“He Is Not Here; He Has Risen!”

Today is Sunday, the fourth of April, 2021. The first Sunday in the season of Easter.

Resurrection Sunday

Peace be with you!

Day 23,033

46 days until our next trip to Glen Rose

Today, commonly known as Easter Sunday, is Resurrection Sunday, for that is what we celebrate on Easter. It’s not really about chocolate bunnies or even Cadbury eggs (which I did not buy yesterday, but I wanted to). It is about life; it is about new beginnings.

And, as a new beginning of sorts, the church that meets at Brandon and Kristin’s house will be meeting in person, with precautions in place, again, beginning today. It will be wonderful to take the Supper together again, which is the part I’m most looking forward to.

Speaking of that, C and I will need to stop by a store on the way in and grab some supplies for the Supper.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I registered a 2.4 pound loss at the WW Workshop, which surprised the heck out of me! I was not expecting that. I thought I might lose a pound, maybe. So April is off to a good start, as I’m looking at being under 200 (they call it “Onederland”) by the end of this year. I would like to say that I want to be at goal by year’s end, but that is still 61.8 pounds away. I would have to average a loss of 2 pounds a week for the rest of the year to make that. However, I only need to lose 26 pounds to be under 200.

We also got S’s bed put together, yesterday afternoon, which, as promised, required no tools. Well, we did have to use scissors to cut some zip ties, but that was it. All we had to do was unfold the bed frame, insert the screw-on legs, flip the frame over, and plug it in. It’s one of those that raises and lowers, and it even vibrates! C and I may have to get one of those for ourselves! Hahaha!

Today, after our church gathering, we will have our traditional Applebee’s Sunday lunch. We plan to have steaks and corn on the cob (cooked sous vide) for dinner tonight.

The Texas Rangers continue to under-impress, as they lost big to the Royals again, yesterday, 11-4. This is causing some grave concern over pitching, already. The starting pitcher, Kohei Arihara, did not get the loss, as he was ahead when he left the game after five innings. The losing pitcher was Josh Sborz. Winning for KC was former Rangers pitcher Mike Minor. Why did they let him go?

One positive note is that Joey Gallo showed his formidable prowess as he clubbed a 450 ft home run, early in the game, to put the Rangers ahead 2-0.

The two teams will play again to day at 1:10 PM CDT, in KC, with Jordan Lyles taking the mound for Texas.

The Red Sox lost again to the Orioles, so both of my favorite teams are 0-2 on the season.

In the AL, we still have Baltimore, Detroit, KC, and Houston, as undefeated teams. In the NL, Philadelphia and San Diego remain undefeated. Boston, Cleveland, Texas, Oakland, Atlanta, and Arizona have yet to win a game. Washington and NY Mets have not played a game, yet, due to Covid. The entire NL Central division is tied at 1-1.

And that’s it for the norts spews.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.
(Matthew 28:5-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
  • that today, I will get to celebrate with brothers and sisters, in person
  • that this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
  • for the admonition to allow You to touch parts of my life that remain in darkness
  • for the writings of Marci Alborghetti in Daily Guideposts 2021

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

The Easter season will go for fifty days and culminate in Pentecost Sunday. Throughout this season, we will “let the implications of the resurrection sink in deeper, inviting us to realign our worldview and conform our living to the reality that we have been raised with Christ to new life.”

The Easter season also includes the Ascension, which is called, in the book, the “wallflower Christian holiday.”

EASTER – DAY 1

INVITATION

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

I pause for a quiet moment to reflect on the new birth in Jesus Christ.

BIBLE SONG

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(Psalms 118:1 NIV)

Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!
The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
(Psalms 118:15-18 NIV)

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
(Psalms 118:22-24 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
(Matthew 28:1-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Lord, this morning (and I truly am), I take another look at these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me, drawing me in more deeply.

It is definitely inspiring to read Psalm 118 in the context of the resurrection. “The LORD’s right hand has done might things! The LORD”s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!” Jesus was, indeed, chastened severely, for the sins of mankind were placed on His shoulders. And while He died, it was only briefly, so it could truly be said that He was not “given over” to death.

Jesus, that stone that the “builders” (Pharisees and religious leaders) rejected, is now the chief cornerstone. “The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” And, as other translations say, “This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (118:24 ESV)

I have a slightly humorous visual of the angel sitting on the stone. Matthew says that the angel came down, “rolled back the stone and sat on it.” Perhaps I have never noticed that little phrase before. I can see the angel, bright as lightning, dressed in white, sitting atop the stone, kicking his feet back and forth, just waiting for Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, to arrive. Maybe even a big grin on his face.

And here, I believe, is a very important point. Why did the angel roll back the stone? It was most certainly not to let Jesus out! Jesus was already out! We already know, from passages that we will, no doubt, read in the coming days, that the resurrected Jesus had the ability to appear in the middle of a locked room. Therefore, He did not need the stone to be removed in order to escape the tomb.

The stone was rolled away for the benefit of Mary and Mary, and of Peter and John, who will arrive a little bit later. It was rolled away so that we could see the empty tomb.

“He is not here; he has risen.”

Perhaps the seven most beautiful words ever spoken!

Father, I praise You for this day, which You have made! I will rejoice and be glad in it! Thank You for the cross; thank You for the resurrection! Thank You for those seven words, which changed the world forever. Thank You for washing away, erasing, my sin forever. I confess my inadequacy, my unworthiness, my seeming inability to stop sinning, even in the light of such glorious truth. Strengthen me, Lord, keep reaching me and teaching me and enabling me to live righteously through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let today be another “new beginning” for me.

Risen Jesus,
no one saw it coming,
but your march out of the tomb has changed everything.
This day leaves me breathless in wonder -
death is conquered,
hope lives,
love wins, 
salvation is here!
Give me profound delight as I enjoy your resurrection life 
and deep devotion as I follow your resurrection way.
Christ is risen,
hallelujah!
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 45)

BLESSING

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

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’”
(Luke 24:45-47 NLT)

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.”
(Luke 1:68-75 NLT)

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
(Luke 2:25-35 NIV)

“Jesus, Lord, live in my always, so that someday I may rise to You.” (Marci Alborghetti, Daily Guideposts 2021)

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.
(Hosea 10:12 NIV)

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
(Matthew 13:23 NIV)

My Father, as I celebrate this joyful morning, I also acknowledge that there are parts of my life that, while they may not be “untouched” by You, are most certainly kept behind a curtain, so to speak. I have already asked for today to be a sort of “new beginning,” and I reiterate that, now. Tear open those curtains that “hide” (I am fully aware that I can hide nothing from You) the darker parts of my life. Plow my “unplowed ground,” and sew the seeds of righteousness in it. Let there be a harvest, Father, a “crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” All glory to You, Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Lord, grant us all fellowship with our risen Savior, this morning! May Your presence be felt in every congregation and every household that is celebrating this day! Give us spiritual renewal and refreshment today. May Your Holy Spirit fill us to overflowing!

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.

Waiting For the Kingdom

Today is Saturday, the third of April, 2021, in Holy Week. The last day of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,032 (palindromic!)

Resurrection Sunday is tomorrow!

We made it to the weekend! It was definitely a challenging week, as work seemed extra busy and more demanding, this past week. I get an extra day off this coming week, as I will be taking S to get her second vaccine shot on Tuesday morning. And, as of yesterday, I guess I am considered, officially, “fully vaccinated,” as it has been two weeks since my second shot.

I will, however, continue to keep safe distances and wear a mask any time I am around other people.

That includes tomorrow morning’s church gathering, as we have decided to meet in person, in the back yard of our host home. The weather looks like it will be nice, although, perhaps, cloudy.

Boston lost their opening game to the Orioles, 3-0. Not a bad score, but the O’s outhit the Sox 9-2. Meanwhile, the Astros lead the AL West at 2-0, and the Rays lead the AL East at 2-0. In the NL, the Mets and Nationals have yet to play. I’m not sure what’s going on, there, whether it is weather-related or COVID-related.

Both the Rangers and the Red Sox will play again today. Kohei Arihara will take the mound for Texas, against former Ranger Mike Minor for KC. Gametime at Kaufman Stadium is 1:10 CDT. Also, looking at the schedule, I see that the Mets and Nationals postponement is, indeed, COVID-related. So it’s already started.

And the Rangers plan to open the ballpark at 100% capacity for the home opener on Monday.

We have our WW Workshop at 10:30, this morning, after which we will pick up our grocery order at Kroger (we decided to try them again, but C will likely make a trip to a different store because, of course, no one store has everything that we like . . . that would be too convenient). After our Saturday brunch, we have a new bed to set up for S. Supposedly, it is “easy” to set up, and requires no tools. We shall see about that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I’ll begin this morning with a poem by Christina Rosetti, A Better Resurrection

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.
For the LORD hears the cries of the needy;
he does not despise his imprisoned people.
Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them.
(Psalms 69:32-34 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • that I have seen You at work (but make me more humble)
  • that You hear the cries of the needy
  • for patience in the waiting
  • for the boldness of Joseph of Arimathea
  • that You have been our dwelling place throughout the generations

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

LENT – DAY 40 – HOLY SATURDAY

INVITATION

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

I am pausing to quietly reflect on the work of God, who hears the cries of the needy and does not despise His imprisoned people.

BIBLE SONG

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
(Psalms 22:2 NIV)

But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
(Psalms 22:19-23 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
(Luke 23:50-56 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, I read these passages again, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in and speak to me.

I confess that I’m feeling a bit “scattered,” this morning, but I will try to make sense of the thoughts in my head.

The psalmist seems to be making a desperate cry to God. He feels, perhaps not ignored, but that God is not answering. I have known the restless night; I have a friend who struggles with anxiety and restless nights. I have experienced nights that, when I have to get up in the middle of the night, if I allow my thoughts to drift toward work, I have a very difficult time getting back to sleep.

But the psalmist also knows the strength of the Lord. He has faith in God. I believe that he does not doubt that God will, in due time, help him and strengthen him.

We get a glimpse of Joseph of Arimathea in Luke’s Gospel. It is pointed out that he “had not consented to their decision and action.” “Their” meaning the Council, the Sanhedrin, of which he was a member. Luke also declares that Joseph was “waiting for the kingdom of God.

Matthew tells us that Joseph had become a disciple of Jesus (27:57).

What draws me in, though, is the bit about how he was waiting for the kingdom. While it is true that we are currently part of God’s kingdom, and we have asserted that the kingdom of God is not something that we have to wait to enter after we die, there is still a sense in which we are all waiting for it. I suppose you could say we are waiting for its fulfillment; its ultimate realization. Yes, we walk in the kingdom, now, and it is here and available, and has been ever since Jesus came on the scene. But it is also not yet fully here.

And what better day to stress this idea of waiting than Holy Saturday? We are in the middle of the silence, perhaps the darkest day in the history of mankind. This is a day when Jesus’s band of brothers and sisters sat in stunned disbelief, having no clue what was coming next (even though Jesus had told them). It was the darkest of all Sabbaths.

Father, during this day of darkness and hopelessness, I pray that You will speak to us. We, of course, know how this part of the story played out. But if we put ourselves in the place of a few dozen followers of Christ, roughly two thousand years ago, we find ourselves in a state of desperate unknowing. There are few things that are worse than unknowing. I can imagine the knot in the stomachs of the eleven remaining disciples and the women who followed Jesus. I can feel the hopelessness, and imagine that they slept very little over the course of the nights following the crucifixion. I can also imagine the fear that they felt.

In our modern times, it seems as though You have been silent for a long time. The wicked flourish, seemingly without consequence. Our government is filled with corruption and lies, from the national level down to the local levels. Your people, to some degree, seem to have lost sight of You and begun to follow people instead. Have mercy on us, Lord! Show Your face! Show Your strength and Your power! We wait for You, Lord; I wait for You. I will not put my trust in princes, kings, governors, or presidents; my trust is in You alone! May Your Church wait for You, Lord, and not run ahead; we cannot follow if we are ahead of You. Teach us to wait.

Forsaken God,
you really did die.
The cross was no theater or mere metaphor;
you weren't whisked away badly injured yet alive.
You set out to save,
and you went all the way to death,
fulfilling God's justice and truth,
fully paying for my sin.
And so today,
between the cross and the resurrection,
I wait for your salvation to dawn again in my life.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 40-41)

BLESSING

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

Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19:42 NIV)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb . . .
(John 20:1 NIV)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
(Psalms 90:1-4 NIV)

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
(Mark 15:46 NIV)

Lord, You truly are our “dwelling place.” May it be so today, as in all days, as we silently ponder the meaning of these days in history. We wait for You, for the return of Your Son, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much. We must remember that truth that a thousand years in Your sight are like a day. And if the Son was in the grave three days and three nights, perhaps we still have a while to wait. So let us wait; let us wait in eager anticipation with the joy of hope in our hearts. In a sense, we are like the disciples on that Saturday. We are in the long “Saturday” of our own, as we wait for the Bridegroom to return to claim His Bride. Keep us faithful and watchful, Lord!

This morning, I pray that the Church, Your people, would work toward the “common good” and the benefit of all people. Inspire us, Father, to not simply look out for our own well-being, but for that of our neighbors, as well. I also pray that Your Church would experience the true care and love of community together. I lift up all missionaries, this morning, who are serving You far from their original homes.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Forsaken for Us

Today is Friday, the second of April, 2021. Good Friday in Holy Week.

Day 23,031

Resurrection Sunday is the day after tomorrow.

C has the day off today. I don’t think we were expecting that, and she didn’t realize it until a week or so ago. I’m not taking the day off.

My mother finally got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! She called me the day before yesterday to tell me that she had finally gotten a call to notify her that it was her turn to get one, so a blessed friend took her yesterday morning.

We also finally got the notification for S’s second dose, which will be next Tuesday morning. I will be taking the day off, and will take her to get her shot.

In other news, the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day, yesterday, was the opposite of spectacular. The pitching for both teams was disappointing, to say the least. By the end of the first inning, the score was 5-5, and by the middle of the second inning, both starting pitchers were gone. In fact, the Rangers’ opener didn’t even last a full inning. Final score, Royals 14, Rangers 10. The Rangers hit no home runs, while the Royals hit three. I was also surprised to find Andrew Benintendi playing for the Royals. I found out later, that he was traded earlier this year, in a three team deal. He was previously with my other favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.

Speaking of the Red Sox, it appears that their home opener was postponed. That happens a lot in the northeast, around opening day. They were supposed to play Baltimore, at Fenway. They will try again today, with Nathan Eovaldi taking the mound for Boston.

The Rangers have the day off. Probably a good thing.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
(Psalms 22:13-15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross
  • that, though it is Friday, Sunday’s coming
  • that You, Lord, are not far from me; You are my strength
  • for my mental image of the scene in the midst of the Holy Trinity, between the death and resurrection of Christ
  • for the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world

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

LENT – DAY 39 – GOOD FRIDAY

INVITATION

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

I pause, this morning, to reflect on the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

BIBLE SONG

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

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalms 22:1 NIV)

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Psalms 22:7-8 NIV)

They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
(Psalms 22:18-19 NIV)

BIBLE READING

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
(Mark 15:25-39 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit quietly in the presence of the Lord, this morning, remembering that I (as well as all of you) am precious to Him, I read these passages, asking the Holy Spirit to teach me, to draw me in closer, to speak to my soul.

As I read, once again, David’s psalm, which so accurately predicts the scene which we commemorate this day, I notice verse 19. “But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”

As Jesus hung on the Cross, near death (this morning I learned that, as I am typing this blog, it is about forty minutes until the time of Jesus’s death in Jerusalem, as it is 2:20 in the afternoon, at this moment), He knew that His Father was not far from Him. Yes, He will cry out, in a little over a half hour, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But that moment, which may have seemed like eternity, would only last a short time.

And His Father, would, indeed, come quickly to help Him. I can only imagine the scene between the death and resurrection of Jesus. I wonder what was going on in the Holy Trinity during those three days. I expect it must have been quite beautiful, as the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is infinitely beyond what any of us could even imagine.

As Jesus breathed His last, at least one of the soldiers standing there had a glimpse of the Holy, and said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

May the Holy Spirit give all of us the same glimpse today.

Father, today is a somber day. Yes, we call it “Good Friday,” but it is mixed feelings that we have when we commemorate. We know that, without this day, we would be lost; there would be no salvation, no forgiveness of sin, no relationship with You. But it chills our souls and saddens us to see what happened to our Savior on this day. Up to this moment, as He hangs on the Cross, He has been beaten, almost beyond recognition; He has been mocked and scorned; all of it unfairly, as His only crime was making fools of the religious leaders of the day. As I walk through this day, today, may this scene be on my mind; may I ponder it, meditate on it, on the words that came out of His mouth during the event. Yes, I know what is coming. But for today, may I think only on the Cross, and what my Savior endured for our sake.

Crucified Savior,
on this dark day it seems crass and opportunistic to think of your death as an advantage to me.
And yet,
we call this Friday good because through your death,
my old self is crucified,
put to death,
buried with you,
and no longer rules.
Today,
I dedicate my life as an offering of gratitude to you.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 43)

BLESSING

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

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Matthew 27:46 NLT)

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
(John 10:14-18 NLT)

My Savior, Jesus, to say I am grateful that You allowed these things to be done to You is not enough. There are not enough words. I love You, Jesus; thank You; may my life belongs to You; do with it as You will.

Lord, during this day, please give me a depth of gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Give us more of a capacity to know suffering, alongside our brothers and sisters. For any who might be entertaining doubts, today, may Your Holy Spirit give them the glimpse of holiness that the centurion saw. Show them, Lord, who You really are, and what You have done for them.

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.

Come To the Table

Today is Thursday, the first of April, 2021. Maundy Thursday in Holy Week.

Day 23,030

Three days until Resurrection Sunday!

Opening Day is today! The Texas Rangers will face the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City at 3:10 PM CDT. Kyle Gibson will be starting for the Rangers.

I’ll update the pool situation, even though there’s not a lot of news. We are waiting on the insurance people to determine how much, if any, is covered by our homeowner’s insurance. Once we get that, then we will contact the person who gave us the estimate to get started on the work. I’m sure it will take a while, as he has a regular job, servicing our pool chemicals each week. We will have to give him some money up front, so he can order the parts needed. The biggest piece will be the pool heater. And, of course, we are hoping that there is no damage to the actual pool, itself. It doesn’t seem to be leaking anywhere, so that is good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your love
flows like a stream
into the ocean of your Grace.
Your love
encircles this world,
displays your faithfulness.
Your love
is patient and kind,
brings wholeness and true peace.
Your love
is all we desire
to heal our brokenness.
As all things pass
and fade away
love remains
eternally
(Author unknown, obtained from faithandworship.com)

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah.
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies.
Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!
(Psalms 68:32-35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the Holy Supper that we commemorate on this day
  • for the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world
  • that You do not scorn nor despise the suffering of the afflicted
  • for the Supper Table, where all are welcome to sit next to Jesus
  • for my daily bread

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

LENT – DAY 38

INVITATION

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

I pause for a moment to reflect on the love of God, which encircles the world and displays His faithfulness.

BIBLE SONG

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

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
(Psalms 22:1-5 NIV)

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever!
(Psalms 22:23-26 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
(Luke 22:7-8 NIV)

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!”
(Luke 22:14-22 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I take refreshment in His presence, this morning, I consider the passages above, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me, however He desires.

This morning, I am drawn to the idea of praising God; “You who fear the LORD, praise him!” Why? “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one.” The Lord cares for the suffering and afflicted among us. “The poor will eat and be satisfied,” and “those who seek the LORD will praise him.”

I am fully persuaded that our God is able to accomplish this. We will do whatever we can, in human terms, to help, but our God will make sure that, someday, the poor will eat and be satisfied. Scripture warns us, over and over, that God cares deeply for the poor and needy, the widows and orphans, and I feel relatively confident that the myriads of people who claim the name of Jesus, and then turn around and scorn the needy, will be judged, somehow. Their salvation may not be in jeopardy (if, in fact, it exists at all), but I believe there will be some kind of consequences.

The one thing that I see in the Gospel passage gives me pity for Judas. We tend to be angry with him, and that is probably not wrong. However, Jesus’s statement at the end of verse 22 should send chills through anyone’s bones. “Woe to that man who betrays him!” Matthew, in 26:24, adds, “It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

There is a lot of speculation out there on how Jesus could have saved Judas, but Judas wasn’t willing and so on, and so on. But this speculation fails to take one important thing into consideration. This had to happen! It was part of the plan. Judas was in a no-win situation.

Father, I praise You, just as the psalmist tells me. I am grateful for the words that admonish me to fear You and praise You. I am also most grateful that You do not despise or scorn the suffering of the afflicted. I pray for people who do, just as I pray for the people who are the afflicted, who suffer. I lift up widows and orphans everywhere, people who have no one in their lives. May Your people rise up and care for them. I thank You for the faithful people who do this. There are some folks in my own mother’s life for whom I am eternally grateful and pray Your riches blessings upon them, for they give her transportation and company, as well as encouragement and blessing. May we all take lessons from such folks.

Lamb of God,
at the last supper you gave us the spiritual table by which you continue to communicate yourself and all your benefits to us.
May this meal nourish,
strengthen,
and comfort our poor,
desperate souls with your life-giving body and blood today and every time we gather around it.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 35)

BLESSING

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

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. . . . As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
(John 15:7, 9 ESV)

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
(Luke 22:14-15 ESV)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

Marci Alborghetti, in today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021, brings out a very important thought. As Jesus sat at table with His disciples, He “knew that just as He would soon suffer alone, so would each of them in the coming days and years suffer alone.”

There are many, many people in our world today who suffer alone. These are they whom God does not scorn nor despise. And what we see at the Supper Table is “a place next to Jesus for everyone who at some point suffers alone.” Beautiful words worthy of pondering. Thank you, Marci.

Father, I praise You for the Table, where there is a place for all of us, next to Jesus! May this bring joy to my heart today, as we commemorate the “Last Supper.” May Jesus bring blessing and joy to His people today!

Lord, may You give me and all of Your children a deeper and richer understanding of the Gospel. May the love of Jesus flow from me to all whom I encounter today. May You give us all vibrant and living prayer lives. Help me to pray better and more often.

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.

For the Joy Set Before Him

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,029

Four days until Resurrection Sunday

Opening Day is tomorrow!

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

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

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

LENT – DAY 37

INVITATION

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

BIBLE SONG

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

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

BIBLE READING

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

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLESSING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Nothing Is Lacking; God Is Enough

Today is Tuesday, the thirtieth of March, 2021, in Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,028

Five days until Resurrection Sunday!

I don’t have any newsworthy items, this morning, and time is rapidly getting away from me. Actually, this is not correct. Time is moving at the same pace it always moves. Apparently, I am dawdling. Anyway, on to:

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!
Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
(Psalms 68:3-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • to be alive and breathing
  • for the joy in my spirit, as I exult before You
  • for prayer, my best defense against temptation
  • that the way of Jesus is not the way of violence
  • that nothing is lacking; You are enough

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

LENT – DAY 36

INVITATION

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

I am pausing, here, to quietly reflect on our Lord, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows.”

BIBLE SONG

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

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalms 22:1 NIV)

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
(Psalms 22:15-19a NIV)

BIBLE READING

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
(Luke 22:39-53 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in the presence of the Lord, this morning, there are portions of these readings that move my spirit.

Once again, I am struck by the accuracy of David’s psalm. Hundreds of years before the crucifixion, he wrote of hands and feet being pierced. Then he wrote of clothing being divided between people, and dice being rolled for some of that clothing. We know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus had a robe that had no seams. The soldiers did not want to rip it to divide it among themselves, so they “cast lots” for it.

There are two things in the Luke passage to which I am drawn. First is Jesus’s admonition to His disciples to pray, so that they will not fall into temptation. I believe this admonition stands with us, today. One of our primary defenses against temptation is prayer.

It is not a formula, of course, and prayer does not necessarily guarantee that we will not fall into temptation, but it is our best defense, I believe, followed closely by meditation on and memorization of God’s Word.

The second thing is Jesus’s response to Peter cutting off the servant’s ear (Peter is not named in Luke’s narrative, but, as far as we know, he is the only one who had a sword).

In all of my favorite translations, Jesus says, “No more of this!”

Enough violence. It is not necessary. For one thing, this had to happen, in order to fulfill what had to be fulfilled. For another thing, it simply was not Jesus’s way. And it should not be our way.

Violence is never the answer. There will be times when action is necessary. But even in those times, prayer must always come first. Then action, and the action must not be violent.

Father, I praise You for the truths presented, this morning. Thank You for the privilege and responsibility of prayer. I thank You that it is my primary defense against temptation. I confess that I do not use this defense often enough. I also praise You that the way of Jesus was/is the way of peace. I know that Paul commands us to, as far as it is possible, be at peace with all men. Help me to live that out today, and walk in peace in Your kingdom.

Crucified Lord,
this week help me to remember how you sustained,
in body and soul,
the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.
Thank you for standing in my place,
setting me free from eternal condemnation,
and gaining for me God's grace,
righteousness,
and eternal life.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 37)

BLESSING

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

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
(Psalms 23:1 NIV)

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?”
(Matthew 6:26 NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19 NIV)

I’m going to spend some time, this morning, meditating on these Scriptures. Nothing is lacking; God is enough.

Father, You are enough; Jesus is enough for me. Is this really true? Sadly, there are times in my life when it is not true. But it is my heart’s desire that this would be truth for me every minute of every hour of every day in my life. Make it so in me, today, that Jesus is enough for me. Christ is enough for me. Nothing is lacking; You are enough! You are my Shepherd, and there is nothing more that I need.

I pray, this morning, Lord, that we would heed Your calling to serve and follow Jesus in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces. May we let Your light shine! I pray that we would have more and more capacity to selflessly serve the “common good.” I lift up those who work in service to others, today.

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!

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

“From My Mother’s Womb . . .”

Today is Monday, the twenty-ninth of March, 2021, in Holy Week.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,027

Six days until Resurrection Sunday!

It’s Monday, so back to work, we go!

But it is also R’s birthday, today (oldest daughter), so happy birthday to you, just in case you read this blog today! Much love to you!

The big news for today is that our little church group has agreed to meet together this coming Sunday to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Agreement was made to continue to practice safe measures. I know for sure that we will wear masks or at least practice safe distancing. We may even sing a couple of songs. Weather permitting, we plan to meet outside, in their back yard.

I think there is a plan in the works, as well, for the family to gather, weekend after next (possibly Saturday, April the tenth) to celebrate some birthdays. As already mentioned, R’s is today, and Mama’s (Grandma) is April the eighth, which is a week from Thursday.

That’s all the news I have for today. Oh, except that Opening Day is this coming Thursday, April first. The Texas Rangers will start the season in Kansas City, with a 3:10 PM start time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This morning’s opening poem/prayer is from Daryl Madden, called “Be Here Now.”

The past is behind us
To let go, allow
To God give the future
To be grateful now

Each soul of encounter
Of blessing, endow
A binding of sharing
To be present now

Each moment receiving
To fully allow
His treasure embracing
To be loved now

This moments’ a gift
That God does endow
A practice of living
To be here now 

My prayer, this morning, is that I be fully present in this moment of meditation and prayer.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
(Psalms 67:5-7 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for a new week, full of opportunities to serve God and people; may I not miss those opportunities
  • for the blessings of our Lord
  • that, from my mother’s womb, You have been my God (Psalm 22:10)
  • for the testimonies of believers and their lives with You
  • that every moment of every day we can rest in Your presence and know Your glory

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

LENT – DAY 35

INVITATION

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

This morning, I pause to reflect on this moment, on being fully present and aware of the presence of the Lamb of God.

BIBLE SONG

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

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalms 22:1 NIV)

“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
(Psalms 22:8-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!”
(Luke 22:7-22 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Lord in this place, I reread these passages, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts.

I begin by noticing Psalm 22:8. We read this psalm, yesterday morning, and this stood out to me, then, as well. Those familiar with the Gospel narrative know that much of this chapter in Psalms is repeated during the hours of the crucifixion, including the words in verse 8, which were repeated by onlookers, perhaps even the Pharisees or Romans. It was intended to be mockery.

But I see it as truth. I do trust in the Lord, and I believe that He will rescue me. Over and over, the Psalms make that declaration of truth. And, ultimately, the Father did rescue the Son, but not until the sacrifice was done.

As for me, God, indeed, brought me out of my mother’s womb, and I was trusting Him from my birth. I don’t remember anything about those days, but I do know that, immediately, I was taught to trust and love my God and my Savior. I can say, as the psalmist said, “from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (verse 10)

As Jesus prepared for the sacrifice, He shared the last Passover He has had, to this day, with His disciples. He declared that He would not have another Passover until “it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” And this has not happened, yet.

He took the bread and the wine, in the famous institution of what we call The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or Eucharist, or, sometimes, simply The Supper. The bread is His body, the wine is His blood. And we partake of this, whenever we do it, “in remembrance” of Him.

I look forward to sharing this “meal” with my brothers and sisters, this coming Sunday morning.

Father, I thank You that You have been my God, in whom I trust, from my birth, from out of my mother’s womb. I am aware that not everyone can say this. We had that discussion, yesterday, as well, and believe that every testimony of a person’s life with You is beautiful, whether we began life with You from infancy or started it later in life. It is beautiful, because it all depends upon You and Your mighty work in our lives. We have, quite literally, nothing to do with it.

Perfect God,
I bow my knee before the wisdom of the cross.
The death of your spotless Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for my sins.
It is of infinite value and worth,
more than enough to cover not only mine but the sins of the whole world.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 2.3)

BLESSING

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

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
(Psalms 94:19 ESV)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
(Psalms 55:22 ESV)

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
(Isaiah 41:13 ESV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27 ESV)

Yes, and amen!

“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.'”
(Revelation 2:19)

Yesterday, we spoke of the burning eyes of Christ, as revealed by John’s depiction of Him to the Church in Thyatira. It was said that there was mercy and generosity in those eyes.

This generosity is exhibited in Jesus’s first assessment of this church, repeated in the verse above. These people were not resting on their past achievements. Unlike the previous churches, their “latter works” were better, even, than their first.

“There was no sitting back and telling stories about how vigorous and exciting it had been in the early days of the church. They had not fallen into the habit (which Christians seem prone to) of lamenting the present evil generation and nostalgically looking back to a better time.”

The Christians at Thyatira were “skilled in and increasingly committed to love, faith, service, and patient endurance.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I pray that Your Church today may be as the Church in Thyatira, continuing to be committed to love, faith, service, and patient endurance, not attempting to rest on past achievements or blaming its problems on the “present evil generation.” We dwell on the “mountaintop” with You, Lord, in Your presence at every moment of every day. Let us rest in Your presence and know Your glory as we walk through this world.

Lord, may You give us eyes to see Your work in the world around us, as we walk through our day. May Your care for us be evident, even in the face of natural disasters and a creation that groans for its rebirth. May You guide those who work in conservation efforts, to make us better stewards of Your creation.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Hosanna!

Today is Sunday, the twenty-eighth of March, 2021. Palm Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,026

Seven days until Resurrection Sunday. Holy Week begins today.

I will begin with my weekly WW report. I lost another .6 yesterday. Just a tad under what I was hoping for, but a loss is a loss. I am 64.2 pounds away from my goal weight. At the rate I’m going, It will be 2023 before I get there. Hahaha!! But you know what? There is absolutely no rush, is there? There is no deadline.

My current step goal is to get below 200 pounds. That could happen this year, but I’ll have to average better than .8 of a pound per month. But I’ve lost 10.4 pounds so far, this year. That’s an average of 3.5 pounds a month. If I keep that up, I will make it this year, maybe around November.

So, yesterday, C picked up a couple of sirloin steaks when she went to get groceries. I got this new sous vide cooker with my reward points from work (I hit a ten year anniversary last November), and was wanting to try it on steak. We cooked some chicken with it a week or so back, and that didn’t turn out great. Rookie mistakes, though, I think. Steak looked simple.

There were two steaks, weighing in at roughly a pound, total. About an inch and a half thick. I put them in a Ziploc bag (we don’t have a vacuum sealer . . . yet) and got as much air out as I could. I also found four frozen corn on the cobs, covered them with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray, and put them in another Ziploc. Oh, I also sprayed the steaks with ICBINB and put “Seven” seasoning (from Saltgrass), as well as some onion powder and garlic powder on them.

I got this nifty plastic box for the sous vide . . . holds twelve quarts of water, and it came with a nice rack to put the food in, to keep it from floating. I put all of that in the box, which promptly overflowed because I had put too much water in it. It’s a learning process, you know. Based on the instructions that came with the cooking box, I set the sous vide for 129 degrees for medium rare, for one hour, and let it do its magic.

After an hour, I put the steaks in a hot pan, with just a tad of olive oil in it, and seared each side for a minute or two. Here is what I got.

Do I even need to tell you how delicious this was? Even the corn was cooked perfectly (although it could have been warmer). It was, quite literally, the best steak I have ever cooked. We already have plans to do this again, next Saturday.

Speaking of plans, we are starting to try to figure out what we are going to do for our anniversary vacation, this year. We thought about Cancun, we even thought about Hawaii (someday), but we have decided to do something drivable, this year, and put off anything involving flying until at least next year.

So Galveston is looking good, again. We’ve started looking at some beach houses, down there, and are finding some nice ones. Plus, I need to go back to Murdoch’s and get some Hawaiian shirts, since I can wear them again!

We have our Zoom church gathering in a little while, at 10:15. We’ll be starting with Psalm 20, this morning. So I guess I should get on with things. I’m sure we will have Applebee’s for lunch, and, since we had steak last night, I will make the traditional weekend burgers for S and me this evening.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This new day You give to me
From Your great eternity
This new day now enfold
Me in Your loving hold

You are the star of the morn
You are the day newly born
You are the light of our night
You are the Savior by Your might

God be in me this day
God ever with me stay
God be in the night
Keep us by Thy light
God be in my heart
God abide, never depart.
(David Adam)

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah.
(Psalms 67:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for my coffee
  • for the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
  • for the King who comes in the name of the Lord
  • for the way Your Word is fresh and new every day
  • for the way music stirs my soul

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

PALM SUNDAY

INVITATION

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

I’m pausing a moment to quietly reflect on the amazing truth that my sin has been taken away by the Lamb of God.

BIBLE SONG

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

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

(Psalms 22:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
(Luke 19:28-40 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read through these passages again, allowing the Spirit to direct me to particular words or phrases that move my soul.

On the day that Jesus was crucified, at around noon, the sky went dark. It was, at the same time, the darkest time in human history, and the brightest. For while God incarnate was dying, hope for humanity was being born. Jesus, in an unthinkable moment, felt the presence of the Father being ripped from him. I can only imagine . . . actually, no I can’t . . . what that felt like. His cry, at the moment, only gives us a hint.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

There have been a few times, maybe just a couple, when I felt forsaken by God, but only for a moment, and that moment didn’t last very long. But it was the worst feeling I have ever experienced.

At that moment, on that dark afternoon, Jesus was utterly alone. And somehow, David was inspired to write that in a psalm several hundred years before it happened.

And just a few days earlier, crowds had lined the streets of Jerusalem, laid down palm branches in the road and shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Those same voices would, just days later, shout “Crucify Him!”

Despised and rejected. Forsaken by God; forsaken by His own people.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Father, while I rejoice at the effects of that day, my heart fills with shame at my own treatment of the Son of God, the Lamb of God. For, while He took away my sins along with the sins of the world, somehow, I manage to continue to pile them on. Nevertheless, You keep forgiving, and I am grateful for this. My shame is turned into joy, as Your mercies appear, new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness, Lord, unto me! “As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.”

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

Mighty God,
we look for salvation and security in many different places.
We confess we're tempted to seek out a pumped-up Savior of power who would flex rippling muscles.
Prepare our hearts to welcome our humble servant-King,
Jesus,
finding in him all we need for our salvation.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 30)

BLESSING

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

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Mark 11:9 ESV)

Marci Alborghetti has this to say in this morning’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021:

“When He entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, almost everyone in that adoring crowd would soon need His forgiveness. Peter, who gleefully helped Him onto the donkey, would deny Him three times. Judas, part of the parade, would betray Him. The apostles, basking in His glory, would abandon Him. The crowds would ignore Him, some even screaming for His crucifixion.

“But . . . Jesus had done nothing to hurt those who would need His forgiveness. Quite the opposite: He’d done everything to save them, us. Yet He rode on, greeting them, knowing they’d turn on Him, knowing we’d continue to sin against each other and Him, already forgiving, always forgiving.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them,
“It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
(Matthew 21:4-17 ESV)

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
(Luke 7:36-50 ESV)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”
(Revelation 2:18 ESV)

This is how Christ is introduced to the congregation at Thyatira in their portion of John’s letters to the churches.

“The eyes like a flame of fire burn as they penetrate. This is no casual survey.”

Jesus really sees into us as His burning eyes survey us.

The feet, like burnished bronze, “are solid and strong. They will not crumble under opposition.” Interestingly, bronze, an alloy made from copper and tin, has a higher melting point than either, thus being able to withstand the heat from the burning eyes of flame.

“He sees through all facades, evasions, masks, and fogginess – sees into contradiction, opposition, hostility, and indifference.”

While our initial response may be to run and hide, we need not do this. “There is mercy and generosity in the honest, unflinching gaze of our Lord. If his look burns, it is the fire of love, and it burns so that it may warm us.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

My Jesus, I praise You for the way Your burning eyes of flame see into the depths of my soul. The initial reaction is to shy away, to try to hide, but we cannot hide, so there is no point in that. I humble submit to the examination of Your holy eyes, that You may see what needs to be cleansed within me, each day. I praise You for Your mercy and generosity, Jesus!

May I experience, today, and every day this week, Lord, fellowship with the risen King Jesus. May everyone experience spiritual renewal and refreshment this coming week.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Voice of God

Today is Saturday, the twenty-seventh of March, 2021, in the fifth week of Lent. Holy Week begins tomorrow, Palm Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,025

The weekend is here! Of course, I often wonder why we get so excited about it, when another Monday is right around the corner. Someday, perhaps, in a few more years, I will obtain permanent weekend.

C is feeling better, this morning. Even her sciatica is better, so that’s good. Looks like she will make it to our weekly WW Workshop, even though she doesn’t have to go. Since she achieved Lifetime status, she only has to weigh in once a month, but she will, at least for now, keep going to the workshops with me. I’m thinking I should lose around one pound for this week. I will report on that tomorrow.

There is nothing else planned for the day, other than getting groceries at some point. If C is not up to that, I will go get them. We didn’t place a pickup order last night.

The only other thing planned for this weekend is our weekly Zoom church gathering tomorrow morning. Palm Sunday, this week, and Resurrection Sunday, more popularly known as Easter, is next Sunday, and it will be my turn to lead the morning’s discussions. I’m thinking I may divert a bit from Psalms, but that depends on where we wind up after tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Peace between neighbors,
Peace between kindred,
Peace between lovers,
In love of the King of life.

Peace between person and person,
Peace between wife and husband,
Peace between woman and children,
The Peace of Christ above all peace.

Bless, O Christ, my face,
Let my face bless everything;
Bless, O Christ, mine eye,
Let mine eye bless all it sees.

(Peace, by Alexander Carmichael, from Carmina Gadelica III)

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah. that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
(Psalms 67:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the weekend, to rest and refresh for the next work week
  • for the nice weather outside
  • for the many conveniences we have, which we so often take for granted
  • for Your voice, in its many forms
  • for the trials in life which bring growth in our lives; if it never rained, the flowers would never bloom

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

LENT – DAY 34

INVITATION

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

I’m pausing to quietly reflect on the Lord and His righteous ways.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
(Psalms 29:1-5 NIV)

The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.
(Psalms 29:9-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
(Jeremiah 31:31 NIV)

“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33b-34 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I quietly enjoy His presence, this morning, I reread these passages, looking for words or phrases that connect with my spirit. The value of this type of reading is that, each time a passage is read, something different may connect, depending on how the Spirit is moving in one’s life at the moment. This is why I believe the verse in Hebrews:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

The psalm speaks over and over of the “voice of the LORD,” expressing its powerfulness. Yet, while it accomplishes all of these things, it is rarely heard, audibly. Or at least we are not aware that we are hearing it.

Maybe that’s what thunder really is.

Those times when God the Father spoke audibly over Jesus, some people said it thundered. When Saul was struck down on the road to Damascus, there were differing accounts of what people heard when Saul heard the voice of the resurrected Christ.

Whether we hear it or not, the voice of the Lord has great power; great majesty. It was, after all, that which created everything we see. God spoke it into existence.

This Word of God is “alive and powerful.” The verse in Hebrews may or may not be specifically and exclusively speaking of the written Word, that which we know as The Bible. Perhaps there is a double meaning. God’s Word is also that which He speaks. His Word brought galaxies, stars, planets, and us into existence.

The Jeremiah passage speaks of the New Covenant, ushered in by Jesus. Through Christ, and the appearance on earth of the Holy Spirit, God has written His Word in our hearts, putting His Word deep within us.

The Word became flesh, says John in his Gospel, and dwelt among us. And now, that Word, by the Spirit dwells within us.

Father, I thank You for Your Word, however it is manifest. Your Word is Your voice; Your Word is the Holy Scriptures; Your Word is Your Son, Jesus Christ. And by His appearing, His life, His death, His resurrection, Your Word dwells within us. Help me to live by Your Word; help me to live and walk by the precepts of Scripture, by the words and actions of Jesus, and by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Deepen my love for You and Your Word. I continue to pray that You would make me more gently, just as Jesus Christ was gentle.

Promise-keeping God,
your covenant of grace,
ratified with Abraham and renewed by the prophetic word,
stands complete in Jesus Christ.
In the new covenant of his death and resurrection I have full forgiveness and eternal salvation.
May I live today in covenant faithfulness with you and my neighbor.
Amen.
(Westminster Confession 7.5)

BLESSING

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

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
(1 Peter 3:18 NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
(Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.
“Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
“But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
(Revelation 2:18-29 NLT)

This chapter in This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson, is a tough one. The title, alone, makes me cringe and hide my toes. “The Test of Our Holiness.”

The issue that the Christians in Thyatira were face was that they were “reaching for attractive-appearing religion that in fact was inwardly foul.”

In every age, there is a sharp contrast between what the Christian believes (and, therefore, supposedly, lives out) and what the world believes and lives.

In every age, there is a temptation to completely isolate oneself from society, but we, as Christians, cannot do that. “There is no way to be a Christian except in the world.” Any attempt to do otherwise has never been successful. We must be in the world.

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am grateful for the trials that bring growth, inconvenient and painful as they sometimes are. I don’t seek them out, but when they come, by Your grace, I endure them, and, hopefully, grow from them. I am also grateful for the admonition to remain in the world, growing in grace and love for You and for my fellow human beings. Teach me this truth, daily, Father, and help me to love others as You have loved me, and as I love myself. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, I pray that Your Church would have a depth of identity that includes Your mission on this earth; may our leaders be servants, not dictators; may they have Kingdom vision, godly stewardship, and may Your Church be effectively organized. I pray for unity within the Body of Christ, Father. May we all have willing hearts to serve, and may we overflow with gratitude in our faithful service.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

There Is No Greater Thing

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

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,024

Nine days until Resurrection Sunday!

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

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

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

LENT – DAY 33

INVITATION

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

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

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

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

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

BIBLE READING

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

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLESSING

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.