Prayer, Giving, and Fasting

It’s Monday morning again…that weekend went by really fast. Oh, well. And welcome to August, already.

We had another great message at The Exchange Church yesterday morning, this one by pastor Joel. He spoke to us about genuine conversion, not so much to get anyone to doubt their salvation, but to encourage us, and, perhaps, to get us to take a good look at areas where we might be lacking. The main theme of the message, and I know I’m not quoting this exactly right, was “When Christ converts a soul, that soul cannot remain the same.” And this is so very true. I keep saying I’m going to take a notebook and take notes, but I keep forgetting. There was a lot of good stuff in this one. The one down side yesterday was that our worship leader resigned. But the rest of the band is still there, so someone will step up and fill in. He has done a great job, though, and even though we have only been there a month, it hurt to see him leave because his leadership has blessed us so much.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 6:1-18
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

There are so many things I could say about these four verses. But the key is that we are not supposed to flaunt our “righteousness.” Remember…somewhere in Isaiah, we are told that our righteousness, before God, is no better than filthy rags. So even when we do “good” things, like give to the poor, it is still flawed. And see what Jesus says? If you you do it for the praise, then that IS your reward. I once knew someone who took this passage so literally that he didn’t even declare his offerings on his tax forms! He always gave cash anonymously. I won’t take it quite that far. However, I’m quiet about it, and don’t desire any accolades for anything I do. And when I’m leading worship, I don’t really desire to have people come up and tell me what a great musician I am or how good my voice sounds or anything like that. If someone comes up to me and tells me they really worshiped or felt the Lord’s presence during worship that I was leading…that’s something that gets me pumped up, because it’s the Lord that’s getting the glory, not me. But when we give gifts, either offerings to the church or gifts to the needy, it is to be between us and God.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Here, Jesus moves from giving to praying, but still within the context of what we do for what reasons. I still remember, from my childhood, people who loved to pray “in church.” They would put on their “prayer voice,” and pray for 15 minutes. And the same people would pray pretty much the same exact prayer every time they prayed, too, with a few variations. And once again, Jesus talks about our Father rewarding us for doing something “in secret.”
Prayer is a strange thing. We are told to pray, but it really seems to be an individual thing. Even that very popular passage, Matthew 18:19-20, is taken severely out of context by many people. Hear me well, here: THOSE VERSES ARE NOT ABOUT PRAYER!! Those verses are about church discipline and dealing with a brother who sins against you. According to Jesus’s instructions, prayer is to be done by the individual, in his own room (or even closet, if you’re reading KJV).
Then Jesus gives us the Model Prayer. Many still call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” But notice: He said “pray LIKE this.” He didn’t say, “Pray this exact prayer every time you pray.” It’s a model. A pattern, if you will. We should start with some praise, acknowledging God for who he is. Then we move to submission, desiring his will to be accomplished. Then we move to asking for daily needs, which, apparently, our Father desires for us to do. We can ask for forgiveness (if we have forgiven others!), and then we can ask for protection and guidance. Jesus is quick to point out that, if we are not able to forgive others, then we cannot claim to be forgiven, ourselves. Once again, these are very difficult teachings. This prayer is also found in Luke 11. And apparently, that part about “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen” was added in later manuscripts by someone else.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Jesus gives pretty much the same instructions on the subject of fasting. If you’re going to fast, don’t make it obvious. If I am fasting, I am not to walk around with a sad face, looking miserable because I’m so hungry. Once again, it is to be a private thing, between me and my Father.

2 Kings 15
Back to the history for a time, we see Azariah becoming king of Israel in Jerusalem. Only 16 when he became king, he reigned for 52 years. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” (v. 3)
During Azariah’s 38th year, Zechariah became king over Israel in Samaria. This is not the same one that was a prophet, made especially obvious by verse 9, which says he did evil in God’s eyes. He was assassinated by Shallum, who reigned in his place. Please note that some of these kings seem to go by more than one name. Because it is said that Shallum became king during the 39th year of Uzziah’s reign. So Uzziah must be another name for Azariah. But Shallum only reigned for one month because he was killed by Menahem. He also did evil in God’s eyes. He apparently just died, so his son Pekahiah reigned in his place. He was killed by Pekah, who then reigned in his place in the 52nd year of Azariah’s reign in Judah. He also did what was evil in God’s eyes. (And when he sneezed, it was a “Pekah-choo.”) (I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it…shout out to anyone who gets that reference.) Pekah actually managed to reign for 20 years. He was struck down, though, by Hoshea, who reigned in his place. But before we can talk about Hoshea, we find that Jotham, the son of Uzziah begins to reign in Judah during Pekah’s second year. He did what was right in God’s eyes.
This is all so convoluted. All these evil kings in Israel, and even the “good” kings in Judah do not remove the “high places” and still make offerings on them. Can this all be traced back to Solomon’s failure to follow the Lord’s commands? I don’t know.

Ecclesiastes 10
This chapter contains more “proverb-like” sayings, most of which continue the last them of chapter nine, dealing with wisdom versus folly. One noteworthy verse, though (not that any of them aren’t, mind you), is verse 20. Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. Be careful what you say, and to whom you say it. Best to not even think bad thoughts about the “ruler” (in our day, this would included our bosses, I would think). You never know who you can trust.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Dennis Jernigan writes a devotion for today based off of this Scripture, in his book, Daily Devotions For Kingdom Seekers. At the outset, I think that he has, perhaps taken it slightly out of context, based on translational differences. He quotes the NASB, which uses the word “speculations” where the ESV uses the word “arguments.” Now, the KJV uses the word “imaginations” at that point, so who knows? Nevertheless, the devotion, I believe is worthy of a look.
Dennis speaks of constantly looking back in our lives…hashing and rehashing events of our past. Then he speaks of looking forward, as well…trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the future. Both of these activities are vain. We cannot change our past. There is nothing that can be done about it. Other than repentance and accepting the Lord’s forgiveness, and moving on. Or forgiving when we need to forgive, as well. We cannot see what the future holds. We believe that we can prepare for the future, but can we really? I can save all I want for that “rainy day,” or that “emergency,” but I really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Perfect case in point…millions of people pretty much lost their entire retirements in the recent stock market crash. They thought they were prepared for the future, but they had no idea what the future would bring. Only God knows what is coming in the future. (I think this is where the “speculations” part came in…trying to “speculate” on what would be coming.) But what we DO know is that God holds our hands. He holds the future, and he will do what is best for us in his plan. We need not waste time trying to figure out what’s coming. We need to focus on what is here and now. “Jesus is constant and He is our hope. Anything else we place our hope in is vain imagination.” Amen, Dennis.

Father, I sincerely pray that you help me avoid the two traps that Dennis has spoken of. I can’t change the past. I can repent (and have, many times) and I can accept your forgiveness (and forgive myself, as well). I can forgive others (which I have also done). But nothing can be changed, therefore, it is pointless to worry about it. I can’t even change the future, because you have that pretty well set in order, as well. Therefore, any kind of worrying or fretting that I can do in either direction is, purely and simply, sinful! I pray by your Spirit that I will be able to focus only one now. You have me in your grasp, and you will never let me go. That is pretty much the ONLY aspect of the future that I can be sure of. I praise you for that, and ask again that I might have the wisdom to live in that truth.
Father, may I live by the teachings that Jesus brings us in Matthew. In our giving, in our prayers, and if we should fast, let them be in private, between you and us, only. (Hmmm….so here I am, putting my prayer on the Internet, for all to see…) On that subject, Father, I think motive is the key. I don’t do this so people will think I’m holy. I don’t do this to appear “uber-spiritual.”
I pray for wisdom, Lord, as described by the “preacher” in Ecclesiastes. Let me not be guilty of “folly.”

Father, I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will have a good day at her job, with little stress. Let my work day go smoothly, and I pray for Stephanie to day, at home, that she might be able to keep herself occupied and maybe even do something constructive or productive. I pray for her upcoming school year. Make it her best one ever.

Am I violating the principles of Christ here? That’s a good question…one which I must ponder deeply.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Conscious Experience of His Salvation

It’s Thursday morning, which is the day before Friday. That’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to some R&R this weekend. For some reason, I’m really tired this week. If you want to see the baseball updates and other stuff, check out Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit.

Father, show me something new today.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 4:12-25
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Notice the message he preached is exactly the same as John’s. Only this time, the “kingdom of heaven,” was right in front of them!

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Here, Jesus calls his first disciples. Peter and Andrew are first, followed by James and John. There must have been something about him that caused them to obey and follow so “immediately.” If Jesus were to appear to me and tell me something, would I be that quick to follow?

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Jesus’s ministry gained popularity as he traveled around Galilee. Was it the teaching? Was it the healing? I know how people are; they flocked to him for the healing, but some would benefit from the teaching, as well.

Micah 3
There is a sense of arrogance that has been displayed by the “heads of Jacob.” But here, Micah accuses them of hating good and loving evil (v. 2). And the evil that is described in verse 3 is atrocious. I can only hope that it is metaphorical. The Lord will hide his face from them; he will not answer them (v. 4). And because the “prophets” continually cry “peace,” while they are filling their bellies, but deny those who have nothing to eat, 6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; 7 the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God. I’m guessing that verse 8 refers to Micah: But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.
The arrogance reaches its height in verse 11 as the priests and prophets only “preach” for money, but say, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” The result is in verse 12: Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. Because of who? Look again…because of the greedy priests and prophets.

Ecclesiastes 6
The “preacher” continues to speak of what he considers to be vanity. It might be worth noting that “vanity” in this case means something more than what we consider vanity in our day. When I think of “vanity,” I think of someone who likes themselves a lot, but the older meaning of the word is more along the lines of “useless.” Things that are done “in vain.” For no purpose. And the first thing recorded in chapter 6 is a man who is given “wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him the power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them.” (v. 2) It is said that, even though a man live two thousand years, under these circumstances, a stillborn child is better off than he. “All the toil of a man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.” (v. 7) I’m not sure if this book can get less cheerful! But there is so much truth in it. This man knew very well the human condition. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

Prayer from The Valley of Vision


O God,
We bless you,
our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Teacher,
for opening to us the volume of nature where we may read and consider your works.
You have this day spread before us the fuller pages of revelation,
and in them we see what you would have us do,
what you require of us,
what you have done for us,
what you have promised to us,
what you have given us in Jesus.
We pray for a conscious experience of his salvation,
in our deliverance from sin,
in our bearing his image,
in our enjoying his presence,
in our being upheld by his free Spirit.
Let us not live uncertain of what we are,
of where we are going.
Bear witness with our spirit that we are your children;
And enable each one to say, ‘I know my Redeemer.’
Bless us with a growing sense of this salvation.
If already enlightened in Christ, may we see greater things;
If quickened, may we have more abundant life;
If renewed, let us go on from strength to strength.
Give us closer abiding in Jesus that we may
bring forth more fruit,
have a deeper sense of our obligations to him,
that we may surrender all,
have a fuller joy,
that we may serve him more completely.
And may our faith work by love
towards him who died,
towards our fellow-believers,
towards our fellow-men.

Father, do we only come to you for healing? Do we only come to you because you provide us food for our mouths? Do we only come to you for what we get out of you? Alas, I fear that this is true so much of the time. Lord, I hear people say they don’t like to attend church services because they don’t get anything out of them. But that is not why I attend church services. I attend them that I might worship you with other believers! I don’t care what I get out of it; anything I “get” is a bonus, because I am there to “give!” I am there to give worship, honor, and praise to you! Sometimes I leaved changed. Sometimes I don’t. But I have worshiped you, and that is the purpose. And through that worship, I am empowered; I am rejuvenated. In what other relationship do we grow by giving? When I worship you, I am filled! When I empty myself, I am strengthened!
I pray for the state of our modern world, Lord, especially the “religious leaders” that are so greedy and pompous. I pray for all “preachers” who lead people astray and then proclaim that you are in their midst. Should I pray that you bring them down? Rather, I would pray that you change them; lead them into truth, so that they lead people correctly. I would rather see truth than vengeance.
Make me a kinder person, Father. Let your Holy Spirit flow into my heart and out of my expressions. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Father! Let no harsh words come out of my mouth. I still catch myself speaking and then, later, thinking, why did I say that?? I am ashamed, sometimes, at the words that come out of my mouth. Fill me, Lord. Fill me with your Spirit.

I pray for this day, as always. I pray that Christi will have a better day, and that she will not have to work such long hours. I pray for her physical strength, her spiritual strength, and her state of mind. I pray for those above her, that they would have wisdom. I also pray for my day at work. Let us have a successful day today. I pray that Stephanie will have a grand time at Champ Camp today. Also, thank you for reminding me of that so I could go wake her up in time!

I continue to pray for Diane, Gina, and their family. Give them healing and comfort. Keep their faith strong.

The phrase “a conscious experience of his salvation” really stuck out in that Puritan prayer. I like that. We need that “conscious experience.” Look for that today.

Grace and peace, friends.

Strength In Weakness

For my account of yesterday’s events follow THIS LINK.

We experienced another great worship service at The Exchange yesterday morning. The worship was intense and invigorating, and the message was amazing. Thank you, Joel, for that word! His message was on “Spiritual Burnout,” and he used the familiar passage in 1 Kings when Elijah ran from Jezebel right after defeating the 400+ prophets of Baal. His main point was that, “Even when we are burned out, God never gives up on us.” Believe me, I have seen that truth in my life. I have experienced “spiritual burnout” more than once in my life, and I know that God has not given up on me. I have received evidence of that fact at least twice in the last six weeks, as I have heard two different messages now in which I believe God told me that my original calling from him is still valid! It is very reassuring to hear that.

Later yesterday evening, we went back for a “Night of Worship.” It was a good time of worship and prayer, as we sang some worship songs, and prayed together, both individually, and in groups. We prayed for ourselves, individually, then prayed for the church, the community, and our country as we gathered in groups. It was a very meaningful time. We didn’t know several of the songs, so that had a slight effect on our worship time, but it was still good.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
2Co 11:19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

Paul is resorting, momentarily, to the same tactics used by the false apostles that the Corinthians were listening to. “Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast,” he says. He says several times in the passage that he is speaking as a fool, or as a madman. He goes through this incredible list of trials that he has been through for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And at the end of all those, he adds the “daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” So not only is he suffering beatings and imprisonments, he is also experiencing a high anxiety for the churches in the area. Nevertheless, at the end, he says he really only wants to boast of the things that make him appear weak. Because, as he has said elsewhere, when he is weak, the Lord is shown to be strong.

Joel 3

This is a passage of future judgment on the nations. After he has restored the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord says he will gather the nations of the world to the “Valley of Jehoshaphat.” Later in the chapter, that place is called the “valley of decision.” Its location is unknown. But in this place, he will punish the nations of the world, bringing judgment upon them for their treatment of Israel and the Lord. The are called out for war, and he says “the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” (v. 15) The Lord is seen as “roaring from Zion,” but as a “refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” The last few verses speak of a glorious future for Jerusalem. It will be holy and “strangers shall never again pass through it.” (v. 17) The ensuing description sound a lot like heaven to me. If that is the case, then “Israel” in these verses equals the “new Israel,” which is the Church, the body of Christ.

Psalm 146
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

The last few of the Psalms are glorious praise Psalms, singing of praise to the Lord, and his trustworthiness as he is our strength, our fortress, and our refuge. This one admonishes us to not trust in men, because even the richest of princes cannot provide us with salvation. Salvation is in the Lord alone. The Lord’s benefits are listed in verses 8-9.

Father, I thank you for the great worship we sent up to you yesterday, and the great message that was brought down to us. I thank you that you do not give up on us, no matter what we are experiencing. I did not choose this race. You chose it for me. And the beauty in that is that, in that choosing, you also provided me with everything that I need to finish this race. It is simply up to me to avail myself of these resources. I do not trust in any man for my salvation, Lord. I do not trust in men for my provision. I do not trust in men for my protection. I trust in you alone! As we move forward, Father, I ask that you make us even more aware of your presence in our lives, your influence in our lives and family, and your protection over all of us. I ask for your holy arm to make itself known in all the branches of our family, from this house to Rachel and Justin, to Carol and Don, to my parents, and even to members of Christi’s step families. You are sovereign Lord, and you control all things. Let it be known, Lord. Let your great name be known in all the world!

I pray, as always, as this week starts, that it will be a good one. Let it be stress-free for Christi, Lord. I pray that her week will go smoothly. They have a big project going live this next weekend, and I pray that you help her keep her head through all that goes on. I pray for success for the project, and that her company might prosper. I also pray for success for my work, during this week, and that we might prosper as well. Finally, I pray for the nation, Lord, that you would show our leaders the right paths to take.

If we must boast, let us boast in the Lord, and how he is made strong in our weaknesses.

Grace and peace, friends.

What Do I Have That I Was Not Given

It’s Wednesday morning. Hump day. The middle of the week. My eyes don’t want to work this morning.

Yesterday went okay, I guess, for a day full of doctor’s appointments. My checkup was not totally positive, as I had managed to put on 5 pounds since the last time I saw her. she was not happy about that. Also, I guess my BP seems a tad high (she said it was 150 over something), so she increased the dosage on my lisinopril or whatever it’s called. But the really great news? I get to have a colonoscopy! TMI? Yeah, I thought so… The date on that is pending… Oh, and I also got shots. Tetanus (good for 10 years) and pneumonia, which I’ve never had. Both of my arms are KILLING me this morning!! (Not literally, but they hurt…)

Stephanie’s psychiatrist appointment went pretty good though. More just a sort of “maintenance” session, to get all the meds refilled. Over all, I would say things are going pretty well with Stephie. Most days are good, with the occasional fight over something like what we’re having for dinner or what day we are going to do something, or even what time we’re going to bed. We aren’t sure what this new school year is going to bring. They are changing the schedule from an A/B block schedule to a straight, seven-period day, with the same class schedule every day. In some ways, I think that’s better, but it’s a lot more moving around and class changing every day. That could be a challenge.

Baseball? There was no baseball last night. Just that silly All-Star game. Didn’t watch it. But I keep up enough to know that C.J. Wilson was the game loser! Of all the luck… And the only AL run was the homer by Gonzo? Hah. Oh, and I just found out a few minutes ago that Derek Jeter wasn’t there because he’s TIRED???? I won’t go into how I feel about THAT in this blog. It might totally invalidate everything below the two lines underneath here. Perhaps that will be a subject for my other blog.

Today’s vinyl record being ripped to digital is “All Together Now,” by Argent. (Apparently, if I post pictures of the album covers, the automatic publicizer to Facebook decides to put that picture next the title of my blog. I just don’t think it would look too good if I have a blog title about God and a picture of an album by, say, Steppenwolf, right?) Anyway, this album contains one of Argent’s two hits, “Hold Your Head Up.” I don’t have the album with “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” on it. How many of you thought Petra recorded that first? Hmmm?? How many of you even know who Petra was? Geez, I feel old.

On to the devotions.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 7
1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Whoa! Wait a minute! What promises? Oh, it’s another bad chapter division, isn’t it? We have to look back at the last few verses of chapter 6. 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” THOSE promises! We are told by God to “go out from their midst, and be separate from them.” We are supposed to be different. Different from who? (Should that be “whom?”) Different from the rest of the world; different from the unbelievers. I fear that we are failing that command. I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job of that. Paul tells us in 7:1 to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” This should be taken seriously.

2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn–fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it–though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted.
And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you.

I believe the main point of this passage is that Paul is comforted by the fact that, even though his previous letter grieved the Corinthians, that grief was a godly grief that led to their repentance, and apparently to the repentance of the one mentioned, as well. It looks like Titus had visited them, and then met Paul in Macedonia to give him a good report from Corinth, which also made Paul very glad, because he had, apparently, boasted about the church in Corinth. So Paul is rejoicing as he writes this portion of the letter, and he has “perfect confidence” in the church at Corinth.

Hosea 11-12
The Lord proclaims his great love for Israel, even though they continually walk away from him. In spite of their disobedience, he proclaims mercy. 9 I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 10 They shall go after the LORD; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; 11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD. Even so, in chapter 12, the Lord still proclaims judgment. 14 Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds. What we have seen here is God’s great blessings taken for granted as self-deception appears. 12:7-8 says, 7 A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppress.
Hos 12:8 Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”
We might think that we have made ourselves “rich,” but, in reality, all that we have and all that we are is due to the generous blessings of the Lord. I have nothing that was not given to me. I have earned nothing.

Psalm 141
1 A Psalm of David. O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!
5 Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff, then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.

David speaks of daily worship at the beginning. I do believe it is daily, as he speaks of “the evening sacrifice.” It is important for us to pray and worship the Lord daily. I’m convicted as I type this…do I pray enough? Do I actually “worship” God every day? Sure, I type a prayer at the end of this blog, and I do believe that typing can be just as much praying as saying words. We can even think prayers without speaking. But is it enough? Is it ever enough?

David asks for a guard to be set over his mouth. Not a bad idea, eh? My mouth has gotten me into more trouble than I could recount here. In fact, it’s probably why I’m not leading worship at the moment. My tendency to speak my mind (regardless if I’m right or wrong) got me in trouble with the “powers that be” at a previous church. Maybe I should have been praying David’s prayer. He also asks that his heart not be allowed to incline toward evil. David knows the condition of man very well. He knows that our hearts naturally incline toward evil. But he’s asking God to change his heart. He even goes so far as to ask for someone righteous to strike him; to rebuke him! Let someone more righteous than I rebuke me if I head down a wrong path!

I can easily echo verse 8. “But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless.” It’s a tough world out there. Our best defense is God Almighty. We must keep our eyes on him as we fight the good fight.

I want to get back into sharing the prayers from The Valley of Vision. I was almost through with the book, and got out of the habit for some reason. The titles may not seem relevant, but there will still be inspiration to be found in the body of the prayers.


Teach me the nature of a sacrament as a seal and pledge of love,
that Christ is faithful to make himself a present reality to his own who are guests at his table.
Assure me by it
that his Word is made good to my faith,
that he by sacramental union is given to me,
that I shall have strength not to fall into sin,
that his life begun in me will be perfected hereafter,
that my covenant with him is confirmed,
that he gives himself to all who take him thankfully.
As I come to the feast, help me to recall
my neglect of duties towards myself, my family, church, friends,
by not instructing, exhorting, being an example.
Grant me to see my ignorance, not knowing how or what to pray,
my unsavoriness, not delighting in, but loathing to speak for you,
my pride, because I would not speak what I could from fear of not doing it well,
my lukewarmness, in not reaching for your glory,
my idleness and sloth,
my want of tender love,
my apprehension of unfruitfulness in case I should attempt and do no good, and hence sow seed upon rocks.
Let me know
that even if I have done right, yet I must lament the principles that caused my neglect,
that good duties might be done or omitted out of ill principles or motives,
and only when these are dealt with shall I know what is my duty and its extent.
Heal me now, as I approach the table, and fill me with all grace, with yourself.

Father, there has been much that has spoken to me, this morning. I am convicted by the prayer above…convicted that there has been neglect in my life. I know that the life begun in my with Christ will, indeed, be perfected. Help me to trust continually in that truth. I do pray that you help me see my ignorance, Lord! So many times, my tongue is silent because I know not what to pray, or even how to pray. Teach me, Lord. Examine my heart for false motives; false principles. Cleanse me of any wrong motives as I look forward in this life. Teach me my duty, Father.
Inspire me to worship you more; to pray to you more. Lord, I spend close to 90 minutes a day in the car, driving to and from work. This time could easily be used to pray to you, to worship you.
Help me to be separate, Lord. Let me not be too entangled with the things of the world. I will avail myself to things that you have given me, for rest and relaxation, but let me not become addicted to the offerings of this world. Let nothing hold sway over you, Lord!

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi, Lord. Give her peace today. Relieve the stress that she is feeling, both from work and personal life. It is not good for her. I pray that Stephie and I will be able to help her more to be less stressed.

I pray for comfort for my parents, at the news of the loss of good friends from their past.

May our worship and prayers rise up to the Lord today. And let us remember his blessings in our lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

Calvary’s Love

We have a busy Saturday ahead of us. I’ve already taken care of bills for the coming week (my, but that was fun), Christi has fixed the tiles in the shower (all of this before 9am), after I finish my devotion and final preparations for tomorrow’s worship, we’re going to a Craft Fair at Keller High School. Then there’s Christmas lights to put up on the house, ornaments to put on the Christmas tree, groceries to be bought, and I don’t remember what else. Oh, yeah. And library books are due!

When I think about how far we’ve come with Stephanie since last December, I just have to give praise to God. Those of you who are close to us know what I’m talking about. Others, if you’re interested, you can read my Diaryland diary from back then. Just click on “archives” and look around December of 2009. All I’m going to say that the awesome power and grace of God is worthy of all of our praise.

Psalm 141:1-2, 8-10

1 A Psalm of David. O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.

I like the way the author begins today’s reading. “For many people prayer is a one-liner beginning with ‘Gimme.'” Isn’t that the truth? How many times are our prayers just requests for __________ (fill in the blank)? Even some who consider themselves to be “mature” Christians fill their prayers with nothing more than requests for this or that. Granted, much of the time, they are thinking about others when they make some of those requests, as in healing or blessings for other people. But still, does not God deserve so much more than our “grocery list?” Or a hurried “thank you” over a meal? “For David, prayer was a way of life.”

David begins this prayer with a request (yes, he is asking for something, but look at what it is) for God’s presence! “Hasten to me,” he says. He asks that his prayer be heard. He asks that his prayer be like incense before the Lord, sweet smelling as it rises up to God. He seeks refuge, a place where he can hide from his enemies. He trusts in the defenses of the Lord to keep him from the traps that have been laid for him by his enemies.

The point is, he is not just reading off a list of wants or desires to God. He is pouring out his life, while at the same time, seeking God’s presence in his life. Tomorrow, we will look at more of the Psalm and see him asking God to put a guard over his mouth to keep him from speaking wrongly. David is seeking a righteous life.

Several weeks ago, we had a prayer session at church on a Wednesday evening where all we did for about 20 or 30 minutes was praise God and tell him how awesome he is. Sure, he already knows this, but it does our hearts good to recognize this fact. To pray for a while and not ask for anything was refreshing and invigorating! I left that evening feeling much closer to God, much more alive.

There is nothing wrong with asking God for things. In fact, we are told to, by Jesus. But our prayers should be more than just asking.
(From A Musician Looks At the Psalms, by Don Wyrtzen)

2 Timothy 2:23

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Sigh. This is gonna hurt.

“The more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil. The keeping up the communion of saints, will take us from fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness. See how often the apostle cautions against disputes in religion; which surely shows that religion consists more in believing and practicing what God requires, than in subtle disputes. Those are unfit to teach who are apt to strive, and are fierce and obstinate. Teaching, not persecution, is the Scripture method of dealing with those in error. The same God who gives the discovery of the truth, by his grace brings us to acknowledge it, otherwise our hearts would continue to rebel against it.”

I love to argue. Raise your hand if you’re surprised at this shocking revelation about me. Yeah…that’s what I thought. Don’t see any hands. But Scripture is very clear that we should NOT love to argue. Especially about “religion.” And even more especially (and this may not be explicitly Scriptural, but I believe it, nonetheless) not in front of unbelievers! I’ve been “fierce and obstinate.” And probably, not too long ago. This reading falls into two categories, one that God has been teaching me from a great deal this year. That is how we need to love each other. If I’m being involved in “foolish, ignorant controversies,” I’m not showing love to my brothers and sisters. The other is how we deal with those who are “in error.” We are to teach them, showing them the truth in love. Persecution and ridicule do not show love. There is a method of church discipline (which is rarely used in this day) wherein we are to first attempt to teach and restore a brother who is “in error.” If and only if all of the other tactics fail, then the brother is to be shunned. But, in today’s church, the common method is to do either one of two things. One is to completely ignore the error and embrace the brother, along with his error (which leads to churches with weak theology). The other is to jump straight to the shunning. Both methods are very wrong.

But again, the key word is “teaching.” Arguing is not teaching. Arguing is pretty much useless. I really need to learn that.
(From Matthew Henry Daily Readings)


Heavenly Father,

You have led me singing to the cross where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,
where my mountains of guilt are leveled to a plain,
where my sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist,
and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary to destroy sins more than can be counted even by one from the choir of heaven.
You have given me a hill-side spring that washes clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters, bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.
At the cross there is free forgiveness for poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last forever;
The blood of the Lamb is like a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, for ever will your free forgiveness live that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain it is a subject for praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven, its love and virtue knowing no end.
I have a longing for the world above where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love the dust of earth.
Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor, I shall go on singing Calvary’s anthem.
May I always know that a clean heart full of goodness is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary.

(From The Valley of Vision)

And to that I proclaim a resounding HALLELUJAH!!!

A beautiful song by one of my favorite bands. Also…I just noticed the title is wrong on the video. It should be “Beautiful Scandalous Night.”

Prayers from the Presidential Prayer Team


For the second time in two months, a federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of the new health care law, ruling
that the requirement that most Americans obtain medical coverage falls within Congress’s authority to regulate.

The Supreme Court will decide whether extra public funds may be given to state candidates who have foregone
private fund-raising and who are facing wealthy, free-spending individuals.

Pray for the Supreme Court as they ponder the briefs and oral arguments presented to them on all issues.

Father, I thank you for your presence in my life. I thank you for promises that you will never leave or forsake us. I desire your presence to be obvious in my life at all times, even though I act, at times as if I either don’t know you’re around or would rather you not be. I pray that those times would be fewer and fewer. Let my prayers not be completely filled with asking, Lord. Rather, I desire to spend time praising you and meditating on your Word, that you might teach me more about you and about how to live with and love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I also desire that you be my refuge. Be the foundation on which I can build my life. Be the fortress in which I am protected from the schemes of Satan. Be my loving Father, in whose lap I can sit, resting as a child does in his father’s lap.

My Father, I pray that my argumentative spirit would be diminished. I am shamed by the frequency with which I argue, sometimes causing them myself, just for my own entertainment. I confess that I have been “fierce and obstinate” in my life. Forgive me for those times, Lord, and guard my tongue and my spirit from creating them any more. Let the Holy Spirit be there to stop me the next time I am tempted to argue.

Lord, I praise you for Calvary! The prayer above is full of glorious truth! I echo the words of that prayer and give you honor and praise for the cross. Jesus, I thank you that you did not shy away from the tremendous suffering that you endured for our sakes on that wretched instrument of torture. You are our Savior, Jesus! Thank you!

Lord, let this day be restful, even in its flurry of activity. Let us have a good time together as a family. I also pray that for tomorrow, as we look forward to lunch and an afternoon with Rachel and Justin. Let us have a joyful time together as a family.

Let us remember to do more than just ask when we pray. And if you’re like me, and you might be sometimes, let’s try to stop the quarreling.

Grace and peace, friends.