The Measure You Use

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the twenty-seventh of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,331

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. If there is every anything that we should “never forget,” the horrors of Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews is certainly one of them.

Yesterday’s adventure with Maggie (cat) went almost perfectly. We got in and out of the TCAP facility in a flash. In fact, the doctor had administered the vaccine before I finished filling out the paperwork. We were not charged anything, as the voucher from the Watauga animal shelter covered it. We picked up Sonic drinks and some candy, along with a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, because C is totally stressed out with work, right now, on the way home, and dropped off the proof of vaccination at the Watauga facility, which is just down the road from our house, probably less than a mile away.

I need to make a quick trip to a grocery store, today, because I don’t have any buttermilk, and I’m planning to cook Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken for dinner tonight. One of these days, I’m going to get adventurous and try something new.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; 
be gracious to me and answer me! 
You have said, "Seek my face." 
My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." 
Hide not your face from me. 
Turn not your servant away in anger, 
O you who have been my help. 
Cast me not off; forsake me not, 
O God of my salvation! 
(Psalms 27:7-9 ESV)
The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; 
of whom shall I be afraid? 
(Psalms 27:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my light and my salvation
2. that, in Him, I have nothing to fear, for He is the stronghold of my life
3. for Jesus Christ, light of the world
4. that if we are generous with others, both in physical resources and with grace, our Father will be generous with us
5. that in some respects, our Father is generous with us even when we are not generous with others (that's mercy)
“O Christ, light of the world, whoever follows you will have the light of life.”
And he said to them, 
"Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, 
or under a bed, and not on a stand? 
For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; 
nor is anything secret except to come to light. 
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 
And he said to them, 
"Pay attention to what you hear: 
with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, 
and still more will be added to you.
 For to the one who has, more will be given, 
and from the one who has not, 
even what he has will be taken away." 
(Mark 4:21-25 ESV)

These are images that the people to whom Jesus was speaking could understand. Lamps were their source of light, and where a lamp was placed in a room made a big difference. Obviously, if you put it under a basket or a bed, it didn’t shed much light. But then, Jesus seems to be relating this to secrets and hidden things.

Likewise, these people would be familiar with measuring and weighing things, as in the marketplace. It’s how they sold and bought grain. Jesus seems to be indicating that the more generous you are, them ore generous the Father will be. And He’s not just talking about physical goods, here.

The light of Jesus Christ is not meant to be hidden. “This little light of mine . . . I’m gonna let it shine.” It’s not a secret. Doesn’t mean that’s all I’m going to talk about. But I’m not going to try to hide it. And I’ve been learning more and more, over the past decade or so, about the measuring out and the measure that I use. This has to do with grace.

I do believe that it relates to physical goods and generosity, and God has led me down a more generous path, the older I get. However, I believe that it also, and perhaps more accurately, defines the usage of grace in our lives. The measure I use to categorize and judge my neighbor or my brother in Christ is the same measure that will be used against me. That’s what Jesus said.

Now. Take that and apply it to yourself. Examine yourself, I challenge you. What measure do you use against your neighbor? Are you willing to have yourself judged by the same measure?

One of my favorite illustrations that my former pastor used to use is the illustration of imagining that we all had a voice recorder hanging around our neck for our whole lives. What would happen if, after our death, the Lord would play back the recording and ask us if we lived according to our own “rules?” “The measure you give will be the measure you get.”

“Pay attention to what you hear,” Jesus said. I could take this in several different ways, but I think that Jesus is telling us that we really need to take heed of what He is saying. This is serious stuff. We should not simply read over this without paying attention to it. This is one reason that I have, in recent years, tended to not do a reading plan that goes through the whole Bible in a year. I’ve done it many times, and I am, in fact doing it again, this year. But it definitely encourages reading (or listening, in my case, this time) without really comprehending what is being said. It becomes another thing to mark off the checklist.

I’m trying real hard not to do that, this time.

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

(From Pray As You Go)

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
(Psalms 25:5 ESV)

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:24 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “kiss.” And while we are not exactly in an environment that encourages 1 Peter 5:14, these days, we can still certainly “love one another.”

Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
(1 Peter 5:14 ESV)

Father, I pray for grace to be the measure I use; all the time, for all people, everywhere. We tend to show grace when it is convenient, when we have “time.” But it’s not really “grace” then, is it? Help me to be more gracious to all people. Help me to remember that the measure I use is the same measure that will be used for me. That’s a terrifying thought sometimes, and if anyone says otherwise, they are either lying or just plain ignorant. Or maybe delusional, thinking that they are much better people than they really are.

Help me to live my life as though every second was being recorded and would be broadcast for all to see at the end of it. How much that has already happened would I be utterly embarrassed by? (A lot, that’s for sure!) What if my thoughts would someday be broadcast for all to hear? I might have a lot fewer friends than I have. I’d probably live alone in a cave.

I’m not alone, I know this, Father. But we all need a shot of reality in this. And while we may not be able to safely kiss one another (and that isn’t welcomed quite as much in this culture as it is in other countries or the days of Jesus), but we can still practice love, and we can still follow Jesus’s command to do to others what we would like to have done to us.

Thank You for the Light of the world. Thank You for the words of Jesus, that we have, recorded, that we may read them and heed them. Help us to take them seriously, and read them carefully. Then help us to put them into practice in our own lives.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Inviting the Lord

Today is Sunday, the sixteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,320

Seven days until Hamilton!

As threatened predicted, it was 27 degrees when I got up, this morning. It is already up to 30, by this writing time, and supposed to get up to 56, later this afternoon. All of that wind, yesterday, must have stirred up some serious stuff in the air, though. I’m feeling better this morning than I did last night, but C has some coughing going on. No fever, not even close, for either one of us. My eyes were itching like mad, yesterday evening, but they are better, this morning.

I’ll be going to the house church gathering, this morning, but C will stay home and probably get on Zoom. I don’t have a lot of time, though, so this may actually not get finished until this afternoon.

The football playoffs have begun. Yesterday, the Bengals beat the Raiders, and the Bills beat the Patriots. The first one, I had no opinion about, whatsoever. The second one, though, I’m glad the Bills won. I have at least one friend who is predicting that they win the Super Bowl. I’m thinking that can’t happen, though. The Bills, like the Vikings, don’t win Super Bowls. If they do, the end might be near.

Today, I’m cheering for the Cowboys (yes, the Cowboys) and the Steelers. As for the Eagles and Buccaneers, can I root for a tie? Or for both of them to lose? I can’t bring myself to cheer for either team. I also have no opinion concerning tomorrow night’s game between the Cardinals and Rams.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Trust in Him and do not fear.
The peace of God will protect your hearts. Alleluia.”

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 
And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
(John 2:1-11 ESV)

Notice the setting of this, the first recorded miracle that Jesus did. It is a wedding, a celebration. It is a social event, “the coming together of family and friends.” Who among us has not been involved in a setting such as this? It is, in fact, somewhat ordinary.

Notice the invitation. Amusingly, it may seem like more than in “invitation.” Mary seems to be almost demanding that Jesus intervene in the situation. The question is, how often do we feel this need in our world? How often do we actually invited our savior to intercede “into even the simple needs of the day?”

I find this to be an excellent question to ponder. Sure, we pray. We ask the Lord for big things, to heal people from pancreatic cancer or leukemia or Covid-19. I will say that I frequently give thanks to the Lord when I make it through a “stale” green light at an intersection. But how often do we ask for the help of our Lord for simple things, the basic needs of the day? Or, as in the case of this wedding, an even seemingly frivolous thing. They were running out of wine. The only consequence this could possibly have is that the party might be less than stellar!

Here’s another good question to ponder. “Do you take time to acknowledge the Lord’s generosity when you experience it?” As stated above, I do, sometimes give thanks for seemingly insignificant things. But I’m not terribly consistent about that. Yes, I have a gratitude list every day. But it often focuses on “big” things, “religious” things, like salvation, grace, mercy, and so on. The unfailing, steadfast love of the Lord. You know . . . things like that. Occasionally, you will see me be thankful for things like coffee and grapes.

How often do we acknowledge the basic generosity of the Lord in our lives? The Bible says that He is good to all and that He even makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

There may be a temptation to say, “Well, that was Mary, His mother, who asked that. Of course He is going to do that for her!” My response to that is to say that I am His brother. I am an adopted brother of Jesus Christ, a sibling of the Son of God. And, He loved me enough to die for me. Why, then, would He not answer my invitation to intercede in my life and in my world?

It is always good to remember, though, that little line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(From Pray As You Go)

Still, I know that God lives—
the One who gives me back my life— 
and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. 
And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— 
see God myself, with my very own eyes. 
Oh, how I long for that day! 
(Job 19:25-27 MSG)

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 18:19 NIV)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV)

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
(Acts 1:14 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. the calming effect of the purring cat who is sitting in front of me
2. my coffee
3. for modern technology that allows us to communicate and minister to one another over long distances, virtually instantly
4. for the love and care of the community of saints
5. that I have the ability to invite Jesus into any situation in my life

Father, I am so grateful for the things listed, above. I am especially grateful, this morning, for the thought that I can invited Jesus to intercede in the simplest areas of my life. If I see a need in this world, all I need do is ask Jesus to intervene. And, if it lines up with Your will, something will happen. That’s where my faith needs to line up. That’s where my confidence needs to rest.

The world is full of questions, right now, about where You are, if You exist, and why there is so much evil in the world. I don’t need to focus on those questions, because I don’t have the right answers, or at least not answers that would satisfy the people asking the questions. I need to focus on loving You, loving my neighbor as myself, and loving the saints as You have loved us. Thank You for all of Your gifts and blessings. Thank You for stretching us when we need stretching. I do believe; help my unbelief. All glory to You, through the son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.