Security For Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Good morning. (And afternoon, because it’s 3:30pm as I sit down to finish this entry.) Today is Monday, December 31, 2012. It is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2012.

On this date:
In 1600, the British East India Company was chartered.
In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease at L45 per year and started brewing Guinness.
In 1897, Thomas Edison first demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public.
In 1904, the first New Year’s Eve celebration was held in Times Square (although it was called “Longacre Square” at the time).
In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge opened.
In 1955, General Motors became the first U.S. corporation to make over $1 billion in a year. Hmmm…
In 1983, AT&T and the Bell System were broken up by the U.S. Government. I’ll never understand why the government was afraid of them.
In 1991, the USSR was officially dissolved.
In 1992, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved.
In 1999, the U.S. Government officially handed control of the Panama Canal back to Panama.

Today’s birthdays include Charles Cornwallis (British general), 1738, Henri Matisse (French painter), 1869, Rex Allen (actor, singer, and songwriter), 1920, Odetta (American singer), 1930, Sir Anthony Hopkins (actor), 1937, Rosalind Cash (actress), 1938, Sarah Miles (actress), 1941, Andy Summers (The Police), 1942, Sir Ben Kingsley, 1943, John Denver, 1943, Connie Willis (Science Fiction author), 1945, Diane von Furstenberg (fashion designer), 1945, Tim Matheson (actor), 1947, Burton Cummings (The Guess Who), 1947, Donna Summer, 1948, Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith), 1951, Bebe Newirth (Cheers), 1958, Val Kilmer (“I’m your huckleberry”), 1959, Nicholas Sparks (author), 1965.

This has been a pretty momentous year for me (and for our family, as well). The most important thing about this year has been what I consider to be my spiritual growth. God brought us to The Exchange Church about 18 months ago. We jumped right in and started serving almost immediately, only in the setup/tear down areas, at first. Then Christi and I both got involved in the tech ministry, with her doing the Pro Presenter on the Mac on alternating Sundays, and me doing lights and podcast. My involvement decreased in that, however, for two reasons. One, we moved to a new school, where we would not have as much room for all the lights, so there were no lights to control. Two, we stopped doing video podcasts, and went to audio only, which could easily be done by either the person running the Mac or the sound engineer. The big thing came about a little over a month ago when I received a call from our worship leader, inviting me to play keyboard in the next Sunday’s worship celebration. So now, I’m a regular member of the worship band.

But I was supposed to be talking about spiritual growth. Somewhere in the midst of all of this serving, God really got hold of me, and started drawing me closer to him. I strongly believe, with all my heart, that this was because of the “lifehouse” ministry of our church. In order to be a full-fledged member of The Exchange, you must commit to being part of that ministry, which is the small community group that meets outside of the regular church, once a week. In our group are two other people who are heavily involved in setup/tear down/tech, as well as the discipleship/prayer pastor (our leader). But we have grown very close as a group, and have seen some amazing ministry going on. There has also been a measure of accountability that has not been present in my life before. During this time, God also pushed me into a sort of prayer ministry. And as I have gotten more involved in this, I have grown closer to other people, as well. I can’t remember the day or the circumstances; I just know that one day, God strongly suggested that I get into intercessory prayer. I’m still learning about this, and have far to go, but the important thing is that I am praying daily, and the majority of that prayer time involves praying for the needs of other people, both spiritual and physical. I’m even using Facebook as a tool for the prayer ministry. We knew it had to be good for something other than Bejeweled Blitz and Words With Friends, right?

It was also during this past year that I began to have a deeper understanding of the life of Christ in me. I began to see the Beatitudes as not simply an ideal that we should try to live by (that has been the way I understood it for most of my life, some even saying that it was an impossible ideal), but as the characteristics of Christ that should be visible in the life of the true Christian. Christ lives in me; his life should be visibly manifest in me. The Beatitudes reflect that, and, while definitely impossible for the natural life, should be normal for the spiritual life. I also include the definitions of love in 1 Corinthians 13, and the spiritual gifts list in Galatians 5:21-22 in this category. All of these are things that should be normally visible in the life of the Christian, because a) we have the life of Christ in us, and b) we have the Holy Spirit empowering us.

As 2013 approaches rapidly (I almost typed “rabidly;” better put my reading glasses on) I hope for even more growth, because if I’m not growing, I’m stagnating, and going backwards. I hope for a deeper understanding of prayer; I hope for a deeper walk with the Lord, as I try to live out the prayer in Psalm 86:11, which is my “life verse.” It says, Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I believe I will add verse 12 to that, which says, I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. And I hope for a deeper understanding of the life of Christ in me.

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! Psalm 65:4
Father, as I look into your word this morning, and examine the year that has gone behind me, may I see a fresh revelation of you; one that will carry me forward into the new year, shining with your glory like the noonday sun.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 14:24-27.
24 The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,
25 that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.”
26 This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.
27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

In this passage I see the sovereign hand of God over all the earth. A portion of it applies to Assyria only. But verses 26 are stated to be the purpose “concerning the whole earth. The hand of God cannot be thwarted. If God has said it, it will happen. Our God will do what he says he will do, and no one can turn back his hand.

Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “Yesterday.” The scripture reference is Isaiah 52:12. …the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

“At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays.” Our Lord provides us with security from yesterday. Sometimes, my enjoyment of God’s grace in my life can be sullied by “the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders.” But there seems to be a reason for this, and it is most certainly not to wallow in self-pity. God is the God of yesterday, and allows memories in order to keep us from getting into a “shallow security in the present.”

That same verse (Isaiah 52:12) also says, For the LORD will go before you. He will watch where we have failed to watch. He provides me with security for tomorrow, watching for things that might trip me up into failures. “God’s hand reaches back to the past and makes a clearing-house for conscience.”

Finally, this same verse says, For you shall not go out in haste. “As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us.” There are things in our yesterdays that cannot be fixed; they are irreparable; they cannot be gotten back. There are, it is true, lost opportunities. But God has no desire for us to fall into destructive anxiety over these things. Rather, he transforms it into “constructive thoughtfulness for the future.” Our God provides us with security for today. “Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.”

“Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.”

Father, I thank you deeply for the victories and growth that you have given me in 2012. Now, I look forward to 2013, and it is my desire to both let the past sleep on the bosom of Christ, and to “step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.” I long to see Jesus more and more during this next year. I pray that the coming year would be more incredible than the last one. I’m greedy, it’s true; greedy for more of you! May I not “go out in haste,” in this new year, but stop to meditate and reflect as I move into it. Let there be no “impulsive thoughtlessness” in my ways in this next year. I pray that you will watch for me when I fail to watch, but I pray, as well, that you give me eyes to see the way in which I am walking. My life verse will not change. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. I pray that, as 2013 approaches, you will have me an additional verse on which to focus in the coming year. As I recall, this year’s verse was Joshua 1:8, which says, This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. There have been times, during this past year, when you reminded me of that verse.

I pray that I might only think of failures past in order to prepare myself for the future. It is all in your hands, my Lord, my God, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I pray for the remainder of this day. Oh, what a beautiful day It has been. What a wonderful vacation this has been. May we finish this day, this year, off in grand style. We plan to attend the hotel’s show tonight and will try to “ring in the new year.” But may we, at the same time, be thankful to you for everything that has happened in 2012, and look forward to everything you will do for us in 2013.

Looking back at the past is not always bad. It’s only bad if you allow it to stifle your future.

Stay safe tonight.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Center of His Holiness

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Today is the day we leave for Cancun. I’m going to make a kind of dash through this journal today, while still trying to get something good out of it. Probably won’t have time for my historical trivia, and so forth.

Today is, of course, “Boxing Day,” in other countries, including Canada and the UK. It has nothing to do with pugilism.

We had a wonderful Christmas day. The morning went very well, and we had a very nice visit with my parents in Mineral Wells, braving a blizzard in Weatherford on the way there. By the time we got back (only sliding once on the bridge from I-30 to northbound Loop 820), our whole neighborhood was blanketed in a beautiful covering of snow. Yes, folks, we had a “White Christmas.” I have pictures, but they’re on my digital camera, which has not been uploaded yet.

When we got home, I happened to glance at the thermostat, which read 67 degrees (we keep ours on 70), and the light was flashing, telling me to replace the batteries in it. So I got three AA batteries (yes, three, thank you very much odd thermostat makers) and replaced them. After that, we began watching TV and noticed that it wasn’t getting warmer. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the furnace burners weren’t staying on, but the blower was blowing. We could hear the system trying to cycle, over and over again. Aaauuugghh!!! I managed to get hold of our usual A/C guy, who told me what to do, what to look for, and how it could probably be fixed. So Christi and I climbed up into the cold, cold attic (not as cold as outside, at least…no wind up there) with a flashlight, some steel wool, and a socket wrench (a nut driver would have worked better, but I couldn’t find one…note to self, buy nut drivers), found the little thing-a-ma-bob that was tarnished, got it out, scrubbed on it with steel wool, and put it back in. Voila!! It worked! There was much rejoicing! Also, I did not fall through the ceiling. That’s an added bonus! But the most amazing thing is that I, your humble blog-writer, fixed a furnace! If you knew me, you would know exactly how incredible that is.

Anyway, on to the devotion for the day. I may not manage to get a daily entry in for the next several days. I will try to, but there may be mornings where I just sit on the beach and read my Bible. I am taking my laptop, and we are planning to pay the extra daily fee for wifi connectivity, but I may not make it to WordPress every day. Just sayin’.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, you heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Doxology
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Psalm 43:3-4
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Psalm 84:10
Father, I pray for a vision of you this morning, that will keep me looking to your grace through this day. Keep me focused on you and your grace and mercy during this vacation. You are my rest, my fortress, and my refuge.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 13:9-16.
9 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger.
14 And like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, each will turn to his own people, and each will flee to his own land.
15 Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.

This is a very bleak sounding prophecy, but we must remember its origin. Going back to verse 1, we see that this prophecy is concerning Babylon. Let us not make the mistake of assuming that it can apply to anything else (including our own nation). The single message that I can glean from this is that the wrath of God is a very unpleasant thing. We would do well to avoid it.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “Placed in the Light.” The scripture reference is 1 John 1:7. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

“Conscious freedom from sin” is not the same thing as being delivered from sin by the Atonement. “No man knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced on Calvary.” If I am delivered from sin, I will know “the real nature of sin in me.” We cannot know this without the Atonement of Christ reaching to the very depths of our being.

This is applied to us, by the Holy Spirit, in the unconscious realm as well as in the conscious. When we read the effects of the “light,” in 1 John 1:7 above, we need to understand that “this does not refer to conscious sin only, but to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Ghost in me realizes.”

I must walk in the light, just as God is in the light, just as Christ is in the light (Christ is the light), not in the light of my conscious, but in the light of God. This is where I understand that the blood of Christ has cleansed me from all sin; God Almighty can see nothing within me of the wickedness into which I was born! This love of God that is born in me causes me to hate all that “is not in keeping with God’s holiness.” The darkness will drive me closer to the center of the light, the center of his holiness.

Father, the center of your holiness is where I want to be; that place where the stuff of earth does not entice me, where everything that you are not has no effect upon me. The desire of my heart is to feel your breath upon me. I want to walk on the edge of eternity, with my gaze fastened firmly on you, my God. Your grace and mercy in my life is astounding. I have seen the depths of my sin, of the sin of humanity, and I do believe that I, at least to some extent, understand what the blood of Jesus has done in me and for me. I will never fully comprehend it, until I see you face to face. It is that day that I am longing for. Thank you for the cleansing of my sin.

I pray for this day, Father. Keep us safe as we travel to Cancun. May we have a joyous, relaxing time as we close out 2012 in the beauty of your creation. I will seek your face in the jungle of Mexico, Lord. I am truly excited about this. But let me not, for one minute, forget that it is you who have made this possible in our lives. Let us take nothing for granted. I also pray that you keep Stephanie from any anxiety as she lives this new experience in her life. I know she is nervous. Calm her spirit, Lord, so that she, too, can enjoy the place where we will be.

I pray for healing for all of our friends who are sick or who have had to have some kind of surgery over this holiday season. May your grace fall on them, Lord.

The blood of Christ, the Atonement, has cleansed us from all sin, both conscious and unconscious. May we, his children, walk in that light and reside in the center of his holiness.

Grace and peace, friends.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Today is Tuesday, December 25, 2012. I’m the only one up, so far; it’s 620am when I begin writing today’s blog. We are in the midst of thunderstorms, this morning, which have been happening since around 130am. The weather report has thunderstorms/rain until early afternoon, after which the temperatures are supposed to steadily drop until early in the morning, when it should hit a low of around 20-23 degrees. So we’ll have to dress warm for our flight to Cancun in the morning.

In addition to being Christmas Day, today is also “National Pumpkin Pie Day.” Makes sense. I had a piece last night, though. Does that count?

On this date:
In 333, Emperor Constantine elevated his son, Constans, to the rank of Caesar.
In 800, Charlemagne was crowned “Holy Roman Emperor.”
In 1000, Stephen I of Hungary established Hungary as a “Christian kingdom.”
In 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned king of England.
In contrast to yesterday’s item that Kiritimati was found by James Cook in 1777, I see an item today that says it was found in 1643 by William Mynors of the East India Company. Aha! Checking Wikipedia, I found that this is a different Christmas Island, which is a territory of Australia. Who knew??
In 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware. I doubt he was standing up in the boat.
In 1818, the first performance of “Silent Night” occurred in the church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria. I wonder if it sounded as pretty as this one.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson granted unconditional pardon to all soldiers of the Confederacy.
In 1914, there was a temporary cease fire between German and British troops along the western front of WWI.
In 1941, this song was premiered on Bing Crosby’s weekly NBC radio program.

In 1950, the “Stone of Scone” was stolen from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students.
In 1962, the movie To Kill A Mockingbird debuted.
In 1974, Marshall Fields drove a vehicle through the gates of the White House, resulting in a four-hour standoff.
In 1990 the first successful trial run of what would eventually become the “World Wide Web.”
In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the president of the Soviet Union.
In 1996, JonBenet Ramsey was murdered.

Today’s birthdays include Orlando Gibbons (composer), 1583, Isaac Newton, 1642, Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross), 1821, Conrad Hilton (hotel), 1887, Robert Ripley (Ripley’s Believe It Or Not), 1890, Humphrey Bogart, 1899, Cab Calloway, 1907, Rod Serling, 1924, Carlos Castaneda (author), 1925, Nellie Fox (baseball player), 1927, Phil Spector, 1940, Noel Redding (musician/bassist for Jimi Hendrix), 1945, Jimmy Buffet, 1946, Larry Csonka (football player), 1946, Barbara Mandrell, 1948, Sissy Spacek, 1949, Annie Lennox (singer), 1954, Alanna Myles (singer), 1955, Rickey Henderson (baseball player with record for stolen bases), 1958, Dido (singer), 1971, Mac Powell (Third Day), 1972, The Veronicas (singers/twin sisters), 1984. Goodness gracious, today was a busy day!!

We had our Christmas Eve dinner at Christi’s mom’s place. It was weird. Christi, Stephanie, and I were there, along with Rachel and Justin. Jennifer, Christi’s niece, was also there. Christi’s mom hardly said a word to us, the whole time, except to at least show some appreciation for the gift Christi got her. She did, however, perk up and talk to Jennifer’s friend on the phone and even told him “Merry Christmas.” We all got money from them for gifts, which I’m pretty sure they really couldn’t afford. Since Christi’s sister was in the hospital, we all got cards with money in them from her, as well. The dinner was delicious, though. Christi did a great job on the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. You have to have green bean casserole, right? Also, the ham was very good. Yes, we had ham for Christmas dinner. No turkey. We had that for Thanksgiving.

Today, we plan to drive to Mineral Wells to have Christmas lunch with my parents. My mother is taking care of the meat and a few other things, and Christi is making more mashed potatoes and, you guessed it, green bean casserole. She’s gotten to be a real master at those potatoes. Last night’s were amazing.

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. Psalm 66:16
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Father, I pray for a vision of you, on this Christmas Day. Show me your face, that I might know you more.

Today, since it is Christmas Day, I’m reading the account of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2.
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

I’ve never grown tired of this passage. It’s one of the most beautiful passages in the whole Bible. Just in case anyone wonders, I’m not one who believes that Jesus was born on December 25. I hold to the theory that he was born somewhere around (or even precisely on) the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We may, however, be accidentally celebrating the miraculous conception of Jesus. And yes, I do believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born.

I believe too much is made of that one little sentence that says “there was no place for them in the inn.” There have been entire sermons preached on the non-existent inn-keeper “who missed Christmas.” Sorry, but I don’t see an innkeeper anywhere in this passage of scripture. I just see a simple statement. Bethlehem was crowded that night. There was a census going on. The inn was full. They’re lucky they got a stable.

I want to share one of my favorite Christmas songs of old, from The Harry Simeone Chorale. I grew up listening to their album “O Bambino,” and this song, “The First Christmas Carol,” sets to music the scene described in Luke 2.

(This is my first attempt at “Soundcloud.”)
So today, along with those angels, I share with you the good news of great joy that will be for all people. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “His Birth and Our New Birth.” The scripture reference is Isaiah 7:14. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Chambers begins with the topic of “His birth in history.” In Luke 1:35, the angel told Mary, “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Jesus came into history from the outside. He was “born into this world, not from it.” He cannot even truly be considered “the best human being,” because he is “a Being Who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all.” Jesus was not a man who became God, he was “God Incarnate.”

Moving from there to “His birth in me,” Chambers states that, “Just as Our Lord came into human history from the outside, so He must come into me from outside.” I cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless I am “born from above by a birth totally unlike natural birth.” When Jesus said, “You must be born again,” it was not a command, it was a “foundational fact.” “The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me. Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.” This is part of my daily prayer, that Christ would be formed in me, and that his nature would work through me. I see this nature as being the embodiment of the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:3-12
I see this nature as being the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
And I see this nature as being the embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
These are things that I pray to see in increasing measure every day of my life. God manifest in the flesh…made “profoundly possible by the Redemption,” which was initiated (at least in human terms) on the day that we celebrate today.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:1-2
The glory of the Lord shines upon the darkness of the world today.

Father, thank you for shining your Light on this world. And thank you, even more, for shining this Light into my soul. Today, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I pray that there will truly be peace on earth. I know that it is pretty much impossible, as long as fallen men “control” things in our world, but I pray for it, nevertheless. I long for the day when the peace of Christ will rule over all. May we, your children, be faithful to present your message of peace and love to the world around us. May the light and glory of the Christ child fill our lives today, overflowing into our world.
We, of all people, should be the ones displaying love to this dark world.
We, of all people, should be the ones displaying peace and patience at the checkout counters of our local stores.
We, of all people, should be the ones displaying patience and understanding on the highways.
We, of all people, should be the ones displaying gentleness and kindness, wherever we may find ourselves.

Now, Father, I ask that you remind me of those words when I’m at the airport tomorrow morning, no matter what the circumstances may be. I pray again, today, just as I do every day, that all of those characteristics of Christ be formed in me and be made manifest in my life today. May your Spirit fill my spirit on this Christmas Day.

I pray for this day. May our little part of Christmas me joyful and fun, this morning, and may our trip to Mineral Wells later be peaceful and safe. I pray for a joyous celebration with my parents today. May your love fill us all today.

I have friends and family who are in the hospital today. I pray for my sister-in-law, Karen, in the hospital recovering from her emergency surgery on Sunday. Give her peace and quick recovery. Shine your light in her heart today. I pray for a sister in Christ, Samantha Alexander, who is in the hospital this morning with a very similar symptom, that her tests will give the doctors wisdom to know what to do to fix her issues. I pray that her recovery will be quick, and that she still might find joy in this day, in spite of her pain. I pray for her husband Craig, as he celebrates Christmas at home with their kids. I pray for our pastor’s wife, Valerie, not in the hospital, but still recovering from her bout with pneumonia. I pray for Susie Hale and her sister, Jeanne, who have both been sick this week. Jeanne was taken to the ER on Sunday. Too much sickness for Christmas, Father. I pray for relief for all of these.

I pray that we have a good, fun, and safe trip to Cancun, beginning tomorrow morning. I pray that our flight will be able to leave without issue, in spite of the wintry weather heading our way. Give us grace to accept whatever comes, though, and peace to not worry about it, because we can’t change a thing by worrying, anyway.

Your grace is sufficient!

I hope you can find a place in your heart for the Jesus whose birth we celebrate this morning. Even if you don’t, I wish you peace and joy in your life today.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Peace I Leave With You…”

Happy Christmas Eve to all who might stumble across this little place on the Interwebs. Today is Monday, December 24. In addition to being Christmas Eve, it is also “National Eggnog Day.” I’ll probably be having some of that today, so I’ll be participating. In two days, we will, God willing, board a plane to to spend the rest of the year in Cancun, Mexico. Today, we will enjoy a nice breakfast at home, some rest and relaxation for part of the day, then we plan to take Christmas Eve dinner to my mother-in-law and her husband. My sister-in-law is, sadly, spending the day in the hospital as she suffered a perforated ulcer two days ago. She seems to be okay, now, but there were some tense moments as they tried to figure out what was going on. We will be praying for a speedy recovery for her.

On this date:
In 1777, “Christmas Island” was discovered by James Cook.
In 1851, the Library of Congress burned. Egad. That’s nightmare material.
In 1906, the first radio broadcast occurred, as Reginald Fessenden transmitted a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
In 1955, NORAD tracked Santa for the first time.
In 1968, the Apollo 8 crew entered the moon’s orbit, becoming the first humans to do so.
In 1969, Curt Flood wrote the letter to the MLB commissioner that started the whole “free agency” thing.
In 1988, Poison had their first and only #1 hit with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

Today’s birthdays include Kit Carson, 1812, Harry Warren (composer/lyricist), 1893 (he wrote “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and “Jeepers Creepers”)

Howard Hughes, 1905, Fritz Leiber (author), 1910, Ava Gardner, 1922, George Patton IV, 1923, Lee Dorsey (R&B singer), 1924, Mary Higgins Clark, 1927, Mark Valley (actor), 1964, Doyle Bramhall II (blues guitarist), 1968, Ricky Martin, 1971, Ryan Seacrest, 1974.

Yesterday’s worship celebration went well, after which we went up to Denton for lunch with Rachel and Justin. Christi and Stephanie went to the hospital to visit my sister-in-law, while Rachel, Justin, and I played Settlers of Catan. It’s a delightful game of trading resources to build settlements and cities. It was my first time to play, and I enjoyed it immensely. Rachel won. But it was close, I tell you! After we got back home, Christi and I made fudge. With Kahlua.

Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:2b-3
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! Psalm 31:19
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you on this Christmas Eve day. May I spend at least a portion of this day meditating on the gift of eternal life, given me because of the sacrifice of your Son on the Cross.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 13:1-8.
1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
2 On a bare hill raise a signal; cry aloud to them; wave the hand for them to enter the gates of the nobles.
3 I myself have commanded my consecrated ones, and have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger, my proudly exulting ones.
4 The sound of a tumult is on the mountains as of a great multitude! The sound of an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts is mustering a host for battle.
5 They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the LORD and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!
7 Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt.
8 They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.

The description of the reaction on the day of the Lord’s judgment on this nation is one of sheer terror. There will be more description of the day in the following verses, but for now, I stop here. Verse 7 is an apt description. Even the strongest hands will lose their strength and become feeble, as the courage of all hearts melts. “They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.” Terror at the coming of the Lord’s judgment.

Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Hidden Life.” The scripture reference is Colossians 3:3. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The life hidden in God is secure. “We talk as if it were the most precarious thing to live the sanctified life; it is the most secure thing, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most precarious thing is to try and live without God.” Well said, Mr. Chambers! The only reason this “sanctified life” can be the least bit difficult is because we make it so by going about it wrongly. We attempt to live it in our own strength, without relying on God. This, as quoted above, is what makes it “precarious.” When we listen to God’s warnings and precepts, and stay in the light, it is, as they say, “a piece of cake.”

Sometimes, we think of the life with God as a mountain peak, as a very difficult place to stay. The slightest mis-step could send you plunging to your spiritual death. However, once we get there, we find that it is, rather, a large, flat plateau, with “ample room to live and to grow.” You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36)

When once you have truly seen Jesus, “I defy you to doubt Him.” Jesus says, Let not your hearts be troubled. (John 14:1) When Jesus is present it is nigh impossible to doubt. When we come into personal contact with Jesus Christ, his words are real; they are strong and powerful. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27) This peace goes from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, “an irrepressible confidence.” My life is hidden with Christ in God, and his peace, which passes all understanding, is imparted to me.

I really needed this today. You see, I’ve been worried. Yes, I said “worried.” Sinful, I know, because it demonstrates faithlessness. Nevertheless, I’ve been worried. About what, you ask? I’m almost ashamed to admit it. It’s tomorrow’s weather forecast. It is forecast to be 23 degrees Wednesday morning, with rain, thunderstorms, and possible snow on Christmas day. I’ve been worried about our flight Wednesday morning. Worry is so useless. Worry is 100% useless. Jesus says to me, “Let not your heart be troubled. Peace I leave with you.”

Father, I confess my useless worry. I am ashamed that I have spent time, valuable time in my life, being worried over something so petty. You hold the weather in your hands. All the worry in the world on my part has no effect on it whatsoever. Whatever will be will be. I receive your peace on this matter. Sometimes, even in the midst of spiritual growth and maturity, we stumble on the tiniest things. Father, you have, indeed, “enlarged my steps,” given me a “wide place for my steps under me.” You have placed me on a huge expansive plateau, on which I can live and grow in you. 2012 has been a wonderful year for me, spiritually. Let not my heart be troubled. Jesus, be my rock and fortress, make me aware of your intimate presence in my life, that I may not doubt you. Your words are real. Your peace is real. My life in you is secure. It is hidden with you in God.

I pray for this day. I pray for Karen’s recovery to be quick. I pray that our evening with Carol, Don, and Jennifer will be peaceful. Give Rachel and Justin safe passage from Denton this afternoon. I pray for a blessed Christmas day with them and my parents tomorrow. May the peace of the Christ child flood our souls during this time. I also pray for my manager and friend, Phillip, as he recovers from shoulder surgery. May your blessings be on him.

“The Christian life is not difficult. It’s impossible.”~~Joel Engle
But it’s only impossible when we try to live it without God.

Grace and peace, friends.

Dead to Sin

Good morning. It is Sunday morning, December 23, 2012. Two days until Christmas, and three days to Cancun!

Today is “National Pfeffernusse Day.” “What the heck is Pfeffernusse,” you ask? It’s a German cookie, made with spices and ground nuts, covered with powdered sugar.


I don’t have a lot of time this morning, so I must get moving. We have to be at our church location at 715 to begin setup. So I’m going to jump right in.

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! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Psalm 96:2-4
Father, I pray that you show me a glimpse of you this morning, during this brief time. I pray that your word saturates me during this morning’s worship celebration.

Today, I’m departing from my course of reading through Isaiah to focus on Matthew 1:18-25. Today begins the fourth and final week of advent, which focuses on Joseph and his role in the birth of Christ.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,
25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Joseph’s obedience to the Spirit through the voice of an angel paved the way for the birth of our Savior.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “How Can I Personally Partake in the Atonement?” The scripture verse is Galatians 6:14. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Chambers is still speaking of the will, as in yesterday’s reading. “The Gospel of Jesus Christ always forces an issue of the will.” God pronounced a verdict on sin at the Cross of Christ. Do I accept that verdict? “Do I want to be identified with His death, to be killed right out to all interest in sin, in worldliness, in self–to be so identified with Jesus that I am spoilt for everything else but Him?” I must get alone with Jesus and tell him one of two things; either I don’t want sin to die out in me, or I want, at all costs, to be identified with his death. As soon as I do this, as soon as I “transact in confident faith in what Our Lord did on the Cross,” I will be supernaturally identified with his death, and will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my “old man” has been crucified with Christ. The proof of this will be the way in which the life of Christ within me enables me to obey the voice of Christ.

There do come times in my life when God shows me what I would be like without him; flashes of vision that say, “Without me, you can do nothing.” That ecstasy we feel when we first come to Christ, that emotional high that we feel…that is not the purpose for our introduction into his kingdom. “His purpose in getting us there is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.” That emotion, that high, is a bonus. But that is not what I seek from God. Sure, the “warm fuzzies” are nice. But the real thing, what I’m really after with God through Jesus Christ, is that assurance of being identified with his death on the Cross. I want to be dead to sin. My answer to that question in the above paragraph is a resounding, “YES!”

Father, I pray for more of this sense of identification with the death of Christ. I pray for more of a sense of being dead to sin. There are still aspects of sin in this life and in this world that appeal to me, at times. These must be completely eradicated. I praise you that you have been working that plan in me, that you have been sealing the Cross of Christ in my life, more and more. Draw me even closer to you, Lord. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. Kill everything in me that does not glorify you.

I pray for this day. I pray that setup will go smoothly this morning, especially since there are some key people that will be out today. I pray for the worship celebration to be full of your glory and honor. I pray that the words spoken by our pastor today will be your words, and that they will inspire us to further obedience to you through Jesus Christ.

Thank you for Joseph and his obedience. One can’t help but think, ‘What if…” But there are not “what ifs” in your kingdom, Father, for you are sovereign, and all things are under your control. What great comfort that gives!! What great joy!

My heart’s desire is to be dead to anything that does not give glory to God through the Cross of Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.

Committed To the Work

Good morning. Today is Saturday, December 22, 2012. Three days until Christmas and four days until our Cancun vacation.

Today is “National Date Nut Bread Day.” That sounds suspiciously like fruitcake. I know it’s not, though. I do believe I’ve had some “date nut bread.” I’m not fond of dates. Unless they’re with my wife.


On this date:
In 1808, Ludwig von Beethoven conducted and performed at the Theater an der Wien, in Vienna, premiering his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Fourth Piano Concerto (which he played), and Choral Fantasy (on which he played piano).
In 1851, the first freight train was operated in Roorkee, India.
In 1864, Savannah, Georgia fell to General Sherman.
In 2001, Richard Reid made us all have to take our shoes off at the airport.

Today’s birthdays include Diocletian (Roman Emperor), 244, Giacomo Puccini (composer), 1858, Connie Mack (baseball exec), 1862, Edgar Varese (composer), 1883, Andre Kostelanetz (pop music orchestra leader), 1901, Lady Bird Johnson, 1912, Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), 1915, Gene Rayburn (game show host), 1917, Matty Alou (baseball player), 1938, Dick Parry (sax player for Pink Floyd), Steve Carlton (baseball player), 1944, Diane Sawyer, 1945, Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), 1946, Steve Garvey (baseball player), 1948, Lynne Thigpen (the Chief in the Carmen Sandiego shows), 1948, Robin and Maurice Gibb (I don’t have to tell you, right?), 1949, Ralph Fiennes (actor), 1962, Dina Meyer (actress “Starship Troopers”), 1968, Jordin Sparks (American Idol winner), 1989.

I’m on vacation! For the rest of the year! And I’m not up at the elementary school where our church meets, doing setup this morning! There is a downside to that. We have changed our setup to Sunday mornings at 715. That’s okay, because we’ve also switched back to only having one service (I never thought we needed two), so we really won’t be there any earlier than we would have been when we were either working tech or playing in the band. This week, I’m playing keys in the worship band. I’ll be practicing for that a bit, this afternoon.

Yesterday was a pretty smooth day, but, contrary to what everyone else believes, I think it may have actually been the longest day of the year, not the shortest. 🙂 I swear that day crawled! Today, I think we just have a few loose ends to tie up to get ready for Christmas, and then some grocery shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas day (along with anything we’ll need for the three days after we get back). I’m hoping we get a chance to driver around and look at lights tonight, because we haven’t done that yet. Maybe we’ll do that Christmas Eve night, since we have to go over to my sister-in-law’s house for that dinner.

There is a chance of rain/sleet/snow on Christmas night, which is a little concerning, since our flight is scheduled to leave on the morning of the 26th. However, we leave at 1110am, so hopefully, everything will be fine by then. Or maybe that cold system won’t make it here at all.

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! Psalm 34:3
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18
Father, open my eyes, indeed, that I may see the most beautiful things in your word this morning.

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

This is a beautiful hymn written to correspond with the remnant of Israel being gathered at the end of chapter 11. I’ve always been fond of verse 2. I remember composing a little tune to go with it, for a Vacation Bible School we worked in one year. In verse 3, salvation is compared to a well. This well has an unending supply of “water,” from which we may always draw, “with joy.” Our desire is to make known, among all the peoples of the earth, the magnificent deeds of our Lord.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Drawing of the Father.” The scripture verse is John 6:44. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

“When God draws me, the issue of my will comes in at once–will I react on the revelation which God gives–will I come to Him?” Chambers is a strong believer that one should not discuss with others when God speaks to us. I’m not sure I agree 100%, although I see the reasoning behind it. Let’s say I feel God telling me to do something. Depending on who I talk to about it, it would be very easy to let them talk me out of it. “That’s crazy! God wouldn’t tell you do to that!” But, Chambers says, “Belief is not an intellectual act; belief is a moral act whereby I deliberately commit myself.” Again…not sure I agree on all levels, here. I don’t think I shut my brain off when I believe. I don’t believe that it is 100% either way, intellectual or moral. I know some people who don’t use their brains at all when making spiritual decisions. Likewise, I know some who fancy themselves so intellectual that they can’t believe in God at all. To me, it’s a hybrid of intellectual and moral. Moving on, though. If I think about something too much, again, I might convince myself that it’s not rational (and scripture pretty much tells us that it’s not). “Will I dump myself down absolutely on God and transact on what He says? If I will, I shall find I am based on Reality that is as sure as God’s throne.”

As the gospel is preached, it must appeal to the will. Belief comes from the will to believe. The will must be surrendered, “a deliberate launching forth on God and on what He says.” I must lose all confidence in anything that I have done, and rest my confidence in God, and God alone. When I want to trust only my “mental understanding,” I am hindered. I must “completely disassociate myself from my old way of looking at things,” it is an act of my will.

I think I understand the intellectual vs. moral part, now. When God draws me, my relationship to him is personal, not intellectual. After I am introduced into this relationship by his grace, by his miracle, and by my own will to believe, then “I begin to get an intellectual appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transaction.”

Of course, I also believe that, whosoever God draws, he also provides the will to believe. None of this comes from me, not even the will to believe. (This part is all me, none of Chambers.) Even the will to believe comes from God. I believe it is very important to understand that we don’t bring anything at all to the table, when it comes to our salvation, other than our sin.

Father, I thank you that you gave me the will to believe. I thank you that you drew me to yourself, and that you planned this long before I was born, even before the creation of the world.

My prayer was interrupted by a nurse coming to the house for life insurance evaluation purposes, so I’ll try to get back on track, here.

I thank you, Lord, that you have given me both intellectual understanding and the moral will to believe your Gospel. I pray that, even in the face of people who would attempt to convince me otherwise, that this faith, this will, this intellectual understanding will stand firm on the foundation which you have laid for me, that being the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are plenty of people who are much more intelligent than me, who do not believe in you. But that’s irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that you have given me the faith, the will, and the intellect to believe you, and you have paved the way for me. Help me to always be willing to transact on this reality.

I pray for this day. May you watch over us as we do our last minute shopping. Keep us calm as we may encounter crowds and possibly irritated people. Keep us safe as we drive. Keep our spirits high as we go about our activities today. Also give us rest as we prepare for tomorrow’s activities, setup, rehearsal, and worship celebration. I pray to be filled with your Holy Spirit as I play in the worship band tomorrow, and we attempt to lead people into intimate fellowship with you.

I pray for my sister-in-law. You know what’s going on, Father, and I can’t put anything in here about it.

I also lift up a prayer for Susie Hale and her family. She is sick with a bad cold (or worse) and her sister is also ill. I pray for both of them, for healing, and I pray that you would protect their mother from this illness.

May everyone I know have a blessed Christmas holiday this season, Lord. Keep us all safe.

When God draws us to himself, we must exercise the will that he has given us to believe. The intimacy we can experience with God takes work. I have committed myself to this work. I’m up for it.

Grace and peace, friends.

Revelation Over Experience

Good morning!! Today is Friday, December 21, 2012. Four more days to Christmas, and five days to Cancun!

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen two such opposite “holidays” offered. Today is both “Humbug Day,” and “National Look At the Bright Side Day.” Alrighty, then…

On this date:
In 1620, the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.
In 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World. It was designed by Arthur Wynne.
In 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered.
In 1968, Apollo 8 launched, and its crew became the first humans to ever leave Earth’s gravity.
In 1974, this song hit #1

It was Harry Chapin’s only #1 song.

Today’s birthdays include Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury), 1118, Roger Williams (English theologian), 1603, Calico Jack Rackham (English pirate), 1682, Benjamin Disraeli (U.K. Prime Minister), 1804, Werner von Trapp (“The hills are alive,” etc.), 1915, Paul Winchell (ventriloquist and the voice of “Tigger” in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh films), 1922, Phil Donahue, 1935, Jane Fonda, 1937, Frank Zappa, 1940, Jack Nance (actor), 1943, Carl Wilson (Beach Boys), 1946, Samuel L. Jackson, 1948, Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dreamworks), 1950, Chris Evert (tennis), 1954, Tom Henke (baseball pitcher), 1957, Andy Dick (actor), 1965, Kiefer Sutherland, 1966.

Just for fun, here’s a Frank Zappa clip.

Christi and I watched White Christmas last night. It’s my most favorite Christmas movie of all time. I still cry at the end, when all the soldiers show up for the general’s party. And then it snows. Gotta love happy endings.

Christi surprised me at work yesterday. I was in the break room, about to get some more ice in my Sonic cup, so I could pour my Crystal Light over it, when I saw a woman walk by the window, and I said, “That looks like my wife!” But she was going the wrong direction, away from the front door. I watched and saw her go to the passenger side of a red Hyundai Elantra, just like hers. Then, she started back up the sidewalk, and, lo, and behold, she was carrying a Chik Fil-A cup!! I got so excited, I ran to the front door to meet her. She had brought me a peppermint chocolate chip milkshake!! You see, I’ve been wanting one of those ever since they started showing up on their signs, but had not had an opportunity to try one. It was quite delicious, too. Many thanks to my beautiful wife!

She’s “working” from home, today. 😀 Yeah. I don’t think she has any meeting scheduled at all today. And the company is closed all next week. Monday evening, we will celebrate Christmas with Christi’s family, as is our Christmas Eve tradition, and then Tuesday morning, after we have our little Christmas at home (along with Rachel and Justin), we will head to Mineral Wells to have Christmas lunch with my parents. Wednesday morning, if the Lord says so, too, we will get up and drive to Christi’s work place and get on a shuttle bus to the airport (it’s free and so is the parking), where we will board a plane for our first ever trip out of the country, to Cancun. I’m a little concerned…it’s supposed to be 26 degrees Wednesday morning, with 40% chance of rain on Christmas. But the high on Christmas is supposed to be 52, and Wednesday should be 43. Our flight is scheduled to leave at 11-something am, so we should be fine. It should be around 81 n Cancun that day. 😀

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:4)
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. (Psalm 62:5-12)
Father, I am satisfied with your goodness and holiness. You, alone, are my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I will not be shaken. I pray for a glimpse of your face this morning, that I might look to you and your glory for my strength throughout this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:10-16.
10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
12 He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
14 But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them.
15 And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals.
16 And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

This root of Jesse is traced back to verse 1, where a shoot comes from the “stump of Jesse.” Jesse was David’s father, and the house of David was in shambles. But there was, at least a root, a stump left, and out of that came Jesus Christ, the “root of Jesse,” from the lineage of David. All of the exiled people of Israel will, once again, be assembled. There seems to be a miracle indicated in verses 15 and 16, one that rivals the crossing of the Red Sea.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “Experience or Revelation.” The scripture reference is 1 Corinthians 2:12. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

“Reality is Redemption, not my experience of Redemption; but Redemption has no meaning for me until it speaks the language of my conscious life.” When I was “born again,” the Holy Spirit took me out of myself and my personal, private experiences, and identified me with Jesus Christ. If I had simply been left with those experiences, they were not produced by Redemption. This all sounds kind of wordy and confusing, but I promise you, it eventually makes sense. My experiences are not the ground of Reality. The proof that they are produced by Redemption is that I don’t consider them to be my ground, my foundation. My foundation is the Reality that produced those experiences. “My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source, Jesus Christ.”

If I try to “dam up the Holy Spirit,” so that I only have subjective experiences, he will break out and take me back to Jesus. “Never nourish an experience which has not God as its Source and faith in God as its result.” This is very important! No matter what kind of vision I may have had, if I do that, my experience is “anti-Christian.” Is Jesus Christ the Lord of my experience, or do I try to be? More importantly, is there any experience that is dearer to me than He? At some point, my confession must be that I do not care what I experience, “I am sure of Him.”

“Faith that is sure of itself is not faith; faith that is sure of God is the only faith there is.” I tell you three times, I am not sure of myself at all. But “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12) I am sure of Jesus Christ, and I am sure of Redemption. My experience does not matter. My eyes will be on Christ.

Father, I pray with all my being that your Spirit keep my eyes on Jesus Christ and not on my experience. There is much that I have experienced in my 54 years on this earth. If I were to base my entire believe system on those experiences, I’m not sure what I would believe. And that is where so many of your children fall short; we place too much emphasis on those experiences and not enough on you, the One who provided them. It always comes back to Jesus and his Redemptive work on the Cross. I have been identified with Jesus Christ, and my experiences have been born out of that identification. May they always work together to keep at the source of my life, which is Jesus. My faith is not in faith. My faith is not sure of itself. In fact, my faith is very much unsure of itself. However, my faith in you, Lord, is, at this point in my life, pretty much unshakable. Not perfect, no. Never will be until I see you in your glory. But you have brought me to a place where my faith is in you and you alone. No matter what I experience in this life, I am sure of you.

I pray for this day. May I have a smooth day at work today, the last one before vacation. I pray for the days that I will not be there, that things run smoothly in my absence. I continue to pray for Phillip as he recovers from shoulder surgery. I also lift up Valerie, our pastor’s wife, as she, hopefully, is recovering from her pneumonia. I pray that Christi might have a nice, relaxing day today. As we head toward our vacation, I pray that you keep us safe and well, and that we continue to look to you for everything. I pray that this vacation trip be an opportunity to experience you in a new setting, finding ways to worship you as we explore new places. I pray for a glimpse of your glory in the jungles of Mexico.

Jesus trumps experience every time. I must stay at the source and allow that source to interpret all experience, not the other way around.

Grace and peace, friends.

What the World Needs Now…

Good morning. It’s Thursday morning, December 20. Five days to Christmas, six days to Cancun. Today is “Mudd Day,” apparently named after the doctor who tended to John Wilkes Boothe after he shot Lincoln and broke his leg. He went to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who apparently delayed contacting the authorities, and, subsequently, served four years in prison for participating in the conspiracy to assassinate the President.

It’s also “Go Caroling Day.” I like that one better. 🙂

On this date:
In 1803, the “Louisiana Purchase” was completed.
In 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede.
In 1941, the “Flying Tigers” had their first battle in Kunming, China.
In 1957, Elvis was drafted. (Presley, not Andrus.)
In 2007, Elizabeth II became the oldest monarch of the U.K, passing Queen Victoria.

Today’s birthdays include Samuel Mudd (see the info on “Mudd Day” above), 1833, Branch Rickey (baseball exec), 1881, Fred Merkle (first baseman, “Bonehead”), 1888, Peter Criss (drummer for KISS), 1945, Alan Parsons (musician and producer), 1948

Cecil Cooper (baseball player), 1949, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), 1966, Aubrey Huff (baseball player), 1976 (grew up in Mineral Wells, Texas, my home town), James Shields (baseball pitcher), 1981, David Cook (winner of American Idol), 1982, Jonah Hill (actor), 1983.

We didn’t do much yesterday, other than watch the two episodes of The Voice from this week, including the season finale. I won’t be a spoiler, but let’s just suffice to say that I was VERY unhappy with the final result.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:15)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)
Father, you truly have been my refuge for all these years. Open my lips this morning, and I will praise you. Show me a vision of you, that I might serve you faithfully today.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:6-9.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The beautiful scenario begun yesterday continues in today’s reading. The peace envisioned in the reign of the Messiah is almost unfathomable. Verse 9 is especially beautiful. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
There also some interesting thoughts regarding children and animals that I don’t have time to get into this morning.

Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Right Lines of Work.” The scripture reference is John 12:32, in which Jesus says, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

“Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, and there was no need for it.” The world doesn’t just need love, the world needs open-heart surgery.

If a soul that is in difficulty can get to God through any other line than the Cross of Christ, then that Cross was unnecessary. I’m about to say something very unpopular, so get ready. If what many people say is true, that there are “many roads to God,” then the horrible suffering that Jesus Christ went through was a tragic, terrible joke on him. If there is any other road to get to God besides the road of the Cross of Christ, than that God is a cruel, sadistic, jerk. The truth, as I believe it, is that there are only two roads, and they lead in opposite directions. (That’s a Timothy Keller thought, there.) Even Led Zeppelin only mentioned two roads. “If you can help others by your sympathy of understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ.” I must keep my soul rightly related to God, and I must only try to help others on his line, not trying to help on the “human line” and completely ignoring God.

I must show the world Jesus Christ and him crucified. I must lift him up, so that he may draw to himself. “Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the Cross of Jesus will lead astray.” My usefulness to God depends solely on my simple relationship to Jesus Christ, and nothing else.

Our calling as “New Testament workers” is to “uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior.” Chambers says we “cannot be poetical,” we “must be surgical.” While I might agree with that sentiment, I find great comfort in waxing poetical, at times, especially since I’m a fledgling songwriter. However, I do agree that “We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses.” The aesthetic quality of our speech matters not one iota as long as the message being presented is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All that being said, there is still a need for the truth to be spoken in love. There is a way to “uncover sin” that is not so harsh as some want to make it. The Gospel of Christ can be shared without being “judgmental.” “You’re going to Hell because of your sin,’ is probably not the best way to win someone over. “Here’s how much the Creator of the universe loves you,” is probably a better start.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Father, I pray for compassion for all people. While I recognize that sympathy is not what the world needs, and that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love,” is not quite an accurate assessment of the problem, when we attempt to spread the Gospel of Christ while spewing hatred at sinners, we don’t do much good. Over and over, your word tells us that we are to take care of the needy. The widows and fatherless are especially dear to you, and your word does not differentiate between the saved and lost widows and fatherless, at that point. The poor and needy are poor and needy, regardless of their spiritual condition. Nevertheless, I pray that, while we generously provide for the needs of the people, we don’t forget to give them what they really need, and that is Jesus Christ. I pray each day that I might help someone find your peace. That peace comes through Jesus Christ and him alone. Obviously, I don’t believe that there are many roads to get to you. But I do believe in using compassion to help someone find that one true road. So I pray for more compassion for people. You have told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. You have told us to treat people as we would be treated. That must lead me to the conclusion that there are a lot of “Christians” out there who would prefer to have hatred and venom spewed at them. I don’t want to be that person, and I thank you that you have brought me down a path of compassion instead. I want to love like you love, Lord. I pray daily that the characteristics of love presented in 1 Corinthians 13 would be manifest in my life. I pray that you would make me
not envious,
not boastful,
not arrogant,
not rude,
not insistent on my own way,
not irritable,
not resentful,
not one that rejoices in wrongdoing,
one that rejoices in truth,
bear all things,
believe all things,
hope all things,
endure all things.
In short, I want to be like Jesus.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for a good work day for Christi and for me. I pray for a day with no anxiety for us, as well as for Stephanie. I pray that Stephanie would feel better today, as she was a little “under the weather” yesterday. Draw us all closer to your heart today.

I thank you that our pastor’s wife is improving, and continue to pray for her healing and recovery from pneumonia. I also pray for my manager’s recover from shoulder surgery.

Repeating a previous statement. The world doesn’t just need love…it needs open-heart surgery.

Grace and peace, friends.

Cut To the Quick

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, December 19. Only seven days until we leave for Cancun! “Seven daaaayyysss…” (Spoken in that creepy “The Ring” telephone voice.)

Today is “Look For An Evergreen Day.” That’s easier said than done where we live, but there are a few of those in north central Texas.

On this date:
In 1924, the last Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was sold in London.
Adolf Hitler became Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Army in 1941.
In 1963, Zanzibar gained independence from the U.K.
In 1972, Apollo 17 returned to earth.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton became the second U.S. President to be impeached. He was, of course, acquitted.

Today’s birthdays include Ford Frick (baseball commissioner), 1894, Martin Luther King, Sr., 1899, Leonid Brezhnev, 1906, W. A. Criswell (preacher), 1909, Professor Longhair (blues musician), 1918, David Susskind (TV talk show host), 1920, Cicely Tyson (actress), 1933, Al Kaline (baseball player), 1934, Joanne Weaver (baseball player)(seriously), 1935, Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), 1941, Zal Yanovsky (guitarist for The Lovin’ Spoonful), 1944, Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), 1944, Robert Urich (actor), 1946, Jennifer Beals, 1963, Kristy Swanson (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer), 1969, Alyssa Milano, 1972, Jake Gyllenhaal, 1980.

We had the most awesome time at our lifehouse Christmas party last night! We had great snacks and the white elephant gifts were great. I wound up with a nice “flameless” candle set. Christi got a Kermit plush holding a Butterfinger and a Twix. I hope she shares. We also had some awesome fudge (made with Kahlua) that Christi made, and some pretty amazing chocolate cake, brought by the Hennekes. It was, in Christi’s words, very comfortable. We are truly like family. Oh, and we also had apple butter. That’s become a bit of an inside joke. Our lifehouse leader LOVES apple butter (as do I).

I’ll be honest…it’s very difficult to think about anything but our trip to Cancun, which begins next Wednesday morning. I think we still a little Christmas shopping to do, though.

Christi got a “boot” from her doctor yesterday, which she is supposed to wear for four weeks. He did, however, tell her she could wait until we get back from our vacation to start wearing it. 😀 He didn’t think that it’s an old injury, and that she might have done that to her foot doing a thing with the leg press machine. There is definitely a “stress fracture” in her foot. She also can’t work out until it heals.

I’m calling for urgent prayer for our pastor’s wife. She has pneumonia, which has now been diagnosed as “double pneumonia.” Her name is Valerie.

While I’m asking for prayer, my manager is having shoulder surgery this morning, and will be out for a while. I’m praying for successful surgery and quick recovery for him. His name is Phillip.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)
Father, as my mouth speaks your praises this morning, I pray that your Spirit guide me to a vision of you that will keep me looking to your grace throughout this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:1-5.
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

What a powerful passage! This passage is speaking of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Inspired by verse 3, I pray that I might be able to also judge, not by what I see and hear, but by the righteousness of Christ. Lest I sound arrogant, I quickly say that I possess no righteousness of my own. However, the righteousness of Christ resides within me, and is available to me, when I submit to it, and allow it to reign in me. May righteousness and faithfulness be “the belt of my loins.”

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “What to Concentrate on.” The scripture reference is Matthew 10:34. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

This reading is a little tricky. I’ll see if I can make sense of it. It begins, “Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard.” “God,” says Chambers, “is more tender than we can conceive…” If I cannot get through to God, it is because there is something that I’m not willing to give up. Even if I admit I’m doing wrong, if I don’t give it up, I might as well try to fly. “People want the blessing of God, but they will not stand the thing that goes straight to the quick.” In other words, people want God’s blessings, but they don’t want to have to do the thing that he most requires from them.

“If God has had His way with you, your message as His servant is merciless insistence on the one line, cut down to the very root, otherwise there will be no healing.” We must drive this message home until there is no place to hide, “no possible refuge from its application.”

Before the message of the Gospel is of any use, there must be a sense of need. Of course, we discussed earlier that the Gospel creates the very need that it satisfies. But we have to recognize that there are, quite literally, millions of people in this world who are perfectly happy without God. The kind of “sword” that Jesus came to bring is the kind that cuts through this false sense of peace to the quick of a man, making him realize that he is, in fact, lacking the most important thing in his life, the peace of God. “Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.” It’s a difficult message, and it tends to make the messenger unpopular. I pray that this would be the only thing that makes a Christian unpopular. Sadly, there are many of us out there who are doing other, senseless, things that are making us unpopular. Let’s stick to the message, let us know “What to Concentrate on.”

Father, I will praise you with my mouth, and pray that all flesh would do the same. I so look forward to the day that is prophesied when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I thank you for your steadfast love that reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness that stretches to the clouds.

I thank you for the righteousness and faithfulness that is the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I thank you that he judges based on your righteousness, rather than on what he sees and hears, for righteousness pierces to the very soul of a man, judging motives and intent over visible action. I pray that you would give your people the same righteousness. I pray that we would recognize your infinite tenderness in our lives, and that we would stick with the message of the Gospel, driving it home until people have a true sense of true peace. And, Lord, please help us understand that, while Jesus came to “bring a sword,” we are to be people of peace. There are many of us who run around wielding that sword with no thought whatsoever of who they are cutting. We even tend to cut each other with it, and that ought not be so. Jesus commanded us to love each other as he loved us. I pray that we can fulfill that command, Lord. Last night, to me, was a perfect example of how we love each other. We had great fellowship with other believers, and it was amazing. I thank you for the sense of community that you have brought in us through this lifehouse ministry.

I pray for this day. May Christi have a good day today, with no anxiety. I pray that Stephanie will also have a good, anxiety-free day, and that you would draw her heart closer to yours. I ask for a smooth day at my work, with no issues. As we get closer to our vacation, I ask that you prepare my heart for finding you in the places we will go in Cancun. While this trip is definitely about R&R, may it also be about discovering you in new places. I fully intend to “experience” you in the beauty of the jungle.

I lift up Valerie Engle to you this morning, desperately praying for her healing, Lord. Touch her with your healing hand and fill her with your Spirit this morning. I pray for complete healing from this double pneumonia. Give Joel more strength as he ministers to her, and as he takes care of the children. I pray that brothers and sisters will rise up to help and provide for them.

I also pray for my manager, Phillip, that his surgery will go well this morning, and that his recovery would be quicker than expected.

Today’s reading was one of the tough ones. As Christians we need to bring peace, but it needs to be true peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Grace and peace, friends.

Loyalty To Christ

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, December 18, 2012. Today is “National Wear A Plunger On Your Head Day.” Hopefully, that’s a new plunger…

On this date:
In 1620, the Mayflower docked at Plymouth Harbor.
In 1777, the United States celebrated its first Thanksgiving.
New Jersey became the third state in 1878.
The Piltdown man was discovered in 1912, but was later revealed to be a hoax.
The United States House of Representatives approved the 18th amendment in 1918, which enacted Prohibition.
In 1932, the Chicago Bears defeated the Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in the first NFL Championship Game.
In 1961, this song by the Tokens hit #1

Today’s birthdays include Charles Wesley, 1707, Franz Ferdinand (not the group), 1863, Saki (English writer), 1870, Joseph Stalin, 1878, Ty Cobb, 1886, Betty Grable, 1916, Ossie Davis, 1917, Michael Moorcock (author), 1939, Keith Richards, 1943, Steven Spielberg, 1946, Ray Liotta (actor), 1954, Brad Pitt, 1963, Katie Holmes, 1978, Christina Aguilera, 1980.

Eight more days until we leave for Cancun!

We have our lifehouse Christmas party tonight, and it’s at our house. Lifehouse at bickleyhouse. That has a nice ring to it. Anyway, we’re having snacks, fellowship and some “white elephant” gifts. We have selected some most excellent gifts for our part. Heh. Right.

Christi has a followup appointment to get the results from her MRI this afternoon. She’s in some pain again, but partly, that’s because she decided to stop taking Cymbalta. Let’s just say it had some undesired side effects.

We need to hurry up and finish our Christmas shopping. Too much thinking about Cancun. At lest we finally remembered to sign our passports last weekend. 🙂

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! (Psalm 95:1)
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. (Psalm 71:23)
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 89:1)
Father, may I sing of your mercies and steadfast love all of this day. Show me something in your word this morning; something that will inspire me to live this day looking to you to sustain my life.

In my reading this morning, I was brought to this passage:
Psalm 103:10-13
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.


Today, I’m reading Isaiah 10:20-34.
20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
22 For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.
23 For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.
24 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did.
25 For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.
26 And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt.
27 And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”
28 He has come to Aiath; he has passed through Migron; at Michmash he stores his baggage;
29 they have crossed over the pass; at Geba they lodge for the night; Ramah trembles; Gibeah of Saul has fled.
30 Cry aloud, O daughter of Gallim! Give attention, O Laishah! O poor Anathoth!
31 Madmenah is in flight; the inhabitants of Gebim flee for safety.
32 This very day he will halt at Nob; he will shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.
33 Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low.
34 He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.

A remnant of Israel will return, and begin to lean only on the Lord God Almighty. The Lord gives hope, even in the midst of judgment, tell them not to fear, because soon, his anger will come to an end and be redirected toward the very ones who he sent to be the chastening rod.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Test of Loyalty.” The scripture reading is from Romans 8:28. This is, possibly, the most favorite verse of the most people in all of Christianity. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I also like the way the ESV translates it, so that the part about loving God can’t be left out.

“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances.” Most people, sadly, even many Christians, act as though they believe circumstances are engineered by men. But we must be faithful in every circumstance, meaning that we have “only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord.” There may come a time when God will, quite suddenly, break up a set of circumstances, and I will realize that I have not been entirely loyal to him because I did not recognize that he was orchestrating those circumstances. That particular thing will never be repeated. I have lost that opportunity. I must learn to worship God in even the most trying of circumstances.

For some reason, even the most fervent Christian workers falter at loyalty to Jesus Christ. Oh, they will be loyal to the work, to their service. They will be loyal to the blessings. It’s shameful, actually. “God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers.” Here is where we fail. “The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us.” I don’t do anything for God. He does everything through me. But he can only work through me if I am loyal to him. Would that I could be as loyal to God as Jesus Christ.

This makes me think of an old hymn that we used to sing at Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, TX.

From over hill and plain, there comes the signal strain,
‘Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Its music rolls along, the hills take up the song,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

I’m actually quite amazed that I remember that. It’s been, literally, decades since I have sung that hymn.

Here are a few thoughts on forgiveness from Tabletalk Magazine.
“…if we do not forgive, we are setting a higher bar than God does. We are exalting ourselves as better than other sinners in the Lord’s eyes, revealing that we have likely not understood the grace of God at all. We show that we are not relying on the Father’s promises alone but are instead trying to bring something before God to earn His favor. We are depicting an attitude that says, ‘I deserve God’s forgiveness, but others do not.'” Have you ever thought of it that way? It’s very sobering to ponder this truth.

Father, I will sing to you, shout for joy, sing of your steadfast love as long as I have breath! I praise you for your mighty work in me! Make me loyal to you! I will not be loyal to the work, loyal to the service, not even loyal to the church. My sole loyalty is to you, and by being so, avail myself to your work in me, and through me. I pray that you will be able to work through me, and that I would be totally unconscious of the fact that you work through me. If I know you are doing it, then I become arrogant and prideful. I believe that you engineer circumstances, oh, yes, I believe! That has been one my “big things” over the course of the last 10 years or so. I’m a huge believer in your sovereignty, to a much greater degree than many that I know. Sometimes I even have to keep my mouth closed about a particular situation, because my belief in your sovereignty over said situation would lead people to believe me mad. You are the Master Engineer. But, Father, sometimes I fail to transfer that belief down to the most minute of circumstances, and that is where I need your Spirit to work in me. Could it be that you engineer even the most tiny leaf that blows across my path as I walk to my car in the morning? Is it possible that you even engineer those traffic lights on the way to work? Or is it arrogant of me to think that I’m that important? Honestly, I don’t believe it’s a matter of importance at all. And it may not be that your “engineering” sinks to that depth of detail. How would I know? I’m just a finite being trying to comprehend the infinite! All I want is to be completely and utterly loyal to you through Jesus Christ. Make me a loyal servant to you, Father, that you might work through me today.

Father, if there is unforgiveness in my heart, root it out. I am most certainly not more deserving of forgiveness than anyone else. In fact, I usually consider myself less deserving than most. That’s not really true either. I will not set a higher standard for other sinners than you have set for me. You have forgiven me, therefore, I must forgive others. I trust in you and your promises; I trust in your grace. I have nothing to bring that earns anything from you! What would I bring to you that you did not give to me? The only thing that I possess that I might call my own is my sin. And that, I gladly bring to you, that it might be put to death on the cross of Jesus Christ.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi may receive some relief from her pain. I pray that her visit to the doctor this afternoon will provide some hope. May her work day go smoothly today. I pray that you would draw Stephanie’s heart closer to you today, giving her a good dose of your love and care for her. I also ask that my work day will be smooth today, and that you would help Christi and me come to an important decision that could affect my future at work. May we have a tremendous time of fun and fellowship tonight at our lifehouse party.

I lift up Summer Guilliams to you today, as she is recovering from surgery today. I thank you that the surgery seems to have gone successfully, and pray that her recovery will be quick. Shower your blessings on her and Terry, Lord, as they are faithful servants.

Bring hope to Connecticut, Lord. Bring hope.

Loyalty to Christ, not to the work. Loyalty to God, not to the service. I must get it right.

Grace and peace, friends.