“Put Your Hope in God”

Today is Monday, the fifteenth of August, 2022, in the 20th week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,531

Only FOUR days until S turns 29!

In spite of the forecast, we only had a high of 99, yesterday, for our fifth consecutive day of below-100 temperatures. The record high for that date is 102. The ten-day forecast now only shows three days at 100 or higher (today being one of those), and, toward the end of the ten days, there are three days below 90! In addition, we have a chance of rain Thursday morning, as well as August 22-24.

The Texas Rangers now have a two-game winning streak, as they beat the Mariners 5-3, yesterday, also winning the series. They are now 51-63 for the season, still in third place in the AL West, still a half game ahead of the Angels. They are 23 games out of first place and 9.5 out of a Wild Card spot. They begin four game home series against the Athletics, tonight, followed by an unusual four-game away series against the Twins, which goes from Friday to Monday. The Rangers have 48 games left in the season.

The Red Sox . . . wait, what??

The Red Sox BLANKED the Yankees, last night, on ESPN, 3-0! They are now 57-59 for the season, still in last place in the AL East, 15.5 out of first place, and 4.5 out of a Wild Card spot. They won the series against the Yankees. Things are looking up. They are off today, and begin a three game series in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. This is followed by a weekend series in Baltimore, which could turn out to be an important series for both teams. The Sox have 46 games left.

As it stands today, Toronto, Seattle, and Tampa Bay have the three Wild Card spots.

The Dodgers lost a game, but are still the best MLB team, with a 79-34 record. The Nationals also lost, and remain the worst team, at 38-78. The Braves now have the longest winning streak, at six games, while the Athletics continue with the longest losing streak, at eight games. The Dodgers have outscored their opponents by 247 runs, while the Nationals have been outscored by 210. The Rangers are now at -2, and the Sox improved to -32.

In about an hour and a half, S and I will be leaving to take Princess (guinea pig) to the vet to have her eye checked out, and also for a possible ear infection. The birthday girl has requested Lone Star BBQ for dinner tonight, so our traditional Monday night chili will be postponed for the second week in a row. Last week, we put it off because of my colonoscopy. We had a late lunch, and I didn’t feel like cooking that night.

I don’t have any other plans for the day, other than folding some laundry and probably running the robot vacuum.

Oh, and I might mention that our son-in-law’s birthday is the same day as S’s. So cards are being mailed today, to him. He already has his main gift, which arrived Saturday. Or maybe yesterday. I’m not sure, actually.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we praise your name because we are allowed to bear witness to what we see and hear, to all the good you have given us. May we become firmly and faithfully united, awaiting the glorious day when your almighty hand will be victorious and will bring an end to the many evils among us. On that day you will be praised throughout all nations and everything will be clothed anew, to the glory of your great name. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.
(Colossians 1:3-6a NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the community of saints and the love that is shared between us
2. for the hope stored up for us in heaven
3. for the promise that all tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be wiped away in eternity
4. that God hears His people when they call, and rescues them from all their troubles
5. for the true freedom that comes in Christ, and the "easy yoke" of Jesus

Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:50-51 ESV)

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 43:5 NIV)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
(Revelation 21:4 NLT)

The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.
(Psalms 34:17 NLT)

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign LORD rescues us from death.
(Psalms 68:19-20 NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
(Galatians 5:1 NLT)

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.
(1 Samuel 12:23 ESV)


In the first Scripture passage, above, Jesus tells one of His new disciples, “You will see greater things than these.” That was both a promise and an encouragement.

The psalmist, in Psalm 43, questioned his own soul. “Why are you downcast?” he asked his soul. Perhaps this is a question that we might ask ourselves, when we find ourselves waxing pessimistic.

I’m a pessimist, at heart. I’m always expecting the worst. I’ve gotten better, over the years, but I find myself worrying over situations that may or may not even happen. And when I have an event coming up, especially one I’m not looking forward to, I might even lose sleep over it. I have a friend who is much, much worse about that then I.

What is the solution? The psalmist answers his own question. “Put your hope in God.”

While that may seem over-simplified, it is worthy of consideration. There is great hope in God and in His promises. Consider the next verse, the one from Revelation. Therein, we find the promise that God will utterly wipe out things like tears, death, sorrow, and pain. I find great comfort in this, not so much for myself as much as in regard to loved ones who have gone on before me.

“Put your hope in God.”

Back to the Psalms. The Lord hears His people; He rescues them from all their troubles. He carries us in His arms; He rescues us from death!

“Put your hope in God.”

And then Jesus gives us that bit about His “easy yoke.” What does that even mean? The further forward in time we go, the more difficult this may be for younger generations to grasp. The “yoke” was a wooden bar that went across the shoulders of two oxen, who pulled the plough to till the ground.

If we step into that yoke with Jesus, He basically shoulders the brunt of the load, because He is infinitely stronger than we. And He says that His yoke is “easy.” If it is easy for Him, then it should be beyond easy for us, if we allow Him to take the load.

“Put your hope in God.”

Ironically, even if we put ourselves in this yoke with Jesus, He has set us free. It is in joining ourselves with Him that we become free. I realize that this seems like foolishness to the “natural man,” but there is great truth and wisdom here. It is when we separate ourselves from Christ and His “easy yoke” that we place more burden and bondage upon ourselves.

“Put your hope in God.”

So my prayer today, is that I, along with all of you, the community of saints, can walk in this freedom, this “easy yoke” of Jesus, and dispense with our pessimism, our negative thinking, our worrying that things are going to go badly.

Things probably are going to go badly. That’s one thing that God never promised wouldn’t happen. But, in the end, things will be (and are) better in His Kingdom than we could ever imagine.

Today's sources:
YouVersion Bible reading plan
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, help us to put our trust in You. You have given us all of these great and precious promises, these wonderful words of life from Jesus, and yet we somehow insist on wallowing in our distress and pessimism, worrying about things that may not even happen. Have mercy, Father. Help us to put our trust in You.

Give us more of a desire for fellowship with You, that we might spend more time in prayer, both for our fellow saints, and for a deeper knowledge and intimacy with You. Deliver us from our self-made troubles, Lord. Not all of our troubles are self-made, but many of them are.

You wait to shower us with blessings, and all that is needed is for us to turn our faces toward You, open our arms and hearts and hands to You and receive. I know this sounds a lot like “name-it-claim-it,” but You know my heart, and You know that is not what I mean. I’m not talking about material wealth, although that blessing is not ruled out. I’m simply referring to the blessing of walking in life with You, in that easy yoke of Jesus, and walking in true freedom; freedom from doubt; freedom from worry; freedom from legalistic meanderings that yank us off of the true path of freedom in You.

Help us, O God, to truly put our hope in You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
(Psalms 33:18-19 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

To Know Him is to Love

Today is Saturday, the thirteenth of August, 2022, in the nineteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,529

Only SIX more days until S turns 29!

Friday the thirteenth falls on Saturday, this month!

We had our third consecutive day of below-100 temperatures, yesterday, as the high only reached 97 again, in our area. The record high for that date is 104, so we are well below that. Today, we are expecting 98, with virtually no chance of rain. The ten-day forecast shows six days below 100, and some chance of rain next weekend. In fact, my favorite weather site shows next Sunday and Monday to have highs of only 92. We don’t even consider that “hot” around here.

I didn’t do much of anything, yesterday, but I did cook a pretty good dinner. Well, the slow cooker cooked it, but I mixed it up and arranged it. It was Slow Cooker Chicken and Stuffing, from Emily Bites. It was a big success with the family, and, I’ll confess, quite tasty. Relatively easy, too, as it only has five ingredients. Chicken, a box of stuffing mix, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and chicken broth. We’ll be doing that one again, next week.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Seattle Mariners, 6-2. Ironically, they were only outhit 11-9. But that is typical of the Rangers. They tend to get a lot of hits, but are unable to get the runners to home. They are now 49-63 for the season, and still in third place in the AL West, but only by a half game, now. The Angels are on the verge of catching up with them. They are 23 games out of first place, and ten games out of a Wild Card spot. They play the Mariners again, this evening, at 6:15 CDT (that’s a strange start time), in Arlington.

The Boston Red Sox BEAT THE YANKEES! 3-2 in ten innings! This makes them 56-58 for the season, but still in las place in the AL East. They are 15.5 out of first place, and four games out of a Wild Card spot. They play the Yankees again, today, in Boston.

Speaking of Wild Cards, if the playoff were to begin today, here’s how it would look. The Yankees, Guardians, and Astros lead the AL divisions. The Mariners, Blue Jays (BOO), and the Orioles (!!) currently occupy the three Wild Card spots. Notice that the AL East still has two of those three Wild Cards. In the NL (which I really don’t care beans about), the Dodgers, Mets, and Cards are leading their divisions, and the Wild Card spots are occupied by the Braves, the Phillies (!?!), and the Padres.

The LA Dodgers, now having won eleven straight games (didn’t they just get Joey Gallo??), continue to lead all three categories that I track, here (78-33, W11, +241). The Mets are better than the Yankees (picture me singing that in a mocking tone of voice); the Mets are better than the Yankees. The Washington Nationals continue to be the worst in two of the three categories. Their record is 37-77, and their run differential is -205. The Athletics have the longest current losing streak, at six games. THREE of the teams in the AL East (Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays) have a three game losing streak! Hee. As fun as that is, it would be a lot more fun if my favorite teams would start winning.

Today, I really don’t have any plans. C and I might do something later . . . not sure. I’m planning to make burgers for dinner tonight, but I have no idea what lunch will look like. I have groceries scheduled for delivery at noon. I didn’t get them yesterday, because I wanted to wait and see how last night’s dinner turned out.

On to the important stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for the trust you have put into our hearts. We thank you for all the signs of your goodness that comfort us when we are in great need and when many deaths take place around us and touch each of us. We thank you for comforting us, for always giving us fresh courage wherever we may be, and for giving us hope for other people, who also struggle hard to find what is good. O Lord God, bless our world with power from on high, with your gifts that bring good to many people. Bless our world. Save it from sin, from ruin, from every kind of despair. Give your blessing, O Lord our God! As you bless us, so bless all the world, to the glory of your name. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. “I, even I, am he who comforts you.”
(Isaiah 51:11-12 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the signs of the goodness of God that comfort us when we are in need
2. for the courage to go on in life when things around us seem to be crumbling
3. for the hope that we will "enter Zion with singing"
4. that God's thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours
5. that God demands/commands that we love

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 ESV)

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:11-14 ESV)

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.
(Zephaniah 2:3 ESV)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
(John 15:12-14 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:9 ESV)


So here’s the thing. It’s really a no-brainer, yet so many of us seem to be struggling to brain it.

God commands that we love; God demands that we love. It is not negotiable; it is not optional.

His ways are infinitely higher than ours; His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. “Remembering this will prevent our being content with our knowledge and thoughts concerning the Word of God. Instead, we will wait on God to know His mind.” (Andrew Murray)

There are two things that faith in God’s Word should teach us. Ignorance and expectation. “Many of God’s children, who by neglecting to continually cultivate a childlike spirit and by resting on their creed or personal Bible study, have spiritual truth hidden from them and never become spiritual adults. Allow a deep sense of your own lack of knowledge and a general distrust in your own power to understand the things of God to characterize your Bible study.” (Murray)

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
(Matthew 11:25-26 ESV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 18:1-4 ESV)

The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know. And the more that I know that I don’t know, the greater my expectation of revelation from God’s Holy Spirit. “The greater our distrust of our own comprehension of the thoughts of God, the greater our expectation will be.” (Murray)

When we realize and acknowledge how much higher God’s thoughts and ways are than ours, perhaps, then, we can learn to obey His commands to love one another. It is commanded. It is not suggested. It is not negotiable, and, furthermore, if we are not loving, God’s Word tells us that we do not know Him.

Period.

Today's sources:
YouVersion Bible reading plan
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, we need Your help. Have mercy on us, please! Teach us love. Please, Father, make your people realize that these commands are necessary; they are essential, and they are not optional. We are not loving people; we are not sacrificing or laying down our lives for people, so how can we possibly believe that we are “friends” of Jesus?

The Gospel is here; the Gospel is now; Jesus Christ has made Your kingdom, a Kingdom of love and light, available to anyone who desires to walk in it. It is not a Kingdom of war and vengeance; it is not a Kingdom of everyone fighting for their “rights” and “freedoms.” The story, the Gospel, that great story that we have to tell to the nations, is “a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light” (H. Ernest Nichol).

My soul hurts, Father, as I look around me and see the lack of love and compassion being spread by those would call themselves Your children. Please help us, Father. The outside world is looking with scorn on those who call themselves “Christian,” but don’t follow the teachings of Christ. This drives them away from You instead of drawing them toward You. Help us to spread the true Gospel, of peace and light, Lord.

For truly, if we do not love, we do not know You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
(1 John 4:7-8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

What Is Fruit?

Today is Thursday, the fourth of August, 2022, in the eighteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,520

Fifteen days until S turns 29!

We hit a high of 104 yesterday (predicted 105), for our 38th day of 100+ for this summer, and fourth in the current streak. It looks like it was a new record high for the day, as the previous record was 102. Today’s high is predicted to be 104, as is tomorrow’s. However, Saturday is currently forecast at 99, and there are three days next week that may be below 100. There is also a chance of rain, possibly, next week.

The Texas Rangers were swept by the Orioles, as they lost, yesterday afternoon, 6-3. Martin Perez did not get the loss in the game, as that was accomplished by bullpen pitcher, Jose Leclerc, who has been disastrous, lately. So the Rangers are now 46-58 for the season, but somehow still in third place in the AL West, now 21 games out of first, and nine games out of the Wild Card race, which is slowly moving out of reach, I believe. Frankly, I sincerely believe it is time for a new manager. They begin a four-game weekend series with the Other Sox tonight.

The Red Sox lost to the Astros, yesterday, 6-1, but won the series. It was the first series win in over a month. They are now back at .500, 53-53, seventeen games out of first, and three games out of the Wild Card race. They begin a four-game series with the Royals tonight.

The Dodgers remain the best MLB team, with a 71-33 record, and now have the most wins of any MLB team. The Nationals are still the worst, at 36-70. The current win streak belongs to the Padres, at five straight wins, and the worst losing streak belongs to the Rockies, also five straight games. The Dodgers have also overtaken the Yankees in run differential, now at +208. The Nationals are still the worst in that category, as well, at -172. The Rangers have dropped to -3, and the Red Sox to -20.

It’s Thursday, so I will be at the library computer center from 11:15-8:15, today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Look, Listen, Be, Pray,” by Daryl Madden

Look until you see
Become fully aware
Through the light to view
All surrounding here

Listen ’til you hear
A whisper deep within
To the still small voice
Of stirring to begin

Be until you feel
His grace to impart
His overwhelming love
Let it fill your heart

Pray until you know
His calling to reveal
How God is blessing you
With His love to share

I love the order, here. I really like how “pray” comes after all of the other actions. We are so quick to simply start talking before we look or listen, or even take time to just “be.” Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.


Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for the blessings you give us on earth, for it is through your gifts and work, and through the work of your children, that we can believe and be saved. Protect us here in our household. Let us make allowances for one another in love and spare no effort to maintain unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace. Grant us new strength and new gifts whenever we need them on the path you have set for us. Grant that we may rejoice and trust in you until we reach the goal. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the blessings we receive from the Lord on earth, so many of which come from our brothers and sisters in Christ
2. for the protection of God in our lives
3. for the bond of peace in the unity of the Spirit
4. for the "light momentary affliction" that is "preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4)
5. for the fruit of the Spirit; may I be faithful in exhibiting that

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:6-8 ESV)

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:10 ESV)

“Serve nobly, wish for nothing else, and fear nothing else: and let Love freely take care of herself! For Love rewards to the full, even though she often comes late. Let no doubt or disappointment ever turn you away from performing acts of virtue; let no ill success cause you to fear that you yourself will not come to conformity with God. You must not doubt this . . .” (Hadewijch of Antwerp)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
(John 15:16-17 ESV)

What is “fruit?”

When I was younger, it was hammered into me that “fruit” meant new Christians. To the “evangelical” mindset, the only way to “bear fruit” is to go out and talk to people about Jesus. I’ve even heard people claim that the Bible says we are supposed to tell “everyone we meet” about Jesus.

No. It certainly does not.

And that mindset creates a pressure on an individual that I am convinced God never intended. The Gospel is not about peer pressure. The Gospel is not about checking off a box so that we can feel as though we have fulfilled a requirement.

The Gospel is about walking in God’s Kingdom, which is here, now (ever since Jesus arrived on earth), and available to anyone who desires to walk in it.

“Fruit” can mean a number of things. It certainly can refer to new disciples. Jesus did tell His disciples to go make disciples. But a “disciple” is more than just a new convert. Making disciples is hard work. It takes relationship, which telling “everyone we meet about Jesus” does not. Modern-day evangelism seems to think that just ambushing someone with the information that they’re going to hell and Christ died for their sins is all they need to do.

Andrew Murray would not agree, either. Of course, Murray was a huge proponent of intercessory prayer. He wrote a number of books on that subject, and believed that “intercession is the primary power by which God moves and opens heaven.”

I believe that intercession is “fruit.” I also believe that an individual’s character is “fruit.” Up there, Paul said, in Galatians, that we should “do good to everyone.” That is fruit. Paul also gave us a list, in Galatians, of what he called the “fruit of the spirit.”

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Gentleness
Faithfulness
Self-control

Right there is some very attractive fruit, beloved.

And if we were to exhibit that fruit to “everyone we meet,” and “do good to everyone,” we might see a lot more disciples as a result.

That verse up there, from 2 Corinthians 5 should scare us. Paul declares, there, that we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. ALL. I distinctly remember hearing people proclaim, back in my college days, that Christians would not have to face judgment. That’s not what I see in Scripture.

And it is there, that our fruit will be examined, I believe. I don’t believe it will be about whether we “get in” or not. That’s already been decided. That verse is talking about reward, or receiving “what is due” for our actions . . . for our fruit.

Did we do good to everyone? Did we, as Micah prophesied, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly? Did we exhibit, consistently, the fruit of the Spirit?

Or did we complain about every little thing? Did we demand our “rights” and “freedoms?” Did we cast hatred toward everyone we didn’t agree with? Were we abusive toward people?

There’s another little passage in 2 Corinthians 4 that I didn’t share yet. I think now is a good place for it.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
(2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

Jars of clay are easily broken; they are very fragile. They have imperfections. To say that we are “jars of clay” is not a compliment, just as when Jesus called us “sheep.” But it’s fair and true.

I am easily broken. I am imperfect. And all of this is to keep me humble. And to help me to remember that the “surpassing power belongs to God.”

Today's sources:
YouVersion reading plan
Daily Guideposts 2022
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I pray for Your help to bear more acceptable fruit in Your Kingdom. I acknowledge that, while fruit is definitely more disciples, it is also character traits that I could most definitely do a better job of portraying.

But it pains me, daily, to see the kind of attitudes and actions being displayed by people who claim to belong to You. Conversations that I have had with people who are either not believers at all or struggling believers have been good examples of the truth of this. The attitudes and actions of people who claim to belong to Christ are not drawing people to You; not creating new disciples; not bearing good fruit.

We simply are not being a sweet aroma to You in Christ, not as a unified body. So I pray that Your Spirit would surround us and teach us, Father. I pray that the Spirit of Christ would inhabit Your people and show us how to live and bear good fruit, and produce that pleasing aroma to You.

And if I am wrong, please show me, Father! I am humbly open to correction. All of my thoughts and opinions, though, are coming from reading Your Word and reading others’ commentary on it. As well as from observations in the world around me.

Help us, help me, to do the things that Micah said, to do justice, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly before You. Remind us, daily, that we are but jars of clay, that we are dust, and that we are merely sheep.

Even so, please come soon, Lord Jesus!


"Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father."
Charles de Foucauld

Grace and peace, friends.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Today is Friday, the twenty-ninth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,514

21 days until S turns 29!

Yesterday’s high hit 102, just as predicted, making it our 33rd day of 100+ temps and thirteen consecutive days. It is predicted to be 101 today. There still has been no rain, now at 55 days.

The Texas Rangers managed a win, last night, and not only did they win, they shut out the LA Angels, 2-0. The pitchers only gave up five hits, in total. This makes the Rangers 44-54 for the season. They are still in third place in the AL West, twenty games out of first, and nine out of second. They are 8.5 out of the Wild Card race. They play the Angels again tonight.

The Red Sox got a win, as well, beating the Guardians 4-2, to put them back at .500, with a 50-50 record. They are still in last place, though, in the AL East, a half game behind the somewhat surging Orioles. The Sox are seventeen out of first and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

The Dodgers continue to be a few percentage points ahead of the Yankees, with a 66-32 record, for the best MLB record. The Nationals, now at 34-66, are holding down the cellar. There’s a three-way tie for the longest current win streak, at three games, with the New York Mets, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the (wait, what??) Oakland Athletics. The Giants finally won a game, so the Pittsburgh Pirates now have the longest current losing streak, at four games. The Yankees continue to have the best run differential (+197), but only by five runs. The Nationals still have the worst, at -160. The Rangers are back at +5, and the Red Sox slightly improved to -14. They’re still feeling the effect of that 28-5 loss to Toronto.

I’m off work today, as I am every Friday, and C is working from home, so we are all at home, which is quite nice.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for the love you show us so that we may be delivered from weakness and sickness, from sin and misery, and may be given strength to serve you, our Father in heaven. Bless us in all we have on our hearts, that through your mercy the battle of life may be fought aright. Bless us in our times and grant that justice may gain the upper hand and we may live in peace, praising you into all eternity. Protect us, your children, forevermore. May your name be honored, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
True, he died on the cross in weakness, but he lives by the power of God; and we who share his weakness shall by the power of God live with him in your service. 
(2 Corinthians 13:4 NEB)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the power of God, by which Christ lives, and in which we live
2. for the love of God, by which we are delivered from all weaknesses
3. for Jesus's question, asked twice in Mark 10, "What do you want me to do for you?"
4. that prayer is more than just talking to God and more than just a way to get things from Him
5. that confession can bring about positive change in our spiritual lives

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
(1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV, emphasis mine)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
(James 5:16 NIV)

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:8-10 NIV)

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
(Isaiah 58:11 NIV)

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
(Psalms 92:12-13 NIV)

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
(Luke 8:15 NIV)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV)

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
(Luke 11:1 NIV)

We all know the result of that request that Jesus’s disciples made. In both Matthew and Luke, we see that the result is what is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”
(Luke 11:2-4 NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'”
(Matthew 6:9-13 NIV)

There are a lot of other instructions surrounding that model prayer in Matthew’s Gospel, including that scary bit about forgiving others so that God will forgive us. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus continues with the passage that gives us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

In spite of the fact that prayer is so simple that a child can do it, it is still something that we need to be taught; we have to learn the more intricate ways of prayer. It is much deeper than, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” or “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.” It is deeper than asking God to “bless” everybody. There is certainly nothing wrong with those prayers, mind you.

Andrew Murray says that prayer is “the highest and holiest work to which anyone can rise. it is fellowship with the unseen and most Holy One.” And no one was better at that than Jesus. So the disciples were right on track to ask Him to teach them to pray.

“Through prayer, God has given to everyone the right to take hold of Him and His strength.” (Andrew Murray) And, we must realize, prayer is so much more than just a way to get stuff from God.

It is interesting the responses one gets when one asks for prayer requests. I do this every day on Facebook. “What can I pray for you today?” I would say that about half of the responses are not prayer requests at all, but simply information. “I have _______ surgery next month.” Okay, great. But what do you want me to pray? “We’re going on a trip next week.” Okay, but what do you want me to pray? God already knows you’re having surgery and going on a trip.

One of my favorite stories about Jesus and His interactions with people as He was on His way to one place or another is this one:

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
(Mark 10:46-52 NIV, emphasis mine)

It’s actually interesting that Jesus asks this question twice in that chapter.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
(Mark 10:35-36 NIV, emphasis mine)

I love it when people actually tell me what they desire for me to pray, rather than just give me information. I mean, I can wing it, I can guess what they want me to pray, but I’d rather them say it, themselves. Because, in my opinion, a “prayer request” is actually a prayer, itself.

So, back to that word from Andrew Murray, about prayer being the “highest and holiest work.” If we consider it for all that it is, and not just a way to get things from God, we see that this is true. Because, even though Jesus asked that question, “What do you want me to do for you?” it is more than just that.

Prayer is more than us talking. I sometimes wonder if God ever feels like saying, “Would you shut up for a few seconds and let ME talk??” That is one of the points of the spiritual disciplines that employ silence. Silence, solitude, meditation, contemplation, all of these are tools that we can use to listen to God, rather than talk to Him.

Another piece of the prayer puzzle is confession. Now this is a tricky subject, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it. But I will say that I don’t believe we have to constantly be in fear that there is some unknown “unconfessed sin” that we have forgotten about that is going to keep our prayers from being heard. I have actually heard preachers say that “If you have unconfessed sin in your life, God won’t hear your prayers.”

As the fairy godmother in Cinderella said, “poppycock and twaddle.” (That’s the Rodgers & Hammerstein version.) I mean, we certainly cannot afford to play fast and loose with sin and confession, but I cannot for one second believe that our God is that petty and capricious. And what about that bit about how Jesus’s work on the Cross is supposed to have taken care of all of our sin, forever?

If it seems like this has rambled, I’m sorry. There is a theme, here, and it’s prayer, and learning it from Jesus. It is part of the process of cultivating a healthy spiritual life in Christ. God’s Word is also part of that. So just as a garden or farm cannot survive without proper cultivation, so our spiritual lives need time in prayer (including confession), and time in God’s Word. And, as discussed in a previous entry, those two both feed off of each other and support each other. Prayer prepares us for reading God’s Word, and God’s Word prepares us for prayer.

Today's sources:
Pray A Word A Day (confess)
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, thank You for the privilege and responsibility of prayer. How amazing that You even care enough to hear us! How wonderful that You, the Creator of the universe, bow down to listen to the words of Your creation! And, as Jesus’s disciples asked, I, too, am constantly asking, “Teach me to pray!” As much as I engage in the discipline, I know that there is so much I still need to learn, and depths to which I have barely begun to plunge.

I do pray for the strength to keep myself from being entangled in things of the world, in sin and selfishness. I do know that these things hinder prayer, but not so much because I might not confess them. After all, You know my heart and You know ever word that is going to come out of my mouth long before I say it. But when my heart holds on to sinful thoughts or feelings, that is when my prayers suffer. Because if I am counting something unworthy as being worth my attention, I am not paying attention to You.

Help me to constantly be thinking about Jesus’s words, “What do you want me to do for you?” It is possible that I don’t pray enough for or about myself. But at the same time, I want my prayers for myself to be more spiritual in nature than material or physical. In all things, may I constantly be aware of the sufficiency of Your grace. And may people be inspired to be more specific when they request prayer. May Your Spirit intervene in their own spirits, that they might tell me exactly what they want me to pray.

I continue praying for rain and relief from heat, not only in our area, but in the whole world, anywhere that is currently suffering from extreme heat and drought conditions. Have merch, Lord!

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.

His Indescribable Gift!

Today is Tuesday, the twelfth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,497

Today is my four-hour evening shift at the library, doing shelving. It’s always unpredictable, to some degree, because I never know how many carts will be waiting for me, nor do I know what kind of material I will be shelving tonight. Could be “youth books” (that’s what we call children’s books), could be adult books, could be DVDs and audio books, or it could be adult books that will go on the “new books” shelf. Occasionally (but rarely) there are no carts in the hallway, so I seek out work from one of the other librarians, who might need help with something.

And then, about the last hour, I walk back and forth between the shelves, looking for books that have been taken off the shelf and just laid back down any old where. All of these misplaced books are collected and scanned in our system as “mark used” (this tells the librarians that there was at least some interest in the material, even if it didn’t get checked out), and then, if time allows, re-shelved.

If you remember, a couple weeks ago, I had to take Mama to the dentist for a broken tooth. Well, that crown is in, and we will go tomorrow morning at 9:00 to get that placed on her tooth. They tried to schedule us this afternoon, and we said, “nope.” Then they tried Thursday afternoon, and we said, “nope,” because I work all day on Thursday. We said Wednesday or Friday. They said, “We don’t see patients on Friday.”

Must be nice. We used to talk about “bankers’ hours.” Now we talk about dentists’ hours, because they seem to be able to work whenever they want to. However, in their defense, it takes a special kind of person to actually want to stick their fingers into peoples’ disgusting mouths. Ugh. Either that, or they are sadists, who enjoy inflicting various pains on people.

The Texas Rangers had a field day with Oakland, last night, in Arlington. The final score was 10-8, but it was really much worse than that. The Athletics managed to score six runs in the top of the eighth inning. The highlight of the game, though, in my opinion, was when rookie Josh Smith hit his first major-league home run. Which happened to be an inside-the-park home run. Click on that link, and you can watch it. So the Rangers are now 40-44, in third place in the AL West, 15.5 out of first, but only 3.5 out of the Wild Card race, now. They will play Oakland again, tonight, at 7:05 CDT.

The Red Sox were embarrassed by the Rays, last night, losing 10-5. This makes the Sox 47-40 for the season, still in second place in the AL East, but only by a half game. they are 14.5 out of first, and currently in the first Wild Card spot. They will play Tampa again, tonight, in Tampa, at 7:10 EDT.

Oakland continues to be the worst MLB team, now at 29-59, and are the only team that has yet to win 30 games. As we watched last night’s game, I heard one of the TV announcers say that they were setting all kinds of records for how bad they are, this season. One of them said they reminded him of the ’72 Rangers. Hahaha. Yes, I remember that team. As for winning streaks, hold on to your hats. The Seattle Mariners and (are you sitting down?) the Baltimore Orioles both have eight-game win streaks going on! And the Mariners are coming to Arlington Thursday for a four-game weekend series. There are five teams with four-game losing streaks: Toronto Blue Jays (YAY!!!), LA Angels (YAY!!!), Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Nationals. The Nationals continue to have the worst run differential, at -142. The Rangers have improved to +14, and the Sox are currently at +46.

For those of you who are of the praying persuasion, please pray for some rain for parts of Texas (north central). We have not had rain for a long time, now, and temps are hitting triple digits on a daily basis, and there is no rain in the forecast for the next ten days.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Almighty God, keep watch over us and lead us fully into the life of Jesus Christ. Let your Son Jesus Christ become truly living within us so that we may be full of joy because we belong to the realm of heaven and may live every day with faith in him. We thank you for all you have let us experience. We thank you with all our hearts that in your great compassion you have showered so much good on us who are not yet perfect in faith. Keep our hearts in the light, we pray. Keep us patient and dedicated, for then more and more can be done among us poor children of earth, to the glory of your name. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
(Galatians 2:20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the unending joy that comes from having the Spirit of Christ within us
2. that, even though I am far from perfect, the Father continues to shower me with good
3. that, in Christ, we are bound together with all the saints, "with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:2)
4. that, because of Christ, I am cleansed from all sin, in perpetuity
5. for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Living the Greatest Commandment, by Daryl Madden

The greatest commandment
All one of agreeing
To love our Lord our God
With all our heart and being

We can believe it
And know that it’s true
But how do we live it
It seems so hard to do

We can see this truth
If our souls are aware
That our God is love
And He is everywhere

A pray to the Spirit
With vision it brings
Let me see and love
Our God in all things

I somehow missed this poem from yesterday, and it’s a great one. It highlights one of those two greatest commandments of which Jesus spoke. As you are aware, this is what I have been “preaching” for a while, this one, and the second, which is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Please visit the link above to see more of Daryl’s poetry.


Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ESV emphasis mine)


The word for today, from Pray A Word A Day, is cleanse.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
(Hebrews 10:19-23 NIV)

The book only cited verse 22. I chose to expand that, for a couple of reasons. First, verse 22 is part of a longer sentence, and second, that longer sentence explains the reason for verse 22.

We get dirty, in life. Some of us more so than others. I don’t roll around in the grass and dirt like I did as a child. Shoot, I don’t even like to get my hands dirty, now.

But do I feel the same about my spirit? I try to keep my spirit cleansed, and some days, I try harder than others to avoid things that would soil my spirit. But here’s the thing. According to Scripture, my heart is sprinkled to cleanse me from a guilty conscience. There are other passages that proclaim that my sin is gone, erased completely from the record, never to be remembered again.

At least not by God. Would that I could intentionally forget things! I still remember sins from elementary school!!

David was painfully aware of his sin, and desperately cried out to God to remove it from him.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
(Psalms 51:1-3 ESV)

Thanks to the blood of Jesus, I am perpetually cleansed. This does not give me license to do what I want. I am still responsible for my actions, and need to constantly be in a state of repentance and confession, just like a song Twyla Paris once sang, “I am here to confess the same old sin.”

And this fits so very well with yesterday’s word (mine), because it is because of the fact that I belong to Him that I am cleansed in perpetuity.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)


O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
(Psalms 130:7 ESV)

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:9-10 ESV)

With Him, there is steadfast love (also known, in some cases, as mercy), and with Him, there is “plentiful redemption.” I decided to look up that word “plentiful.” The KJV renders it “plenteous,” a similar word. The NIV says “full redemption.” NLT says “His redemption overflows.” And Eugene Peterson says it is “generous.”

It is my opinion that the NLT is closest (based on my very limited knowledge of Hebrew, most of which comes from using my e-Sword Bible app). The Hebrew word, there, is rabah, which literally means, “to increase.” There are a lot of other words to which it could be translated, but that is the first meaning. And if something increases, especially beyond the capacity of the container, it overflows.

So, because of God’s mercy, there is enough redemption for all of us. And this is done, with no help whatsoever from us, so that we have nothing about which to boast. This is a point Paul makes multiple times in his various letters. In Christ, we have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification (guess what that means – cleansing!), and redemption.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)


Eugene H. Peterson, in On Living Well, cites the need for “a sharp line between religious consumerism and a gracious gospel.” The line is constantly blurred by this world, as well as by our sin. In recent years, the line seems blurrier than ever, as “churches” delve more and more into the realm of “religious consumerism.”

“Resurrection,” says Peterson, “draws the line bold and distinct again, dividing a consumer religion from a gracious gospel.

“A consumer religion shops for God in the religious shopping malls and tries on the latest fashions. A gracious gospel discovers us in our ignorant waywardness and invites us into the membership of Christ. Many people are living on the wrong side of the Resurrection, trying to get something interesting or useful for their lives from God rather than letting him do something gracious and eternal for them.”

He then lists five words that distinguish what he calls the “Resurrection pivot: believe, sacrifice, abide, love, and sanctify.” There’s that idea of cleansing again!

“Resurrection is the pivot point. Up to the event of the Resurrection, we are consumers of religion, looking for what we can get out of God. After the Resurrection, we are surprised by amazing grace and given what we weren’t even looking for, what we didn’t even know we needed.”

Peterson calls consumer religion “a shopping spree in the boutiques of idolatry.” “It’s all about me,” says consumer religion. What can I get out of it? How many times have we heard someone give as a reason for not going to church, “I just don’t get anything out of it.”?

“Resurrection life marks the difference. It is both more wonderful and more difficult than consumer religion. It is more wonderful because it is God’s inventive creation, perfectly customized to our condition. it is more difficult because God is in charge and we would rather be in charge. It is, after all, our life – or so we feel.”

And that hearkens back to yesterday’s word, because our lives are not, in fact, our own, but belong to God.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)


Father, I praise You for Your cleansing, through Jesus Christ. I thank You that, in spite of myself, I am perpetually cleansed, the beneficiary of Your overflowing redemption. Yes, I still sin, and will likely continue to do so until I am free from this mortal coil. But, hopefully, I am also growing more and more like Jesus, with the hopes that, as Dallas Willard described, when the time for my transition to Home comes, maybe I won’t even know the difference. Those are, indeed, high hopes, based on my past performance.

Thank You for Your Resurrection and the difference it makes in our lives. I can say, with some assurance, that I am in the country where I am not seeking so much for myself, what I can get out of You, but am constantly surprised by Your amazing grace, receiving from You things that I wasn’t even looking for. I stand amazed in Your presence, and, rather than seek what I can get, wait for You to do something “gracious and eternal” within me.

Let Your redemption overflow in the lives of Your people, Father. May Your Resurrection be the pivot point for all the saints, for all who call upon the name of Jesus. May Your Holy Spirit lead us all to be unified within Your Church, following only Jesus Christ and no man. May those who push consumer religion be brought down. And help us to acknowledge that we are not in charge of this thing.

All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit, and thanks be to You for Your indescribable gift!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


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 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Beating A Dead Horse?

Today is Sunday, the tenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,495

Time is short, this morning, as I slept later than usual, so I’m moving on to the devotional. We are going to our house church, so I have to be done in less than an hour.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, strengthen in us all that comes from you and is eternal, all that is good and right and genuine. Let this shape our outward life and help us triumph over need and death. Help us to wait quietly, even when we don't know the answers to our questions, because we are certain that the outcome will be good and life-giving, to the glory of your Spirit and your name. We entrust ourselves to your hands. Stay with us, that we may receive your calling for our lives. Stay with us, so that in all our work and activity we may be aware of your guiding Spirit at work in our hearts. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
(Psalms 95:6-7 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the presence of God, who stays with us, that we may be aware of His guidance in all our work and activity
2. that I am part of "the people of his pasture"
3. for a pretty good night's sleep
4. for the desire in my heart to be obedient to the "greatest commandments"
5. for the commands of Jesus to love

I’m sharing a piece, one stanza of one of Daryl Madden’s poems, this morning, because of the important message of that one stanza. If all people who call the name of Jesus would simply do this, what a change would come in our world!

If Jesus is our first
Thought before we act
We’d be more kind and loving
And peaceful that’s a fact

You can check out the rest of that poem, as well as others, at the link on his name, above.


And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
(Mark 15:33-39 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is obedience. That’s not a popular word, in recent days, as the idea requires submission. And I’m not talking about the “submission” to which people eagerly refer when giving their misguided advice about husbands and wives. I’m talking about submission to any authority.

But here’s the thing. Oh, wait. First the quote. Again, not a Scripture reference, although I’m sure one could have been found.

“Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person’s seemingly small act of obedience?” ~ Elizabeth Elliot

The problem with this is that there are too many differing opinions on what it means to be “obeying in the thing that lies before us today?”

However, there is merit in looking at some of the examples of which Mrs. Elliot is speaking.

Abram (his name had not yet been changed) left his homeland. Saul/Paul turned from his destructive ways and began preaching the Gospel. Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus. Jesus obediently went to the cross.

“Seemingly small,” Elizabeth??? Hah!

Now, here’s the thing. In order for us, today, to be practicing “obedience,” . . . Oh. Wait, again.

The Greek word that is translated “obedience,” hupakoe, literally means “attentive hearkening.” The word doesn’t appear in the Old Testament, not in that form. I looked up various occurrences of “obey,” and the general meaning of the Hebrew word was the same.

NOW, here’s the thing! In order for us, today, to be practicing “obedience,” we essentially have two things to do. (There he goes again!) You know. You’ve read it here so many times, you’re surely weary of seeing it. But, apparently, not enough people have read it or “attentively hearkened.”

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-31 ESV)

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 ESV)

Remember Daryl’s poem from up there?

If Jesus is our first
Thought before we act
We’d be more kind and loving
And peaceful that’s a fact

These are the “seemingly small act[s] of obedience” that could change the world.


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 ESV)


These acts of obedience, besides showing the world who the true disciples of Christ are, also help us to grow, inwardly. We cannot afford to be lethargic (I confess I have been guilty of this, from time to time) about our Christianity. Because of the actions of some, the word has different meanings to different people. Right now, in the US, the word “Christian” is definitely suspect. If you don’t understand why, you are not paying attention. You are not “attentively hearkening.”

It is more important than ever for us to be obedient to those commands of Jesus. Once again, He has told us that those are the only ones that matter, because, if we obey those, we have fulfilled the entirety of the law and prophets. Paul agrees with Jesus, and tells us the same thing.

So, please. “Just do it.”


Father, I just pray that Your people would all “attentively hearken” to the commands of Jesus, so that our world would change. I’m weary, Father. Really weary. But I must continue. I must continue to grow inwardly, and not be lethargic about what it means to be a Christian.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Mary, Martha, and Things

Today is Thursday, the seventh of July, 2022, in the fourteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,492

Yesterday had some crazy moments at the library. A couple were pretty funny, and none of them were at all bad. That, of course, helped the day go by quicker.

Today, being Thursday, I will spend my day in the Computer/Media Center (11:15-8:15). It’s very interesting there, because we have a few regulars, who are there, if not every day, at least most of them. I wish that I could know their stories. Some seem to be seeking jobs, while others are seeking citizenship. I know that there is one man who comes in several times a week, and always has someone different with him. One of my associates has said they think he is a pastor who is helping people with their citizenship applications, and that he doesn’t charge them anything.

Some folks just come in to print things, because paying ten cents a page for black and white prints is cheaper than buying a printer. And, I suppose, there are still people who don’t have computers at home. Many people print things directly from their phones, which is, of course, a pocket computer, these days. In fact, there are people who come in to get a library card just so they can use the computers, and never check out a book.

The Texas Rangers got swept by the Baltimore Orioles. They lost last night’s game 2-1. This drops them to six below .500 (37-43). They are still in third place in the AL West, 15.5 out of first, and now 6.5 out of the Wild Card. At this point, they are only a half game ahead of the Angels. They have today off, and will begin a weekend series with the first place Twins, in Arlington, tomorrow night.

The Boston Red Sox lost the series to the Rays, losing last night’s game 7-1. This puts them in a dead tie for second with Tampa, both being 45-37. They are 14 games out of first place, and both teams are tied in the first Wild Card spot. Boston begins a four-game weekend series with the Evil Empire, in Boston, tonight. This could be a very important series for them.

The Oakland Athletics continue to have the worst MLB record, at 28-56. The Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and Detroit Tigers all have a four-game win streak going. The St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians, and Texas Rangers (uh-oh) all have a four-game losing streak going. The Pittsburgh Pirates have taken sole possession of the worst run differential, at -129. The Rangers are now at +10, and the Red Sox have dropped to +53.

We started a new TV show (new for us) last night, during our dinner. It’s a show from the Acorn network, called The Brokenwood Mysteries, and is set in New Zealand. We started with Season One, Episode One, and enjoyed it. We usually keep captions on, these days, and it’s a good thing, because the New Zealand accent is one we aren’t used to hearing. For example, every time they say “letter,” it sounds like “litter.” It appears to still be going, according to IMDB, and is in the eighth season, currently.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for all you have done for us, for all you are doing for us, for deliverance from need and death. We thank you for all the signs you give us that you hear our prayer when, without wavering or weakening, we set our hopes on you. We thank you that we can be without fear of sin and death, for you stand by us in everything. In spite of our imperfections you show us your goodness again and again. May the light in our hearts never be extinguished, the light that enables us to look into heaven and earth and see the good that is on its way to us today. May joy remain with us, and may we have the strength to be a community that follows the paths of life which bring praise and honor to you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
(Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all that God has done, and continues to do, in my life
2. that, in spite of my imperfections, God shows me His goodness again and again
3. for the light in my heart that allows me to look toward heaven and see the good that is on its way; it will never be extinguished
4. for the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible
5. for the many things in our world that are there to help us connect with the Father through the Son and by the Spirit. 

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
(Mark 14:3-9 ESV)

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
(Mark 14:21 ESV)


“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

I’m sure that many of us have both aspects of Mary and Martha within us. My wife is more of a “Martha.” She always needs to be doing something. I’m kind of in-between, but lean more toward Mary. I have these desires, and frequently feel guilty for not doing something that I think I should be doing.

The key, I believe, is in the heart. And that is true about so many things. Martha, according to Jesus, who could read the heart, was “worried and upset about many things.” I remember a skit that was done in a church I was attending at the time. The person who played the part of Martha nailed it, I believe, as she swept furiously, muttering under her breath. In reality, everything would have been perfectly fine if Martha had sat down at Jesus’s feet, right next to Mary, to soak in the Master’s teaching.

There are definitely things we should be doing. Jesus speaks clearly about helping others, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, unshackling the chains of the oppressed, and so on. These are things of action.

But the passage from 1 Thessalonians also speaks of attitudes that must be nurtured. Be thankful. Be joyful. Pray.

I like the prayer that Julia Attaway put in today’s Daily Guideposts reading.

“Father, help me do what You ask instead of bemoaning my inability to serve in the way I desire.”

What has God asked of us? You know what I’m going to say.

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-31 NLT)

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
(John 13:34 NLT)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
(Romans 13:8 ESV)


There are many things in this world. Just in this room, as I look around my desk, there are literally over a hundred “things.” I’m typing on a thing. I’m reading a thing. I have three musical things in this room. Probably more than that, actually, if you count a turntable an amplifier, and several speakers. Inside the closet to my right are many more things.

Things, in and of themselves, cannot be inherently good or evil. They are just things.

But when these things are used in the service of God, they become holy. The above-mentioned woman brought a “thing” into the house where Jesus was sitting, broke it open, and anointed the Lord. That thing was just a thing until she did that. Then it became holy.

“No part of creation can be bypassed in the life of faith. None of it is an inconvenience to be put up with. None of it is a stumbling block intruded by the devil to trip the feet of those whose eyes are piously lifted in praise to God. Creation is made by God as a structure for meeting God. Sacrament means that the external and internal are parts of the same reality. Creation and redemption proceed from the same God. Our bodies and souls are sustained by what God makes in creation and gives in redemption.”

Such profound words. And so very true. The bread and wine that we consume in the Eucharist are things. And, until they are used for that purpose, that are just simply things. But when we eat the bread and drink the cup that are the body and blood of Christ, they become holy.

And, on that night, when Jesus had that “last supper” with His disciples, Jesus, according to John (the only one who saw fit to record this), did something surprising. He took another ordinary thing, a bucket of soapy water, and made it holy by washing the feet of His disciples.

“A ministry of sacrament is responsible for announcing and demonstrating that the world is holy, as opposed to, say, useful or beautiful or profane or mean. A ministry of sacrament insists on the holiness in the sick body, in the lonely heart, in dirty feet, in polluted streams, in a depersonalized institution, in vineyards, in wheat fields – and then involves us in meeting God there. The baptismal font and the communion chalice are the boundaries between which we discover that no part of this material world is unusable by God and that every part of it is created to be good, a vital part in the machinery of salvation.”

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


Father, I am grateful, this morning, for the reminder that this world, as bad as it seems, at times, was created by You, to be enjoyed by us (and You), and to be a means of connecting with You and ministering to one another. Help us to take the things of this world, so often mistakenly deemed “secular” or “unholy,” and make them holy by using them for Your purposes. While we may not need to physically wash one another’s feet, there are similar tasks that we can do for one another, tasks that involve and employ “things,” things that are neither secular or holy until we begin to use them. In this, You have declared all things in this world to be potentially holy.

Father, help us to also have the attitude of Mary, while at the same time knowing that are things that do need to be done in order to minister to this world. It’s okay to spend time sitting at the feet of our Savior, learning from His teachings. And there are times when we would, perhaps, like to be doing something that we think is more helpful, when, in fact, it is more helpful for us to simply “be still and know” that You are God. In this way, we also remember that You are in control of this hot mess of a world. We also remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are far, far better than we could ever imagine.

For Martha, the broom was holy. For Mary, the floor was holy. For the woman (possibly also a “Mary”), the alabaster vial of perfume was holy. For Jesus, the bucket of water, the bread, and the wine were holy. All of these can be true for us too, Lord, if we but pay attention. May we not walk through this world blind, but keeping our eyes on You and being attentive to everything around us.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Groping Toward the Infinite”

Today is Tuesday, the fifth of July, 2022, in the fourteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,490

Our fourth of July was pretty non-eventful, other than fireworks going off in the neighborhood until well after 11:00 PM. I made our homemade pizza for dinner, last night, and it turned out quite good. We use Caulipower brand pizza crusts, and they are very good. We spread pizza sauce, then some seasoning, some mozzarella cheese, some cheddar cheese, then turkey pepperoni, and turkey sausage crumbles.

Today being Tuesday, it’s my four hour evening shift at the library, doing shelving. I have no idea if they were open yesterday or not. I never bothered to check. This is my “heavy” week, though, the week where I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Of course, Saturday is in the following week’s pay schedule. The city of Hurst’s pay week begins on Friday, and we always get paid on Thursday.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Baltimore Orioles, yesterday, 7-6, in extra innings. The losing run was scored on a HBP (that’s “hit by pitch” for those who don’t know) after the Texas manager inexplicably had them walk the bases loaded. Chris Woodward does not need to try to be Tony LaRussa. Only LaRussa can pull that off. Anyway, the Rangers are now 37-41 for the season, back to four games below .500. They are in third place in the AL West, a game behind Seattle, 14.5 out of first, and 5 out of the Wild Card. The play in Baltimore again, tonight, at 6:05 CDT.

The Boston Red Sox shut out the Rays, 4-0! Woohoo!!! They are now ten games above .500, at 45-35, in second place in the AL East, thirteen games out of first, and in the first Wild Card spot, ahead by two. They play again, tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

The Athletics continue to be the worst MLB team, at 27-55. The bloody Astros continue on their winning streak, now having won seven consecutive games. Somebody needs to steal those trash cans!!! The Nationals and Giants continue to be tied for the longest losing streak, at five games each. The Nationals have been outscored by their opponents by 118 runs. The Rangers now have a +12 run differential, and the Red Sox are at +63.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for the great calling you have given us. We thank you that in all the evils of today's world you give us the hope and faith that you are leading us to a goal that is good, and you make us free. You make your children free so that throughout humankind a new spirit may come, a new life and a new power to serve you in time and eternity. Praise to your name that we can always have hope; nothing can discourage us, but everything must work together for good in accordance with your great purpose. Grant that your compassion may come to all the world, to all peoples, whom you have looked upon with mercy in sending Jesus Christ as Savior. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
(Romans 8:22-24a NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the hope as we eagerly await the end result of our salvation
2. that nothing should discourage us, as we know that everything must work together for good in according with God's great purpose
3. for God's constant provision in our lives, both physically and spiritually
4. for many different people God has brought into my life, over the years
5. for the work of ministry, which is really us learning how to do things the way Jesus did them

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD. The house that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high.
(1 Kings 6:1-2 ESV)

I remember the last time I read this, stopping and thinking. The Temple in Jerusalem is being built. The dimensions are given. I also remember thinking that the Temple was really big. Here are the dimensions, translated into American units by Eugene Peterson.

The Temple that King Solomon built to GOD was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high.
(1 Kings 6:2 MSG)

It was smaller than my house. And it took seven years to build.


The word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is sustenance.

Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
(1 Kings 19:7 NLT)

“Sustenance” has a couple of definitions. “Food and drink regarded as a source of strength; nourishment.” “The maintaining of someone or something in life or existence.”

In the account of Elijah, in 1 Kings, this sustenance was provided supernaturally. There are other instances of this occurring in the Old Testament, as well.

When we pray the prayer that Jesus gave us as an example, we pray for daily bread, which we might also call “sustenance” or “provision.” When we don’t think to do that, I don’t know if we are exercising confidence or being presumptuous.

There is also a spiritual side to that, though, and I think that, in Jesus’s model prayer, that is taken into account, as well. I have believed, for a while, now (and I could certainly be wrong), that when Jesus told us to pray for “daily bread,” that He wasn’t just speaking of physical bread, especially since He describes Himself as the Bread of Life.

Jesus is my “daily bread,” and He is my Living Water. While I most certainly need food and drink to survive, I also need spiritual food and drink, and Jesus provides both of those for me, through the ministry and work of the Holy Trinity.


"In all matters of ministry, Jesus is our master. We apprentice ourselves to him so that we might become skilled and mature and wise, for ministry involves doing what Christ did, speaking what Christ commands, praying in the name of Christ - and getting good at it.
"Ministry is not some vague impulse to do good. It is not a generalized desire to help others. It is not a mystic hand-holding with all those who are groping toward the infinite. It is learning to do what Christ did and learning to do it in the way that he did it: acting and speaking and praying after the manner of our master."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Another word for this is “discipleship.” When we become disciples of Christ, we are apprentices. Another meaning of the word translated “disciple” in the New Testament is “learner; student.” And Peterson says that is what we are supposed to be doing; learning to do it the way Jesus did.

I can’t help but wonder if Jesus looks at the way we are “doing discipleship,” in the twenty-first century, and is pleased with it.


Father, I am grateful for the provision that You are constantly bringing to my life and the life of my family, both spiritually and physically. I cannot recall a time when we have ever been lacking food and drink for life. I also cannot recall a time when I was ever lacking for spiritual food, although I can definitely recall times when I was not taking advantage of what was available.

I am also grateful for the many people that I have been privileged to know, in my life. So many people have been influential in my walk in Your Kingdom. There are a few faces that are so visible in my mind, right now. My parents, of course. Juanita Sullivan. Julia Brancadora. John Jenkins. Jacob Seay. There are Sunday School teachers that I had as a child, whose names I can’t quite recall. Most of them have passed on. But for the ones who still live (all but one of the names listed are still with us), I pray for Your blessings to fall on them today. I pray for Your peace to surround them and Your presence to be felt in their lives. Let them know how much You love them. And for those who have gone on, I pray that they are at peace with You.

As for my “ministry,” Father, I am grateful that You still have work for me to do. That “job” has changed over the years, and I have begun to perceive it differently, as I grow older. Now, thanks to Eugene, I see it even more differently, believing that my primary purpose in this life, now, is to keep learning how to do the work that Jesus did, to walk and talk and act in the manner of my master. So I pray for the ability, the strength, the patience, the compassion, and the love that this takes. May I not be “groping toward the infinite,” but confidently walking toward it. I pray for the faith to keep on that path, even when it appears that nothing is going right, or that no one is noticing. Frankly, it matters not one whit if anyone notices! Because that’s not the reason for it.

Help me to love You and to love people in the way that Jesus did it. That’s what this blog is all about.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Pentecost Claims Another Last Word”

Today is Saturday, the second of July, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,487

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, you are our God. You rule and guide us, and our trust remains in you even when many needs pull at our hearts and try to draw us into their whirlpool. Protect us, we pray. May your divine hand govern us so that we remain aware of the calling we receive from you and always have a light shining into our lives to show us how to serve you. Let your power work wherever hearts respond to you on this earth, wherever the strength of Jesus Christ is revealed, so that people acknowledge his deeds to your honor. Be with the lowliest and least noticed of your children. Keep them in your hands and enable them to be fellow workers who persevere courageously and confidently until the time when you reveal yourself to all peoples on earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
(Proverbs 4:11-12 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the calming presence of God when outside concerns try to draw me in
2. for Wisdom, that leads me along straight paths
3. that God, in Christ, is continuously making things new
4. for ever good and perfect gift that comes from the Father, gifts that are for the Body of Christ, not just for me
5. that God has the last word

And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." 
(Mark 11:22-25 ESV)

Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is new. That should come as no surprise to anyone, as yesterday’s word was “old.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:5 NLT)

There is a constant thread of “new” running through Scripture. For example, the verses leading up to the one above.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
(Revelation 21:1-4 NLT)

The word occurs 292 times in the NLT. Many of those instances are simply a very literal usage of the word; a “new year,” a “new well,” “new wine,” “new clothes,” a “new king,” and so on.

But when we get to the Psalms, we find it referring over and over to a “new song.”

Sing a new song of praise to him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
(Psalms 33:3 NLT)

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.
(Psalms 40:3 NLT)

Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD!
(Psalms 96:1 NLT)

Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!
(Psalms 98:1 NLT)

Then Ecclesiastes informs us that there is, actually, nothing new under the sun. This, of course, refers to human actions, not what God can do.

Isaiah 40:31 famously tells us that, if we wait on, or trust in, the Lord, we will get “new strength.” And then Isaiah begins this idea that carries on into the New Testament with Jesus.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:19 NLT)

You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it. Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past. So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’ “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, things you never heard of before. For I know so well what traitors you are. You have been rebels from birth.”
(Isaiah 48:6-8 NLT)

Jeremiah begins speaking of the “new covenant.”

How long will you wander, my wayward daughter? For the LORD will cause something new to happen—Israel will embrace her God.”
(Jeremiah 31:22 NLT)

“The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34 NLT)

Ezekiel speaks of a “new spirit.”

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.
(Ezekiel 11:19-20 NLT)

Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!
(Ezekiel 18:31-32 NLT)

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
(Ezekiel 36:26 NLT)

Jesus began speaking about “new wine,” and “new wineskins,” and then dropped this bombshell on His disciples.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
(John 13:34-35 NLT)

All throughout Romans, Paul speaks of “new relationship” and “new life.” And it all culminates in the words of Jesus at the end of Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

All things.

When we finally are ushered into our new Home, everything will be NEW!


Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(James 1:17 NIV)

It is so important to know that when Jesus says He is making all things new, that means our lives as we live here on earth, as well. I have frequently made mention to the fact that the Kingdom of God is not just a place we are waiting to go to after we die. While there will be a new Home for us, someday, the Kingdom of God is also here, now, available for all who desire to walk in it. And these “gifts” of which Paul speaks are gifts that God gives us now.

Indescribable gifts! Gifts that we might miss if we are too self-absorbed, or, as in the case of many that I see around me, too busy feeling sorry for ourselves or complaining about the state of things.

For example, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. But guess what! Paul says that is for the “common good!” The gift of the Holy Spirit is not to make me look good; it is for the good of all! And our salvation, by faith, is also a gift, “so that no one can boast,” and included in that “gift” are the good works, “which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Good works that benefit others!

Some folks never seem to grasp the fact that it’s not about them. I’m reading a book on worship right now, and one of the main tenets of the book is the author’s feeling that, in recent decades, worship has become too “me-centric.” And if you pay attention to the words of most contemporary worship songs, they are all about “I” and “me.” Even the ones addressed to God tend to focus on the self.

I have gone on record before to say that my absolute least liked worship song of all time is “Reckless Love.” Part of it is for the very reason stated above. In the first verse and chorus, “I” or “me” are referenced ten times. “You” or “God” are referenced nine. And there is no “we” or “us.” I won’t go into the part about leaving the ninety-nine. That bit gets me all riled up.

Anyway. The reason for God’s indescribable gifts, that Paul is so excited about, is for the body to grow and mature. They are for the “common good,” and while they most certainly benefit the individual, the individual is not the main focus.

The Lord is not making things new just for me. He is making things new for US, His body, His Bride.


Furthermore, these gifts, most specifically the Holy Spirit, who came down at Pentecost, are what keeps us going in this world of wreckage. Every time we turn around, things get messier. The last six years, at least in the USA, have been ridiculous, and they are not getting better. Eugene Peterson wonders why we aren’t all cynics, why we haven’t all given up. What is it that “keeps people striving for the best, investing themselves in acts of compassion, giving themselves sacrificially to add to the available beauty, and suffering abuse to witness to the truth?”

The answer he gives is Pentecost. “Because the Holy Spirit is among us and within us.” God is not simply watching to see what will happen. Nor, for that matter, is He surprised or alarmed at the state things are in. “Pentecost means that the invisible is more important than the visible, at any single moment and at any single even that we choose to examine.”

Remember Ezekiel and his “dry bones?” They were all that were left of people who were once laughing and dancing children, who had made love and made plans, who had expressed doubts and sung praises. “The dry bones were all that was left. Sin and judgment on the sin were the last word – at least, that was what it looked like.”

“Pentecost claims another last word.”

Oh, how I love that sentence. It brings tears to my eyes. Why? Because I have been in the place of those dry bones. Not literally, of course, but I have been in a place where my life was a wreck, and I thought it was over. But God had other plans.

“Pentecost claims another last word. Pentecost celebrates the coming together of the bones into connected, sinewed, muscled human beings who speak and sing and laugh and work and believe and bless their God.”

“Pentecost celebrates the great fact that through the Holy Spirit, God puts us together again as praising people, no longer dismembered by remembered into the resurrection body of Christ, which we believe includes the people of God.”

Jesus is making ALL THINGS new!

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


Ah, Lord God! I find myself unable to express the joy and gratitude that I am experiencing this morning. My gratitude is not enough, but, at this point, it is all I have. All I can say is “Thank You!” Yet it isn’t enough for all that You have done. Yes, for me, but even more so, for US! For Your children, for the Body of Christ, Your Church. You, in Christ Jesus, have saved US, not just me! It is not about me. It’s about You, and it’s about US. I pray, dear Father, that somehow, all of Your children would grasp this truth and stop being so self-centered.

Father, I saw a beautiful picture this morning. Two images of the world, the globe, side by side, identical. The caption said, “A picture of earth before and after your opinion.” Such truth, as my opinion has exactly that much effect on anything in this world. My opinion also doesn’t matter when it comes to Your Kingdom, because nothing in Your Kingdom is about me. Keep my mind and heart off of me and on You and Your other children, Lord. Give me that sacrificial spirit and heart, that Pentecostal spirit that is willing to give, to take up my cross and follow Christ.

Let the dry bones come alive!

Thank You, God, for Your indescribable gifts!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

The Choice of Wisdom

Today is Thursday, the thirtieth of June, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time. The last day of June.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,485

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I didn’t leave the house, except to take the trash out and go to the mailbox. Oh, and to pay the lawn guy. Today is my full shift in the computer center of the library, from 11:15-8:15. And I’ve got Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup cooking for dinner tonight.

The Texas Rangers lost their afternoon game to the Royals, yesterday, but they won the series. So they are back to two games below .500, at 36-38, still in second place, 11 games out of first place, and four games out of the Wild Card. Their next game is tomorrow, in NYC, against the Mets. That could be challenging, as the Mets are having a good year.

The Boston Red Sox salvaged the series (they still lost it, but didn’t get swept) against the Blue Jays, winning 6-5, yesterday. This puts them back in second place in the AL East, at 43-33, a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, 13 out of first place, and in the first Wild Card spot. Their next game is tomorrow, in Chicago, against the Cubbies.

The Yankees continue to have the best record in the MLB, at 56-20 (I’m really getting tired of typing that). The closest team to them is eight games back (Houston, today). Oakland remains on the bottom, at 25-52. The Yankees and Brewers continue their winning streaks, up to four games. The Mets (did I say they were having a good year?) and Athletics both have three game losing streaks. It would be nice if the Rangers made that six games for the Mets. The Yankees have outscored their opponents by 151 runs, and the Athletics have been outscored by their opponents by 114 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 13 runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 60.

I still think the Yankees must be cheating.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for your Word, which is light and strength to us. We thank you for all you give us. We thank you that we may be counted among the simple-hearted, among the children. We do not want to be anything great in the world. We want only to be with you as your children, helpless little children, watched over by you, the Creator and Father of all. Grant us your blessing. Help us in all that is good and right, also in our daily work, so that we can be your children and do what you have commanded. May your name be honored at all times, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who have wronged us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.”
(Matthew 11:25 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the ability to receive the Kingdom with childlike faith
2. that I am alive and breathing, able to praise the Lord; may I praise Him with every breath
3. that to be great, one must be a servant of all
4. for the resources God provides, and the heart to believe that they all belong to Him
5. that Wisdom is easy to find, if we but search for her
6. for the two commands; if you know, you know

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

And Jesus said to [Bartimaeus], “What do you want me to do for you?”
(Mark 10:51 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is offering.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

This is interesting, as I just finished reading 2 Samuel, this morning, and chapter 24 tells of when David went and bought a threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah would have given him the floor. He was king, after all. But David said, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

The story of the widow and her two “mites,” or small copper coins, makes the point that it’s not the amount that is given, but the heart behind it, or the motivation. The rich people were putting in “large sums,” and tradition says that they were quite loud about it, so that everyone would notice how much they were putting in.

This reminds me of a time when I was in seminary. I played trombone in the seminary wind ensemble, and every Christmas, at least for several years, I was hired to play in a Christmas musical at a certain independent Baptist church in the area. One year (and C can verify this, as she was there), the pastor got up after the Christmas music was over and, in preparation for taking the offering, said, “if everyone would get caught up on their tithes today, we could pay all our bills and sink the rest of our money into evangelism!” And then he proceeded to hold his wallet up high, as did every other man in the audience (because that’s really what it was, you know), to put on a show that they were giving their offerings.

Based on the words of Jesus, they received the only “reward” they would get for that action on that day.

Jesus gives us very specific instructions regarding “giving alms” and other acts of service and devotion, such as fasting and prayer. One brother I knew took that so seriously that he never declared his tithe on his income tax! In fact, if memory serves me, which it frequently doesn’t, I think he always gave his in cash, anonymously! He didn’t want any record that someone else could see. His heart was admirable.

I don’t think Jesus means that we should never let anyone see what we do. I believe He means that the reason we do it should not be for recognition or to put on a show. And only we and He know the truth of that matter.

In regard to this matter, Hannah More says, “Vanity is at the bottom of almost all, may we not say, of all our sins. We think more of distinguishing than of saving ourselves.” (From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, everything I have belongs to You. Take whatever You need to take from me, in order to serve Your purposes in this world. I know that You, Yourself need nothing from us. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to You, and if You were hungry, You wouldn’t bother telling us about it. But You choose to use us and the resources You have given us to work Your plans in this world. So all I have is Yours, and I ask forgiveness for the times I use my resources selfishly. But I am also grateful that You allow us to use them for our own recreational purposes, at times.


“I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.”
(Proverbs 8:17 NLT)

The main thrust of this passage in Proverbs is speaking of “Wisdom” personified. “I” is wisdom. These are fascinating passages, indeed, as wisdom proclaims her own virtue and worth. I recommend reading the entire chapter, if time allows.

Wisdom is not difficult to find. She shouts from the street corners. If we search for her, we will surely find her. We just have to be looking for her.

Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 12:28 NLT)

This, also is wisdom. It is wise to obey the commands of the Lord. And what are His commands? If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Jesus summed them up in only two. Love God and love people. The entirety of the law and prophets are summed up in those two commands.

Father, I pray for wisdom. Help me to find her, daily, in all my ways. Help me to remember to search for her in everything I do, not so that people will think me wise, but so that my life will be lived in obedience to Your commands and to Your glory. As I go through my day today, at work, I pray that You will give me wisdom in interacting with the patrons who need help.


I’ll round out the morning with words from Eugene Peterson that seem to bring together both of the above subjects.

"We all have had well-intentioned (if somewhat vague) plans to do something nice for another person. 'Love your neighbor' (Matthew 22:39) is a command that we all plan on obeying . . . sometime.
"For many of us, it never amounts to more than a sentimental daydream, but for others, this fuzzy benevolence gets real. It becomes a simple, unpretentious, focused act of love that leads to health, to hope, to salvation for an actual person. The general, dreamy desire to help out in some way or another becomes a specific, creative act of compassion. A person walks out on the gossipy discussion of all that is wrong with the world and all that needs to be done in the world, finds another who needs help, and keeps the holy appointment she did not know she had."

Beautiful words from the master wordsmith. I’ve had too many sentimental daydreams in my life, but have also had some focused and unpretentious acts of love. I’ve also had far too many of those gossipy discussions, and am striving very much to stay out of those, going forward.

Father, as I go out today, keep my eyes and heart open. I may not find anyone who needs a focused act of love, today, but if I do, make me ready and able to jump in and do it. Please, oh please, keep me out of any gossipy discussions of all that is wrong with the world and help me to be one who notices opportunities to do something real and helpful. Help me to love my neighbor today!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.