Christ’s Light in the Darkness . . . Right at Home

Today is Monday, the eighteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,412

I hope everyone who observes the day had a blessed Easter, yesterday. We were blessed to be able to have the Supper with our little group, after we read several of the Bible accounts of the resurrection event. We noted differences in the Gospel narratives, and celebrated the power that comes from knowing and walking with Jesus in our lives. We also spent some time praying together.

The Night of Worship that was to take place this coming Saturday has been postponed, but we are considering having a sort of prayer meeting, at some point in the near future. I’m going to suggest combining the two and kind of re-tooling the NoW thing.

This week is a “light” week for me, work-wise. I only work Tuesday evening, four hours, and Thursday, eight hours.

The Texas Rangers continue their losing ways, and lost three of the four games against the Angels. Yesterday’s loss, the second by pitcher Martin Perez, was 8-3. The highlight of that game was a two-run homer by Adolis Garcia. They have today off, after which they will begin a six-game west coast run, starting in Seattle, Tuesday. The Rangers are now 2-7 for the season, in last place in the AL West, but only 3.5 games behind the first place Angels. Jon Gray will be back in the lineup Tuesday, to take the mound against Seattle.

The Red Sox beat the Twins 8-1, yesterday, finally getting above .500. The two teams are playing another game today. That seems odd, to me, because series don’t usually go through the weekend into Monday. Oh, well. Update: I just discovered that today is “Patriot Day” in Boston, and the game is played at 11:10 EDT. It is also the day of the Boston Marathon. The Sox are 5-4 for the season, in second place in the AL East, only a half-game behind Toronto.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Monday in Easter Week)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
(Psalms 46:10-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm continuing to reflect on the wonder of the resurrection of Jesus, and that the celebration doesn't end just because Easter Sunday is over
2. that the Word of God is near me, in my mouth and in my heart
3. for habits and rituals (like this one) that help me get closer to God
4. for the call to serve one another and be Christ's light in the darkness, in our own sphere of influence
5. for Abraham's example of hospitality
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
(Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

I found this, by Timothy Keller, through Facebook, this morning, and thought it was great. There is a lot of pain going through our little church group, right now, and I shared it with all of them. “On the Day of the Lord—the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue—on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace.” ~ Timothy Keller

Today’s prayer word is “ritual.” There is a quote from Victor Hugo included. “It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky . . . a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.”

I’m a fan of ritual. I’ve got habits. Who doesn’t, right? Even in the shower, I have a ritual. Just the other day, my brain misfired, and I failed to switch hands with the scrubber at the right time, and I’m pretty sure my right arm didn’t get washed that day. I have a cup of herbal tea every night, shortly before I go to bed. And I listen to a meditation recording on one of two different apps, as I fall asleep. Except for last night, because I forgot to charge my headband headphones. And guess what? I didn’t sleep very well, last night!

What’s the difference between a ritual and a habit? Turns out, in order to be a ritual, there must be some meaning behind it. So I guess my shower habit is not, in fact, a “ritual.” The cup of tea, I believe, is, though, because I believe it helps me relax and prepare for sleep.

Rituals aren’t necessarily good, though. To some people, ritual in the church is boring. I like it, myself, and am fond of what might be considered more “high church” worship. Don’t get me wrong, I love some contemporary worship, as well. I would love to find a church that combined the two, but so far, I have not. What’s funny about this is that the Catholic church, the “highest” of high church, was probably on the forefront of introducing contemporary worship music to the masses, back in the late sixties and early seventies.

The key is in intention and meaning. If you do something just to do it, it’s a habit or a routine. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist Church where exactly the same thing happened every Sunday morning, in the same order. It was weird when something was added or left out. Was there meaning or intention behind that? Or was it just the way we’ve always done it? I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect there might have been a little of both. But you know what? I found comfort in that routine. I could always count on those things happening . . . those three hymns between the pastoral prayer and the offering; that “special music” right before the sermon; and the benediction that signaled that we could finally go home.

I am engaging in ritual right now. Every morning (not always at the same time) I sit down at this computer and start reading Bible passages, along with several devotional materials, and typing this blog. There is most definitely intention and meaning involved. The intent is twofold; one goal is to grow myself spiritually and connect more with the Holy Trinity; the other is to maybe inspire or motivate someone else to do the same. I used to write these moments in a paper journal, but one day I decided to begin recording them online. 1) That saves paper and space; and 2) other people might benefit from my journaling.

Recently, in the past couple of years, I have developed a ritual of sharing at least five things every day for which I am grateful. The intent here is not to show how spiritual I am, but, rather, to inspire others to also be grateful for the things that they have in their lives.

So rituals can be good things. I firmly believe that they help me in my efforts to draw closer to God and walk in His kingdom.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful that You created me as one who thrives in ritualistic settings. I pray that my habits and rituals, each day, will continue to help me to draw closer to You and weed out habits that aren’t good, as well as characteristics in my personality that are not healthy or helpful.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:45-49 ESV)

We frequently make the mistake of thinking that the only way we can do “great things” for Jesus is going on adventures. We want to go on that mission trip to Africa or Mexico or somewhere. Or sometimes, we even stay in our own state, but we have to get away from our local area.

As Logan Eliasen was returning from a somewhat adventurous vacation trip to Colorado, he struggled with purpose. “What am I doing here” he asked himself. But then he realized he was asking the wrong question.

“What can I do here,” he then asked.

“Here, in Iowa, I have relationships with people I care about. Here, Jesus has provided me with opportunities to share His love with others. Here, I can be Christ’s light in the darkness.”

That is huge and profound. Our “witness” begins at home.

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
(Matthew 10:5-7 ESV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

Father, let us not be so quick to need to get away from our own neighborhoods to do Your work. Remind us that we can be Christ’s light in the darkness right in our own yards, on our own streets. As for our little house church, Lord, I struggle with what kind of impact we can have. But we can do the same. We can be Christ’s light in the darkness at Brandon’s house. And we can shine in his neighborhood. After all, if we can’t shine there, what makes us think we can shine in Africa??

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!
(Hebrews 13:1-2 MSG)

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.” They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.” Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.” Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.
(Genesis 18:1-8 MSG)

“Caring for others is the best thing we do. We are at our best when we are attending to the needs of others: hurts and pains, sorrows and disappointments, despair and grief, confusion and dismay. Speaking words of encouragement, binding up wounds, giving direction, sharing trouble – when we are doing these things, we are being fully human.”

We may not always do a great job at these things, and sometimes we may even do them badly. But we still need to be about caring for others, because only then are we “fully human.” And it’s not something to be done only when we “feel a gush of sentiment.” It should be part of “life together as people of God.” And we shouldn’t stop doing it just because we may not have done a good job at it.

Abraham is one of our best examples of this. Three men show up at his tent, one day, and he greets them enthusiastically and invites them to stay for a meal. “He did not treat them as interruptions to his prayers or as intrusions on his pilgrimage.” There is no indication that he knew, yet, that the men were angels.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, said, “There are no ordinary people. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

So we go full circle back to the idea of routine, habit, and ritual. This is where caring happens, in the so-called “ordinary.” It begins in our neighborhoods, where we live, and where we “go to church.” It doesn’t start on the great adventures to Africa or Mexico or even the next state over. It starts here, where we live.

“Abraham in front of his tent. A hastily prepared meal. Angels unawares.”

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

Father, I confess . . . I haven’t done a great job of this. I hardly know my neighbors. Motivate me to connect with them a little better, to reach to them, to see if there is anything I can do to serve them. And then I pray you guide us into service in the neighborhood where our church meets. And, most of all, help us to serve one another within our own little body of believers. Jesus, You told us to love one another the way You have loved us. I have not done well at this, either, so help me be better at it. Help me to love!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Wilderness

Today is Friday, the twenty-fifth of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,360

We never did get any snow, here. I honestly don’t know if there was any snow in the DFW area at all. It’s still cold, though, and, contrary to the initial forecast, never got above freezing, yesterday. In fact, I don’t think it got above 30 degrees. I ventured out for Sonic drinks around 4:30 PM, and it was, I think, 29 degrees. Currently, at almost 8:00 AM, it is 21 degrees.

As far as I know, the library is scheduled to open at regular time, this morning, so I will be there, ready for my day in the Computer Center. There may be some shelving on the side, but that depends on if any of the regular shelving people show up to make up lost time from yesterday. If they do, I may just be sitting at the computer desk all day, which is also fine with me.

As for the weekend, at this point, there are no plans. I assume we will have our little congregation gathering on Sunday morning. Some good news, I suppose. We have begun planning for a Night of Worship on March 12, two weeks from tomorrow. This will be the first one in well over a year, I believe . . . possibly two? I can’t remember if there has been one at all since the pandemic began. We haven’t discussed location, but, as far as I know, this one will be at the usual host’s home, which is also where we meet on Sundays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! 
Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; 
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
(Psalms 33:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the sunshine
2. for the joy of the Lord
3. for the fingerprints of God all over my life
4. for wilderness and desolate places in my life
5. that God always brings me back from those

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Yesterday, we looked at the request, “Your will be done,” and today, the follow-up phrase, “On earth as in heaven.” As we associate our desire with the will of God, it extends to spiritual things as well as physical. While these things have to do with “the other world,” they are also “events that take place here below, in time.” We discussed, yesterday, this idea that we must be okay with the things that have happened in the past, as they must, in some way or shape, be within God’s will. We must extend this into the future, as well.

One way a former pastor of mine used to frame this statement was to consider the state of things in heaven. We know from Biblical promises that there will be no tears in heaven; we know that there will be no pain in heaven; we know that there will be no sickness in heaven. Therefore, when we pray this prayer, we are, in a sense, asking for those things to be true on earth, as well. We know that God’s ultimate will is to eradicate pain and sickness and poverty and hunger. And this is why we pray this prayer. We long for these things to come to pass, “on earth as in heaven.”

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

God can do anything, you know—
far more than you could ever imagine
 or guess or request in your wildest dreams! 
He does it not by pushing us around 
but by working within us, 
his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Glory to God in the church! 
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! 
Glory down all the generations! 
Glory through all millennia! 
Oh, yes! 
(Ephesians 3:20-21 MSG)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
(Jeremiah 18:5-6 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “wilderness.” The Scripture reference is Luke 5:16:

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
(Luke 5:16 NLT)

The ESV calls it “desolate places.”

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
(Luke 5:16 ESV)

Time is short, so I must move one. Wilderness seems to have a bad connotation, but it doesn’t have to. In the case of Israel, it was a place of correction, perhaps punishment, as they wandered around in wilderness for decades, after refusing to go into the Promised Land as directed.

But it was also a place of healing. In Jesus’s case, it was place to be alone. “Desolate” means, ” deserted of people and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness.” The purpose for this is to avoid distractions. If there are no people, there are no demands. If there is “dismal emptiness,” there is nothing else to distract one’s attention from God.

So we need those times of “wilderness” in our lives, in order to get our attention back on the Lord.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful for times of wilderness and desolation in my life, in my past. But I am also grateful that You have always brought me out of those, stronger than before, with eyes focused more on You. Help me to be more focused on You and on Your will in my life and in this world. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as in heaven. I pray for all things to come to pass in perfect time and in perfect order, even if some of those things are not pleasant, or don’t seem to be what we desire. Help us to mold our desires to fit Your will and not to try to get You to do the opposite.

Your will is supreme, no matter what it causes us in this world, and we must, we simply must be okay with that, as Your children. This is something that the world simply cannot understand.

At the same time, this does not release us from our obligation to do the things that Jesus told us to do to and for “the least of these.” Help us to have more compassion for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the hungry, the sick, the naked and homeless, and all of those kinds of people. Give us the love and compassion of Jesus for those, and the willingness to share our resources with them.

I thank You, Father, that I can see Your fingerprints all over my life. I pray that this never stops.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

You Are Accepted by God

Today is Saturday, June 29, 2019. Blessings to you!

Day 22,388

Five days until July 4!!

We (at least most of us) wound up working until almost 7:30 PM last night, three hours of overtime. And we still weren’t finished! I hope someone went in this morning to finish things up. The rough thing is that, with July 4 being on Thursday, we will have two potential late days next week, Wednesday and Friday. And, since we have a holiday in the week, none of the “overtime” will be time-and-a-half, but all straight time. Oh, well. It is, as they say, what it is.

The Texas Rangers continued their winning streak last night, beating Tampa Bay 5-0. That’s no easy task, either. The Rays have been pretty good, this year. That’s six consecutive wins for Texas. Lance Lynn put in eight strong innings for his tenth win of the season. The Astros won their game, so the Rangers remain 4.5 games out of first place. They are two games ahead of the Red Sox in the second wild card spot. They play the Rays again today, in Florida, at 3:10 CDT. Adrian Sampson will start for Texas.

The Red Sox had a rare Friday night off, as they play the Yankees in London today and tomorrow. I reckon they did some sightseeing. Today’s game will begin at 12:10 CDT. Rick Porcello will take the mound for the Sox.

We have our Night of Worship tonight, at Brandon’s house. C and I will be over there between 3:00 and 4:00 PM, to set up and rehearse. The Worship time will begin at 6:30. The address, if you’re around here, and interested, is 4033 Jackie Lee Street, in North Richland Hills, Texas. Well, that’s the address even if you’re not local or interested. I will be leading this song tonight (it won’t sound this good, I promise you).

We’re supposed to get our new tree Tuesday. C will be staying home from work to be here when they arrive. I hope we don’t run into any issues with the location. It can’t be right where the old one was, because there is still a remnant of the old tree there, and it can’t be too close to any utility lines or pipes. Then we have to water it like crazy for a while. I think we’ll get one of those bag things that hold thirty to forty gallons and the slowly release it into the ground all day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Isn’t that a beautiful verse?

Today I am grateful:
1. That the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit
2. For the weekend to rest for the work week ahead
3. For tonight’s opportunity to worship and lead in worship, to fellowship and break bread with our brothers and sisters in Christ
4. That I am accepted by God
5. That this acceptance leads me to accept others as also loved by God

“Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified thee by their martyrdom: Grant that thy Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by thy Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collects: Traditional, Saint Peter and Saint Paul)

(From Faith That Matters)

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Mark 12:31

Love Yourself to Love Others, by James Bryan Smith

“The way I love others is a direct reflection of how I love myself.” We tend to forget this. On the other hand, we also tend to use this thought as justification for being extravagant with ourselves and binging on “self-love.”

But if I find myself being “ruthless with myself, exact with my judgment, and prone to condemn myself,” chances are, I will do the same toward others. Many of us, I believe, have noticed that the things that annoy us most about other people are also things that annoy us about ourselves. Some see that as hypocrisy, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

Smith says, “When God graciously revealed himself to me as a God of acceptance, it took me several years to begin to internalize and appropriate it. I still have moments of doubt.” I’m right there with him. “But once I began to trust in God’s acceptance of me I noticed that it immediately influenced the way I dealt with others. As I began to feel loved, I began reaching out to others in love.”

We constantly meet people who are alienated from God, some so much so that they don’t believe he exists. We have the privilege of showing them God’s acceptance, either by word or by deed. Says Smith, “Ministry became easier when I realized that I do not have a ministry, but rather I am simply an extension of Christ’s ministry to the world.”

But it all goes back to the first statement. “Our ability to tell others about God’s acceptance is related to the degree to which we accept ourselves.” If I feel that God is angry with me, then I will likely be angry with others. But if I know that God loves me, and accept his acceptance of me, then I am more readily able to love and accept others.

Father, lead me in this truth. May I know your acceptance more consistently, not being tossed about by every wave that comes along. Teach me the consistency of your love and acceptance in my life, that I might be more able to love and accept others in my path each day.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

I Must Have God

Today is Saturday, February 23, 2019.

Day 22,262

19 days until our next Glen Rose weekend!!!

Quote of the Day

“Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.”
H.L. Mencken, U.S. editor, 1880-1956

Word of the Day

Prodigal ~ wastefully or recklessly extravagant. Also, giving or yielding profusely; very generous; lavish. You know, when I was growing up, hearing the parable of “the prodigal son,” I always misunderstood that word. And the fact is, the word, “prodigal” is not in the Bible anywhere (paragraph headings don’t count; those aren’t “inspired”). I used to think it mean “lost” or “missing” or maybe even “rebellious.” And, as Timothy Keller pointed out, it may be God who is actually “prodigal,” for is He not extravagant in the grace and love with which he lavishes us? He is “very generous,” and He yields profusely. Just something to think about.

Yesterday was the first full Friday I have worked in several weeks. Fortunately, I only wound up working about a half hour over, getting off around 5:00 PM. I picked up Subway on the way home and C picked up our Sonic drinks. We watched a couple episodes of “The Keepers” on Netflix. I would not recommend this show for the faint of heart. It concerns the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik in November of 1969. The corruption and sheer horror of depravity that was uncovered in that Catholic school in Baltimore is mind-boggling. “Disturbing” is not a strong enough word.

After that, I played Metro: Exodus on the PS4 for a couple hours.

Today is our first Night of Worship this year. We’re meeting at our pastor’s house tonight, instead of Brandon’s house. They are having some work done on their house, so we moved it for this month. The set list will be as follows: Word of God Speak, Great Are You Lord, Come Fall On Us, Surrounded (Fight My Battles), Lord I Need You, Oh How We Love You, Stand In Your Love, God Is So Good, I Surrender, Sails, Reckless Love, and Death Was Arrested.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.

Psalm 3:3-4

Today I am grateful:
1. That I didn’t have to work too late last night.
2. That the sounds of baseball have begun in Arizona and Florida.
3. For an opportunity to be in community tonight, worshiping, praying, and breaking bread together.
4. The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.
5. For opportunities to seek and find God.

That this day may be holy, good, and peaceful,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That your holy angels may lead us in paths of peace and goodwill,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may be pardoned and forgiven for our sins and offenses,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That there may be peace to your Church and to the whole world,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may depart this life in your faith and fear,
and not be condemned before the great judgment seat of Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit in the 
  communion of all your saints,
entrusting one another and all our life to Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

(From Every Step An Arrival, Eugene H. Peterson)

Today’s reading is “Longing for God’s Freshness.”

A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God.
Psalm 42:1 (The Message)

Peterson’s words are so poetic that I dare not attempt to paraphrase them.

"A deer thirsty for water is the metaphor. 
What water is to the deer, God is to me.
I simply must have God. And it must be the living God.
Nothing stale or stagnant.
The deer runs past all the mud puddles and swamps and marshes to 
  clear, flowing streams.
I don't want my God out of a bottle.
I don't want what is left over from God after last week's 
  thundershower.
I want him fresh, flowing, living.
What I learned in Sunday school in the third grade will not 
  satisfy me.
What I read in the Bible last week will not satisfy me.
What someone told me this morning on television or radio 
  will not quench my thirst.
I want to get to the water myself.
I
  must
       have
            God.
Every natural appetite is a reminder of this thirst for God.
Every thirst,
  every hunger,
  every longing for satisfaction--
it is a metaphor for the fundamental desire in our lives 
  for God."

(The arrangement of the text is mine.)

This stirs my soul in ways I cannot even begin to describe. I have, over the course of the last week or so, been reading a book called The Cloud of Unknowing. It was written by an anonymous fourteenth century mystic. It is stretching me in ways I never thought I could be stretched, devotionally. The premise of the book is that, in contemplating God, He is all we need contemplate. In other words, during contemplative prayer, we should think of nothing, desire nothing, seek nothing, other than God, Himself, resting solely in His existence. We should entertain no other thoughts during this time. It is difficult, because our minds are not trained in this way. It is hard for me to sit still and silent for any length of time without a kabillion thoughts running through my brain, unbidden, most of them. I have to retrain my brain to reject them, that I might focus solely on God and nothing or no one else.

There are people who are uncomfortable with this kind of contemplation, and I get it. There are portions in the book that dangerously edge toward practices resembling Buddhism. But I’m not one to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Because, as Eugene Peterson has made so eloquently clear, I need God. I must have God. He is the only One who can quench my thirst.

Lamentations 3:23 says, “They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!” (The Message) “They” being God’s mercies. His mercies are new every morning. Says Peterson, “God did not go on hiatus last week or last year. He is present at the start of every day and when you to to sleep at night. Don’t rely on a dim memory of God; seek him in every moment.”

Father, this reading renders me almost speechless. I don’t know what to pray other than to ask you to help me get to You in this way. Show me the fresh, living water stream that is You. Help me to seek You in every moment, fresh. Quench my thirst, but increase my thirst for You, as well. Let my desire be for only You.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. Psalm 42:11 (The Message)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Psalms, Prayers, and Promises

Today is Sunday, September 16, 2018. Day 22,102.

Twenty days until Galveston!!

“I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations that I’ve traveled to. But first, I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.” ~ Mitch Hedberg, 1968-2005, The Quotations Page

The word for today is tunesmith, ” a person who composes popular music or songs.”

The Night of Worship, last night, was great! I don’t believe there were as many people as last time, but we didn’t advertise it so much at our own church, this time. There was a nice crowd from Mount Zion Baptist Church, and they seemed to respond well. The only downer was that Terry, our Exchange worship leader, was coming down with something, and by the end of the night, had no voice left. So Brandon and I covered for him in the last song we did. The funny thing is that we didn’t change the key, which made it a bit of a struggle for both of us. It was a good time, though, and an awesome time of worship.

The Red Sox beat the Mets 5-3 to make their record 102-47. Rick Porcello notched his seventeenth win. To add to our joy, the Blue Jays beat the Yankees, which knocked the magic number down to four! The Sox are 10.5 games ahead of the Yankees. One more game with the Mets this afternoon. Thirteen games left.

The Rangers came back and beat the Padres 6-3 to make their record 64-84. They play San Diego again this afternoon. They have fourteen games left.

There are two weeks of regular season baseball left. The Indians have become the first team to clinch their division. No team has even clinched a Wild Card spot in the National League.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street in Fort Worth. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

In the middle of one of my favorite Psalms is this verse.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15

What a beautiful truth. God is merciful and gracious. He abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. I’ve mentioned before that “steadfast love” is translated “mercy” in some translations. The definition of “abound” is “exist in large numbers or amounts.” In truth, the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness are never-ending.

But ours, sadly, are not. Our steadfast love, mercy, graciousness, and faithfulness all have their limits. Because we are not God. And we don’t have anything in infinite quantities.

But if we walk in Christ, and walk in God’s Kingdom, we can at least exhibit some of the character of Christ. That’s the challenge. Because all of those things that threaten our mercy and grace, our steadfast love and faithfulness, come screaming at us on a daily basis. Sometimes, they are trivial things; sometimes, they are serious things.

One way to fight against these is prayer. Praying a Psalm like Psalm 86 would be a tremendous help. It also includes verses like the one I chose for my “life verse” a couple decades ago.

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

You can’t possibly go wrong praying that verse! And I pray it, if not daily, at least several times a week.

We can also pray some of Paul’s prayers for each other. Like this one:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Colossians 1:11-12

And we can count on His promises, such as this one found in 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

So. Pray for yourself, praying Psalms back to God, acknowledging His steadfast love, kindness, graciousness, and faithfulness. Pray for Him to teach you. Then pray for someone else that you know, that they would be strengthened in His power, according to His glorious might. Then rest on His promises, knowing that he will fulfill them, and, most importantly, that He is patient toward you.

Father, I thank You and praise You for Your steadfast love and faithfulness; faithfulness that transcends my faithfulness, infinitely. I praise You that You are infinitely merciful and kind, and that You are infinitely glorious! I do pray today, Father, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth, and that You would unite my heart to fear Your name. I pray for my brothers and sisters, that they would be strengthened in Your glorious might. And I thank you for Your very great and precious promises, and the promise that You will keep them. You will do what You say You will do.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Lord Says . . .

Today is Saturday, September 15, 2018. Day 22,101.

21 days until Galveston!!

60 days until Fallout 76!!

“There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.” ~ Alfred Korzybski, 1879-1950, The Quotations Page

The word for today is piacular, “expiatory; atoning; reparatory.” Also, “requiring expiation; sinful or wicked.”

Yesterday evening made the second week in a row that we didn’t have to work overtime! In fact, most of the receiving work was done before 3:00 PM! I still had plenty to do in my area, so I was busy right up until the time I left. But it was nice being home on time on a Friday night.

I have everything all packed up for tonight’s Night of Worship in Alvord. It will be at Mount Zion Baptist Church, at 6:00 PM. We will be meeting up there by 2:30 for set up and rehearsal. And, then, apparently, the church is feeding us at 5:00. That’s pretty awesome.

What is not awesome is the Red Sox score from last night. They lost to the Mets, 8-0! They only got four hits. I’ve never heard of the losing pitcher before. Alex Cora must be experimenting, getting ready for the playoffs. Personally, I wish he would concentrate on winning the division first. While they have a playoff birth locked up, they should not be content being the Wild Card, as anything can happen in a single game Wild Card playoff. Nevertheless, they are still 9.5 games up on the Yankees, the magic number is still 6, and there are fourteen games left. They are 101-47, and will play the Mets again, this afternoon.

The Rangers beat the Padres 4-0, in San Diego. Their record is 63-84. They have fifteen games left, and play the Padres again tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
1 John 2:9-10

(From Where Your Treasure Is), Eugene H. Peterson

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 
The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 
Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 
The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 
He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. 
He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

Psalm 110

I ended yesterday’s blog with the idea that Christians in earlier times take a different position on prayer, in terms of the private nature of it. Eugene H. Peterson mentions that the most popular Psalm in the New Testament appears to be Psalm 110. It is “quoted seven times and alluded to fifteen times.” This community of Christians “pondered, discussed, memorized, and meditated on Psalm 110.” Peterson wonders how many twentieth-century Americans (again, the book was written in 1985) have even heard of Psalm 110?

By far, the most favored Psalm in America is Psalm 23. While most definitely deserving of that popularity, it is not quoted even once in the New Testament. On the other hand, Peterson, says, Psalm 110 does not deserve the neglect that it suffers. “It is an extremely important Psalm, skillfully and vigorously written, and it directs us in prayer that uncenters the self – rescues us from self-centeredness by recentering us in the being and action of God.”

What makes it so important? His answer refers to two statements in the Psalm. Verse 1, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'” And verse 4, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'” Both of these are direct addresses from God, and, says Peterson, they split the Psalm “into two precisely balanced parts.” In fact, in the Hebrew language, according to David Noel Freedman, “each stanza has exactly seventy-four syllables!”

These two statements catch the attention of the first-century Christian, because these people “were interested above all else in hearing what God had to say to them. Their thirst for what they had come to realize was good news was insatiable.” They had a non-stop appetite for God’s Word.

I’m going to close this with a lengthy quote from the book.

“The deep-rooted, me-first distortions of our humanity have been institutionalized in our economics and sanctioned by our psychologies. Now we have gotten for ourselves religions in the same style, religions that will augment our human potential and make us feel good about ourselves. We want prayers that will bring us daily benefits in the form of a higher standard of living, with occasional miracles to relieve our boredom. We come to the Bible as consumers, rummaging through texts to find something at a bargain. We come to worship as gourmets of the emotional, thinking that the numinous might provide a nice supplement to sunsets and symphonies. We read ‘The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want,’ and our hearts flutter. We read ‘You will not fear the terror of the night,’ and we are tranquilized. We read ‘He does not deal with us according to our sins’ and decide we have probably been too hard on ourselves. But when we read ‘The LORD says . . . the LORD has sworn,’ our interest flags and we reach for the newspaper to find out how the stock market is doing.”

While the first century people may have been somewhat the same, they did develop a thirst for God’s Word that made this Psalm one of their favorite prayers. “Praying Psalm 110 brought them to centered attention before the word of God and involved their lives in the work of God.”

Father, make us more eager to hear Your Word! We have, indeed, become more interested in what You can do for us than what You say to us. I believe Peterson’s words to be spot-on! We love the verses that talk about You being our Shepherd and how we don’t need to fear because You are our protector and how You have forgiven us. All of these are great verses, well worthy of our attention. But when we see verses that say, “Thus saith the Lord,” we tend to drift away. Have mercy, Father! Show us the way back to Your truth, and restore us to a love for Your Words!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Seek First the Kingdom

Today is Sunday, June 25, 2017. Day 21,654. Nine days until our July 4 holiday.

Last night’s Night of Worship was pretty amazing. I think there might have been a few less people there than previous gatherings, but there were also several that aren’t always there. The host cooked up a brisket for us to eat before the gathering, and it was delicious. We had some great fellowship, and then started the worship time. There was a lot more prayer in this one, and most of it was spontaneous, with various people simply beginning to pray after a song was finished. There was a lady and her husband, along with one of their friends, there. They have been to some of our gatherings, but not all of them. I think they live a good ways away, out in the country, somewhere. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I have encountered someone as intense as this lady, when she prays. I swear, when she was praying, I felt like I was floating, there was so much Spirit in the room! The whole night was really awesome. My fingers, on the other hand, are still numb from playing guitar for two hours.

This morning, we are getting ready for our regular, weekly, worship gathering. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach St., in Fort Worth, TX.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psalm 100:4
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

psalm 9:1-2
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, 
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:10-11
And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 
For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 
If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 
For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Luke 12:22-31
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, 
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. 
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 92:1-4
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name.
May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Lord, make me have perpetual love and reverence for you holy Name,
for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon
the sure foundation of your loving-kindness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

That passage in Luke (12:22-31) is standing out to me, this morning. Most of us are more familiar with the parallel passage in Matthew. I’m not sure why the Matthew passage gets more attention than Luke’s, but it does. The message is the same, though. Being anxious for things cannot help a bit. “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” As a matter of fact, we can quite possibly deduct hours from our life span by being anxious, if the “experts” are correct on the subject. Anxiety solves nothing.

Please note that I do understand that there are people who struggle with anxiety disorders. That is a totally different subject, and this does not apply to them. I’m speaking of those of us who simply worry about things. My mother used to call it “borrowing trouble.” She’s a worrier, too, just like me. But it accomplishes nothing whatsoever.

The big question is, how many of us, who call the name of Jesus, truly believe the words that he speaks? Do our lives demonstrate it? We claim to believe Jesus, but do we trust his words; do we believe what he says? I think the problem is that most of us believe in Jesus, but, in the deepest part of our hearts, we don’t believe him. I’ve struggled with this dilemma a lot, in recent months. I want to believe. I’m like the man whose son was possessed by demons. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” he cried out to Jesus.

The key of both the Matthew and Luke passages is in that one verse. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  (Luke 12:31) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

There’s the key. Seek the kingdom. Seek it first. Walk in the kingdom. If we truly believe Jesus, everything else we be taken care of.

Father, keep working in me to believe Jesus. Keep working in me to seek first your kingdom. Curb my anxiety. Help me believe and not worry. You are sovereign; you control all things; you will take care of me and us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.