Today is Thursday, the 2nd of March, 2023, in the first week of Lent.
May the peace of God, that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Day 23,730 (the number of days since I was born)
I am curious if anyone in the community knows what has happened to our photographer friend, Paul Militaru, in Romania. For about a week or so, now, whenever I try to visit his site, I have gotten this:
I am quite concerned about him. And I miss seeing his lovely photos.
I made it to choir practice, after work, last night. I’m glad I did. I enjoy singing with the group, but it makes for a long day. The rehearsals are important, right now, though, because we are planning a cantata for Good Friday, as well as an anthem for Easter morning. There is a Maundy Thursday service, but it doesn’t look like the choir is singing for that.
Yesterday’s work day was fine. Nothing unusual happened, and patrons were cleared out by closing time, so there weren’t any “lingerers” that kept us from closing up on time.
I don’t have much on my agenda for today. I’ll be cooking dinner tonight, since S had no Club Metro event on the first Thursday of each month. I will need to leave the house for a few minutes, at some point, to pick up a prescription, and, of course, to get Sonic drinks.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
You are righteous, O LORD, and your judgments are right. (Psalms 119:137 NRSV)
Dear Father in heaven, we ask you from our hearts to give us your peace. Grant that nothing may take your peace from us, and protect us from all that is evil. May we always be mindful that we should serve you in self-denial. May we be faithful on all our ways, looking to the great promise you have given each one of us. Keep us under your protection, as you have always done. We praise and thank you for all that comes to our hearts from you, making us full of trust and certain of your further help. Amen.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
(1 Peter 4:12-13 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the support and encouragement that comes from the community of saints
- that nothing on earth can take away the peace that God gives me
- for every good and perfect gift that comes from God
- for God’s sovereignty in this world
- for the Kingdom of God, which is here, now, available for anyone to enter in; this is the Gospel, the Good News
Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever. (Psalms 40:11 NRSV)
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody. (Psalms 57:7 NRSV)
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalms 55:22 NRSV)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
"Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our cares on you who cares for us: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of this love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen." (The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. (Psalms 1:1-2 NRSV)
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
(Ephesians 2:4-5 NRSV)
And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.
(1 Kings 8:10-11 NRSV)
“Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel according to all that he promised; not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke through his servant Moses. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us, but incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors. Let these words of mine, with which I pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires; so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. Therefore devote yourselves completely to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”
(1 Kings 8:56-61 NRSV)
When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.
(1 Kings 2:1-3 NRSV)
I said to you, “Have no dread or fear of them.”
(Deuteronomy 1:29 NRSV)
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one's house, it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7 NRSV)
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”
(Revelation 11:15 NRSV)
I started reading 1 Kings a few days ago, in my journey through the Bible. I have also been reading, along with my Bible reading, a compilation of Eugene H. Peterson’s introductions to the books of the Bible from The Message. The book is called The Invitation: A Simple Guide to the Bible. As he writes about 1 and 2 Kings (in the same chapter), he speaks greatly of God’s sovereignty. “Sovereignty, God’s sovereignty, is one of the most difficult things for people of faith to live out in everyday routines. But we have no choice: God is Sovereign. God rules.”
I recently had a brief discussion on Facebook with a college classmate on the subject of free will. This person, who is a marginal believer, at best, is often full of questions about things. I always enjoy reading his questions. On the surface, at times, they might appear mocking, but I don’t believe that is the intent (it might be, sometimes, granted). I think he is thinking. So, even if the thoughts are heading in the wrong direction, I think it is good that he is thinking about them.
On this subject, he is doubting whether we really have free will if all of God’s prophecies have to come true. And here, I’m sure Peterson’s statement that “we have no choice” would further confound him.
Nevertheless, what Peterson says is ultimately true. While individuals have free will (and my pendulum has swung back and forth on the whole free will/predetermination topic . . . I now call myself a recovering five-point Calvinist), as humanity, we are governed by God’s sovereignty in all things.
Peterson asks how we can live this out. "How do we manage to live believingly and obediently in and under this revealed sovereignty in a world that is mostly either ignorant or defiant of it? "Worship shaped by an obedient reading of Scripture is basic. We submit to having our imaginations and behaviors conditioned by the reality of God rather than by what is handed out in school curricula and media reporting."
In the stories of the Kings, we see failure after failure after failure. It wasn’t God’s idea for the people to have kings. But God, in His sovereignty, allowed them to do so. And it never worked very well at all.
“Human beings, no matter how well intentioned or gifted, don’t seem to be able to represent God’s rule anywhere close to satisfactorily. The books of Kings, in that light, are a relentless exposition of failure–a relentless five-hundred-year documentation proving that the Hebrew demand of God to ‘have a king’ was about the worst thing they could have asked for.”
But here’s the thing. What we also realize as we read through these two books is that “God continues to work his purposes and uses them in the work–doesn’t discard them, doesn’t detour around them; he uses them.” God uses them whether they want to be used or not, whether they even realize it or not.
Hezekiah had a little understanding of this when he said:
And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: "O LORD the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. So now, O LORD our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone." (2 Kings 19:15-16, 19 NRSV)
Now here is where the “free will” piece comes into play. “God’s rule is not imposed in the sense that he forces each man and woman into absolute conformity to justice and truth and righteousness. The rule is worked from within, much of the time invisible and unnoticed, but always patiently and resolutely there.” (I wish I had had this quote during the aforementioned discussion.)
When we understand God’s sovereignty in our world (and by “we” I mean Christ-followers, because they are the only ones who can truly understand it), “We quit spinning our wheels on utopian projects and dreams.” We can rest in the knowledge that, no matter how bad it looks out there, God is in control.
Now, in God’s sovereignty, He declares Jesus Christ King over His Kingdom. The verse from Revelation 11, up there is future. It is prophecy. The kingdom of this world has not yet become the kingdom of our Lord. But it will.
Jesus was the one who first announced the Kingdom of God in verses like Mark 1:14-15.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
(Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)
He announced it, and, at the end, He will accept the title of King of that Kingdom. In this, He also lets us know that God's rule, God's sovereignty, is "comprehensive, established over body as well as soul, over society as well as individuals . . . "He just as clearly repudiated the accustomed means by which that rule was exercised: he rejected the devil's offer of a position in the government, rebuked the brothers Boanerges for wanting to call down fire from heaven to incinerate their enemies, ordered Peter to put up his sword, and reassured Pilate that the governor's job was in no danger. Finally, to make sure no one missed the point, he arranged that his coronation take place on a cross." (These quotes from Eugene H. Peterson, Reversed Thunder, quoted in God's Message for Each Day)
By the way, Reversed Thunder may be the best book on Revelation I’ve ever read.
This was long. I apologize for that. If you’re still reading, good on you! 🙂
My point is that, no matter what we see with our eyes or hear with our ears, God is Sovereign, and His Kingdom is alive and well. And His Kingdom, thanks to Jesus Christ, His life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection, is open to all.
Father, I thank You for these truths. I praise You for Your sovereignty in our world. I praise You that Your will will be done, on earth as in heaven. And I am so very thankful for Jesus Christ, who will one day be crowned King over this Kingdom. I cannot wait to be part of that worship service!
All hail King Jesus!! All hail Emmanuel! King of Kings Lord of Lords Bright Morning Star And throughout eternity I'll sing Your praises And I'll reign with You Throughout eternity!
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.