The Love that Comforts and Provides

Today is Friday, the eighth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign within you, today!

Day 23,402

Today is a very special day. It is my mother’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Mama!! I love you!

I’ve already been out and got flowers and donuts to help the celebration, and we plan to have Freebirds today, at some point, probably for dinner tonight. C also made a strawberry cake for the occasion. Yum!!

My first Thursday at the library was a good day. It was a lot busier in the Computer Center than a typical Friday, which helped the day go by faster. I had a couple of patrons that needed extensive help, and I was able, for the most part to get them what they wanted.

I literally have nothing else on my agenda for today, other than going out to pick up the Freebirds (and Sonic drinks of course) later. Oh, and watching the Texas Rangers opening game, later, this evening, as they open the season in Toronto.

In baseball news, the Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Mets, Reds, Astros, and D-backs, won their opening day games. The Red Sox/Yankees and Mariners/Twins games were both postponed and will hopefully happen today. Everyone else is scheduled to play today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
Oh give thanks to the LORD; 
call upon his name; 
make known his deeds among the peoples! 
Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
tell of all his wondrous works! 
Glory in his holy name; 
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually! 
(Psalms 105:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the lifelong instruction and wisdom of godly parents
2. the comfort that God gives us in our sufferings and afflictions; comfort with which we can, in turn, comfort others
3. the love of God that results in His provision for our lives
4. the things I can learn from studying my past experiences
5. that God gave me a brain and the ability to use it

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
(Deuteronomy 10:12-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “comfort.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days.”

We all have difficult days. Some of us have more difficult days than others, seemingly more than our fair share of them. There are some good words in 2 Corinthians about comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The word appears a few more times in 2 Corinthians, as well. God comforts us, why? Not so that we can just feel better and not be sorry for ourselves. It is so that we can, in turn, comfort others.

The Bible is very clear, throughout, that this life is not all about me, and is not for me to benefit. Yes, I do receive benefits from the Christian life. But it doesn’t stop there. I’m not like the Dead Sea, that is all receiving and no giving. Anything I receive, I should be, in some way, giving away. The phrase “pay it forward” comes to mind. We cannot pay God back. That is simply impossible. But we can “pay it forward.” We can take the comfort which God gives us in our sorrow and in our difficulties and comfort someone else who has experienced loss or is having a bad day.

“God often redeems our sufferings by equipping us and giving us opportunities to extend comfort to others. Sometimes we do that in person by sitting or crying with a struggling or heartbroken friend, but always we can pray for God’s comfort to visit them.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 
And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 
And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
They said to him, "Twelve." 
"And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
And they said to him, "Seven." 
And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" 
(Mark 8:14-21 ESV)

When we re-read these miracles of Jesus, what is our intent? Is it just to refresh our memories? That doesn’t seem to be the case here, with Jesus and His disciples. He wants them to dwell on the two particular miracles of which He speaks. “For they had already forgotten or had failed to see their central revelation – the eternal fact of God’s love and care and compassion. They knew the number of the men each time, the number of the loaves each time, the number of the baskets of fragments they had each time taken up, but they forgot the Love that had so broken the bread that its remnants twenty times outweighed its loaves.”

Jesus warned them against the teachings of the religious leaders, teachings which would have us believe that God withholds blessings based on legalities; teachings that resemble those of today’s “religious leaders.” Finally, the disciples did understand. “He who trusts can understand; he whose mind is set at east can discover a reason.” The lesson here was that God cares for His children, and will provide for their necessities. And it is love that is the driving force of this provision.

You see, the disciples were failing to trust. Look at verse 16. They discussed among themselves the fact that they had not brought any bread. After all that they had seen Jesus do. “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of His Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in. The lesson of them was that help is always within God’s reach when His children want it.”

All too often, we, as humans, remember the loaves but forget the Father, even as, in our theology, we “forget the very Logos.”

The care the Father has for us is care for the day (see Matthew 6). “The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years – in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”

“The moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.”

(All above quotes from Creation in Christ, by George MacDonald, referenced in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

The Spiritual Discipline being highlighted, here, is that of study. That may sound odd, as we normally consider study to be a discipline that involves books and reading. However, Jesus has called His disciples, here, to study, dwell upon, and learn from their experience. We should do the same. It is worthwhile to look back upon our experiences and learn from them. We can learn much, both from experiences when we felt God moving in our lives, and experiences when we felt far from Him.

Here is another nugget from Eugene Peterson: “The Christian faith does not turn us into robots who are conditioned to behave in moral ways by reflex. The Christian faith does not lobotomize us so that we don’t have to think through anything. Jesus said, ‘Learn from me’ (Matthew 11:29). He intends to shape our minds, inform our intelligence, and mature our judgment so that we can understand and participate in the meaning of new life.”

The disciples were so fortunate to have that in-person experience with Him. We, on the other hand, must learn these things from a distance.

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

Father, I thank You that You have given us brains and the ability to think things through, and that You do not expect us to be pre-programed robots, conditioned to behave in certain ways. While I am expected to surrender my “rights” and walk according to the words and steps of Jesus, I still have the ability to make decisions and think about things. Those decisions are not always the right ones or, perhaps, not the best ones. But I am still me because You did not use cookie cutters to create us. If that were the case, all eight billion of us would have the same DNA, wouldn’t we?

I am grateful for Your work in my life, and that I can and should look back on my life and study it and learn from it. It is not a looking back, like Lot’s wife, where I regret that I have left some things behind. That is looking back and longing. I prefer to look back to learn, to learn from the times where I can see Your hand at work, and to learn from the times where I ignored Your hand and went my own way. It turns out that Your love and compassion for me worked through those times, even.

I am also thankful for that love and compassion that drives Your provision for Your people. We are quick to be able to quote the numbers, how many people were fed, how many loaves the little boy had, and how many baskets of food were left over. We like to memorize statistics. But we miss the point when we do that. With only a couple of fish and some loaves of bread, the miracle would have been just as powerful if fifty people were fed. The numbers are not the point. Your love, compassion, and overwhelming provision are the point. The same love that dropped manna from the sky for Your people, Israel, who were also quick to forget Your love and compassion only days after they had seen the miracle of the Red Sea parting and their enemies’ chariots drowned in the same sea.

Forgive us for being so quick to forget, and help us to remember to study; both Your written Word as well as the past events of our lives. I thank You for people like George MacDonald, Eugene Peterson, Richard J Foster, and Emilie Griffin (and others) who have written so that we can more easily remember.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Change My Heart, Oh God

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the second of January, 2022, the ninth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,306

Twenty-one days until Hamilton!

It is currently 18 degrees outside, here in DFW (depending on which app I look at), and feels like 1 degree. It’s supposed to be fairly windy, today, with a high of 39. Looks like it will be well below freezing again, tomorrow morning. But there is little to no precipitation forecast over the next ten days. I suppose winter is here. It came quite quickly, considering what a warm December we had.

Yesterday was an easy day, for the most part. We didn’t do much. I cooked eggs and bacon for a late lunch, and then, while I went to get Sonic drinks, C made banana bread, because we had a bunch of over-ripe bananas. It was really good. Still is, actually, as there is a whole loaf left.

We are not having our church gathering, this morning, and will resume next Sunday. I was thinking about visiting a nearby church, this morning, but I’m thinking I may not venture out in this cold. I don’t know, yet.

Otherwise, there are, as far as I know, no plans for this day. I suppose someone will venture out for lunch from Applebee’s and drinks from Sonic. I don’t know, though . . . it’s not supposed to be above freezing until around 2:00 PM. Hahaha!

In other news, as most already are aware, we lost Betty White on New Year’s Eve. There are a few speculative posts on Facebook, ranging from “And we shall all remember that on the final day of a bleak 2021, the great Betty White gave herself to drive the darkness back and give hope to all humanity for the coming new year,” to “Should we be concerned that Betty White was just like, ‘No thanks 2022.'”

Personally, I’m leaning more toward the latter.

And then, to begin the new year, Dan Reeves, former halfback and fan favorite of the Dallas Cowboys, back in the good years of Tom Landry, passed away.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Praying With Feeling, by Daryl Madden

An intimate bond
When we reveal
To a close friend
Just how we feel

But what better friend
Could there ever be
Than our Lord Jesus
Of how He loves me

To sit side by side
Rather than kneeling
In Presence of love
To pray with feelings

Lord I feel nervous
I’m hurt or I’m mad
Lord I feel grateful
I’m happy or sad

And with time to listen
I believe we will start
That we will grow
To share the same heart

I love the sentiment portrayed in this poem. Truly, we can share as much and more with Jesus as we would with a human friend. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

What has been is what will be,
 and what has been done is what will be done, 
and there is nothing new under the sun. 
Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? 
It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the friendship of Jesus, in which I can share anything I am feeling
2. for the comfort I get from these verses in Ecclesiastes; I know that seems weird, but there is a consistency to life that seems to lurk under the surface of things
3. for the promise of God's presence in Exodus 33:14; He will see our journey through to the end
4. for the ways that God can change me and my willingness to be changed
5. for the salvation that God has provided, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves

I’m going to start listening to Pray As You Go again, this year. I have not listened to them in a while, but since I finished the book, Seeking God’s Face, I feel the need to have something in my daily routine that keeps me connected with the liturgy of the Church. Today’s session begins with this music, from the Monks of Glenstal Abbey.

“Sing to the Lord, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord, bless his name, tell of his salvation from day to day, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

There follows a reflection on how the new year is beginning for me. “How do you begin the New Year? With intentions, hopes, commitments to a ‘better’ you?” Yes, to all the above. I spoke of my “intentions” yesterday, only I referred to them as “aspirations.” More prayer, more reading, more music, less gaming. There is, as well, I suppose, a sort of commitment towards being a “better” me. I want to be the best me that I can be, and I must rely on Christ to get me there, by way of the Holy Spirit. I hope for more wisdom in the coming year, a year of “fullness of life, toward goodness and flourishing.” And remember, yesterday’s word from Pray a Word a Day, was “goodness,” springing from Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Father, as this new year begins, realizing the truth of the verses above, from Ecclesiastes, that there is truly “nothing new under the sun,” I desire to know You more in 2022. I desire to accomplish more in this life for You, even though I don’t really know what that looks like. Give me grace for goodness and fullness of life, the kind of life that Jesus came to give us, abundant life. Help me to live up to my intentions, both spiritual and otherwise. Help me to be the best me that I can be for You.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

I’m still thinking on how to best incorporate Spiritual Classics, as it doesn’t have the kind of structure that I’m used to. Since there is, essentially, a reading per week, it is up to me to decide how to work that. The first week’s selection is on meditation, and the devotional work is from Thomas More (1478-1535), called “A Godly Meditation.” I’m not going to copy the entire thing, but just the parts that speak most to me.

"Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought,
To set my mind fast upon thee.
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths.

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant.
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love him.

To be joyful of tribulations,
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life.
To bear the cross with Christ,
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand,
To make death no stranger to me,

To have continually in mind the passion that 
Christ suffered for me,
For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks.

To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred."

The following Scripture reading is then offered:

This is what the LORD says:
 “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, 
who rely on human strength 
and turn their hearts away from the LORD. 
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, 
with no hope for the future. 
They will live in the barren wilderness, 
in an uninhabited salty land. 

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD 
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, 
with roots that reach deep into the water. 
Such trees are not bothered by the heat 
or worried by long months of drought. 
Their leaves stay green, 
and they never stop producing fruit. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, 
and desperately wicked. 
Who really knows how bad it is? 
But I, the LORD, search all hearts 
and examine secret motives. 
I give all people their due rewards,
 according to what their actions deserve.” 
(Jeremiah 17:5-10 NLT)

There are discussion and reflection questions that will be considered during the rest of this week.

Lord, as I work through this meditation in the coming week, open my heart to be completely truthful with both You and myself. May I especially work on that bit about enemies and friends. While I don’t truly have “enemies,” there are people that I need to display more love toward.

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

“The human race is in trouble.” So begins the reading concerning the book of Exodus. “We’ve been in trouble for a long time.” Peterson goes on to talk about the people who have spent their lives working to get us out of trouble. “Parents and teachers, healers and counselors, rulers and politicians, writers and pastors.”

But at the core of this work, he says, “is God.” And the word that best describes what God is doing to “get us out of the mess we are in is salvation. Salvation is God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.” There is hardly a better picture of this work than what we see in the book of Exodus.

"I am GOD. 
I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I will rescue you from slavery. 
I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. 
I'll take you as my own people and I'll be God to you. 
You'll know that I am GOD, 
your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I'll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. 
I AM GOD." 
(Exodus 6:6-8 MSG)

GOD said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
(Exodus 33:14 MSG)

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
 to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 
(Psalms 27:4 NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, 
or have already arrived at my goal, 
but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
Brothers and sisters, 
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 
But one thing I do:
 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Today’s word for prayer is “change.” This could work its way into my prayers in a variety of different ways. The most common, and probably most obvious, is a prayer for God to change my heart. Immediately my thoughts were drawn to an old Maranatha (I think) song, called “Change My Heart, Oh God.” I’ve heard it recorded by a lot of different people.

Change my heart, oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, oh God
May I be like You

You are the Potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

It’s a simple song, a simple prayer. I have also heard the second line changed to end with the word “new,” rather than “true.” Here is a fascinating clip, featuring a video of a potter creating a jar.

Another way that “change” can work its way into our lives (maybe not so much, these days, though) is in the idea of “loose change.” I don’t get very much of that any more, because I rarely pay for anything with cash. In fact, about the only reason I keep cash on hand, any more, is to tip my Sonic carhop if I’m at a Sonic that doesn’t allow mobile tipping. Oddly enough, that seems to be left up to the individual Sonic store. Nevertheless, the author of today’s reading, known only as “Bob,” suggests a prayer for the “wise use of ‘loose change.'”

What about unexpected schedule changes? Don’t those annoy us or get on our nerves? There is an opportunity for prayer.

So, Father, change my heart, as the song prays. Make it both “ever true” and “ever new.” I pray that You would constantly be changing my heart so that I am more like You. And, as a piece of clay, mold me into whatever You desire me to be. You don’t need my permission, or even my acceptance. You are the Potter, and I am the clay. And the beauty of this is that, should I happen to make a “wrong turn,” somewhere along the way, You can remold me into something new. And help me to always be willing to change my thoughts and opinions, especially as new information is brought to my knowledge. Let me never get too attached to my own thoughts and opinions. Help me to set my mind and thoughts on You, through the meditations You bring me.

Father, thank You for Your great salvation, You doing for us what we absolutely cannot do for ourselves. I pray for the salvation of all the world, that all would see Your beauty and majesty and begin to follow and worship You. I continue to pray for the eradication of Covid in our world. I pray for unity within our nation, but more importantly, unity within Your people. May we, as Thomas More writes, may we set our minds upon You and not “hang upon the blasts of men’s mouths.” All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Today is Sunday, the sixth of June, 2021, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,096

28 days until the fourth of July!

Yesterday was a pretty average day around here. S certainly enjoyed being able to go back to the WW Workshop, and it was very nice to see some faces, some of which I had seen before, and a few I had never seen without masks.

It’s fun to see if how you guessed their faces would look turns out to be accurate. In one case, I pretty much nailed it, but in a couple others, I wasn’t even close. Haha!

Anyway, as expected, I gained three pounds at weigh-in. Disappointing, but not surprising, and I’m just going to have to ride out this medication change until my body figures out what’s going on.

The blood pressure this morning is encouraging, though. It checked at 106/68.

The grocery pickup went smoothly, and after lunch, I headed back out to Albertson’s to pick up a few other things. I bought all of the Nick’s Triple Choklad that they had in their freezer (eight pints). The man behind me in the checkout line said, “I know whose house I need to find.” I said, “You’d have to fight my wife for them.”

The rest of the day was spent back here in the study, as C needs to stay in the family room with the monitor. I’ve got a little more information on what this 72-hr study is about. It’s actually a brain monitoring session to make sure that she is not having any mini-strokes or other anomalies such as that. Hence all the electrodes. I would post the picture she sent me, but she might not like that.

This morning, we have our worship time at 10:15, but, at the request of the host, we are doing it via Zoom today. I will be leading the discussion, this morning, and we’ll be starting with Psalm 29. Unless we decide to start reading 1 Samuel. At one point, we had talked about reading through the Samuels and Kings books while we were reading through Psalms.

After church, there will be Applebee’s and Sonic, of course. Followed by an afternoon of rest and relaxation.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Strolling slowly into deep silence,
guided by the spirit,
falling, slipping,
drifting with the Lord in step,
drawing deeper,
deeper into the unawareness of teaching,
floating in peace,
soothing the restless heart.
("Deep Silence", by Daryl Madden, in On a Bench of Wood: Reflections of God's Grace)

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalms 23:6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your goodness and unfailing love (mercy), that constantly pursues me, never gives up on me, never fails, and never runs out
2. for another day to rest and refresh, a Sabbath
3. that You have made me no longer the doer of my sins, but placed them on the account of Jesus
4. that Your Gospel is the power of salvation for all people
5. that You have put us here on earth to serve and love one another

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 3-DAY 1

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

I’m pausing, now, to reflect on God’s great goodness and love which never fail and never give up on me.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
(Psalms 127:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
(Romans 1:16-23 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I turn my thoughts and prayers towards God, enjoying His presence in this moment, I look for words and phrases that move my soul and draw me in. I ask the Holy Spirit to teach me something about my life in Christ and my walk in His Kingdom.

There is a stark truth in Psalm 127. Indeed, all of our efforts are in vain, if the Lord is not building “the house” or watching over “the city.” I believe that “the house” and “the city” can refer to things other than literal houses and cities. Since, according to Paul, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16). So, as I walk in His kingdom, I am “building” this “house.” But if God is not working with me (or perhaps better stated, if I am not working with God), all of my efforts to build it are in vain.

I have sat in church staff meetings where some of the most cockamamie schemes were dreamed up to lure people to “church.” That may be the first time I have ever typed that word. I feel safe in saying that most, if not all, of those schemes had nothing to do with God or the Holy Spirit. They were nothing more than man’s scheming to try to dupe people into becoming numbers for the church records.

If God is not building the house, our labor is in vain.

I have to confess that I have always been a little uncomfortable with the second half of this psalm. I do believe that children are a gift and blessing from the Lord. But, believe it or not, I have actually heard people try to teach that a full quiver is five arrows, so to have a full quiver of children meant that we were supposed to have five children.

Remember that word up there? “Cockamamie?”

Unless the Lord is building the house, our labor is in vain.

The passage in Romans also contains some stark truth. Man is without excuse when it comes to his believe or disbelief in God. God has revealed enough of Himself in nature that all people should believe in Him. The Gospel, however, is the power of God for salvation. Salvation cannot come simply by the revelation of nature.

I have said it before, and will continue saying it. It is an unpopular truth, but Jesus is the only road to the Father. There are not, as some want to believe, “many roads” to God. There is only one. Jesus said so, Himself, and either He is who He says He is, the Son of God, God incarnate, or He is a liar, or a madman. He cannot be simply a “good teacher.” Because if a “good teacher” taught things that were not true, he would not be a “good teacher,” would he?

I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and is the only way to salvation, the only road to God the Father. I also believe that the Holy Spirit resides within me, the gift of the Father and the Son, sent after Jesus ascended into heaven in front of His disciples.

Father, I believe these things about Jesus, about You, and about the Holy Spirit. But even my belief, my faith, is a gift from You, by grace. Your unfailing love saw fit to choose me to be one of Your children, and You granted me repentance and faith to believe, so that the blood of Jesus washed away all of my sin. Praises be to Your Holy Name, Lord! Please continue to draw me closer to You, and show me Your paths, that I may walk in them consistently.

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

God who hides in plain sight,
your joy shimmers in the northern lights and shines in a garden of color;
your complex wisdom is in the practical design of a hand or the complex forest of trees found in a pine nut.
Thank you for revealing your power and divinity in the beating heart of love and the pulsating rhythms of music.
Open the eyes of our heart to see more of you so that we have more to love you with.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 2)

BLESSING

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
(Psalms 71:18 NLT)

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.
(Proverbs 16:31 NLT)

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.
(Isaiah 46:4 NLT)

Gray hair, okay. What about no hair? LOL!!

And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.
(Genesis 39:22 ESV)

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:12 ESV)

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing,
(Philippians 2:13-14 NLT)

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:13 NLT)

“Messiah would likewise be numbered with the sinful, with those under judgment. He would become as one under judgment. And all the acts of the sinful, all that they did . . . all that we did, He, Messiah, became the doer of it. He was counted as the doer of our sins . . . the One who made our mistakes . . . the One who failed in our failures . . . the One who transgressed in our transgressions. So if He becomes the doer of our sins, then we become . . . no longer the doer . . . of our own sins . . . no longer the ones who sinned, who failed, who transgressed, and fell. In the grace of God, we are released from being the doers of our deeds . . . that we might become the doer of His deeds.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

This is some deep stuff, and powerful. I think it is worthy of our consideration, this morning, especially in light of some conversations we have had during our church time.

Father, I thank You, no, I PRAISE You, for You have made me no longer the doer of my sins. I did not deserve it, but You took my sins, and the sins of all of my brothers and sisters, and placed them on the account of Jesus, Your Son. Hallelujah, my God! All praise to You, in the name of Jesus, and in the power of His Spirit!

Lord, I pray for fresh fellowship with the risen Christ, today and this week. Please grant us spiritual renewal and refreshment, that we might shine for You in all that we do. Continue to give me a thankful heart, which only comes from You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Rejoice and Encourage One Another

Today is Friday, the fourteenth of May, 2021, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,073

SIX days until our Glen Rose trip.

As previously discussed, I am staying home with S, today. I have already made breakfast for her, consisting of eggs, toast, and bacon. I may have had a bit of that, myself.

I placed our grocery order with Albertson’s last night, and it is supposed to be ready to pick up at 10:00 this morning. I like the way Albertson’s does this. I don’t have to pick it up at 10:00. I don’t even have to pick it up by 11:00. I have until 8:00 PM to get it!

For a bonus, our local Albertson’s is virtually right across the street from a Sonic, so I will be going there immediately after picking up the groceries.

We cooked Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken for dinner last night, so we have leftovers for lunch today. Yum. Tonight’s dinner will likely be pizza, made with cauliflower crust.

As far as the rest of the day goes, there are a couple of chores that I should do. Then I plan to plug in my father’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder to see if it works. I may practice music for a bit, as well. I don’t plan on spending the whole day in front of the TV playing on the PS4. There should be some reading, too. Need to do more of that.

But one thing I’m not going to do is “should” all over myself. It is too easy to get all caught up in what I “should have” done. Not going there, today. What happens, happens; what doesn’t, doesn’t.

So there.

One last thing before the devotional. Our pool equipment did not get fixed, yesterday. C worked from home for that purpose, but the guy texted and said that his family had been struck by a stomach virus. At this point, we don’t have it re-scheduled.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
(Psalms 136:1-3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for an extra day off for this weekend
  • for the love and care of family
  • for Your grace and mercy, so undeserved by me
  • for joy that transcends circumstances
  • for true and pure things upon which to meditate

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

EASTER – DAY 41

INVITATION

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalms 47:5-7 NIV)

I pause briefly to consider the holiness of the Almighty, and His grace and mercy towards me.

BIBLE SONG

Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
(Psalms 105:1-5 NIV)

He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 105:43-45 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I linger for a bit, asking the Spirit to guide my meditations and ponderings.

Right off the bat, I catch a connection (perhaps I’m making it up, but I see it, nonetheless) between making God’s deeds known among the nations and singing His praises. In fact, verse 2, which speaks of singing, ends with the admonition to tell of all of His wonderful acts. I believe one way we do this is by singing. When the world hears us singing, and if we sing clearly and intelligently, we are, truly, proclaiming His wondrous deeds and works.

There is also a connection between verse 3, which concludes with “let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice,” and verse 43, “He brought out His people with rejoicing.”

We have much to be joyful about, people of God! And joy comes regardless of circumstance. To reiterate, my favorite definition of joy is “a pervasive sense of well-being.” Everything, no matter what it looks like right now, is going to be alright.

The Hebrews passage is a rather famous passage, which we usually cite to defend the need for “going to church.” But I also see that word “confidence” in there.

Because of the work of Jesus Christ, and His interceding for us, we have confidence. If our confidence wanes, it is because we are placing it in the wrong direction. If I start depending on my own ability or works, my confidence will be quickly shattered.

I can’t. But God, in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can.

And, in Christ, we have confidence to enter “the Most Holy Place.” Remember what happened at the exact moment of the death of Jesus on the cross?

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
(Matthew 27:50-52 NIV)

No more was there any division between God and man. The need for the human priesthood was eradicated. Jesus is our High Priest, and He gives us access to God.

The result of all of this is multi-fold. We cling, we hold fast, to this hope, and, more importantly, we encourage one another! We “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
(Hebrews 10:24 NLT)

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out,
(Hebrews 10:24 MSG)

So yes. We “go to church.” Or we watch it on Zoom, if we can’t go. Or we watch our local church’s broadcast on the Internet, if we are unable to get out. All of this, I am fully persuaded is valid. Nothing can quite replace the human touch, but the pandemic has severely hampered that. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am hungry for hugs again. Some folks are glad that they are no longer expected to hug random people. I’m the opposite.

It’s kind of weird, actually. I’m pretty much an introvert. But I love the touch of another human being. Hard to reconcile those two things. But I don’t have to.

So, let us rejoice; and let us continue to fellowship with one another, and encourage one another towards love and good deeds.

Father, I thank You for the ability to rejoice; I praise You for the mindset of gratitude and praise that You place within me, each day. It usually doesn’t matter where my soul is when I start this thing, each day. By the time I’m finished, I don’t want to leave the room; I simply want to dwell; to live in Your presence and soak it in. But there are things that must be done; people who must be touched. May I be faithful in the tasks that You have set aside for me to do during this day, whatever they may be.

Everlasting God,
I can now be confident:
Jesus' ascension into heaven is a guarantee of my life with you;
and the sent Spirit is a similar guarantee of your life with us.
Both are like rings,
promises of a coming wedding party that I anticipate every week in the church's worship. 
And so I pray,
"Come, Lord Jesus, come."
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 49)

BLESSING

Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
(Philippians 4:8 MSG)

A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 ESV)

For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(Luke 1:37 ESV)

Father, You are my help, You who made heaven and earth. When danger threatens (which, truthfully, seldom happens), I do not look anywhere else but to You. Help me; do not let my foot be moved, You who do not slumber or sleep. Be my shade, be my shelter; keep me staring at the sky, awaiting the return of my Savior.

Lord, put in me the Christlike ability to deny myself and serve others. May I have the commitment to do justice and show mercy. I pray specifically today for those who are refugees. May Your people show them mercy, Father, and compassion, fitting for those who claim the name of Jesus Christ.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Everyone’s Beautiful

“Regardless of the mess you may have made out of the original clay, wouldn’t you agree with Aquinas that ‘it is better to be than not to be?'”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Just a little more than a week left in July.

Today is Hot Dog Day. And to celebrate, Sonic is selling regular hot dogs for $1.00 today. I’m not making that up. Check it out.

I’m going to try to make it in to work by 7:30 this morning. No one asked me to come in, but I know there’s extra work left, so I’m going to try to get in at least some early.

Christi had another one of those overwhelming days, yesterday, but she also had more good conversation with one of the top people of the customer. This time the stress seems to be caused by her boss. Today is another day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:15-17
You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!
Psalm 70:5b
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
Psalm 71:19
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Psalm 84:5
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Mark 9:35
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9:2

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “His Joy In Me.”

Sometimes, we just need to step back and “recapture the element of delight in creation.” Can you imagine the delight of God when he creates a person in his image? When he created you? “The Father gave you as a gift to himself. You are a response to the vast delight of God.” Consider how many possibilities there were when God created you! “Regardless of the mess you may have made out of the original clay, wouldn’t you agree with Aquinas that ‘it is better to be than not to be?'”

“Have I really appreciated the wonderful gift that I am? Could the Father’s gift to himself be anything but beautiful?”

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14

Father, may we all realize how beautiful we are in your eyes! No matter what kind of mess we have made of our lives, no matter how pointless we may think our lives are, may we stop and consider that you created us, and you created us beautiful! Ah, Lord, let us think of our lives in this way, that they are a gift that you gave yourself. And then let us take those beautiful lives and live them beautifully for you. May your truth come soaring in like a fresh breeze on a hot summer day, taking us to new heights of glory!

I pray for this day. May our trip to work and home be safe. I pray for confidence and wisdom for Christi as she continues to build relationships at her work. I pray that she find favor with both her employer and the customer (maybe even more so with the customer, that they will find a place for her in their own team). I pray for Stephanie, that you would help her to see the truth that she, too, is beautiful, a creation that you have made just for you.

Your grace is sufficient.

Please consider, today, that you are a beautiful creation, made in the image of God, created in him for good works that he prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them.

Grace and peace, friends.