Seen Vs Unseen

Today is Thursday, the 25th of August, 2022, in the 21st week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you!

Day 23,541

We hit 88 degrees, yesterday, for a high. It still felt rather humid out there, at one point, and the sky was looking like it might rain some more on us, but it didn’t. The record high for yesterday’s date is 105. Today’s projected high is 91. It looks like (hopefully) we have topped out at 43 total days of 100+, and the longest streak, at least in my area, was 14 days. The forecast is predicting more thunderstorms and rain (hopefully no monsoons) next week, beginning around Tuesday.

Nathaniel Lowe drove in a career-high five runs, yesterday, and Adolis Garcia extended his hitting streak to 21 games, as the Rangers obliterated the Colorado Rockies, 16-4. At one point, it was 9-0, as the Rangers scored two in the first and seven in the second. Martin Perez had a great game. The bullpen lost the shutout in the seventh, when the Rockies got their only four runs. But the Rangers stormed back with three in the eighth and four in the ninth. Matt Moore came in and closed it out in the bottom of the ninth with three-up-three-down. Perez gave up only four hits and had seven strikeouts, over six innings.

The Rangers are now 57-67, still in third place in the AL West, still 22.5 games out of first place and ten games out of a Wild Card spot. They are off today, and will be back home tomorrow for a weekend series with the Detroit Tigers. They were 4-2 on this recent road trip.

Boston lost their third consecutive game, 3-2, against the Blue jays, in ten innings. They are now four games under .500, at 60-64, in last place in the AL East, sixteen games out of first place, and seven out of a Wild Card spot. They play Toronto again, tonight, in Boston.

The Dodgers won again, and are now at MLB-leading 86-37. The Nationals won a game, but are still at the bottom with 42-83. The Rays are at the top of the streaks with five consecutive wins, while the Twins, Angels, and Pirates are still duking it out for the longest losing streak, all at five games. The Dodgers now have a +275 run differential, while the Nats are at -209. The Rangers are now at +16 after yesterday’s romp, and the Red Sox went down to -44.

Since this is Thursday, I will be spending my eight-hour shift in the Computer Center of the Hurst Public Library, from 11:15-8:15. It’s an odd shift, especially figuring out the eating schedule. I typically get “lunch” at 4:00 PM, and then I will eat “dinner” after I get home, which makes my dinner really late. The same thing happens on Tuesdays, but I don’t go in until 4:15, so I have a normal lunch on Tuesdays.

I have Slow Cooker Chicken and Stuffing, from Emily Bites, in the crockpot, and it will be ready whenever C gets home from work. This is a delicious recipe, and pretty easy to make. The most “difficult” part is stirring together the sour cream and cream of chicken soup, and then stirring together the stuffing mix and the chicken broth. It’s all layered in the crock pot, and that’s all the preparation that is involved. You basically have five ingredients and three steps. Boom. And the family loves it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Grant us your Spirit, Lord our God, that we may discern your good, acceptable, and perfect will. Give us joy in fighting on your side, so that what is good, acceptable, and perfect may be given to the world. Wherever we are and whatever work we do, give us zeal to serve you and be guided by you so that your will may be done and your kingdom come, so that already today we may find happiness even though only in hope. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for answered prayers
2. for cooler temperatures
3. that the "work of God" is to believe on the One whom He has sent, that is Jesus
4. that Jesus is the "bread of life" 
5. that, as we look to things that are unseen, rather than things that are seen, we are daily being renewed in our spirit
6. for Jesus's declaration that we must take up our cross and deny ourselves, die to ourselves, to follow Him

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
(John 6:27-40 ESV)

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

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
(Psalms 92:12-15 ESV)

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
(Isaiah 46:3-4 ESV)


I struggled for a few minutes, this morning, trying to figure out where the Lord was leading me with these various Scripture readings from various sources.

Then I keyed in on this idea of looking at things that are unseen, rather than things that are seen. If we keep our eyes on things that are seen, we remain selfish. We react to things differently, focusing on “I, I, me, me, me.” We focus on “what I’ve done,” and we also seem to focus too much on “what God has done for me.”

While there is definitely value in recognizing what God has done for me, we become hyper focused on the self. This is not helped by the modern trend of worship music to sing about “I” and “me,” rather than “us” and “we.”

One of the results of this trend is, for example, what I am seeing on social media today. When the news broke that many people would have at least part of their student loans forgiven, people who claim to be following Jesus became indignant. “I worked hard and paid for my school.” “I don’t want my tax dollars to pay off other peoples’ student loans.” And so on.

In my opinion, these sentiments are extremely un-Christlike. And very selfish and self-centered. Again . . . “I, I, me, me, me.”

These are people who have their eyes on what is seen, rather than on what is unseen.

When we keep our sight on the unseen, we realize that whatever we are going through at the moment, “this light momentary affliction,” is “preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (Emphasis added)

Only the things that are unseen are eternal, says Paul. Everything that is seen is transient, temporary. Why focus on those things? When we keep our eyes on the unseen, we are daily being renewed from within, even though our outward bodies are dying, wasting away. There is also much effort, in this culture, to preventing that outward wasting away, which is, of course, a dubious effort.

I thought of the prayer of St. Francis, as I was reading my devotions and thinking of these things. It is very other-centered, rather than self-centered. It prays for the ability to spread love, pardon (also known as forgiveness), faith, hope, light, and joy. And it points my feelings outward, that I might console, rather than be consoled, that I might understand, rather than be understood, and that I might love, rather than be loved.

In short, the prayer is a desire to die to self and be born to eternal life. When we focus on the things that are seen, on “I, I,” and “me, me, me,” we fail to do this. And this is what Jesus calls us to do . . . to die to self.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
(Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)


Father, my heart echoes the prayer of St. Francis this morning. I have had my share of being selfish and focusing on what is seen, rather than on what is unseen. You have been working on this in my soul for many years, now, and I believe that You have delivered me from being self-centered. Yet I find that I still manage to slip back into that habit, sometimes.

I pray for Your Spirit to dwell strongly within me, to help me keep focusing on what is unseen, on what is eternal, rather than on things that are transient and will perish, along with the rest of this physical world.

Help me to die to myself, to use the resources that You have given me to help others. I rejoice at the possibility that my “tax dollars,” that which I have “rendered to Caesar,” might be used to help someone else out of a financial bind. I cannot fathom any child of God being so selfish as to complain about that. Dear God, help us get outside of ourselves and stop being so selfish! Does Jesus weep when we complain so?

Help me . . . help all of us who call Your name and follow Jesus, to die to ourselves, to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, walking in His “easy yoke,” to live in Your Kingdom in this world.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

Grace and peace, friends.

Courteous and Considerate in EVERYTHING

It is Monday morning, the twenty-fifth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,510

25 days until S turns 29!

As the world-wide (seemingly) heat wave continues, we reached 102 in our area, yesterday, for the 29th day of 100+ temps and the ninth consecutive. I have had communication from a blogger in Romania that says it is reaching 42 degrees Celsius in the shade, there. The average temperature for yesterday is high 96, low 73. Yesterday’s low was 81. The record was 104/65. We are still looking at the possibility of two days below 100, this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. There is as much as 35% chance of rain on Saturday, perhaps overnight Friday night. It has now been 51 days with no rain in our area.

C is working from home today, as she has a morning doctor appointment. It is always nice to have her at home. I’m off all day, as I am always off on Mondays, which is also nice.

The Texas Rangers won a game, yesterday, in spite of the bullpen’s efforts to lose it. They were ahead 11-1, at one point. But Garrett Richards gave up four runs in the eighth inning, only managing to get one out, and Brett Martin gave up three in the ninth. Miraculously, Martin Perez managed to get the win. The Rangers are now 43-51 for the season, still in third place in the AL West, twenty games out of first, and seven out of the Wild Card race. They are currently seven games behind Seattle, and they begin a series in that city tonight.

The Red Sox got swept by the Blue Jays. I’m not sure what’s going on, there, but the Sox are now 48-48. Baltimore lost, so they were spared dropping into last place. They are in fourth place, 17.5 out of first, and three games out of the Wild Card race. They begin a series with Cleveland tonight, in Boston.

The Nationals continue to hold the worst record, at 32-65. They did manage to win a game, though. The LA Dodgers still have the longest current win streak, now at eight consecutive games. The Red Sox are the proud owners of the longest current losing streak, at five games. At least they are the best at something. The Nationals also still have the worst run differential, at -162. The Rangers improved to +7, and the Sox dropped to -12.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, Creator of what is good, beautiful, and full of joy so that all may work in harmony with you, we thank you for all the good that comes to us. May we be your children, joined together to serve you. May our life bring joy to others, and may we do good without ceasing through your great, strong love, which moves us, strengthens us, and helps us every day, however hard life may be. May your name be praised throughout the world. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; 
establish the work of our hands for us – 
yes, establish the work of our hands.
(Psalm 90:17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all that is good and beautiful in the world; Lord, help me focus on these things rather than what is bad and ugly
2. for Mondays off
3. for the amazing things that God has done for us
4. for gravity, because without it, I would fly off into space and die
5. for the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi 

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-30 ESV)

I used to believe (and I think this still may be taught in some places) that this passage meant that you’d better not have any “unconfessed sin” in your life when you take the Supper. That is not what this means. This passage is about unity in the Body of Christ, and these four verses must be interpreted in context. A note in the Bible I am reading says “Because some of the believers in Corinth were celebrating the Supper in a way that destroyed the unity it represents, God had brought judgment upon the community.”


Today’s word, in Pray A Word A Day, is “amazing.”

Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!
(Psalms 126:3 NLT)

Amazing. How many times do you use that word in a day? I, just like the writer of today’s reading, probably need to confess that I overuse that word. I’ve lost track of how many books I have given a five-star Goodreads rating, this year. Five stars means “it was amazing.” Yesterday, C and I saw a musical show and it was “amazing.”

Sometimes I think I should stop using that word so much, because the “amazing” things that God does for us cannot be compared with Irving’s Main Stage production of “Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Maybe we need “tenses” of amazing. “Amazinger.” “Amazingest.”

The things that God does for us are the amazingest.

I woke up this morning. C woke up this morning. Mama woke up this morning. S woke up this morning. I have been able to hear music this morning. I can see colors today. Gravity is keeping me from flying off into space. There is air for me to breathe.

Many of God’s amazing works are overlooked daily, aren’t they? That’s one of the reasons that I started my daily gratitude list. And it’s also one of the reasons that, some days, you might see me being grateful for waking up, or for cats, or for coffee, or for air to breathe.

I think this is a good place for this poem.

Beautiful Things, by Daryl Madden

Blessed are they
Who see beautiful things
For its God that they
See everywhere

Blessed are they
Who give beautiful things
For its God’s gift of love
That they share

Blessed are they
Who pray beautiful things
For its God’s way of
Making things clear

Blessed are they
For they’re beautiful things
For its God’s Presence
They’re bringing here

Please check out more of Daryl’s poems at the link provided above.

And when I read that poem, I thought of this song.


But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
(1 Corinthians 14:40 NIV)

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be a strict order to everything. The word translated “fitting” in the NIV is translated “decently” in the KJV, and is from a Greek word (euschemonos) that literally means “decently, honestly.” Huh. KJV got it right, eh? This lends itself to attitude, not structure.

Now the context for all of this is a lengthy discourse on spiritual gifts, which I won’t get into today. And I rather like Eugene Peterson’s take on it.

Be courteous and considerate in everything.
(1 Corinthians 14:40 MSG)

I mean that really sums it up, doesn’t it? “EVERYTHING.”


Alan Paton (Cry, the Beloved Country) on praying the prayer of St. Francis:

“So majestic is this conception that one dare no longer be sorry for oneself. The world ceases to be one’s enemy and becomes the place where one lives and works and serves. Life is no longer nasty, mean, brutish, and short, but becomes that time that one needs to make it less nasty and mean, not only for others, but indeed also for oneself.”


If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
(John 15:7 ESV)

Andrew Murray, in Power in Prayer, says that “Prayer is both one of the means and one of the fruits of our union with Christ.” And, rather than seeing prayer as a means of getting what we want, we should see prayer as “one of the primary channels of influence by which, through us as workers together with God, the blessings of Christ’s redemption are dispensed to the world.”

And the reason for answering prayer, according to Jesus in John 14:13, is “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

Seriously, this is what everything should be about for us; bringing glory to God. What a life-changing difference it would be if we could all adapt that mindset.


Father, help me to think about prayer the same way Andrew Murray does, here, as well as the way Jesus thought about it, as a way to glorify You, and as a fruit of the union that I have with Christ. And, as I consider the prayer of St. Francis, may my mind be focused on making the world “less nasty and mean,” at least as much as I can in my own little “kingdom.”

And, in doing this, or as a means of facilitating this, help me to obey the words of Paul when he said to “be courteous and considerate in everything.”

Help me to see the beautiful and good things in the world, rather than the mean, nasty, and ugly things. This takes work, because I have, over the years, been trained by our society to see the worst. Lately, it seems that the “church” is taking over that responsibility. Help us to crawl out of that pit, Lord.

You have truly done amazing things for us, and I am beyond grateful for them. Help me to remember these things every day, especially when my mind and heart begin to drift over into the negative things.

Even so, please come soon, Lord Jesus!


Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

Grace and peace, friends.

Live Quietly and Mind Your Own Business

Today is Tuesday, the nineteenth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,413

I had a great night of sleep, last night, and slept until almost 8:30, this morning. In fact, I might have slept even longer, had someone not called me. I didn’t figure out what was happening in time to catch the call, but I didn’t recognize the number, so I won’t be calling them back.

I had thought to make a trip to the grocery store, today, but it’s not urgent. I will be heading out, in a little while, to pick up lunch/dinner for everyone at Subway. That’s our Tuesday tradition, since I work my four-hour shelving shift on Tuesday evening.

We are finally getting rid of the grand piano, hopefully, today. C found someone who wants it, and is supposedly having professional movers come by this afternoon, to get it. That will free up a large amount of space in the front “dining” room, which we are considering converting to a reading area, with chairs and a couple bookshelves. We can then move the exercise bike up to the front living room, next to the treadmill.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week)

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
(Deuteronomy 32:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a really good night's sleep
2. for Your justice, righteousness, and faithfulness
3. for the desire in my heart to stir up love and peace, rather than anger and harshness
4. for the tasks that You have given me, praying that I might do those things while living quietly and minding my own business
5. for my brother and sisters in the faith, and the relationships You have built between us.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
(Job 19:25-27 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “stir.” This word could mean a number of things. The reading provides this verse for context.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)

I used to be one who loved to argue. My father and I would engage in spirited debates, often. But, as I grew older, I found myself thinking more like he thought. I have also learned that arguing is no longer fun. Part of that is because it has gotten more hostile, for which I blame social media.

These days, arguments on social media are not “won.” No one’s mind is changed, because no one wants to have their mind changed. Everyone wants to be right, and “truth” or “facts” don’t enter into the picture whatsoever.

Because of this, I have made it my practice, my goal, to only stir up love and peace. It’s not easy to be a peacemaker, these days, because no one wants peace. They want to be right. They want the other side to . . . well, to be perfectly honest, I think that a lot of people would only be satisfied if the “other side” ceased to exist.

It’s hard to not engage. I have typed many a comment or reply on Facebook, only to delete it and not post it, because I knew it wouldn’t be helpful. So I just keep scrolling, and do my best to be one who stirs up love and tries to make peace.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

Somehow, I don’t think calling other people “stupid,” “idiot,” and “snowflake” does a thing toward spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 ESV)

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
(1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV)

We all have different tasks to do in this world. Paul goes on at length, in Corinthians, about the different gifts and body parts that we fit into. Here, we are admonished to love one another (where have I heard that before?) by minding our own business (!), and tending to the work that is set before us, no matter what it may be. Why? So that we may “walk properly before outsiders.”

I am seeing a lot of instances where people are 1) not living quietly, and 2) not minding their own business, and 3) not walking properly before outsiders.

Things look a lot better in the world when you can manage to do those things. I’m not advocating a “head in the sand” mentality. Not at all. It’s good to be aware of what’s going on in the world. But the truth is, we have no control over most of it. And spouting off our “expert” opinions about the latest current affair tends to have no effect whatsoever, other than making us look somewhat foolish. Because very few of us are “experts” about anything.

Father, help me to pay attention to what is my business, to mind my own affairs, and to live quietly, so that I may walk properly before “outsiders.” It is in this way that “outsiders” might be drawn closer to becoming “insiders.” I thank You that You have drawn me more and more toward being one to attempts to stir up love and peace, rather than stirring up anger with harsh words. I pray that I may be more and more like this.

What is one of the first things we tend to ask people when we first meet them?

“What do you do?” Implied, of course, in the question, is “What do you do for a living?”

Eugene Peterson recounts a time when he asked that of a person, and received a twenty-minute discourse on all of the daily activities of the person. However, at the end of it, Eugene still had very little idea about what the person actually did.

But another friend shared a similar account, in which, upon being asked what he did, another person’s answer was, “I’m changing the world.”

That is, in a way, the job description of the Church, and every person who is part of the Church. We are changing the world. I am changing the world. No, I’m not solving the problems between the Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (let’s be honest . . . Ukraine doesn’t have a “Russia” problem, they have a “Putin” problem). I’m not going to solve world hunger, or create clean water resources for third world countries.

But I’m changing the world, doing my best to influence people toward “love and good deeds” in my own little corner of the world, in what Dallas Willard would call my own little “kingdom.”

Is that what we have in mind when we prepare for worship each week? “Maybe you just expect a little inspiration or solace. Maybe you just want to get away for an hour or two from life’s daily clutter and be refreshed by some beauty and sacred order. Maybe you are following an old habit. But we are changing the world.”

Creation is in motion every time the Word of God is spoken. When we invoke the Holy Spirit, “salvation is in motion.” “Every time we open our mouths in praise, confess our faith with our lips, and believe in our hearts, the world is changed.”

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

Wait. I thought you said we were supposed to live quietly and mind our own business.

I am firmly convinced that both are possible. You see, there are people who believe that the only way to express their faith and belief is angrily, with loud shouting. (I once worked for a manager who subscribed to the belief that he who talks the loudest wins.) My brothers and sisters, this should not be! It is possible to express our faith, to confess our beliefs, and believe in our hearts, meekly and quietly, and while minding our own business.

Father, I pray that You would help me to change my world, quietly, and consistently, without anger, without condemnation, and by stirring up love and peace. That is my desire, that is my goal. I want to know You, and I want to present You to this world, in my little “kingdom,” as the God who is there, the God who loves and cares, the God who IS compassion, and the God who saves.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends

Guard My Lips (and Fingertips)

Today is Sunday, the twentieth of June, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,110

Today is Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day to any fathers who might stumble across this rambling journal.

There are now only fourteen days until the next holiday, the fourth of July.

Yesterday was just about perfect. Maybe it was perfect. R & J arrived around 1:00 PM. After chatting for a bit, we decided on Hoffbrau for lunch. We decided to dine in, and all five of use went. It was S’s first time in a restaurant in well over a year, and the first time all five of us have dined together in at least that long. The only flaw in the experience was the first steak they brought C was almost entirely gristle. She couldn’t even cut it. So they made her another one, which she said was delicious. I had one of their burgers, the first restaurant cheeseburger I have had in over a year, along with their steak fries. It was delicious!

Yes, I tracked it (best I could, as Hoffbrau does not appear in the WW app). Yes, I gained a pound this morning. It was worth it.

We went home (after stopping by a nearby Sonic, of course), and, after chatting about various things for a while (some pretty deep discussions along the way), we turned on the TV and watched a “comedy” special on Netflix, “Bo Burnham ‘Inside.'” Allegedly, this young man, a musical comedian, spent a year putting together this special, in total isolation, in a single-room guest house on his parents’ property. There were some pretty funny bits, but there were also some extremely deep bits, especially concerning our culture of social media and technology. The music was diverse, and it is my opinion that the guy is a very talented musician. Be warned, however, that there is some pretty extreme language in it, as well as some overtly sexual themes.

R & J headed home after that, and I spent the rest of the evening playing Mass Effect Legendary Edition on the PS4, finally finishing the first of the three games included. I barely started ME2 before heading to bed.

Today, we have our worship gathering at 10:15, followed by lunch, very likely Applebee’s, but if I think of something I would rather have, I might make a push for that. Right this second, I don’t know of anything else that I want. I believe we will be starting with Psalm 32, this morning.

I have received gifts. I got a new leather-bound prayer journal. Well, it’s technically just a journal. My purpose for it will be a prayer journal, which I plan to keep with me most of the time, especially at work. It will be with me at my workstation, so I can write down any new prayer requests that I get during the day. It is nice, handmade leather, with Psalm 46:10 on the cover.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
(Psalms 46:10 ESV)

I also got two new hats!! Both “flat hats,” one red and one blue. I love them!!

Oh, and R & J paid for our lunch, yesterday. That was a very special Father’s Day gift.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
(Psalms 32:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the love of my wife and daughters. I am blessed beyond measure.
2. that my transgressions are forgiven, my sin is covered.
3. that I was loved by You before the world was created (Ephesians 1).
4. that You will bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth, under Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1)
5. that You are a good, good Father, my father was, too.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 1

INVITATION

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I pause at this moment to consider the Lord as the light to my darkness. I think about walls that I encounter, and that, with His help, I can climb over them and move on.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.
(Psalms 141:1-4 NIV)

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me.
(Psalms 141:8-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I am aware of the Lord’s presence with me, in this place. He is within me and all around me, just as He is within you and all around you, wherever you may be reading this. I read these passages again, looking for the Holy Spirit to guide my eyes and my soul into deeper meditation and prayer.

I love verse 3 of Psalm 141. I really like the way the NLT puts it.

Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips.
(Psalms 141:3 NLT)

I need to modernize it, and add “fingertips,” asking the Lord to guard my lips and my fingers, because I don’t type with my lips. Yesterday, in that Bo Burnham “comedy” special (I keep putting “comedy” in quotes, because, if you step back and look at the entire piece in context, I’m not sure it’s really comedy), he asked a simple question of people on social media. Why do we all feel that it is necessary to express all of our opinions about all of the things all of the time? And then he asked, “Can any one of you just shut the **** up about any one thing?”

Crude, to be sure. But true, and a worthy question, I believe. Once again, at the risk of “kicking a dead horse,” it brings me back to that Amy Grant thought that my opinions about things are not part of my job description to love God and love people.

I have opinions, as do we all. But I am growing into a place where I’m not going to simply share that opinion with the world. If you ask me my opinion, I might share it with you. But if I sense that you are only doing that to start an argument, I will refrain, because I don’t want to argue with you.

I want the Lord to guard my lips and my fingertips. Psalm 19:14 says it like this:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

I would, again, modernize this in my own prayer. Father, may the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart, and the typing of my fingertips be acceptable in Your sight.

Guard my lips; guard my fingertips; guard my heart.

Yesterday morning, I made the mistake of scrolling Facebook. I really just need to stop that. someone with whom I am “friends” with on FB posted an opinion photo, calling people who don’t think like she does “idiots.” This angers me. It angered me, yesterday morning. I don’t agree with her opinion; therefore, in her eyes, I am an idiot. Would she call me that to my face? Doubtful. So why would she put it on Facebook?

Why do we feel that it is necessary to express our opinions about all of the things all of the time? Do we truly believe that this is acceptable in the Lord’s sight?

Verse 4 of Psalm 141, I believe, continues the thought.

Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.
(Psalms 141:4 NIV)

Context is everything, right? So let’s look at the two verses together, again.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.
(Psalms 141:3-4 NIV)

What I see here, is a prayer, first, obviously, to guard my lips, or, in effect, any expression of my thoughts that make their way out of my brain. The second part of the prayer is that I not get sucked in by other people’s expressions of their opinions. Like the aforementioned Facebook opinion. I’m not calling said person an “evildoer,” necessarily, although I certainly don’t see her actions as good. But I did get sucked in, even if only momentarily. I acknowledged the feeling that it caused within me, and I got up and went to discuss it with C, acknowledging my fault in the matter. After that, it was over. I was better.

“Do not let me eat their delicacies.” Don’t let me get sucked into their meaningless, trite arguments. My opinions are not part of the job description!

Social media posts like that are a trap, set by ‘evildoers,” even though they may not be willingly an evildoer. The solution is found in verse 8, which I have copied into a graphic, recently shared in our church’s “GroupMe” and on Instagram.

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
(Psalms 141:8 NIV)

Verse 9 continues by asking God to keep me safe from the “traps set by evildoers.”

So, in order to succeed at my job of loving God and loving people, I need to keep my eyes fixed on my Sovereign Lord, and avoid those social media “traps” set by well-meaning “evildoers.”

The only thing I’m going to mention from the Ephesians passage, which is, in its own right, a beautiful piece of Scripture, comes from verse 10. It’s that bit about bringing “unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” What is going to bring unity? The mystery of His will (verse 9), which will be “put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment.”

Once again, we see the desire of the Lord being unity. You see, there is complete and utterly perfect unity within the Trinity. A recent favorite description of the Trinity describes them as a community. Three in one; “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” says the old hymn that always used to be hymn 1 in the Baptist Hymnal.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist together in community of perfect love. Each one loving the other two perfectly, and pointing, not to Himself, but to the other two. This concept thrills my soul, and it is the example to which we should all aspire. The Son points at the Father and the Spirit, saying look at the Father, listen to the Spirit. The Spirit points to the Son and the Father, and the Father points to the Spirit and the Son.

What would this world look like if we all followed that example? I don’t care if you believe in God or not. If we all stopped point at ourselves and started caring about others more than we care about ourselves, wouldn’t the world be a most beautiful place?

Love God; love people. Those are my two jobs. And to help me with those jobs, I have a prayer.

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.

And what is right, smack, in the middle of that prayer?

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Father, I have typed many words, this morning, perhaps too many. I pray for us all, that we might aspire to the kind of unity that we find in the Trinity, loving one another they way we are loved, and the way that You, the Son, and the Holy Spirit love one another. Oh, what joy fills my soul when I consider this! What love fills me. Help me to take that love out of this room, and carry it, wearing it out on my sleeve for all the world to see! And help us, all, Lord, to just shut up about all the things all the time. Help us to know that constantly expressing our contrary opinions does no one any good. I pray that I never be guilty of laying any kind of “trap” on social media, or trying to start an argument. May I not be an “evildoer,” but be one who cares more for my fellow human beings than I do for my own “rights.” Help me to love what You love, and break my heart for what breaks Yours.

Eternal God,
the staggering truth that I was loved in Christ before the foundation of the world dwarfs my imagination.
While I cannot fathom it,
let this truth bring me to my knees in gratitude,
that I may wholly love you who first so greatly loved me.
But it's not only about me--
you will unite all things in Christ.
What a plan!
What a God!
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 1.13/14)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.
(Proverbs 3:27 NIV)

Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.
(Deuteronomy 16:17 NIV)

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
(Luke 6:38 NIV)

On this Father’s Day, Rick Hamlin writes in Daily Guideposts 2021. “Loving someone means knowing what they love, understanding what makes them happy.”

I love my father. I know I have not mentioned him, thus far, today. And I use present tense because, though he is not with us on this plane, he still lives in eternity. So I don’t think it strange at all to say “love,” rather than “loved.”

I also love the memories of my father. I know some of the things he loved. He loved Psalm 139, which we read a few days ago. He loved baseball. Talking about baseball was one of the greatest joys that he and I experienced together. And the fact that he is gone from the physical world is one reason that my love of baseball has diminished, over the past six years. He loved music, both listening and making it. Both of my parents were quite musical in my formative years, and I inherited the talent that I have from them, by the grace of God. My father taught me how to play guitar. What a great joy it was to play and sing together with him.

As years went by, we learned more about what made each other happy. This is true love. And, in those times, there are lessons learned that will never be forgotten.

Father, this morning, I give You thanks and praise for my father and the life lessons he taught me. I thank you for the love of both of my parents, as I lived a truly blessed life, a life which many people do not have in this world. I am forever grateful. I believe that my father is running and jumping in Your beautiful presence, today.

Lord, this morning I ask that You give us true and deep fellowship with the risen Christ. Bring spiritual renewal and refreshment to our souls as we gather together, devoting ourselves to Your Word, fellowshipping together, praying for one another, and sharing in the Supper. I specifically pray for Your Church in Asia, this morning. May Your presence be known, powerful and strong, in their midst.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Key, Not A Hammer

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-first of April, 2021, in the third week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,050

29 days until our Glen Rose weekend

It is uncharacteristically cool, this morning, here in north central Texas (DFW). It is 37 degrees and clear, which is perfect condition for frost. And frost is something we don’t need right now, because plants are budding, and we just recently transplanted some Four O’Clocks and Gazanias to the front flower bed. Digits juxtaposed. I checked outside, when I got up, and there was a very thin layer of frost on the top of C’s car, but none on the windows. So I’m hoping everything will be okay. At least we aren’t west of the line where temps got down to freezing or below, this morning.

I made it through the day fairly well, yesterday. The morning was tough, and I was really thinking I should have stayed home for the day and taken a PTO day. I even thought about taking off at noon, at one point. But our other expedite clerk was out, yesterday, and I would have felt bad doing that to our lead. And, somewhere between noon and 2:30, things got better. No explanation as to why, but my whole mindset improved. Someone, somewhere, must have prayed for me.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
(Colossians 3:17 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Twisted Pine Hawaiian Blend coffee (for coffee in general, but especially that one) 🙂
  • for whoever prayed for me, yesterday afternoon
  • for grace extended to me; may I be faithful to extend it to others
  • that the Gospel of Christ is a key, not a hammer
  • that death will end, but life goes on for ever

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 18

INVITATION

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26 NIV)

Pausing to reflect briefly on the fact that I am a representative of Christ, and that all that I do or say today will reflect on that truth.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of Asaph.

God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.
(Psalms 82:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:44-49 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, I linger a bit over these passages, looking for the Spirit to lead me toward greater understanding and wisdom.

In the Psalms passage, there is a clear call to defend and rescue the weak and the needy, and to stop defending the unjust. This seems especially timely, in light of yesterday’s verdict in the George Floyd case.

Who are “the ‘gods?'” I’m not wise enough to fully understand this. I have my thoughts, but I’ll keep those to myself. Suffice it to say that they are, though, those who “know nothing,” who “understand nothing,” and “walk about in darkness.”

Jesus made a statement to which attention should be paid. He said that everything was written about Him must be fulfilled. Now, He only mentioned the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. I believe that there were things written about Him after He left our plane that must also be fulfilled. But those had not been written about Him when He said this.

The point is, prophecy must be fulfilled, and will be fulfilled. This doesn’t mean that I need to become obsessed with prophecy, as some folks are. What it does mean is, going back to previous affirmations, God will do what He says He will do, and I am fully persuaded that He is able to do this.

But, once again, this begs the question, why don’t I consistently live like I believe this?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to that question. I’m still working on that one.

Father, I pray for the strength of Your Spirit, to enable me to live my life like I say I believe. And, truly, it is more than just “say.” I do believe! Help my unbelief! Make my life more consistent with my beliefs, which are firmly based on Your Word! And make me more faithful to help, defend, and rescue the weak and the fatherless and the widows and the needy; those to whom You are drawn and whom You defend. I want to be on Your side; I don’t ever, ever want to be fighting against You, Father!

God of grace,
the gospel is like a key that opens up all of heaven and unlocks dead-bolted human hearts.
As you send your church to declare the good news,
remind us that we carry a key and not a hammer;
convince us that the gentle gospel promises fit the contours of human life,
opening minds to know and receive the forgiveness of sins through what Jesus has done.
Today, unbolt my heart to accept the grace of Jesus.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 84)

“We carry a key and not a hammer.” I LOVE that!!!

BLESSING

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
(Ephesians 6:24 NIV)

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
(John 20:27 NIV)

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
(Isaiah 25:6-9 NIV)

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
(John 11:25 NLT)

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!
(Acts 3:15 NLT)

Death is singular; life is plural. Death will end; life goes on forever.

Father, I thank You for life! I praise You that death is limited, it will end, and has already been defeated. I praise You that life is eternal, plural, and will go on for ever. Oh, how I look forward to being Home, Lord! More and more, I feel like this world is not my home, and know that this is true. I grow weary of waiting, but You tell us not to grow weary, so I carry on. Help me to do good as much as I can; help me to always do the right thing. And help me to remember that the Gospel message is “a key not a hammer.”

Lord, this morning, I lift up all governments, leaders, and needs throughout the world. May Your grace and Your face shine on all people, whether they look for it or not. I lift up the continent of North America, upon which I dwell. May Your presence be felt among us all today. I lift up all issues surrounding the poor and the poverty stricken, Lord. Help us to help in any way we can. Show us how to help more.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The True Judge

Jesus commanded us to love one another, not judge one another.

Today is Friday, the ninth of April, 2021. Easter Friday, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,038

41 days until our weekend in Glen Rose

It is currently 66 degrees, with a projected high of 85 today. I’m not really ready for it to be hot again, but I will not complain. Many of us, after Snovid-19, this past February, have declared that we will never again complain about the heat in the Spring/Summer of Texas. There is little to no precipitation expected today.

I believe my Mama had a good day, yesterday. I started trying to call her, on the way home, but got no answer. I resisted temptations to worry, figuring she was out with a friend, and, sure enough, she was. One of her besties took her out to run some errands, including dropping her taxes off with the person who does her taxes for her. They even went to a grocery store! Mama has not been to a grocery store in over a year! They topped off their afternoon together with a Blizzard from a local DQ.

We had a nice conversation, later in the evening, after she got home.

An interesting thing has happened in my life, recently. It may seem trivial to some, and, yet others might think it’s a no-brainer. Earlier this week, I decided to stop adding salt to my food (except for popcorn . . . I’m still salting my popcorn). I decided, quite suddenly, that I wanted to know what the food actually tastes like without all that salt piled on it (I used to use quite a bit of salt). For example, I have not salted my over-easy eggs once, this week, during breakfast. I have added other seasonings, such as Chipotle, Bacon-Lover’s, and Ranch, from my favorite seasoning people, Flavor God, and those, no doubt, have a small amount of salt in them. But as far as just pouring salt on my food, I have ceased to do this.

The Boston Red Sox are tied for first place after defeating the Orioles 7-3, yesterday. Eduardo Rodriguez got the win for the Sox, putting them at 4-3 on the season. They are off today, and will continue a series with the O’s tomorrow, at Fenway.

The Texas Rangers were off yesterday, and remain in third place in the AL West, at 3-3. They begin a weekend series with the Padres of San Diego, this evening, at Globe Life Field (I had to look to check what this is officially called). Kohei Arihara will take the mound for the Rangers. The Padres are 4-3 on the season, and, of course, include the much-loathed Manny Machado. Jurickson Profar, former Rangers player, also plays for the Padres, now.

Weekend plans include a trip to Mineral Wells to celebrate birthdays with Mama, along with R & J. S will likely remain at home, as she is still feeling tired from her Covid shot. Plus she is still wary of getting out and about, as her and masks do not get along.

Breaking news . . . Britain’s Prince Phillip, husband of the Queen, has died at the age of 99.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
(Psalms 71:14-16 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Your mighty deeds, of which I will boast, all of my days
  • for the wonderful flavor of my Twisted Pine Hawaiian Blend coffee
  • that we may rejoice in You and be glad in You and experience a pervasive sense of well-being
  • that all who believe in You, Jesus, receive forgiveness of sins in Your name
  • that, as long as I am going in the right direction, You are going ahead of me

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 6

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I am pausing to quietly reflect on the gift of life, remembering that not even my next moment is a “given.” Lord, Your mercy is overwhelming, at times.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. Of David. A petition.

Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
May those who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay.
(Psalms 70:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
(Acts 10:39-43 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly read these passages again, lingering over the words and phrases, I ask the Holy Spirit to point out something to my soul, showing me some truth that perhaps I have failed to notice before, or refreshing something well-known, but perhaps neglected in my life.

The prayer in Psalm 70:4 stands out to me, this morning.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!”
(Psalms 70:4 NIV)

We could all use a little more rejoicing and gladness, these days. We are not seeking a type of “joyfulness” that runs around oblivious to things in the world. That is not really “joy.” Ignorance is bliss, they say. But it is?

What we seek is true joy; a pervasive sense of well-being. The idea that, no matter what life throws at me, it’s going to be okay. I can be glad in the Lord and His provision and protection over me, in spite of pandemics and power outages in the midst of the coldest days in a century.

So, yes, Lord, may all who seek You rejoice and be glad, this day!

The passage in Acts has some crucial Gospel truth. One is found in verse 42, which says that God appointed Christ as “judge of the living and the dead.” Jesus is the judge. Plain and simple. And I believe that we should leave that job to Him. It’s hard. I tend to judge people, it’s a weakness of mine. It implies that I think I’m better. I don’t, necessarily. But that is the implication. So I must turn that gaze inward when I find myself being “judgy.” Then, after turning it inward, I must abandon it, altogether and love my neighbor as myself.

Jesus commanded us to love one another, not judge one another.

Then comes the last verse of the passage, verse 43. “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Again, plain and simple. That is an important piece of the Gospel message. Some would say it is the Gospel message. I tend to lean toward that being the simple proclamation that the Kingdom of heaven is here. That was the Gospel that Jesus preached.

Father, may all who seek You rejoice and be glad, today and every day. Fill our spirits, our souls, with joy and gladness, as we contemplate You and Your mighty deeds. May we boast in You and You alone, and in nothing that we have done. May we be filled with a pervasive sense of well-being as we walk in this world. May we accept Christ as the only true judge of ourselves and others. And may that filter into everything that I think and say today. If I begin to say something judgy about someone else, or even myself, Holy Spirit shut my mouth! You, Jesus Christ, are the only true judge, appointed by the Father! Help me to spread the Gospel message that all who believe in You receive forgiveness of sins in Your name.

Jesus,
judge of the living and the dead:
knowing that a verdict on my life is coming sends me scurrying away in fright,
until I see that my judge is the very one who has laid down his life for me.
Thank you that I can face your judgment without fear or condemnation,
because I will be raised up in glory,
openly acknowledged as your friend,
approved and acquitted,
and freed to rejoice in you forever.
May the joy of that day start now.
Amen.
(Westminster Short Catechism 38)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG)

“GOD, your God, will cross the river ahead of you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:3 MSG)

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
(Psalms 118:22-23 ESV)

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(Isaiah 53:3 ESV)

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(Hebrews 13:12-13 ESV)

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
(1 Peter 2:4-8 ESV)

Father, I thank You that, as long as I am going in the right direction (that which is pointed out by Your Holy Spirit), I have nothing to fear, because You are going ahead of me. I also thank You for the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. May He be the cornerstone of my life today.

Lord, give us a deeper sense of gratitude for the cross of Christ. May You provide for and protect those living in abject poverty and suffering injustice. I pray for Your inner peace and comfort for any who struggle with their sexuality.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Waiting for Part III

Today is Monday, the fifth of April, 2021, in the first week of Easter. It is known as Easter Monday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,034

45 days until our next Glen Rose trip.

Speaking of trips, we booked a house for a trip to Galveston, in October. Our anniversary is October 12, so we will be staying from October 9-16. Here is a link to the house, where you can see pictures of the house and the ocean view. It appears to be in an area where we have stayed before, in several different houses.

Sand and Sea – Dreamsicle

We had a wonderful gathering, yesterday morning. As expected, there were four families in the house, and two who remained on Zoom. We prayed together, read and discussed Scripture together, and took the Supper just before reading a passage on the Sunday morning resurrection of Christ. For me, the best part was the Supper. But it was all good.

We did not, in fact, cook our steaks, last night. I think everyone was pretty tired, so dinner was kind of a “do your own thing” thing. We plan to have the steaks Tuesday night for dinner, since I will be home after taking S to get her second vaccine shot.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

This is an ongoing prayer for me, as I truly want to be an instrument of peace, one who encourages unity rather than division. Too many of my brothers and sisters are encouraging division.

But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout,
“God is great!”
(Psalms 70:4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a most blessed gathering of saints on Resurrection Sunday morning
  • for a new week ahead, full of opportunity and potential
  • for the testimony (story) that I have; may I be faithful to share it willingly
  • for music, color, beauty, and all of our senses
  • for the new beginning represented by yesterday’s celebration; may we look forward to “part three” of the story with great anticipation

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

EASTER – DAY 2

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I am pausing to reflect on the great mercy of our Father.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A song. A psalm.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious.
Say to God,
“How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you,
they sing the praises of your name.”
(Psalms 66:1-4 NIV)

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
(Psalms 66:16-20 NIV)

BIBLE READING

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
(Luke 24:9-12 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I peacefully rest in the Lord’s presence, this morning, I ask the Holy Spirit to pull me toward any particular word or phrase in these passages, to which He desires to draw my attention.

Verse 16 of the psalm speaks of our testimony in this world, which is always of importance. I find it interesting, though, that the psalmist is directing it toward “all you who fear God.” He is calling for those who already fear the Lord to come and hear what God has done for him.

There is value in sharing the goodness of God in the midst of the congregation. We all need the encouragement of other believers in our walk in His kingdom. So it is important that we always be willing to share our story with one another. And whether we know it or not, we all have a story to tell. Some are more dramatic than others, yes. But that doesn’t diminish the power of God in our lives.

I find it interesting, in the Luke passage, that the disciples (the Eleven) and others with them did not believe the testimony of the women, at first. They, especially Peter, had to see for themselves. As we find out later, Thomas, the last to fully accept and believe the truth, didn’t even believe the male disciples who told him of the resurrection.

I suppose that, as humans, we simply struggle with believing. On the other hand, we seem to be all too willing to believe other things. So I don’t know . . . it is safe, I believe, to say that we are pretty broken, in general. Even Peter, after seeing the empty tomb and strips of burial cloth, walked away wondering what had happened.

Father, we give ourselves too much credit, I think. We believe what Scripture tells us, and we are frequently critical of the disciples and others who walked with Jesus for not believing what He told them would happen. But we are far removed from the events, and we have the whole story in front of us. They did not. All they had was the Prophets and the Law, and whatever was happening at the moment. Methinks we should go a little easier on Peter and Thomas. I’m pretty skeptical of things, myself, in general. I have developed an unhealthy cynicism about things. But I believe what Your Word tells me, and, as I have said before, am fully persuaded that You are able to do what You say You will do. So help me, by Your Spirit, to pray in such a way that reflects this. And help me to walk in Your kingdom with confidence, not in myself or my own “works,” but in You and Your mighty deeds.

Most High God,
who can fully grasp this head-spinning resurrection news?
Like the disciples, 
we are still caught off guard,
resurrection seeming stranger than fiction.
With all who doubt and struggle,
I pray for a faith that sends us in search of Jesus,
and that we might find him alive in us.
Amen.
(Westminster Confession 14.2)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.
(John 21:25 NLT)

Here’s a reminder. The “happy ending” of yesterday is not really an ending! It’s a beginning. I seem to remember using the phrase “new beginning” several times, yesterday. And it’s true. The resurrection of Christ is far from the end of the story. It’s kind of in the middle, in fact, but it is most definitely a new chapter. If it were part of a book, it would either be the end of part one or the beginning of part two. We are in the middle of part two of this story, as I suggested yesterday, the “long Saturday,” as we await the return of our Savior. It really doesn’t matter how long we have to wait, though. There will be a “part three,” and part three will last for eternity!

Hallelujah!

Father, my joy this morning is tremendous. I am filled with joy and peace at the truth of the resurrection and what it means for Your people! I joyfully anticipate the future coming of Christ, to bring about our complete resurrection and usher us into part three of this magnificent story! all glory to You, Lord! All praise to You!

Lord, open our eyes, today, to the wonder and beauty and complexity of Your creation. Thank You, Lord, for music, color, beauty, and all of the senses with which we take in creation. Help us to be more mindful of how we care for it.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

For the Joy Set Before Him

Today is Wednesday, the thirty-first of March, 2021, in Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,029

Four days until Resurrection Sunday

Opening Day is tomorrow!

Things are humming along, just about as usual, around here, so there’s nothing really new to report.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
When you ascended on high, you took many captives;
you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious— that you, LORD God, might dwell there.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
(Psalms 68:17-20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that You are a God who saves
  • for Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us!
  • that my ancestors put their trust in You, and You saved them
  • for the unspeakable horrors endured by my Savior during this week of His life on earth
  • that my sin is removed as far as the east is from the west

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LENT – DAY 37

INVITATION

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29 NIV)

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Psalms 22:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.
(Luke 22:54-65 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in the presence of the Lord, this morning, I reread these passages, allowing the Holy Spirit to draw me in and speak to me.

In the reading from Psalm 22 (which seems to be a focal chapter for the week), today, for the first time, I was struck by verses 4-5. For, truly, my ancestors (at least as far back as I know about, put their trust in God. In many cases, they pretty much had no choice.

I know that my maternal Grandmother’s family was abandoned by their father. I forget how many children there were, but it was close to ten. Some of them wound up in an orphanage, because their mother couldn’t handle the load. I mean, how could she? Abandoned with so many children, in that day and age? My Grandmother emerged from that scenario with a strong faith and hope in our God and in Christ. Where else could she turn?

On top of that, both of my parents were born into, or at least right toward the end of, the Great Depression. But I never heard them or my grandparents talk about it. As far as I can remember, they did not dwell on that. But they most certainly dwelled on their faith in the Lord, because I heard about that a lot.

My ancestors put their trust in the Lord; they cried out to Him and were saved; they were not put to shame.

The Luke passage is a difficult passage to dwell on. First, there is the painful fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy as Peter denies knowing Him, three times. I cannot begin to imagine the pain when Peter locked eyes with Jesus as the rooster crowed. We all know how Peter was restored and arose to be one of the greatest of all of the apostles. But this moment? It hurts terribly.

And then, after that, what those soldiers did to my Savior. They mocked Him; they beat Him; they punched Him in the face, while He was blindfolded, and demanded that He prophecy who hit Him; they pulled out pieces of His beard.

And, as far as I know, He remained silent throughout it all. Why did He endure all of that? Hebrews says it was “for the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).

So, let us, as that same passage in Hebrews encourages, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

Father, my heart hurts when I read this passage of Scripture. It hurts for Peter, as he failed our Lord in that moment; as he locked eyes with Jesus as the rooster crowed and realized his great sin; as he wept bitterly. My heart hurts even more when I read of the contemptuous treatment that Jesus endured at the hands of the soldiers, who did not know with Whom they were dealing. By the end of the crucifixion, though, at least one of them did, as he proclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Lord, help me to be more persevering in my faith, just as my ancestors were. Help me to endure the slight inconveniences that come my way, during the day; inconveniences that can hardly be called “trials,” compared to what the apostles and Jesus faced. I complain and moan at the slightest thing, while my Savior quietly endured beating, scourging, and mocking. Have mercy, O God, and give me courage to face whatever is ahead. Make me stronger against temptation.

God,
in Peter's betrayal,
I see my own.
In blindness of soul and hardness of heart,
I turn my back on you,
full of pride and fear.
One glance from your bloodied face and I see my utter failure.
Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.
Amen.
(Westminster Larger Catechism 28)

BLESSING

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
(Revelation 5:12 NIV)

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
(John 7:37-38 NLT)

A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
(Isaiah 40:6-8 NLT)

God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
(John 1:3 NLT)

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
(Colossians 1:15-17 NLT)

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
(Psalms 103:12 NLT)

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”
(Isaiah 44:22 NLT)

Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
(Isaiah 53:8 MSG)

My Lord, Jesus, You who hold all creation together, I lift my heart and my hands to You, this morning, in worship and praise. I owe all to You, yet, like Peter, I so often fail You. And, still You love me and forgive me and bless me. Hallelujah, my God and my Savior! I praise You today. Give me strength against the temptations that will come my way. Let those rivers of living water flow out of me today. All glory to You, my Lord!

Lord, I specifically pray for governments and leaders throughout the world, this morning. I lift up the many needs of this world, and pray for Your presence to be felt throughout. For the continent of Antarctica, I pray for Your protection and sustenance for the few who reside in that wasteland. And I lift up courts and judges to You, this morning, praying that justice be done, especially in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
(The Jesus Prayer)

Grace and peace, friends.

There Is No Greater Thing

Father,
I seek to know nothing but Jesus and him crucified.
When I take the full measure of your love in the cross,
any worth I might think I have pales in contrast to the beauty and wonder of knowing Jesus Christ.
I find comfort in his wounds and life in his death,
which renders me perfect forever.
Amen.

Today is Friday, the twenty-sixth of March, 2021, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,024

Nine days until Resurrection Sunday!

C received her second Pfizer vaccine shot, yesterday. Her reaction was a bit stronger than mine, as she has a mild fever, and chills and aches. Forward thinking, she brought her work computer home, and will be staying home today.

S should get her second shot next week, but I’m not sure we have received notification about that, yet.

Yesterday’s work day was as different from the day before as night is from day. It was truly amazing. The “epiphany” that I had in the midst of Wednesday made a world of difference. I’m still just as busy and just as behind, but the attitude was completely different.

And today is Friday! It’s hard to get me down on a Friday. I have no idea what this weekend holds, other than Palm Sunday. I know that we have no plans outside our normal Saturday and Sunday activities.

Baseball season begins soon. I believe Opening Day for MLB is April 1. The Texas Rangers begin the season in Kansas City, so their home opening day (at the new ballpark, which will finally have some fans) will be Monday, April 5.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
(Psalms 66:16-20 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • that C has gotten her second COVID-19 vaccine shot
  • for gentle nudges from You, throughout the day
  • that You are my Rock and my Foundation
  • that knowing You, Jesus, is the main purpose of my life
  • that Your Word casts a beam of light on my path

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LENT – DAY 33

INVITATION

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:17-18 NIV)

I am pausing, this morning, to quietly reflect on the Lord’s goodness in my life.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
(Psalms 28:1-2 NIV)

Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
(Psalms 28:6-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:4b-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, I reread these passages, searching for words or phrases that reach out to me or move my spirit.

I acknowledge that God is my Rock. He is my Foundation. All other ground is sinking sand. I frequently cry out to Him for mercy, and He hears my prayers. Praise be to God!

He is my strength and my shield! “My heart trusts in him and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

The reading from Philippians stresses one thing and that one thing is, as Curly emphasized in City Slickers, the main thing. That main thing is “to know Christ.” Everything that Paul lists off as potential reasons to boast, and his list is long, he considers as garbage. The KJV uses the word “dung.” Everything that I could possibly boast in, compared to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, is a big old pile of poop.

And Paul?!? The mightiest of all New Testament writers? He does not yet claim to have “taken hold of it.” He continues to press forward, “straining toward what is ahead.”

We focus our attention on so many useless things, and, to be fair, some of those are helpful diversions from the issues we face in this world. I spend more than my fair share of time playing video games. But that is my mode of relaxation; it helps me to get over the stress of the work week.

But there are other things that we obsess over that are not so healthy. We get dragged into political junk, conspiracies over this or that. I’m currently reading a book about the Manson murders back in the late sixties. It’s making my head spin. It would be really easy to get drawn into an obsession over that kind of thing.

But obsessions over anything that is not Christ are unhealthy for us. As Paul proclaims, knowing Jesus is the main thing. There is no greater thing, as a song by Graham Kendrick proclaims.

Father, I praise You for being my Rock and my Foundation. I thank You that You hear my prayers for mercy, and other prayers, as well. I echo the sentiment proclaimed by Paul, and sung by Matthew in the above song. Knowing You, Jesus, is the main thing. There is no great thing! May that be the thrust of my life, the goal of my very existence. I love You, Lord!

Father,
I seek to know nothing but Jesus and him crucified.
When I take the full measure of your love in the cross,
any worth I might think I have pales in contrast to the beauty and wonder of knowing Jesus Christ.
I find comfort in his wounds and life in his death,
which renders me perfect forever.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 21)

BLESSING

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
(1 John 5:11-12 NIV)

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him.
(Colossians 2:6 MSG)

With your instruction, I understand life; that’s why I hate false propaganda. By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
(Psalms 119:104-105 MSG)

Father, keep me on Your path, today. Simple and straightforward, teach me to live in what I have learned from You. I have received Jesus Christ, the Master; help me to live in Him and walk in Him. Your Word casts a beam of light on my path, that I may see where I am going. Let me not step out of that beam today! Knowing You . . . there is no greater thing!

Lord, may You give me, today, the ability to deny myself and serve others. I am still praying for more gentleness in everything I think, do, and say. Give me and all of us the commitment to do justice and love mercy. I lift up a special prayer, this morning, for all who are separated or divorced. May You bring comfort to them, peace to their hearts, and, where possible, restoration to broken relationships. All glory to You, Lord!

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

No Other Gods

Today is Monday, the eighth of March, 2021, in the third week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,006

27 days until Resurrection Sunday

If things work out as planned, this will be a short week for us, as we are planning PTO for Thursday and Friday, to have a long weekend for my birthday, which is Saturday. C found a Groupon for bowling, which we plan to do one of those days, and we may try to get in a round of golf, which we have not done in many years. However, all of that is pending the PTO submission getting approved.

We also booked a weekend at our favorite cabin in Glen Rose, for the end of April. This will be an unusual one, as it won’t be in honor of any special occasion. But it was the first available weekend for the cabin. As is our custom, we will check in on Thursday afternoon and return home on Sunday.

One thing we identified, over the weekend, is the change of philosophy around trips and vacations. In the past, a large amount of the energy on a trip was devoted to food; finding the best restaurants, indulging in too much food, and so on. This is not the case any more, and it has, dare I say, tainted the enjoyment of such trips. We just have to adjust our mindset and find other ways to enjoy ourselves besides eating. We can still enjoy food, of course, but it is no longer the center of the equation.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
(Psalms 62:7-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • For a new week, full of opportunities to serve people and God
  • For the encouragement to keep You at the number one place in my life
  • For Your ability to settle me down in all circumstances
  • That all of Your promises are true, and that I am fully persuaded that You have the power to do what You say You will do
  • That Your Word corrects me when I am wrong and teaches me to do what is right

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LENT – DAY 17

INVITATION

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
(Isaiah 6:3 ESV)

Spend a moment pondering the idea that the whole earth is full of His glory.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.
(Psalms 24:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

And God spoke all these words:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:1-17 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

The passage is lengthy, but familiar. Most people know at least some of the Ten Commandments. I dare say that the majority of people who only know some of them only know the ones that deal with our relationship to one another.

But the one that gives me pause today, as I reflect on this passage, reminding myself that I am in the presence of my Father, is the first one.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”
(Exodus 20:3 NIV)

Most of us, in Western culture, don’t have a problem with the concept of the “graven image.” We don’t, typically, worship statues, at least not in Christianity. And most of us would probably be quick to say that we had no other “gods” before Yahweh, our Father in heaven.

Do we, though?

Again, I’m thinking only of Western culture, because that is where I live. I believe that our experience over the past year has illustrated that many people who consider themselves to be Christian, at least in name, have other “gods” that they hold more dear than Yahweh.

Freedom

Guns

Rights

Material possessions

Money (not the same thing as material possessions, which typically cause us NOT to have money)

Self

I could go on. I’ve been guilty of some, myself, in the past, but am seriously attempting, these days, to not grant my allegiance to anything other than my Father in heaven.

And don’t all of the other commandments fall in line with the first one?

If you don’t have any other gods before the Lord, you certainly aren’t going to make a statue of them and worship them.

If you hold the name of the Lord (which is not, by the way, simply “God”) to be of supreme importance, you will not abuse His name(s). By the way, I believe the most common abuse of the name of the Lord is the usage of the name, “Jesus,” as a swear.

If we do not hold money or career as more worthy than the Lord, you will remember the Sabbath (whatever day that falls on for you, as I don’t believe we are officially held to observe the “Sabbath” on Saturday) and rest one day a week. We typically “rest” two days a week.

Time is short, so I will not continue down the list, but I’m sure you get my drift.

Father, please remind me to keep Your name above all others, as I go through each day. Dwell within me, by Your Holy Spirit, and fill me with love and worship for only You. Let me not ever have any other god before You. Remind me to always put myself in last place, behind You, behind everyone else. Help me to be selfless, considering others to be of more significance than myself.

"High and powerful God,
every day I fall short of living up to your law.
Why do I so easily fall into temptation
and live in reckless disobedience?
I'm weak,
God,
and I need Jesus.
Amen."
(Heidelberg Catechism 9)

BLESSING

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
(Psalms 32:1-2 NIV)

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
(Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)

Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat—and he was sound asleep! They roused him, pleading, “Master, save us! We’re going down!” Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?” Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: “Silence!” The sea became smooth as glass. The men rubbed their eyes, astonished. “What’s going on here? Wind and sea come to heel at his command!”
(Matthew 8:23-27 MSG)

Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?” Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”
(Mark 4:35-41 MSG)

God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
(Psalms 18:30 NLT)

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
(2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)

Father, I praise You for Your perfect way. I thank You for Your faithful and true promises, and for being a shield about me. Thank You for Your Word, that corrects me when I am wrong (which is frequent) and teaching me to do what is right. Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth. And what is truth? Jesus is The Truth. Help me to walk in Him, today.

Lord, as I go through this day, may You open my eyes to see Your work all around me. I also pray that Your hand would be seen working in relief of any disasters in our world, both natural and man-caused. May You bring special blessing on those whose jobs it is to care for Your creation.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.