Trust No One

It’s Thursday already! That’s what happens when you have two days off at the beginning of the week. Today is Thursday, May 31, 2012. One day closer to whatever’s next. Today is “Speak in Complete Sentences Day.” There’s an entire generation out there who will never understand what that means. (It just started raining outside.) On this date in 1930, Clint Eastwood was born. Go ahead…make my day. Do you feel lucky? On this date in 1819, Walt Whitman was born. It was Whitman who wrote “Oh Captain, My Captain,” mourning the assassination of Lincoln. I wonder if he was standing on a desk… And on this date in 1997, Ila Borders became the first woman to pitch in a minor league baseball game, pitching for the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League.

Yesterday was Stephanie’s last day of homebound school. As stated yesterday, we should be picking up her diploma next Monday. We plan a celebration the following Sunday after church.

21-8, Rangers?? REALLY???

Father, I pray for some revelation of truth today, either something fresh or a good, solid reminder of something that I’ve already known. I want to see you this morning, clear and strong.

My Utmost For His Highest

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them…for he himself knew what was in man. John 2:24-25

Today’s reading is called “God First.” Although it is said that Jesus did not trust any man, he was also “never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust.” There was complete trust in what the grace of God could do for any man. If we put our trust in humans first, we will wind up in total despair. We will become bitter (I can attest to this from experience). “Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.” That means I don’t even trust ME! And, believe me, I don’t! So we should put God first in trust.
We should also put God’s needs first. Wait…God has needs? Once again, I’m not comfortable with Chambers’s choice of words, but I think I get what he means. God doesn’t “need” anything! He is completely and utterly self-sufficient. However, he has desires and he has his will. There is much hue and cry today that we must go and tell the dying world about Jesus. While it is true that we need to be about the business of spreading the gospel, there are personal needs that must be met first. Chambers taught at a college. These readings are part of talks that he gave at this college, and in this reading, he states, “The purpose of this College is to get us rightly related to the needs of God.” You see, the purpose was NOT to teach these men how to preach or evangelize, although that certainly happened, as well. It was to get people rightly related to God’s will in their lives. Once that had been accomplished, then God would open doors to realize his will in other places.
I have said for many years now that worship is the ultimate priority of the church. There are many pastor/teachers who agree with this thought, which is based on Jesus’s statements concerning what is the greatest command. John Piper says that missions exists because worship doesn’t! The purpose of missions is to create worshipers! When we get our relationship with God right within our own selves, then we can properly seek out his will in the world, or in other people. It’s kind of like that parable Jesus told about trying to remove a spot of dust from someone else’s eye when you’ve got a log sticking in your own eye. Or, in more modern terms…what is it was used to say? “Clean up your own back yard first.” Or something like that.
Finally, Chambers says we need to “Put God’s Trust First.” In this case, I believe the word “trust” to be something that is given to us, as in a “trust fund.” God gives us himself in Jesus. This is his trust to us. “Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transfigured by the indwelling life of the Son of God?” I hope so. That is my heart’s desire. But this natural life is surely afflicted from all sides by the desires of the flesh and the “stuff of earth.” “God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be manifested in my mortal flesh.” THAT is what I’m after.

Tabletalk Magazine

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20

As discussed yesterday, when we were united with Christ, we were also united with each other by the Spirit. It is also true that each of us has been placed in the body of Christ for a specific purpose. “Our place in God’s kingdom depends on His electing grace and our personal faith, but we are not brought into heaven alone.” And we are brought into this relationship to be put to work. Each of us has specific gifts that are for the good of the body. We tend to get off course here, thinking, somehow, that these gifts are for own own edification or glory. But the gifts that we have received are for the good of the body. And we should never think of the pastors, administrators, and worship leaders as being more important than the people who watch babies, or the others who work behind the scenes. (Don’t tick off the guy running the lights, right?) “Our gifts and talents are all necessary for a well-functioning church.”

Once again, I can tie these two readings together. If we look at the idea of taking care of God’s “needs” first, this can be considered along with figuring out our place in the body. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to work quite as smoothly as the human body does. For example…what if the heart suddenly decided it wanted to be an eye? Or what if the foot decided it was tired of carrying the weight of the entire body and wanted to be a nose? (For one thing that would be one UGLY nose!) Funny, right? But isn’t that what happens when someone who has no musical talent insists that they want to sing a solo?? Or when someone who couldn’t administer their way out of a paper bag tries to be an administrator? (I’ll raise my hand on that one…I’m a horrible administrator!) We desperately need the guidance of the Spirit to know where our place is in the body of Christ, and then we need to follow that guidance. We need to not try to be something that we are not, but we also need to make sure that we be what we are! If we are taking care of God’s “needs” first, the body of Christ will be functioning properly and will be able to look outside of itself for the work that God intends for the entire body to do. But hear this, church leaders! You leaders who expect every member of the church to go out and verbally share the gospel door-to-door are violating the same principal. Because that is not everyone’s gift. That would be like the entire body deciding to try to be a mouth. And from my experience, one mouth is almost too many.

One more thing (I thought I was finished). It is entirely possible and probable that these gifts and talents can change over the course of a lifetime. So just because you have one gift when you are, say, sixteen or twenty, doesn’t mean that that will remain your main purpose when you are sixty. Remember, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

Father, I pray that I will know my place in your kingdom and in the body of Christ. You have gifted me with certain gifts and talents, and I desire to use them for your glory. I confess that there are certain gifts that seem to be dormant right now, and this makes me uncomfortable. But I also acknowledge that part of the reason for this is my own fault. While I have tried to get someone to let me play or sing in the worship team at our church, it is also true that I have not practiced my gifts very much at home lately. So I pray that the Spirit might inspire me to get on that. If I am to use a gift for your glory, I truly must continue to hone that gift so that it will be excellent for you. I cannot expect to pick up a guitar tomorrow after having not played it for a few months and play like I always have. Give me the motivation to practice, Lord. Help me take care of your needs within myself first. Of course, I believe, too, that this is why I’m involved in the tech side of ministry at our church. You are showing me that sometimes, it is necessary to minister behind the scenes. It is not always necessary to be “up front.” All parts of the body are necessary for the body to function correctly.
These morning devotions serve to help me get rightly related to you through Christ. I thank you for the things that you have been showing me each day. But I pray that you would, by your Spirit, help me to remember them, too. I tend to forget what I read, to forget what you taught me, kind of like that guy in James that looks at his reflection and walks away, forgetting what he looks like.
May truly trust nothing else within me but the workings of your grace. I know that I don’t trust myself, Lord, because my “self” is still wrapped up in flesh. As long as that is true, my self will be less than trustworthy. But if I am relying on your Spirit, and allowing your Spirit to show forth, then I will be more trustworthy, because it will be your grace that is being trusted.
I pray that your Son would be manifested in my mortal flesh, Lord! By the power of the risen and ascended Christ, I pray that this would be so. Show forth Jesus in my life, especially when I am in places like where I work, workout, and shop. I pray that, as we all gather tonight at our lifehouse, we will all manifest the Spirit of Christ in our lives. May everything we say and do be shown to be coming from your Spirit within us. May the attitudes of our hearts and the words of our mouths reflect the Spirit of your Son.

I pray for this day, Lord. There are storms outside right now. I pray that these will abate by the time I leave for work, as Stephanie is afraid during thunderstorms. I pray for safe travel to work, for Christi and for me. I also pray that she will hear something from Supermedia today. It has been stated to her that the hiring request has been submitted. I pray that the salary offered will be commensurate with what she was making before. I pray that her day today will be less stressful. I also pray for a smooth day at my work. I pray that Stephanie has a restful day today, as she celebrates being through with her classes. I pray for wisdom as Christi and I try to work out her future.

I pray for the leadership of our church, Lord. Give them direction, showing them which way YOU want our church to proceed. I pray for the resources necessary to continue the ministries of the church.

Trust nothing but God’s grace in you or anyone else. Find your place in the body and serve with everything you’ve got.

Grace and peace, friends.

No Buts

It’s Wednesday, May 30, 2012. One day closer to whatever’s next. Good morning. It’s thundery and rainy outside this morning.
Today is “Water A Flower Day.” Check. Already did that. When I got up, it was raining. Flowers watered. Okay, so I didn’t do it…they’re still watered!
On this date in 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. On this date in 1911, the first Indy 500 was held. I wonder if they turned right back then? And on this date in 1963, a teenager from New Jersey named Leslie Gore appeared on American Bandstand, singing this song.

That particular performance was at “Hollywood A Go-Go” in 1965.

Yesterday went well. Christi’s interview went well, also. She said the guy she interviewed with was going to call HR as soon as they got done with the interview to get the proverbial ball rolling. She left there at 450pm. There was an email from HR in her inbox by 503pm, requesting that she fill out an additional information form. We’re hoping that she gets some kind of notification today. We’re trying not to be impatient.
The visit to the school also went very well. If all goes as planned (and at this point there doesn’t seem to be any reason that it won’t), we will pick up Stephanie’s high school diploma sometime next Monday. We aren’t going to the graduation ceremony. Stephanie decided a good while back that she didn’t want to do that, and we’re okay with that. As wonderful as it would be to see her walk across the stage, the ceremony allegedly takes four hours, and I can’t see her sitting through that (or me, either, for that matter). So, looks like we will have a high school graduate next Monday!

Father, I pray that you would show me something of yourself today; something that perhaps I have not seen before; something to help me live this day in the power of the risen and ascended Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

I will follow you, Lord, but… Luke 9:61

What is true in the physical realm typically tends to be true in the spiritual, when it comes to our habits. When God gives us some instruction that seems to go against our “common sense,” we are prone to hang back. We don’t want to take that step in the dark.
“At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad; but bring them to the bar of faith, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God. Trust entirely in God, and when He brings you to the venture, see that you take it.” Sadly, we all too often act like pagans when a crisis comes, when we should be banking our “faith in the character of God.” We have to remember that God will do what he says he will do.

Tabletalk Magazine

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

I think I can make this tie into the above topic. Let’s find out. Paul is comparing our relationship with Christ with marriage in this passage of 1 Corinthians. In the particular verse above, he says something that says something about our relationship, not only with Christ, but with each other. When we become “joined to the Lord,” in other words, when we become Christians, we become “one spirit with him.” There is a unique union with the spirit of Christ. Of course it is far deeper than even a marriage union, but it’s the closest thing that Paul could come up with in this life. The thing is, if all Christians are one spirit with Christ, then we are also one spirit with each other. “There is a deep, eternal fellowship between all those who believe in the Savior.” It extends beyond our time, because we are united with all who have ever believed, in all ages.

Now to see if I can tie this together. If we are one spirit with Christ, we must maintain this faithful unity with him. And, in doing so, if we receive some kind of direction from him, we must be faithful to act on the faith that we have been given. Common sense, while certainly valuable, must never trump faith. Careful wisdom is called for, though. We must be absolutely certain that it is the voice of Jesus we are hearing before running off after some wild idea. Just because an idea pops into my head doesn’t mean it came from God. It very well could have come from me…and that’s the most dangerous source of all.

Father, I pray this morning for the unity of the body of Christ. We are in a day when there are divisions far and wide in the body, in the church. Some of these are not necessarily bad divisions. But there are areas where there are some pretty serious division, and, in some cases, over essential tenets of the Christian faith. If we are believers in you through Christ, then we are one spirit, whether we like it or not. There is a unique bond between all believers, and it is my opinion that we should celebrate this union. While there are certain things that are necessary in order to be considered a Christian, there are many beliefs that are not necessary. Therefore, if a brother and I are not agreeing on one of those, we need to be able to “agree to disagree” and celebrate the fact that we both believe in the salvation of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and that we are both part of the body of Christ.

I pray, Father, that, if and when I hear your voice telling me to do something, that I will do it without saying, “Yes, Lord, but…” There should be not “buts” in our obedience. I pray for the faith that you have given me to take precedence over anything else when I feel your Spirit giving me instruction. May I have the strength to follow you and worship you with abandon. But I also pray for the wisdom to know when it’s really you and when it’s just some crazy idea that popped into my head. I pray for a closer intimacy with you through your Spirit, that this might be evident.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray for safety on the way to work for both Christi and me, as we have had storms overnight and this morning. I pray that Christi might hear something positive from Supermedia today. I pray that my work day will be smooth today, after having several days off. I also pray that Stephanie will get her final assignments turned in to her homebound teacher today, in their last meeting. I thank you for the positive influence that this teacher and this program have had on Stephanie, and I pray for wisdom as we consider her future.

I pray for our church. I pray that our pastor will be sensitive to your leadership, and I pray that you would show him the direction that YOU want our church to take. I pray for a defensive shield against any human ideas that would lead us down the wrong path. I pray that we would not get caught up in the trap of looking for success through numbers. May all that we do glorify you.

I life up Jeremy to you today, as he directs our worship ministries. May all of us involved by unified and work hard to make his job easier. Lead him by your spirit, as well.

May we all follow God’s leadership, leaving our “buts” out of the picture.

Grace and peace, friends.

No Emergencies

Ahhh….how nice to be sitting here in front of the ‘puter at 8am on a Monday morning. It’s Monday, May 28, 2012. One day closer to whatever’s next. This, of course, is Memorial Day. A lot of people have today off, unless they work in retail, in which case, they will probably be as busy as a Saturday. I guess a lot of people will go out for picnics today. We will, in a couple of hours, probably, be travelling to Waxahachie to return to Scarborough Renaissance Festival. Today is their last day for this season. I supposed there is potential for it to be extremely crowded. We’ll see, I guess. Besides being Memorial Day, today is also “National Hamburger Day.” Man…I haven’t had one of those in a while…
On this date in 1998, comedian Phil Hartman was killed by his wife in a murder-suicide. He was 49 years old. On this date in 1957, many baseball fans were infuriated as MLB owners allowed the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants to move to LA and San Francisco. Of course, many baseball fans were overjoyed, as well…depends on which coast they lived on.

We had a marvelous time yesterday, hanging out with our lifehouse family. I ate way too much…I’ll go ahead and confess that right now. But I’m not stressing over that. The kids played in the above-ground pool, while Alex grilled. Eventually, we all sat down to enjoy grilled bratwurst, kielbasa, burgers, and chicken. I had a brat, a kielbasa, and a piece of chicken. We also had the most amazing dessert thing…it’s called Crack. Yes, I said, “Crack.” Just click on the link. It wasn’t exactly like the one in the web site I linked to…Jennifer used white chocolate, regular sugar and no nuts. Seriously, this stuff was to die for. (I ate way too much of that stuff, and, consequently, had a significant weight gain this morning. It’s okay. I’ll carry on for the rest of the week. After we get done with the Renaissance Festival.) After we finished eating, we eventually gravitated into groups of guys and girls. We sat in the living room and talked about everything from movies to food to books to food to more movies to beer (yes, I said beer…personally, I can’t stand the stuff). We had great fun. Finally, close to 10pm, we decided it was time to head home. I really can’t put into words what a wonderful time we had. Well…I guess I can, huh? Maybe the correct phrase is words can’t adequately express how enjoyable that time of fellowship was. We truly love our lifehouse family.

Father, I pray that you would show me something of yourself today, something that would help me live this day under the shadow and influence of your grace.

My Utmost For His Highest

In that day you will ask nothing of me. John 16:23

When is “that day?” Jesus says it is the day when the disciples see him again, and their hearts rejoice with a joy that no one will ever be able to steal from them. Chambers equates this with a time when the resurrection life of our Lord is finally manifested within us. Before that time, we will want to ask Jesus for this and for that; but after a while all questions will be gone, exhausted. When we reach that point, we will have come to “the place of entire reliance on the resurrection life of Jesus which brings you into perfect contact with the purpose of God.” So why am I not living that life now?
No matter what things that are “dark to [my] understanding,” they cannot come between my heart and God. When will that day come that I don’t need to ask God any more questions because I am so confident in his will and in his sovereignty. He will bring things about in accordance with his will. I know this. I am 100% convinced of this! Yet I doubt and question him daily. “If anything is a mystery to you and it is coming in between you and God, never look for the explanation in your intellect, look for it in your disposition, it is that which is wrong.” My “disposition” is not yet submitted to the life of Christ. When I am face to face with what is happening NOW, I briefly forget what I believe about God and his sovereignty. My current situation is an emergency. I need it handled now. I panic. I show little, if any, faith. Believe me, I am ashamed of these moments. Ashamed because of the lack of faith that they display. When my faith is strong, when I am completely submitted to the resurrection life of Christ (not that this has EVER happened), there are no emergencies! Do we truly understand that? God has everything worked out! There is no such thin as an emergency in God’s eyes. Therefore, there should be no such thing as an emergency in my circumstances. Within reason, of course…if your house is burning down, I think that constitutes a situational emergency. However, in the long run, even if the house burns to the ground, it’s not a life emergency. God has it under control. That’s where where we fail to trust. So…what do I do? I carry on, continuing to work on faith and submission. There is no emergency.

Tabletalk Magazine

What makes a successful church? Is there a minimum number for either attendance or membership that much be achieved? If so, what is that number, and who sets it? Is there a measurable quality in either preaching or worship that must be attained? Is it the size of the missions budget? Or is it when the church actually meets their budget for the year? Is it noted by the percentage of members that tithe? Or maybe if we get a statement from membership every week that states how many sins each member committed…when that number gets below a certain number, is our church successful? (I made up that last one…it’s not really in the article. But it’s no more ridiculous than trying to measure church success with other numbers.) The success of a church is NOT measured by numbers!
Well, then how is it “measured?” That’s kind of a trick question, because I don’t really think it is measurable. We have an epic fail when we try to measure the success of a church by the standards of the world. Let’s take a look at a scripture reference. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 In the recent weekend reading of Tabletalk Magazine, Mark Ross says, “Glory in the church–that is what makes a church successful.” This can only be attained “in Christ Jesus.” What are the elements of this glory? Ross opines that they are the same as those of the glory of God, which can be found in Exodus 34, after Moses asked God to show him His glory. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (vv 6-7) “God’s glory is the sum total of His attributes.”
This, then, is the measuring rod. Do we find in our church a revelation of God’s glory? Is God’s character shown in our worship, our service, our fellowship, our pastoral care, and our outreach?
As I kept reading this article, I was disappointed as he tried to make Matthew 18:15-20 into an evangelical passage, dealing with “lost sheep.” That’s tragic. It demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of Scripture, and it disappoints me that Tabletalk published the article with that misinterpretation in it. Nevertheless, I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of the article, in terms of how a church’s success is “measured.” If the characteristics of mercy, steadfast love, and forgiveness are present, we have a successful church. Balanced in with that must be an insistence that sin is sin, and if a brother insists on continuing in sin, after individual appeal, small group appeal, and finally whole church appeal, he must be disciplined. You see, “mercy, steadfast love, and forgiveness” don’t mean looking the other way when our members are involved in sin. They must be called out. But…when repentance is present, it matters not haw many times a person sins against you. Jesus commands forgiveness. He says, “seventy times seven,” which, as we know equals 490. But do we really think Jesus was saying to keep a tally of how many times our brother sins against us and we forgive him? I don’t think so. I believe that he is indicating unlimited times. Because that is how many times our Father will forgive us when we sin against him. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I passed 490 a long time ago.
The characteristics of the glory of God…if they are present, then the church is successful. Even if only “two or three are gathered…”

I’m no longer doing the “read the Bible through” plan. I have decided that my devotional times were taking too long (I know…how can you spend too much time reading the Bible?), and are frequently causing me to be in danger of being late for work and other things. I will, however, beginning on June 1, return to an old practice that I once had of reading five Psalms a day. I have found, in the past, that reading Psalms on a daily basis kind of “supercharges” my daily relationship with God. I love the Psalms, and have said before that I don’t think it’s an accident that they are the center of our Bible.

Father, I pray for confidence in your sovereignty. Please note that I am not praying for increased faith at this time. I don’t feel strong enough at this moment to endure the kind of trials that come when we ask for more faith. Some might think that I am joking or being “tongue in cheek,” but I’m not really. I’m actually being quite honest with you in expressing my desires right now. What I do desire is more confidence in you and your plan for not only my life, but this world and all creation. I believe that you are bringing about your plan, without fail, and without delay. I do not believe that you ever have an emergency, because nothing ever happens that is outside your control or not part of your plan. Therefore, no emergencies. And if you don’t have any emergencies, then neither should I. If I am relying on you for all things, if my life is submitted to the life of Christ, if I am living life looking to you, then I should never have an emergency, because you have it all handled. The problem is in living that belief out on a daily basis. So I pray that you, by the power of the Spirit and the life of the ascended Christ, will help me do that. The next time something happens that makes me want to panic and declare “emergency,” prompt me, by your Spirit, to look to you and know that it’s not really that urgent. You are God; you are sovereign; all things are under your sovereign hand and in your control. I will trust in you.

I pray for our church, The Exchange. I pray that our church will be successful, but by your standard of measurement not any man’s. I pray for Joel, our pastor. I pray that he will be sensitive to your leadership, but not be susceptible to the ideals of practices of man. I pray, Father, that you will show us the direction that YOU want us to take. I pray that you will make The Exchange a “praying church.” I pray that your power and glory will be manifested by the people that make up The Exchange as we display your mercy, steadfast love, and forgiveness. But may we also be tough on sin, taking a hard stand against any member who gets caught up in sin, lovingly correcting them and drawing them back into fellowship if you provide the repentance that is necessary. May we never harshly judge those who sin, for we all do sin, and do not need that kind of judgment leveled against us. May we be dispensers of your grace, Father! May we always be dispensers of your grace. May we worship you with abandon each time we gather, and may our hearts be broken for what breaks your heart.

I pray for this day, Lord. May our trip to Waxahachie be safe today. I pray that we will have a relaxing, entertaining time at the festival, and a good night’s rest at the hotel we are staying at. I pray for a safe trip back home tomorrow, and that tomorrow’s activities will be successful as well, especially Christi’s interview back at Supermedia.

I give you thanks as we ,today, remember all of those who served in the armed forces for our nation, especially those who gave their lives in that service. May you bless their families today, and may we never forget the sacrifices made, nor forget to be thankful for it. May we all appreciate the freedoms that we have in this land, freedoms that, although fought for, were ultimately provided by YOU, the God of all creation!

Your grace is sufficient.

If you are tempted to panic over something today, remember who is in control and that he has infinite resources. God has no emergencies.

Grace and peace, friends.


It’s Thursday morning, May 22, 2012. The only “holiday” I can find for today is National Escargot Day. I don’t think so. On this date in 1964, a riot erupted at a soccer match. … Isn’t that kind of like a fight breaking out in a hockey game? On this date in 1844, the first commercial telegraph message was dispatched from the U.S. Capitol to a railroad station in Baltimore, MD. The message was “What hath God wrought?” On this date in 1974, Duke Ellington died. And on this date in 1935, the first MLB night game was played between the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Reds won 2-1.

Not much to report about yesterday, other than Phillip Phillips winning American Idol. I’m actually happy about that. I thought Jessica was going to win. I actually picked her to win back during the first live shows. I’m pretty sure this is the first time ever that the person who won was the person I wanted to win. Let’s see…I was pulling for Lauren Alaina last year, Crystal Bowersox in 2010 (has anyone even seen Lee Dewyze since then??), Adam Lambert in 2009; oh, wait! There’s one! I did want David Cook to win in 2008. So there’s another one. In 2007, I was pulling for Melinda Dolittle…she came in third. In season five, I wanted Katherine McPhee to win, and in season four (that’s when this all started for me…only watched the finale), I wanted Bo Bice to win. I guess I’m kind of a “runner-up” kind of guy.
I had some thoughts though, during this finale last night. As I watched Rihanna stand there soaking in all the worship (if you think about it, isn’t that what it is?) after her performance, with an expression on her face that said, “Yeah, I deserve this because I’m so great,” I was a bit disgusted. Our society feeds the “fame monster” (as Gaga calls it). And it seems to be getting worse. There was no humility in Rihanna. There was plenty in Phillip, as he couldn’t even make it through his song at the end. But will he stay that way? Odds are against it. I like that young man and wish him success. I also hope that he resists the monster that lurks beneath the surface of fame.
As I was driving to work one morning, I went a different way than usual, because of traffic. I passed a church along the way. Outside on their sign, it said “Alliance Idol Talent Show.” Really?? Am I the only one who sees something very, very wrong with a church (allegedly the “body of Christ”) having an activity with the word “idol” in the title? I mean, it might be okay if it were, say, “Smash Your Idols” night. Anyway…time to get off my soapbox and into what’s really important.

Father, I pray for some inspiration this morning. I’m feeling drained today. Refresh me, by the power of your Spirit!

(I’m probably feeling drained because I stayed up until 1030pm watching the American Idol finale.)

My Utmost For His Highest

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Revelation 1:17

John saw Christ in his majesty, and had no other choice but to fall down before him. Sometimes the only God reveals himself to us is in his majesty, “and it is the awfulness of the vision which brings you to the delight of despair.” The only way to be brought out of that is by God’s own hand. Doesn’t it sound strange to describe a vision of the majesty of God as “awful?” Anytime I think about that, I am reminded of a lyric written by my music hero, Terry Scott Taylor. (By the way, it’s his birthday today! Happy birthday, Terry!) In a song called “Darn Floor, Big Bite” (from an album by the same name), God is described by the lyric, “You are beautiful; a terrible, terrible sight.” When we are face to face with the majesty of God, language fails us. Yes, he is beautiful. But yes, he is also terrible and awful to behold.
But, as in the case of John in Revelation, “In the midst of the awfulness, a touch comes, and you know it is the right hand of Jesus Christ.” Not a hand of correction; not a hand of restraint; “but the right hand of the Everlasting Father.” It is a hand of “ineffable peace and comfort.” Attached to his hands are the “everlasting arms,” that are full of “sustaining comfort and strength.”
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Once we receive the touch of his right hand, fear has no power over us; he says to us, “Fear not.” “His tenderness is ineffably sweet.” (He likes that word today…just to be sure, I looked it up. It means “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.”) Have I experienced this with Jesus? Perhaps not, because I still experience fear.
There are things that cause despair, though, that bring no delight. The only despair that brings delight is that which is brought when I must fall prostrate before God when he reveals himself to me in all his glory, after which the only way I can get up is by his right hand.
I don’t quite agree with Chambers’s last statement. He says, “God can do nothing for me until I get to the limit of the possible.” I get what he means…I just don’t agree with the way it is worded. I hesitate to use “can’t” when describing God. Yes there are a few things God cannot do. He cannot stop being God. He cannot lie. He cannot be other than perfect. But he can do whatever he wants to and to say that he “can’t” do anything until I reach my limit is not quite accurate. But what he will do when I reach that point of delightful despair is, as the word says, “ineffable.”

Tabletalk Magazine

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Psalm 37:3

Tabletalk continues to discuss the fruits of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Today’s fruit is faithfulness and goodness. Goodness involves more than just doing an external act. It also involves the motivation of the heart. “Thus, a deed is fully good only when it is motivated by a desire to please the Lord.” Jesus, if you remember, had some pretty harsh words for people who acted holy for the wrong reasons. Because of this, true goodness is only possible for people who have the Holy Spirit.
I’ve always liked the way John MacArthur described this in one of his broadcasts. Unbelievers who do “good” things (like doing civil charity acts and loving their families) are still doing “bad good,” because the motivation is not correct. Only believers are capable of doing “good good,” which are acts done to please their Father in heaven. When unbelievers do “good” things, they can only be described as “splendid vices.” Only the Holy Spirit can prompt us to do good things for the purest of motives. And please note, lest we start getting big-headed about this…even Christians mostly do “bad good.” We are, after all, still encased in jars of clay and have selfish motives most of the time.
Faithfulness is another part of the fruit. This is more than just believing in God, for even the demons do this. It is trusting in the promises of God alone. When we sin (which we do…or at least I still do, I guess I can’t speak for you), we express disbelief. Remember when I wrote about worry the other day, and how, when we worry, we don’t believe that God can take care of the details of our lives? Sin, at its core, is unbelief. “To transgress God’s law is to show that we do not consider evil to be evil and do not fear the Lord’s promised wrath.” When we flee sin, we show true faithfulness. It’s a cold sounding statement, but, at the core of things, it is true. When I choose sin over righteousness, I am choosing evil over good. And when I choose evil over good, I am defiantly saying that I don’t believe what God says about evil. If I would stop and consider that ever time I’m tempted to sin, I’m pretty sure I would sin a lot less than I do. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a)

Father, I pray for goodness and faithfulness in my life. I pray for less sin in my life and more righteousness. May your Spirit prompt me, next time I am tempted to sin (which will, no doubt, occur during the next hour of my life), to consider the ramifications of acting in disbelief to your commands and precepts. May I consider the cold, hard fact that, when I sin, I defy you; I declare that I know better than you (an absolutely, utterly ridiculous idea) and that evil is not, in fact evil. I pray that you continue to shake this jar of clay until it has no strength left to defy you. Help me to take every thought captive to your glory. And while I’m praying about your glory…
I pray, Father, that you would make that appearance to me, in your majesty, that would result in me falling on my face before you, as though dead, like John had to do. I desire to be placed in such a posture that only your right hand can raise me up. I sound insane today. What am I asking for? Nothing less than for you to be fully glorified in my life, Lord. That’s what I’m asking for. I don’t really care how it happens. I just want you to be the most important thing in my life. I don’t want losing weight to be the most important thing. I don’t even want my family to be the most important thing. I desire it to be you and you alone! So get me to that place, Father; that place of delightful despair; that place where language fails me and all I can do is fall on my face and proclaim, “You are beautiful; a terrible, terrible sight!”

I pray for this day; this Thursday. Give Christi boldness to stand in the face of the insanity where she works. I pray that she will be able to get hired back to her old job (or at least one like it at the old place). As crazy as that sounds, it would be better than what she has fallen into. The process is in the works, Lord. I pray that it would happen very quickly. In the meantime, give her confidence to get through what she must endure. And we will be satisfied with your will because far be it from us to dictate to you what should be done. We have our faulty desires, but you, O God, are sovereign and in control of all things.
I pray for a smooth work day for me today, with no crises to deal with. I also pray that Stephanie will get her work done so she can get it turned in tomorrow when her teacher comes to the house. Please let her get everything finished that is necessary to complete high school.

This morning, Lord, I lift up a group of men from our church. I’m going to name names, too. I pray for Jordan O’Leary, our drummer; Bart Bullard, our “tech master;” Jay Lundy, our lead guitar player; Ben Alvarez, our keyboard player; Brandon Gaines, our sound guy; Brett Foster, our other sound guy; Terry Guilliams, our bassist (and good friend to Stephanie); Alex Henneke, another tech guy; Joel Engle, our lead paster; Robbie Buie, our interim worship pastor;vBen Carr, another pastor; and Jeremy Edgar, our director of worship ministries. All of these men are very active in our worship ministries (including myself) and we all need your protection. Place your hand on our lives, Lord, as we live our daily lives. Let our lives be faithful and true, full of righteousness, and full of the fruit of the Spirit each day. May we gather together on Sundays to lift your name on high, and, during the week, when we all have other responsibilities, may we be faithful to lift each other up in prayer.

Your grace is sufficient.

Goodness and faithfulness…and a delightful despair. May we fall on our faces before him today, and then be lifted up by his right hand.

Grace and peace, friends!


It’s Wednesday, May 23, 2012. One more day. Good morning to you. One day closer to whatever’s next. Today is Lucky Penny Day, but it’s also World Turtle Day. I don’t believe in luck…so I guess I’ll go with the turtle. Everyone knows the world floats through space on the back of four elephants, who, in turn, are standing on the back of the Giant Star Turtle, Great A’Tuin, right? Right. Happy World Turtle Day. It was on this date in 1934 that notorious bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde were shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police near Sailes, Louisiana. They were shot to death in a stolen Ford. Someday, I’m going to see that movie with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

Yesterday was a much better day, and there is hope for Christi to get out of the situation she’s in. We’ll keep you posted.
We have a visit planned for next Tuesday, to see Stephanie’s teachers at the school campus. For anyone who is not aware, she has been in the homebound program for most of this school year, where a teacher comes to the house with her assignments. It was rough starting, but it has turned out great for her. If everything goes as planned, she should have a high school diploma early next month.

Hah. I just found “Honeytree” on Facebook. Remember her?

Father, I pray that my reading and meditation this morning will bring me insight into your self that will help me live this day looking to you for everything.

My Utmost For His Highest

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” Matthew 6:25

Today’s reading is called “Careful Infidelity.” Interesting title, isn’t it? It begins with, “Jesus sums up common sense carefulness in a disciple as infidelity.” Before you react to that statement, think about it. We are in a relationship with God, and have received the Holy Spirit. Where does God fit into this relationship? He should be our first consideration, right? “Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.”
Jesus says, “Do not be anxious.” In the KJV, this is rendered, “Take no thought.” Chambers says, “Don’t take the pressure of forethought upon yourself.” And here is the kicker; that “smackdown” statement that Chambers is so good at. “It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives…” POW! Right in the kisser! See? What did Jesus say choked out the life of the seed planted in the parable of the sower? It was the cares of this world! If we let the cares of this world, the “stuff of earth” be our foremost thought, we will never see that abundant life of God that Jesus says he has come to bring! I have to learn to trust where I cannot see. “The only cure for infidelity is obedience to the Spirit.” And Chambers closes the reading with one of his favorite words. “The great word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.”
“…worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives…” It can’t be much more clear than that. Any one of us would be quick to get all puffed up and say that we have not been unfaithful to God. But have we worried? Of course we have! Why is this so difficult? I don’t have the answer to that question, because I’m right in the middle of it, too. But God, praise his holy name, is teaching me day by day. I’m trying to learn…but my human nature, my flesh, forgets almost before I walk out the front door in the mornings. Gradually, he is molding me to a place where I can remember further into the day. Someday, maybe I’ll get there. But, as I learned yesterday, the great thing is that he will not leave me alone until I have reached that place of being one in him with Christ. Probably, that won’t happen until I wake up in heaven someday. But it will happen. Because Jesus prayed for it to happen.

Tabletalk Magazine

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. Proverbs 21:21

Tabletalk has been talking about the fruit of the Spirit this week. You know…that list of characteristics in Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Today’s topic is patience and kindness. I don’t really want to talk about patience. So I will. Patience is easy to see in the life of Christ. His disciples, bless their hearts, never quite got it. They constantly acted foolishly and misunderstood Jesus’s mission. But he did not reject them. He kept on patiently teaching them.
It is easy for us to have patience (personally, I don’t think the words “easy” and “patience” should EVER be in the same sentence together) with people who are in authority over us, because we fear them, or at least we should. Not fear in the sense that we are terrified of them, but fear in the sense of, hey, I’d better do what this guy says because he could fire me if I don’t. That kind of fear. But how easy is it for us to have patience with those who are less powerful or have less priority than we do? “Being long-suffering toward those who are somehow weaker than we are is a special form of patience.” Again…Jesus was the ultimate example of this. I did not do a very good job of imitating Christ yesterday evening. I got impatient with a customer service representative of AT&T while on the phone. I’m sure I’m the only one who has ever gotten impatient with a customer service representative, right? Don’t try to hide! Anyway…so much to learn, and the patience of Christ is right up there in that category with worry (which equals infidelity…).
God’s kindness is evident in his patience. It is also seen in his willingness to bless us far beyond what we deserve. We are called on to mirror this kindness in our relationships. “We are not to be petty as we interact with others, but we must overlook minor faults with the love that ‘covers a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8).” But, Lord!! Those aren’t minor faults!! Yeah, right.

Today’s Bible Readings

John 12; Psalm 22; 1 Kings 3

John 12 begins with Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive ointment. This event happens at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. I am assuming that it is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who did the anointing this time. It is interesting that, at this time, a plot arose to kill Lazarus, because many Jews were believing in Jesus because of him.
This event occurs six days before the Passover. It is interesting to note that John uses 10 chapters to cover the last week of Jesus’s life. Almost half of the Gospel of John is devoted to six days.
The triumphal entry into Jerusalem is the next event. John points out that, even though the disciples did not understand it at the time, they remembered and understood later, after Jesus had ascended.
It is in this chapter that Jesus says, Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (v 25) Later, he says, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (vv 31-32) Sadly, John states that there were some in authority who believed, but were afraid to admit it because loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (v 43) How many of us are like that?

Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm, beginning with one of the famous statements that Jesus later uttered while on the cross. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (v 1) Later, the Psalm foreshadows the cross with verses 7-8. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Verses 12-18 also see their fulfillment in the events surrounding the crucifixion. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet–I can count all my bones–they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Surprisingly, part of this Scripture is quoted at the end of this song by The Guess Who.

Listen all the way to the end to hear it…
The final two verses of the Psalm speak of generations to come. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it. (vv 30-31) It is also interesting to note that, according to Gerard Chrispin in The Bible Panorama, this Psalm was written long before crucifixion was practiced.

1 Kings 3 contains Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, which is followed by the famous story of the two prostitutes who argued over whose baby was dead and whose was alive.

Father, as I walk through this day, I pray that I will not worry about the practical details of my life. I pray that I will not be unfaithful to you by worrying. Let me take no thought, have no anxiety about such things as food and clothing. Let me be anxious for nothing, Lord, but express full faith in you to take care of us. I also pray that I might display patience and kindness toward everyone that I meet today. May I be a better imitator of you, Lord.

I pray for this day. Give Christi boldness and confidence as she faces the trials that will come with this work day. I pray that your will be done in her situation. I know that your will will be done. May our desires reflect your will, Father. I pray that my work day will be smooth, and that Stephanie will have a successful day today, getting more accomplished toward her final goal of completing school.

Your grace is sufficient, Father. May we show kindness and patience in all we do.

Remember today…worry=infidelity. May the Spirit remind me of that all day today.

Grace and peace, friends.

Spiritual Sponges

It’s, um…Wednesday! Yeah, that’s it. Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Today is National Wear Purple for Peace Day. I never heard of that. I’m not sure I have any purple. Wait! Oh, now I get it! This is supposedly direct to the aliens! (Not the ones from south of the border, either!) We’re talking ET-type aliens! I guess they like purple? On this date in 1777, Button Gwinnett (remember him? He signed the Declaration of Independence) received a fatal gunshot wound in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh. He died three days later. On this date in 1975, Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Why? Because it’s there. And, on this date in 1964, Motown Records had its first number 1 hit with “My Guy” by Mary Wells.

Yesterday’s devotional had a profound effect on me, and I received a couple of very good comments on it from a couple of dear readers. And Christi seems to have had a better day yesterday. That doesn’t mean she’s changed her mind about wanting to get out of there, though. In other news from yesterday, the insurance people finally got with the Lexus dealership and left them a check. So the repairs can get started on our car. All we will owe is the $250 deductible. Sweet! I am, however, going to miss the sound system in the car I’m currently driving. I’ll enjoy it for at least a couple more days. It’s newer, so I can play my iPhone music through the Bluetooth. Amazing technology these days. (Does anyone know what that technology is called “Bluetooth?” That’s just weird. Especially considering it originally went in your ear.)

Father, I pray that you show me something today that will continue to help me live this life looking to you. I’m still praying for this, even though you answered with intensity that nearly crushed me yesterday. Bring it on.

My Utmost For His Highest

… partakers of the divine nature… 2 Peter 1:4

Just a snippet of one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. 2 Peter 1:3-4 changed my life in 1984 (before meeting Christi for the very first time changed it, as well…1984 was a great year). Here’s the whole quote: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. Basically, we are told in verse three that God has already given us everything we need for this life. Which begs the question, why are we always asking for more strength, more wisdom, more anything? Good question, but we still do. Maybe what I’m praying for before I start this each day is a reminder of these things. Chambers, in fact, addresses that very thing. (I swear I hadn’t started reading it yet!) He uses a word that makes us uncomfortable. That word is “manipulate.”
First, he reminds us that we have been made “partakers of the divine nature” through those “precious and very great promises.” Then he uses that word. He says that we have to “‘manipulate’ the Divine Nature.” Now, I know that’s going to raise some hackles on people. “Manipulate GOD???” No. That’s not what he says. Because, as anyone who seriously knows God understands, it is impossible to manipulate God. Here’s the exact quote. “…we have to ‘manipulate’ the Divine Nature in our human nature by habits, and the first habit to form is the habit of realizing the provision God has made.” Sometimes we speak as if God has cut us off without a dime! (Chambers says “shilling.” He was British.) “He will tax the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us if we will obey Him.” It matters not if our circumstances are hard. “Why should they not be!” I like that line. What right do we have to expect life to be easy, anyway? “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden!” (That’s in the book of Joe South, chapter something…) And what happens when we get all down in self-pity because of those circumstances? “No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it obliterates God and puts self-interest upon the throne. It opens our mouths to spit out murmurings and our lives become craving spiritual sponges.” (Emphasis mine) It is so appropriate that this reading is coming on the heels of yesterday’s reading. Since I’ve already been “crushed down” by yesterday’s, I’m in the perfect place to be reminded of these truths. I’m already working on the issues, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s promptings from yesterday.
And here’s the good news. “When God is beginning to be satisfied with us He will impoverish everything in the nature of fictitious wealth, until we learn that all our fresh springs are in Him.” Wait…that’s good news? YES! Because that means that some of what is happening now in our lives is because he is beginning to be satisfied with what is going on in our lives! So he is working on us; chiseling away at the impurities and imperfections. Now, I’ve never been a large piece of granite before, but that chisel has to hurt, right?
Ultimately, what I am learning is that I need to “lavish the grace of God on others.” Notice the title of my blog. “Revelling in the Overflowing Grace of God.” For now, the key word in that is “overflowing.” If something is overflowing, it spills out; things around it get wet. So anyone who gets close to me should be getting wet with grace. And that can’t happen if I am steeped in self-pity, or if, as yesterday’s reading stated, I am being a “miserable crosspatch.” Oh, Father, I praise you for your words, and for the words of others who write for our inspiration. May you work them out in my life!

Tabletalk Magazine

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thessalonians 5:10

This is a somber passage. Paul is, of course, writing to the Christians in Thessalonica, who, apparently, are suffering affliction at the hands of some enemy. One of the things that will happen when Christ returns is that those who have afflicted the Christians, will, in turn, be repaid with affliction. There will be relief to the believers who are afflicted, as vengeance is inflicted on “those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Yes, there will be punishment…”eternal destruction.” Some take that to mean annihilation (I’m not sure what Rob Bell does with that passage…perhaps he cuts it out of his Bible), but I don’t. If it just said “destruction,” I might see that. But it says “eternal destruction.” To me, that says that they will be being destroyed forever. Eternal pain; eternal devastation; never any relief.
This is supposed to be comforting to those of us who believe. Yet, it makes me very uncomfortable, because I know some people who, as of right now, will be among the eternally destroyed. So I’m conflicted. While I wish Jesus would hurry up and return because I’m weary of this world and its struggles; weary of sin, weary of temptation, weary of my weaknesses that cause me to fall…I also would that he might tarry a little longer so that more will believe. Then I remember…God is sovereign, and in control of all things, including who’s going to believe. When that number is full, he will return. The time is set; he will not tarry longer. Even so, Lord Jesus, come. Maranatha!

Today’s Bible Readings

John 8; Psalm 18; 2 Samuel 23

John 8 begins (it actually begins in the last verse of John 7) with an event that is not in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. A woman, caught in adultery, is brought before Jesus. The passage says that the religious leaders came, “placing her in the midst.” I rather like the film depictions of this that I’ve seen, where they drag her up and pretty much throw her down in front of Jesus. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. What did he write? Believe it or not, there have been entire sermons preached on what Jesus wrote. This is rather silly, because it does not tell us what he wrote. Jesus then says those famous words (that he may or may not have actually said), “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the stones dropped to the ground and the religious leaders walked away. Finally, when all had left, Jesus told her that he did not condemn her, and that she should leave her life of sin. Do I believe this story? I’m not sure, actually. While I find nothing that conflicts with the teachings of Jesus in it, I find it to be a bit romanticized. I tend to think that, in reality, at least one of the Pharisees would have chunked a rock at the woman. After all…that was what made them Pharisees, right? Nevertheless, the words of Jesus are good for us to heed in our own lives. Let us not judge others when we have committed similar (or even worse) sins than they. And let us constantly be striving to leave our lives of sin.
The rest of chapter 8 contains more dialogue between Jesus and the Jews. During this, he says some important things. To anyone who claims that God is his Father, Jesus says this: “If God were your Father, you would love me.” Period. There are a lot of people in the world who claim to “know God,” but deny Jesus. If God is your Father, you will love Jesus. Toward the end of the chapter, Jesus then says the words that really make them want to kill him. He indicates that he had seen Abraham. “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” they asked him. His response was, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” It was those two words that made the furious, as they picked up stones to throw at him. Because it was with those two words that Jesus claimed to be Yahweh incarnate! Remember…back when Moses first met Yahweh, he was told that the name of the Lord was “I AM.” Here, Jesus made the same claim.

Psalm 18, as mentioned yesterday, is pretty much the same as 2 Samuel 22. It is David’s song of praise after he had finally been delivered from all of his enemies. It begins with these wonderful words:
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. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

2 Samuel 23 begins with the “last words of David,” and then ends with the listing of “David’s Mighty Men.” This is an impressive list of soldiers that accompanied and protected David during his battles. Ironically, Uriah the Hittite is the last name in the list.

Father, I praise you for the things that you are continuing to teach me. I have read and known the passage from today that tells me that you have given me everything I need for life and godliness, through your very great and precious promises! But I need reminding, and I apparently need it daily, if not hourly. I thank you for reminding me, Father. I pray that, by your Spirit, I will be able to truly manipulate this Divine nature that I possess, through the proper habits. And may I begin by constantly realizing the provision that you have granted me. May I not be guilty of self-pity any more. I confess…that’s where I was before you crushed me yesterday. I was in a mire of self-pity (and pity for my wife). Thank you for yanking me out of that muck and mire! While I still desire for her circumstances to change, I am able to pray with more clarity, showing love, not hatred. May I never get into that mode again, Father!

I thank you for the comfort of knowing that, one day, when the time is right, Jesus Christ will return and any enemy, physical or spiritual, that cause your children affliction, will be eradicated and eternally destroyed! I pray, though, that in the meantime, you would use me as a vessel to show your love to others, that they might get “wet” from the grace that overflows from this jar of clay. Draw their hearts to your cross for salvation, Lord! Soften their hard hearts to the message of your gospel.

I pray for this day, Father. Make it a good one. I pray that there will be no accidents or break downs to deal with at my job today. I pray that Christi’s day will be more positive. Give her boldness and confidence to face the issues of the day, and help her stand up to those who would put her down. I also continue to pray for her deliverance from this place. I pray for Stephanie today, that she might get some more homework done.

I also lift up a special pray for a dear friend of our family, Kayla Campos. Her mother is in ICU this morning, and they have not a clue what is wrong with her. There is internal bleeding and she is experiencing difficulty breathing on her own. I pray that you would touch her with your healing hand this morning, and give comfort to the family in this time.

Remember that we have been given everything we need for life and godliness! Then take that Divine nature and manipulate it within your own human nature. We have what we need to overcome. We have the provision. God is truly an awesome God!

Grace and peace, friends.

Stop the Whining

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Today is Straw Hat Day. So wear a straw hat, if you have one. And while you’re wearing it, thank a police officer, because it’s also Police Officer’s Memorial Day. It on this date in 1896 that a tornado struck Sherman, Texas, killing 73 people, some entire families. There were homes that were completely razed. A trunk lid from a car was found 35 miles away. And it was on this date in 1975 that Nolan Ryan pitched his first no-hitter as a California Angel. He would go on to throw an unprecedented seven no-hitters in his career. The closest to him is Sandy Koufax, with four. It was also on this day in 1972 that presidential candidate and Alabama Governor George Wallace was shot.

We finally got back to the gym to work out last night. This morning, I am at 300.6 pounds, 60.4 lost since January 15. As you can see, I am eagerly anticipating a milestone, which I fully expect to have passed by my “official” weigh-in day, which is Sunday.

I continue to pray for something to give in Christi’s situation. I need prayer, too, because I’m struggling with being angry at God, and that’s NOT a good place to be. Not at all. I know he’s in control, and I know he’s working things out. I also know that there are lessons to be learned and that he does things in his own timing. Considering that a day to the Lord is like a thousand years, that has me just a bit concerned. But…you know…she’s got a job, and she’s getting a paycheck. But she’s also losing her mind.

Father, I pray for some wisdom this morning as I search your words. I pray for inspiration to live this day looking to the risen and ascended Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

… that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… Ephesians 1:18

For what am I saved? “…that the Son of God might be manifested in [my] mortal flesh.” “Bend the whole energy of your powers to realize your election as a child of God; rise to the occasion every time.”
While I may not be able to do anything to obtain my salvation, I certainly must do something to manifest it. I must “work out what God has worked in.” Hang onto your toes… “If you are still the same miserable crosspatch, set on your own way, then it is a lie to say that God has saved and sanctified you.” OUCH!! Wait. What’s a “crosspatch?” I had to look it up. “A peevish, irascible person; a grouch.” Oh, dear. “Irascible–Prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered.” OH, DEAR!

I’m not liking this reading. But it goes on…

“God is the Master Engineer, He allows the difficulties to come in order to see if you can vault over them properly. … Rise to the occasion; do the thing. It does not matter how it hurts as long as it gives God the chance to manifest Himself in your mortal flesh.” As you can see, I’m not even trying to paraphrase this.
“May God not find the whine in us any more, but may He find us full of spiritual pluck and athleticism, ready to face anything He brings.” The aim of life, the sole aim of life, according to Chambers, is to manifest the Son of God in my mortal flesh. I am here to submit to his will so that he can accomplish anything he wants through me.

I feel like I’ve been run through a paper shredder. Everything that I have been feeling in the past few days is wrong. While it may not be wrong to want Christi out of the place where she is currently working, the way it has been manifesting itself through me is wrong. And the tension it has been producing in our family is noticeable, too. We are all a little bit “irascible,” of late. But what I said before needs to be emphasized and I need to be living like I believe it. God is in control! No matter how bad the situation seems, God is in it. Therefore, I need to stop whining and be “full of spiritual pluck.” Right this minute, I’m almost ashamed of how I have responded to this trial. I’ve got to work this out.

Tabletalk Magazine

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

We have confidence and hope, knowing that our Savior will return again for us. To some, this sounds like a science fiction or fantasy story. I realize that. But, as I have stated before, I will gladly be considered a fool for the sake of Christ. This hope allows us to wait for him and be confident, even in distress and persecution. I’ll be honest here…I’ve received very little persecution for my belief in Jesus. In fact, I think it safe to say that I, personally, have received none at all. Oh, sure, I’ve taken offense at something that was said in some media somewhere, but that wasn’t directed at me, personally. However, there may come a day when I do suffer in some way for my beliefs. The rewards that will be received at his return far outweigh any suffering we might experience in this life.
This waiting, though, is not passive. “…it involves the active renunciation of ungodliness and the passionate pursuit of godliness.” I have to renounce sin and trust in Christ. Not just once! Some people think that this is a one-time deal. It is a lifelong process. We never stop renouncing and trusting! I am not just sitting around, waiting for Jesus to snatch me up, to “rapture” me. (I’m still not convinced that’s going to come down the way a lot of people think it is.) I need to live as a disciple of Christ, waiting patiently but actively. I need to serve him in whatever vocation I might find myself.

Today’s Bible Readings

John 7; Psalm 17; 2 Samuel 22

Jesus said something very important about his own ministry in John 7. In verse 18, he said, The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. This is something we should take to heart. We do not seek our own glory, but the glory of God. Jesus did not speak on his own authority, but on the authority of the Father. We must do the same. We have no authority but that which is given us by Christ. For the remainder of chapter 7, there is great division among the people and leaders as they debate who or what this Jesus truly is.

In Psalm 17, I find these words: I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.
The Lord will, indeed answer us. He will show his steadfast love to us, as we seek refuge in him. While I may not have any “deadly enemies,” I certainly have circumstances and people in my life that cause me stress, that create tension, and that tempt this “irascible” nature to come out. I will constantly pray that God hide me in the shadow of his wings, and I will seek refuge from my adversaries. He is my hiding place.

2 Samuel 22 is almost a verbatim copy of Psalm 18, which I will read tomorrow. The reason for this is that it is David’s song of deliverance, sung to the Lord. It was, no doubt, later decided to include that song in the psalter.

Father, I cry out to you this morning. You are my refuge and my fortress! In you I find ultimate hope. In you I find security. In you I find peace. I confess, Lord! I confess my sinful attitudes and expressions. I pray that you will change my heart. Give me this “spiritual pluck” that Chambers is talking about. Stop my whining! Yes, Christi is in a difficult situation. Yes, we would love for her to be removed from it. But, until you choose to do so, we must approach it with the attitude that it is a trial that we are to overcome! We must not let it overcome us! I pray for her spiritual strength today and the rest of this week. Give her grace for this day, Father, grace to get through it as an overcomer. Let her not bow down in defeat. Give her the strength to do whatever it takes to show herself strong. And if it takes 12 hours, let us endure that with the patience that you have provided.
The main purpose of my life is to manifest your glory. This jar of clay in which I walk around is there to show your glory to a world that is lacking glory. And this jar of clay is also there to show how imperfect we are, so that we don’t go getting arrogant about possessing something which we truly do not possess.
I have no authority, Lord. You are my authority.
I possess no strength. You are my strength.
I own no righteousness. You are my righteousness.
I have nothing good, and I am not good. You are good. You are the only good.
I give praise, honor, and glory to your name, this morning. Let that transform my day, Father. Let this day be a shining beacon of your glory and of our strength in Christ.

I feel like a grape that’s been trampled to produce sweet wine. But the good thing is that it does produce sweet wine. God is good.

Grace and peace, friends.

Vision Vs. Ideals

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 9, 2012. Today is National Lost Sock Memorial Day! Have I got a drawer for you!! It seems somewhat appropriate to note that it was on this day in 1973 that Johnny Bench hit three home runs off of Steve Carlton. Well, LAST night, Josh Hamilton hit FOUR off of Baltimore pitching! Four home runs out of 5 at bats (he hit a double in the one that wasn’t a homer) and a home run in his final at bat in Monday night’s game. He is 6/6 in his last six at bats, five of which were home runs. Hey, Nolan!! Better sign him! It was also on this day in 1974 that the House of Representatives voted to begin impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon.

Christi’s day, yesterday, was not “horrific,” in her words. That’s an improvement, at least. Stephanie’s still not feeling well. Not sure what’s up with her. I guess she has a bit of a stomach bug or something. There’s not much else going on, so I’ll get on to the devotional.

Father, I pray for your Spirit to guide me into some truth today that will help me live this day looking to the risen Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint… Proverbs 29:18

“There is a difference between an ideal and a vision.” What is that difference? “Moral inspiration,” says Chambers. And, he says, people who are given over to ideals “rarely do anything.” That’s interesting. And if we consider our perception of God, it may be correct, but we may be using that perception to justify our inactivity. Hyper-Calvinists, for example, never evangelize because they believe so strongly in God’s sovereignty that if a person is chosen, he will get saved anyway. Never mind the fact that human evangelism is the method ordained by God for spreading the Gospel. But “vision imparts moral incentive.” What does that mean? It means that if you have vision, rather than just ideals, it makes you want to do something!
Consider the passage above. “When once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless, we cast off certain restraints, we cast off praying, we cast off the vision of God in little things, and begin to act on our own initiative.” We need to be expecting God to act; expecting him to do greater things than ever. There should be a freshness in our spiritual outlook. That’s where I’m aiming today.
I’ve been stuck on this message by Timothy Keller, called “The Ascension.” He says the ascension was the “detonator for everything that Jesus did on the earth.” He talks about prophetic vision in this message (although I don’t recall right this second if he ever uses the word “vision”). I’ve been listening to this message for several days, replaying it over and over. I feel vision coming on. I feel “moral inspiration” rising up in my spirit. It’s quite exciting.

I’m really struggling to stay focused this morning. Lord, keep my mind on what I’m doing, here…

Tabletalk Magazine

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2

I always think it is cool when several of my sources seem to arrive on the same topic. Tabletalk has been talking about the ascension for the past couple of days. Today, it speaks of the ascended Christ being our advocate. This means that “our Savior stands before the Father to plead our case.” But this goes beyond the realm of anything an earthly advocate (or defense attorney) does, because, in Jesus’s case, his defense for us is based on “the work He has done to secure God’s favorable verdict.” For those of us who are in Christ, God is not Judge, but, rather, “the Father who adopts us into His family.” True, we are guilty of sin…John writes that he encourages us not to sin. But if we do, WHEN we do, “the perfect righteousness of Jesus, imputed to us in our justification, sets us right with God.” In the case of Jesus, as Matthew Henry says, “It is the advocate’s own righteousness that he must plead for the criminals.” It is both comforting and encouraging to know that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is currently pleading with the Father, “interceding for us that we might be forgiven, purified, and strengthened for holiness.”

Today’s Bible Readings

John 4; Psalm 14; 2 Samuel 19

In John 4, Jesus has the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. It is in this encounter that Jesus speaks of “living water” (v 10). When things get uncomfortable for the woman, she changes the subject, but Jesus goes right along with her, as they begin to discuss worship. It is then that Jesus says that the Father is seeking people to worship him in spirit and truth (vv 23-24). We speak of having “seeker sensitive” services (I’ve never liked that, because, according to the Bible, no one is “seeking” God); very well, if we remember the truth of what Jesus said here. It is God who is seeking! He is seeking people to worship him! John Piper says that missions exists because worship doesn’t! God desires more worshipers, therefore, we must go out and share the gospel, in order to create more worshipers. God is the one who is seeking.
Verse 31 begins a slightly humorous passage. The disciples are encouraging Jesus to eat something, and he says, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So they start whispering among themselves, wondering who brought him food while they were gone. He has to explain. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

Speaking of seeking, Psalm 14 addresses that very thing. It begins with this bold declaration, The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” I’ve been thinking about this, recently. I don’t believe that someone who doubts the existence of God is a fool. I’ve doubted God’s existence before. And I think that anyone who tells me that they have never doubted the existence of God is a liar. However, anyone who blatantly stands and declares, “There is no God,” is a fool. That makes Stephen Hawking a fool, doesn’t it? *gasp* Yeah, I said that. There is no way that any human being could possibly exhaust every single possible shred of evidence to emphatically state that there is no God. If someone wants to say that they don’t believe in God, or that they believe that there is no God, I have no problem with that. But if you say, “There is no God,” you are a fool.
The Psalm goes on to say, The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (vv 2-3) No one seeks. No one does good, “not even one.”

In 2 Samuel 19, Joab rebukes David for spending so much time mourning the death of Absalom when he should be restoring his kingdom and reassuring the people for whom he has just won victory. David also pardons Shimei for pelting him with rocks and cursing him on the road.

Father, I praise you that Jesus is my advocate, who sits with you and pleads my case when I sin. I know that I sin far too often, and am constantly praying for strength from your Spirit to deny myself and take up my cross, that I might serve you better. I thank you for the truths that I continuously find in your words and in the teachings of others who have studied your words. I pray, though, that I will never take man’s teachings more seriously than your words. Your words are the final authority in all things. I pray for more understanding of the ascension and what it means to us. It is not the only thing that is important, but I agree with Tim Keller when he says that we neglect it. It is a powerful event in the life of our savior. I believe that I am on the verge of receiving major vision in my life. Not a vision, as in I’m about to see something miraculous or predict the future or anything like that, but vision that imparts inspiration and imperative in my life. There has been vision in my past, and, frankly, it has been lost or blurred because of my sin. I have felt your Spirit working in my life strongly in recent months, and am excited about what you have in store for me. Keep me close to you and continue teaching me and inspiring me. I don’t ever want to fall back into the miry pit of sin that I lived in for a long time.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray that Christi will have a better day today, as she gets more used to the way things work at her job. I pray that you would intervene in the lives of the people around her. I pray that she will find favor with those in authority over her. I pray that you would bring reason to her environment. I also pray that you would provide an escape for her, as well. But, most importantly, I pray that you give her confidence in your sovereign hand, to know that all things are under your control. Give us both patience as we wait for you to work, not jumping at the first opportunity that comes along, unless we are certain that it is the right one.
I pray for Stephanie today, that she will feel better. She needs to get some work done today for her classes, so she can complete everything in time for graduation.
I also pray that my day will go smoothly again today. It’s been a better week, and I’m very grateful for that. I praise you for your work in my life, Father.

I ask for comfort for the family of Micah Faith, who passed away. Give them peace and reassurance of your love for them during this time. We cannot understand all that happens, but we must trust your sovereign hand, Lord. Draw them closer to you as they share in their sorrow.

I pray for the body of believers at The Exchange. May you lift up our leaders and show them a strong vision for the future of the church. I pray for Joel as he prepares for another message this Sunday. I also pray for the young man who will be leading our worship this week. Draw him closer to you as he prepares to lead us in worship.

May we all focus on vision rather than ideals. Get the vision and act on it.

Confidence To Enter the Holy Place

Good morning. It’s Friday, May 4, 2012. Today is International Firefighters Day. We should support and give thanks the many men and women who put their lives on the line daily to protect and save the places and lives that we hold dear. Today was also the day in 1970 that the National Guard fired into a crowd of protesters at Kent State, killing four students. This picture has been etched in my brain since I was 12 years old.

Things continue to be stressful at Christi’s job, and seem to be getting more so. I don’t think she can do this. It’s very sad and very disturbing. That’s all I’m going to say at this point, other than, all prayers to rectify this situation would be greatly appreciated. We thought this was the right decision. Unless something changes drastically very soon, it would appear we were very wrong.

Father, I pray this morning for some inspiration to guide me on the path this morning. Show me more of you, that I might live this day (and my life) looking to you. Before I even start, I lift up Christi and her situation to you. You are sovereign and your mighty hand is in control of this situation. Give us the faith to trust this. Right now, it’s hard to see your hand in the chaos that is her work life right now. Give us the supernatural sight that is necessary to see your hand at work, and if we are unable to see it, then please help our faith to know that it’s there. What did the song say? “If you can’t see his hand, trust his heart.” That’s where we need to be right now. Not only trusting your heart, but trusting your sovereignty.

My Utmost For His Highest

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… Hebrews 10:19

“Beware of imagining that intercession means bringing our personal sympathies into the presence of God and demanding that He does what we ask.” Is that what I have just done?? I’ll work that out later. We are to approach God based on our “vicarious identification” with Christ with sin. We have “confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus!”
Chambers then proceeds to discuss something that I don’t believe that I have an issue with. He says that some have the idea that there are “right and virtuous things in us which do not need to be based on the Atonement.” I don’t believe that for a minute. Let me rephrase that. I don’t believe that there is anything virtuous in me or anyone else that escapes the scope of the atonement. I do believe that there are people who think there is. But there is nothing right and virtuous in me, outside of my identification with Jesus Christ. There might be in another person’s eyes, but not in the eyes of God. When we get stuck in that mindset, we cannot intercede. If I believe that there is anything virtuous in me, I have stopped identifying with the sacrifice of Jesus, and I can’t effectively intercede for anyone. My sympathies get in the way. “We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means the radical alteration of all our sympathies. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them.” This is almost a re-wording of yesterday’s idea.
So am I determined to have my own way, or am I determined to be identified with Christ? I know what my desire is, but I’m not sure what reality is. Especially in light of my prayer above. This is something that I’m going to have to work out during the day today. How should I be praying for this situation? Am I being totally selfish? I don’t think so, because I desire good for my wife. This isn’t about me. But is it about what God wants?

Tabletalk Magazine

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

It’s very interesting that I’ve run across this subject multiple times in the last couple days. Yesterday, I read the end of Luke’s gospel (who also wrote Acts), which concludes with the ascension. Then I started listening to a sermon by Timothy Keller on the ascension (I’m only about halfway through it, but it is very good), and now Tabletalk is addressing it.
We can only be reconciled to God through trusting in Christ. That is part of the gospel message. In order to do that, it helps to understand who Jesus is and what he has done. One event in the life of Christ that is largely ignored by the evangelical church is the ascension of Christ. I suppose part of the reason for that is that Luke is the only one who gives a solid account of it. It is included in Mark’s gospel, but in the part of the last chapter that most scholars believe was not written by Mark in the original document.
One thing that is revealed by the ascension is the nature of the return of Christ. Jesus was taken from earth to heaven in full sight of the apostles. He didn’t just disappear, but his physical body moved upward so they could watch. Verse 9 in the passage above says that a cloud took him up. He ascended visibly. According to the testimony of the angels who appeared there, his return will be just like that. “He will return visibly when He comes in final judgment.” The angels said that he would return just as he ascended. He will return on a cloud, possibly the same cloud that indicated God’s presence in the Old Testament.

The Bible Panorama

John 1; Psalm 11; 2 Samuel 16

One interesting thing about the gospel of John is that there is no genealogy. But John stresses the divinity of Christ; since Christ is God, there is no genealogy, for God has always existed. I just got goosebumps while typing that because I cannot wrap my head around something/someone always existing. I just can’t fathom that. Can you? Eternity doesn’t fit in my brain. Oddly, I don’t have a lot of trouble thinking about eternity forward. It’s eternity backward that boggles me.
John begins by describing Jesus as God right from the beginning. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (v 1) “Word” is “logos,” and, in this case, refers to Christ. This is evidenced by verse 14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John packs a lot of information in a short amount of writing. By the end of chapter one, Jesus has already called four disciples. Oddly, though, almost the entire second half of John’s gospel is taken up by the last week of Jesus’s life.

Psalm 11 describes the Lord in his temple.
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
(vv 4-7)
David has settled the matter of trust in this Psalm. He takes refuge in the Lord, and will not flee trouble.

2 Samuel 16 includes the interesting event of the cursing of David by Shimei. David’s men want to kill Shimei, but David will not allow it, stating that if God has told this man to curse him and throw stones at him, who is he to object. So David and his men continued down the road, while Shimei followed along, throwing rocks and spewing curses at David. Verse 14 says that David and his men “arrived weary at the Jordan.” I imagine so.
As the scene shifts to Jerusalem, Absalom has entered the city and taken reign. At the advice of Ahithophel, Absalom pitches a tent on the roof and had sex with all of David’s concubines, in full sight of all Israel. Nathan’s prophecy in chapter 12 has been fulfilled!

Father, I praise you today for your sovereign hand in our lives, even though I may not be able to see it. I pray that you give us wisdom to know what is right for us. Help us to know what we should be learning from our current circumstance. I pray that Christi can either be gotten out of this situation (with something better), or that the situation would drastically change. Something needs to happen. In the meantime, give us patience to wait while we depend on you for strength. Whatever the case, I pray that you lay your hand on Christi this morning and give her whatever she needs to get through this day. Give her strength for this day only, and no worries about what tomorrow may bring.

Help me to know how to pray, not only for Christi and us, but for anyone else for whom I might be praying. May my sympathies never get in the way of what I should be praying for. Rather, I pray that I might fully identify with my Savior and his sacrifice for our sin. I also pray that, as I continue to ponder the event of the ascension, you would help me glean from it what I need. Teach me, Lord. Teach me. Open my mind and my spiritual eyes that I may see what it is that I need to learn.

Like David, I declare that you are my refuge, dear God! You are my fortress, my rock, and my refuge. I will hide in you. I will reside in you! My very life depends on you, both now and forever. Suddenly, I am drawn to the act of breathing; I ponder my heartbeat; I realize that all of this happens only by your grace! I ponder the miracle that makes my fingers move to type these letters. There are things that are happening inside my body that I will never fully comprehend, all because you put it together. I am, O glorious God, fearfully and wonderfully made! I praise you, my God.

Your grace is sufficient. Keep teaching me this.

One day, Jesus will return just as he left. Visibly and on a cloud. I believe it.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Vital Connection

Good morning. It’s Thursday, May 3, 2012. Today is “National Lumpy Rug Day.” I swear I’m not making this up. Today is also the birthday of Niccolo Machiavelli. I don’t really know this stuff. I have to look it up.

For some reason, I don’t have much introductory stuff to talk about this morning. Yesterday was a pretty average day. Christi’s day went okay, even though she got more responsibility thrown at her. My day was pretty good, definitely better than Monday and Tuesday.

We have our lifehouse group tonight, which is always interesting. Never a dull moment, it seems like.

I’m still thinking about yesterday’s reading about patience. I have to ask myself if I’m in danger of becoming spiritually satisfied, or if I have given up on the vision that I have had. Or…has my vision changed? That is something that I have to seriously consider.

Father, I pray for some insight today, some wisdom that will guide me along the path of righteousness today. Help me to live this day looking to the risen Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:18

Chambers speaks of our obedience costing other people. I have to figure out exactly what he means by that. He speaks of a danger of interceding with people in sympathy. I think I understand that. Sometimes we pray for God to get a person out of a situation, but he has them in that situation for a reason. “Whenever we step back from identification with God’s interest in others into sympathy with them, the vital connection with God has gone, we have put our sympathy, our consideration for them in the way, and this is a deliberate rebuke to God.” That was a lengthy sentence, but I think it ties this all together. We can’t let personal sympathy or prejudice get in the way of vital intercession. We say “I will not allow this thing to happen,” and we are instantly “out of vital connection with God.”
He caps this reading off with a statement that seems, at first glance, to be not quite related. “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.” All too often, discernment leads to gossip. Gossip becomes a “prayer request.” We must guard against this with all sobriety. In order to seriously intercede, we must be “completely and entirely identified with God’s interests in other lives.”

Tabletalk Magazine

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

Yesterday, Tabletalk mentioned two benefits of Christ’s resurrection, our justification and sanctification. Today, a third benefit is mentioned, coming again from the Heidelberg Catechism. The resurrection of Christ is “a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.” We can get a glimpse of that truth from the passage quoted above, in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus is called “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Paul was addressing an apparent error in the chapter, one that taught that most, if not all, of the “end times” events had already happened. (There is an eschatological system today that believes this…it’s called “Preterism.”) There were many who believed and taught that there would be no physical resurrection of the dead. Some taught that the resurrection had already occurred, and others taught that it was spiritual only. Both views were heretical. “Though our spirits dwell with Christ when we die, they will be reunited with our glorified physical bodies on the last day, and we will dwell in a new heaven and earth (Dan. 12:1-2; Rev. 21:1-4).”
Paul uses an agricultural metaphor in the verse. The “firstfruits” of the harvest are a “foretaste and sure sign of the full harvest to come.” When Paul described the resurrection of Jesus as “firstfruits,” he indicated that “our resurrection will be of the same kind as our Lord’s.” Both “are physical, bodily resurrections.”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 24; Psalm 10; 2 Samuel 15

Luke 24 continues as thought there is no break between the two chapters. “They” went to the tomb on the first day of the week, “they” being the women referenced in verse 55 of chapter 23. The ones who “saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” When they got there the stone was rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there. Two apparent angels appeared next to them and asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” I tell you, those are some of the sweetest words ever spoken. The angels called upon them to remember the things that Jesus had told them. They went back and told the disciples. The disciples who had been the ones who walked most closely with Jesus for the past few years. Their reaction was that “these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.” (v 11) I shouldn’t be too hard on them…I probably would have felt much the same. Or would I have been more like Peter, who “rose and ran to the tomb?” The very same day, he appeared to two nameless disciples (well…I’m sure they had names; we just don’t know them) on the road to Emmaus, who, in turn, went back to the eleven remaining main disciples, reporting their encounter. As they were all talking together, Jesus just appeared in their midst, saying, “Peace to you!”
Now, indulge me just a moment, here. I simply cannot help thinking that there must have been a sparkle of mischief in Jesus’s eyes when he did that. Don’t you think he might have been having just a little bit of fun, skipping along beside the two disciples on the Emmaus road (yes, I did say “skipping”), saying, “Whatcha talkin’ about?” and then just, whoosh, appearing right in the middle of the whole lot of them in Jerusalem? The probable expressions on all their faces must have been priceless. Anyway, Jesus encouraged them to touch him and see that he was real, flesh and bone. Then he asked them for some food, and ate with them. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures about him, and promised that they would be “clothed with power from on high.” (v 49) They wall went out to Bethany together, where he ascended into heaven. Needless to say, they were filled with great joy afterward.
I assure you, I don’t take the resurrection of Christ lightly. I hope no one is offended by the way I portrayed it. I just can’t help but think that Jesus wasn’t all totally somber during those events. I believe that Jesus, being human as well as divine, did, in fact, have a sense of humor.

In Psalm 10, the Psalmist bemoans the godlessness of the wicked, who believe that God either doesn’t exist, or that he simply is so high that he doesn’t see them and their despicable acts. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (v 4) He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” (v 11) The Psalmist begs God to rise up and remember the afflicted. It ends with this proclamation. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (vv 16-18)

In 2 Samuel 15, Absalom conspires to steal the hearts of the people away from David, resulting in David having to flee Jerusalem.

Father, I pray this morning for a little more understanding of intercession. I believe in praying consistently for others. It is difficult, though, to always know how to pray in certain situations. We pray for healing, we pray for deliverance, we pray for material needs to be met. All of these things are good, but do we truly understand your mind and will for those for whom we are praying? That is what true intercession is about. I pray that you would help me to be fully identified with your interests in the lives of others as I pray for them. Let me not be swayed by sympathy. Let me not pray for someone to be delivered from a situation just because I feel sorry for them. It is more important to pray for your will to be done, and that is where discernment comes into play. We must be wise when we pray, not just throwing words out there.

I thank you for the assurance of the resurrection, provided to us by the resurrection of Jesus. I believe in this, Father, no matter what skeptics may say. You have given me faith to believe, and I cherish and embrace that faith. The resurrection of Christ has given me justification, sanctification, and assurance of what is to come.

I continue to pray for the patience to wait for the vision that you have given me. However, I must work while I wait, and I pray for both inspiration and motivation to do so. As I follow you through reading Scriptures and meditating on them, as well as through prayer, I ask for guidance by your Spirit, for direction in my life. Let me know what I am to be doing during this time. If you have shown me, then open my eyes so that I may see it.

I pray for this day, that Christi will have a good and productive day at her new job. I pray for the tension to decrease as she becomes more familiar with the environment and people. I pray that expectations will not be unreasonable, and that she will be able to set limitations on demands that are placed on her. I pray for Stephanie today, that she will get homework done and turned in as her teacher visits this afternoon. I pray that my day at work will also be a smooth day with no issues.

May we maintain our vital connection with God.

Grace and peace, friends.