Today is Monday, the 20th of February, in the season of Epiphany.
May the peace of Christ be with you today!
Only two more days until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. I will be attending an Ash Wednesday service at Living Word Lutheran Church, where I will be singing in the choir. It will be the first Ash Wednesday service I have ever attended. Fortunately, it is my Wednesday off, so I can make it easily.
I am also scheduled to sing a solo in both the 8:45 and 11:00 services, this coming Sunday morning. I’m a little excited (and nervous) about that.
It was nice to be able to “sleep in,” this morning, as I have not been able to do that since last Thursday. And I don’t have a lot on my plate for today. Monday household chores, and a possible trip to the grocery store. I probably need to go in person, today, as there are a couple of specific things I need.
C and I had a lovely time, yesterday. After I got home from the early church service, we headed up to Oklahoma, to the Winstar casino. We do this a couple or three times a year, just for fun. We don’t take it seriously, at all. This was an unusually successful trip for us. For the first time, ever, both of us left ahead. I put $20 in the first machine I played, and that was all of my money that I spent for a couple of hours. At one point, I was up to $300. I quit with just over $100, which means I cleared $80 for the afternoon. C spent $100, but left with $101, so she cleared a dollar. But a win is a win, right??
We almost decided to quit after about ten minutes, because C had won a $172 jackpot, and I almost immediately won a $150 jackpot (we were playing the same game, side by side).
What makes it more enjoyable is that, about a year or so ago, we discovered that there is an entire section of the casino that is non-smoking. And this time, we found that they have really modified that section, as it has its own restaurant and a shop, which it didn’t have before. We didn’t eat there, though. We actually only stayed about two hours, I think.
C is working from home, today, due to some hip pain she has been experiencing. If you are of the praying sort, we would appreciate your prayers in that matter. It looks like a hip replacement is in her future, but we don’t know how far into that future.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Truly I love your commandments more than gold, more than fine gold. (Psalms 119:127 NRSV)
Lord our God, we thank you that in spite of all the evil, we may look toward the good and toward a change for the better. For your love, your Spirit of love, can be with us. In spite of all that has gone wrong, we can change. Through genuine faith we can become worthy in your sight. Everything can turn to the good. The nations can become glad, rejoicing in life because you are working among them to help them change. Amen.
My child, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the Word of the Lord, more precious than gold
- for the fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord
- that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord
- that Jesus is preparing a place for me, that where He is, there I may also be
- for music, which so adequately expresses what I am feeling
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD. (Psalms 31:24 NRSV)
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 NRSV)
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:9-11 NRSV)
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:1-4 NRSV)
[Love] rejoices in the truth.
(1 Corinthians 13:6 NRSV)
Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
(Ephesians 6:14 NRSV)
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 NRSV)
“Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow,” says Eugene H. Peterson, in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (quoted in God’s Message for Each Day). We will experience pain and suffering, hardship and trials, in our lives, but they will not be able to drive out our joy.
One reason for this is that it is God who gives us this joy. We do not work it up in our own lives; it is not something that we develop or something, even, that money or fame can buy for us.
When we are joyful, we feel good about God, not about ourselves, necessarily.
Just today, I realized that the picture I have always had in my head, concerning the “poor widow” in Jesus’s story up there, walked solemnly up to the offering coffer and sadly placed her two pennies in it. There is no indication whatsoever that her countenance was sad, or lowered, during this action. None at all. We truly have no idea how she approached the altar. She very well may have been quite joyful in the presenting of this offering.
It makes more sense to think that, actually, as Jesus also taught us not to appear sad or pitiful when we fast. Rather, we are to appear as though everything is normal. In other words, we are not to attempt to draw anyone’s attention to what we are doing when we perform spiritual activities.
Joy does not depend upon circumstances. Happiness does. But one can be joyful while not being happy.
Another reason for joy is what John Piper called hope in “future grace.” We have the assurance from Jesus in John 14. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” He said. He is preparing a place for us and will return and take us to Himself, “That where I am, there you may be also.”
If we truly believe this, then there is nothing that can happen on this earth that can affect our joy. And, in the words of Dallas Willard, “This earth is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”
Father, I am grateful for joy in my life. You have provided joy, and the joy that I have received from you cannot be tainted by anything the world can do. While my happiness can ebb and flow, my joy will remain constant. Help me to remember this when I feel like it is decreasing. Remind me that my joy is based on You and Your consistency, not me and my lack of the same.
You remember that we are dust. You have forgiven all of our sin, past, present, and future. Jesus is preparing a place for us, that where He is, there we may also be. All is well, and all manner of things shall be well. Things in Your kingdom are far better then we could ever imagine.
Thank You, Father. All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.