Which Side Are You On?

Today is Wednesday, the 8th of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,708

It has been thundering since late last night. It is milder, this morning, but last night, between 10:00 and 11:00 PM, it was quite loud. It has been raining for most of that time, as well, pretty heavily, at times. It has slowed down for the moment, though. I’m hoping it will stop by around 10:30 AM, because I have to take S to see her therapist at 11:00.

That’s pretty much the only thing I have to do today, until choir practice, this evening. I’ll be cooking Beefy American Goulash (from Emily Bites) for dinner, tonight, which will result in having a couple of leftover servings, which will be nice for tomorrow’s lunch. This has become the family’s favorite, I do believe.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Go away from me, you evildoers, 
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
(Psalms 119:115 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Dear Father in heaven, you are among us and we can call you Abba, dear Father. In the joy of being your children we want to lay our lives into your hands to be made good and happy. Care for us like a shepherd pasturing his flock so that we can have community with one another. Help us to realize that you have many children here and everywhere, and that again and again you take a child by the hand saying, “You are mine. I am caring for you.” We thank you that your eyes watch over all the world. We thank you that your rule is over all humankind and will bring good to all people, wherever they may live. May this happen soon through our Savior. We call to him, “Lord Jesus, come. Come soon! May your hand keep us all close to the Father in heaven.” Amen.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:14-17 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the rain we have received overnight, into this morning
  • that the Spirit bears witness with my spirit, that I am a child of God
  • that I am able to praise the Lord, both on musical instruments, and with my lips and my tongue
  • for new mercies each morning; “great is Thy faithfulness”
  • that the Lord does NOT take sides in human arguments; The Lord is on HIS side

Your power and your righteousness, O God, 
reach the high heavens. 
You who have done great things, O God, 
who is like you? 
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities 
will revive me again; 
from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 
You will increase my honor, and comfort me once again. 
I will also praise you with the harp 
for your faithfulness, O my God; 
I will sing praises to you with the lyre, 
O Holy One of Israel. 
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you;
 my soul also, which you have rescued. 
All day long my tongue will talk of your righteous help, 
for those who tried to do me harm
 have been put to shame, and disgraced.
(Psalms 71:18-24 NRSV)

Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:13-15 NRSV)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, 
his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, 
"therefore I will hope in him."
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NRSV)
Out of my distress I called on the LORD; 
the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
(Psalms 118:5 NRSV)

I’m seeing a couple of different things, this morning, and I’m going to try to bring them together. I may or may not succeed.

First and foremost is the passage from Joshua 5. This has stood out to me for a number of years, now, especially as I grow more and more weary of the political morass in this nation. There is a very important truth that we need to understand, here. God is not on anyone else’s side! God is not on the Republican side; God is not on the Democrat side; God is not on the Tea Party side. God is on God’s side.

Joshua mistakenly assumed that the angel he saw was on one side or the other. The angel quickly set him straight. “Neither,” he said,” but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Now, it may appear, from subsequent events, that the Lord was on Israel’s side. But that is only because that action was part of the Lord’s plan to accomplish His own purpose.

I have seen, all too often, humans from one persuasion or another, declare, “God is on our side!”

No. He is not. But if you happen to align yourself with God’s side and purposes, it may appear that He is. Rather than deciding on a “cause” and begging God to support your cause, it is better to ascertain what God’s “cause” is and join up with Him. That is one of the few positive things I brought away from the old “Experiencing God” study a few decades ago. We need to be looking to see what God is doing around us, and join in.

Instead, we all too often decide what we want to do and expect Him to join us. That ain’t gonna happen, folks. Unless we get “lucky” and what we decide to do is what He is already doing.

Now, on a positive note, we see that His steadfast love never fails and that His mercies are new every morning. In His mercy, He remembers that we are dust (this has become a favorite concept of mine, of late), and so when we start this silliness about God being “on our side,” He is patient with us, I believe. But He also reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (or generosity), gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

If we strive to exercise those qualities in our lives every day, we should wind up on the right “side,” which is God’s side, not any other human’s side. But if we find that we have inadvertently taken up with the wrong side (which is anyone’s side but God’s), we have the assurance that, when we cry out to Him in our distress, He will place our feet in “a broad place.”

So consider . . . which side are you on?


Father, I thank You that You do not take “human sides,” but that You are on Your side. I pray for the wisdom and strength to always be on Your side. It is so very easy to become swayed by human arguments and policies and “causes,” when, in fact, Yours is the only “cause” that is worthy of my support. And I believe that cause to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which tells us that Your kingdom is here, now, and available for all to join in.

I pray that You will give me the ability to show this kingdom to all around me. I pray that You will, by the power of the Spirit, enable me to display the fruit of the Spirit in my life, at all times. There are pieces of that fruit that I struggle with, mightily. Patience is one of those. Self-control and gentleness are others. Goodness/generosity, I do pretty well at, I think. I’m not too bad with the joy and peace parts, either, usually. But when my anxiety gets the better of me, those suffer, as well.

But it all starts with love. I don’t think it’s an accident that “love” is mentioned first. So help me love, Father, always. And that has been a major prayer of mine for a while, now, as You continue to drive me toward that kind of love for You and for others. Our world needs a Love Revolution, Father.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Praise the LORD! 

Praise the LORD, O my soul! 
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; 
I will sing praises to my God all my life long. 

Do not put your trust in princes, 
in mortals, in whom there is no help. 
When their breath departs, 
they return to the earth; 
on that very day their plans perish. 

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD their God, 
who made heaven and earth, 
the sea, and all that is in them; 
who keeps faith forever; 
who executes justice for the oppressed; 
who gives food to the hungry. 
The LORD sets the prisoners free; 
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. 
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; 
the LORD loves the righteous. 
The LORD watches over the strangers; 
he upholds the orphan and the widow, 
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

The LORD will reign forever, 
your God, O Zion, for all generations. 

Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 146:1-10 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Incomprehensible

Today is Tuesday, the 7th of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ enfold you today!

Day 23,707

Our weather continues to display signs of drunkenness. After a high of 73, yesterday, I awoke to a temperature of 61 degrees, and falling (the temperature, not me). That will be the highest temperature of the day. It should get down to around 45 degrees during the night, tonight. There is an 87% chance of rain today, and 85% chance tomorrow. This is fine, as we need the rain, and it’s not supposed to freeze this week. The next ten days are predicted to be anywhere from the low fifties to the low seventies. The average temps for this time of year are upper fifties for highs and mid-thirties for lows. We aren’t setting any records, though, as the record high for today is 77, in 1974, and the record low is 22, in 2014. I should think we should be getting close to the time when the record lows will be from 2021.

It’s my night at the library, tonight, so I’ll be working from 4:15 to 8:15, this evening. It’s also our Subway day, so I’ll be trekking over to Subway around noon today, to pick up lunch and dinner for the family. We missed it last week, because of the winter “storm.”

That’s about all I have today. Got a few chores to do, and should probably practice a little bit. Need to keep my trombone chops going (or keep improving them), and have a new vocal song to learn for February 26.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are my hiding place and my shield; 
I hope in your word.
(Psalms 119:114 NRSV)

May this ever be true in my life.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Dear Father in heaven, living source of all that is eternal in us, we come to you and plead with you to strengthen the gifts you have given us. Grant us the light of life in which we can walk in spite of the many burdens and uncertainties of our earthly life. Protect us from deception and disappointment. Strengthen our hope for your steadfast, firm, and eternal rule in us, in many others, and finally in all people. Amen.

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that God is my hiding place and my shield (Psalm 119:114)
  • for the gifts that God has given me; may He strengthen those within me
  • for the Word of God, lamp to my feet, light to my path (Psalm 119:105)
  • for freedom in Christ
  • that the Lord delivers me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4)
  • for the Psalms

I rise before dawn and cry for help; 
I put my hope in your words.
(Psalms 119:147 NRSV)
I sought the LORD, 
and he answered me, 
and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 NRSV)
Your word is a lamp to my feet 
and a light to my path.
(Psalms 119:105 NRSV)
So if the Son makes you free, 
you will be free indeed.
(John 8:36 NRSV)
So thank GOD for his marvelous love, 
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
(Psalms 107:31 MSG)

I have a lot of thoughts going through my head, this morning, as I consider the Scripture verses that have spoken to me.

I like Eugene H. Peterson’s words, in Answering God, quoted in today’s reading of God’s Message for Each Day. “It is not possible to comprehend God. Merely to utter the name ‘God’ is to be plunged into mystery.”

I agree. We cannot comprehend God, and as soon as someone claims that they have, they lose all credibility. However, we are not roaming around in the dark, “where all cats are gray.” While we cannot comprehend God, there are things about Him that are knowable. We tend to call these things “doctrine.” Even so, there is a rather large amount of disagreement over those doctrines.

One of the great things about C.S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity, which I am currently reading again, along with a group of people from my church, is that what he is trying to describe fits the title perfectly. He is not interested in “denominational” differences. He says, right off the bat, that he is not going to present one communion over another. He happened to be of the Church of England, but I believe that is only mentioned once in the book, and that at the beginning.

He describes “mere Christianity,” or, in a sense, the basic beliefs which most denominations agree upon, as a large hall. The important thing is to get into that hallway. The various denominations or “communions,” as he calls them, are represented by doors that come off of that hallway. He advises us to be kind to people who have either landed in different rooms than we, or people who have made it into the hallway, but not yet found which door they need to go through.

Evelyn Underhill defines worship as simply “the response of the creature to the Eternal.” This response comes almost naturally (most definitely naturally to non-human creatures), and is, perhaps, enhanced by the fact that we do not and cannot comprehend God, as Peterson notes.

So we seek Him, and we cry out to Him, as we worship Him. We do not comprehend, and perhaps we should not attempt to. Part of the act of worship is simply doing nothing more than contemplating His beauty. Any attempt to understand or comprehend Him detracts from this, and could result in what Underhill called “egotistic piety.”

So we thank Him for His marvelous love, that “miracle mercy,” as Peterson paraphrases in Psalm 107:31.

Jesus declared that if we continue in His Word, we would know the truth and the truth would make us free. Jesus also declared that He was the Truth (the Way, the Truth, and the Life). Therefore, it is Him that we will know, and He who will set us free. And if He has set us free, then we are “free indeed.” The Greek word that is translated “indeed,” is ontos, which can be translated as “indeed, certainly, of a truth, verily, really.”

There seems to be some disagreement as to what “free” means, in this case. I will give my opinion, noting that it is nothing more than that. However, as Paul once said, I believe that I, too, have the Holy Spirit.

I believe that, in Christ, I have been made free, indeed, and that I am free from trying to comprehend something that is incomprehensible. There is a contingent of society that refuses to believe something that it cannot understand. I find this laughable, as those same people get in their car and drive to work every day, and I guarantee you that many of them don’t really understand how that works. Or maybe they get on an airplane and fly to a particular destination. And I guarantee you that they breathe, and don’t understand how that works, either!

As C.S. Lewis points out, I don’t have to understand how my dinner nourishes me in order to enjoy it.

So I don’t have to comprehend God to enjoy Him. And there are certainly times when I thoroughly enjoy simply contemplating His beauty.


Father, I praise You, even though I do not fully understand You. And I thank You that I don’t have to. Well, I can’t, that’s the truth, but I don’t have to try to. I am free from that, as well as free from other things, because of Jesus Christ. So I praise You for the Son, who has set us free, indeed, because He is the Truth, and He has shown us truth, that we may become free in Him.

I praise You for Your inexpressible beauty. This beauty is made known to us in so many ways, not the least of which is Your Creation. How I love to sit and watch the ocean, and even better, catch a sunrise or sunset over the ocean. How I love to watch a waterfall, one, perhaps that is not so readily visible without a bit of a journey. The reward is worth it. In these things, as well as in the majestic mountain ranges, I see Your beauty. I celebrate that beauty in worship.

Thank You for Your Word, which is a lamp for my feet, which lights up my path. Help me to always continue in that Word, and never forsake it. I have truly loved Your Word since before I was able to read it. I praise You for being that kind of Presence in my life for that long, Lord.

You are glorious and beautiful, and I long to be in Your Presence for eternity.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Story

Today is Sunday, the 5th of February, 2023. It is the fifth Sunday after Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ surround you today.

Day 23,705

Yesterday may have been the busiest day I have ever experienced at the library. The book drops stayed full, pretty much all day. But the three of us in circulation stayed on it and got it done. There were a lot of new library cards given out, and it seems that we noted an unusual number of couples coming in to get cards together. One particular couple that I worked with were very excited about it, and that made me very happy. Several of them had recently moved to the area and provided leases as their proof of address. And in two of the couples, the woman had an out of state ID/DL. But, as long as they have the lease with their name on it, that serves as proof of address and they can get a card.

One thing for sure, we were never bored, yesterday.

I’m up early, this morning, as I am reading the Scripture lesson in the 8:45 service at Living Word Lutheran Church. So I need to be at the church by 8:25. Then I am meeting with the music director at 10:00 to discuss what solo I will sing on February 26. After that, I will come home, because I will have received communion in the early service.

So on to the important stuff.

Update: I’m finishing this after the morning service, back at home. The reading went well, and the director and I have chosen a song that I will sing on February 26.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, 
to the end.
(Psalms 119:112 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Lord our God, keep us in your Spirit. Surround us with your protection, so that in body and soul we may praise your might and be joyful even in a world full of evil. Shine into our hearts, that we may discern what is right and good and eternal. May you do more than we can ask or understand for those who still walk in darkness far away from you. May your eternal mercy enfold them, and may the earth be filled with thanks to you, the Creator and Father of us all. Amen.

To the leader: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. 

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; 
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; 
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:1-2 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a good day at the library job, yesterday
  • for the wonderful deeds of the Lord, for which I am able to give thanks and praise, daily
  • for my musical talent and ability, that helps me give thanks and praise to the Lord
  • that, when I find myself afraid, I can put my trust in Him, “In God, whose word I praise” (Psalm 56:4)
  • for a wonderful worship service, this morning
  • for my story, so far . . . it’s not over, yet

O come, let us sing to the LORD; 
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; 
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Psalms 95:1-2 NRSV)
To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm. 

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, 
you who lead Joseph like a flock! 
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, 
shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. 
Stir up your might, and come to save us! 
Restore us, O God; 
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
(Psalms 80:1-3 NRSV)
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath Day.

 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
 to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, 
and your faithfulness by night, 
to the music of the lute and the harp, 
to the melody of the lyre.
(Psalms 92:1-3 NRSV)
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; 
I am not afraid; what can flesh do to me?
(Psalms 56:4 NRSV)
"Do to others as you would have them do to you. 
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
(Luke 6:31-36 NRSV)
How can young people keep their way pure? 
By guarding it according to your word. 
With my whole heart I seek you; 
do not let me stray from your commandments.
 I treasure your word in my heart, 
so that I may not sin against you. 
Blessed are you, O LORD; 
teach me your statutes. 
With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.
 I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. 
I will meditate on your precepts, 
and fix my eyes on your ways.
 I will delight in your statutes; 
I will not forget your word.
(Psalms 119:9-16 NRSV)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

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

"Set me free, O God, from the bondage of my sins, 
and give me the liberty of that abundant life 
which you have made known to me in your Son 
our Savior Jesus Christ; 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
Amen." 
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, 
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30 NRSV)
God is in the midst of the city; 
it shall not be moved; 
God will help it when the morning dawns.
(Psalms 46:5 NRSV)
A capable wife who can find? 
She is far more precious than jewels.
(Proverbs 31:10 NRSV)

“That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.”
(Matthew 13:13 MSG)


Who doesn’t love a good story? The popularity of movies and television bears this out. Story is important. One reason is that we all have a story. There’s not a single person who has ever lived who did not have a story.

Some of us, however, are reticent to share that story, for some reason.

I shared part of my story, just this morning. I had a conversation with the music director, while we were going over some music, in which I shared a brief overview of my journey as music minister/worship leader.

The way we connect with others is, so often, through story. Connections are not authentic when one person is not interested in the other person’s story.

We find God through story. The revelation comes to us through story, both through Old and New Testaments.

One reason story is so essential to us is that it is how life happens. Life . . . "has a narrative shape--a beginning and end, plot and characters, conflict and resolution. Life isn't an accumulation of abstractions such as love and truth, sin and salvation . . . ; life is the realization of details that all connect . . . : names and fingerprints, street numbers, . . . God reveals himself to us . . . in the kind of stories we use to tell our children who they are and how to grow up as human beings." 
(Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over A Wall, quoted in God's Message for Each Day)

Over time, I will share parts of my story in this forum. My story is who I am. The parts of it are what make me who I am today.

Part of my story involves two women who, I believe, embody the two verses from Proverbs, up there. My wife and my mother. My story would be incomplete without either one. Well, obviously, it wouldn’t exist without a mother. But you know what I mean. While everyone has a mother (or had one) not all mothers fit the description of a “woman who fears the Lord.” Mine does, as does my wife. And both figure quite heavily into my story, which would likely be much shorter without either one.

I challenge all who read this to think about their story, today, and in the days ahead. How would you share it with someone else? Would it be different for someone who is not a Christ-follower? I should think so. There is nothing wrong with having a different version of your story, based on your “audience.”


Father, I am grateful for my story, so far. I am grateful that You have always been part of my story, even from before I was born. In fact, I believe that You are part of my story from before the foundations of the earth. Thank You for the contributions that my parents and my wife have made to this story. As well as for the parts that have involved other people along the way. But my parents and my wife, specifically, have been a most important piece of it.

I know that I have led a somewhat privileged life. I won’t try to deny that. And I’m grateful for that. I do my best to take that and share it, though, as You bring me opportunities. Help me to always be willing to do so. Let not that privilege become entitlement. I do not deserve anything, nor am I owed anything. I owe all to You.

As for the rest of my story, You have already written it. May I be a willing participant, submissive to both You and others, as well. Help me to always consider others more significant than myself, in this life, thereby being a servant both to You and my fellow human beings.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-21 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Great and Awesome God

Today is Wednesday, the 1st of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ bless you today!

Day 23,701

Once again, my header photo is courtesy of Romanian photographer Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided and take in his magnificent photos of the land in which he lives.

It is now officially my least favorite month of the year. I have severely disliked February for almost 40 years, for a variety of reasons, none of which I will share here, today. This year, February seems to have stolen the last two days of January, at least in DFW, Texas. We continue to be in winter weather, and we are officially in an “Ice Storm Warning,” until 6:00 AM tomorrow. The library is closed again, today. They say they are going to open at 10:00 tomorrow morning, but I’m skeptical. There is a 78% chance of more stuff falling from the sky today, and it may not get above freezing until after 9:00 AM tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that much to me, because I’m not scheduled to work again until Friday, but I do care about the safety and well-being of the best group of co-workers I’ve ever worked with.

Well, that may not be 100% true. I did have a pretty awesome crew to work with when I was the loading supervisor at Tex-Pack Express. But they are definitely my best group of work associates in almost 40 years. I’m still in contact with one of them, all these years later, shoutout to Robert Warden.

C continues to work from home today. I’m not sure what her plans are for tomorrow. She may be asked to come in later, around noon or so. I’m pretty sure she won’t be trying to get out and drive at 6:15 AM.

I thought I would share the video of our church orchestra playing, this past Sunday morning. I’m the bald head trombone player on the right. You can see the top of my head over the cellist’s music stand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, 
and teach me your ordinances.
(Psalms 119:108 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Lord our God, we thank you that we may be your children and may be led by your hand. Give us patience and faith, especially when our way on earth seems difficult and life is full of grief and hardship. You are light. You show us the right path. You go before us in the self-denial and patience taught us by your Word. Protect us on all our ways. May your kingdom grow among us until it can be plainly seen that you, O God, are truly with us doing your work and bringing us joy, even though what we do seems fruitless. But your work endures. In your work we rejoice, and we want to give thanks to you every day. Amen.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that we are safe and warm; praying for all who may not be so fortunate
  • for patience and faith, “especially when our way on earth seems difficult”
  • for the love that the Father has given us, “that we should be called children of God”
  • that we have nothing to fear in any circumstance of life; our God fights for us
  • that our God listens to us: “Everything we say, every groan, every murmur, every stammering attempt at prayer: all this is listened to” (Eugene H. Peterson)

Worship the LORD in holy splendor; 
tremble before him, all the earth.
(Psalms 96:9 NRSV)
To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song. 

May God be gracious to us and bless us 
and make his face to shine upon us, 
[Selah]
(Psalms 67:1 NRSV)
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.
(Psalms 119:164 NRSV)
O guard my life, and deliver me; 
do not let me be put to shame, 
for I take refuge in you. 
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, 
for I wait for you.
(Psalms 25:20-21 NRSV)

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:5-8 NRSV)

Praise the LORD, all you nations! 
Extol him, all you peoples!
 For great is his steadfast love toward us, 
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 117:1-2 NRSV)
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

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

"Almighty and everlasting God,
you govern all things both in heaven and on earth:
Mercifully hear the supplications of your people,
and in our time grant us your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen."
(The Prayer Appointed for the Week - The Divine Hours)

Do not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.”
(Deuteronomy 3:22 NRSV)

From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the LORD your God and heed him. Because the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.
(Deuteronomy 4:29-31 NRSV)

So acknowledge today and take to heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
(Deuteronomy 4:39 NRSV)

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. 

Hear, O Israel: 
The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6:1-9 NRSV)

Have no dread of them, for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God.
(Deuteronomy 7:21 NRSV)


O sing to the LORD a new song; 
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
(Psalms 96:1 NRSV)
My foot stands on level ground; 
in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.
(Psalms 26:12 NRSV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
(Colossians 3:16 NRSV)

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
(Hebrews 13:1-2 NRSV)


“I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.”
(2 Corinthians 6:16 MSG)


Over and over again, in Moses’s long sermon series that is the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “Do not fear them,” or some variation of that statement. The “them” for Israel was the different nations they would encounter as they entered the Promised Land.

The “them” for us is entirely different. I’m not rampaging through a new, foreign land, destroying every people in my path. My troubles pale in comparison to what the children of Israel went through. In fact, the majority of my “troubles” would fall under the category of what I have, in the past, referred to as “footstool” problems. I don’t remember where I got that . . . but I will say that I did not originate that idea.

Today, it’s the fact that the trash didn’t get picked up this week because of the winter weather we are experiencing. So it sits until next Tuesday. But at least we are allowed four extra bags that can be set out at the curb, next week. But that doesn’t help the recycling. Our recycling bin will be completely full, which will cause us to have more trash.

Footstool.

Last week, it was the police drama outside on my street, that caused me to not be able to park in my driveway until well after 11:00 PM.

Footstool.

Earlier in our lives, though, it was the challenge of raising and autistic daughter, who is now an adult who still lives with us. There were times during those years that I admit that we forgot to not be afraid of “them,” because the Lord will fight for us.

“Them” is different for everyone. But one thing is the same for all of us (and I’m speaking of Christ-followers, here). And that is the truth of Moses’s statement to Israel.

Do not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.”
(Deuteronomy 3:22 NRSV)

And then, in chapter 7, verse 21, he adds this little bit, “for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God.”

This is why we can “sing a new song” (Psalm 96:1). This is why “my foot stands on level ground” (Psalm 26:12). This is why the word of Christ can dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16).

And this . . . this is why we can (and must) “let mutual love continue” (Hebrews 13:1).

It is a beautiful thing. Our God has said, and I believe Him because He said it, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Yes. Our God is a great and awesome God! So do not fear “them,” whoever your “them” is. Have no dread of “them.” God is bigger and stronger, and He dwells with us.

To use more modern terminology, He’s got this.


Thank You, Father, that You are a great and awesome God! Praises to You for choosing to dwell with us and in us, so that we have nothing to fear, no “them” to dread. I pray for all of my brothers and sisters who seem to live in a constant state of fear over “them.” May their hearts be filled with Your love, and their eyes be opened to the truth that we have nothing to fear or dread in this world. Let us remember that, in the words of Dallas Willard, in Your kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine.

Let us love one another with the love with which Christ has loved us. Let us love You with all of our beings, heart, soul, mind, and strength, and in doing these two things, fulfill all of the Law and Prophets. May the Word of Christ dwell richly within us as we walk through this world. And keep our feet on level ground in You, that we might not slip or stumble.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

The Light and the Lamp

Today is Sunday, the 29th of January, 2023, the fourth Sunday of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always.

Day 23,698 (the number of days since I was born)

I have less than 45 minutes to get this done, as I have to be at church by 8:00, this morning, and it is close to a 30 minute drive (probably less, that early on Sunday). So I’m getting right to it, this morning.

Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site to see more of his photography.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your word is a lamp to my feet 
and a light to my path.
(Psalms 119:105 NRSV)

Lord our God, we thank you that every day – through good days and through days that to us seem bad – we know that our lives are guided by your will, what you do and what you want. For this we thank you. We want to love you above everything in the world. Our hearts long for you, for you are our Father. We want to love and honor you with our whole lives. Lord our God, bring your order into the world. Help us at all times to do your will and to fulfill your commandments. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Hear, O Israel: 
The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, 
and with all your soul, and with all your might.
 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-6 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for God’s Word, a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
  • for the “Shema;” I pray that I might obey it (those verses directly above this)
  • that sometimes, things that seem “bad” to us may not truly be so
  • for this day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it
  • for opportunities to serve the community of saints with the gifts which God has granted me

Of David. A Psalm. 

I will sing of loyalty and of justice; 
to you, O LORD, I will sing.
(Psalms 101:1 NRSV)
But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
 in the morning my prayer comes before you.
(Psalms 88:13 NRSV)
Your decrees are very sure; 
holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
(Psalms 93:5 NRSV)
Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.
(Psalms 119:1 NRSV)

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
(Matthew 5:23-24 NRSV)

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
 that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 
This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it. 
I thank you that you have answered me 
and have become my salvation. 

The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the chief cornerstone. 
This is the LORD's doing; 
it is marvelous in our eyes. 
This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalms 118:19-24 NRSV)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

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

"Almighty and everlasting God,
you govern all things both in heaven and on earth:
Mercifully hear the supplications of your people,
and in our time grant us your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen."
(The Prayer Appointed for the Week - The Divine Hours)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 NRSV)

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
(Psalms 139:13-14 NRSV)

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
(1 Peter 4:10 NRSV)


Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
(Mark 14:23-24 NRSV)


The Word of God . . . a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. What a wonderful verse, a verse that I have had memorized long before I was even able to read. Of course, I had it memorized in King James Version, because that was all we had at Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. Other versions came out as I made it to adolescence and beyond. But my first couple of Bibles were KJV.

The version isn’t really important. What is important is the precepts and principles taught, therein, and the Gospel message we get from Jesus Christ. The Psalms are replete with verses like Psalm 119:105, that tell us that His Word is the way to know our path, and that He will direct us if we fear/revere Him and His holy name.

So that is the path of my life. I seek to revere the name of the Lord, and walk in the path that He directs me in. One of those directions is found in the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-6. This is also found to be Jesus’s “greatest commandment.” Love the Lord your God with all of your being, your mind, soul, heart, and strength. We know, then, that he said the second commandment was similar, love your neighbor as yourself. This was not new, either, because that command can be found in Leviticus 19:18.

Time is up. So, let the Word of God be that light and lamp for you, today.


Father, I thank You for Your Word, a light to my path and a lamp to my feet. Help me to follow Your path, today and every day. Help me to love You with all of my being. I can’t do that without You. Then help me to love my neighbor, and to love the saints as Christ has loved us.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Eyes on Jesus

Today is Tuesday, the 24th of January, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,693

There’s a nice, slow rain falling outside, this morning, as I type this, our first rain in well over thirty days. It is currently 43 degrees outside, and that’s the highest it is expected to be today. Tonight’s low should be just below freezing. I suppose there is a slight chance of some snow, later in the day, as it gets colder. I do have to work tonight, but I’m not worried about travel conditions, as it has been unseasonable warm for the past week or so.

My cold is gradually getting better, but only after feeling slightly worse yesterday. It was a busy weekend, working Friday and Saturday, then having church activities on Sunday, but it’s a light work week for me, this week, and there is plenty of time to rest. I do need to get some trombone practice in, and hope that I will feel well enough to walk on the treadmill, maybe tomorrow.

The visit with the estate sale planner went fabulously, yesterday. It’s all arranged, but they are a little behind, so our sale won’t happen until the first weekend in May, which is fine with us. We are in no hurry, and we don’t have a timeline for selling the house, either. So they have ample time to look at everything in the house and determine pricing. He got a good look at everything, yesterday, and seemed mildly excited about doing the sale.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I understand more than the aged, 
for I keep your precepts.
(Psalms 119:100 NRSV)

Lord our God, we thank you for giving us your love, for letting us draw nearer to what is right and good. May your Spirit penetrate everywhere, overcoming what is false and helping people everywhere to understand the true nature of your justice. Guard us on all our ways. Protect us when our bodies and our lives are worn down by sickness and distress of every kind. Grant us your help according to your truth and righteousness. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, “Seek me in chaos.” I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right.
(Isaiah 45:19 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a great meeting with the estate sale planner yesterday
  • for safe travel to and from Mineral Wells, yesterday
  • that God does not hide from us, and is not difficult to find
  • that it is the Lord who opens my eyes and ears, that I might “behold wondrous things” in His Word, and who opens my lips that my mouth may declare His praise
  • for the promise of victory in Christ

O Lord, open my lips, 
and my mouth will declare your praise.
(Psalms 51:15 NRSV)
Open my eyes, 
so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalms 119:18 NRSV)
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, 
and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalms 86:12 NRSV)
For who is God except the LORD? 
And who is a rock besides our God?—
(Psalms 18:31 NRSV)

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
(Matthew 10:16-20 NRSV)

You are righteous, O LORD, 
and your judgments are right. 
You have appointed your decrees 
in righteousness and in all faithfulness. 
My zeal consumes me 
because my foes forget your words. 
Your promise is well tried, 
and your servant loves it. 
I am small and despised, 
yet I do not forget your precepts. 
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, 
and your law is the truth. 
Trouble and anguish have come upon me, 
but your commandments are my delight. 
Your decrees are righteous forever; 
give me understanding that I may live.
(Psalms 119:137-144 NRSV)
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

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

"Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he [Stephen] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
(Acts 7:55 NRSV)

To the leader. A Psalm of David. 

The heavens are telling the glory of God; 
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 NRSV)
He has made everything suitable for its time;
 moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, 
yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NRSV)
When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 

"Death has been swallowed up in victory." 
"Where, O death, is your victory? 
Where, O death, is your sting?" 

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NRSV)

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.
(Hebrews 12:2 MSG)


In Psalm 119, the psalmist asks God to open his eyes, that he might “behold wondrous things” in God’s Word. In this verse above, the author of Hebrews admonishes us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the One “who both began and finished this race we’re in.”

In between, we see Stephen, who, as he is dying from being stoned, looks up and sees “the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

I fully believe (and have for many years) that it is impossible to gain much wisdom and understanding from God’s Word without the help of the Holy Spirit. If God does not “open our eyes,” we aren’t going to see much of the truth of His Word.

And, if God does not open our eyes, we won’t succeed in keeping our eyes on Jesus.

It’s hard enough to do that, even with my “spiritual eyes” wide open. There is so much in this world that is distracting us from keeping our eyes on Jesus. It is a daily struggle to do this, and if we relax for even a moment, we will pay the price for it.

Hence the frequent reminders from Scripture that we need our eyes opened, and we need to fix them firmly on Jesus, who, by the way, has already finished this race we are in!

How encouraging is that??

That’s another thing we need to remember. As we fight and claw to finish this race, we need to take a step back and realize that Jesus has already done it; He is finished with the race. And He is the one who gives us the strength to do it, as well. Remember the “easy yoke?”

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV)

In a sense, I suppose it could be said that Jesus, who has finished the race and sits next to the Father, is also back out here running it with us. If we would but step into that yoke and follow His instruction, the burdens would drop, and we would find rest for our weary souls. Because His yoke is easy.

Open our eyes, Lord,
We want to see Jesus,
to reach out and touch Him,
and say that we love Him.
Open our ears, Lord,
and help us to listen.
Open our eyes, Lord,
we want to see Jesus.
(Robert Cull, 1976, Maranatha Music)

Father, open my eyes, that I might behold wonderful things from Your Word. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I might fear Your name. Open my lips that I might proclaim Your praises, daily. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus, who has already finished the race in which we are running.

I am so easily distracted, Lord. And, in the words of C.S. Lewis, I am far too easily pleased. Help me to stay focused on this life, and to remember, as I read yesterday, that all sin is sacrilege, no matter how small it may seem at the moment.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Grace and peace, friends.

“Be holy, for I . . . Am Holy

Today is Sunday, the 22nd of January, 2023, the third Sunday after Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,691

I had a good Saturday at the library, yesterday and am close to feeling normal again. I’ll be heading up to church in a little while, and will attempt to sing with the choir, this morning in the 11:00 service. I have another orchestra rehearsal after that service, and will be going back up there at 6:30 tonight for our Mere Christianity group discussion.

Today’s header photo was taken by Romanian photographer extraordinaire, Paul Militaru. Please visit his website at the link provided to see his magnificent photos.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, 
for it is always with me.
(Psalms 119:98 NRSV)

Dear Father in heaven, grant us the inner quiet we need so that we may come into your presence and hear you speak, forgetting all the things that try to force themselves upon us. May we experience your true and living support. Keep our hearts glad and thankful for everything, even in grief, anxiety, and suffering. In this thankfulness we can remain with you, and Jesus Christ can help us, Jesus, whom you have given as our support and helper in all that most deeply concerns us. We entrust ourselves to you. Keep us in your Spirit. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the inner quiet in my spirit, that God grants, so that I might dwell in His presence and hear Him speak to me; may I be able to shove aside all distractions and listen
  • for the “easy yoke” of Jesus (Matthew 11:28ff)
  • for the prayer that begins this day, and the hope of a prayer that will end it
  • for the opportunity to worship with the saints and sing praises to God
  • for the gift of God’s Word, His “book on living” (Psalm 119:111, MSG)

This Day, by Daryl Madden

Let the sun rise today
And the sun set this day
With its blessing of light
In between

Let a prayer start this day
And a prayer, close this day
With an indwelling prayer
In between

Let love spark this day
And in love rest this day
With a sharing of love
In between

With thanks start this day
And in thanks end this day
Everything is a gift
In between

Please visit Daryl’s site at the link above, to see more of his inspirational poetry.


When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
(Leviticus 16:20-22 NRSV)

This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins. And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.
(Leviticus 16:29-34 NRSV)

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
(Leviticus 19:1-2 NRSV)

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18 NRSV)


Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinthians 9:7 NRSV)

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
(Malachi 3:10 NRSV)


I inherited your book on living;
 it's mine forever— what a gift! 
And how happy it makes me!
(Psalms 119:111 MSG)

I like that phrase that Peterson uses in The Message, “your book on living.” The NRSV words it differently, but I can certainly appreciate its translation, as well.

Your decrees are my heritage forever; 
they are the joy of my heart.
(Psalms 119:111 NRSV)

I’ve talked about Psalm 119 before, in this forum. It uses many different words to represent God’s Word, the thing we call the Bible. In this particular verse, it is “decrees.” In others, it might be “law,” or “precepts,” or “ordinances.” Sometimes it is just “word.” But Peterson’s wording, “your book on living” is wonderful, I think.

I love the Bible. I always have, as long as I can remember. I have read it through at least 17 times in my life. That has not always been cover-to-cover (which is how I’m reading the NRSV, this year). For example, last year’s reading plan had me bouncing around like a ping pong ball. But I still read the whole thing.

I’m not boasting about this. Not at all. I’m not bragging about how many times I’ve read it. I won’t brag about how much I have memorized. Probably not all that much, compared to others. I will boast, though, about the author of the book.

Yes, I know that men wrote the text, quite a few of them. But I believe and proclaim that God, via the Holy Spirit is the ultimate Author of the Bible. And I will boast about Him. I love His Word. As the psalmist says in that verse above, it is the joy of my heart. I find myself in Psalms, probably more than any other book, and I’m working my way through chapter 119, a verse at a time, right now.

The Bible truly is a “book on living.” Not that we should get all caught up in trying to live out the details in Leviticus (I talked about that, yesterday). I don’t even think we should work that hard to see that we are keeping the Ten Commandments (that is also addressed yesterday). Don’t get me wrong . . . we shouldn’t be striving to break those Ten Commandments, either. But we have further teachings from the Son of God in the New Testament.

The Old Testament Law is there to show us how we have failed, and how we are going to fail. I believe Paul gives us a pretty good illustration of that in his epistles.

And everything is summed up by (there he goes again) Jesus’s two main commands. Love God; love people. Love your neighbor as yourself. But guess what! As we see all the way back in Leviticus, that wasn’t a new “law,” was it? God gave that word to Moses in Leviticus 19! The “golden rule” was not new with Jesus. He just reminded us, strongly, that it is the way to live.

There are many in the world today who seem to have forgotten this “golden rule,” and need to be reminded. The way to live is to treat one another the way we desire to be treated. To my shame, I have not succeeded in always doing this. I have been quite mean and rude to people in my life. I’ve gotten better, especially since I have been striving to live by Jesus’s two commands in recent years.

But I still struggle with my reaction when Applebee’s gets my order wrong . . . AGAIN! But here’s the thing. When Sonic messes up my drink order, when Walmart delivers milk that is past its expiration date, when Albertson’s makes a weird substitution for something I ordered . . . all of these are what I call “footstool” problems. What that means is that they aren’t really problems at all.

May God have mercy on us when we overreact to such situations. May He teach us how to react better, more calmly, more . . . well, “holy.”

Note: As seems to be the case a lot, lately, I had no idea where this was going to wind up when I started typing. Glory to God!


Father, I am so glad that Your Word tells us that You remember that we are dust. This means that nothing we do surprises you. We might disappoint You, most certainly, but I’m not even sure how that works for You, seeing as how You know everything I am going to do before I do it. Sometimes, I wonder why You didn’t stop me if You knew I was going to do that stupid thing, or that rude thing, or that mean thing.

I love Your Word, Father, and I love You. I will always boast of You and Your great and marvelous works. I would be, and am nothing, without You. All that I have in my possession was given to me by You. Every relationship that I have in this world was given to me by You. I pray that I use the things wisely and resourcefully, being of a generous heart with all things, and I pray that I would approach all the relationships with the love of Jesus as my driving force.

Help me to love You with my whole heart, and my whole being, and help me to love others as myself. I also pray that You help me to love the saints as Christ loves the Church. Help me to be “holy” as You are Holy.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Stop Trying Harder

Today is Saturday, the 21st of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ enfold you today!

Day 23,690

I suppose the next “big thing” coming up is Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22, this year. That’s 32 days from today. I’m looking forward to observing Lent at my new church.

I made it through my work day pretty well, yesterday. Some coughing, used a few tissues, but it was okay. I’m feeling better, this morning, but still not quite 100%. I will “mask up” at work until my symptoms are gone. I’ll be at the library from 9:30-6:15 today, working at the circulation desk. We never know what Saturdays are going to look like at the circ desk. The last Saturday I worked, two weeks ago, was one of the busiest that I can remember. But yesterday was really slow, at least in the computer center.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Oh, how I love your law!
 It is my meditation all day long.
(Psalms 119:97 NRSV)

Father, I thank You for Your Word. I confess that I do not make it my “meditation all day long,” but I do, at least, remember to come back to it, during my day. I keep praying for a united heart, that I might properly fear Your name.

Dear Father in heaven, we rejoice that you are our Father. We rejoice that you rule and guide each of us so that our path in life leads to what is good and genuine and we do not get stuck in this or that concern. Lead us, renew us, and again and again free us to go forward, finding new courage and joy for ourselves and for our fellowmen. Then we can praise you, your strength and power can be revealed to us, your heaven come down to earth, and your will be done on earth. Here on earth your help shall come to the poor, the weak, the lowly, the sick, and the suffering. May your name be praised! We rejoice in your name. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

In my distress I called upon the LORD; 
to my God I cried for help. 
From his temple he heard my voice, 
and my cry to him reached his ears.
(Psalms 18:6 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for God’s Word; may it be my meditation all day long (Psalm 119:97)
  • that the Lord hears me “from His temple,” when I cry out to Him.
  • that the Spirit guides us to what is good and genuine
  • that life in the kingdom of God is not about trying harder
  • that because the Lord is my light and my salvation, my stronghold, I have nothing to fear (Psalm 27:1)

Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually.
(Psalms 105:4 NRSV)
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
 "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" 
Your face, LORD, do I seek. 
Do not hide your face from me. 
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. 
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
(Psalms 27:7-9 NRSV)
But you indeed are awesome! 
Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?
(Psalms 76:7 NRSV)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me, 
and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 NRSV)

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:8-10 NRSV)

You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 
Because you have made the LORD your refuge, 
the Most High your dwelling place,
 no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 
On their hands they will bear you up, 
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the adder, 
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
(Psalms 91:8-13 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

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

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

"Now we cannot . . . discover our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is every going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, 'You must do this. I can't.'"
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible, in regard to Leviticus 14-16)

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
(Psalms 23:4 NRSV)
Of David.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 NRSV)

But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence.
(Colossians 1:22 MSG)


The book of Leviticus is arguably the most difficult book of the Bible to read. I have never known anyone who has enthusiastically approached this book, and declared it to be their favorite book in the Bible. I have heard it said that you can find Christ on every page in the Bible. I’m skeptical about Leviticus.

I mean no disrespect or dishonor. It is part of what we have before us as God’s Word, and, therefore, has some purpose for us. And I believe that at least part of that purpose is illustrated by the quote from C.S. Lewis, above.

I started reading through the Bible, again, this year, starting with Genesis, in the new NRSV that I got for Christmas. This week, I arrived at Leviticus. I’m reading five chapters a day, so I don’t have much more to go . . . maybe another day or two. Or three. I have twelve chapters left.

It is, essentially, nothing but laws about this and that. Most of the five chapters I read today are about what to do if leprosy appears on one’s body or one’s clothes or in one’s home.

We are no longer under the law, as we have moved into the era of grace, because of Jesus. As the verse in Colossians says, Jesus has brought us “over to God’s side,” and put our lives together. We are, in Christ, “whole and holy.” Or, as one of my favorite Mercy Me songs says, “The Cross has made you flawless.”

We have a choice in our lives. We can keep on “trying harder and harder,” as C.S. Lewis said, or we can stop that nonsense and come to the correct conclusion that, “You must do this. I can’t.”

We can try our best to live by the Ten Commandments, and all of that Levitical Law, but then we must accept what was said in Paul’s epistles, that, if we fail at even the smallest point of the Law, we have violated the entirety of it. That should be most discouraging to anyone.

Unless that “anyone” has become a Christ-follower. Christ kept the Law for us; He fulfilled it. He did not abolish it, but He fulfilled it, which means we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow His commands. And His commands are short and sweet. They sum up the entirety of the Law and the Prophets. We simply must love God and love people.

This is not as easy as it sounds. I know this from experience. God is easy to love. Most of the time. Except for maybe when things don’t go quite the way I want them to. But people? People, especially some of them, are really hard to love. I imagine I am pretty hard to love, to some people.

But here’s the thing. Way up there, close to the top of this post, are some verses from Psalms that give great advice, advice that is very helpful in this journey of faith. I’ll repeat them.

Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually.
(Psalms 105:4 NRSV)
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
 "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" 
Your face, LORD, do I seek. 
Do not hide your face from me. 
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. 
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
(Psalms 27:7-9 NRSV)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me, 
and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 NRSV)

Seek. Seek the Lord. Seek His face. Expend as much energy as you can on this, and the rest of this stuff will align itself. I’m not pretending that it will not still be difficult to love some people, but if we are seeking God, constantly (Frank Laubach, in his “game of minutes,” opined that it is possible to think about God at least once per minute, throughout our day), His love will channel through us and shove our own unloving thoughts to one side, and maybe even eliminate them altogether.

It’s not about trying harder. Remember what Moses said to the Israelites, when they saw Pharaoh and his army coming after them at the Red Sea?

“The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
(Exodus 14:14 NRSV)

They didn’t have to “try harder.” They just had to stand still and watch the mighty hand of God take out their enemy.

So stop trying harder and start seeking.


Father, I praise You for Your Word and what it means to me. I thank You for the truths contained therein. I pray that You will help us to take these truths and incorporate them into our lives, that we might fully love You and then love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us to stop expending so much energy in trying to be “better Christians.” We can’t do it. I can’t do it; You must do it. I surrender.

I thank You that, in Christ, I have nothing to fear. You are my light and my salvation, the stronghold of my life. I may not always live like I believe that, and I pray that that would change as I continue to seek Your face. As I go through this day, may my mind, soul, and spirit be drawn into Your presence, to know You more, and to contemplate You and Your presence even more.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

It’s All About Love. Still. Again.

Today is Wednesday, the 18th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always.

Day 23,687

I’m due in at the library at 9:15, this morning, so I won’t dally.

Update on that: I seem to have come down with a bit of a chest cold. I don’t feel terrible, but don’t feel great. After a text conversation with my manager, it was advised that I stay home and take care of myself. I don’t work tomorrow, anyway, so I feel confident that, by Friday, I will be better. I’m negative for Covid, so it’s not that. I feel like it’s related to weather and/or air quality, i.e. Mountain Cedar and so on.

Yet another thing I love about my library job. I have worked way too many places where the response would have been, “We really need you here, today,” rather than, “You stay home and take care of yourself.” ❤

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I am yours; 
save me, for I have sought your precepts.
(Psalms 119:94 NRSV)

Lord our God, be with us. Touch us with your Spirit so that our hearts may receive something from you. Let us find joy even in a life of struggle and temptation. Let us find joy in every need we face, even in the agony of death. Protect us through your Word, and let it always be a light to us so that we can follow you and do your will. Be with us on all our ways. Guide everything with your hand until the goal for all humankind is reached and we may rejoice over all the trials and testing because in the end the glorious prize can be won. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, . . . Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 
(James 1:2, 12 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that joy can be found in even the most unpleasant circumstances
  • for the hope of the crown of life, promised to those who love the Lord
  • that we are chosen by God, in Christ, appointed to bear fruit
  • for mercy
  • for love; may we truly understand and obey the commands of Jesus

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34-35 NRSV)


You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
(John 15:16 NRSV)


We're watching and waiting, 
holding our breath, 
awaiting your word of mercy.
(Psalms 123:2 MSG)

Not as Scripture to work from, this morning, which gives me more of a challenge. I’ve got some good verses, but do they fit together at all?

The Lord has chosen us. Jesus said as much, speaking to His disciples. There was a period of my life when I was a strict, five-point Calvinist. I’m not quite so firm in that, any more. I shifted back a little; the pendulum swung back toward the center. Earlier in my life, I was more Armenian (but didn’t really have a clue what that meant). I was introduced to “Calvinism” in seminary, and it fascinated me. Certainly there is plenty of Scripture to support the theology. May not all five points, but at least some of them.

But there is also Scripture to support the theology of “free will.” And what happens when we try to put God in a box is that, well, you just can’t. That’s what happens. You cannot put God in a box. He is greater than any box you could try to fit Him into. And His ways are not our ways. As soon as you try to fit Him into one particular theology, you’re going to find Him busting out of it with His ways, not yours.

I still believe that I am chosen by God. There’s not doubt in my mind about that. And I also believe that I will walk on this earth until He is finished with me. Maybe not, necessarily, “walk,” you know, but at least be alive. I have this somewhat fatalistic belief that I cannot die until God is finished with me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to test that theory by standing in the middle of Loop 820 during morning traffic.

God’s purposes cannot and will not be thwarted by humans. We are chosen by Him to bear fruit. “Fruit” can mean a lot of different things, though, not just other believers. There is a very narrow interpretation of that, in evangelical circles, that believes that that only refers to getting more people to pray that “sinner’s prayer” (which is nowhere in the Bible, mind you, and neither is any notion of “inviting Jesus into your heart,” but that’s a topic for another day).

If you read around the verse from John 15, up there, it brings more understanding. Verse 17, for example:

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
(John 15:17 NRSV)

Also, check out verses 12-14:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
(John 15:12-14 NRSV)

Why has it taken us so long to figure this out? I mean, down through the ages, there have been individuals who got a glimpse of this truth. We celebrated one of them a couple days ago. MLK, Jr. had the right idea.

So we killed him.

Makes sense . . . we killed Jesus, too, and we would probably do it again, today.

Think that’s harsh? Then you’re not paying attention. There is still enough bigotry in this world, that if Jesus showed up today, preaching what He preached in the Gospels, certain groups of humanity would crucify Him all over again.

But here’s the challenge. We are supposed to love those people, too. One of the things that I have said, in recent years, is that if you hate the haters, you’re just another hater. What makes us different from the world is not the things we don’t do. That’s a common notion, that we are supposed to illustrate our difference from the “world” by abstaining from things.

The problem is, there is no consistent list of what things we are supposed to be abstaining from. One group thinks it’s alcohol and R-rated (or worse) movies. Another group thinks it’s dancing and cards (but dominoes are okay). More groups pick on homosexuality or abortion. Everyone has their “pet sins.” Oh, I almost forgot about divorce. That’s a big one, too.

In my opinion, Jesus was very clear about the main thing that should separate us from the world.

Love.

Love your enemies. You believe in God? Good for you, so do the demons. No doubt, some would point out that that passage also teaches that “faith without works is dead.” Yes, it does. And the “works” that we do are born out of love. When we feed the hungry, we do it because of love. When we clothe the naked, we do it because of love. When we visit the prisoners and sick, we do it because of love. When we take care of widows, orphans, and refugees, we do it because of love.

It’s all about love. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. Jesus loves us to the point of death, giving up His life for us. Jesus commands us to love one another in the same way, and He tells us that all (ALL) of the Law and Prophets are summed up in two commands . . . love God and love people.


Lord, have mercy on us. We have lost our way. We read Your commands to love one another, and, instead, we focus on the Law, the things we should not be doing.

Have mercy on us. Teach us Your ways, that we might walk in Your truth, and realize the importance of love in this world. There is way too much anger and hatred running through Your Church, today. I know that there are people who are following Your commands and doing the right things. Unfortunately, they don’t make as much noise. May Your favor rest on all who are quietly going about the business of following the commands of Jesus.

Help me, Father, because I struggle to love the people who won’t show love, themselves. I have no desire to have any hatred in my heart toward anyone. Anyone. I have no human “enemies,” and refuse to consider any human being my enemy. Help us to come together, Father, to be unified in our love for Christ, for You, and for one another.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

On Reality

Today is Tuesday, the 17th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,686

I watched most of the Cowboys’ playoff game, last night. After the first couple of possessions, in which nothing of any significance happened (between both quarterbacks, it took five passes before one of them completed one, and the Cowboys finally made a first down on their third possession), the ‘boys dominated the rest of the game, in spite of their kicker missing four consecutive extra point kicks. I saw three of those. At one point, later in the game, it looked like they might be thinking field goal, and I was like, “seriously??” They chose to go for it on fourth down, though. I seem to remember that they got it, made a touchdown, and then the kicker finally nailed an extra point. Final score, 34-14, Cowboys over Brady and the Bucs. Brady only looked good for a couple of series, late in the game.

It’s Tuesday of my “heavy” work week, so I will be at the library from 4:15-8:15 tonight. I had a busy day, yesterday, getting groceries, folding a couple loads of laundry, vacuuming the floor (I confess that a robot does the hardest part of that, but I do have to go around and pick up all the cat toys), practicing the trombone, and walking on the treadmill for thirty minutes. Then I cooked dinner (homemade chili made with Rotel Chili Fixin’s)(and the apostrophe in that is correct, because it replaces the “g”), while we watched an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and an episode of Bosch.

Today’s header photo is taken by Paul Militaru, Romanian photographer. Please visit his website via the provided link.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I will never forget your precepts, 
for by them you have given me life.
(Psalms 119:93 NRSV)

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that we need never feel forsaken. We thank you that we are led and guided by your hand. We thank you for all we have received from you, your care for our bodies, for our material needs, and for our inner life. We praise you, O God! Continue to lead us, we pray. Continue to work among us so that we can all see and come to know that the Good Shepherd is leading us. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

A Psalm of David. 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
he leads me beside still waters; 
he restores my soul. 
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
(Psalms 23:1-3 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that, in Christ, we are never forsaken; NEVER
  • for the Word of God, which has given me life
  • that He leads me in right paths for His name’s sake
  • because the Lord is my God; it is He who has made me grateful
  • that the Gospel puts us in touch with Reality

Love the LORD, all you his saints. 
The LORD preserves the faithful, 
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
(Psalms 31:23 NRSV)
I rise before dawn and cry for help; 
I put my hope in your words.
(Psalms 119:147 NRSV)
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; 
you are my God, I will extol you.
(Psalms 118:28 NRSV)
I hate the double-minded, 
but I love your law.
(Psalms 119:113 NRSV)

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
(John 14:21 NRSV)

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous. 
Praise befits the upright. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, 
on those who hope in his steadfast love, 
to deliver their soul from death, 
and to keep them alive in famine. 
Our soul waits for the LORD; 
he is our help and shield. 
Our heart is glad in him, 
because we trust in his holy name. 
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, 
even as we hope in you. 
(Psalms 33:1, 4, 18-22 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

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

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
(Exodus 32:21-24 NRSV)

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.
(Exodus 33:11 NRSV)

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
(Exodus 33:12-14 NRSV)

The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
(Exodus 33:17-23 NRSV)


For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.
(Deuteronomy 8:7-10 NRSV)

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath Day. 

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, 
to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, 
and your faithfulness by night, 
to the music of the lute and the harp, 
to the melody of the lyre.
(Psalms 92:1-3 NRSV)

The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him.
(Galatians 3:11 MSG)


The Gospel puts us in touch with reality; or “Reality,” if you will. What is reality? Dallas Willard defines it a couple of ways. “Reality is what you can count on,” he says in one place. Elsewhere, he says, “Reality is what you run into when you are wrong.” Both, I believe, are correct.

In this reality, we find the God who creates, along with the people and world He has created. We find the Christ who redeems and the people whom He loves. We also encounter our various, sometimes contradictory, feelings – hope and despair, doubt and faith, as well as our acts of virtue and vice. Reality encompasses everything; visible and invisible, right and wrong, good and evil.

To be in right relationship with God is to embrace this reality and whatever God arranges for us.

(All of the above thoughts, except for the bits from Dallas Willard, are from Eugene H. Peterson, in Traveling Light, via God’s Message for Each Day)

We can live in this reality, because we have embraced God’s plan and design for us. This reality includes Psalm 23, in which we are shown that we can live a life without lack. This is further illustrated in Dallas Willard’s Life Without Lack, which compiles a series of lessons he taught on Psalm 23.

Some would look at this and think that it means that we can get whatever we want. That is not what “life without lack” means. What it does mean is that we are satisfied with what we have. When the Lord is my shepherd, when I embrace Him and His Reality, I lack for nothing. I lack for nothing because I follow His leading, and, in following Him, find the “green pastures” and the “still waters.”

And, during those times when my path takes me through the “valley of the shadow of death,” I will fear no evil, because God is with me.

Reality. It certainly means different things to different people, and that’s fair. But to me, it means the Kingdom of God, where things are much better than I could ever imagine. Even when my immediate and surrounding circumstances would tell me different.


Father, I thank You for Reality. I thank You that You have helped me embrace this Reality and whatever You have arranged for me in this life. And, as I look around, righ now, in spite of momentary and temporary inconveniences, Your arrangements for me are pleasant. You have provided bountifully for us, and have made us generous with Your provision. For the most, You have kept us well and healthy.

And You have brought us into Your community of saints, by bringing us into fellowship with Christ our Savior. I am most grateful for this.

As I go through the rest of this day, I pray that these thoughts will be at the front of my mind, and that I would walk in gratitude and praise today. Help me to act in love toward everyone I encounter today, and display Your grace and mercy to all, that they might see You for Who You are.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
(Psalms 23:6 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.