From Death to Knowledge to Obedience

Today is Sunday, the thirty-first of July, 2022, in the eighteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you, today!

"I really wish you an ever deeper peace. I know that that peace quite often lives underneath the turmoils and anxieties of our heart and doesn’t always mean inner harmony or emotional tranquility. That peace that God gives us quite often is beyond our thoughts and feelings, and we have to really trust that peace is there for us to claim even in the midst of our moments of despair."
(Henri Nouwen)

Day 23,516

Nineteen days until S turns 29!

We got a long-awaited break from the heat wave, yesterday. I mean, 99 is still hot, but it’s better than the triple-digit temperatures we have been enduring. And it rained again, more in some areas than others. We drove through quite a rain shower on the way home from Mineral Wells, but I don’t think it rained nearly that much at our house. The average temps for July 30 are 97/73. The record temps are 107/65. The forecast for the next ten days predicts 100+ for five of those days, and then, beginning August 5, the next five days are predicted to be below 100. We shall see if that holds true.

I had a most wonderful time with my high school bandmates (and even a couple of their mothers showed up), as we met for lunch yesterday. There were three from my own class (class of ’76), a couple from the class of ’75, one who I’m not sure was ’75 or ’74, and then one who was probably either class of ’72 or ’73. After our lunch, a handful of us got to go over to the high school and visit with the current band director and a couple of his assistants, and we got to see their band hall. I was shocked (my, how time flies) when it was pointed out that they have been in that “new” band hall for 23 years!

What made it even more special was the way we were received and treated by them. I mean, we were practically treated like royalty! Of course, most of us were part of the first band to ever get the “Sweepstakes” award, which is a first division in all three categories of marching contest, concert contest, and sight-reading contest, which, I think, happened in 1975. One of the assistants even insisted on taking a photo of all of us, so we posed in front of our old band banner that the current band director found stored in a closet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, with all our hearts we come before your countenance. Our hearts shall always be in your presence, asking, longing, and believing that you will guide our affairs aright. Protect us, for you are our God and Father. Protect all who are in danger or who must go into danger. Make known your great love and your living presence to the hearts of the dying. Draw our hearts together so that we may have community in you, our faith and hope set on you alone. Protect us during the night, and help us to be at peace about all our concerns because they are in your hands. Every concern of every person is in your hands. We ourselves are in your hands, Lord God, our Father, and there we want to remain. Your hands can heal and restore everything. Praised be your name! Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)(emphasis mine)

Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us.
(Psalms 4:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful time I had with my high school classmates, yesterday
2. that all of my concerns are in God's hands
3. that every concern of every person is in His hands
4. that there is nothing or no one that is insignificant in God's Kingdom; even the littlest things matter - nothing is wasted, nothing goes unnoticed
5. for everyday miracles that often go unnoticed; I took a breath, I see colors, I hear music and other sounds, birds fly, rain fell yesterday, the sun, moon, and stars continue on the paths to which they were appointed
6. for more rain showers, yesterday

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 
"Death is swallowed up in victory." 
"O death, where is your victory? 
O death, where is your sting?" 
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ESV)

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
(John 1:48 ESV)

May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
(Psalms 104:34 ESV)

Glory in his holy name;
 let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually!
(Psalms 105:3-4 ESV)
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, 
who seek him with their whole heart, 
who also do no wrong, 
but walk in his ways!
(Psalms 119:2-3 ESV)
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 
you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down 
and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, 
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, 
and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is high; I cannot attain it.
(Psalms 139:1-6 ESV)

Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
(John 6:11-12 NIV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

“O, death, where is your victory? O, death, where is your sting?”

Even at my age, death seems like a distant thing. Even though I don’t know if I will finish this sentence, death doesn’t often seem like reality. I know it is, of course, because family members and friends have died, over the years.

It is quite tempting, at times, to adopt solipsism as a philosophy.

Nevertheless, when I do think about death, it is a strange feeling. I know people contradict themselves constantly. They claim to be atheists, and don’t seem to believe in any kind of afterlife, but then, when their favorite rock stars die, they talk about what a great band there must be, “up there.” What? Up where?

Furthermore, I cannot fathom, whatsoever, the concept of not existing. Have you ever tried it? Just try it for a few minutes. Try to consider what it would be like to have never existed. Then try to think about what it would be like to no longer exist, if you believed, as some, that this life is all there is. It makes my head hurt.

I believe that we were created to be eternal beings. I believe, along with Dallas Willard, that “We are unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” And I believe, along with a multitude of saints, that Jesus Christ has won the victory for us.

Related to that, I also believe what Scripture teaches about how I am known by God. Jesus saw Nathaniel, before Phillip called him, sitting under a fig tree. Jesus knew Nathaniel before Nathaniel got to Him. Jesus knew me long before I was called into His Kingdom. He continues to know me, down to the knowing of what I’m going to say (or type) before I do so.

Now, when we speak of “miracles,” we usually think about such times as when Jesus turned water into wine, or when he fed thousands of people with a little boy’s sack lunch. And, of course, we think of the miracle of all miracles, the resurrection of Christ, from the dead.

I consider God’s knowledge of us to also be a miracle. As the psalmist proclaimed, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” And it is through this knowledge that I can begin to know His will for me. Is that too far a reach? I don’t think so.

It stands to reason that, if God knows me the way Scripture says He does, then it is also true what Paul declares in Ephesians.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

When Jesus chose His disciples, the works that they would do had already been prepared for them. When Jesus chose you and me, the same is true.

There has been a lot of talk, and many, many books written, about finding God’s will for our lives. There have also been myriads of questionnaires, designed to tell people what their “spiritual gifts” are.

I don’t pay any attention to most of those, any more. For one thing, I learned that it is possible to answer the questions on those questionnaires so that the answer comes out what you want it to be.

Here’s the thing. If we can embrace the truth about how completely God knows us, and simply walk in that, we won’t have to search for God’s will or His wisdom. And, if we must seek, the place to look is deep within our own hearts.

No, I’m not saying “follow your heart.” That is the worst advice anyone every gave. I’m saying that that is where God works, and that is the purpose of meditation and contemplation, two disciplines that have been widely neglected in the contemporary evangelical community.

“Learn that God’s working, and the place where He gives His life and light, is in the heart, deeper than all our thoughts. Any uncertainty about God’s will makes joyful obedience impossible.” (Andrew Murray)

Wait. When did he start talking about obedience?

Well, it’s all related. If I am not confident about God’s will for my life, then how can I be joyfully obeying? On the other hand, if I am confident that God will direct my steps on the path that He has appointed for me, walking in those “good works” for which He has prepared me beforehand, then I am also confident that whatever I am doing is His will, and I don’t have to seek for it.

Consider, said Jesus. We worry too much about too many things. The disciples had food for a few days after Jesus fed those thousands. One time, there was a basket apiece left over. Another time, there were seven baskets left over. They were eyewitnesses to these events, and, bless their hearts, they still struggled to believe the things Jesus said.

He doesn’t make it hard. We make it hard.

“Life is a series of a thousand tiny miracles. Notice them.” (Quoted in Pray a Word a Day, as “Inspirational Christian quote,” but found to be attributed to Roald Dahl)

Today's sources:
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I thank You for more rain, yesterday, and that our temperature was a bit lower. The relief was much needed. I also thank You for the wonderful time of memory-sharing that we had, yesterday, as a group of former high school bandmates met for lunch. I’m hoping we can do more of that.

Lord, You know me, as the psalmist says, in Your Word. You know me, as has been said, better than I know myself. And I take comfort in this, because You love me, anyway. That’s right. You know all of the nooks and crannies of what makes me, me. You know how I am apt to react to any given circumstance, You know my tendency toward being judgmental, You know my anger issues, and You know my impatience with things and people, yet You love me anyway, with an everlasting love that won’t quit.

I praise You for that love. I also thank You for how You have arranged things in my life, and for the “good works” that You prepared in advance for me. Now, I know that I can only be aware of those things when I encounter them and walk in them. I won’t likely know about them until I’m in the middle of them. I believe that Your will for me is being worked out on a daily basis and revealed to me only as I spend time searching my heart for the ways You work within me. I have confidence, as I meditate and contemplate, that Your grace and mercy will be revealed in me, and that I will embrace Your knowledge of me in all things.

I thank You for Christ’s victory over death, so that death, itself, has no sway over us. Oh, sure, our physical bodies will die, someday, as we all do. But that is not the final word for us, because we are unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in Your great universe. There will be, as promised in Scripture, a new heaven and new earth that will appear when Christ returns to set all things right. And we pray,

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Persistent Prayer

Today is Saturday, the thirtieth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!

Day 23,515

Twenty days until S turns 29!

We hit 103, yesterday, two degrees beyond the predicted 101, so our streak is now at fourteen days, and we have had a total of 34 days of 100+ temps, this summer. More importantly, however . . .

It rained.

Not for very long, maybe a half hour, and it was only a tenth of an inch (I didn’t measure it, but that’s what the nearest airport said), but it rained. It smelled so good, sounded so good, and felt so good. And the temperature dropped quite a bit when that happened. Between about 4 PM and 6:30, it dropped twenty degrees. The high today, at least on one of my weather apps, is predicted to be only 96.

We are going to Mineral Wells, later this morning. I have a lunch gathering with some old High School bandmates at 11:30, so I’ll go there while Mama and C go to the house. It’s going to be hot in that house, though, so I’m not sure how much work will get done. Or actually how much is left to be done, either. We’re very close to needing to get a truck to move the large pieces that we will be bringing to our house, and then we’ll be ready to get the estate sale going. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen until autumn, though.

The Texas Rangers won their second in a row, beating the Angels 7-2, once again behind the stellar pitching of Martin Perez. I’m a little concerned that the article about the game begins with, “With the trade deadline looming . . . ” It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they traded Perez. That’s what the Rangers are notorious for doing. He’s their only good pitcher, this year, and they’ll probably trade him, which will dash any hopes for playoffs this season. He has won nine straight games.

The Rangers are now 45-54 for the season, still in third place in the AL West, still twenty games out of first, and 7.5 out of the Wild Card race. They play the Angels again, tonight, in LA, at 8:07 CDT.

The Red Sox lost to the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-1, making their record 50-51 for the season. They are in last place in the AL East, eighteen games out of first place, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

The Dodgers continue to hold the best MLB record (by percentage), at 67-32. The Nationals are still the worst, at 34-67. The Mets and Athletics kept their win streaks alive, so they are tied with four straight wins. The Pirates lost again, so their losing streak is now at five games. The Yankees still have the best run differential, at +203, but are only ten runs ahead of the Dodgers. The Nationals continue to have the worst run differential, now at -164. The Rangers improved to +10, and the Red Sox dropped to -17.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we are your children. Hear all our concerns, we pray, for we want help from you, not from men, not from anything we can think or say. May your power be revealed in our time. We long for a new age, an age of peace in which people are changed. We long for your day, the day when your power will be revealed to poor, broken humankind. Be with us, and give our hearts what will remain with us, the strength and mercy of Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for RAIN!!
2. for the power, love, and self-discipline we receive from God's Spirit; may we employ that in our everyday living
3. for an opportunity to reconnect with old friends
4. for the lessons of the parables of Jesus
5. for the ability to acknowledge my weaknesses and unworthiness before the Lord, and the ability to rejoice in all things

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:62 ESV)

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
(Romans 6:13 ESV)

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. . . . “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
(Luke 18:1, 6-8 NIV)

Is Jesus teaching that we have to badger God into giving us what we want? Certainly not! But I have to confess that I have often puzzled over this passage (it’s not the only one I puzzle over, believe me).

But see the first verse in the chapter. Jesus is telling His disciples this parable why? “To show them that they should always pray and not give up.” It’s not the only time that He used a so-called “secular” device to teach one of His principles.

There is another principle at play, though, that might explain why we don’t get what we ask for, at least not right away. “God in His wisdom, righteousness, and love, dare not give us what would do us harm if we received it too soon or too easily.” (Andrew Murray)

Yet another principle to consider is what we are really after when we pray. I have discussed, previously, that prayer is not just a way for us to get what we want from God. And there are too many instances where people treat it that way. How many folks only pray when something is wrong?

Certainly, or Father wants to give us what we need. There may even be times when He gives us what we want. But He also earnestly desires fellowship with us, and that we would desire fellowship with Him more than we want His gifts. We all know what it feels like when, upon coming home from a trip away from the rest of the family, the first words out of the children’s mouths is, “What did you get me??”

I imagine that our Father feels the same way when we only pray to Him when we need or want something.

“We discover how earthly and finite our heart is and how we need God’s Holy Spirit to help us. Here we come to know our own weakness and unworthiness and to yield to God’s Spirit to pray through us.” In this, we also learn to crucify, with Christ, our own way and will.

“Let us acknowledge how vain our work for God has been due to our lack of prayer. We can change our methods and make continuing, persistent prayer the proof that we look to God for all things and that we believe He hears and answers us.”

As we carefully consider these things, it is worth noting that there is a not-so-recent trend in dismissing any idea of our unworthiness before God. While it is true that Christ has made us “worthy,” it is also true that we have no intrinsic worth without Him. This does not mean that we walk around with stooped shoulders and droopy faces, thinking bad things about ourselves all the time.

There is a balance here, and Paul speaks of this when he talks about boasting in his own weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

So, along with Paul, I proudly proclaim my weakness, and my unworthiness, because it is in the acknowledgment of these truths that He is seen as strong and worthy. And I also choose to rejoice in these things.

That’s the prayer word of the day, by the way, “rejoice.” And our choice in this is emphasized by a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “It is about your outlook towards life. You can either regret or rejoice.”

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:12-15 ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4 ESV)

Today's sources:
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin

Father, I thank You that You hear our prayers all the time. But I also thank You that You know what is best for us, at all times, and that You will not answer a prayer in the way that we want, if it will do us harm in any way (either spiritually or physically). Thank You for the parables of Jesus that teach us how to pray. Thank You for the examples of persistent prayer, to show us that we ought never give up in prayer.

I pray that my prayers would reflect Your will on earth, so that they will be more effective. I pray that my heart’s desires would be Your heart’s desires. And I know that the way for this to happen is for me to delight myself in You.

It is my heart’s desire, also, that I would desire fellowship with You more than the gifts that You give. Sometimes, I just want to sit and contemplate, basking in Your grace and mercy, in Your presence. There is such a warmth and acceptance in Your presence, Father, that even those words fail to describe.

And it is in that presence that I see the truth of how unworthy I am of all that You have done for me. However, I do not take that unworthiness to a level of self-deprecation that would cause me pain or grief. I celebrate it, because in Christ, You have made me worthy! I rejoice, along with Paul (not comparing myself to him in any way), that in my weaknesses, I am strong because of You and the work done in Jesus Christ on my behalf.

Help me to distance myself from thoughts and actions that would draw me away from You, or disturb my fellowship with You. And may my joy in You continue to grow and flourish.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”
(Isaiah 55:6 ESV)

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Once and For All

Today is Wednesday, the nineteenth of May, 2021, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,078

Tomorrow, we go to Glen Rose for an extended weekend!

The rains continue today, with an 86% chance of rain throughout this day. The high temp is projected to be in the mid-seventies, though, which is not bad. The rain forecasts continue to extend out as far as I can see, which is ten days.

I don’t have much more to write about, so I’ll head on in to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Close your eyes and see,
quiet your ears and hear,
silence your mouth and speak--
cultivating the senses of the soul.

Open your heart,
free your mind,
release your being--
letting prayer happen.

Focus on the pure light of the soul,
let it consume and grow,
let it spread--
connecting with the Supreme Presence of love."
(Daryl Madden, "Senses of the Soul," in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

To preface this poem, the author wrote, “I realized that conversation with God is communication that can’t be defined by the senses that have been defined by science. The spiritual senses are much more important and harder to refine.”

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
(Acts 20:24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1.  for the Good News about the wonderful grace of God
2. that because of our great High Priest, ascended into heaven, we can approach God's throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4)
3. that the blood of Jesus cleansed us, both outward and inward, once and for all
4. for the fruit of the Spirit, which can give us an exuberance for life
5. for the "apocalypse," which really means revealing or unveiling, when we will see our Savior face to face

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

EASTER – DAY 46

INVITATION

"Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

I pause for a moment to quietly reflect on the wonderful grace of God, fully available to all who approach His throne.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm.

The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
(Psalms 110:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
(Hebrews 9:11-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit quietly in this place, resting in the presence of God, I read these passages again, seeking to linger on a particular word or phrase, to which the Holy Spirit directs me.

I land in the Hebrews passage, pondering the idea of Jesus’s sacrifice and work. The “tabernacle” that Christ went through was not made with human hands. And the blood spilled was His own. It was not the blood of “goats and calves,” but He went into the Holy of Holies by means of His own blood, “thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

The effect of animal blood was temporary and outward. It did cleanse, but not fully, and not eternally. That statement in verse 14 is powerful. If the blood of animals could do what it did, “how much more, then, will the blood of Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

The blood of Jesus Christ, perfect in every way, cleanses us outwardly and inwardly, for all eternity! When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it truly was finished, once and for all; for all time, and for all who would become His.

Father, I praise You for this. My gratitude for this truth is unspeakable; words cannot express it, yet I try. I can say “thank you” over and over again. That is all I can do. But wait. Is it? I can live. My life can be an expression of gratitude to You. Not that I can repay You; that is not the idea. It is (my life, that is) an offering to You. Because I have nothing else of any value to offer. Everything that I have comes from You. So I offer it back to You in thanksgiving and praise. All glory to You, Father, as I worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who offered Himself so that I might be cleansed and be able to serve You.

Ascended Jesus,
I often move through my days with a guilty conscience,
an accusing voice that tells me of the evil I have done,
or the good I have failed to do.
Cleanse my conscience by your shed blood,
and strengthen me to serve the living God.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 56)

BLESSING

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
(Revelation 5:13 NIV)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.
(Galatians 5:22-23 MSG)

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
(1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
(Revelation 19:7-9 NLT)

Father, as I walk through this day, may it be with the exuberance of life, described by Eugene Peterson in The Message, above. May I live with the wholeness of Christ, in the fruit of the Spirit. May that fruit flow through me and out of me in a way that blesses all around me. I look forward, Father, to that final day of “apocalypse,” meaning the full revealing or unveiling, when we, the Church of Jesus, are presented to Him as His bride, complete and unblemished. What a day, glorious day, that will be!

Lord, this morning, I pray for all governments, world leaders, and needs in our world. May Your presence be felt among them all. May You bring Your blessings on the continent of Antarctica, today, on the few who reside there. Just because it is a barren wasteland with few inhabitants doesn’t mean we should not remember them in our prayers. I also pray for effective government services throughout our land and throughout this world.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Shalom aleichem, friends.

If God Is For Us . . .

Today is Friday (Friyay?), the thirtieth of April, 2021, in the fourth week of Easter.

The last day of April.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,059

Nine days until Mother’s Day

Not a whole lot to write about, this morning. It continues to rain, here, but not heavy, today. The temperatures are very spring-like, remaining in the low to mid sixties all day. A rather nice day, unless you have to be driving to and from work in it. Even then, if you take it easy, it’s not bad.

I’ll move on to the important things.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

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

Today I am grateful:

  • that You are my light and my salvation, and that I truly have nothing to fear
  • that I am learning to live my life from the standpoint of “enough;” You are enough, all that I need; in You, I am enough for anything that comes my way
  • that, when I live in Your shelter, I find rest in Your shadow
  • for the great multitude singing praises before the Lamb, from every nation, tribe, people, and language
  • that You will not allow my foot to slip

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

EASTER – DAY 27

INVITATION

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:14 NIV)

I pause briefly to meditate on Psalm 27:1, that the Lord is my light and my salvation, and I have nothing/no one to fear.

BIBLE SONG

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalms 91:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I turn my thoughts more toward God and His Word, and enjoy His presence, I read these passages again, maybe even out loud, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts.

There are two great passages today, and I have not the time to do them total justice. I will attempt, however, to relay my thoughts. In Psalm 91, I am drawn to the word “dwells.” Mostly, we know what “dwell” means, but I looked it up, anyway. It means “live in or at a specified place.” For my purpose, this morning, I would shorten that to “live in.”

If we live in the shelter of the Most High, we will enjoy rest in His shadow. Scripture has also used the word “abide” in a similar context. Jesus spoke of abiding in Him. That has a similar meaning to “dwell.” We need to be, literally (and when I say “literally,” I mean “literally,” not “figuratively”), living in Christ, in God.

God is my refuge, my fortress, in whom I trust. That’s me talking. I know that’s what the psalmist said, but I echo that. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the psalms that speak of God in that way. Words like “refuge, fortress, shelter, hiding place . . .” all of those words help me to know how secure I am when I am dwelling in Him, in His shelter.

When I run out of that shelter and cease, temporarily, to abide, things get rough. I might have a little “fun,” but it doesn’t last long before it gets really frightening, and I run back. And the really great thing about our Father is that He never shuts that door when I leave His shelter. It is always wide open when I return, welcoming me back in; back in to His shelter, where I can return to really living and resting.

He is faithful, even when I’m not.

The thing that I am drawn to in the Revelation passage, this morning, is the same thing that has drawn me in the past. The great multitude before the throne consists of people “from every nation, tribe, people and language,” all wearing white robes and holding palm branches, all crying out “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

“Every nation, tribe, people and language.”

I have heard it said that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. It wasn’t, literally, because Jesus was crucified on a hill. But the gist of the statement is true. Before Christ, we are all equal. Man, woman, child, adult, red, yellow, black, and white, as the old Sunday School says. We are all precious in His sight.

Father, I praise You for Your great faithfulness and mercy, which is new every morning. I thank You that I can always run back to You for shelter and refuge, but I thank You even more for the times when I am sensible and don’t run out from under Your shelter. Keep me there, Lord. Let Your Holy Spirit have sway over me, preventing me from straying out from under that shelter, that I might find rest in Your shadow. You are my refuge and fortress, my shield and rampart, and in You do I fully trust.

I praise You for the all-inclusive nature of Your salvation. You chose to make this great salvation available to all nations, when You very well could have kept it to one nation and condemned the lot of us. All praise and glory to You for Your great love and compassion for the people of this world. I pray that we, Your Church, would show the same love and compassion, showing mercy when called for, doing justice whenever possible, and walking humbly before You.

Wise God,
your salvation is no hastily thrown-together plan.
The universe-altering accomplishment of the cross and resurrection was part of your good plan from the beginning.
I pray that you keep working out your effective and generous purposes,
gathering a countless crowd from every nation before Jesus.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 2.8)

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NIV)

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
(Romans 8:31 NIV)

Father, I thank You that I can look to You for help when I am threatened from “the mountains.” My help comes from You, the Maker of heaven and earth. I thank You that You will not allow my foot to slip, and that You, while watching over us, neither slumber nor sleep. You are for us . . . who, then, can be against us? All praise and glory to You, Lord!

Lord, may You give us a richer understanding of the cross and sacrifice of Jesus, today. May You show mercy on those living in poverty and injustice; show us how to help and make us willing to help, whenever we can. And for all who struggle in their work, today, Lord, give strength.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

God Will Do What He Says He Will Do

A good Sunday morning to all. It rained quite a bit last night, and is actually still raining! It’s a beautiful sight! It was only slightly annoying last night during the Rangers/Tigers game. There were two rain delays, totaling over 100 minutes, as the Rangers beat the Tigers 3-2 in the first round of the ALCS. It is my opinion that it would have been 3-1 had Rangers management not decided to bring CJ Wilson back in after the first rain delay. But…they won, so that’s irrelevant. The game lasted until shortly after midnight. I think. I was watching, but not totally sure on the time. By that time, I was the only one up in our house.

Today, after the worship celebration, we will go to the membership class for The Exchange. I assume that, after the class, we will be official members. Unless they want us to commit to something really, really weird. But so far, I’ve seen no evidence of weirdness at the church. Other than Joel Engle, the pastor. He’s kind of weird. In a really lovable way, though. Which is probably why I love him so much.

After the class, we will be heading out to the blooming metropolis of Pirtle, Texas. Never heard of it? I can’t say I’m surprised. My wonderful Grandmama used to live there, when she was alive. We’re going to her old house, which will soon be sold, to see what we want to bring back home with us (talking about furniture and stuff). We’re renting a small truck in Kilgore (the closest actual town), and driving back with it tomorrow. Then Tuesday, we will take said truck to Mineral Wells and unload some of the stuff at my parents’ house. I think I mentioned before that this trip will be bittersweet. I miss the old place, and it will, no doubt be the last time to see it.

Enough of that…on to the Bible readings.


Today’s Bible readings:
Colossians 2:6-23; Jeremiah 1; Proverbs 19:8-14

In the Colossians passage, Paul begins by encouraging the reader to walk in Christ, just as he was received. We are encouraged to be rooted and built up in him and established in the faith. (v. 7) This is a process. We begin by being rooted in Christ, then we build ourselves up (or allow the Holy Spirit to do the building) and eventually become established in the faith. Not that we ever stop growing…that takes an entire life.
There are warnings against being taken aptive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (v. 8 ) This is a very real danger for Christians. I have seen many Christians get shanghaied by “philosophy and empty deceit.” I have seen people’s theology get taken off track by worldly thoughts that, although they sound good on the surface, really water down the gospel. Sadly, I have heard these same empty philosophies preached from some pulpits, some in very large churches. You see, when preachers preach, people listen. Even when what is being preached is not 100% true. Because that’s just the way people are. Many people just take whatever their pastor says as truth and don’t bother to check out what the Bible says. I don’t believe, in most cases, that the pastor sets out to deceive the people. I believe that they mean well. But they get sidetracked. They get enticed by the power of having a large congregation, so they do whatever it takes to increase the size of that congregation, whether it’s Biblical truth or not. Enough of that soapbox. Paul simply warns us against these things.
Next, Paul once again affirms the deity of Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. (v. 9) Verse 13 affirms who it was that made us alive in Christ. God has made us alive. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (vv. 13-14) Isn’t that beautiful? The record of our sin and debt is postponed, right? NO! It is CANCELED!! It has, along with Jesus, been nailed to the cross! Several times in my life, I have sat in a Bible study class where we wrote down sins that troubled us. Then the leader drew a cross on a piece of paper on a bulletin board. We all went up and “nailed” our sins to that cross. It’s symbolic of what God did for us in Christ. It’s a cleansing exercise, because it reminds us of what we so often forget, which is our debt is canceled! Hallelujah!
So what does Paul say next? Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. Wow! I’ve actually heard a brother say that he could never worship with someone if he ever saw them drink alcohol. REALLY?? Is that what Paul says, here? NO! We are not to judge each other on things like that. These things are not important. They are shadows. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (v. 17) The next few verses are, actually, astounding. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (vv. 18-23) Does Paul mean we are free to do whatever we want to do? I believe Paul would answer, as he did several times in Romans, “God forbid!” What he is saying though, is that we are not to establish man-made rules and regulations as “religion and asceticism.” I don’t know how many people understand what “asceticism” is. It is a practice of extreme religious activity that usually causes severe pain to the body. Centuries ago, there were people who would whip themselves in efforts to weaken the flesh. One person was even known to roll around naked in a bramble bush. Paul insists that these things (along with the man-made rules of what we can eat or drink) only have an appearance of wisdom. In fact, they “are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” How, then do we stop this indulgence? The answer is in chapter 3, which I will read tomorrow. CLIFFHANGER!!

The prophet Jeremiah begins by stating his call. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (v. 5) Jeremiah’s status as a prophet was determined before he was born. But he objected. Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (v. 6) God dealt with his objection thusly: But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Further, the Lord says, in verse 12 that he is watching over his word to perform it. God will do what he said he will do!


Father, I thank you that you are faithful and that you are watching over your word to perform it. The fact that you always do what you say you will do is very comforting to us, your children. Thank you for making me alive in Christ. I praise you for canceling the debt of sin that I have worked up in my life. I continue to add to that debt, as time goes by, for I still sin. But even that debt is canceled! I praise you for that, Father. I also thank you that we don’t have to worry about abiding by the rules of men, when it comes to “religion.” Let us not be guilty of creating formulas for being good enough or forms of asceticism to weaken our flesh. If we simply focus on you by keeping our minds on Jesus, the Holy Spirit will empower us to live and walk in Christ, just as we have received him. This will also give us the ability to be built up in him and become established in our faith. However, following man-made rules about what to drink, eat, or touch will not accomplish anything, so let us not be sidetracked by these things. I also pray that our minds be clear when it comes to our theology. Let us not get sidetracked by empty philosophy and deceitful thoughts. Let us not fall into the trap of watering down the gospel to make more appealing to people. Let us speak the truth, as shown us in Scripture. If that is not enough to draw people to you, then so be it. It is not up to us to draw them. Jesus, you said yourself that, if you be lifted up, YOU would draw men to you. Let us depend on you to do what you say you will do.

Thank you for the rain! It is beautiful and refreshing! I pray that we will be safe as we drive to east Texas today, since the rain will probably continue. I pray that we will be able to accomplish what we are going for on this trip. I pray for good memories as we take a last look at Grandmama’s place. I also pray for safety as we move around in a house that has been empty for a long time.

I pray for our worship celebration this morning. Let it be pleasing to you as we lift our voices and hearts to you in praise. I lift up Greg Foster as he leads us, along with the rest of the band, and I lift up Joel as he brings your message to us. I pray for him, that words would be given to him as he opens his mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. Strengthen him in Christ this morning.


God is faithful. That is one of the most important things that we can remember. He will do what he said he will do.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Righteous Right Hand of God

We had a good day of worship yesterday, as pastor Joel Engle shared some of the new songs he has written for worship, and pastor Ben Carr gave us a message on why he loves his church, going along with our current “I ❤ My Church" campaign. The main point of his message was "I love my church because Jesus loves the church." And of course, the church is not a building or the staff or the things that we do. The church is us. The church is you (if you are a believer in Christ) and me. My worship experience was hindered, though, sadly. For the first service I sat at the very back, because I would be leaving early to come back home to pick up Stephanie for the second service. When I got back with her, I was recruited to run the video camera for the podcast in the second service because the guy who was doing that had to leave. So there I was at the very back again for the second service. The reason that this hinders my worship (I did worship, don't misunderstand me…worship is not dependent upon sound quality or anything like that) is that, sitting in the back, the intensity is not as strong. I like being up front with most of the other people behind me. That way, I'm encouraged by the sound of the other people singing, as well as the band's playing. The sound quality of the music was fine. But there is just something not right about being all the way in the back. I haven't been a "back row Baptist" for years. I like sitting close to the front. Now I know it sounds dangerously like I am attaching some condition to my ability to worship. That's not true at all. I can worship anywhere. It's just more intense when I'm in the middle of a group of people who are also worshiping. There is strength in numbers, and I believe that's one reason we are encouraged commanded to worship together, corporately.


Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Isaiah 41
The Lord encourages Israel in verses 8-10: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 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. In the following verses, the Lord goes on to say that their enemies will be “put to shame and confounded.” Can we claim these promises for ourselves? This is one thing that I have been somewhat confused about for a long time. There are many promises in Scripture that seem to be exclusive to Israel. I have heard many over the years take these and “claim” them for us, saying that, since we are the “new Israel,” all of these promises apply to us. I have to say, I’m on the fence on this one. That being said, I have no problem proclaiming that the Lord is my strength and my helper. I believe that God will uphold me with his “righteous right hand.” I also believe that if I walk in his Spirit, he will “put to shame” and confound my enemies. I believe with all my heart when he says, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (v. 13)

Verses 17-18 say, When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. We could certainly use some of that right now. I don’t remember when the last time it rained (significantly) in our area. Yeah, we got a couple of hours of a nice soft rain a couple of weeks ago, but that wasn’t nearly enough to put a stop to this drought. And it’s a beautiful 72 degrees in Fort Worth right now, with no highs over 100 predicted over the next 10 days. There is also zero percent chance of rain for the next 10 days! Father, we need rain desperately in our area! We pray that you would supernaturally bring an end to this drought. I say “supernaturally” because the forecast shows no chance of rain. It would be a miracle if it suddenly appeared. Verse 20 explains that, if this were to happen, people would see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Matthew 24:1-28
There is much that is discussed and, possibly, misunderstood in Matthew 24 as Jesus talks to his disciples about the signs of his coming and the “close of the age.” But to me the most important lesson in this passage is not trying to understand what the “abomination of desolation” means or any of that. It is verses 26-28. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. When Jesus comes back it will be unmistakable.


Father, I pray that we will not be led astray by false prophets as we anticipate the return of Jesus. Let us take the words of Christ, himself, to heart, as he tells us that his return will be like lightning flashing across the sky. It will be unmistakable. We will all see it, and there will be no denying it. Let us not listen to the ramblings of false teachers and preachers as the day approaches.
I take comfort in knowing that you are my helper and my strength. I pray that I will always avail myself of the resources that come from your hand as I live my life. Too often I find myself worrying or stressing over things, when I know in my heart that you have it all well in hand. You are sovereign, Lord, and you have all things under you control. Let us, the Church, never forget that!

I pray that, as we observe this holiday, we will be safe and have a restful day. I also, as already done above, pray for rain in our area. We are desperate, Lord.


If things look bad or out of control for you, remember who’s in charge. And it’s not “Charles.”

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!
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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!