A Spiritual Sacrifice

It’s Wednesday, the 28th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the fourth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ dwell within your soul, today!

Day 23,666

Four days until 2023.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a rather lazy day around here. C is still off work, taking vacation, and I don’t go back to work until Friday morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The insolent smear me with lies, 
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 
their heart is unfeeling like fat, 
but I delight in your law.
(Psalms 119:69-70 ESV)

O Lord God, we thank you for everything you allow us to see and hear. May our hearts become awake and alive through all we receive so that we await your final revelation and recognize your ultimate will for all people, for all nations and races on earth. Hear us in these days, for we know your kingdom is coming. Your kingdom is before our eyes. Your Word, your help, is coming, and in Jesus Christ light will dawn for all the world. Praise and honor to you for all you do! May we see it all before our eyes so that our expectation of the last days is a living expectation, full of joy and blessing. We want to wait in joy, in love, and in longing for the day that is coming to your glory. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 
Galatians 4:4–5, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for a day of relaxing with not much to do
  2. for our cats; Trixie, Rocky (Rachmaninoff), Luna, Cleo (Cleopatra), and Maggie (Magnolia)
  3. that God sent His Son to redeem us, that we might receive adoption to sonship
  4. for the sufficiency of God’s grace in the face of my weaknesses; “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  5. that the ways of God are perfect, and that He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 18:30)

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
(Ezekiel 43:1-5 ESV)


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

This God—his way is perfect; 
the word of the LORD proves true; 
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
(Psalms 18:30 ESV)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; 
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
(Psalms 19:7-9 ESV)

More thoughts from John Henry Newman on Christmas:

“It is a day of joy: it is good to be joyful–it is wrong to be otherwise. For one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and rejoice in the perfections of our Saviour Christ, without thinking of ourselves, withing thinking of our own miserable uncleanness; but contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His overflowing love. We may rejoice in the Lord, and in all His creatures see Him. We may enjoy His temporal bounty, and partake the pleasant things of earth with Him in our thoughts; we may rejoice in our friends for His sake, loving them most especially because He has loved them.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NRSV)


Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:4-5 NRSV)


What is a “spiritual sacrifice?” I don’t have a deep theological answer to that. But I believe it can be almost anything. What it is not is a physical sacrifice. It is not a literal sacrifice. Jesus Christ is our only literal, physical sacrifice. We need no other.

When I read the 1 Peter passage, I also think of Romans 12.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 NRSV)

We are to be a “living” sacrifice, which means that we stay alive, presenting ourselves to the Lord, “holy and acceptable to God.” How can I become holy and acceptable? Only through Jesus, by walking in His commands. I cannot become holy and acceptable by actions or works. I cannot pray enough to be holy; I cannot confess enough to be holy; I cannot abstain from anything enough to be holy. I can only be made holy by Jesus and His sacrifice for me/us.

The spiritual sacrifice involves what is presented in Romans 12:2, though. It involves not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. It involves discerning what the will of God is, and learning what is “good and acceptable and perfect.”

In short, I suppose it means what Jesus said when He told us that we must take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. That is a “spiritual sacrifice.”

And while those photos that we see, occasionally, of some person dragging a real cross down the side of the road (sometimes cheating by putting a wheel on it), can be moving and inspiring, they are also rather pointless.

That is not what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross. He was not, I assure you, speaking of a literal cross. For goodness sake, He did that FOR us!

But it is also important to note that Jesus was also not talking about something that happens to us, over which we have no control. Usually, when someone says, “Well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” it isn’t. Because usually, they are referring to something that they cannot control or choose. A horrible disease, for example. Cancer is not anyone’s “cross to bear.” You don’t “choose” cancer.

But we do choose to not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world. We can choose to renew our minds through meditating on the Word of God, which is all of those things described in Psalm 19, above.

Another thing that is important is to know that, when we do take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we do it joyfully! Remember what Jesus said about fasting, which is one of those sacrificial things which we can choose to do.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV)

So, yes. Take up your cross. Deny yourself. Make that spiritual sacrifice. Follow Christ.

And don’t complain about how miserable it makes you. Bear the cross joyfully, celebrating Christ in all things.


Father, help us to take up our crosses, whatever it may be for each of us, individually. And help us to do it joyfully, celebrating Christ in our lives. May we never try to draw attention to our “spiritual sacrifice” or our suffering that may come because of it. If I am fasting, yes, I will be hungry. But I should not talk about how hungry I am, so as to draw attention to it.

Help me to always remember the words of Christ, who told us that, if we do those things, visibly, in order to be recognized by men, that will be the extent of our reward. Rather, let us be joyful when we do these things. Let us show the world joy in our relationship with You and Christ. No one wants to be involved with any “god” who is constantly making his people miserable. So why would we act that way?

Teach us joyfulness in all things, Father. Help us to be grateful and thankful in all circumstances, that we might display the life of Christ and spread the good news of the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

Even so, come quickly, 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.

Revive Us Again

Today is Tuesday, the 27th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,665

Five days until 2023!

Today is my first day back to work at the library since last Wednesday. Then I don’t go back until Friday. I am scheduled off for New Year’s Eve. The library will be closed next Monday for New Year’s Day, but I never work on Mondays. I will be in at my normal time of 4:15 PM, today.

Today’s header photo is taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided, and view more of his photographs!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are good and do good; 
teach me your statutes.
(Psalms 119:68 ESV)

Jesus tells us that God, alone, is “good.” And if we believe correctly, we believe that everything that God does is also “good.” We sometimes call people “good,” but it is only good, relative. No one but God is truly good. Once, when answering the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” R.C. Sproul was quoted as saying, “There are no ‘good’ people.” Perhaps that is a bit extreme, but in comparison to God, none of us can be said to be “good.” When we call each other “good,” we are comparing ourselves to other humans.

Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we come into your presence and ask you to show yourself to us as the true, great, and almighty God, who can shed light into our misery and change it all, letting us find reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. Protect and help us with your mighty hand. Let every country and nation see your grace and see the victory over all sin and injustice. Let your justice come on earth, and let peace fill every heart and show in every life. May all that happens to us serve the good. Help us always look to you, our Lord and God, for you have power to rule everything and to turn everything to its right purpose. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. 
Luke 1:68–69, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that some of our friends are having a wonderful time celebrating Christmas in New York City
  2. that everything that happens to us, in some way serves the good (Romans 8:28)
  3. for the possibility of peace in every heart
  4. for the love of God, that makes us His children, rather than slaves who fear Him
  5. for the Incarnation, the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, 

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
 make his paths straight. 
Every valley shall be filled, 
and every mountain and hill shall be made low, 
and the crooked shall become straight, 
and the rough places shall become level ways, 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
(Luke 3:4-6 ESV)

God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.
(Ephesians 1:5 CEV)

God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father.
(Romans 8:15 CEV)

Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world did not know who Christ is, they don’t know who we are.
(1 John 3:1 CEV)


John Henry Newman writes this on the birth of Christ:

“The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds, became flesh, though remaining what He was before. He became flesh as truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been changed into flesh. He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother’s eye fixed upon Him, and to be cherished at a mother’s bosom. A daughter of man became the Mother of God–to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him what condescension! What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not only a helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were possible to a sinless soul. What were His thoughts, if we may venture to use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite, when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His? What a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man! Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)


Will you not revive us again, 
so that your people may rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NRSV)

What is “revival?” When I read that verse from Psalm 85, I immediately thought of an old hymn, “Revive Us Again,” written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay.

We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
for Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

Refrain:
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again.

We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light
who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv'n
to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav'n. 

Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

In my early years as a “music minister” (that’s what it was called in Southern Baptist life, back in those days), I took part in half-week to week-long meetings that were mistakenly called “revivals.” They were not revivals, I eventually learned. They were evangelistic rallies. The problem is, there usually weren’t very many people at those meetings who needed evangelizing. It was the essence of “preaching to the choir.”

I eventually learned what true revival means. You see, you can’t “revive” someone who has never been “alive.” Paul, in Ephesians, says that, before we came to know Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). I believe that this hymn captures the true spirit of revival, in the last verse.

They whole hymn is a prayer. It is a prayer of praise, primarily, but with the added phrase, “revive us again.” And then, in the final verse, comes the real prayer for revival, as we ask the Lord to fill our hearts with His love, and rekindle our souls “with fire from above.”

This is a prayer by the Church, asking for God to revive His Church, rekindling our hearts with His holy fire. In the fame way, Psalm 85:6 asks for revival, “so that your people may rejoice in you.” Revival is no more for the lost than Revelation 3:20 is an evangelistic verse. But that’s a topic for a different day.

Psalm 85 is also a prayer, as are many of the Psalms. This is fitting, that both this psalm and the hymn are prayers, because true revival will not happen without prayer.

“An extraordinary spirit of prayer, urging believers to labor fervently in their supplications, is a sure sign of approaching showers and even floods of blessing. . . . If there is to be revival–a true, divine outpouring of God’s Spirit–it will correspond with wholehearted prayer and faith.” (Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)

As 2023 approaches, I will be spending some time reflecting on the past few years. That right there is a scary thought. For the most part, I would just as soon forget every year since 2019. And not just for the pandemic. But, as I reflect, I try to keep my spiritual eyes turned on myself, not toward others. It is far too easy to be critical of other people. I struggle with that, and always have.

My reflection needs to be on what I have accomplished or failed to accomplish. And as I look forward to another year of prayer, I will be praying for true revival in God’s people; praying that the Church can step away from nationalism and “patriotism,” and focus on God’s Spirit being active in our lives. But here’s the thing. It needs to begin in me. Hence that bit about focusing more on myself than on others (understand that I’m speaking about reflection and self-assessment, not about loving others, here). And that reminds me of yet another old hymn that says, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.”


Father, I am grateful, beyond measure, for Your great love for us, the love that has given us the right and ability to be Your children, to call ourselves by Your name, and to walk in Your kingdom. However, we get too easily distracted by the things of this earth. I love the old hymn, Father, that tells me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, so that the things of the earth will “grow strangely dim.” Lord, Your Church needs this now, more than ever.

I pray that as a new year approaches, You will send revival to Your people. I pray for a Spirit of encouragement upon us, that we might be encouraged to dwell with You as You dwell with and within us. I pray that we will truly turn our eyes upon Jesus. And let this begin in me, Lord. I have been praying for and hoping for a “love revolution” within Your people, Father. That, too, must begin here, in my heart. I cannot force someone else to love, but I can hope to inspire.

Help us to embrace the Spirit of Christ in our lives, and consider, daily, what He sacrificed in order to come to us. It was more than the death on the cross. We see that as the primary sacrifice, most of the time, but John Henry Newman gave us so much more to think about, as we consider what He left behind to place Himself in the hands of mortal human beings.

Thank You, Father, for this indescribable gift.

Even so, come quickly, 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.

Power In the Blood

Today is Friday, the 25th of November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you, today!

Day 23,633

30 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Give me understanding, 
that I may keep your law 
and observe it with my whole heart.
(Psalms 119:34 ESV)

Lord our God, we turn to you, for you are our help. Hear our prayer, we beseech you; let our cry rise to you so that you may send your mighty help in our generation. Continue to protect us from all evil, from death and destruction. Protect us because we are your children. As your children we turn to you, the almighty God, who can make everything work together for good. Be merciful to us, O Lord God. Help us for your name’s sake. Help, Lord, for you alone can bring everything to a good end. So we stand before you in Jesus Christ, holding to every word you have given us and knowing for certain that you hear us. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; 
let the distant shores rejoice... 
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, 
and all peoples see his glory. 
Psalm 97:1, 6, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating Thanksgiving with family
  2. for the joy we experience as we observe the heavens declaring the righteousness of God
  3. for the blood of Christ, sacrificed for the cleansing of our sins and the creating of new life within us
  4. for the participation in that blood when we receive Communion at His table
  5. for the patience of the Lord

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
(2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV)

A Psalm of David. 

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

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; 
keep watch over the door of my lips! 
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, 
to busy myself with wicked deeds 
in company with men who work iniquity, 
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; 
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; 
let my head not refuse it. 
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds. 
When their judges are thrown over the cliff, 
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. 
As when one plows and breaks up the earth, 
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol. 

But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; 
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! 
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me 
and from the snares of evildoers! 
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, 
while I pass by safely.
(Psalms 141:1-10 ESV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(James 1:17 NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1 NIV)


“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
(Matthew 26:27-28 NIV)

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
(Leviticus 17:11 NIV)


Every Sunday morning, the pastor that leads the Communion at Living Word Lutheran Church opens their arms and says, “You are all invited to this Table of Grace.” Then, for the next few minutes, the congregation, in orderly fashion, proceeds to the kneeling benches around the altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus.

For at least five years (maybe longer), Communion (or, as we came to call it, the Supper) has been the central piece of the worship time for me. Everything leads up to the climax of that moment, in my opinion. And in the Lutheran service, it all begins with the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. First we confess, then we worship in various ways, and we end it by receiving the body and blood of Jesus.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us!” Observe the great blessing that He has given us, the truth that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Also observe His great patience in holding off the end of times, because He is not willing that any should perish.

“When I partake of that blood, I have a part in the atonement that it established, the forgiveness it secured. I have a part in the life of Jesus, surrendered on the cross, raised from the grave, and now glorified in heaven. The spirit of Jesus’ life is the spirit of my life. How powerful, how heavenly must that life be that is nourished by the new wine of the kingdom and communion with the Son. May I ever be thankful that Jesus shed His blood for me.” (Andrew Murray, in The Lord’s Table, quoted in Power in Prayer)

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)


Father, once again I am thankful for the cross, for the shed blood of Jesus Christ, that brings me into participation into the divine presence. I thank You for the mystery that is the body and blood of Jesus, present in the bread and wine of Communion. I pray that, as we receive this each week, we would realize more strongly the connectivity between us all, provided by and enabled by Your Holy Spirit.

As we take Communion each week, we are participating in something that is so much bigger than the congregation with whom we are worshiping. We are participating in something that spans the globe, and that also spans all time. When I consume the body and blood of Christ, I am consuming the same body and blood that John and Peter and James consumed. I am partaking in the same presence in which Polycarp and Ignatius and Clement and Augustine partook.

And I am connected, as well, with every believer who will walk the face of the earth in years to come. This mystery is similar to the mystery that is spoken of in Psalm 139; it is too wonderful for me, too high; I cannot attain it.

But I will, nevertheless, embrace it. So, this coming Sunday, Father, when I receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus, may I not take it lightheartedly or be aloof about it. May it carry with it the weight of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and may it empower me to live another week under the grace, and in His strength.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

For All People

Today is Tuesday, the 22nd of November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul, today!

Day 23,630

Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; 
let me not be put to shame!
(Psalms 119:31 ESV)

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer and reveal your hand in our days. May those things be done that bring your future nearer and that let the world see you as the Savior who can lead us to our Father. Bless your Word within us. May our hearts be strengthened, and may we always live in your presence. We draw our life from your Word, from your promise, and we set our hope on you, our Lord and Savior. Show your might, Lord Jesus, and carry out the will of God over all the world, so that we may rejoice when we see God’s glory appear and his will being done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Be patient, then, my brothers, until the Lord comes. See how patient a farmer is as he waits for his land to produce precious crops. He waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. 
James 5:7, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for this time of year, when many people’s thoughts turn toward thanksgiving; may they continue giving thanks, going forward
  2. for the strengthening of my heart through God’s Word and presence in my life
  3. that we draw life from His Word, and His promises
  4. for the challenge in 1 Timothy to pray for all people
  5. for the confidence that the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me, whatever that may be

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
(1 Peter 5:5-9 ESV)
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
 before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple 
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, 
for you have exalted above all things
 your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; 
my strength of soul you increased. 
(Psalms 138:1-3 ESV)
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; 
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. 
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
(Psalms 138:8 ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV emphasis added)

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
(Ephesians 6:18 ESV)

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:13-16 ESV)


“Most of the inconveniences that make men swear or women cry are really sentimental or imaginative inconveniences–things altogether of the mind.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
(1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
(Ephesians 1:17-18 ESV)


Paul and James give various and multiple admonitions to pray. And both of them are challenging to us.

First is Paul’s instruction (urging) to pray (supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings) “for all people.” Not just the people you like; not just your family; not just your brothers and sisters in Christ.

All people.

As I’ve seen it said many times, “All means all.”

Paul goes on, though, and includes (even though he has already said “all”) “kings and all who are in high positions.” Why? “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.”

Has anyone noticed that things in this country (I live in the United States) have been anything but “peaceful and quiet” for a number of years? Could it be that we, the “faithful” (I use that term loosely) have not been obeying this “urging” from Paul? I dare say that at least half of the “Christian” community has NOT been praying for our President, over the past couple of years. And, just to be clear, praying for him to die or be removed from office doesn’t count.

I’ll confess. I have not been diligent to pray consistently for our public servants, our elected officials. I’ll admit that. I have, from time to time, when reminded, lifted up our President and everyone surrounding him. But I don’t do it enough, and Paul’s admonition, here, convicts me. I need to spend more time praying for him, for the governor of the state in which I live, for those who serve in our city.

But along with that, looms that three word phrase, “for all people.” That’s a lot. I recently heard that the world finally passed eight billion in population.

No wonder Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.”

But, in all seriousness, we have to, at some point, acknowledge that it is virtually impossible to pray “for all people.” And, frankly, I don’t think saying, “Dear God, I pray for all people” quite cuts it. I mean, it can’t hurt, but still . . .

So how do we do this?

I was moved by Daily Guideposts 2022 writer Rick Hamlin, today. My initial reaction was that what he was about to say was silly. But the more I read it, the more it made sense. Before he goes to sleep each night, he starts at the beginning of the alphabet and works his way, all the way through Z, naming someone for each letter. Sometimes, it’s the same person for some letters, each night. Sometimes, they change. Yes, he struggles with X, sometimes, but manages to come up with something. And, when he gets to Y, he is reminded to pray for himself. Because, as much as I hesitate to do so, at times, it is acceptable to pray for yourself.

I may or may not begin to employ that practice, but it makes me think . . . what better way to fall asleep, than at least trying to follow Paul’s urging to pray “for all people.”

We are also admonished to be sure and pray “for all the saints.” Again, an impossible task, but I can pray for all the ones I know, can’t I? And, finally, James has some things to say about the effects of prayer. Prayer will save the one who is sick; prayer will bring about forgiveness. He tells us to confess our sins and pray, that we may be healed. And then comes that wonderful, popular phrase, in verse 16.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16 ESV)

Or, as many of us once learned it in KJV,

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 

So let us pray. Pray, as much as we can, “for all people.” Pray for kings, princes, presidents, governors, mayors, chiefs of police . . . pray for pastors, for Sunday School teachers, missionaries, and music leaders. Pray for one another, and don’t forget to pray for yourself.

And, to quote Andrew Murray (who didn’t see this coming?), “Let us ask Him to show us what holiness is: first His, and then ours; to show us how He has set His heart upon it as the one thing He wants to see in us: His own image and likeness.” (From The Path to Holiness, quoted in Power in Prayer)


Father, I confess that I have not been faithful enough in prayer. Sure, I pray for people, and especially when they give me a prayer request in my daily post asking for those. But I confess that I do not do enough spontaneous prayer, and certainly not enough praying “for all people.” Remind me, Father, throughout this day, and especially before I fall asleep, tonight, to pray for as many people as I can. Let the prayers be genuine, though, not just a list of “bless so-and-so” for a half an hour. Maybe, if that is all I can think of, then it’s okay. Nothing wrong with praying for someone to be blessed. But what I am asking for is to be able to remember specifics. And, perhaps, bring a person to mind, someone of whom I have not thought in a while.

I pray for the community of saints, today, that we would collectively remember these injunctions to pray for all people, and especially those who are in high positions in whatever land we find ourselves in, so that, as Paul said, we might live peaceful and quiet lives.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


"We got to pray
just to make it today."
M.C. Hammer

Grace and peace, friends.

Interior Silence, the Place of Strength and Power

Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,470

June is half over today. 2022 is almost half over. And even though we’ve already hit triple digits at least a couple times in the past week, Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, five days from now. That day is also known as Summer Solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight.

If I write anything that doesn’t make sense, today, it’s because I woke up too early. C gets up at 5:15 to get ready for work, and my brain had a lot of things to think about, so I wound up getting up around 6:00. What’s on my brain? Let’s see . . .

We switched mobile carriers, yesterday. We finally dumped ATT, because I’m tired of over-paying and under-getting. We have switched to Mint Mobile, for at least three months. If we like it, we will likely renew for twelve. Unlimited data for half the cost of ATT. The problem is, I still have an iPad I need to get set up, and I’m going to need some technical support today, because I made one wrong decision when I was trying to set it up yesterday afternoon.

I’m trying to reschedule my colonoscopy that is currently scheduled for Monday. I didn’t realize, when I scheduled it, that it was the day after Father’s Day! I was thinking about going ahead with it, but then I looked at the prep instructions. I can’t eat any solid food for a whole day before the procedure! I have called the scheduling number four times, and one of the facilities once, and can’t get any response. So I have to deal with that again today.

There’s more, but those are the two “big” things (first world problems, of course, or, as I have also called them, “footstool problems”). It will all work out fine.

This is my Wednesday off, at least. And I’m cooking a surprise for the family, tonight. Another dish that I got from Emily Bites, a wonderful recipe site that has tasty and relatively healthy recipes. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow morning, along with how it came out.

The Rangers blew a three-run lead, last night, to lose to the Astros, 4-3. It was almost the exact reverse of Monday night’s game, when the ‘stros blew a 3-0 lead. And the thing that ultimately led to the loss was a misplayed grounder that could have been an out (allowing a run to score), but wound up being no outs and a run scored. The next batter hit a two-run home run, and that wound up deciding the game. Oh, well. Tonight’s another night, and the Rangers could still win the series. We’re still in second place, though, because the Angels lost again. The Rangers are back to 8.5 out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

I learned yesterday that there will be three wild cards in each league, this year. This is getting ridiculous. Soon, MLB will be like the NBA, where more than half the teams make the playoffs. Might as well just start the season with the playoffs. Also, currently, all three wild card spots are held by AL East division teams. If the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs!

Anyway, the Rangers play the Astros again this afternoon at 1:05 CDT. We don’t know who is pitching for the Rangers, yet.

The Red Sox beat the Athletics (good for the Rangers), last night, 6-1. The Sox are now 33-29 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 2.5 out of third, 12.5 out of first, but are currently in the third Wild Card spot. They play the Athletics again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

We all know who still has the best MLB record, now at 45-16. The KC Royals have the worst record, at 20-41. The Braves won again, increasing their win streak to 13! The Cubs must not have played last night, and the Pirates did, and lost, so the Pirates now have the longest losing streak, at nine games. You-know-who has a run differential of +129. The Pirates are now at -103. The Rangers are at +5 after last night’s loss, and the Red Sox are at +45. Oddly, the Sox are in sixth place in the run differential category.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open will carry on, today, with practice sessions for all four oil patterns.

Update on tasks. My colonoscopy is rescheduled for Monday, July 11, and my iPad appears to be set up, now. Things are looking up!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, help us who are allowed to hear your Word. Help us come with all our hearts to the Savior, who leads us into your arms. Hear our pleading and let your countenance shine over the world. Send a new age soon, a new salvation to the earth, to the glory of your name. Show us that what we have learned about you is the truth and that we may live in the truth and find the way through to heaven, to the glory of your name. Hear us, O Lord our God. Often it seems that you are far away. But we know that our voices still reach you and that those roused by your Holy Spirit will become your workers for the Lord Jesus. Send your Spirit soon, O Lord God. Send the Comforter, who leads us into all light and all truth. We entrust ourselves and our daily lives to you. We want to be faithful. Help us to be your children, to remember at every step that we belong to you, Lord God. No matter how dark it is on earth, help us remember that we are with you, your children in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:14-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for one gracious blessing after another, received out of the abundance of the Father's unfailing love and faithfulness
2. that we are the tabernacle of God, as His Spirit dwells within us, but also that anywhere I can worship God can be my tabernacle
3. that God chooses to be with us always, an indication of how much He loves us; how then can we not also choose to love one another?
4. that we can know the strength and power of the Holy Spirit by entering into the silence of that inner tabernacle
5. for coffee

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
(Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is “tabernacle.”

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34 NLT)

The tabernacle of the Old Testament was the place where the people of God met with Him. His presence dwelled within the tabernacle.

But now, ever since Christ came, God’s tabernacle is within us.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

There are many verses of Scripture that tell us that we are the dwelling place of God, now.

All that being said, though, anywhere You meet God can be your “tabernacle.” This study is my “tabernacle” every morning. I have experienced “tabernacle” on the deck of a cabin in Glen Rose, as I looked out over the landscape, toward the river. I have worshiped God sitting in a canvas chair on a beach in Galveston, watching the waves of the mighty ocean go to and fro.

Anywhere you can worship God can be your tabernacle.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When Jesus makes this promise to His disciples, it is a choice that He makes. Our God chooses to always dwell with us and care for us. This is a minute indication of how much He loves us. This is something worth dwelling on, worth meditating on. And when we do dwell on this, and think rightly about God, there is no other option but worship.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Did you know that we do not have to create silence? On the contrary, it is the noise that we create, that which disrupts the silence that exists. I wonder at the silence before everything was created, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.” That must have been the most profound silence that ever existed.

It is difficult, in our day, to encounter complete silence. Even as I sit in this room, when I am not typing, there is some kind of noise. I can hear the computer fan. I can hear the box fan in the bedroom. Occasionally, there is a noise in the room next to mine.

But it is as close to silence as I can get in the house. I have experienced a deeper silence in the Redwood forest of northern California.

As C and I walked around in the midst of those majestic trees, the ground was covered with their needles. The ground cover acted as a silencer. Our walking made no noise, and, when we didn’t speak to each other, there was the closest thing to total silence that I have ever experienced.

John Main speaks of the interior silence that is the “language of the Spirit.”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT)

“The words we use in trying to communicate the Christian message in the Christian experience have to be charged with strength and power, but they can only be charged with strength and power if they spring from the silence of the Spirit in our inner being. . . . Leaving behind all other words, ideas, imaginations and fantasies is learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in your inner heart [your “tabernacle”], who dwells there in love. The Spirit of God dwells in our hearts in silence, and it is in humility and faith that we must enter into that silent presence. St. Paul ends that passage in Ephesians with the words, ‘So may you attain to the fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.’ That is our destiny.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Living the Godly life turns out to be the opposite of the world’s business mindset. “The bottom line in business shows how much you accumulate, but the bottom line in life shows how much you give away.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, may we always be humble and never think of ourselves as more righteous than we ought. In comparison with You and Jesus, we are all the worst of sinners.

I thank You, Father, for the example of the Old Testament Tabernacle, where we get a glimpse of the power of Your holiness. But I am more thankful that we do not need that Tabernacle in our day, because we are Your “tabernacle,” as Your Spirit dwells within us. I am also thankful that anywhere I can worship You can be my temporary tabernacle.

Father, the way that You love us and choose to be with us at all times is inconceivable. It is, as the psalmist said, too much, too lofty. I cannot attain it. I cannot fathom it. But it is true. Help me to embrace this daily, Father, and help me to transform that into love for my fellow human beings. Yes, even the ones with which I do not agree, and even the ones who would abuse me or harm me or take advantage of me. Even the people who come, unbidden, to my front door, trying to sell me solar panels!

Father, I pray that I can know the silence of the Spirit in my inner being, so that the words that I must use, whether they be verbal or written, are charged with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit.

Finally, Father, I pray that I would continue to be generous with all that You have give me, that my life would be marked by how much I give away.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

True Worship

Today is Tuesday, the seventh of June, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,462

I haven’t written personal stuff, recently. Nothing is wrong, or anything. A couple days, I felt that the spiritual portion of the blog was, perhaps, a bit too long, and didn’t want to add to it with trivial stuff. I have actually considered moving this portion of the daily blog over to my other blog. The jury is still out on that.

Speaking of jury, I got a jury duty summons in the mail, yesterday. Fortunately, it is not for the Monday of my colonoscopy exam, which is two weeks from yesterday, June 20 (unfortunately, that is the day after Father’s Day, so I will have to spend Father’s Day evening drinking the prep). The summons is for the following Monday, June 27. Also fortunately, that happens to be my “easy” week at the library (that means that I’m not working that Wednesday or Saturday), so if I wind up having to serve on a jury, and it lasts more than one day, I won’t miss very much work.

The Texas Rangers have won some and lost a few, during the past few days, and remain three under .500, at 25-28. They are also still in third place in the AL West, even though the Angels have lost twelve in a row! Hah! Take that, Joe Maddon! They are actually only a half game behind the Angels, at this point. The Rangers got rained out in Cleveland, yesterday, so a double-header is scheduled with the Guardians, today, beginning at 2:10 CDT, this afternoon.

The Red Sox have managed to get above .500, and are now 28-27, but are still in fourth place in the AL East. They are 3.5 behind Tampa. They are currently in a series with the Angels, so it helps both them and the Rangers if they win.

The Evil Empire continues to be the best team in MLB, with a 39-15 record. Their cross-town rivals are only 2.5 behind them. The KC Royals (17-36) are holding on to the worst MLB record. I’m sure the Reds are enjoying that. The Yankees also have the current best win streak, at six games (The Red Sox are at five). As referenced previously, the LA Angels’ twelve game losing streak is the longest current losing streak. We hope it continues to grow. Another AL West team, the Athletics, has the second longest losing streak, at six games. Now if Houston would follow suit . . . The Dodgers still have the best run differential, at +113. The Yankees are trying to catch them, though, at +102. The Royals, on the other end, have been outscored by 89 runs. The Rangers are at +9, and the Red Sox are at, wait, what?? +39! Wow.

In PWBA news, Breanna Clemmer not only made history in last week’s Twin Cities Open, she also earned her first PWBA title, as she defeated Bryanna Cote (the battle of the BC’s?) in the title match of the tournament. History was made, as she had the highest three game series ever by bowling consecutive 300 games, followed by a 289, and threw, I believe 29 strikes in a row!

The ladies are currently in qualifying round 1 of the Long Island Open, one of three rapid-fire tourneys that are happening this week, at Maple Lanes Rockville Centre, NY. After two games, Liz Johnson, veteran bowler, is in the lead, followed by Jen Higgins (good to see her back up there). Breanna Clemmer is in eighth, and Verity Crawley is tied for tenth. There are a total of 81 bowlers in this round. Round 2 will begin at 2:30 EDT, after which they will cut to the top 12 for tomorrow’s two match play rounds. The stepladder finals will be tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EDT, on bowltv.com. I won’t get to see all of that, as I don’t get off work until 6:15 tomorrow, CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our refuge forever, bless us who have gathered in your presence and who turn to you in all distress, not only in our personal need but also in the distress of the nations and peoples of the whole world. Grant that we may be your children, with a simple faith that gives us strength to go on working even when life is bitterly hard. We thank you for giving us so much grace, for helping us and never forsaking us, so that again and again we can find joy and can glorify and praise you, our Father. May your name be praised from heaven above and among us here below. May your name be praised by all people throughout the world, and may everyone on earth acknowledge you and receive all that they need from you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were born, 
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, 
from beginning to end, 
you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm still alive and breathing; a new day with new opportunities
2. for the confidence that I have that God is working His plan and that all will be well, in the end
3. for the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26)
4. that the primary way we show our love for God is by loving others
5. that true worship makes both God and our neighbors more real to us

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
(Romans 12:3 NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us.
 May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere. 
May the nations praise you, O God. 
Yes, may all the nations praise you. 
Let the whole world sing for joy, 
because you govern the nations with justice 
and guide the people of the whole world. 
May the nations praise you, O God.
 Yes, may all the nations praise you.
 Then the earth will yield its harvests, 
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “groanings.”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
(Romans 8:26 NLT)

There have been plenty of times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to pray. It still happens, sometimes, in regard to my own life, and sometimes, in regard to prayer requests that I receive. I have to stop and remember that, in those times, the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

I also have this feeling that there are times when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I did think I knew what to pray.

Me: Utters prayer about any certain topic
Holy Spirit: Um . . . Father, that's not really what he means . . . this is what he really wants to pray

It is also worth noting the word “weakness” in that verse. The Holy Spirit is helping us in our weakness. I can’t help but wonder, if we feel that we have no weakness, will the Holy Spirit then condescend to intercede for us?

Father: Did he really mean to pray that??
Spirit: Beats me . . . he doesn't need my help, he's got it all figured out

I confess that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I type those dialogues. And of course, I mean no disrespect. It is merely a means of trying to illustrate what I believe this verse is telling us.

There is great comfort in embracing this truth, in knowing and believing that, when I don’t quite know how to pray, He is there for me, helping me. And when I pray something that isn’t quite right, He is also there for me.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
(Hebrews 6:10-12 NLT)

This passage is interesting to me. The emphasis is (surprise!!) on loving others! The writer of Hebrews stresses that this is how we show our love for God, by “caring for other believers,” and then says that their desire is that the recipients of this letter will “keep on loving others as long as life lasts.” By doing this, they will keep themselves from becoming “spiritually dull and indifferent.”

How do we show our love for God? By loving and caring for others. Not by fighting for “causes.” Not by fighting for anything.

*mic drop*

This was one of my favorite songs as a “youth.”
"The person who wants to arrive at interiority and spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus.
"Nobody's comfortable in public unless he's spent a good deal of time in the quiet of his home. Nobody speaks with assurance who hasn't learned to hold his tongue. Nobody's a success as a general who hasn't already survived as a soldier. Nobody respects decrees who hasn't already obeyed them."
(Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
"When we worship God, we discover how his blessings shape our lives. We also discover how to bless and be blessed by our neighbors' lives.
"In worship, God becomes more real to us. But the mystery is this: so do our neighbors."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Here’s the thing: if we aren’t loving our neighbors, we haven’t really worshiped God.

Father, Your Word tells us quite plainly that “pure and genuine religion” is caring for others (specifically, in that case, orphans and widows). Jesus told us, also quite plainly, that in caring for others, we care for Him, and in refusing to care for others, we refuse to care for Him.

Why is this so hard for us to embrace?? I struggle with it, sometimes, myself, but when I look around and see the hatred coming from peoples’ hearts and mouths, it breaks my heart. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Dear Father, this ought not be so! Have mercy on us, Lord. Please reach our hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of peace and love, not fighting and hatred.

I thank You that You have given us this “law,” Father, that the way we are to show our love for You is by loving others. I thank You for molding my heart to believe this, so many years ago. I confess that I still struggle with it, but that struggle remains largely interior, these days, so at least there’s that. I rarely type or say some of the thoughts that come through my mind, and try to dismiss them as soon as they pop into my brain, as I do not wish to entertain any thoughts of “unlove” toward anyone.

Help us to truly worship You, that You might become more real to us, and that our neighbors would also become more real to us, and that we might bless them and be blessed by them, as well. As we seek to worship, I also pray that we might find time and way to spend more time alone with Christ in our lives. We, as a society, are too busy for our own good. Help us to slow down, to stop and meditate, to consider You and Your Word, and its effect on our lives.

Help me, Father, to never pretend, but to truly and really love others. I pray that I would take delight in honoring my brothers and sisters. Help me to keep praying, to pray more often and more fervently. I pray for more compassion and willingness to help others. I also pray that I would never be conceited, thinking that I “know it all.” Above all, help me to live at peace with everyone.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Poetry of God’s Love

Today is Friday, the thirteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,437

I had a fine day in the Computer Center, yesterday. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I was able to help most of the patrons who needed it without any assistance from the manager. There were a couple of instances that required his assistance, and one of those turned out to be something that was wrong with the program on one of the computers that is supposed to wipe all the memory when it reboots at the end of a session.

The Texas Rangers won their game, last night, beating the KC Royals, 3-1. They also won the series, and I swear I heard one of the announcers say that the Rangers have not won a “rubber” game at home since 2001?? Anyway, the Rangers are now 13-17, still in fourth place, still seven games out of first, and still a half game ahead of the Athletics. They begin a weekend series against my other favorite team, tonight, the Boston Red Sox, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox did not play yesterday. They remain 11-20, and are in last place in the AL East, 12 games out!

The NY Yankees (23-8) continue to hold the best record in MLB, two games ahead of the cross-town Mets. The Yankees are the only MLB team that has not lost at least ten games. The Cincinnati Reds (8-24), while still holding the worst record, have been improving. They are only one game behind the struggling Detroit Tigers (9-23). And those two are the only remaining teams who have yet to win ten games.

The Houston Astros have the longest current win streak (10), while the Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays both have four game losing streaks. The LA Dodgers continue to hold the largest positive run differential, at 76, while the Cincinnati Reds hold the largest negative differential, at 68. That’s all the stats I care to give you, today.

I have an appointment at the Atlas Vein Clinic at 10:30, this morning, where they will look at the results of my wearing compression socks for the past twelve weeks, and we will discuss the next steps. I doubt, at this time, that I will proceed with any procedure, just yet, as I still need to schedule a colonoscopy (Wheee!!) in the near future.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, whose light shines out of the darkness and gleams brightly into our hearts, we thank you for all the goodness you allow us to see. We want to see your goodness clearly and have confidence in it, no matter how much around us is dark and disquieting. We want to remain firm and full of trust, looking to what you have put into our hearts so that we may come to know you. Be with us with your Spirit. Lead us to realize ever more clearly that we are made for your honor. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the light that shines out of the darkness into my heart that I might know the glory of God
2. for the Lord's unfailing love, poured out over me
3. that we are God's poetry, still in the process of being written
4. for the Lord's comfort in times of suffering and sorrow, and that we can turn around and provide that same comfort to others who suffer and mourn
5. that not a single thing has ever been accomplished by worrying about it
6. for the "congregation" with which we gather each Sunday morning, a group of people "who have decided, together, to pay attention" (Eugene Peterson)
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 
I thirst for God, the living God. 
When can I go and stand before him?
(Psalms 42:1-2 NLT)
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 42:5 NLT)
But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, 
and through each night I sing his songs, 
praying to God who gives me life.
(Psalms 42:8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is a Greek word, “poiema.” The word is traditionally translated “workmanship” in most translations of the Bible, in Ephesians 2:10.

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

The NLT renders it “masterpiece,” and the NIV says “handiwork.” The interesting thing is that this is also the word from which we derive our English word “poetry” or “poem.” From this, we can get the beautiful image that we are, in fact, poetry that God is writing. A recent translation, called The Passion Translation, renders this verse:

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
(Ephesians 2:10 TPT)

In recent years, I have become a bigger fan of poetry, and have even ventured into the writing of Haiku, from time to time. Most Haikus that have been seen in this blog, unless otherwise accredited, were original. To learn of this meaning of this word gives me great delight.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Your amazing love;
You are writing on my heart;
Lovely poetry

Father, I thank You for the beauty of this word, and its various meanings. There are times when poetry says things to me that normal prose cannot convey. I don’t quite understand why, other than to know that You have given my hear the ability to appreciate beauty in many things. This gives me great delight, and it helps me to delight in You! I pray that You continue to write Your great poetry of love in my heart and in the hearts of all of Your children. I also pray that, in the writing of this poetry of love, You erase all of the meanness and hatred that still resides in the human heart.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
(Isaiah 58:11 NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18 NLT)

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 NLT)

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT)

Father, maybe someone needs to see these verses today. I thank You for the comfort You give those who mourn, for we all have mourned at one point in our lives, and we will all mourn again, surely. Until the day when we all get to heaven, and there is only rejoicing, there will be mourning and sorrow on this earth. It is inevitable. So we praise You for this comfort that You give. I also pray that You would help us who have been comforted by You give comfort forward to those who are suffering in sorrow. As Your Word tells us, You are our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. You comfort us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1).

Martin Luther, in The Place of Trust, reminds us that we daily see examples of God’s provision, right before our eyes. He urges that we allow these illustrations to persuade us to “lay aside your anxiety and your unbelief and to remember that you are Christians and not heathens.”

He paraphrases Jesus’s teachings from Matthew 6. “Since you are Christians, you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”

Then Luther says, himself, “If nothing grew in the field unless we were anxious about it, we would all have died in our cradles; and during the night while we are lying asleep, nothing could grow. Indeed, even by worrying ourselves to death we could not make a single blade of grass grow in the field.”

He goes on to say that we are, in effect, godless people, when we refuse to give up our anxiety in the face of such overwhelming care from our Father.

I love the example of what it would be like if nothing grew unless we were anxious about it. It is a humorous example, but also quite true.

Let us take to heart Jesus’s final statement in that passage.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I thank You for these teachings of both Jesus and the examples by Martin Luther. I am quite grateful for the teachings of the ancients that we still have available. I am grateful for the technology that has preserved the words of these people, that we might learn from them. Certainly, they all had their flaws, and we are not going to agree with every word that they said or wrote, but we can still extract diamonds from their library of work. Give us discernment as we look at the words that came out of those eras.

Help us to stop worrying. People are full of fear and worry, right now, over worldly circumstances that truly have no bearing on eternity. Inflation and gas prices have absolutely nothing relevant to us, when we consider Your kingdom. All of these things are mild inconveniences in the face of the treasure that we have awaiting us in eternity. So give us stronger faith, that we might stop the worrying and focus on what is waiting for us, and how we might lead other people into that glory.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
(Romans 8:18 NLT)

Eugene Peterson’s reading today, is a simple, single sentence. “A Christian congregation is a group of people who decide, together, to pay attention.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

I love this. “Pay attention to what??” you might ask. I can’t speak for Peterson, but my answer would be “anything and everything.” We pay attention to God and His Word. We pay attention to what is going on around us. However, we don’t worry or fret or complain bitterly about what is going on around us (we might, but we should not). Rather we pray about it, and we look forward, with great anticipation to that inheritance that awaits us.

Father, I am grateful for the congregation with which I gather each week. We are a group of people, I believe, who have decided to “pay attention.” Help us to follow Your commands to love You and to love others. Help us to be even better at paying attention to Your Word, as well as to events around us. Help us to not be ones who moan and complain about things, but, rather, look at the world through the glasses of faith; faith in You, faith in Christ, faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us, provide for us, to continue to save us, and, eventually, to lead us Home, where we will live forever in Your glory.

I pray desperately that You would inspire Your people to stop fretting and worrying about things because of this main reason; when the unbelievers see Your children doing nothing but moaning and complaining (and being angry, to boot), it certainly does nothing to draw them into Your kingdom. And I believe that is one of the things we are supposed to be about . . . even though it is Your job to draw them in, I believe that we might be making Your job a little bit more difficult than it should be.

“If the world hates you because of Jesus, that’s fine. If the world hates Jesus because of you, that’s a problem.” ~ seen in several TikTok videos in the past week.

Grace and peace, friends.

Love Beyond Reason

Today is Tuesday, the tenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,434

Yesterday seemed a little busy, but not terrible. I got C’s oil changed and filled up her car with gas, as planned. I also got several loads of laundry completed, and then cooked chili for us for dinner, last night.

Mama and I watched most of the Texas Rangers game in NYC, but they lost, 1-0. It was obviously a very close game. Both pitchers pitched well, the Yankees pitcher flirting with a no-hitter. In the end, the Rangers got 2 hits and the Yankees only got 3, but they were able to plate the run. John Gray, the starter, did pretty well, and was not pegged for the loss. The Rangers are now 11-16 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Athletics, who broke their losing streak yesterday. The Rangers begin a series with the KC Royals today at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Boston Red Sox did not play, yesterday. That’s good, because it meant they didn’t lose. Hopefully, the rest did them some good, and they can maybe refocus and win a few. They face the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta tonight at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees are back on top of MLB, with 20-8 record, being the third team to have 20 wins. The LA Dodgers (19-8) are only a half game behind them. The Cincinatti Reds have a win streak! They have won TWO IN A ROW! They still have the worst MLB record, at 6-23, but they are only 2.5 games behind the Tigers. There are now only three teams who have yet to win 10 games; the Reds, the Tigers, and the Royals. Let’s hope the Rangers can keep that true for the Royals. The Astros continue to hold the longest win streak at 7, and the Tigers now have the longest losing streak, at 6. The LA Dodgers have, by far, the biggest run differential, at +70, while the Reds have the biggest negative at -74.

It’s Tuesday, so I work tonight, from 4:15 to 8:15, at the library. It’s my “heavy” week, so I will also be working tomorrow and Thursday, have Friday off, and work Saturday. I think there might be plans for C and Mama to go to Mineral Wells on Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, bless us who have become united in our hope in you and in our expectation of your help on this earth, where people live in all kinds of foolish ways. Bless your Word within us. Grant us your Holy Spirit to restore life and gladness to our hearts, even in grief and suffering. Grant this not only in the distress of the whole world, but also in our own lives as long as we remain on this earth. Let signs be seen on every hand that you help us and give us a strength we can rely on. You help us in all circumstances every day, every year, ever anew. For this we thank you and praise your name. Amen.
(Today's daily prayer from Plough)
Trust in the LORD and do good. 
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 
Commit everything you do to the LORD. 
Trust him, and he will help you. 
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, 
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:3-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the safety that I feel in the presence of God
2. that, in Christ, there is no difference between any of us; we are all equal in Him
3. for the hope of the full realization of my salvation, my inheritance in heaven; may I wait patiently and confidently
4. that God cares for us more than He cares for the birds of the air; this should give us great confidence in Him
5. for the various platforms of social media that are available to spread the positive message of the Kingdom of God; I pray that people would stop using them to do harm and spread harmful words

Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
(Job 40:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “differences.” Author Tom Robbins is quoted as saying, “Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.”

In many ways, everyone is different. According to science, everyone has a unique DNA string, with very few exceptions. In many ways, we are alike, as well. Everyone has at least one doppelganger in this world.

While Mr. Robbins has a good point, all too often, we focus too much on the differences. Much ado is made about the differences between, say, male and female. And there are people out there that are proud of their difference. Some people want to be known as outside the norm.

But here’s the thing. According to the Bible, in the eyes of God, there is no difference. No, that doesn’t mean we are made out of cookie cutters. It doesn’t mean that we are rolled out like doughnut dough and run through that machine that cuts out fifty doughnuts that all look exactly the same.

What I mean by this, and what I believe Paul meant, is that, in Christ, we are all equal. It has been said, and I have quoted this here, before, that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Here’s what Paul says:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28 NLT)

Here is another passage that brings the same kind of message:

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

Where the NLT says “no matter who we are,” the NIV says, “there is no difference.”

So, yes, let us celebrate differences, as long as we are looking at them in a positive light. As soon as you use “differences” as a way to place yourself ahead of someone else or make yourself feel more important than someone else, you have crossed a line into sin. Because, here’s another word from Paul:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for the differences in all of us that keep things interesting. But I pray that we not use differences as a way to discriminate against others. It makes me sad that I see a lot of that going on, these days, and, at times, even using Your name as an excuse. That ought not be, Father. I pray that Your Spirit would intervene in these cases and change hearts and minds to view everyone as equal under Your gaze. This, I believe, falls under Your command to love one another. So, please help us to do that. May we embrace differences, but not use them.

King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.”
(Daniel 4:1-3 NLT)

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
(Romans 8:24-25 NLT)

This is the essence of hope. We are looking forward to something that we do not yet have, and we wait. Sometimes not so patiently, and most definitely, not always confidently.

If I’m being honest (isn’t that a strange phrase? I mean, shouldn’t we always be “being honest?), I do not always wait patiently. If my wife would read that statement, she might fall on the floor laughing. I do believe I’m getting better, though. Confidence is another thing entirely.

I’ve always had this problem. My faith is not an issue, when it comes to what I believe God can do. I’m just not always confident that He wants to or He will. So I wait, sometimes not patiently, and sometimes not very confidently.

But there are things that I am both patient and confident about. One of those is the “future grace” (a John Piper-ism) of my inheritance in “heaven.” This is something that I hope for, because I do not yet have it. In one sense, I do have it, because it is, I believe, set aside for me. But in a more tangible sense, I do not yet possess it, because I cannot see it or experience it.

So I hope. And, even though I have been “saved,” I do have salvation, I am also still waiting for salvation to be fully realized. I long for the reality of this, yes, with all my heart. But I wait. Patiently and confidently. And that changes the way I look at the world.

Father, I thank You for this hope that I have. For if I was not confident of my eternal inheritance, I would have no hope. And, frankly, I do not see how anyone can survive, in this world, without hope. My hope in Christ is what allows me to look around me and see all the trouble and still keep going. That hope is what keeps me from despair. And that hope is also what keeps me from chasing after “causes” that are not relevant to Your Kingdom. Help me to walk more confidently and patiently in that hope, Father.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
(Matthew 6:26-27 NLT)

Here is something that addresses that struggle that I have with confidence in my waiting. In The Place of Trust, Martin Luther also addresses this, and, quite handily, puts us to shame as he speaks of the birds being our “schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men.”

Finally, he says, “Now, since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and of casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more. Thus this is an excellent illustration that puts us all to shame. We, who are rational people and who have the Scriptures in addition, do not have enough wisdom to imitate the birds. When we listen to the little birds singing every day, we are listening to our own embarrassment before God and the people. But after his fall from the word and the commandment of God, man became crazy and foolish; and there is no creature alive which is not wiser than he. A little finch, which can neither speak nor read, is his theologian and master in the Scriptures, even though he has the whole Bible and his reason to help him.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

I find this both amusing and shaming. Amusing because of the way Luther presents it to us, but shaming, because it is true. Any amount of worry that I might experience falls to the ground when I consider the truth of Jesus’s words. And, when I acknowledge the truth of those words and embrace it, the weight that is taken from my shoulders is immense. We have no excuse, my brothers and sisters, to worry about anything. We have ever reason to live like the birds. Not that we don’t need to work for our living, because that is our lot in life. We need to do that for which we were created. The birds can do that for which they were created, and the Lord takes good care of them. We have our own purpose, and when we are walking in that purpose, we will have all that we need.

Of course, “need” is the operative word in that sentence.

Father, I thank You for the truth of these words, and I thank You that they arrived on the heels of a brief discourse about my struggles with confidence. There will always be doubt in my mind when it comes to certain prayers that I lift up. I don’t know if it is Your will or plan to heal someone from a disease. I don’t know what You have in store for someone who is suffering or struggling with something. But I do know that You are there with us, and that everything we do, we do in Your presence. I also know that You love us beyond measure and beyond human reason.

If we could fill the ocean with ink and make the sky a parchment, and attempt to write Your love on that parchment, it could not contain all the words, and it would drain the ocean dry. Help me and help all of us to embrace this love, this love beyond human reason, and to live our lives in confidence that You will care for us like You care for the sparrows.

These words from Eugene Peterson, to a large degree, sum up the way I feel about my presence here, and on other forms of social media.

“My first and continuing pastoral purpose in this pulpit is that you confess Christ personally. As a pastor, I have never wanted to be a moral policeman. Your morals are not that interesting to me. I am not interested in rewarding you when you are good or punishing you when you are bad, nor as a pastor have I wanted to gather large crowds here for religious entertainment. It makes little difference to me whether there are many or few in this place. Religious crowds are the easiest crowds to gather. But increasing the number of people under one roof has never been a conspicuously successful way of involving people in what is essential. The pastoral act that is central to me is to introduce God at his personal best (Jesus, the Christ) to human beings at their personal best.

“That is exactly what I hope happens here each week. I don’t want merely to tell you about this great story I have been reading in this book (the Bible); I want you to meet the Author. And he has told me that he wants to meet you–to involve you in a new story he is making. I can arrange the interview.

“Do you see why I have little interest in entertaining you with gossip about God? Do you see why I have little interest in lecturing you about what kind of life you ought to lead? There is something far more interesting and more to the point about introducing you personally to the personal God so that you no longer talk about God but to him. I long for you to confess Christ personally and get in on the new creative work that God is writing: the story of your salvation.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Obviously, I’m not a pastor with a pulpit. But I am a person with a forum, a form of media that I use to proclaim a message. I might be guilty, at times of “lecturing,” but that is only because I desire to see people doing what Jesus commanded us to do, which is to love God and love people.

One thing I do not do is beg for followers or try to manipulate people into following me. That is something that I find quite annoying on TikTok and other social media platforms (YouTube, as well, although, at this point I do not have a YouTube channel), the constant begging and trying to attract followers. I couldn’t care less what that number is. Oh, sure, I’ll admit that it felt good to see that I now have over 1000 followers on WordPress, but that is not my intent; that is not my purpose. That just means that there are that many more people who will be introduced, in some way to Jesus.

My favorite part of the piece by Peterson is the bit where he says he wants people to be talking to God, rather than talking about Him. And that is why I include my prayers in this blog. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to not only think about, meditate on, and contemplate God and the Scriptures, but I want to also encourage people to pray.

Father, I thank You for this platform that has been provided, and the freedom I have to express my beliefs on said platform. I thank You that this goes out all around the world, and that it is available for people to see almost anywhere. I do realize that there are exceptions to this, because of various circumstances. I pray for this blog to reach people for Your kingdom, for Your “cause.” I believe with all my heart that Your cause, the Gospel of Christ, is the only cause worth following and fighting for. I pray that someone will read these words, today, and get a glimpse of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that they might being to experience Your love beyond reason.

I don’t even have to know about it. I send out these words with the confidence that You will work through them. I have the same confidence in Your Word, because You have said that Your Word will not return to You without serving its purpose. I also pray that You would, as far as it serves Your purpose, “redeem” all forms of social media, that they would be used for good and not harm. All praise and glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

Praise Him Anyway

“We cannot take a word of Jesus here and think on it for a few minutes, then admire and act there. This is a world-determining and life-transforming person we are involved with. No detail of our lives is exempt from his energetic, eternal work.”

Today is Monday, the ninth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,433

We had a most wonderful day, yesterday. Our gathering at the house of Brandon and Kristin was a great time. A couple brought “cronuts,” which are “donuts” made out of croissants. They were quite delicious. We simply had a great time fellowshipping, then we read some Scripture and took the supper. We kind of didn’t leave time for prayer this time, but will work on that next week.

The baked potatoes and steaks were marvelous. Even though I cooked them, I will boast just a bit and say that we never had a better ribeye at Hoffbrau, and theirs are pretty darned good.

C and I had a great time at our massage, as well. Those people do a magnificent job. The environment is so very calm and peaceful, and the way they do a couples massage is so tranquil. It was just amazing. We plan on trying to get over there at least once a quarter. They have a monthly membership, but we kind of feel that that would be too often and it might lose its “specialness” if we do it that often.

The Texas Rangers managed to split the double header with New York, and, while I’m disappointed that the win streak ended, I’m proud of them for holding their own against the current best team in MLB. (Scratch that . . . after yesterday, the Dodgers are back on top, thanks to the Rangers!) The first game, they lost in the bottom of the ninth, 2-1. Dane Dunning pitched spectacularly, and had five innings of no-hit ball. Glenn Otto started game two, pitched very well, but gave up 2 runs. Garrett Richards got the win, as they tied and went ahead in the seventh inning, first on some smart base running by Jonah Heim, and then a two-run shot by Brad Miller.

So the Rangers hold fourth place, with a 11-15 record, two games ahead of Oakland, who has now lost nine consecutive games. The Rangers finish this series in NY with a makeup game today, at 12:05 CDT. I will likely watch at least part of that game.

The Red Sox . . . man. I don’t even want to talk about them.

As previously stated above, the LA Dodgers now hold the best record in MLB, at 19-7. The Mets, however, were the first team to win 20 games. The Reds won a game!! Actually, the seem top have won two, since the last time I looked, because they are 5-23, now. Still firmly entrenched in the cellar, but things may be looking up. The Athletics now have the longest current losing streak, at nine games. Unfortunately, the current best win streak belongs to the Astros. This, too, shall pass.

Today, I have a couple of things to get done. Most importantly is getting the oil changed in my wife’s car and filling it up with gold gas. This is a sort of carryover Mother’s Day “gift.” I told her to take my car to work today, and I would take care of those things for her.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, our God and Father, we thank you that in all the misery and night on earth you have let your hope dawn as a light shining for all your people - all who honor your name, all who dwell in Jesus Christ through forgiveness of sins and through resurrection to a new life. Praise to your name. Praise to Jesus Christ. Praise to the Holy Spirit, who can comfort, teach, and guide our hearts. O Father in heaven, we can never thank you enough that we are allowed to be a people full of grace, full of hope, and full of confidence that your kingdom is coming at last to bring salvation and peace for the whole world. Amen.
(Today's Daily Prayer at Plough)

“No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”
(Isaiah 60:19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for hope that dawns as a light shining for all of God's people
2. for God, my everlasting light and my glory
3. that, no matter what is going on around me, I can praise and thank God, anyway
4. for the compassion, mercy, and unfailing love of God; I pray that He helps me to display those characteristics in my own life
5. that things in God's kingdom are far better than we could ever imagine; therefore, I will not focus on what appears to be "bad" around me

God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.
(Acts 19:11-12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “anyway.” Interesting choice, but a good one, because it takes into account anything that may occur in our lives and says, “I will praise You, anyway.” The choice of Scripture is fitting.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 NLT)

I rather like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased this:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to GOD. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on GOD’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 MSG)

The writer of today’s reading, Bob, compares the word “anyway” with the word “whatever,” which he notes was used extensively by his teenaged offspring.

“‘Whatever’ signaled indifference; ‘anyway’ signified determination. ‘Whatever’ implied helplessness; ‘anyway’ indicated strength. ‘Whatever’ suggested stagnation; ‘anyway’ denoted motion.”

Bob calls Habakkuk’s passage, there, the “anyway prayer.” And even though the text doesn’t use the word “anyway,” it can be paraphrased from the word, “yet.” Even though these things may or may not happen, I will praise the Lord, anyway.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I can easily embrace the words of Habakkuk, this morning. Even though there may be things that challenge me, threaten to dishearten me, I look to You for comfort and strength, and I will praise You anyway, because I believe, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
(Psalms 103:8 NLT)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT)

So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
(Romans 9:16 NLT)

Father, since You have shown such compassion and mercy and unfailing love, who are we, who am I to not do the same? We have fallen far short, I fear, in those categories, in general. While I do see examples of Your love and mercy, if I look hard enough, what is more visible is many of us refusing to display the characteristics that Jesus displayed when He walked on the earth. His words, His commands, tell us to love one another, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love You. Help me to do these things, Father, in the same way that Jesus did. Mold my heart, Father, to love more.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
(Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Martin Luther discusses this passage in The Place of Trust. This life on earth does not last forever. Therefore, expending energy on gaining property and wealth is a waste of our time. Jesus tells us that we cannot serve both God and “mammon,” which means, in a sense, wealth as an evil influence, or “the devil of covetousness.”

There are certainly things with which we must be concerned in this life. We do need food; we do need clothing; we do need shelter. But we must not “worry” about these things, to the point that it is all our heart thinks about. There is a fine line between making sure we provide for ourselves and our families and obsessing over the procurement of more stuff and money.

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I pray that all of us would be able to follow Jesus’s words on dealing with possessions and money. While I don’t believe that You expect all of Your people to sell all their possessions and give everything to the poor (that was only commanded to one individual that I know of), I do believe that You would have us hold on loosely to our possessions, especially considering that everything we “own” has come from You. So help us to not worry about things and know that, just like the flowers and birds, You are going to take care of us.

What does the word “salvation” mean? We think we know, because the word is so common in our vocabulary. But, in a sense, it has almost become a cliché.

Eugene Peterson says, “it refers to action that exceeds our comprehension even as it invites our participation. We need to return to the word with fresh attention, with lively curiosity, over and over again, and discover anew the central action of the universe. Jesus is ready to save.”

Salvation is what Jesus is up to. It is His “hidden” agenda, although it really isn’t all that hidden. But the thing is, those of us who name His name and gather to worship Him must be willing and ready to “enter into his act of salvation.”

This does not mean we “work” for our salvation. Not at all. Participating in it and working for it are two completely different things. We have to understand that “salvation” is not a “one and done” thing. This is a fallacy that may or may not have been propagated by certain preachers.

“We cannot take a word of Jesus here and think on it for a few minutes, then admire and act there. This is a world-determining and life-transforming person we are involved with. No detail of our lives is exempt from his energetic, eternal work.” (Emphasis mine)

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

One big problem that I have observed is that there are way too many people who think that participating in, or entering into, this salvation means nothing more than evangelism. They think that by “preaching the Gospel,” that they have done their job. This is, apparently, based on the fact that the last thing that Jesus said to His was what we call “The Great Commission.” But it seems to me that Jesus spent a lot more time talking about this:

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
(Matthew 25:35-36 NLT)

For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
(Matthew 25:42-43 NLT)

I would recommend reading the entire passage, which, by the way, is not described as a “parable.”

The words and ways of Jesus are not meant to be observed and appreciated from afar. They require a response. It is not possible to simply think that Jesus was a “good teacher.” That, my friends, is absurd. He claimed to be God.

Supposedly C. S. Lewis said this thing, but I don’t care if it was him or someone else, because it is logical and true. Either Jesus was who He said He was, or He was a lunatic, or He was a liar. Those are the only three choices. A “good teacher” is not one of those options.

I believe that Jesus is who He said He was. Therefore, my life needs to reflect that, and it requires more than just preaching or teaching the Gospel. It requires that I sacrifice myself, my resources, my possessions, all that I have, in His name.

It’s a work in progress, this “salvation” thing. Back to that thing I said about “one and done,” it’s not something that just happens, and that’s it. We must immerse ourselves in this “world-determining and life-transforming person.” If we claim to follow Christ, and someone who is “down and out” asks us for something, and our response is “Get a job!!” there is something wrong; there is something very wrong.

Father, I please forgive us for when we get so self-absorbed that we can’t see the plight of those around us who are hurting. Forgive us when our eyes are all on ourselves and our “rights” and our bank accounts and how much we have to pay for gas, instead of maybe things we can do to help others. Help us to remember those words from Habakkuk, way back up at the beginning of this. When gas prices are high, when inflation is out of control, when things simply look bleak all around, I will praise You anyway. Because, truly, when we are in Your kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine. I will not focus on what is “bad,” especially since “good” and “bad” seem to be somewhat arbitrary in human eyes, anyway.

Thank You for the great salvation of Jesus Christ, and all that He has accomplished for us in Your name. I pray that You would help me to be involved in that salvation, and that I would keep my eyes open, to see where You are working in this world, and to join in, with all my heart and soul, as I walk in Your kingdom. All glory and praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

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.

Sticking Around to See What Happens

Today is Friday, the twenty-second of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,416

It was a mostly quiet day at the library, yesterday. There were spurts of busy-ness in the Computer Center, and most of that occurred after 5:00 PM. I won’t be back there until next Tuesday evening.

The Texas Rangers came back and won a game, last night! They beat the Mariners 8-6, after falling behind on Taylor Hearn’s terrible pitching in the first inning. So they avoided a sweep by the Mariners. They are currently 3-9, for the season, still in last place in the AL West. They begin another three-game series in Oakland, tonight, at 8:40 CDT. I find it interesting that they seem to have changed the west coast game times. I don’t know if twenty minutes makes that much difference to the rest of us, as I’m still not likely to stay up to watch the game. There might be some fans at the game tonight, but Oakland’s attendance has been pathetic. In fact, a couple nights ago, their AAA team had a bigger attendance than they did.

One thing I’m happy to see is that the Astros are in fourth place, with a 6-6 record. I’m not happy to see LA in first place, but “it is what it is,” right?

Boston lost another game to the Blue Jays, 3-2, which makes two consecutive losses and they lost the series. So they have dropped below .500 again, and are in fourth place in the AL East. These teams are not making it easy for me to stay interested in baseball, this season. Already.

How much longer do we keep saying, “It’s early, still”?

There’s nothing really on the agenda for today. Probably some laundry. Maybe a quick trip to the store for a couple of things. C is working from home, and I’m off today, so we are all home together. Dinner tonight will probably be our homemade pizza on cauliflower crust.

And, at the last minute, we have decided that we are going to go to Scarborough Rennaissance Festival tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Friday in Easter Week)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
(Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is always right beside me in this journey, to help me when I need to take up my cross and follow Him
2. that Jesus is the water of life, satisfying every thirst
3. for God's marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, and His forgiveness, and that He knows my heart better than I do
4. that God's Word is living and active
5. that God watches over His Word to make sure it accomplishes what He sent it out to do

Today’s prayer word is “cross.” Obviously, this one could have a veritable plethora of meanings. Pope Francis is quoted as saying “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”

The reading for today speaks of a medically chronic condition with which the writer suffers. I respectfully disagree that this is a “cross” that she must bear. Many people use the phrase, “I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” or something like that.

The reason that I disagree that a medical diagnosis is a “cross” we must bear is that it is not something about which we have a choice. Jesus bids us “take up our cross daily.” This is something we choose. There is a reason that, accompanying that command is also the command to deny ourselves.

Jesus took up His cross and He died. It was His choice. It was not something He was forced to do; He gave up His life willingly.

Most of us don’t do a very good job of taking up our “crosses,” myself included. I didn’t make it through a couple of weeks of Lent, with the “fasts” that I was intending. When we “give up” something for Lent, we are taking up a cross, and denying ourselves. When we choose to not participate in something that others are doing, we are taking up a cross and denying ourselves.

All that being said, I agree with the Pope Francis quote. Jesus would never ask us to take up our cross if He were not going to help us carry it. That’s why He also invites us into His “easy yoke.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that I would do better at taking up the cross that You would have me carry, each day. There are certainly things in my life that need to be avoided or eliminated. There are attitudes and personality characteristics that still need to change. In short, I need to do better at denying myself. Help me to do that, and to step into Your easy yoke as I do so. Thank You that You are willing to be right beside me in this journey.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:19-22 ESV)

The thing I want to point out in this passage is verse 20, that bit about our hearts condemning us. Who among us does not struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness? How often do we feel that we are just too bad, and that there is no way God can forgive us yet one more time for the same thing? I’m reminded of a song by Twila Paris, in which, I believe, the first line says, “I am here to confess the same old sin; how can He still be listening?”

I have most certainly been there. But here is the thing. “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” I am in no position to judge myself. J.B. Phillips, in his book, Ring of Truth, says, “It is almost as if John is saying, ‘If God loves us, who are we to be so high and mighty as to refuse to love ourselves?'”

And, in reality, that is exactly what we are doing when we refuse to believe or accept God’s forgiveness. We are placing ourselves higher than Him. And we call it “humility.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I praise You for Your great mercy and grace and forgiveness. Please forgive me when I act like I know better than You and doubt Your forgiveness. Help me to accept the truth that You know better than I, and that You know my heart way better than I. Thank You, Lord, for Your marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

We’re back to talking about words again. Eugene Peterson says, “Words are never truly empty.” That’s a pretty bold statement, because I’m pretty sure I’ve both heard and spoken some pretty empty words. But every word has meaning. And real, true words “get under our skin and shaper our lives.”

Especially the Word. Once again, I will share that verse from Hebrews.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.
(Hebrews 4:12 MSG)

“When the Word is preached or taught, said or sung, prayed or meditated, that is not the end of it. God continues to watch over this Word, tending it and caring for it until it brings forth love, obedience, hope, belief, or joy.”

Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
(Isaiah 55:10-11 MSG)

We should be watching along with God, but not like spectators watch. We should be watching as shepherds, parents, lovers, and friends, “watching for signs of grace, watching for movements of joy, watching for evidence that once again the Word has become flesh.”

All too often, the leaders of the church miss out on this. Or, perhaps, it’s not “church” leaders, but itinerate evangelists or traveling preachers, who show up, preach the Word, and then disappear. But we need to “stick around and see what happens, and pastors need to lead their congregations to stick around and see what happens, to see how God performs this Word.”

We are all “great wanderers.” We hear something and ten minutes later, we’re off doing the next thing; we’ve gone shopping or turned on the television, or gone to get a snack.

“Everything that goes on in people’s lives is, or can be, connected with the Word that is proclaimed. God is watching over the Word to perform it. And we watch with him because we don’t want to miss out on a thing that comes out of these words that God puts in our mouths.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, this is something that requires some pondering. But we definitely need Your help in this matter. We are too quick to forget the truth that You stick around and make sure that Your Word does what You say it will do. I am grateful for this, but acknowledge that I am not always so good at sticking around to see what happens. Help me to be better at this, and help me to be more faithful to watch with You, when it comes to seeing Your Word in action.

Help us to be better at believing what Your Word says, too. I’m not trying to get into any kind of prosperity gospel, here, but Your Word is truth, and it is powerful, and it dwells within us. So we need to do better at believing it, so we can see the power at work in and around us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.