Today is Thursday, the nineteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.
May the peace of Christ be with you today.
We stayed up (well Mama, S, and I) to watch the end of last night’s Texas Rangers game, and I’m glad we did. It went into extra innings after Matt Bush blew the save in the top of the ninth. They were ahead 4-2, and for reasons that only God Himself knows, Chris Woodward elected to not use the closer. Bush blew the save, and the game was tied 4-4. The Rangers got bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth but were unable to plate a run. My new favorite Texas Ranger, Jonah Heim struck out.
The Angels scored in the top of the tenth, because of the loathsome “zombie runner” lunacy that was instituted in the shortened pandemic season. That was all well and fine for that weird year. But it should not be continued. It’s a little league thing, in my opinion, and has no place in “grown-up” professional baseball. So the Rangers were behind 5-4 going into the bottom of the tenth. Zombie runner on second base, Nathaniel Lowe plonks the first pitch into the right-field stands to win the game. Walk-off home run.
You might say, “But the zombie runner helped them win.” My response to that is that the zombie runner also put them behind. With no zombie runner, the score still would have been 4-4 in the bottom of the tenth, and Lowe’s home run still wins the game.
I’m also glad Bush didn’t wind up getting the win. One of the things that MLB desperately needs to change is allowing a pitcher to blow a save and then come away with a win if the team wins in the bottom of that inning. No pitcher who blows a save should ever get credit for a win.
Anyway, the most important thing is that the Rangers won, and that they swept the Angels! Final score, 6-5. Dennis (I think I called him Danny, yesterday) Santana got the win again. The Rangers are now 17-19, only two games below .500. They are in third place in the AL West, five games behind the Angels, who were tied for first until last night. The Rangers begin a four game weekend series against the first place Astros tonight, in Houston. Bring ’em on! Game time is 7:10 CDT.
Speaking of the Astros, the Red Sox beat them soundly, yesterday, 5-1, behind a very strong outing by starter Rick Pivetta. The Sox are now 15-22, in fourth place in the AL East, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore, and 4.5 behind the Blue Jays. The Sox play the Mariners tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.
The NY Yankees (28-9) keep winning. They still have the best MLB record, and still haven’t lost that tenth game. Somebody please beat them!! The Reds (10-26) still have the worst MLB record, by a game and a half. The LA Dodgers continue to have the best run differential, at +83, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the worst, at -71. The Rangers have reduced theirs to -4. The Dodgers also have the best win streak, currently at five. (The Rangers have a four-game win streak.) The Orioles and Diamondbacks are still tied with the “best” losing streak, at six consecutive losses.
Today being Thursday, I will be heading to the library for my eight-hour shift at 11:15 today, working until the library closes at 8:00. My shift goes until 8:15, because it takes a few minutes to do our closing process, which involves several of us walking through the stacks to make sure no one is still in there, and also checking the restrooms. I will be starting a crockpot soup as soon as I finish my blog, this morning. Today it will be Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken, which we have tweaked a bit (not much) to make it more of a soup. We just add more cream of chicken soup and a little more chicken.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Lord our God, we thank you that we have often felt you close to us. We thank you that you are near us and that you strengthen the weak. Remember us and give each one the help he needs to be true to his calling. Remember all humankind and grant that we may go forward in spirit and in truth. Give new light to the peoples who are still in great darkness. Let your kingdom and your reign be revealed and your name at last be honored by all. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I love you, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 NIV)
Today I am grateful:
1. for the nearness of God and His help to be true to that which He has called me
2. that God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer
3. that God has called me to spread the message of love for one another
4. for the great and precious promises of God that enable me to partake in His divine nature
5. for the community of saints and how they have encouraged and loved me, through the years; may I be as loving and encouraging in response
6. for language; that You speak to us, and that we can speak to You in response
The prayer word for today is “promise.”
Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
(2 Samuel 7:28 NIV)
It is almost ludicrous to compare the promises that God has made to His people to promises that we make one another. Every time I’m watching a TV show and one person says to another, “I promise I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” I feel like shouting back at the TV. Because no one has that ability. There is not a human being on earth that can keep that promise.
And guess what. God never promised that, either. God has not promised that He will keep anything “bad” from happening to us. God didn’t even keep anything bad from happening to Himself! Have you considered that?
The idea of “promise” is tricky. There are many things in the Bible that people say are promises that are not promises. The biggest one is the thing that fuels that “prosperity gospel,” which is, of course, no “gospel” at all. One of their main verses is the second verse of 3 John.
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
(3 John 1:2 NLT)
Looking at it in KJV makes it a little clearer as to why the prosperity people like it so much.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
(3 John 1:2 KJV)
You see, KJV actually uses the word. “Prosper.” Oddly, the Greek word there literally means, “to help on the road,” or “succeed in reaching.” But here’s the thing. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) That is not a promise. It’s not even God speaking. This is a greeting from John, the author of the epistle, to his “dear friend,” Gaius. Basically, it is John saying, “Hey, there, I hope all is well with you!”
That’s all it is.
But there are some promises that God has made to us. One of my favorites is in Isaiah 41:10.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)
And while the word “promise” is not used there, I believe that any time God says the words, “I will,” He is making a promise, because God will do what He says He will do.
Here’s another statement that Jesus made, that I believe is also a promise.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
(John 10:27-30 NLT)
I read this as a promise that my eternal salvation is secure.
Finally, I will mention a verse in 2 Peter. Several verses, actually.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
(2 Peter 1:3-7 NLT)
(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)
Father, I thank You for Your “great and precious promises,” through which I can share in Your divine nature. I pray that You help me to respond properly to these promises, that I might escape the corruption in the world that is caused by human desires. May I supplement my faith with moral excellence, and with knowledge, and with self control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly affection and love for everyone! And because of Your great and precious promises, help me to be faithful to keep promises that I make here on earth. And remind me, before I open my mouth and make some promises, that there are some “promises” that simply cannot be kept. Give me the wisdom to know when to not make those promises.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. . . . And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
(Philippians 1:3, 6 NLT)
In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings.
May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the LORD answer all your prayers.
(Psalms 20:1-5 NLT)
Side note: Is Philippians 1:6 a promise? We have certainly looked at it as one, historically. I am not 100% sure that it a promise. I believe it is true, mind you. I do believe that God will complete the work that He has begun in me. But this verse is, not unlike the verse in 3 John, part of Paul’s opening greeting to the Philippians, and is more of an encouragement than a promise. Just my nickel’s worth.
The idea behind these readings, though, is community. Paul opens Philippians by thanking God for them. He is grateful to God for the people he has encountered in his journeys. Do we feel the same way about the people we have encountered, the people with whom we worship on a regular basis? Do we encourage them? Do they encourage us?
Paul’s certainty that God will complete the work He has started is directed toward the Church in Philippi, not any individual within that group. This is another thing to consider when we are considering “promises.” Are they made to us as individuals, or to us as the Church?
Then I look at Psalm 20 in that same light. What a wonderful blessing/prayer is the first five verses of that Psalm! I may start alternating that with the traditional Aaronic blessing from Numbers. I challenge anyone who reads this to pray Psalm 20:1-5 over someone today.
Father, I am grateful for the people You have placed in my life, through the years. Most assuredly, I am grateful for the community of saints, the believers with whom I have worshiped in my life, in all the various places. Many of them encouraged me; some of them taught me; some of them challenged me, and not always in a good way. Most of the, though, loved me, and that is the most important thing. Help us to remember that most important part, Father. When someone in the Body of Christ challenges us or annoys us, help us to remember the command from Jesus that we are to love each other in the same way that He has loved us. This is a difficult challenge, at least for me. So I pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in times when I am challenged by another believer.
Father, You work all things together for our good. I believe that is a promise. When we love You and are called according to Your purpose, You are actively working for our good (we have to remember that “good” is according to Your definition, though, not ours). Since You are actively working for our good, then we should also be actively working for each other’s good, as best as we are capable of understanding that.
“God speaks to us. This is the great foundational fact of our faith.” In His speaking, God has brought us both into existence, as well as into salvation.
Regardless of what we believe about the length of time that creation took, I think we can agree that God spoke things into existence. He created everything, ex nihilo, by speaking. In his song, “AlrightOKuhhuhAmen,” Rich Mullins said, “Well the Lord said let there be and there was.” He initiated language, and with that language, he brought things into existence.
Side note: I believe it is worth noting that God created “light” on the first day, but didn’t create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day. Ponder that, eh?
“Language is the means by which what is unknown becomes known and what is hidden becomes accessible.” God brings His will into existence through language.
“In return, we speak to God. This is the great foundational consequence of our faith.” We do not bring anything into existence with our language, at least nothing that is “new,” or was not already in existence. Let me clarify this. Certainly, being created in God’s image, we are able to create, to a degree. But we do not create ex nihilo. While God can, according to Romans 4:17, create new things out of nothing, we cannot.
But what can and does happen when we speak is that “our speaking brings into the open his glory, our assent to his creating and saving Word, and our sheer and exultant joy in him.”
“Language–this wonderful gift, this mysterious capacity that we have to say who we are, to bring out into the open the secrets of our hearts, the nuances of our emotions, and the thoughts whether confused or clear in our minds–is our basic means for working out who we are by answering god, responding to his invitations and commands.”
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)
But there is a warning about language, as well, seen in the little book of James, perhaps one of the most difficult books of the Bible to digest.
Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
(James 3:1-12 NLT)
Father, when I consider Your works of Your “fingers,” the moon and stars, like the psalmist, I am amazed and think, “what is man that You are mindful of him?” I consider that You, in Your wondrous majesty, simply spoke language and things came into existence. I believe, perhaps, that we should beg forgiveness for even entertaining the notion that we could also call things that are not as though they are.
I praise You for Your creation. I praise You for speaking those words and bringing the universe into being, because that universe includes me and all of those whom I love. It also includes beauty; things that I can see with my eyes (another miracle); mountains, oceans, trees, flowers, deserts, colors, the myriad of stars that I can see in the night sky, which You know by name.
I pray that You, by Your Spirit, which resides within my soul, would help me to respond correctly to Your language, using language that You have also created. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. And may my words not be like James warned against. I pray that blessings and cursings would not both come out of my mouth; that I would not be hypocritical. That is so difficult, sometimes, as I’m sure many would agree with me. But it is how we should be as people of Christ. So, as I call myself by the name of Christ, may my tongue represent that Name well on this earth. And when I am tempted to say things that would be unbecoming to a child of Yours, please stop me and make me reconsider.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)
Grace and peace, friends.