Praise the Lord

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the twenty-seventh of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,270

We had a very nice day, yesterday, with C’s family. There was way too much food, of course, and plenty of leftovers. We’ll be eating ham for a while. I suspect the green bean and corn casseroles, as well as the desserts, will all be gone by the end of today, though.

I got some good news in email. All of my gifts for my Secret Santa person should be in hand by the end of Tuesday. Also, I believe my gift for the library’s Christmas lunch gift exchange should arrive Monday.

Today is a scheduled work day for me, and I have to be there in an hour and twenty minutes, so I’d best get busy with what is important.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Isn’t It?, by Daryl Madden

Isn’t it exhausting?
Life just seems too hard
Keeping up appearance
Living the façade

Isn’t is confusing?
No matter how I try
Being who I’m not
Living of a lie

Isn’t it so stressful?
Worries everywhere
Of all that could go wrong
Living here in fear

Isn’t it so freeing?
When our lifes outpoured
Being who God made me
Living for the Lord

Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at his blog site, linked above.

“Ask,
and it will be given to you;
seek,
and you will find;
knock,
and it will be opened to you.”
(Matthew 7:7 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for grapes
2. for good food and fellowship with family
3. for promises of answered prayer
4. that You are a God of restoration
5. for the many ways we have to praise You

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
(Joel 2:25-27 ESV)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)


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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

“Be still,
and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth.”
(Psalms 46:10 WEB)

As I meditate in this quiet moment, I consider that Jesus came to liberate the captives, give sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed, and proclaim the Lord’s favor. As I continue reading His Word, these thoughts will be in focus.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
(Haggai 1:5-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence, I read these passages again, noticing how He might be speaking to me through His Word. I allow my heart to respond to Him in prayer and meditation, and take refreshment in His presence.

The obvious word in Psalm 150 is “praise.” It occurs (if I am counting correctly) thirteen times in the psalm. All of the main questions are answered.

Who is praised? The Lord. Yahweh. Creator of the universe.
Where? In His sacred place; in His mighty heavens.
Why, or for what? His mighty acts of power, His surpassing greatness.
How? With sounds of trumpet, harp, lyre, timbrel, strings, pipes, and cymbals. With activities or movement of dancing. 
Who is praising? Everything that has breath!

I think it is fitting that the Psalms end with the simple injunction to “praise the LORD.”

The thing that stands out to me in the Haggai passage is a phrase that is repeated in verses 5 and 7. “Give careful thought to your ways.” I can’t speak for anyone else (we all try, at times, though, don’t we?), but I am guilty of not doing that enough. “Give careful thought to your ways,” says the Lord, through the prophet Haggai.

To the people of Israel, He takes note that they plant, but harvest little. They eat, but are not filled. They put on clothes, but aren’t warm. They earn wages, but their purses or pockets seem to have holes in them. In other words, they never have enough.

Now, I don’t know if this is saying that they literally don’t have enough, or if they are a lot like our modern Western culture, where we can’t seem to be satisfied with what we have. I suspect that it may be a subtle combination of the two, but I can’t verify that.

At any rate, they are given the answer in the rest of the passage. The second time they are told to consider their ways, the house of the Lord is brought up. It seems that everyone is occupied with their own “houses,” while the Lord’s “house” remains in ruins.

This is very thought-provoking for me. Because, while I know and acknowledge, readily, that this passage is explicitly directed to Israel, I can see correlation in today’s Church. We get caught up in our own “houses,” or own lives, even our own families, which are, of course, important. But not more important than our relationship, or “house,” with the Lord.

We don’t have a physical “temple,” to which we are to travel, today. The individual person is the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” as His Spirit resides and dwells in each of us. We are the “Church.” It is not a physical “house.” I don’t think that means we are supposed to spend extraordinary energy and time keeping our bodies fit, either.

This is about “soul keeping.” We need to make sure that we are keeping the Lord’s “house,” our souls, in good shape.

And one of the best ways to do that, in my opinion, is to practice what Psalm 150 teaches us.

Praise the Lord.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I will praise You for no other reason (though I have plenty) than that You are God. I will praise You for Your mighty acts of power, too. I will praise You for Your surpassing greatness, Your most excellent righteousness. And in praising You, I shove aside selfish platitudes and thoughts; I shut out selfish needs concerning my own “house.” I tend to Your “house,” which is my soul, because my soul needs tending and keeping. Thank You for the reminders from Your Word, reminders of how important this upkeep of our souls is. Help me to stay focused on what is important to You.

I pray for Your Church to flourish all over the world. I pray that we would engage in worship that glorifies You and “gathers, unites, and blesses” Your people.

"Generous God,
my way with money is a sure sign of my heart's trust.
and when it's mostly spent on me,
I show that my heart does not belong to You.
Center me again on You,
the source of everything good;
remind me of how rich I am because of Jesus and free up a generous heart for others.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed is a person who endures temptation,
for when he has been approved,
he will receive the crown of life,
which the Lord promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 WEB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Thanksgiving

Today is Thursday, the twenty-fifth of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today, and may you find, in your life, that you have enough.

Day 23,268

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. I wish all who read this a peaceful and safe day. May your heart be filled with gratitude.

Only thirty more days until Christmas. You knew that was coming.

We are doing the “Secret Santa” thing at the library, so I signed up for that. I’m quite fond of “Secret Santa.” Our library does it a little differently than I’m used to, but it’s fun. Instead of one gift, we are doing three gifts, spaced out a week apart. The first one is due next Wednesday, then one each on the following two Wednesdays. I’ve got all three of my gifts ordered, and at least one of them should be here on Monday, so I will have it in time for the first week. I don’t work next Wednesday, though, so I will take it up there Tuesday night. Then I will get mine from my Secret Santa when I go to work my extra shift on Thursday.

We are also having a Christmas lunch on Wednesday, December 8. I am scheduled to work that day, but would have made an extra trip for that, even if I wasn’t. During the lunch, which also features a dessert contest (I probably won’t cook something for that, but I’m not sure, yet), there will be a gift exchange, of the type that we used to call “Chinese Gift Giving,” which is probably no longer politically correct. Anyway, you pick a number and when your number is drawn, you select a wrapped gift and open it. The next person has the option of “stealing” your gift or picking a new one. It’s wacky fun. That reminds me . . . I need to get a gift ordered for that event, too. I wonder what I could get that would make a bunch of librarians steal from each other . . .

C is already preparing food for our Thanksgiving lunch. Currently, the sopapilla cheesecake is cooking. She also has green bean casserole and corn casserole to make. And ham to warm up, but it’s already cooked. Somewhere around noon, we will head to Mineral Wells to celebrate the day with Mama. She’s making devilled eggs and mashed potatoes, and maybe a dessert. Oh, and some crescent rolls, I believe.

We’ll be having basically the same thing tomorrow with C’s sister and family, and I believe they plan to bring some turkey, because two of them don’t care for ham.

Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

The choir and trumpets made one voice
of praise and thanks to GOD—
orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to GOD:
Yes!
God is good!
His loyal love goes on forever!
Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of GOD.
(2 Chronicles 5:13 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have enough (more than enough, in fact)
2. for Your presence in my life; if that was all I had, it would be enough
3. that You are good and Your "loyal love goes on forever"
4. for music and song, the choir and trumpets that make one voice of praise and thanks to You
5. for a pervasive sense of well-being
6. that I have been crucified with Christ, and that the life that I now live, I live by faith in Him
7. that all creation sings Your praises

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
(Psalms 95:2 NIV)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Just a quick reminder that Thanksgiving and all its celebrations is not about how perfect the table or the decorations look. It’s not even about how perfect the food is or looks. It’s a celebration of the heart. It shouldn’t matter if you’re eating ramen on a card table. It is what is in your heart that matters.

If there is sadness or grieving in your heart, that’s okay, too. This Thanksgiving (just like many before it) will be that way for some people. And you can be sad and grieving and still be thankful. There are many who are experiencing their first Thanksgiving without one of their parents, today. I know of one who is having his first Thanksgiving without his wife. A couple I know lost a son, unexpectedly and suddenly, this week. And I have a friend who had cancer surgery yesterday.

It’s not all puppies, unicorns, and rainbows today. I’m good, yes. I’m about as happy as can be. But I am aware that it’s not that way for many. So, if you are one who is sad and grieving today, that’s perfectly okay and normal. I pray that you can find something to be thankful for, especially as you share memories of your loved ones. More importantly, I hope you are not alone.


And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.
(Leviticus 16:21 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer
I
who live,
but
Christ
who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

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.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

If we say we have
no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

If you can truthfully say the words of Galatians 2:20, you have plenty for which to be thankful today, regardless of your circumstances.


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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

“Stop fighting,”
he says,
“and know that I am God,
supreme among the nations,
supreme over the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 GNB)

I pause during this quiet time and close my eyes to ponder my circumstances. I am blessed beyond imagination. Life is good. You are good! Thank you, Father!

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
(Psalms 148:1-4 NIV)

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
(Jonah 3:1-5 NIV)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:10 NIV)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
(Jonah 4:1 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue in awareness of God’s loving presence in this place, I read these passages again, looking for anything in God’s Word that catches the attention of my heart and soul. Is there a command for me? Is there comfort for me? I talk to Him about what I have read and what has moved me, and enjoy His presence.

Psalm 148 continues the trend of the final few psalms in simply giving praise to the Lord. Or, rather, commanding all of creation to give Him praise. In our selection, this morning, we only read the first four verses that address the heavenly hosts and sun, moon, and stars.

But the list goes on, and when verse 13 says, “Let them praise the name of the LORD,” here is who that is referring to.

Sea creatures and all ocean depths
Lightning
Hail
Snow
Clouds
Stormy winds
Mountains and hills
Fruit trees
Cedar trees
Wild animals
Cattle
Small creatures
Flying birds
Kings of the earth
All nations
Princes and all rulers
Young men and women
Old men
Children

If you’re reading this, you are in one of these groups. Probably one of the last three. You might be a king or prince or ruler. If so, I would be humbly honored. Either way, just do what it says, today, and every day.

Praise the LORD.

Also? Don’t be like Jonah.

Jonah was obedient. Sort of. He was kind of like one of the sons in a parable that Jesus told. You know, where a landowner told both of his sons to go work in the fields. One said he would go, then didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t go, then later relented and went.

Jonah is a weird case, though. He initially ran away from God’s directive. Not successfully, of course, because you just can’t do that. If God wants you somewhere, you will wind up there.

Period.

Even if it takes being swallowed by a specially prepared “great fish.” (Not a whale, mind you. It’s never called a whale.) We really don’t know what kind of fish . . . it was just big.

So Jonah repented and went to Nineveh. Make no mistake, though. His “obedience” was not ever willing. He went . . . he preached repentance to the people. But then the unexpected happened.

They repented. Jonah didn’t like that, because he didn’t like those Ninevites. He really didn’t want them to repent.

How often are we like that? (Get your steel-toed shoes ready.) Are there people that you would rather not see saved? Tell the truth. Is there someone, right now, anyone, that you can think of that you would just as soon see die and go to hell?

If you’re a Republican, I bet I can name at least one. If you’re a Democrat, I bet I can name at least one.

I might have a few that I’m struggling with. I even have a few brothers and sisters for whom I struggle with praying. Yes, I admit it.

I’m human. Not perfect. In spite of the fortune cookie slip taped to my desk that says “You shall soon achieve perfection.” Obviously, we have different definitions of “soon.”

The lesson we learn from Jonah is how to not be a prophet. God will get His desired results. He will get them with or without us. If we run away from His plan, He doesn’t suffer. It is we who suffer.

Don’t be a Jonah.

Father, I praise You for all Your glorious and wondrous creation. I join with the mountains and hills, the sea creatures and cedar trees, and all the saints who have come before me and who will come after me, in praising Your holy Name. I thank You for the music that You have placed in my heart and on my tongue and my fingertips, music which I can use to praise You. But God, I have flaws (don’t You know it?). I ask You to help me love unconditionally, especially all of those saints who call the name of Jesus. Help us all to walk more completely in His steps, and love the way He loves. Help us with our bigotry and our prejudices. Teach us Your ways, that we may all walk firmly in Your truth. And that Truth, that Way, that Life, is Jesus Christ.

Give us all spiritual renewal, Father, as well as deep repentance for the sins in which we still struggle. May You give us all readiness to give a reason for the hope that dwells within us.

"Gracious God,
the saving power of the gospel is amazing to everyone.
Some are surprised that Your grace could include and change even them;
others are shocked that their goodness and religious credentials don't earn them Your grace.
Continue to astonish the world with the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Amen."

BLESSING

Happy are those who remain faithful under trials,
because when they succeed in passing such a test,
they will receive as their reward
the life which God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 GNB)


Father, as we consider this day of Thanksgiving, I pray for tensions in our nation to be healed. I pray for unity within Your Church, as there has been a rift there, unnecessarily caused by politics. May we rise above that and focus our attention on You, on Christ, and on loving You and loving our neighbors and brothers and sisters.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.