Spirituality On the Fly

Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of February, 2022, in the sixth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,348 (the number of days since I was born)

Today’s header photo is by Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his other photos at the link provided.

It’s a little humorous. I’m sitting here trying to decide what to type. S and I had a good appointment at the eye doctor, yesterday. Her eyes had changed a bit, one more than the other, so we are getting new glasses for her. Mine, on the other hand, had changed hardly at all. In fact, one eye was pretty much exactly the same. So I’m not getting new glasses. However, I have possession of my prescription in case I need new glasses within the next year. S’s will be ready within the standard seven to ten business days.

It’s a big weekend for some. The Super Bowl is today, between two teams that I would consider “underdogs.” If it weren’t for the commercials, I’m guessing that not nearly as many people would watch the game. Some folks, though, just as in baseball, love the sport so much that they will watch a football game, regardless of who is playing. I’m not even that way with baseball. I love a couple of teams, and I do love the sport, but if neither one of my teams is playing, I’m simply not that interested. As for football, it would be impossible for me to care any less than I do. I did indicate, yesterday, who I hope wins, though, so I supposed I could possibly care slightly less.

And tomorrow is the big day pushed by greeting card and candy makers, world wide. It is Valentine’s Day, the day when a bloody massacre is celebrated by being romantic.

Wait, what?

Never mind. As I stated yesterday, C and I hardly even acknowledge that the day exists.

Speaking of C, I think she might be feeling better. She has been coughing less, and has slept pretty well the last couple nights. So well that I think she is still in bed at 10:00.

Speaking of 10:00 AM, we are not having our worship gathering, this morning. Good thing, I guess, since I haven’t even started the “spiritual” portion of the blog. The host’s daughter is at a Disciple Now event at a church close to them, and they are going to attend the service at that church, along with her. I think they were inviting any of us to tag along, or giving the option to Zoom. But since C wasn’t feeling well, I said we would just stay at home, this morning.

That’s enough personal rambling, I think. I’ll be talking to Mama later today, as I typically call her on Sunday afternoons. I’m sure there will be discussion on when she might be coming back over here, and, of course, we are ready whenever she is. We have also ordered a new bed, one just like the ones we got for S and for Mama’s room, except it is a “split King” bed. Split so that C and I can adjust the settings independently of one another. Ours should arrive by this coming Friday, and won’t be, hopefully, interrupted by a winter storm.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Christ, on our behalf,
before the presence of God,
appeared, once for all.
(Inspired by Hebrews 9:23-28)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, 
and do not lean on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge him, 
and he will make straight your paths. 
Be not wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 
It will be healing to your flesh 
and refreshment to your bones. 
(Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am not wise in my own eyes, but I seek the wisdom of the Lord
2. that I am learning to not lean on my own understanding (which, admittedly, is sometimes quite lacking)
3. for the easy yoke and light burden of following Jesus
4. that God remembers that we are dust
5. that the Holy Spirit works in real time

The prayer word for today is “almost.” I find that interesting. “Almost” is not a word that can have many meanings. It is pretty single-minded. It means the same thing as “nearly.”

This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalms 118:24 ESV)

Admittedly, this verse is speaking about the verses immediately preceding it.

The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone. 
This is the LORD's doing;
 it is marvelous in our eyes. 
(Psalms 118:22-23 ESV)

It is most definitely a good thing to rejoice in that day, the day that Jesus became the “cornerstone.”

But is it wrong to consider every day that I live as “the day that the Lord has made?” And is it wrong to “rejoice and be glad in it?”

I think not.

How does this go along with the word “almost?” In the context of the reading for the day, written by someone identified only as “Roberta” (I confess that, in my mind, this is a flaw in the concept of the book, because it makes me doubt the authenticity of the stories contained, therein), it means that we need to be sure and make time to do whatever we feel the Spirit leading us to do, and not be “almost followers” of Christ.

I’ve been there. There are plenty of times when I have “almost” followed what Jesus was, I believe, telling me to do. And when that happens, “almost” is synonymous with “not.” In other words, “almost” doing something is the same thing as “not” doing it. Period.

We’ve heard it said, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” “I almost helped that hungry, homeless, jobless person.” No. I didn’t help. There is really no such thing as “almost.”

There is no better illustration than sports for this concept. Almost winning is losing. I once read somewhere, “Second place is first loser.” Now, of course, this is balanced out by phrases such as, “The best thing in baseball is winning the World Series. The second-best thing in baseball is losing the World Series.” So “losing” is not always the worst thing that can happen. But it’s still “losing.” “Almost winning” is “losing.”

So, “almost following” is “not following.”

I think I explained this for way too long.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
(Luke 10:27 ESV)

It does occur to me that the concept above could be taken to such extremes that life would be meaningless (or at least futile). The above verse is at the heading of today’s Daily Guideposts reading. Contained in the reading is the content of a church’s revised mission statement.

Connecting All to Christ. Would others know that I follow Jesus if they spent time with me today? Did I thank God today? Did I extend Christ’s kindness today?

To Become Healthy in God. Did I actively seek ways to grow spiritually today? Did I obey the teachings of Jesus today? Did I open my life to be changed by Christ today?

And Courageous in Love. Did I see every person as a child of God today? Did I make someone’s life better today? Was Christ my priority as I used my time, talents, and treasures today?”

I’m not going to bother pointing out the grammatical inconsistencies with those three points. I would have, though, had I been on their “committee.”

While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those questions, trying to live one’s life by those three components and their sub-questions would surely lead to a life of legalistic frustration. I do not believe this is what God wants from us. I mean, Jesus told us to come to Him and find rest! He said His burden is light and His yoke is easy! When well-meaning people work so hard to come up with “mission statements” like that above, they create heavy and hard burdens for people.

Yes, I need to intentionally grow, spiritually. I need to be thankful every day (I, personally, do that on a daily basis in this blog, and I post those points of gratitude on social media, as well . . . not to show people how “spiritual” I am, or how holy I am, but, hopefully, to inspire them to be grateful and positive about life, as well). I need to always try to see people as God’s children and extend kindness.

But there are going to be days, like yesterday, when I fail to do that. I had an encounter with a grocery delivery person yesterday that did not go well. It ended okay, but my reaction was probably not great. I’m not going into details, but it wasn’t really the delivery person’s fault.

But here’s the thing. We can’t go through life beating ourselves up over things like that. We are going to mess up. There are going to be days when we “almost” win; when we “almost” follow Christ (meaning we simply just fall short). And Jesus knows this. He will not be surprised (and, more than likely, not disappointed, either, considering that He already knows all of this, right?).

For he knows our frame; 
he remembers that we are dust. 
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in that little verse.

So have I just contradicted myself, today? I don’t think so. I think what has happened here (and I quite enjoy when it does), is that I have worked through something, IRL (in real life), or in real time. I think I learn more when this happens. I’m not just regurgitating things that I have learned or believed for most of my life. Rather, I am thinking through some concepts “on the fly,” as it were. And I believe that the Holy Spirit works in this process.

Father, I thank You and praise You, first of all, that You remember that we are dust. You, above all, are aware that we are imperfect creatures. Not because You created us that way, but because, at some point in the existence of humanity, we chose to take that step of disobedience that made us so. But the point is that You are aware of this. Therefore, You are not surprised when we “almost” succeed at following You and Your commands.

I pray that You help me to not be an “almost follower.” But I also pray that concepts like those written above do not become legalistic measures that lead us down a path of futility and anxiety. Help us to embrace the easy yoke and light burden that Jesus spoke of when He invited us to follow Him. We have made ourselves weary; we have burdened ourselves with heavy loads. Jesus is trying to lighten that for us, and we seem to mess it up, constantly, by trying to create more rules and more burdens and heavier loads to “follow.” We seem to have learned nothing from the Pharisees, it turns out.

Thank You for Your compassion and understanding. I thank You for Your wisdom, too, and the admonishment/encouragement to not lean on my own understanding, but to seek Your wisdom and trust in You with all my heart, and to love You with my whole being. Life would be so much easier if we could simply succeed in those “little” things.

In these tumultuous times, Lord, I pray for “peace, love, and understanding.” I pray that Your people could step back from opinions that might be, in large part, irrelevant, and love, not only one another, but our neighbors, as well, unconditionally, the way that You love us. We need a love revolution, Father.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

A Prayer for Unity

Today is Tuesday, the eighteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,322

Only five days until Hamilton!

I’ve piddled a bit too much, this morning, and found myself with barely an hour to get my devotional in. It wouldn’t matter, but I have to go pick up my new CPAP machine, this morning, at 11:00 AM. I figure I will probably stop by Subway afterward, for lunch for C and S (and their dinner, as well), since C is working from home, this week. Then I get to work at the library from 4:15-8:15, this evening.

The Rams pounded the Cardinals 34-11 last night, so the divisional rounds are set. Saturday, the Bengals will play the Oilers Titans, and the 49ers will play the Packers. Honestly, I don’t care at all about either of those games, other than I find that I cannot root for Aaron Rogers after his fiasco behavior regarding Covid vaccines.

On Sunday, the Rams will play the Buccaneers and the Bills will play the Chiefs. I’m rooting against the Buccaneers and for the Bills. But I really don’t care. I probably won’t watch any of the games.

I can’t help but wonder . . . if the Super Bowl winds up being the Bucs and Packers, will it be the lowest-watched Super Bowl in TV history? At least half of the country hates both quarterbacks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Restore My Being, by Daryl Madden

Into your Presence
I come before
In my humanness
A time to adore

With shoulders of burden
Of stress that I store
It all melts away
Poured out on the floor

And worries and fears
As I start to pray
For by your grace
They all drift away

The greatest of all
Through the mercy of You
For all of my sins
Are washed away too

To restore my being
Of blessing to find
Gives this broken soul
A taste of the divine

A lovely prayer to begin my morning. Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

"My soul rests, my soul rests, in your embrace
My spirit sings, my spirit sings all your praise."
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, 
and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 
And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 
And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 
how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 
And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." 
(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t recall ever hearing of this before, but I believe it is significant and something important for which to be praying.

Right now, there doesn’t appear to be much unity in the realm of Christianity. In the reading from Mark, the religious leaders are criticizing Jesus and His followers for “doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath.” This sounds a lot like yesterday’s reading, where they were criticized for not doing “religious things.”

So Jesus is criticized for not being religious enough. Legalism abounded in His day, just as it does today. Even today, in the midst of “Christianity,” there is a way of thinking that says, “You can’t be a Christian and ___________.” But truly, Jesus knows nothing of this way of thinking. According to Scripture, there is only one way to be a “Christian” (by the way, that word only occurs three times in the whole Bible, and none of those describes how to be one), and that is to be a follower of Christ.

The modern “church,” just as the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, is quick to be critical. This surely accounts for the division in the church, especially in America. I can’t speak for other countries, but the “church” in the United States (perhaps even the “Church”) is as divided as the nation is, pretty much 50/50. It’s very sad. There is a severe shortage of “love one another.”

The thought, in the reading, that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around, leads me down a path of realization that the law has a purpose, but it is not the purpose that many people try to use it for. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of all. Scripture is clear that the law’s intent was to point out our flaws and shortcomings, not to be followed jot and tittle.

As we pray, we need to be praying for unity within the Church of Jesus, the Body of Christ. We need to stop being so judgmental and critical of one another (I have been guilty of this, myself, and it is something I have struggled with mightily over the past years). We are all only human, we are made from dust, and we are far from perfect, all of us. We will make mistakes, and none of us has a corner on the market of “truth,” or what is wrong and right. We all have our own opinions about things, but those opinions, in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant. Our job is to love God and love people. Those are the two commands upon which the entirety of the Law and Prophets hinge, according to Jesus, Himself.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to be aware of the time of prayer that is being called for, for unity in the Church. I pray that we can somehow manage to set aside our differences of opinion (largely on things that are not of eternal significance) and love one another. I pray that some can stop being critical of others for not being “religious” enough, and I pray that the other half can stop being critical of those they deem to be “too religious.” May we all simply follow Christ, doing the things that He said and did, and love one another, doing whatever needs to be done for “the least of these.”

Help me to find some time to be quiet and reflect as this day continues.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock,
 in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my strength, my rock, and my fortress
2. for the possibility of unity within the Body of Christ; I believe it is possible
3. for the privilege of prayer, and the responsibility, as well
4. for times of quiet and reflection, during the day
5. for the blessing of my life and family
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Living Word Brings Life

Today is Monday, the eighth of February, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,978

I just realized that it is only nine days until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which occurs on February 17, this year. This means that Tuesday, February 16, is Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday. That is the actual meaning of “Mardis Gras.”

Today should be an interesting day at work. Besides all the usual stress from my role, management is supposed to being having conversations with us, individually, concerning potential pay increases. That’s exciting!

I may or may not (can’t remember) mentioned that I got my ten-year service award last Friday. Along with the nice certificate, I got a bunch of “Just Reward” points deposited in my account. I also got one free CEVA-branded item from their catalog. I chose a beach bag/blanket set, which appeared to be the thing that we would get the most use out of. I’m sure we will wind up at some beach again, eventually.

I also ordered a Sous Vide cooker with some of my points. That is a way of cooking that I have been wanting to try for some time. Essentially, you seal a piece of meat (or pieces) in plastic (I’m told a Ziploc back will work fine) put it in water, and stick the device in the water, clamping it to the side of the pot. The device heats and circulates the water to an exact temperature and cooks the meat completely and precisely to that temperature. It is, I am told, impossible to overcook the meat using one of these. They work great for steak or chicken, probably pork, and other meats, as well.

The Stupor Bowl is over. I watched about half of the first quarter and was utterly underwhelmed by the performance of both teams, but especially Patrick Mahomes. I guess I picked a bad day to watch him for the first time. The Chiefs played quite sloppily while I was watching, and, apparently, for the entire game. Brady and Gronk won the game 31-9. Quite the blowout, and, likely a very boring game. Unless you really like Brady and Gronk.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This morning, I want to begin with a poem from a fellow blogger, Daryl Madden, entitled, “An Innocent Morning.”

An innocent morning
A breath of fresh air
A wonderful nature
Simplicity here

So moving, the colors
This sky of beauty
Easy the dwelling
As God meant it to be

Peace is prevailing
In sweet silent song
The light comes to rising
The soul follows along

A taste of Eden
Of a being prayer
This gift of beginning
Of each day You share

O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
(Psalms 30:2, 5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For a brand new work week, fresh with opportunities to serve both God and others; may I not fail in my “mission”
  • That You stand ready to provide our needs, if we only ask, seek, and knock
  • For the abundance of Your house; Your river of delights, from which I desire to feast and drink
  • That You are continuing to make everything new (Revelation 21)
  • For the seed that is Your Word; help me plant it in the soil of my life today

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 34

INVITATION

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
(Psalms 119:103-104 NIV)

BIBLE SONG

Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
(Psalms 36:5-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
(Matthew 7:7-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I want to drink from Your river of delights! I want to feast on the abundance of Your house! Show me the light today! Let me drink from this fountain of life!

Maybe we do not receive more because we do not ask. This lines up with what James tells us in his letter to the Church.

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
(James 4:2-3 NLT)

Maybe we are not seeking enough and knocking enough. I know that, in my own prayers, I seldom pray for myself. There’s something psychological involved in this, I am sure, and I am also sure that it is simply wrong.

Father, help me to feel more comfortable praying for things for me. It’s like I don’t want to bother You with my own petty, small requests, when others have more important things to ask for. But my heart does not bear witness to this. Show me how to pray more honestly and authentically. Help me get rid of “stock phrases” that I catch myself using over and over. Help us all to believe that You are ready and willing to give us the things that we ask for, assuming that those things line up with Your will for us.

Help me stay on the path to the narrow gate.

"Good God,
why do I pray so timidly,
offering hesitant requests when I'm your loved child?
I've been commanded - almost dared - 
by Jesus to trust your generosity in my prayers.
Give me the expectations of a child
that through Jesus Christ
I will receive all I ask from you.
In Jesus' name, amen."
(Belgic Confession 26) 

BLESSING

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
(Psalms 25:4-5 NIV)

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
(Proverbs 22:3 NLT)

The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.
(Proverbs 14:16 NLT)

There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.
(Proverbs 29:20 NLT)

Ouch. I really need help, sometimes, with that last one!

The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Then he said, “It’s happened. I’m A to Z. I’m the Beginning, I’m the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty. Conquerors inherit all this. I’ll be God to them, they’ll be sons and daughters to me.
(Revelation 21:5-7 MSG)

When we read Revelation, we might be disappointed and confused. We are looking for what is going to happen in the future, but “we find neither dates nor names. We are fearful of what may happen to the world in the next twelve months, but we don’t find anything said that helps us understand the coming days.”

Is this book, of which we have heard so much, turning out to be irrelevant for us?

Or maybe we haven’t thought hard enough about it; spent enough time trying to figure out the symbols and chronology. There are many books written on this topic. In fact, most, if not all of them, twist and manipulate what is written “until it finally does yield the word they want to hear. History becomes arranged in prophetic installments. Dates are set and personalities named. The future is known. There is no more uncertainty. But the end result, satisfying as it is, is not recognizable in the book of Revelation.”

But we err when we approach Revelation in this way. It is necessary to set aside those preconceptions, those things that we really want it to say or hope that it says. “Maybe we have so fixed in our minds the kind of thing that will be said that we are not able to hear what it actually said.” Once again, we are looking for dates, names, events. But maybe, just maybe, God is trying to say something completely new, that we haven’t thought about before. “Maybe this is a new word – a really new word.”

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

The Bible, the Word of God, is often thought of as seeds. In fact, one of Jesus’s most famous parables involves a sower and his seeds. This Word of God, which Hebrews describes as alive, “has the potential to produce life, growth, blossoming, fruitfulness, and a miracle. It’s all there inside the seed, inside the Word.”

But this seed cannot grow if it stays on the pages. It must be sown. “Sown into the soil of life. Sown into the lives of others . . . and to the soil of your own life. The seed must become one with the soil. So the Word must become one with your life. So you need to sow the Word into every situation of your life and let it become one with that soil – the soil of your heart, your thoughts, your emotions, your life. For when the Word becomes one with your life, then its shell will break open, its plan will be activated, its promise unlocked, its life released, and its miracle begun.”

The Mission: Today, take a seed from the Word of God and plant it in the soil of your heart. Let is promise be unlocked and bear its fruit in your life.”

He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.
“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
(Matthew 13:3-23 NLT)

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.
(1 Peter 1:23 NLT)

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Father, help me put this truth to work in my life today. May the seed of Your Word be living and active in every situation in my life today.

Give me great wonder, today, Lord, at the sacrifice of Jesus. Let that be something that comes to the front of my mind all day, today. Then, help me to turn around and be able to suffer along with others, in whatever their circumstances might be. Make me more empathetic, Lord. I lift up all who are suffering from some kind of addiction, along with those who stand beside them to help them. I pray for any who might be alone in their struggle, that You would bring someone alongside them to hold them up in their journey and lead them to Your light of deliverance.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bread of Life

Today is Wednesday (Hump Day), the third of February, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,973

I actually had to stop and think a minute to remember what day this is.

I hear the “big game” is this Sunday. I certainly don’t have a “dog in this hunt,” but I might watch at least part of the game. I don’t know, though . . . Sunday is one of my major gaming days, so I will have to weigh which is more important to me. The only reason that I might watch is to see this Patrick Mahomes kid play. I definitely will not be rooting for Tom Brady. I don’t hate him, like a lot of Texas people. Neither do I like him very much. He’s great, I’ll give him that. But I can’t bring myself to root for a team from Tampa.

Sports logic is weird, so don’t question it. The Tampa Bay Rays are one of my top three most loathed teams. The other two are the New York Yankees (duh), and the Toronto Blue Jays (even though Joey Bats doesn’t play there, any more). Now that my primary allegiance is to the Texas Rangers, perhaps I should shift the brunt of my baseball dislike a bit more to the west. But, hey . . . Rangers fans don’t like Toronto, either, right? And everyone but Yankees fans hates the Yankees.

Enough of that. Time to get serious.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
(Psalms 63:7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For Twisted Pine Hawaiian Blend coffee; good stuff – highly recommend
  • For Your words . . . sweeter than honey to my mouth (Psalm 119:103)
  • That my times are in Your hands (Psalm 31:15)
  • That every word You speak is true
  • For the Bread of Life

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 29

INVITATION

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
(Psalms 119:103-104 NIV)

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.
(Psalms 31:1-5 NIV)

My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
(Psalms 31:15-16 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
(Matthew 6:1-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

“My times are in your hands,” says the psalmist. I can easily echo these words, and have, many times, in my life. The truths stated in this psalm are some of my most favorite in Scripture. “Rescue,” “rock,” “fortress,” “refuge,” these are all words that describe how I feel about God, my Father. I feel safe when I think of Him in terms like these.

Jesus continues to challenge our ways of thinking in His Sermon. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them,” He says. I added the emphasis.

Because, seriously, where else are you going to “practice your righteousness,” other than “in front of others?” I honestly do not think that Jesus is telling us that we should never allow our “good works” to be seen by others. He is challenging our motivation. He is telling us that, if we are doing good works in order to be noticed by other people, we’re doing it wrong! The attention is not the motivation.

The motivation is love, compassion, service, the simple joy of doing something good.

I have never liked the church’s practice of calling someone up and pointing out the good things they have done. We should not be calling attention to our deeds. Let them speak for themselves. I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with putting up pictures of all the gifts we gave to some families for Christmas (The Exchange did this a few years ago). I guess as long as we are only showing it to ourselves, and saying, “Look church. Here is what you did for these people.” That’s probably okay. But if we start putting stuff like that on our social media, where everyone can see it, it becomes tricky.

We’re not hiding anything. People will hear about our good deeds, they will find out about them. But we don’t parade down the street, blowing a trumpet when we carry food to the hungry. We do it quietly, simply. We do it for the love of our Lord and for the care of people whom He cares about, and no other reason.

Of course, this thought translates next into how we pray, but I don’t want to take the time to get into that, this morning. I was more drawn in by the first portion. And I have a feeling that the praying part will continue in tomorrow’s Bible reading.

Father, I thank You that You have given us generous hearts, that You have led us to hold onto our possessions with open hands rather than closed fists. But we could still do better, I think, which is evidenced by the fact that our “tithe fund” still has money in it. Help us to see with better eyes and spirits the needs of people around us, that we might help them. Not for attention, or not for glory. Not to us, O Lord, but to You goes the glory. May we serve and work quietly and simply, for the attention to go to You, rather than to us.

"God of mercy,
thank you for the freedom to do good -
not to prove to you,
others,
or myself
how good I am,
but instead forgetful of self,
focused on your pleasure,
and moved by your undeserved mercy.
Give me a gentle heart of compassion
by deepening my experience of your grace,
knowing that in doing good works
I only do what is appropriate
to your generosity in Jesus.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession 24)

BLESSING

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
(Psalms 25:4-5 NIV)

“You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.”
(Psalms 91:2 GNB)

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.
(Proverbs 30:5 NLT)

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
(Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT)

The Hebrew word for “bread” is “lechem.”

The Hebrew word for “house” is “beit.”

You may already know where this is going.

Beit Lechem means “house of bread.”

Bethlehem.

Bread is a major source of life. It can be, perhaps, seen figuratively as that which we need most to survive.

“If what we needed most was money, if money was the bread of our lives, then what we’d find in Bethlehem, the house of bread, would be money. If what we most needed was success, then we’d find success there. Or if it was acceptance or pleasure or substances or careers or possessions or any other thing we desired. If any of these were what we needed most, then that’s what we would have found in Bethlehem. But we didn’t find any of those things there.”

What did we find in Bethlehem, the “house of bread?”

The Bread of Life.

The Mission: Stop filling your needs and desires with that which is not bread. Fill your heart with the love, the presence, and the fullness of your true bread – Him.”

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.
(Micah 5:2 NLT)

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
(John 6:32-35 NLT)

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Father, thank You for the Bread of Life, which was found in Bethlehem, the house of bread! Help me to fill up my life with this true bread, not with things that are meaningless and fade away. Teach me Your ways, show me Your path; help me walk with Jesus today.

Lord, I also pray, today, that my fellowship with the risen Christ would be deep and intense. Remind me, frequently, throughout this day, of His work and sacrifice for me, and of His victory over sin and death. Give me spiritual renewal and refreshment, today, even as I go through the mundane tasks of “work.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.