Good morning. Today is April 16, 2013. Do you know where your taxes are? Of course you don’t, silly!! They are in the hands of the gummint. You’ll never know what happened to them!
We all made it to the gym last night, and it was my 50th day to work out at the gym this year. The blood pressure seems to be down a little bit. I’ve had two readings below 140, recently, (split by an unusually high one this morning, which I retook a couple minutes later). Yesterday, I abstained from adding extra salt to my meals. I’m going to have a really hard time with that one.
Today is National Librarian Day. This is different from “School Librarian Day,” which we had earlier this month. I will celebrate with a loud “Huzzah!” today, because I’m a huge fan of libraries. I believe it is the library, not Disneyland, that is the happiest place on earth. I mean, LOOK AT ALL THOSE BOOKS!!! And they’re all FREE!! (Unless you don’t bring them back on time. Then there’s a fine. And a glare. Don’t make your librarian unhappy.)
On a more serious note, I’m sure everyone is well aware of what went down in Boston yesterday afternoon. Please pray, send love, send happy thoughts, whatever kind of positive-type stuff you engage in, for all the people in Boston after this horrific event yesterday.
(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1746, “Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highland troops were crushed at Culloden Moor and all hopes of a Stuart restoration to England’s throne were crushed forever with them.” 58 years earlier, Charlie’s grandfather, James II, had gone into exile in France, and the Stuarts had been trying to regain the kingdom ever since. In 1745, Charlie began his effort to win back the throne. At first it seemed that he would be successful, as he successfully landed in Scotland and occupied Edinburgh. He got as far as Derby, well into England, but the English army pushed him back into Scotland. But on this day, he met a larger English army of 9000, led by the Duke of Cumberland, at Culloden Moor. The battle lasted just over half an hour. A thousand Scots were killed in the battle, and another thousand hunted down and killed in the weeks to follow. Only 50 English perished. Prince Charlie, after five and a half months on the run, managed to get back across the Channel. “During the next 42 year he maintained the Stuart claim without ever being able to raise another army, and he died in France a haughty, disagreeable, dropsical old man at the age of 68.”
Today’s birthday is Peter Ustinov, born on this date in 1921. Ustinov a well-known actor, both on screen and on stage. He won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1961, for Spartacus and again, in 1965, for Topkapi.
Honorable mentions go to Wilbur Wright, 1867, Charlie Chaplin, 1889, Henry Mancini, 1924, Dusty Springfield, 1939, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1947, Ellen Barkin, 1954, Jon Cryer, 1965,
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.Psalm 123:1-2
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. Psalm 7:17
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you this morning, during this time of meditation. May I enter into the intimacy of your holy of holies, lifting up my eyes to you, and expecting something wonderful from your hand.
In today’s Tabletalk Magazine reading, the scripture passage is Isaiah 45:14-25. The focus is verses 22-23, in which the Lord declares:
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'”
The Lord speaks to more than just Israel and Judah in this passage. Here, it is made clear that, ultimately, salvation will be for the Gentile nations, as well. Isaiah “foresees the Gentile nations becoming ashamed of their idols and turning to Yahweh for salvation.” Over and over in this passage, the Lord declares that he is the only true God, besides him there is no other. Salvation is found only in him. All of the other false gods, worshiped by all of the nations, cannot save; they are impotent. God and God alone is worthy of the worship and praise of the nations of the earth.
Today, in A Year With God, we begin a segment on the discipline of Service. This is one that comes easier to some than others. I supposed that’s true for all the disciplines, though. I’m sure that worship comes easier for me than for some. Service is not one of my better disciplines. So I shall pay extra attention during this segment.
Service is defined as, “Loving, thoughtful, active promotion of the good of others and the causes of God in our world, through which we experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves.” It is a discipline that is mentioned frequently in the Bible. It should be a way of living, a “declaration of obedience, not an occasional volunteer activity.” Jesus declared himself to be the servant of God, but also the servant of others. He kept saying this thing that threatened to turn his culture (and ours as well) upside-down: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) He famously illustrated this concept by washing the feet of all of his disciples the night before he was crucified, which was his ultimate act of servanthood. 1 Peter 4:10 says, As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
The first “spiritual practice” and title of the first reading is, “Serving God in Every Task.” The scripture reading is Colossians 3:22-24.
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
All too often, we view service as that occasional commitment during a week or month. You know, volunteering to work at the food bank on a Saturday morning, or something like that. And, truthfully, there is certainly nothing wrong with doing those kinds of things. However, in this passage, Paul tells us that every little task we undertake is not only service to others, but service to our Father. “Service is less a task or series of tasks than an attitude of obedience.” Since Paul begins these verses by addressing slaves, we are quick to dismiss them as not applying to us. But we should step back and remember that we have placed ourselves under the authority of God as his bondservants. And I might add that being under the employment of any person or group of people is very similar to slavery, outside of the fact that you can walk away from a job any time you choose. But being the servant of God is pretty much a master/slave relationship, “a relationship of obedience in which we submit to God.” Both Jesus and Paul teach that we are to apply this kind of service to each other, as well, “not because others are our masters, but because Christ is. By serving others, we serve him.”
The challenge for this ten-day period is to put the words of Paul into action; to put myself wholeheartedly into everything I undertake. I am to try to do everything I do as though I am serving God and not men, “even the most menial of tasks.” Perhaps even go an additional step and look for other ways to serve others. And here’s the kicker . . . “If you can perform your service without notice, all the better.” YES!! Amen!!
Chapter 8 in The Necessity of Prayer, by E.M. Bounds, is called “Prayer and Character and Conduct.” Uhoh. Character is defined as what we are, conduct is what we do, the outward life. “Prayer governs” (or at least should govern) “conduct, and conduct makes character.” Conduct is the evidence of character, “the offspring of character.” A life of prayer helps to shape conduct and establish character, and continued prayer is necessary for both to be successful. Christian character and conduct cannot be successfully maintained without a life of prayer. “The more we pray, the better we are, the purer and better our lives.” Remember one of the main reasons for Christ’s death on the cross was that we might become purified.
Christ does not simply demand outward deeds, but also inward character. In Paul’s writings, there is an insistence on “holiness of heart, and righteousness of life.” At this point, Bounds has an interesting take on the mission of the church. “The church is presumed to be righteous, and should be engaged in turning men to righteousness.” Also, “Primarily, its work is not to acquire members [WHAT??], nor amass numbers [EEP!!], nor aim at moneygetting [okay, now, he’s meddling], nor engage in deeds of charity and works of mercy [remember, he said primarily], but to produce righteousness of character, and purity of the outward life.”
Bounds insists that, and I tend to agree, prayer and sinning cannot coexist. One or the other must cease. “Get men to pray, and they will quit sinning, because prayer creates a distaste for sinning, and so works upon the heart, that evil-doing becomes repugnant, and the entire nature is lifted to a reverent contemplation of high and holy things.”
However, this whole relationship is a bit circular, because our character also reflects our prayer. “What we are with God gauges our influence with him.” Prayer is more than just words! Words alone bear no weight with God, rather it is what we truly are that counts. Here’s where it gets tricky. “Conduct affects character, of course, and counts for much in our praying. At the same time, character affects conduct to a far greater extent, and has a superior influence over prayer.” Bad living equals bad praying, and, eventually, no praying. “We pray feebly because we live feebly. The streams of prayer cannot rise higher than the fountain of living.” That’s a great line!
Just as the most effective preaching comes more from the life lived than from the words coming from the pulpit, so the most effective prayers are those coming from one of righteous character and conduct. If our praying does not result in “right thinking and right living,” it is a sham. “We have missed the whole office of prayer if it fail to purge character and rectify conduct.”
“To have an eye to God’s glory; to be possessed by an earnest desire to please him in all our ways; to possess hands busy in his service; to have feet swift to run in the way of his commandments–these give weight and influence and power to prayer, and secure an audience with God.”
Father, there is much to chew on this morning. My plate is full.
For many years, I have believed in doing my most mundane tasks to your glory, and working as though I work for you, not for men. However, this is a well-placed reminder today, especially in light of my current work circumstances, as there is transition (and a level of uncertainty) going on. Keep me mindful of the level of service that I must provide as one of your children, representing you in the world. Remind me that even washing the dishes can be an act of service, done in your name and for your glory. I pray that your Spirit will guide me today, helping me look for opportunities to go beyond my normal scope of service.
I pray for the relationship between character, conduct, and prayer to be solidified in my life. You have begun something in me that is taking root. I feel a sense of power growing within me; power that was begun last year when you thrust me into a ministry of intercessory prayer. I confess that I have never really examined the relationship between character, conduct, and prayer in such a way as has been presented today. Of course, I’ve always believed that my conduct affected my prayers. If I’m living in sin, my prayers will not have power. But I’ve never really stopped to reflect on the fact that it works the other way, as well. If I am praying properly, the sin in my life must flee, else the prayer will stop. Prayer fuels character and conduct, just as character and conduct affect prayer. What an interlaced relationship, which demands more reflection! I thank you, Father, for bringing this to me this morning.
I pray for this day, Lord. I ask that you give Christi and me a good work day, always keeping us looking to you for strength as we go about our day. May everything we do today be an act of service to you. I pray that Stephanie will feel better today. She seems to have a bit of a cold, and her head has been hurting her, as well. I pray for your gentle hand of healing to lay on her today. Bring purpose to her life as you surround her with your steadfast love and care.
I lift up a prayer for the people of Boston today, after the horrific events that occurred yesterday, an act of terrorism, regardless of who did it or what was the desired outcome. I pray for healing for those injured, and comfort for those who lost loved ones. Bring hope to the city, as well, in the aftermath. Thank you for the many heroes who jumped in to serve others. May they be blessed for their acts of selflessness.
Try to find a way to serve others today. Regardless of our beliefs, if we take time to serve someone outside ourselves, we become better people.
Grace and peace, friends.