, for many who need healing of some kind. I am praying for some who need guidance in life, and success in new goals that they have begun. There are many, many who are grieving . . . may You give the comfort of the Holy Spirit to their hearts and souls. There are some who seek familial reconciliation; may You intervene in their situations. O Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers!

Lord our God, we have gathered in your sight. We thank you that through your words you have given something of your very self to help us be your disciples, your children, who stand firm in faith and trust throughout our lives, whatever our lot may be. Help us in these times, and when days grow difficult and full of grief, hold your people securely in your hand. Help us to be firmly rooted in faith, however dark it is on earth. You can give us strength and courage; we can do nothing in our human strength. But the power of your Spirit can renew us, make us alert, and fill us with lasting joy. For we are your people, your children, and when held in your hand, we can rejoice in spite of all grief. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

With this in mind, then, I kneel in prayer to the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, that out of the treasures of his glory he may grant you strength and power through his Spirit in your inner being, that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love. 
Ephesians 3:14–17a, NEB

Today I am grateful:

  1. that Jesus shares Himself with us, in order to help us be His disciples
  2. that the Lord gives us strength and courage, for we can do nothing in our human strength
  3. for daily renewal in the Holy Spirit
  4. that even our smallest efforts can yield large results, when God is involved
  5. for the faithfulness of God to act on our behalf, when we commit our ways to Him

O magnify the LORD with me, 
and let us exalt his name together.
(Psalms 34:3 NRSV)
Open my eyes, so that I may behold 
wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalms 119:18 NRSV)
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; 
I will sing praises to you among the nations. 
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; 
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
(Psalms 57:9-10 NRSV)
Save us, O LORD our God, 
and gather us from among the nations, 
that we may give thanks to your holy name 
and glory in your praise.
(Psalms 106:47 NRSV)
O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,
 make known his deeds among the peoples. 
Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
tell of all his wonderful works. 
Glory in his holy name;
 let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually. 
Remember the wonderful works he has done, 
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,

He is mindful of his covenant forever, 
of the word that he commanded, 
for a thousand generations, 
the covenant that he made with Abraham, 
his sworn promise to Isaac, 
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, 
to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 
(Psalms 105:1-5, 8-10 NRSV)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

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. 

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
(Matthew 13:31-32 NRSV)

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.”
(Luke 16:10 NRSV)

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
(John 6:9 NRSV)

Open up before GOD, keep nothing back; 
he'll do whatever needs to be done:
(Psalms 37:5 MSG)

The tiny mustard seed becomes a huge plant. Whoever is faithful in little is also faithful in much. The young boy’s five loaves and two fish feeds a multitude. “Little is much when God is in it.” Even the smallest acts of faith can yield huge results.

For us, we need not worry about the magnitude of our actions. Some are hindered by the mindset of wanting to do “huge things” for God. But that’s not what God is after. He is after the willingness of the boy with the sack lunch, who is willing to share it with Jesus. He is after the one who is willing to pray, faithfully, alone in her closet, no one ever knowing. He is after the one who is willing to give her two “mites,” as opposed to the one who throws noisy coins into the coffer, out of his abundance.

One of the most seemingly small and insignificant things we can do, especially for one another, is to listen. This world is an exceedingly noisy place, and it is growing ever more so by the day. “We are surrounded with noise: telephone, radio, television, stereo. Messages are amplified deafeningly. The world is a mob in which everyone is talking at once and no one is willing or able to listen.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Reversed Thunder, quoted in God’s Message for Each Day)

But, in the midst of all of this noise, God listens. The popular Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” Peterson renders this to say, “Open up before GOD, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done.

Most followers of Christ are aware that God speaks to us. Primarily, this comes through His Word, but there are other avenues, as well. However, we aren’t quite as aware that God listens to us. He hears us. And, in ways that we cannot comprehend, somehow, He is able to hear all of us at one time. The fact that He listens to us is even more amazing than Him speaking to us.

Finding someone who listens to us at all, much less “carefully and thoroughly,” is rare. “When it happens we know that what we say and feel are immensely important. We acquire dignity. We never know how well we think or speak until we find someone who listens.” (ibid)

It has been said many times, that, when we are involved in conversation, we all too often, rather than listen when the other is speaking, are considering what we are going to say next. And how often do we interrupt?? I’m guilty of it, and I hate when I do it. It’s almost automatic, seeming to be out of my control. But it is not. We are a society of interrupting people.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting cow w--

So today, consider two things. One, that God listens to you. Your thoughts, your words, your feelings are important, and have dignity. Two, consider listening to someone else. If you find yourself engaged in conversation today, listen. Let the other person speak full sentences. Don’t try to finish their sentences for them. Don’t interrupt. And don’t let your mind stray to what you want to say next. I might forget what I was going to say next. But that’s okay. I’m not the most important person in the room. You are.

"O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Divine Hours -The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
"Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, I pray,t he love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."
(The Divine Hours - Concluding Prayer of the Church)

Father, help us to be more aware and confident that You hear us when we pray. And, in that knowledge, help us to pray more and better. When I lift up the prayer requests that come to my attention, may my attention be fully with them. May my prayers be sincere and not cursory, and may Your Holy Spirit help me know the best way to pray for all.

I also pray that You help us, in turn to listen to others when we are in conversation with them. It is so important to listen. It gives others dignity and it gives them confidence. It also gives them feelings of hope and importance. So give us all the ability to listen, which goes hand in hand with not thinking we are the most important person in the room.

In Your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me”

Today is Monday, the 26th of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the second day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,664

Six days until 2023!

It is also Boxing Day in Canada, I believe. Thankfully, this has nothing to do with pugilism.


Before I was afflicted I went astray,
 but now I keep your word.
(Psalms 119:67 ESV)

Lord our God, our light and our life, in our longing to live by your Word we lift our eyes to you. Let your Word come into our hearts. Let your Word help us to understand our lives and our time, so that we can recognize your leading in everything and gather courage every day in spite of our weakness, sins, and faults. We can still find joy, for your kingdom is coming. We can feel that you are among us, however great the anguish of these times. Let the light of Jesus Christ shine out; let your Spirit of peace and grace come to all nations so that your will may be done. Free people from all their confusion. Release them from their bondage. Make them free for what is good, true, and eternal. May your name be praised among us today and forevermore. Amen.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. 
John 3:16, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that, through God’s Word, we can better understand our lives and times
  2. for the joy of knowing that the Kingdom of God is here
  3. that the Lord has clothed me with the garments of salvation (Isaiah 61)
  4. for the evidence of God seen in His handiwork, creation (Romans 1; Job 12)
  5. that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, 
because the LORD has anointed me 
to bring good news to the poor; 
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, 
and the day of vengeance of our God;
 to comfort all who mourn; 
to grant to those who mourn in Zion— 
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; 
that they may be called oaks of righteousness, 
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
 they shall raise up the former devastations;
 they shall repair the ruined cities, 
the devastations of many generations. 

Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
 foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 
but you shall be called the priests of the LORD;
 they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; 
you shall eat the wealth of the nations, 
and in their glory you shall boast. 
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; 
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
 therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
 they shall have everlasting joy. 

For I the LORD love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong; 
I will faithfully give them their recompense, 
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 
Their offspring shall be known among the nations, 
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
 all who see them shall acknowledge them, 
that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed. 

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; 
my soul shall exult in my God, 
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; 
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, 
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, 
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
 and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, 
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise 
to sprout up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:1-11 ESV)

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;
(Romans 1:20 NRSV)

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you; 
the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; 
and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 
Who among all these does not know 
that the hand of the LORD has done this? 
In his hand is the life of every living thing 
and the breath of every human being. 
Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? 
Is wisdom with the aged, 
and understanding in length of days?"
(Job 12:7-12 NRSV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13-14 NRSV)

The passage from Isaiah 61 is the passage that Jesus read in the synagogue that day that He took up the scroll to read. And after He had read it, He said to those who were there, listening, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
 and recovery of sight to the blind, 
to let the oppressed go free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
(Luke 4:16-21 NRSV)

If this is the Lord’s mission, then it is our mission. Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God, and to love one another. There should never be any question as to how we are supposed to love one another. Jesus tells us pretty plainly in Matthew 25, which, in some ways, mirrors the passage from Isaiah 61. We are to love one another by making sure that no one goes hungry or naked, or that no one feels alone when they are sick or afflicted.

Jesus very plainly tells us that, if we do any of these things to any human being, we are doing them for Him. But He also warns us that if we fail to do them, then we are failing to do them for Him, as well.

Lest we fall into the trap of thinking that the sheep and goats were “saved” based on their actions, we must remember that our actions are proof of what is in our hearts. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commands. I believe that He was simply stating a fact when He said that, rather than trying to convince people to keep His commands. In other words, He was not telling me to keep His commands to prove that I love Him. He was simply stating that, if I love Him, truly love Him, then I will, by nature, keep His commands.

This speaks volumes to what is in the heart. If I have to force myself to give to the poor, out of a sense of obligation or guilt, it’s not the same. If the love of Christ dwells within my spirit, then the actions of love toward others will flow naturally out of me, and not need to be forced.

But won’t there be days when I just don’t feel it? Sure. There will always be days when we are less than our best. I might be having one of those today. We must remember that God looks (I believe) at the “big picture.” He knows what is in our hearts. He also remembers that we are dust. That one is very important to remember. Because of the propitiation of Jesus Christ, and because of that fact that He remembers that we are dust, God is not angry with us when we fail.

You can dredge up all the Old Testament passages about God’s wrath that you want to, if that’s the sort of thing that you’re into. But you’d better be paying close attention. And remember that Jesus told us that we would be judged by the standard by which we judge others. And also remember that those Old Testament passages about the wrath of God are pre-Christ. If we try to point that OT wrath at people we deem to be “sinners” (forgetting that when you point one finger at someone, you’ve got three pointing back at yourself), we are, essentially, ignoring the greatest gift that God has ever given us, the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ by grace.

In short, it truly amazes me that some of the people who have been recipients of God’s grace can turn around and treat others with no grace, whatsoever. What is even more tragic is when this comes from the pulpit of an alleged preacher of the Gospel of Christ.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. He dwells within us. Therefore, we should be about the same business as Jesus Christ. Bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the Lord’s favor.

As 2023 approaches, I pray that, if you are one who makes “resolutions” (I am not . . . I gave that up at least a decade ago), you will resolve to do those things in the name of the Lord. I pray that everyone who reads this will know the grace and peace that comes from Christ, and will, in turn, share that same grace and peace with everyone around them, in some way.

Thank You, Lord, for Your grace. Thank You for the peace of Christ, that we are able to know, and that is with us always. Thank You for Your Spirit, that dwells within us, and enables us to carry on the work of Christ in this broken world.

I pray that everyone who has received Your grace would share it, lavishly, in their own circle of influence, their own little “kingdom.” And I pray that all who stumble across this forum would be able to know Jesus’s love, mercy, and grace in their lives.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
(Matthew 5:9 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Cheerful Giver

Today is Monday, the 19th of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.

The peace of the Lord be with you always.

Day 23,657

Six days until Christmas! I need to wrap some presents today. I suppose someone should get some stocking stuffers, too.


When I think on my ways, 
I turn my feet to your testimonies; 
I hasten and do not delay
 to keep your commandments.
(Psalms 119:59-60 ESV)

Dear Father in heaven, we hope in you and in your promise, which we hold in our hearts as our most precious possession. Protect us when times grow hard. May your Spirit come. May your Spirit constantly reveal your Word and give your promise to the hearts of many so that they may share in the hope, the faith, and the struggle for the great day. On that day we will be allowed to rejoice, exulting with all people because your salvation comes for the whole world. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
 it was like a dream! 
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! 
Then the other nations said about us, 
"The Lord did great things for them." 
Indeed he did great things for us; 
how happy we were! 
Psalm 126:1–3, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for Christmas week
  2. for my cats; Luna is “helping” me write this
  3. for the hope we have in the promises of God, held dearly in our hearts as our most prized possessions
  4. that God loves a cheerful giver
  5. for the resources (blessings) God has given us, and for our willingness to share those with others

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
(Colossians 2:8-10 ESV)

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:3-4 ESV)

A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
(Proverbs 18:16 ESV)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
(1 John 5:14 ESV)

Giving is always a touchy subject in the church. Who among us doesn’t feel hesitant when the preacher decides to preach on “stewardship?” Recently, the Lutheran church I have been attending had their yearly pledging of “Time, Talent, and Treasure.” It was mentioned in each of the Sunday morning services leading up to the big day (November 6, I believe), but not over-emphasized, in my opinion. And this church does things a little differently than what I am used to seeing. They don’t set the budget for next year until the pledges come in.

Most churches set the budget, then start begging for the money.

Now, I have no idea what the budget for this church looks like. It’s not a Baptist church, so there is no “business meeting” where everyone votes on it. I’m sure it is available, though. I have noted that this church is really big on community charity. More often than not, there are people hanging out in the fellowship hall (I don’t know what they call it, so that’s what I’m calling it), putting meals together after the morning worship service. We participated in their Angel Tree, buying gift cards for some of the local elementary school students. They sent boxes home for people to fill for those same schools. We didn’t get one, because, by the time we got to where they were handing them out, they were all gone.

C and I have not yet decided what our giving is going to look like, here. For the past year, we have been putting our “tithe” money aside in a special account, and have doled it out whenever needs were brought to our attention. This has enabled us to help numerous people and organizations. But I do want to begin to contribute to this church. Of course, we are not officially “members,” yet, and I’m not sure what that’s going to look like. I don’t know if C will want to be. And that’s not the topic of today’s writing.

There is one, really.

The topic is motivation for giving. Jesus told His disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount, that their giving should be so secretive that the right hand didn’t even know what the left hand is doing. He used extremes like that more than once. For example, that time He told His listeners to cut off their hands or poke out their eyes if they caused them to sin.

To better understand the verses that were quoted, let’s take a look at the first verse of the chapter.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:1 ESV)

The key phrase, in my opinion, is “in order to be seen by them.” And look. Jesus didn’t say, outright, “Don’t practice your righteousness before other people.” He said “Beware,” and then qualified that with “in order to be seen by them.”

Motivation is key.

I mean, later, He says that we should let our light shine, right? So that others would see our good works (did I talk about this yesterday?) and glorify our Father in heaven!

I once knew a man who took Matthew 6:3-4 so seriously that he only gave his church offerings in cash, anonymously. He also never declared his charitable giving on his taxes. More power to him, but I think he’s missing the point of Jesus’s teachings.

It’s all in the motivation. One time, I was in a gathering, a worship service put on by a prison ministry at a church that I wound up being worship leader at for a while. A lady who owned a local furniture store was brought up on stage and recognized for her contributions, her charity. I don’t know if she was a Christ-follower or not, but I suspect that she wasn’t. Her chest stuck out and she got all puffed up in pride as she was recognized. I’m not being critical of her, mind you. But she got her reward, right then. According to Jesus, if that is why we give, that will be the extent of our reward.

Whereas, if we give more privately, or give with the intent of our Father in heaven being glorified, He will reward us “in secret.”

So, to me, the bottom line, here, is not whether to give, publicly. It is the motivation. If I give publicly in order to be recognized publicly, that will be all the reward I get. But if I give publicly, so that God will get glory, or, even better, give privately, so that He will be glorified, then my reward will be much more satisfying, and much longer-lasting.

Don’t blow the trumpet when you give. Don’t convert all your dollars to quarters so your offering makes a lot of noise when you put it in the “coffer.”

And, for heaven’s sake, don’t give reluctantly. Give whatever you have decided in your heart, and do it cheerfully, not “under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

And that, my friends, is why I never like sermons that try to guilt people into giving.

Father, I cannot thank You enough for the blessings with which You have blessed our family. And I also am so very grateful for the heart of generosity that You have given us. I would even go so far as to pray, now, that You would make us aware of some need, during this holiday season, as we have a good bit to work with, right now.

On that note, I continue to pray for the peace and comfort of all that I know who are grieving and mourning the loss of loved ones, right now. Some of them have not been unexpected, but a few of them have been totally unexpected, which makes the sadness even worse. Nevertheless, having loved ones, friends and/or family members pass away during November and December changes the perspective of holidays forever. I do pray that You would be especially present to all of these, and may You raise up saints all around them, that they might sit with them and share in their grief.

Help us all to have more of a giving spirit, and may we all be more concerned that You get the glory for our generosity, and not that we get recognized.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Rise and Walk

Today is Monday, the 12th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.

I pray that the peace of Christ finds you, today!

Day 23,650

Thirteen days until Christmas. Tomorrow, the month will be more than half over.

The writing prompt for today is “Who do you envy?” Honestly, no one. I really try to avoid envy, as it is, as some know, one of those seven deadly vices. Envy causes no small amount of problems for people, and it manifests itself in a myriad of ways. Now, if you were to ask me who I admire, I might have many answers. But envy is a bad thing, and my mind won’t easily be changed on that subject.

Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru, Romanian photographer. Please visit his site at the link provided to see more of his wonderful photos (especially his beloved Maya).


When I think of your rules from of old, 
I take comfort, O LORD.
(Psalms 119:52 ESV)

Lord our God, we thank you for allowing us to be called your children. We thank you for giving us the power to become more truly your children, so that there may be a witness to your name on earth, so that again and again in the name of Jesus Christ new power may come for body and soul, for the happy and unhappy, for all who are still following false paths, for all who suffer so much grief, fear, and need. We thank you and we praise your name. Help us on our way. Help us weak people who often grow anxious and afraid. Help us in everything. Help us especially in the concern we have deepest in our hearts, that your name may be honored, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. 
John 1:11–12, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the right to become a child of God
  2. for the strength to be a witness to the name of Jesus on earth
  3. for the help God gives us as we walk on His path, especially when we are weak, anxious, and afraid
  4. that God will finish what He started
  5. for faith that is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6 ESV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:9-11 ESV)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 NRSV)

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, 
for his wonderful works to humankind.
(Psalms 107:8 NRSV)
Open my eyes,
 so that I may behold 
wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalms 119:18 NRSV)

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.
(John 5:6-9 NRSV)

God will finish what He started. That’s a paraphrase of Philippians 1:6. I remember an old song, from the early eighties, I think, by The Imperials. It was actually, I just learned, written by Phil Johnson. I also just learned that it was 1979, from the album, “Heed the Call.” It’s called “He Didn’t Lift Us Up to Let Us Down.”

Admittedly, it didn’t age, well. Heh. But the lyrics still fit. Here’s the chorus:

He didn't bring us this far to leave us
He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown
He didn't build His home in us to move away
He didn't lift us up to let us down

God will finish what He started. And this plays into the Hebrews 11 verse. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. I haven’t seen the ending; I have not seen the finished product of what God has begun, either in the grand scheme of things, or in my own experience. But my faith, that assurance of things hoped for, gives me the conviction that He will do it, that He will finish the work.

Let’s be clear on something else. It is God who will finish the work, not me. This is where we manage to get way off course, sometimes, when we get this “bright idea” that God needs us to help Him finish the job. God never needs our help. What He does expect us to do, however, is “get up and walk.”

See the man at the pool in the passage from John 5. He was waiting for someone to carry him to the pool at Bethesda, so he could be healed. But Jesus came along, asked him if he wanted to be whole, and then told him to get up and walk.

He probably didn’t immediately run a marathon, mind you, but he got up and “began to walk.” This can apply to all areas of our lives. Does God want you to pray more? Then begin to pray. Just start. He will work in you what you need to excel at it. Does God want you to give more? (Time, talent, treasures?) Then just start. Kind of like the old Nike motto, “Just do it.” God will enable you, and He will bless the effort that you give in faith. Just don’t start trying to pray for hours at a time or give your whole month’s paycheck, right off the bat, okay? Just like the man who got up and began to walk, we must start slowly.

“Rise and walk each day in the confidence that He is with you and will help you.” (Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)

But also walk in the confidence that He did not bring you this far to leave you.

Father, I thank You for this example from Scripture, along with others, where Jesus simply told the man to get up and walk. I pray that in whatever it is that we need to do for You, that You give us the faith and courage to start. Give us the confidence that You will finish what You have started in us, that You didn’t “lift us up to let us down.”

I know how difficult it is, as we look around this world, to remember this truth. Things don’t look good. They don’t look like You are in control, much of the time. But we must have confidence that You are in control, and that everything is working out according to Your plan.

Help us to pray, to give, to walk, and, eventually, to run and fly in Your kingdom.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

“Comfort My People”

Today is Monday, the 5th of December, in the second week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,643

20 days until Christmas!


I will keep your law continually,
 forever and ever,
(Psalms 119:44 ESV)

When I read a verse like this, I am reminded that, because of Jesus, the “law” consists of a couple of basic commands, love the Lord with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. In addition, we are to love the community of saints with an even more intense love.

Lord our God, dear Father, you have made yourself known on earth so that we may love you and be loved by you. Give us your Spirit, we pray. Give us your Spirit to strengthen us in the life and work you offer us. Watch over us on all our ways. Wherever your children are sighing and calling for you, protect and guide them with your mighty hand. Let your kingdom spread over the whole world, over all people, over all races and nations, that we may become united as servants of Jesus Christ to your honor. Amen.

Daily Prayer from

Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. 
Daniel 7:27, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that God has made Himself known to us on earth, that we may love Him and be loved by Him
  2. for the Spirit who strengthens us in our daily lives
  3. for God’s watchfulness over us
  4. that the Lord comforts the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit
  5. that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, 
and cry to her 
that her warfare is ended, 
that her iniquity is pardoned, 
that she has received from the LORD's hand 
double for all her sins. 

A voice cries: 
"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. 
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, 
and all flesh shall see it together,
 for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 

A voice says, "Cry!" 
And I said, "What shall I cry?" 
All flesh is grass, 
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 
The grass withers, the flower fades 
when the breath of the LORD blows on it; 
surely the people are grass. 
The grass withers, the flower fades,
 but the word of our God will stand forever.
(Isaiah 40:1-8 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. 
He gives power to the faint, 
and to him who has no might he increases strength. 
Even youths shall faint and be weary, 
and young men shall fall exhausted; 
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary; 
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
(Psalms 147:3 NIV)

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
(John 16:22 NIV)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalms 34:18 NIV)

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NIV)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 NIV)

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:20 NIV)

There is much mourning around us, during this season, a seemingly inordinate amount, in my opinion. I know of many families who have lost, or are anticipating the loss of, loved ones in the past couple of months. This makes holiday seasons even more difficult than they might already be.

Many of us do not realize that the days from Thanksgiving until the end of the year are not all joyful and happy for everyone. I know of one family who simply does not celebrate Thanksgiving because of a tragedy that occurred many years ago.

Most recently, in the past week, a north Texas family lost a daughter in a senseless killing. Some of you may have heard about Athena Strand. Her family will be struggling to know any joy this Christmas.

There is much talk of healing hearts in today’s Scripture readings. The Lord is, indeed, close to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. He will comfort those who mourn.

I have always been fond of Psalm 73:25-26, cited above. Whom do I have besides God? What on earth could I possibly desire besides Him?

But it all comes down to faith. In order to experience the comfort of God in our brokenheartedness, we must experience faith; we must possess faith. And the way we get more or stronger faith is through prayer. There is a link between prayer and faith. And one of the best ways to work through this is to pray God’s Word back to Him. This is best done through Psalms, which is why people such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to the Psalms as the Prayerbook of the Bible.

“It is as we take His Word, bringing it before Him, asking Him to make it living and real to us, that the power will come to fully believe it and receive it as our own. It is in prayer, in living contact with the living God, that faith to trust God and to accept all that He says will become real to us.” (Andrew Murray, in Believing Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)

Father, I pray for those who are mourning, during these months, especially for the family of Athena Strand, in the loss of their precious daughter. We will never pretend to understand tragedies such as this in our world, and I have no words of comfort for this family, other than to pray for Your comfort in their spirits.

I do have confidence, however, that You are indeed close to the brokenhearted and that You save the crushed in spirit. I pray for Your presence in their lives, today. I pray for Your presence in the hearts and souls of others who have lost dear ones in the past month or so. I pray that they might be able to find some spark of joy in the season and in Your Spirit.

I pray for stronger faith, Father, as I pray Your Word back to You. You are, indeed, the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I pray that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth, and that You would unite my heart to fear Your Name.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part--
Yet what I can I give him,
Give my heart.
(Christina Rossetti)

Grace and peace, friends.