Overlooking God

Today is Monday, the fourth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,398

Lent is beginning to wind down, as this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday (April 10). April 8 is my mother’s birthday, and as part of the celebration, we plan to visit her and S’s home church in Mineral Wells, for their Easter music. Also, there will be cake. The cake is not a lie. (Bonus points if you get that reference.)

There’s not a lot going on today, so I will get on into the devotional for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Sense of Three,” by Daryl Madden

Sight and sound and taste and more
What are our senses really for?

To open eyes and truly see
The Spirit here surrounding me

To hear His voice, adoringly
The Word of love calling to me

To feel with heart so gratefully
For all the gifts God’s blessing me

A greater view consuming me
The sense within, the Trinity

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:17-20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit; music from the heart to the Lord
2. that we have water, clean water to drink
3. for flexibility in life, and the willingness to shift direction, when called upon
4. for the presence of God in my life, that I can see and hear and touch; may I not become so used to Him that I forget to notice
5. for places that are away from the hustle of life, places where we can truly rest

Today’s prayer word is “shift.” That’s interesting. Let’s see what they mean by this.

Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward . . .’
(Deuteronomy 2:2-3 ESV)

Ironically, I just read that chapter in the reading plan for today, from my Bible app. The idea here is a “shift” in life direction. I did that last year, myself. At the end of July, I retired and began drawing Social Security. I made the decision a few years early, so I’m not getting the full payment, but it was a good move for me, as I am now working as a part time library aide to supplement the SS.

In my spiritual life, I frequently “shift” directions. Not, of course, the ultimate direction which is always (at least I hope) “God-ward.” But there are times in my life when I must examine the things I have habitually believed and practiced, to make sure that I am still really following in the words and steps of Jesus, as I walk in His kingdom.

We should never be afraid to “shift” our direction. We should never be so comfortable in our beliefs and practices that we refuse to heed better instruction, more scholarly teaching, or even warnings. I don’t know everything. No one knows everything. But there are many who know things better than I, and it would be foolish for me to not at least consider what they have to say, and, then, perhaps, “shift.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
(Mark 6:31 ESV)

How often do we need to do exactly this? It is, I firmly believe, one of the reasons that C and I love to get away to Glen Rose, often. It is a secluded place where we can rest. God’s creation has wondrous restorative powers. After all, if we remember, He called it “very good.”

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:31 ESV)

“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.”
(Job 14:7 ESV)

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

Even Jesus, God incarnate, needed to withdraw away from everything and everyone, in order to pray and refresh. By the way, the essential meaning of that word that is translated “desolate” is simply to be alone. It could be translated as “loneliness,” or “solitary.” I think “desolate” conveys a bit of a negative idea there. But I’m not well-versed in the terrain of ancient Israel, so maybe it really was “desolate.”

The point, though, is that we all need rest. And sometimes, it is very good to get out in the midst of God’s creation, alone, to do so.

Eugene Peterson, in a reading called “On the Overlook,” discusses the possibility of overlooking the presence of God in our lives. He brings it home by considering someone who might live at the base of an awesomely majestic mountain. After living there for so long, they might no longer look at the mountain, and almost forget it is there, even though it is the “most significant geographical feature in their lives.”

So it goes in a life with God. He is “obvious, essential, inescapable,” but, over time, we get used to Him, along with His “personal and passionate and gracious and merciful” character. We get caught up in the “urgent” business of life, as we struggle to make ends meet and avoid crises and disasters.

“That is why we work together as a community to have awareness of the great presence of God in our lives. We seek to wake ourselves up, to make sure that the roar of the vacuum cleaner doesn’t drown out the knock of the treasured Guest at the door, to deliberately step out of the fast lane so that we can see and hear and touch the God who is around and within us and can shut up long enough so that we hear and truly listen to the story of God coming to us, born in Jesus. Born in us.”

Have I mentioned how much I love the way that guy could put words together?

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

Father, I am in awe of how close You can be, at times. I mean, You’re always here, just as You are always everywhere. But there are times when I feel it more closely than others. I do confess that there are also times when I forget that You are near me, and I am sorry for that. Life is so much better when I am aware of Your constant presence. The thought that I can almost literally see, hear, and touch You is amazing. Certainly, I can do none of those things, in reality. But I can see, hear, and touch You when I am in the presence of other saints, because we all contain You in our lives. So when I am with my brothers and sisters, like on Sunday mornings, You are present in them, and we can see, hear, and touch one another. May we never grow used to this to the point that we forget just how awesome and amazing You are.

I pray for some time to get away soon, some time when we can go “hide away” in the midst of Your creation, in a lonely place, or a “desolate” place. I sense the need for some refreshing, soon. I thank You that there are places where we can do just that. In the meantime, please make sure that we rest enough.

Thank You that I have the willingness to constantly be shifting my life direction, whenever I sense You leading me differently. I thank You for the major shift that happened last year, and I pray for more direction as I continue to suss out what that looks like.

Thank You, Father, for all Your blessings in our life.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Hosanna!

Today is Sunday, the twenty-eighth of March, 2021. Palm Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,026

Seven days until Resurrection Sunday. Holy Week begins today.

I will begin with my weekly WW report. I lost another .6 yesterday. Just a tad under what I was hoping for, but a loss is a loss. I am 64.2 pounds away from my goal weight. At the rate I’m going, It will be 2023 before I get there. Hahaha!! But you know what? There is absolutely no rush, is there? There is no deadline.

My current step goal is to get below 200 pounds. That could happen this year, but I’ll have to average better than .8 of a pound per month. But I’ve lost 10.4 pounds so far, this year. That’s an average of 3.5 pounds a month. If I keep that up, I will make it this year, maybe around November.

So, yesterday, C picked up a couple of sirloin steaks when she went to get groceries. I got this new sous vide cooker with my reward points from work (I hit a ten year anniversary last November), and was wanting to try it on steak. We cooked some chicken with it a week or so back, and that didn’t turn out great. Rookie mistakes, though, I think. Steak looked simple.

There were two steaks, weighing in at roughly a pound, total. About an inch and a half thick. I put them in a Ziploc bag (we don’t have a vacuum sealer . . . yet) and got as much air out as I could. I also found four frozen corn on the cobs, covered them with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray, and put them in another Ziploc. Oh, I also sprayed the steaks with ICBINB and put “Seven” seasoning (from Saltgrass), as well as some onion powder and garlic powder on them.

I got this nifty plastic box for the sous vide . . . holds twelve quarts of water, and it came with a nice rack to put the food in, to keep it from floating. I put all of that in the box, which promptly overflowed because I had put too much water in it. It’s a learning process, you know. Based on the instructions that came with the cooking box, I set the sous vide for 129 degrees for medium rare, for one hour, and let it do its magic.

After an hour, I put the steaks in a hot pan, with just a tad of olive oil in it, and seared each side for a minute or two. Here is what I got.

Do I even need to tell you how delicious this was? Even the corn was cooked perfectly (although it could have been warmer). It was, quite literally, the best steak I have ever cooked. We already have plans to do this again, next Saturday.

Speaking of plans, we are starting to try to figure out what we are going to do for our anniversary vacation, this year. We thought about Cancun, we even thought about Hawaii (someday), but we have decided to do something drivable, this year, and put off anything involving flying until at least next year.

So Galveston is looking good, again. We’ve started looking at some beach houses, down there, and are finding some nice ones. Plus, I need to go back to Murdoch’s and get some Hawaiian shirts, since I can wear them again!

We have our Zoom church gathering in a little while, at 10:15. We’ll be starting with Psalm 20, this morning. So I guess I should get on with things. I’m sure we will have Applebee’s for lunch, and, since we had steak last night, I will make the traditional weekend burgers for S and me this evening.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This new day You give to me
From Your great eternity
This new day now enfold
Me in Your loving hold

You are the star of the morn
You are the day newly born
You are the light of our night
You are the Savior by Your might

God be in me this day
God ever with me stay
God be in the night
Keep us by Thy light
God be in my heart
God abide, never depart.
(David Adam)

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah.
(Psalms 67:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for my coffee
  • for the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
  • for the King who comes in the name of the Lord
  • for the way Your Word is fresh and new every day
  • for the way music stirs my soul

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

PALM SUNDAY

INVITATION

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29 NIV)

I’m pausing a moment to quietly reflect on the amazing truth that my sin has been taken away by the Lamb of God.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

(Psalms 22:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
(Luke 19:28-40 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read through these passages again, allowing the Spirit to direct me to particular words or phrases that move my soul.

On the day that Jesus was crucified, at around noon, the sky went dark. It was, at the same time, the darkest time in human history, and the brightest. For while God incarnate was dying, hope for humanity was being born. Jesus, in an unthinkable moment, felt the presence of the Father being ripped from him. I can only imagine . . . actually, no I can’t . . . what that felt like. His cry, at the moment, only gives us a hint.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

There have been a few times, maybe just a couple, when I felt forsaken by God, but only for a moment, and that moment didn’t last very long. But it was the worst feeling I have ever experienced.

At that moment, on that dark afternoon, Jesus was utterly alone. And somehow, David was inspired to write that in a psalm several hundred years before it happened.

And just a few days earlier, crowds had lined the streets of Jerusalem, laid down palm branches in the road and shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Those same voices would, just days later, shout “Crucify Him!”

Despised and rejected. Forsaken by God; forsaken by His own people.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Father, while I rejoice at the effects of that day, my heart fills with shame at my own treatment of the Son of God, the Lamb of God. For, while He took away my sins along with the sins of the world, somehow, I manage to continue to pile them on. Nevertheless, You keep forgiving, and I am grateful for this. My shame is turned into joy, as Your mercies appear, new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness, Lord, unto me! “As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.”

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.

Mighty God,
we look for salvation and security in many different places.
We confess we're tempted to seek out a pumped-up Savior of power who would flex rippling muscles.
Prepare our hearts to welcome our humble servant-King,
Jesus,
finding in him all we need for our salvation.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 30)

BLESSING

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
(Revelation 5:12 NIV)

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Mark 11:9 ESV)

Marci Alborghetti has this to say in this morning’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021:

“When He entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, almost everyone in that adoring crowd would soon need His forgiveness. Peter, who gleefully helped Him onto the donkey, would deny Him three times. Judas, part of the parade, would betray Him. The apostles, basking in His glory, would abandon Him. The crowds would ignore Him, some even screaming for His crucifixion.

“But . . . Jesus had done nothing to hurt those who would need His forgiveness. Quite the opposite: He’d done everything to save them, us. Yet He rode on, greeting them, knowing they’d turn on Him, knowing we’d continue to sin against each other and Him, already forgiving, always forgiving.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them,
“It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
(Matthew 21:4-17 ESV)

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
(Luke 7:36-50 ESV)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”
(Revelation 2:18 ESV)

This is how Christ is introduced to the congregation at Thyatira in their portion of John’s letters to the churches.

“The eyes like a flame of fire burn as they penetrate. This is no casual survey.”

Jesus really sees into us as His burning eyes survey us.

The feet, like burnished bronze, “are solid and strong. They will not crumble under opposition.” Interestingly, bronze, an alloy made from copper and tin, has a higher melting point than either, thus being able to withstand the heat from the burning eyes of flame.

“He sees through all facades, evasions, masks, and fogginess – sees into contradiction, opposition, hostility, and indifference.”

While our initial response may be to run and hide, we need not do this. “There is mercy and generosity in the honest, unflinching gaze of our Lord. If his look burns, it is the fire of love, and it burns so that it may warm us.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

My Jesus, I praise You for the way Your burning eyes of flame see into the depths of my soul. The initial reaction is to shy away, to try to hide, but we cannot hide, so there is no point in that. I humble submit to the examination of Your holy eyes, that You may see what needs to be cleansed within me, each day. I praise You for Your mercy and generosity, Jesus!

May I experience, today, and every day this week, Lord, fellowship with the risen King Jesus. May everyone experience spiritual renewal and refreshment this coming week.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“If I Be Lifted Up”

Today is Monday, the twenty-second of March, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,020

Thirteen days until Resurrection Sunday, which means this coming Sunday, the twenty-eighth, is Palm Sunday. It also means a week from today is R’s birthday!

We had a pretty good day, yesterday. Nice and restful, for the most part. There was a little bit of early drama, but I won’t elaborate on that here.

I promised to report on the Sous Vide cooking. It cooked the chicken very nicely, cooked all the way through in an hour. However, it wasn’t seasoned enough, or we didn’t figure out how to get the seasoning to permeate the chicken. We need to work on that. I made some Minute Rice with chicken broth to go along with the chicken, so that helped, but otherwise, as far as taste goes, it was just “meh.” However, like I said, it was cooked well. We will experiment more with it. I’m still interested to see how it does with a nice steak.

We plan to have Applebee’s for dinner tonight.

Also, happy Spring to all! I totally forgot to mention that Saturday was the first official day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox. At least I don’t remember remembering to mention that.

On with the good stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"In the waiting,
wash over me.
From moments that overwhelm - 
would You set me free.
Still this anxious heart,
come breathe Your Word.
Let Your peace break down these walls,
and speak to my heart."
(Salt of the Sound)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a new week ahead, with opportunities to serve; may I be faithful in prayer and faithful in service
  • for the ministry of Salt of the Sound
  • for treasures in heaven
  • that the earth is Yours, and everything in it
  • that Jesus, being lifted up, drew all people to Himself

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LENT – DAY 29

INVITATION

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:17-18 NIV)

I am taking a moment to reflect on the great faithfulness of the Lord. His mercies are new every morning!

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
(Psalms 24:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
(John 12:20-33 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in His presence, this morning, I read these passages again. Immediately, I am struck by the truth of Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.” Look around you. Everything that you see, as well as everything that is invisible to you, belongs to the Lord! All of it. All of that “stuff” that you believe belongs to you, truly doesn’t. All of the lands around that someone believes belong to some government entity (a city, a state, a country), truly doesn’t.

It all belongs to the Lord, and we fool ourselves if we think otherwise.

And once, again, the question is asked, who may ascend? Only the one with a pure heart and clean hands, one who has not lifted up an idol and worshiped it.

And then, in the passage from John, Jesus speaks of being “lifted up from the earth.” When He was lifted up, He would draw all people to Himself. There is the One who is worthy of my worship! There is the One who gives me a pure heart and clean hands, because He erased all of the impurities! There is the One who gives me access to the “mountain of the LORD!”

Father, I praise You for these truths! I acknowledge Your rightful ownership of everything in this universe, for You created it all. Even those things which we believe we “created” were put together from things created by You. Forgive us our arrogance, O Lord. Nothing truly belongs to us, and we are merely stewards of You property. Thank You for Jesus being lifted up and drawing us to Himself. Help me to truly worship Him, properly, today, as I walk through this day.

Why, God,
would you give up your glory to take on our broken human nature?
Why, Jesus,
would you come to the scene of our crimes with the purpose of bearing our punishment?
Why would you bitterly suffer and die for us,
unless this is glory.
Where comprehension fails,
help me to simply receive this marvelous mystery in faith.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 20)

BLESSING

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
(1 John 5:11-12 NIV)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
(Romans 8:26 NIV)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:25-30 NIV)

Tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life.
(Proverbs 10:2 NLT)

The relatives of the poor despise them; how much more will their friends avoid them! Though the poor plead with them, their friends are gone.
(Proverbs 19:7 NLT)

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
(Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

Father, I praise You that, more and more, You are leading me to store up treasures in heaven, not on the earth. Yes, we are physically blessed, here on earth. But these blessings, we truly endeavor, are passed on whenever we find need. Help us to be more aware of needs around us, that we may give more away. We will not revel in treasures or stuff of earth. Rather, we will celebrate our true treasure, our eternal inheritance, that which can never rust or nor be corrupted, and that which moths cannot eat or thieves cannot steal. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, I pray, this morning, for our place as caretakers of Your creation, everything that You own, that we do not own. We are stewards, so may our stewardship be wise. Help us to care more about that which You have made and allowed us to enjoy. I pray for the people in this world whose job is to work in and around these natural resources. Give them wisdom and strength for their work.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Here Comes the Bride

Today is Sunday, April 5, 2020. It is Palm Sunday of Holy Week. Peace be with you!

Day 22,669

Seven days until Resurrection Sunday.

My “official” weigh-in for WW, yesterday, had me down another 3.4 pounds for a total loss of 23.4 since we started WW, this time. Of course, we are weighing on our home scales, due to the COVID-19 regulations, so there might be a slight change when we finally get back to the studio. At this point, though, that will not be until at least May.

After consulting with the owners of the cabins in Glen Rose, we have decided that, unless more strict regulations are enacted, and unless one of us comes down with the virus, we will go down there for our weekend, later this month. The only people we will see will be the cabin owners and possible any restaurant attendants we choose to visit for take out. And that may, more than likely, be limited to Subway. There are currently no cases reported in Somervell county.

In just over an hour, we will have another church “gathering” of The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s, via the Zoom app. I believe we will be looking at Scripture passages around the crucifixion today. Next week, of course, is Resurrection Sunday!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
(Psalms 67:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the opportunity to use technology to “gather” with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. That You have answered me and have become my salvation (Psalm 118.21).
3. For the love that Christ, our King, has for His Bride, the Church.
4. That I am part of that Church, by His grace and mercy.
5. That there is coming a day when the King and His Church will be united forever.

Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
(Psalms 119:149 ESV)

Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
(Psalms 118:25-26 ESV)

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!
(Psalms 118:27 ESV)

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

(Mark 11:1-11 ESV)

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
(Psalms 118:19-29 ESV)

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.

“Assist me mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that I may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Day)

“Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that I may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Concluding Prayer of the Church)

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.

(John 12:12-18 ESV)

“While the crowd in John 12 anticipated an earthly king to save them from Rome, Jesus was much more. He was King of Kings and our sacrifice–God in the flesh, willingly embracing the cross to save us from our sins–a purpose prophesied centuries earlier.”
(James Banks, Our Daily Bread)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
(Psalms 92:12 ESV)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
(Revelation 7:9 ESV)

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. The city of Tyre will come with a gift, people of wealth will seek your favor. All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her— those brought to be with her. Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king. Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land. I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.
(Psalms 45:10-17 NIV)

In this passage, which is the description of a wedding, the bride is led to the king. The king represents Jesus, and we, the Church, are the bride. And the King is enthralled by the beauty of the bride (verse 11)! But we seen in Ephesians 5.25-27 that Jesus doesn’t love the Church because of her beauty. he loves her to make us beautiful!

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)

At the last day, we, the Church, will be united with the King, “in love forever.” Our own, human, marriages, display a little bit of the joy that will be ours on that day. But we must be careful that our marriages “reveal Christ, not replace Christ.” In Him, we “have the only spousal love that will truly fulfill.” And if you are one of those blessed with a “spousal love” that you believe has fulfilled you, then consider that the “marriage” of the Church to Jesus, our King, will be even better.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you look on us as a spouse and lover, with passionate love and delight. I praise you that you can love like that, but confess that I do not live like someone who is loved like that. Make it a truth that controls how I act every day. Amen.”

It’s true, Father, that I don’t act like someone who is loved the way Jesus loves us. At least not consistently, I don’t. Help me move into this Holy Week with a better understanding of the love Christ has for us, and a heart to work that out into the life that I live in front of the world. Give me a better picture of that wedding day, Lord.
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us to love.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.” Job 5.8-9

Grace and peace, friends.

This, Too, Shall Pass

“Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Today is Sunday, March 29, 2020, the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Peace be with you!

Day 22,662

Fourteen days until Resurrection Sunday (next Sunday is Palm Sunday).

Today is R’s birthday! Happy birthday to you! I love you!

C and I went out for a walk, yesterday. That’s allowed, so don’t scold me. We did not come within six feet of another person, while walking. We did see a small group, probably all one family, that were not observing that caution. However, C and I were holding hands, so we weren’t observing it, either. But, hey. We live together, you know. It was a beautiful afternoon, and felt so good to be outside for a little while.

A little while later, though, I started feeling like I was catching a cold. That was a little scary. But C reminded me that we had gone outside and that I’m allergic to outside. Which has always been true, and it is allergy season. How convoluted is that, anyway? That this virus thing coincides with allergy season? The other day, I sneezed three times in a row, at work. I thought everyone was going to panic and make me go home.

I’m better this morning, though, and there was never any fever. I also had some mild to moderate nausea at bedtime. I think it was a combination of stuff that I ate for dinner. I won’t go into detail on that. It was probably a bad combination of things. And it’s also possible that the mayo is “sketchy.”

This morning, The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s House will be meeting on Zoom. As mentioned last week, we discovered, all too late, that Google Hangouts will only allow ten logins per session, so there were some who could not get on. But one of us is a teacher, and the teachers all have a Zoom account to use for school. So we are going to use that. If that turns out to be unethical, I’m willing to foot the bill for a Zoom account for the church. It’s only $15 a month. And hopefully we won’t need it for too many months.

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

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.
(Psalms 146:5)

Today I am grateful:
1. That my hope is in the Lord my God
2. For the occasional rebuke (and encouragement) from the righteous (Psalm 141.5)
3. That I am singing to You, because You have dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13.6)
4. That You are near, all the time
5. That “this, too, shall pass” (Psalm 42.5)

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
(Psalms 141:3-5)

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
(Psalms 115:1)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14)

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
(Luke 18:31-34)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

(Psalms 13:1-6)

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.

“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
(John 15:5-8)

“As we remain in Jesus and let His words dwell in us, we’re wired to our life source–Christ Himself. ‘This is to my Father’s glory,’ said Jesus, ‘that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples’ (v. 8).”
(Patricia Raybon, Our Daily Bread)

He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
(Deuteronomy 10:21)

But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
(Psalms 119:151)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:18)

Have you ever spent an hour looking for your phone, only to discover it was in your hand the whole time? Or lost your glasses, only to find that they are propped up on top of your head (or hanging around your neck on a chain)? These are amusing pictures. But think about our God, for a minute. How often do we search here and there, “hither and yon,” for the Lord? Then we find out that He was right there with us the whole time! He is near, always near.

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

(Psalms 42:1-5)

The psalmist’s belief in God is not suffering. However, he misses the experience of meeting with God (v. 2). “Human beings need the sense of God’s presence and love as much as the body pants after water (verse 1).” And, as we are finding out in these times, human beings need the presence of one another, as well. “Meeting” over an Internet app is a “Band-Aid.” It helps. But it’s not the same. I’m not suffering as much as some folks, because I am still going to work. So I have some human interaction during the day, but touching is off limits. No handshakes, no high fives, no hugs, even fist-bumps are “sketchy.” A few of us bump elbows sometimes. I’m not likely to touch my face with my elbow. In fact, I can’t. I’ve tried.

The psalmist, however, finds some encouragement in verse 5. It’s his version of “This, too, shall pass.” And that “is a fact about any condition in this changeful world. . . . Though our good things will inevitably be shaken, a believer’s difficult times will always end as well.”

“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Prayer: Lord, I praise you for being not just a remote, nebulous force but a living, personal God who can be known. I need your presence and love to sometimes soften my hard heart, strengthen my fainting heart, and humble my proud heart. Amen.”

Father, I rejoice in the truth that “this, too, shall pass.” In the words of the popular song, based on Psalm 42, “You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship Thee.” I long to worship You, again, in the presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Zoom is not enough. It will have to do, for now, but I long for the handshakes and the hugs (especially the hugs). Have mercy, O Lord. Let Your lovingkindness flow through us, this morning.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Gospel is Everything

Good morning. It is Sunday, March 29, 2015. Eight more days until Opening Day!! As I noted on my Facebook page, I realize that there is a game on the evening of April 5. Neither one of my teams are involved, so I’m not counting that one.

Today is Rachel’s birthday!! (Our oldest daughter.) Happy birthday, Rachel!!

Today is also Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, while the crowds laid palm branches down on the road in front of him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (See Matthew 21, Mark 11, and John 12.)

Today’s Word of the Day is movable feast. I like this because it has the word “feast” in it. 🙂 “A religious feast day which, though always on the same day of the week, does not occur on the same calendar date each year.” Easter is an example of such a “movable feast.” Another definition is offered: “In extended use: anything which may appear, occur, etc., at varying times or dates.”

Today is Smoke and Mirrors Day. This, of course, is a phrase that means someone is creating an illusion of some sort. Prestidigitators are said to use “smoke and mirrors” in some of their tricks. Politicians are also said to use “smoke and mirrors” as they attempt to convince anyone at all that they are telling the truth about anything. There is also a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, called Smoke and Mirrors. Not to mention an album by Imagine Dragons.

Yesterday was nice day, I believe. I went out with Christi to do the grocery shopping, along with another stop or two, and we had a nice time together. After groceries, we went to Fogata’s for lunch (our usual Saturday lunch stop), and then went back home to get ready for our evening worship and prayer gatherings. Both of those went very well, as did the Pastoral Assist Team meeting after church. The pastor’s sermon last night was, once again, pretty amazing. I will touch on some of that in a bit.

Today, in a little over an hour (which means I need to get cracking, here), we will be leaving to go to Mineral Wells to meet up with my parents, and Rachel and Justin. Today, as mentioned above, is Rachel’s birthday, and Mama’s is April 8. We will celebrate both of them today. We have gifts and cards for both.

It was on this date in 1973 that the last U.S. combat soldiers left South Vietnam. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Today’s birthdays include our daughter Rachel (psychology student), John Tyler (10th President), Cy Young (pitcher), William Walton (composer), E. Power Biggs (concert organist), Pearl Bailey (singer/actress), Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (we know him as the musician, “vangelis”), Eric Idle (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Denny McLain (pitcher), Terry Jacks (musician), Billy Thorpe (singer), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Brendan Gleeson (actor), Earl Campbell (football player), Patty Donahue (singer), Christopher Lambert (actor), Perry Farrell (musician, founder of Lollapalooza), Elle Pacpherson (model), Lucy Lawless (actress), Sue Foley (blues guitarist), Jennifer Capriati (tennis player), and Megan Hilty (actress).

Vangelis, probably most famous for the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire was born on this date in 1943, which makes him 72 today. My favorite thing of his, though, is is occasional collaboration with Jon Anderson, of Yes fame. There are a number of albums by Jon and Vangelis. My favorite piece in all of these is this one, called “Friends of Mr. Cairo.” It’s long, about twelve minutes, but worth a listen.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

Psalm 25:6-7

I stated, earlier, that I would make more reference to the pastor’s message from last night. The scripture for his message is Colossians 2:1-7.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

The message centered on the thought that we should be encouraged, and that we should walk in Christ, just as we received him, which was by grace through faith. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, and he spoke of the great struggle that he endured for those to whom he is writing. How can Paul’s struggling, or suffering, be an encouragement to us? There were a couple of answers.

1. The Gospel is worth suffering for, because it is real and it is true.
2. The Gospel sustains us during suffering. Paul was able to rejoice in his suffering, because his joy was rooted in the Gospel. The Gospel is enough.

C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” There are too many things that we could lose at any moment, in which we tend to place our happiness.

Why, then, is the Gospel not enough for us? Four reasons:

1. We look for joy in all the wrong places. Job, relationship, hobby, and so on.
2. We leave the Gospel behind. “I need a new book.” We have heard the Gospel so many times, that we begin to leave it behind, and proceed to enact number one, above, looking for truth in the latest book or whatever.
3. We try to pay it back, thereby ruining the Gospel. We need to learn to receive. There is no way that we could ever pay Jesus back for his sacrifice.
4. We don’t believe the Gospel. This one really hurts, because, as Christians, that is what we are supposed to believe! But when we go looking for joy in the wrong places, or leaving it behind, or trying to pay it back, we proclaim that we don’t truly believe it. It is, ultimately, about joy.

The Gospel is not just the foundation of our faith. It is not the ABC of Christianity. It is everything. It is A-Z.

When I began to consider the day I had at work on Friday, and my reaction to that day of frustration, I was broken. This message pointed out to me that I handled it all wrong. I did not believe the Gospel. I left it behind, and allowed anger and frustration to control me. My first thought, after realizing this, was, “I have a lot of work to do.” But then, I immediately stopped, realizing that that was exactly the wrong answer! The work is done! Jesus died and rose again on the third day! I don’t have to work! I simply have to believe and allow the Gospel to be all in all to me, in every circumstance of my life!

Easier said than done, I know. But it is the truth.

Father, help me to make this truth real in my life! I pray for no more days of failure like Friday. May your grace carry me through those days and those circumstances where, even though frustration might be legitimate, it does not have to rule me. Thank you for your faithful servant Jacob, and his willingness to deliver your message to us.

I pray for this day, that we might have safe travel to and from Mineral Wells, and a great time with family. Bless us as we celebrate birthdays, today.

How can we rejoice in suffering? Remember that the Gospel is everything, and have our joy rooted in the truth of the Gospel, not in anything that we may lose.

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace and Mercy

Good morning. Welcome to February. It’s February 1, 2012. This morning, it’s 53 degrees, with a projected high of 72. Nothing like last February 1, which saw a week of Arctic ice hit north central Texas and close schools for 4 days straight! No complaining here, that’s for sure. I like this kind of “winter.”

It’s also Wednesday, which means I will go to weigh in for the “Biggest Loser” contest where I work. Last week, I came in 17th out of 44, with a 1.65% weight loss. I have lost 7 pounds, since then, which is more than the previous week. In total, I have lost 12 pounds since January 15. I’m very happy about that.

Stephanie had a good session with her trainer last night. He even showed us a few tips on using some other types of resistance machines. She is doing very well, and we are very proud of her.


My Utmost For His Highest

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17

“We are nowhere commissioned to preach salvation or sanctification; we are commissioned to lift up Jesus Christ.” Oswald Chambers…always making radical statements like this. But what did Jesus say in John 12:32? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. We cannot draw people to Christ. We can only lift him up. He does the drawing. “It is a travesty to say that Jesus Christ travailed in Redemption to make me a saint.” We are constantly saying, “Jesus died for ME!” But Jesus came to redeem the world! Now, at this point, Chambers makes a statement that I’m not sure about. “We tax His energies from morning till night for things for ourselves–something for me to be delivered from!” While I agree that the average Christian spends most of his prayer time asking God for things for himself, can it really be said that anything truly taxes God’s “energies?” God does not grow weary. However, I think it speaks of spiritual maturity when less of our prayers are about ourselves. I’m sure I haven’t reached that point yet.

Paul’s passion was one thing. The Gospel of God. The only reason he ever even cited personal experience was just for illustration, and I recall one instance where he even said he was speaking as a madman as he rolled off a list of his experiences. Paul’s one passion was the Gospel of God. He preached Jesus, not sanctification. He lifted up Christ and let Christ do the drawing. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus.


Tabletalk Magazine

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8, 12

The first ten questions of the Heidelberg Catechism deal with the subjects of our fallenness and God’s wrath toward sin. This is an appropriate starting place, because it is necessary to understand the plight of man in this world. When we understand that we deserve only condemnation, it gives us a better understanding of what the Bible means when God is referred to as being “merciful and gracious” (see above Scripture). All around us, today, people want to talk about God’s mercy and grace, but without laying the foundation of the truth of our sinfulness. “Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward undeserving creatures, and mercy is His decision not to pour out wrath on all people but to provide for the forgiveness of some.” If we are not aware of the depth of our sinfulness, mercy and grace become either something we are owed, or something we don’t even need. After all, if we have not “committed cosmic treason in our sinning,” why do we need grace? “We must know the bad news about who we are as sinners before we can receive the good news of the gospel.”

Question 11 of the Catechism says, “Is not God then also merciful?” The answer begins with “God is indeed merciful.” Then there’s a “but,” because God is also just, and sin requires punishment. That punishment was taken by Jesus Christ, he whom we are to lift up (see the above reading from Chambers). So, in his mercy, God does not forget or ignore sin. He chooses not to hold it against us if we repent and believe.


The Bible Panorama

Matthew 21:1-22; Exodus 27-28

In Matthew 21, Jesus fulfills “Prophecy” (1-11) by riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. As the crowds spread palm branches in his path, we have the beginning of what we now called “Palm Sunday.” This is also referred to as the “Triumphal Entry.” Jesus then goes to the temple and removes “Profanity” as he casts out moneychangers (12-13). Many people take this to mean that nothing can ever be sold in the church building, but the context dictates that the sellers were ripping people off. Jesus calls them robbers. When the people gave Jesus “Praise” (14-17), the religious leaders were indignant. As Jesus heads for Bethany, he does something that leaves his disciples (and even people today) “Puzzled” (18-22). He sees a fig tree that us unfruitful and curses it. It immediately withers. The immediate context became one of faith and answered prayer. “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Exodus 27 begins with an “Acacia Altar” (1-8). This would be the altar for the burnt offerings. The “Curtained Court” of the tabernacle is described in verses 9-19. “Olive Oil” (20-21), pure and freshly pressed, is to be the source of light. The priests must make sure it never goes out.

In chapter 28, we see the “Calling of Priests” (1) Aaron and his sons are called out to minister before the Lord. The rest of the chapter describes the sacred “Clothing of Priests” (2-43), including the ephod, the breastplate, the Urim, and the Thummim. I believe the key thought in all of this is engraved on a plate that is to be attached to the turban: “Holy to the LORD.”


Father, as I pray to you today, I find that I don’t want to ask much for myself. Yet, I am still very needy. I have far to go on my journey with you, that I will acknowledge. I have not yet attained the level of spiritual maturity that I seek. I am far from it. Nevertheless, I feel the need to lift Christ up and exalt his name. He said that, if lifted up, he would draw people to him. Are we not lifting him up enough? Are we too busy preaching personal benefit? Are we too busy preaching about relationships? I pray that I would lift up the name of Christ in all that I do throughout each day. Let my speech be salted with grace. Let me obey the teachings in Philippians 2, doing nothing out of conceit or for personal gain, and treat others as better or more significant than myself.

I praise you for your grace and mercy. I know full well the depth and extent of my sin. Or perhaps I don’t. There is no way I could possibly see my sin in the same way that you do. I’m not sure I could handle it. It might just drive me insane. But you have shown grace and mercy toward us sinners, Lord. And I praise you for that. May I walk worthy.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi’s work day. I thank you that she is feeling better. I pray for Stephanie’s day today, as she meets with her teacher. She is getting closer and closer to finally being finished. I pray for Jennifer as she continues her schooling and has finals coming up. Help her to complete this course, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient.


May we truly understand our need for God’s grace and mercy, and, thereby, appreciate it all the more.

Grace and peace, friends.