Refined Like Silver

Today is Saturday, May 23, 2020, in the sixth week of Easter. Peace be with you!

Day 22,717

Memorial Day is the day after tomorrow.

I had a nice day off, yesterday. I was even a little productive. After my morning blog (not to be confused with “morning jog.” I don’t run. If you ever see me running, you should probably run, too.), I cooked brunch for us, then headed to the grocery store, mask in hand. I put it on when I got there. Unlike a few people I see, I do not wear my mask in the car. What’s the point of that?? It’s been a while since I have been to the grocery store, as C usually does that during these work at home weeks. It hadn’t changed much, so I didn’t have much trouble finding things. Except for the things that weren’t there. Weird things. Like asparagus. Why was there no asparagus? There was no frozen cut okra. I had to buy a couple packages of whole okra to be cut up for one of our recipes. There was no Buddig lunch meat (our favorite brand), but I was able to get some similar Kroger brand. I also couldn’t find a “cherry” variety of any of our favorite soft drinks. No Cherry Coke Zero, no Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper. Fortunately, I have about a half box of Cherry Zero left, and a whole box of Cherry Diet D.P. I didn’t look at Pepsi. Ick. Oh, and there was no Sprite Zero at all. But that happens, occasionally, even without pandemics. There also weren’t very many grapes. I think there might have been, like, maybe five bags. I bought two of them.

The toilet paper aisle was full. I bought some anyway. I almost passed it by, but there was this voice in my head (I should probably get that checked out), saying, “Buy some anyway.” There are still signs on the aisle stating that customers are limited to one package. A little too late for that, if you ask me. But you didn’t, so I’ll move on.

I’ll be leading our Scripture portion of the virtual worship gathering tomorrow. I haven’t nailed down the exact Scriptures, yet, but I think I’ll focus on prayer. I have gotten to a point where I believe that prayer might actually be the most important thing we do. For a long time, I thought that worship was the top priority. And the two are so closely connected that it may be impossible to separate them, in terms of importance. But prayer, being intimate communion with God, is vastly underrated in our churches today. For sure, one of the passages will be what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6. No doubt, there will be something from Psalms, as there are quite a few prayers in there. Sorry . . . I seem to be thinking “out loud,” here.

There are no plans that I know of today. We have our WW virtual workshop at 10:30. I guess that’s a plan, isn’t it? Then we will have our traditional Saturday morning “brunch” of eggs and accessories. The rest of the day is wide open. We had thunderstorms, last night, and there is a slight chance for more this afternoon.

Oh! I just remembered a “plan.” Our former pastor’s grandfather turns 91 today! They are planning a “drive-by” birthday parade for him between 6:00 and 7:30 this evening. I’m sure we will participate in that!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
(Psalms 105:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the privilege (and responsibility) of prayer
2. For the miracle that You hear our prayers and respond
3. That, when You allow “bad things” to happen to me, You are refining me, like silver (Psalm 66)
4. For the encouragement that comes from our brothers and sisters, in Christ
5. That You have preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping (also Psalm 66)

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!
(Psalms 27:7-9 ESV)

But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?
(Psalms 76:7 ESV)

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

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:44-49 ESV)

You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
(Psalms 91:8-13 ESV)

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

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

“Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep me, I pray, from all things that may hurt me, that I, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him. Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
(Psalms 66:6-12 NIV)

Do you see what the psalmist does, here? He praises God for allowing “bad” things to happen to him and the people of God. “God is seen as present in every one of the sufferings that are listed in these verses.” In the midst of the afflictions, God “preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping” (verse 9).

But, indeed, “God allows them in order to refine us into something precious, great, and beautiful (verse 10).” What appears to be “rough handling” from God is always grace, no matter how difficult it seems, at the moment.

This is difficult. I know it well. I confess that I have said, verbally, “God has abandoned us.” It was a difficult time, perhaps one of our more difficult times. And, yes, I said that. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, however, I knew in my heart that it was not true. Because God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us. And God will do what He says He will do.

“Lord God, let me know deep down that when I suffer, even if it breaks your heart to see me so, you have allowed it, in infinite love and wisdom, because it is profitable for me. Amen.”
(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Yes, Lord, You are always working to refine us and improve us and ready us for our eternal home in Your kingdom. We walk in Your kingdom, now, and joyfully so. But there will be an eternal place for us in the new heaven and new earth, and I am waiting with great anticipation for that day. So do whatever You need to do with me in order to prepare me for that. I will accept whatever comes my way as being part of Your plan for me. Forgive me for times when I think and even say that You have forsaken or abandoned me, because that has never happened!
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us of Your grace!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Prayer Is Suffering’s Best Result”

Today is Monday, May 8, 2017.

Word of the Day

Hypostatize ~ to treat or regard (a concept, idea, etc.) as a distinct substance or reality.

Today is No Socks Day. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could get away with that today. I didn’t wear any socks yesterday or Saturday, can that count?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. 
Psalm 71:8
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71:17
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 15:26-27
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah. 
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. 
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. 
  Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. 
God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Psalm 67
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
The Gloria

(From Living the Message)

Eugene H. Peterson continues on the topic of suffering. He makes note of the last verse of Lamentations, which says, unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us. (Lamentations 5:22)

It seems very blunt. But also note that this is an expression of prayer, what Peterson calls “the most personal of relationships.” And, indeed, it is. When I am praying, I am the closest to God, because I am involved in intimated conversation with him. I am not just reading off a grocery list of prayer requests. I am pouring out my heart to him.

“Prayer is suffering’s best result. In prayer, God’s anger is neither sentimentally glossed nor cynically debunked, but seized as a lever to pry open the doors of redemption.” The sufferer “does not ask God to think well of him or her, but asks that God will enact redemption.”

Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.
2 Corinthians 12:7 (The Message)

Father, when I find myself suffering, even for the simplest of reasons, draw me closer to you in prayer. When I find myself celebrating, no matter what the occasion, draw me closer to you in prayer. May I find myself in the state of “the most personal of relationships” constantly throughout the day. Help me to “pray without ceasing.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Hope of Future Grace

Good morning. It is Tuesday, March 17, 2015. St. Patrick’s Day. 20 days until Opening Day!

Today’s word of the day is agra. Having nothing to do with agriculture (unless you use it to refer to your animals, I guess), it is a noun, and is Irish English (appropriate for the day). It is used, “As a term of endearment: ‘my love’; ‘dear’.”

Today is Submarine Day. That’s it. It was the only choice.

Yesterday was an okay day. Work went pretty well for both of us, I think. I stayed an extra hour because UPS came late in the day. They actually split our packages, bringing all the “Next Day Air” stuff early, but waiting until around 3PM to bring the rest. That was rather annoying.

Today, of course, after work, I will be driving to Mineral Wells to stay with my parents for the next few days. Tomorrow, I drive my Mother to Fort Worth for cataract surgery, then back on Thursday for bandage removal. Depending on how my Mother is doing, I will probably be back home Friday evening, or Saturday morning. That will be up to her, I think. I’ll stay as long as they need me. I have discovered that I can make my iPhone a “hot spot” for Internet, so I will take my laptop with me, just for doing my blogging. Tomorrow’s will probably be later in the day, as we will be driving to Fort Worth early.

This will be the first time I have spent nights away from home without Christi in I don’t know how long. Wait. There was that “men’s retreat last Memorial Day. Whatever . . . that’s the part I don’t like. I don’t sleep well without her near me. ❤

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “Prayer’s Exclamation Point.”

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
2 Corinthians 1:20

At first glance, this might seem like a repeat of a reading from a few days ago, but it is not quite the same.

“Prayer is a response to promises, that is, to the assurances of God’s future grace.

“Prayer is drawing on the account where God has deposited all his promises of future grace.

“Prayer is not hoping in the dark that there might be a God of good intentions out there. Prayer goes to the bank every day and draws on promises for the future grace needed for that day.”

One of John Piper’s great phrases, over the past couple of decades, is “future grace.” This is our hope, he says, this is what we are banking on.

Once again, he separates the two halves of this verse, for further inspection. They are separated by the phrase, “That is why.” The first part of the verse is the “That is why.” “All the promises of God are Yes in Christ. That is why (therefore) we pray Amen through him, to God’s glory.”

If we turn it around, we see that we pray Amen to God, through Christ, because God, also through Christ, has said Amen to us in all his promises. ” Prayer is the confident plea for God to make good on his promises of future grace for Christ’s sake.” When we pray, we link our “faith in future grace” with the foundation of everything, Jesus Christ.

This word, “Amen,” is “a full an precious word in times of prayer.” It is more than just an add-on, an afterthought. At least it should be. It does not mean, “Yes, I have now said all this prayer.” It also is more than just an insignificant notification that my prayer is over, and you can pray now (if that’s how things are working). What it does mean is, “Yes, God has made all these promises.”

“Amen means, ‘Yes, Lord, you can do it.’ It means, ‘Yes, Lord, you are powerful. Yes, Lord, you are wise. Yes, Lord, you are merciful. Yes, Lord, all future grace comes from you and has been confirmed in Christ.’

“’Amen’ is an exclamation point of hope after a prayer for help.”

Amen, Father! Amen! Yes, you are all powerful! Yes, you are all-knowing! yes, you are so very merciful! You, Father, all my future grace comes from you and has been confirmed in Jesus Christ! Yes, your son is my firm foundation for everything in my life! All my hope is in you, through Jesus Christ. And you have shown yourself faithful. My hope has not been misplaced. I will continue to hope in this future grace, because it has been proven to be more than enough! Your grace is enough for me. I need look nowhere else. Thank you, Father!

I pray for this day, asking, as always, that our trip to work and home be safe and smooth today. In addition, I pray for traveling mercies tonight, tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday (or Saturday). This will be a lot of driving, so I pray that you keep me alert and awake the whole time. I pray for Christi and Stephanie while I am gone, that you would keep them in your hands, just as you do when we are all together. I pray for Christi’s work day today, that she will be able to accomplish whatever she needs to do, and that stress and anxiety will not be present. I pray for Stephanie, that you would give her wisdom. Help her make the right choices in her life.

I pray also, for Rachel and Justin, that you would draw them close to you. I pray that you would open the right doors for Rachel to complete her education and begin her career, and that she will be able to do that which is closest to her heart. May you grant Justin confidence and a life free from anxiety.

In all of this, I say a loud, confident, “Amen!”

“Amen” is not just an insignificant add-on to signify the end of our prayers. It is a word, full of meaning, showing that our faith is in the future grace of our Father, promised in the person of Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.

Failure and Prayer

“The mature Christians I have met along the way are those who have failed and have learned to live gracefully with their failure.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Saturday, May 31, 2014. Last day of May. Summer is on its way.

Today is Speak In Complete Sentences Day. Haha! Facebook and Twitter would shut down for a day if that was enforced!


Christi got a verbal offer from Mindtree, yesterday, matching the offer that we foolishly turned down about two months before she got laid off at Dex Media. We have decided that the best course of action is to take that offer. It is significantly more money ($15K), the health insurance is better (cheaper, with a co-pay, and lower deductible), and the vacation policy is not nearly as strict. Plus (and a big plus), there is a 10% bonus! Christi has already spoken to the lady at ASAP, who was very understanding. She said that she had even gone to their VP to see if there was any way they could match, but the just couldn’t compete. It was all very cordial, and Christi was even told that, if this didn’t work out, she could call them back. It’s very nice when you don’t have to burn bridges to make decisions. There is one bridge that is safely open. In the meantime, we will await the written offer, which is supposed to come on Monday. This, of course, would also delay her starting back to work for a week or so.

Today is our church day, and our service meets at 5:45 this evening. There will be a prayer gathering at 4:45. We always arrive around 4pm, as Christi usually does the slides for the service, and we help set up. If you happen to be in the DFW area and have nothing to do this evening, come check us out. We meet upstairs in Harvest Baptist Church, in the old school area. Here is a link to the map.


(Source: History.com)

On this date in 1997, Ila Borders was the first woman to ever pitch in a minor league baseball game. I guess we are referring to official MLB minor league affiliates, here, as we all know that there was a woman’s league in the mid-1900s. This, however, is a case of a woman pitching for a “men’s” team. She came into the game in relief for the St. Paul Saints. Mike Veeck owned the team and had signed her for publicity. Turns out, though, that she could throw strikes and was more than just an attraction. Her first outing did not fare well, but she overcame the nerves, and after being acquired by the Duluth Dukes, made 15 appearances, helping the team move from last place to the playoffs, and even contributed a scoreless inning in a playoff game.

Just so you know I’m not making this up. . .

Ila Borders--Duluth Dukes
Ila Borders–Duluth Dukes


Today is the birthday of Alexander Cruden, Walt Whitman, Norman Vincent Peale, Don Ameche, Clint Eastwood, Johnny Paycheck, Happy Hairston, Joe Namath, John Bonham, Tom Berenger, Lea Thompson, Corey Hart, Brooke Shields, Colin Farrell, and Jake Peavey. It’s also the birthday of Peter Yarrow, born on this date in 1938. He was the “Peter” in Peter, Paul, and Mary. Here is their song, “500 Miles.”



TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

Psalm 66:8-9
. . . that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Psalm 67:2
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 36:5

“O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who
watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship
may give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”


To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Psalm 22:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6


Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
Luke 11:1-4

This is the weekend reading from “In Touch” magazine.

“Many of us have redesigned prayer to fit in with the busyness of our lives and to make us more comfortable.” We have organized it to suit ourselves, and in the process, we’ve forgotten what the heart of prayer really is–our relationship with the Lord.

“Prayer is to be a time of separation from the world in order to be with God. It occurs when we surrender our schedules, our priorities, and ourselves to the joy of drawing near to our Father in heaven. It’s a time to experience His love and express ourselves to Him; to remember that life is centered on Jesus and that our priority is to obey Him. It’s where our souls are nourished and we gain strength to continue.

“For us as children of the King, prayer is the means by which we communicate with Him about our needs, work, desires, and even our mistakes. It is also one of the primary ways for us to receive His responses. Most importantly, it’s a time to bask in the presence of God our Father and Jesus our Savior–and to be guided by the Holy Spirit in heavenly conversation.

“The value of prayer is seen in the life of Jesus. He often withdrew from the crowds and even from His own disciples in order to spend significant time with His Father. What value to you place on praying? Whom or what do you seek through your prayers? How often do you enter the throne room just to spend time with your Father? Commit to seeking a prayer life like the Savior’s–with God Himself as your focus and top priority.”


Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Power In His Weakness.”

“The mature Christians I have met along the way are those who have failed and have learned to live gracefully with their failure.” We are faithful when we risk everything on Jesus, are willing to keep growing, and ready to risk failure.

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:11-12


Father, I thank you for the failures in my life, but only because you have taught me through them. I still have so much more to learn, and each time I fail, which seems to happen daily, I learn that I still have much to learn. You are gracious and patient to continue to work with me, allowing me to grow in very small steps. But all of those small steps will, one day, add up to much maturity, I pray.

Help me to continue to grow my prayer ministry. The reading about prayer, today, spoke to me in many ways. I still don’t do enough private seeking of you and your glory. I need to concentrate more on the right things when I am in my “closet.” There is ample opportunity to shut off the outside world and seek only you. It requires discipline that I have yet to accomplish. I pray that you would help me do that, by the power of your Spirit in my life.

I pray for the remainder of this day. As we prepare for this evening’s prayer and worship time, may we focus on you and what you would have us do as your children and servants. May our worship time tonight be exactly that . . . worship. Give us the ability to focus for just a couple of hours on nothing but you. May everything that happens this evening be to your glory and honor.

We are thankful for the way things seem to be working in Christi’s job situation. We are very thankful that this other job offer came through, with the higher salary. May you be glorified in this and may we honor and glorify you with all of our possessions and money.

Your grace is sufficient.


Failure is inevitable. And in spite of what some “leaders” say, it most certainly IS an option. It is always an option. But it can be used for learning, in any and all circumstances in our lives, spiritual and otherwise. It is part of our path to maturity.

Grace and peace, friends.

We’ve Got To Pray, Just To Make It Today

Good morning. It’s pre-Friday, January 9, 2014. The first real “pre-Friday” of 2014. (Last week didn’t count, because Thursday was the first work day of the week for me, so it was really “Monday.” I only had Monday and Friday last week. That’s my kind of work week!)

Today is “Static Electricity Day.” I remember making balloons stick to the wall when I was a kid. Here’s a bunch of static electricity demonstrations that must have been recorded in a school classroom.


On this date in 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Has it really only been seven years? The iPhone was debuted as a “touchscreen mobile phone with an iPod, camera and Web-browsing capabilities, among other features.” Jobs, himself, described the iPhone as “revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” It went on sale six months later, on June 29, and thousands of people lined up at Apple stores to be the first to have one. In November of that same year, almost 1.5 million had been sold, and Time magazine named it the invention of the year. Fast forward seven years. We are all captivated by our phones.
look-up-from-your-iphone
(Source: History.com)


Today’s birthdays are Chic Young, cartoonist (Blondie), 1901, Richard Nixon, 37th U.S. President, 1913, Gypsy Rose Lee, actress, 1914, Judith Krantz, author, 1928, Bart Starr, quarterback, 1934, Bob Denver, 1935, Anne Rivers Siddons, author, 1936, Joan Baez, singer/songwriter 1941, Jimmy Page, guitarist (Led Zeppelin), 1944, Crystal Gayle, country singer, 1951, J.K. Simmons, actor, 1955, Dave Matthews, musician, 1967, and Kate Middleton, duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, 1982.

Bart Starr was the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers in the era of the infamous Ice Bowl of 1967. Here is the quarterback sneak that won that game for Green Bay.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Psalm 47:5-8 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!

Psalm 70:4 May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
Psalm 13:5-6 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

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


Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “God’s Voice in Prayer.”

Why do we struggle so much with “being human?” Why do we walk a thin line between “self-hatred and despair?” Could it be that we don’t pray? “We pray so little, so rarely, and so poorly.” Oh, we have plenty of time for other things! “Visits, get-togethers, movies, football games, concerts, an evening with friends, an invitation we can’t decline . . .” And guess what! These are all good things! They are good, because it is “natural and wholesome that we come together in community.” But when God wants some of our time, we hesitate. We struggle with believing that God delights in talking with his children.

If we could look God in the face, what kind of face would he be making? Would it be saying, “When are you going to shape up? I’m fed up with you and your hang-ups. My patience is exhausted. We’re going to have a little reckoning!” If he said only one word to us, would it be “Repent?” Or would he, perhaps, say, “Thank you. Do you know what a joy it is to live in your heart? Do you know that I have looked upon you and loved you for all eternity?”

Jeremiah 29:12-13 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,
and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with
all your heart.


Father, keep teaching me to pray. I feel that I have done somewhat better with this over the past couple of years, but there is still much room for improvement. You have asked me to be an intercessor, and I have tried to walk that path. But i’m still learning how to do it. I’m still learning how to pour out my heart and soul for the sake of others, and, to be honest, I’m not sure I get it, yet. I still think i don’t pray enough. Or perhaps I don’t pray properly. I get too easily distracted by other things, even when there is no other activity going on. I pray for your Spirit to teach me to pray. I pray, also, for all of your children to understand the necessity of prayer in their lives. It’s not just something for people who are called to be intercessors. Prayer is not a magic formula that can only be used by those who are properly trained. It is our life-blood, Lord. It is our breath. We should not be able to live without it.

I pray for this day. I ask for relief from pain for Christi. Lately, her hip and back have been bothering her. But you know this. I pray that you would touch her and relieve her pain. May our work day be good today. May our day be full of you and your Spirit. May we frequently stop and remember to pray, praying for whatever you bring to our minds at the time. I also ask that you would give Stephanie understanding and wisdom, teaching her your way, that she may walk in it.

I pray especially for Alicia Rojas and her mother this morning. Things are not well for her, and her mother is not doing well, in the hospital. Life has been very difficult for them lately. I pray that you would impress upon some people to give them assistance. But I also pray for healing for her mother.

Your grace is sufficient.


Say a prayer for your day. Talk to your Father. He delights in talking to you, because he loves you with a never-ending love.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Key Is Prayer

Good morning. It is Tuesday, October 16, 2012. We have reached the halfway point in October. Hmm..today is “National Boss Day.” So I’ll say “Happy Boss Day” to my supervisor, Tom Wiles, and our manager, Phillip Dutton.

It was on this date in 1793 that Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, was guillotined. There is no evidence that she ever really said, “Let them eat cake.”
Walt and Roy founded The Walt Disney Company on this date in 1923.
On this date in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis began.
On this date in 1978, Wanda Rutkeiwicz reached the summit of Mount Everest. She was the first Pole to do so, as well as the first European woman.
On this date in 1984, Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize. George Orwell did not predict that.
On this date in 1991, George Hennard killed 23 and wounded 20 in a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas.
On this date in 1958, Chevrolet introduced the El Camino.
Baby Jessica was rescued from a well in Midland, Texas, on this date in 1987.
And on this date in 1912, New York Giants outfield Fred Snodgrass dropped an easy pop up in the 10th inning of a tie-breaking eighth game of the World Series. How can you have a “tie-breaking eighth game?” I’m glad you asked. The second game was called at a 6-6 tie because it got too dark to see. (1912, remember?) Anyway, Snodgrass’s error allowed the Red Sox to rally for two runs to win the 1912 World Series.

Birthdays today include Noah Webster, 1758, Oscar Wilde, 1854, Eugene O’Neill, 1888, Goose Goslin, 1900, Angela Lansbury, 1925, Charles Colson, 1931, Tim McCarver, 1941, Fred Turner, of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, 1943, Suzanne Somers, 1946, Bob Weir, of the Grateful Dead, 1947, Tim Robbins, 1958, Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1962, Wendy Wilson, of Wilson Phillips, 1969, John Mayer, 1977, Ethan Luck, of the O.C. Supertones, Demon Hunter, and Relient K, 1978, Bryce Harper, 1992.


We got back into the swing of things pretty well, yesterday, after our nice weekend. Work was pretty normal for both of us. However, Christi did not go to the gym with Stephanie and me, yesterday evening, as her foot and leg were hurting too much. Her next doctor’s visit is next Monday. I got in a pretty good workout on the adaptive motion trainer, though, trying to get back into the routine of almost daily workouts, at least every other day. Tonight, we meet for Lifehouse group.


Father, I pray for a glimpse of you this morning, as I spend some time reading your word.


Today, I’m reading Psalm 119:153-160.

153 Resh. Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.
156 Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

I don’t see verse 155 as claiming that salvation comes from seeking God’s statutes. Rather, I see it as stating that the evidence that salvation is far from the wicked is that they don’t seek the Lord’s statutes. The psalmist then acknowledges the great mercy of God, asking for life to be imparted to him. Again, in verse 159, he prays for “life according to your steadfast love.” Verse 160 states that the sum of God’s word is truth. If we consider the New Testament correlation to this, we know that Jesus is the “Word” made flesh, and that Jesus is truth. It could be said that Jesus Christ is “the sum” of God’s word.


Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Key to the Master’s Orders.” The scripture reference is Matthew 9:38, which says, …therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Chambers says that the key to the “missionary problem” is “prayer not work.” He explains a little further, saying that it is not “work as the word is popularly understood today because that may mean the evasion of concentration on God.” One of Chambers’s key themes is the fact that Christians often get so bogged down in working FOR God that they forget to commune WITH him. Here, the key is not “common sense.” Nor is it medical, civilization, education, or even evangelization. “The key is prayer.” And we do need to remember that the ordinary, common-sense world believes that prayer is, well, stupid.

We also need to realize that there are no “nations” in the outlook of Jesus, only the world. “How many of us pray without respect of persons, and with respect to only one Person, Jesus Christ?” To bring that very idea home, and in a very silly way, yesterday, my daughter asked me to pray for Derek Jeter. Anyone who knows me at all knows that the very idea of praying for a member of the New York Yankees rubs every nerve in my body the wrong way! But wait! (I know…this is total madness.) Derek Jeter just a guy who plays baseball. He fractured his ankle in a game the other day, and will likely need surgery. Why shouldn’t I pray for him? He also, just like any other human on the planet, needs Jesus. So, yes…I should pray for Derek Jeter. Because I’m supposed to be praying “without respect of persons.”

Back to the point. Jesus owns this harvest that is spoken of in Matthew 9:38. We are to be praying that God would send out workers into this harvest. ‘We are taken up with active work while people all round are ripe to harvest, and we do not reap one of them, but waste our Lord’s time in overenergized activities.” An opportunity arises wherein we might be useful in the harvest, but we say, “Oh, but I have a special work to do!” Chambers says, rather emphatically, “No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, one who is not above his Master, one who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do.” If we simply do what is asked, which is in this particular case, to pray, Jesus will engineer the circumstances, and he will thrust us out where we are most needed. It is not up to me to know where God will use me next. It is not my decision, what I will be doing for him. It is the Lord’s decision, and it is his job to put me there. I must simply be obedient and pray.


Father, I thank you for calling on me to pray. i have, for many years, prayed some, but not nearly enough. Today, you have me praying more and more. As I struggle to know what and how to pray, you continue to teach me. Today, I look at the words that Oswald Chambers has written, and I am convicted even more of the necessity of prayer, especially before anything that could be considered “work.” There are far too many of us who are busy, busy, busy. We get so busy that we forget to pray, we forget that communion with you is the most important thing we can do. We get the order wrong. Again, I turn to the words of Jesus when asked what the greatest commandment is. In short, his answer was, “Love God.” The second command, after that, was to love people. We must get it in the right order. You told us (through the ancient disciples) to make disciples. This implies something much more deep than simply evangelism. It speaks of teaching people your word, passing on the teachings of Jesus Christ, teaching them how this life is supposed to work. How is it supposed to work? I have come to believe, over the past year, that it is you, living in me. As I pray, I pray for the life of Jesus Christ to be lived in me. I pray for his character traits to be seen in me, made manifest by his life, not by my efforts to be meek, poor in spirit, merciful, and so on. You, Lord Jesus, must increase, and I must decrease.

I pray for this day. I pray, still, again, and will continue to do so, that Christi’s pain would be healed. Father, I will keep pounding on the door of your throne room about this. I am not demanding, but I am pleading. I will not demand from you. That is unacceptable. I am a servant. You make demands on me, not vice-versa. But I plead with you to relieve my wife’s pain, just as I ask you every day to heal my earthly father and restore strength to his muscles. You may elect to never do either one. That will not change my course. It will not change my prayer, nor will it affect my devotion to you. This life is yours, to do with as you will. “Our God is in the heavens, he does whatever pleases him.” I pray that Christi’s work day will go smoothly today. Surround her with your Spirit, absorbing any stress that might come her way. I also pray for Stephanie today. Draw her heart into yours. Give her a purpose for her life. Show her your life in her. Finally, I pray for my work day, that it will be a smooth day. I also pray for my prayer time on the way to work this morning. May there be little to distract me, beyond the normal task of driving. Show me who to pray for and how to pray for them. I have my list, sure. But there can always be additions and subtractions to this list, as it is nothing more than a tool to remind me. You are the ultimate Reminder. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. Your Word is truth.


The key to any spiritual task is prayer. We spoke mainly of the “harvest” today. But any task that God gives us should be, as they say, “bathed in prayer” before it becomes active. The key is prayer.

Grace and peace, friends.

Prayer Changes Me

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, August 28, 2012. Today is “National Cherry Turnover Day.” So get out there and turn over a cherry!

What?

Oh.

Get out there and EAT a cherry turnover! See? More desserts!

My apologies…somehow, yesterday morning, I completely missed that yesterday was the date, 22 years ago, that one of the greatest blues guitar players of all time, Stevie Ray Vaughan, died in a helicopter crash. I blame the History.com. So, in tribute, I offer this.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

On THIS date, in 1996, Charles and Diana were formally divorced, after being separated for four years. If you say, “Charles and Diana who?” I think I love you.
On this date in 1987, John Huston died. Wow. Has it really been that long? The first movie he directed was The Maltese Falcon He also directed The Bible: In the Beginning, which I remember seeing at a friend’s birthday party when I was very young. His 1985 movie, Prizzi’s Honor, was nominated for movie of the year, and his daughter, Angelica, won an Oscar for her appearance in that movie.


Yesterday was a hectic day at work for me. Not necessarily a bad day, but not a great one, either. Christi’s day went okay, I think, but she we pretty sore after the day. She had actually toyed with the thought of going to the gym and doing some light bicycle work and upper body resistance, but, after walking back and forth from her office to meetings, decided not to try that yet. Probably a good thing, as she says it hurts a bit this morning.

I can’t remember if I mentioned that we got our passport pictures made at CVS last Saturday, and plan on going to a post office this coming Saturday to get our passports started. Why are we getting passports? We have decided to take a Christmas vacation to Cancun this year, the day after Christmas. I think I may have mentioned that. We are currently thinking about adding this excursion tour to our trip. It looks like a lot of fun.


Father, I pray that you would send your Holy Spirit to me through the Word, and reveal your Word to me, and enlighten my mind this morning.


Today, I’m reading Psalm 89. This particular psalm is said to have been written by “Ethan the Ezrahite.” It begins with joy and praise.
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.'”
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?
O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?
(1-8 )

This is a lengthy psalm, 52 verses. In the middle, there is a portion where God proclaims that, even when his children forsake his law, and he has to punish them, he will not withdraw his love. Truly nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Savior! However, the psalm closes with a lament, as God’s favor seems to have been removed, and the enemies are having the upper hand. In spite of all this, though, the psalmist closes with these words:
Blessed be the LORD forever! (52)

No matter what our circumstances, may we always be able to say, “Blessed be the Lord forever!”


My Utmost For His Highest
“Lord, teach us to pray. Luke 11:1

Will a man suffer in his life if he fails to pray? Maybe, maybe not. Is it a natural thing for a man to pray? Again, maybe, maybe not. The “natural” man only “prays” when things are going badly for him. As for the spiritual man, “What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer.” When we are “born from above, the life of the Son of God” is born in us. We can either feed that life or starve it. We feed it through prayer. However, our standard view of prayer is not found in the New Testament. “We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.” Now, I think that, as a person gets more intimate with God, that point of view will get corrected. I know that it has for me. I don’t see prayer as a way to get what I want. I do pray for specific things, but not so much for me as for many others. I see prayer as a way to be connected with my Father.

Jesus told us to “ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Do we do this? “We grouse before God, we are apologetic or apathetic, but we ask very few things.” Think about our children. They never hesitate to ask us for things, do they? Jesus told us to become like children. Our problem is, we tend to not come before God until we are at our wits’ end. “Be yourself before God and present your problems, the things you know you have come to your wits’ end over. As long as you are self-sufficient, you do not need to ask God for anything.” Therein lies the problem! We are too self-sufficient!

Is it true that “prayer changes things?” I’ve never been comfortable with that statement. Prayer changes me. “…prayer on the basis of Redemption alters the way in which a man looks at things.” This is a profound truth. Real prayer, based on real truth, changes the one who prays.


Father, I thank you for prayer, and for what it has done in me during these past months. I agree that prayer changes me, because I know that I have been changed this year. I pray that the life of Christ will grow in me as I nourish it with more prayer and meditation on your Word. I thank you for the Word that is in me, and I pray that I will never fail to meditate on it and learn more of it. As many times as I have read the Scriptures, they are still alive and still new to me every day.

I pray for this day. I continue to ask that Christi’s pain be relieved. I pray for intervention in the process of getting the MRI, if it is truly necessary. I also pray that you help her stay off her feet as much as possible. Christi is not one that slows down easily. I pray for a smoother day at work for me, today. Yesterday was a challenge, and I probably didn’t meet it in the best way possible. It could have been worse. I pray for confidence in you and compassion for others. I also pray for Stephanie today. I pray that you would lead her to a deeper relationship with you. I pray that you would bless her life and bless her future.


Real prayer, based on real truth, changes the one who prays.

Grace and peace, friends.

Lord, Direct My Heart…

It’s Friday morning! Finally! Actually, the week hasn’t been that bad. There have been a couple of challenging days at work, but it’s been okay. And we think we have come to some more good answers for Stephanie, but it’s not all worked out yet. Bottom line, though, is that she probably won’t be going back to Keller High School. They’ll either send a teacher to the house to complete her senior year, or she will withdraw. And last, but certainly not least, THE RANGERS WON LAST NIGHT! (Sorry, MT, but at least we’re tied…)

I’m reading a book by Richard J Foster, called Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer. In this book, Foster describes something that I have encountered before, called lectio divina. This is a rather ancient way of reading the Scriptures which involves praying the Scriptures. Not just praying, though, but listening, as well. The art of meditation on Scripture has been virtually lost in today’s church. We are a loud church, these days. Not that I mind the loudness. I believe our praises should be loud. But we seem to be afraid of silence. As I read this book (I may read it twice through…it’s a small book), I intend to try to rediscover this concept which was introduced to me by Eugene Peterson several years ago, as I used a devotional version of The Message.


Today’s Bible readings:
2 Thessalonians 3; Jeremiah 23-24; Proverbs 22:17-23

Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3, asks for prayer. Prayer for him and his associates, but so that the gospel might “speed ahead and be honored.” He also prayed that they might be delivered from evil men. He expresses confidence that the Lord will “establish and guard” the church against the “evil one.”
He offers one final warning, though, against idleness. He uses himself as an example, in the fact that he never ate anyone’s bread with paying for it. Paul admonishes them to steer clear of anyone who walks in idleness. He even goes so far as to say If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (v. 10b) Paul is not cruel. He doesn’t wish someone to go without if they are not able to work. But if you are able, you’d better be doing something productive, he says. Why so insistent? The results of idleness are seen in verse 11. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. I love his play on words there. I wonder if it comes across that clever in Greek? “Not busy at work, but busybodies.” So, apparently, there are people in Thessalonica who aren’t working, but being busy getting up in everyone else’s business. Paul commands them to quietly earn their own living.
Finally, he encourages them to not grow weary in doing good. And if they do have to shun a brother for disobedience, they are not to treat said brother as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (v. 15)
There is a good prayer for us in verse 5. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. We should pray this prayer (or one like it) for each other on a regular basis. It probably wouldn’t hurt to pray it for ourselves! “Lord, direct my heart to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ!”

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:1 The prophet continues in verse 2. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Does this even need an explanation? As I observe the “church” of today, I see countless “preachers” who are guilty of exactly what is being condemned in verses 1 and 2 of Jeremiah 23. Even though these men appear to be outwardly successful and have “congregations” of thousands, their judgment is coming. I don’t pray against them. Rather, I pray that they would open their hearts and eyes to the error of their “preaching,” so that they can begin to lead “their people” in the right path.
Verses 5-6 contain a Messianic promise. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
In chapter 24, God uses a vision of figs to reemphasize what he spoke earlier about the people who willingly submitted to exile being safe. The exiles from Judah were the good figs, and the king of Judah, who remained in the land, and those who fled to Egypt, were the bad figs.

In Proverbs 22, the Lord once again emphasizes how close to his heart he holds those who are poor. Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the LORD will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. We ought always to treat people fairly and justly. Not only are we to be generous, but we’d better be sure we aren’t ripping anyone off, as well.


“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado, from Grace For the Moment.


Father, I pray that you would direct my heart to the love of you and the steadfastness of Christ. I pray this for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. For my wife, for my daughters, for my son-in-law, for all of the members of our lifehouse, for everyone at The Exchange, for our pastor, Joel Engle. Direct our hearts, Lord! You are the creator and master! You hold all things in your hands, and you are in control of all things. Direct our hearts!
As I return to this concept of lectio divina, I pray that you help me to descend with my mind into my heart and come face to face with you there. The idea that you, through Jesus Christ, dwell within me forever, is almost incomprehensible! But it is, according to you word, true. Therefore, I will meet you there. I need not travel hundreds or thousands of miles; I don’t have to go to a certain building at a certain time. You are here with me, all the time. Perhaps, in addition to our mantra, “God is good, all the time,” we should add, “God is here, all the time!” How would our lives look if we actually practiced your presence every moment of every day? That is a stunning question.
Lord, I pray for the kind of faith that Max Lucado describes. I believe I am close to that. I don’t always believe that you are going to just do whatever I want. But I do believe that you will do what is just and right, because you are God and that is your nature.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for Christi and me to have a good day at work. I pray that Stephanie will feel better today. She is complaining of her stomach trouble again. Give her grace through this day, and I pray that we can work things out with the school quickly, so that, if she is to complete her senior year, it can be done in a timely manner.


May the Lord direct your hearts today…

Grace and peace, friends.

We Do Not Get To Decide If God Loves Us

It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m really sleepy. I think I have some kind of sinus thing going on, and caused me to have trouble sleeping from about 330 on, this morning. And I’ve got this muscle twitching thing going on in my right knee. It’s weird. No pain at all. But every couple of hours, it just starts twitching. In almost perfect rhythm. Monday night, it happened in the middle of the night. It’s hard to sleep when your knee is twitching. Once every t-3 seconds. It’s not twitching right now, so I should be able to concentrate. If I can stay awake.


Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 21:1-22
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent a couple of them to fetch the donkey and her colt. I just noticed that Jesus asked for both of them. I never caught that before. The prophecy Matthew quotes in verse 5 is from Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The word that the crowds are saying, “Hosanna,” means “Save, now.” But when people asked the question, “Who is this?” the answer given shows their misunderstanding of who Jesus truly is. They said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” They called him a prophet. Although that may have been true, it was not the whole truth. Jesus was/is so much more than a prophet.
Jesus spoke about faith again, in verses 20-22. It’s a similar statement to the mustard seed parable. However, this time, he adds And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. This has caused much controversy in the church, as people have attempted to abuse this teaching to get whatever they want. “Name it/claim it” theology has taught that all you have to do is believe and you’ll get that new car, that new house, that new job, or whatever. I do not believe that Jesus meant anything close to that. I agree with the notes in the Reformation Study Bible, which say this: “Freedom from doubt arises from an awareness that something is truly God’s will. True faith receives what it asks for; trust in God is not presumptive arrogance but submission to His will.” My interpretation of this is that faith is more than just belief, it also assumes understanding; comprehension. In other words, I must discern what God’s will is before I pray. Now there are times when I pray for things, not knowing what God’s ultimate will is. Like those days when I pray for rain or for a break from the heat. I have faith that God can do all things. But what is really going on in those prayers is hope, rather than all-encompassing faith. But there are things that I can pray that I know are God’s will. Like prayers for his eventual second coming. I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I know that it will happen.

2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37
Hezekiah is disturbed to the point of tearing his clothes (an ancient sign of great despair) when he hears of the the Rabshakeh’s public mockery of the Lord. But Isaiah reassures him that God will take care of things. The Rabshakeh returns to Assyria, and king Sennacherib sends a letter of similar mockery to Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s prayer follows:
15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands
18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

I like how he ends his prayer. The main purpose for God saving them would be “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” You see, we need to understand that everything God does is for his own glory. Even the great mercy and grace he lavishes on us are for his own name’s sake. He is creator. He has that right.
The Lord, through Isaiah issues a prophecy concerning Assyria. God planned “from days of old” that Assyria would lay waste fortified cities. It was all part of the plan.
27 “But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me.
28 Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.”

And then God tells Hezekiah that the king of Assyria will not so much as even shoot an arrow in Jerusalem because he will defend her. And here is the end of Sennacherib:
35 And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.
37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

I think it’s important to notice that what Hezekiah did when all this started was exactly what we should do in a crisis. He turned to the Lord! He didn’t run to Egypt or other nations, like some kings before him (and after him) did. He consulted the One who has all things in his hands.

Proverbs 9:10-18
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (v. 10) If there could be a theme verse for Proverbs, that would be it. I believe that is the single most important teaching in the whole book. If we do not fear the Lord, we don’t even begin to have wisdom.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10) In Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers, Dennis Jernigan speaks of God’s love for us. As parents, we, of all people, should have more of an understanding of God’s love for us. Nobody love my children more than me. So why is it that I can’t seem to comprehend how much God loves me? I love this statement that Dennis has made before, “We do not get to decided if God loves us!” But yet we try to do exactly that. We “decide” that we are not worthy of his love, or that we have done something wrong that has made him stop loving us. This is not possible! God will not stop loving us. Ever. And this reminds me of something that Joel Engle said in our message Sunday morning. A proper understanding of our status before God is necessary before we can properly worship him. How can we worship God when we think he hates our guts?? The answer? WE CAN’T!!! But if we understand that we are cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus, and we understand that any discipline that comes from God’s hand comes through his LOVE, then we can truly worship him, and we can worship him with abandon! “We do not get to decide if God loves us!”


Father, I thank you for loving me. I thank you that I am forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. I thank you that I am free. I pray that I might grow more and more in my comprehension of this love that you have for us, to the point that I no longer ever think you are “angry” at us when we sin, or even that you might stop loving us when we do wrong things. Help me remember that you are my Father, and that you will never stop loving me; that you will never love me less than you do right this minute. But also help me to remember that you will never love me any more than you do right this minute, as well. My works will not make you love me more. Everything I do is done because you love me and because I love you, and is for your glory.
I thank you for the examples of trust that we are given in Scripture. Examples like Hezekiah show us where we need to turn when we enter into a crisis. Too often we run straight to people instead of straight into your arms first. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from people, especially from other believers, but we need to go to you first.
I pray for the faith that Jesus is talking about in Matthew. Several times, he has referenced this faith that can move mountains. Faith that withered a fig tree instantly. It is my contention that only Jesus had that kind of faith. But I believe that we can exercise true faith as well, when we understand your will and pray in that will. Help me to not ask for anything that is not within your perfect will. Give me discernment, Lord, to understand your will.

I pray for Stephanie today, Lord. I pray that she will feel better today than she did yesterday. She made it through the day yesterday, but her stomach was not feeling well. I pray that she will have a better day today.
I pray for Christi’s work day, Lord. Let it be a good one. Also for mine. Yesterday was challenging…today could be as well. But if I remember to look to you, that could make all the difference.

I pray for a friend’s grandson this morning. Newly born yesterday, there was a possibility that something was wrong with his heart. I pray your healing hand on that little baby.


“We do not get to decide if God loves us.”

Grace and peace, friends.

RAIN!!!

It’s Saturday morning.

IT’S RAINING AT THE BICKLEYHOUSE!!! (At least it was when I started writing this…)

Oh, thank you, Jesus!! No storming…not pouring…just a slow, steady rain…the perfect kind. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a while.


Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 12:1-21
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”
3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The beginning of this chapter is all about the Sabbath. Jesus and his disciples went through some grainfields on the Sabbath, they got hungry, so they picked some grain. Since the Jewish religious leaders had manufactured several thousand mini-regulations about the Sabbath, they said that Jesus’s disciples were “doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” Apparently reaching down to pick some grain was “work.” I don’t know how tall grain grows…they may not have even had to reach down very far. But Jesus asserts himself as “lord of the Sabbath.” He also quotes from Hosea 6:6 when he says “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” The Sabbath controversy continues…

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue.
10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”–so that they might accuse him.
11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

In this event, Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees. He declares that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The religious leaders, as is so often the case, have completely missed the meaning of the Sabbath. Was this the beginning of their conspiracy? They are now trying to figure out how to get rid of this threat to their authority. So much of the religious leaders’ misunderstanding transferred into our own legalistic society. I remember growing up, when there were laws prohibiting what could or could not be bought on Sunday. Honestly, I don’t know if these “blue laws” had any religious beginnings or not, but it seemed silly that you couldn’t buy a pair of pantyhose on Sunday. And furthermore…Sunday isn’t even the Sabbath, is it? I remember riding with an acquaintance once on Sunday after church, and we saw someone mowing his yard. “I wish people wouldn’t do that,” he said. How did we even get to a point where we considered Sunday equal with the Sabbath? I’ll be blunt here…we don’t observe the Sabbath, and I don’t believe we are supposed to. However, I also don’t believe that people should work seven days a week. People need rest. Even the earth needs rest, as evidenced by the Lord’s commands about not planting a field once every seven years. We all need rest. But is one day more significant that any other? I don’t believe so. I don’t even believe it matters what day we worship. In fact, we should worship, in some way, every day! There is no Biblical standard that says we should worship on Sunday. It was simply chosen as a day of worship because Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. Moving on…

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all
16 and ordered them not to make him known.
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Jesus sort of went into hiding for a bit after this. He kept ministering to people, but would not let them speak openly about him. Matthew says that Jesus is fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah (42:1-3), which declares that Jesus will become a hope to the Gentiles (the actual text in Isaiah says “nations” rather than “Gentiles”). I don’t know about you, but this Gentile is glad that Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

Isaiah 8
This passage begins by speaking of a coming invasion from Assyria. Because the people refused the gently flowing stream, equated with the Lord and his provision, then the rushing might river of Assyria would sweep over them. In verses 11-15, Isaiah is given some instruction that we would all do well to follow.
11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.
13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Honor the Lord as holy, and he will be your sanctuary. He will be a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to those who are opposed to you.

During the time that the Lord would be “hiding his face” from Israel, they would begin to seek the aid of spiritists and mediums. “Should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (v. 19) It never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who will visit or consult “psychics,” but will not even darken the door of a sanctuary or lift up a pray to Almighty God. People will believe that the dead can speak to them, but will not believe that El Shaddai, who lives, can come to their aid! The result of these days, for Israel, was “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.” (v 22)

Proverbs 3:11-18
The first part of this passage tells us not to despise the Lord’s discipline, because that means he loves us. Then he says that gaining wisdom is better than the profit gained from gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.

Wisdom, which is seen as more precious than riches, can bring you riches, as well as reputation!
<hr?
Today's reading from Fascinating Facts of the Faith talks about a “controversial, sold-out, talented, blunt, gospel singer” who “absolutely refused to accept the spiritual status quo. His sermons set to music plowed a new course for what Christian music could be.” His name? You may have already guessed it…Kieth Green.

I’ll never cease to be amazed at how this young man could talk and play the piano like that at the same time!

I wish these two videos had been together…the first one segues straight into the second one.

Keith was raised Jewish, but became spiritually restless. He ran away from home, “looking for spiritual fulfillment,” which led him to experimentation with “drugs, eastern mysticism, and free love.” He met Melody when he was nineteen. They started exploring things of faith together, and were married at twenty. After exploring everything else, Keith finally turned to Jesus and opened himself to Christ. “Christ revealed himself to Keith in a deep and profound way.” Afterward, Keith and Melody began to open their home to drug addicts and rejects. His music was powerful and direct, just as the two examples above. But it was also reflective and worshipful, in the case of “O Lord, You’re Beautiful,” and “Your Love Broke Thru,” co-written with Randy Stonehill, who actually stayed at his house for a while during those days.
Keith’s life was tragically cut short (at least in human terms…I’ve no doubt that he died exactly when he was supposed to) in 1982, in a plane crash on their property in Lindale, Texas. His wife, Melody, still carries on Last Days Ministries.


Prayer from The Valley of Vision

THIRD DAY MORNING: GOD CREATOR AND CONTROLLER

Most High God,
The universe with all its myriad creatures is yours,
made by your word,
upheld by your power,
governed by your will.
But you are also the Father of mercies,
the God of all grace,
the bestower of all comfort,
the protector of the saved.
You have been mindful of us,
given us a goodly heritage–
the Holy Scriptures,
the joyful gospel,
the Savior of souls,
We come to you in Jesus’ name,
make mention of his righteousness only,
plead his obedience and sufferings who magnified the law both in its precepts and penalty,
and made it honorable.
May we be justified by his blood,
saved by his life,
joined to his Spirit.
Let us take up his cross and follow him.
May the agency of your grace prepare us for your dispensations.
Make us willing that you should choose our inheritance and determine what we shall retain or lose, suffer or enjoy;
If blessed with prosperity may we be free from its snares,
and use, not abuse, its advantages;
May we patiently and cheerfully submit to those afflictions which are necessary.
When we are tempted to wander,
hedge up our way,
excite in us abhorrence of sin,
wean us from the present evil world,
Assure us that we shall at last enter Immanuel’s land where none is ever sick,
and the sun will always shine.


Father, I was especially drawn to the line in the above prayer that asked you to “excite us in abhorrence of sin.” I must admit, I’ve never thought of it quite that way. But wouldn’t that be wonderful? If you would make us excited to abhor sin? We all know we are supposed to avoid sin and temptation, but there are always things that are more attractive to us…things that we ought not say or do that we actually like saying or doing. But if we could be led to abhor those things, and actually be excited about it! That would be most amazing. So yes, Lord…I pray that you would excite me in abhorrence of sin! Wean me from this evil world. I so look forward to entering Immanuel’s land, where no one will ever be sick again, where the sun will always shine (but it won’t be 109 degrees every day), where there will no longer be any temptation to distract us. What a glorious day that will be!
I thank you for the legacy that Keith Green left behind, Father. I thank you for the songs that he wrote that still inspire countless people. Thank you for putting it into his heart to challenge us to be more like Jesus.
I pray that as we live our lives, we would not fear the things that many people fear. Let our hope and trust be in you, and you alone. Let us not seek the advice of men (especially dead men), but seek your face when we need guidance. I pray that I would honor you as holy, Lord, and let you be my sanctuary.
I pray for that wisdom that is more precious than jewels. I don’t care so much if I get riches. Sure, they would be nice, but I just want to have your wisdom in my life, so that I know that what I am doing is what you want me to be doing.
I thank you for the teachings and example of Jesus, Lord. I thank you that he is Lord of the Sabbath, and that we don’t have to be afraid of the traditions of men, but to simply be obedient to your commands and precepts. I praise you for the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ.

Lord, I pray for this day. Thank you for the rain!!! It is beautiful, Father! We cannot thank you enough for it.

I pray for the party today. I pray that it will be a successful celebration for Stephanie’s birthday, her friend’s birthday, and for the group of kids going back to school in a week. I also pray for this school year, Lord, that it will be the best year ever for Stephanie. Right now, our goal is to see her walk across the stage to get her high school diploma next year. In order for that to happen, she needs to be in better control of herself this year. I pray that you would help her to do that.


Thank God for the rain, today. Seek his wisdom rather than riches.

Grace and peace, friends!