The Seven Seals (Well…Six of Them, Anyway)

It’s Thursday morning, December 15, 2011. Once again, I did not have to go to work early. That’s a good thing. Also, I just added a new entry at Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit. Go check it out, if you feel so inclined. If you don’t, then don’t. 🙂

Stephanie’s teacher was sick yesterday, so she will be coming over this morning. Stephanie seems to be feeling great this morning, so it’s looking good!

Tonight is our lifehouse group meeting, so we will be going straight there from work. That also means a late dinner.

So, now for the devotional portion of our morning…

Today’s Bible readings:
Revelation 6; Zechariah 14; Psalm 22

In Revelation 6, six of the seven seals are opened. The first four reveal what are commonly known as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” The first, on a white horse, is conquest. The second, on a bright red horse, is war. The third, on a black horse, is famine (a quart of wheat will sell for a day’s wages in verse 6). And the fourth, the pale horse (what color is “pale?”), is Death and Hades, who were given power to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. (v. 8 )
The fifth seal reveals the souls of those who have been martyred for their faith. As they ask when their deaths will be avenged, they are told that they must wait a little longer, until everyone who is supposed to die for their faith has been martyred.
The sixth seal is opened, bringing about cataclysmic events. When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (vv. 12-17) These parallel other passages of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Joel 3:14-16 and Matthew 24 come to mind.
Interestingly, Zechariah 14 almost goes right alongside Revelation 6. I think that it comes a little later in Revelation, though. Zechariah 14 seems to speak of the Day of the Lord and the final deliverance of Jerusalem. I don’t pretend to understand all of the symbolism in this chapter, but the “plague” which is described in verse 12 sounds a lot like the final battle that is described in Revelation 19. And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. This almost sounds like a nuclear event, where men’s flesh will be disintegrated before they can even fall down.

These are frightening events, if we spend too much time focusing on them outside of the perspective of the fact that we are God’s children. No matter what happens in this world, we are his. He has the final victory, and, whether we are “raptured” before the events of Revelation occur or not, we will still share in the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ, and will be a part of the people who worship the Lamb, falling down before him, proclaiming “Worthy is the Lamb!”

Psalm 22 comes along now, as an entirely Messianic Psalm. In fact, Jesus quotes part of this psalm as he is on the cross, suffering for our sins. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (vv. 1-2) I’ll not quote the entire Psalm, as it is rather lengthy. However, there are other portions that clearly point to Christ and his suffering. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 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!” (vv. 6-8 ) …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. (vv. 13-18 )
And at the end…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 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. 27-31)

Father, what a beautiful psalm to read today. While we live on this earth, we will experience the horrors that come as consequences of the sinfulness of mankind. People claim that things are getting worse all the time. I don’t know if I agree with that, or if it’s just that we are hearing more of the horrific things more readily, thanks to technology. Regardless, I know that man is sinful and his ways are not your ways. As time rolls ever toward its ultimate end, only you know when this will occur. It is not my worry to try to figure it out. It is not my responsibility to know when the end is going to come. It is my responsibility to know that you are in control of all things and the Jesus Christ, my Savior, is the ultimate victor! I thank you for the words that I read today, and pray that they will stick with me as this day goes by. Let me not take lightly the predictions that are given to us in Revelation and Zechariah. These things shall most certainly come to pass. Let us all be in prayer as these days approach.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray that Stephanie will have a good day, get her work done, and have a great meeting with her teacher. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at work. I also pray that we will have a good meeting tonight with our lifehouse.

Just remember…Jesus wins. Do we really need to know anything else?

The Handwriting on the Wall

It’s Thursday morning, December 1. Last month of the year. 2011, almost over. The good thing is that, when I flipped my Red Sox calendar to December, I got Dustin Pedroia. At least for this month, I get one of the guys that actually tried during the month of September. But that’s not the topic for this blog, is it?

I just updated my other blog, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit, this morning. This blog focuses on, well, pretty much what the title says. Lately, it’s been mostly about music, because baseball is in the off-season. I don’t talk about other sports very much. They aren’t worthy of my attention. (Kidding…okay?)

Stephanie is still fighting a cold or something. Low grade fever, cough, sniffles…hopefully by tomorrow she will feel better. Her meeting with the homebound teacher has been postponed until next week sometime. We’re praying that she will feel better.

Tonight is our lifehouse group meeting. We didn’t last week because of Thanksgiving, so we haven’t seen them in two weeks. It will be good to get together again.

Today’s Bible readings:
2 Peter 3; Daniel 5-6; 1 Peter 1:10-12
Peter reminds us of the second coming of Christ in chapter 3. He says that he is “stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder…” He doesn’t want his readers to forget the promises and predictions of Scripture. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
(vv. 8-12)

This “day of the Lord” sounds like a pretty dreadful event, doesn’t it? I mean, we look forward to it, because that will be when we will finally see our Lord face to face (if we’re still around, that is…). But, as Peter says in verse 13, “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The present earth and heavens will pass away, as the new comes in. Sounds pretty fantastic, doesn’t it? I know that there are many who think that we are pretty much crazy for believing this stuff. But believe it, we do. And, as I’ve said before, I long for the day when this flesh will be replaced with that which is incorruptible, and which can no longer be tempted with evil and sin.
Peter encourages us to live properly and be found “without spot or blemish.” (v. 14) He also says something that has always tickled me a little bit. He makes a comment about Paul’s writings being difficult to understand. His final words to us, though, are words of encouragement and strength. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (vv. 17-18 )

Chapter 5 of Daniel takes place about 24 years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. This is why the king mentioned in Daniel 5 is “Belshazzar.” Belshazzar gives a huge feast, and after tasting the wine, has all of the gold and silver vessels that were taken from the temple in Jerusalem brought out so that his wives and concubines could drink out of them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. (v. 4) I’m thinking the Lord didn’t appreciate that very much, based on what happens next. Have you ever heard the phrase, “The handwriting on the wall?” Well, this is where it comes from. Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. Belshazzar is freaking out, folks! He got so scared his knees knocked! He calls all of his “wise men” in and promises them great rewards if they can read the writing. But they can’t. Then the queen remembers this Daniel guy, who could interpret dreams and stuff. I’m not sure where he was during all of this. But the king calls him in. “You’re that Daniel guy,” he says. “I’ve heard about you.” Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. (v. 16) Daniel rejects the kings gifts, and proceeds to give a little back story about Nebuchadnezzar and his mistakes. Then he points out the fact that Belshazzar has abused vessels that were reserved strictly for the Holy God. but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. (v. 23) Daniel is very bold. So Daniel tells him what was written on the wall. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. (v. 25) Then he gives the interpretation. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” (vv. 26-28 ) The chilling fact is how quickly this all came to pass. Belshazzar, amazingly, honored his word. He gave the gifts to Daniel, even though Daniel didn’t want them. But then, according to Scripture, That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. (v. 30) The kingdom was taken by Darius the Mede. A brief explanation of an apparent difference between “Parsin” and “Peres.” It appears that “Parsin,” or “Pharsin,” is a Hebrew word that signifies the Persians. “Peres” is a Chaldean word that means “to divide.” Daniel put these two together to get the meaning of the writing on the wall.
So, in Chapter 6, Darius puts a lot of people over his kingdom, and Daniel is one of them. All the other presidents and “satraps” didn’t like Daniel so they tried to find something to accuse him of. But they couldn’t, because Daniel was an exemplary citizen. So they played on the king’s ego. They went to Darius and convinced him to make a law that said no one could pray to anyone but the king for thirty days. The king, as kings are wont to do, succumbed to this stroke of his ego and signed the law, which, in the custom of the Medes and Persians, could not be revoked or changed. Daniel heard about this law and, nevertheless, continued his practice of praying three times a day to God. Of course, the other leaders knew he would do this, so they “caught” him, and went to Darius and said, “Hey, Darius! This Daniel guy? He keeps praying to his own God! Didn’t you sign that petition we brought you?” The king realized his mistake at once. Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. (v. 14) But they wouldn’t let him off the hook. So the next day, Daniel was brought in and thrown into the den of lions (this was the consequence listed in the rule). As he was being put in, Darius said to Daniel, “”May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (v. 16) Understandably, the king could not sleep that night.
Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (vv. 19-22) God protected Daniel, rewarding him for his faithfulness. Believe what you want, I believe that this is truth and not some fairy tale that has been made up. I believe that our God rewards us for faithfulness and will protect us. Does he always save us from the “mouths of lions?” No. There are people who have been martyred for their faith, in horrible ways. Did God forsake those people? No! We don’t understand why God saves some and others are allowed to perish. But we know that God is just, and that he does whatever he pleases. He does not owe us any explanation for his actions.
The King, when he saw that Daniel was alive, was very, very happy. Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions–they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. (vv. 23-24)
Then he made a decree of his own. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. (vv. 26-27)

When I saw 1 Peter 1:10-12 on the list for today, I was confused…we just read 1 Peter a few days ago. But Proverbs is finished, and the author is, by his explanation, going to focus on “prophecies of both the first and second advents of our Savior.”
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
It is interesting to note that the prophets of the Old Testament, who had a limited understanding of what they were writing, were writing for those of us who would be reading their words after the first advent of Jesus Christ.

Father, I am thankful for the writings of the prophets that direct us toward Jesus. I am thankful for the apostles, who were faithful to write what you told them in the New Testament. I am thankful for Peter’s encouragements, especially as we consider that we are still here, still waiting for the “day of the Lord,” after all these centuries, and he has not come back yet. But we must understand that it is because you are patient, waiting for the last one to come to the knowledge of salvation through Christ. We also know that you have ordained the days, so we do not worry. You are in control of all things, so there is no reason to fear. Nevertheless, we do fear sometimes, because we are frail human flesh.
Lord, I thank you for the testimony of people like Daniel, the man of whom nothing negative is ever spoken. He was a giant of faith, Lord. He was faithful under all circumstances, and probably should be our favorite Biblical person. He inspires me, Lord, to live a life that is faithful to you. He inspires boldness in the face of insurmountable odds. Was he afraid when he was thrown in that den of lions? I don’t know…I certainly would have been. But it didn’t stop him from praying to you anyway. Let that kind of faith permeate my life, Lord.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray that Stephanie will feel better as she rests some more today. I pray that Christi will have a good day at her work, and that I will have a smooth day at mine. As we approach Christmas, let us not get bogged down in the commercialism that overtakes the world.

I pray for our lifehouse meeting tonight. Let it be a time of refreshing, fellowship, and learning.

May we all have the boldness of Daniel.

Grace and peace, friends.

Exhort One Another

And it’s back to Monday morning. Today is November 7. 17 days until Thanksgiving. What will we be thankful for this year?

Yesterday was a good day. A good morning at church, followed by a nice lunch with Rachel and Justin, then a nice afternoon, talking and watching TV. Since we have changed back to standard time (I wish we would just leave it!), it shouldn’t be dark when we leave for work this morning. On the other hand, it will be dark when we head home. Oh, well. It’s a tradeoff.

Today’s Bible readings:
Hebrews 3; Ezekiel 6-7; Proverbs 24:23-29

The first few verses of Hebrews 3 compare Jesus to Moses. Since the writer is speaking to a predominately Jewish group, Moses would be one who is deeply revered. However, he proclaims, Jesus is even greater than Moses. Moses was faithful in God’s house as God’s servant, but Jesus is faithful over God’s house as a son. (vv. 5-6) And, verse 6 continues, we are God’s house, so Jesus is over us.
After making this distinction, the writer then compares his readers to those who walked in the wilderness for 40 years. Actually, I guess it’s less of a comparison than a warning. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. (vv. 7-9) It was said of that generation, They shall not enter my rest. (v. 11) He exhorts his readers to not have an “evil, unbelieving heart.” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. (v. 12) I like The Message translation of this verse: “So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God.” I cringe a little at the words “fall away,” because they lead one to think that a Christian could ultimately lose that great salvation, which I believe is impossible. However, I do believe that we can, for a season, drift away (or get tripped up), from God and wander around until he graciously draws us back to him. So how do we keep from this? This next verse was part of our lifehouse study last Thursday night. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (v. 13) We need each other! As I stated in a previous entry (was that yesterday?), we can’t live this Christian life alone! We need to hold each other accountable. This word “exhort” or “encourage,” as it’s rendered in other translations, means more than just a pat on the back and a “have a great day!” We need to, first of all, do as much good to each other as we can (thanks to Matthew Henry for that idea), and then we need to call each other out if we see someone about to make a serious mistake. We are a family; we are a community. If I see a brother or sister who is about to do something seriously harmful, then I need to SAY something, not just watch it happen and think, “Oh, well, it’s none of my business.” Now, of course…this is all contingent on us having permission to get involved in each other’s lives. And that’s what our lifehouses are about. We are committed to “doing life together” and being accountable to one another. Note also in that verse “the deceitfulness of sin.” Sin is deceitful in several ways, but one of those is to draw us into the lie that my sin is only my business and nobody else’s. That’s a lie. If I commit a grievous sin, it affects the whole body. Ever stub your little toe? Then you know exactly what I mean!
The last four verses make it very clear that the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness were not able to enter into God’s rest because of unbelief! He is admonishing his readers to not make the same mistake.

In Ezekiel 6, several times, the Lord says, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” In a way, God is saying, “Watch THIS!” Ezekiel is told to prophecy toward the mountains of Jerusalem that she will be destroyed, and that their dead will lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols. (v. 13) But there will be some who escape the sword and will be scattered. Those will remember the Lord, and realize how loathsome they have been.
Chapter 7 continues in the same vein, with tragic depictions of the “day of the Lord,” which, by the way will be terrible. …the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on the mountains. (v. 7) Their gold and silver will not be able to save them. (v. 19) All of the things that people depend on to make them happy will be useless on the day of the Lord. …they shall know that I am the LORD.

Proverbs 24:29 is an important piece of advice. Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” We are told elsewhere, “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. (Hebrews 10:30, for one) We are to follow the words of Jesus, that have come to be known as the Golden Rule. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We are not to seek vengeance.

Father, I praise you for putting us together in community with other believers. I thank you for the strength that comes in “doing life” with others. We are not meant to be alone in this journey, in this battle. There truly is strength in numbers, and, if we are all walking in the same direction, we can hold each other up. I thank you for this, and I commit to being a part of this community.
I pray, Father, that I will always heed the words of Jesus, along with the proverb that tells us not to seek vengeance, or to repay someone for an evil deed done to us. We must rely on you to “watch our backs.” Keep us safe, Lord, from the evil that men do. Keep us following you through Jesus.

I pray for this day, Father, this Monday. Give Christi and me a good day at work. I pray that Stephanie’s teacher will contact us soon to arrange a schedule for her home schooling.

I continue to pray for a place for The Exchange to call home. It seems that they might be close. Let it be something simple, yet adequate for our needs as your church. I pray for Jay, the young man who led our worship yesterday. I understand he was not feeling well. I pray for his health, that he may be able to get some rest and feel better.

Let us be faithful to exhort one another DAILY! We are in this together!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Futility of Anxiety

Well, I guess mtsweat is happy this morning. I seem to recall you being a Cardinals fan, right? 8) But that’s a subject for the Other Blog, should I ever have time to update it again.

Good news with Stephanie. She had a really good psychiatrist’s visit yesterday. He has been insisting for some time that the school environment simply won’t work with her. And honestly, I must admit that her struggles have been getting progressively worse ever since she started changing classes (somewhere around intermediate school). His suggestion, which we are going to attempt to work out with the school is either 1) going “homebound,” which means the school has to send a teacher to our house, or 2) dropping out. So, at this point, we are pursuing the hombebound option. Stephanie is almost giddy. Her entire countenance changed yesterday afternoon. She’s completely like a different person. It may not work out…we’ve had difficulties before with Keller ISD cooperating, so we will see. Christi and I have agreed that it’s not a disaster if Stephanie doesn’t graduate. Even if she does, it’s pretty meaningless…she won’t have a 12th grade education, anyway.

Tonight we have our lifehouse group meeting. So I won’t get to watch much of the World Series game. But some things are more important. Life, for instance…

Today’s Bible readings:
2 Thessalonians 2; Jeremiah 21-22; Proverbs 22:9-16

Paul feels the need to begin chapter 2 with encouragement concerning the “day of the Lord.” It seems that some are saying that it has already happened. …not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (v. 2) Paul says “the rebellion” must come first and the “man of lawlessness” must be revealed. (v. 3) “Lawlessness” is rendered “sin” in some manuscripts. This man will set himself up as God, according to verse 4. He chastises them gently in verse 5: Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? Then he gives some words that are actually kind of difficult to understand. And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (vv. 6-7) Unfortunately, we who read this now don’t know what the 2 Thessalonians knew, because it is not self-evident “what is restraining him now.” The only thing we know for sure is that God is behind the power that is restraining this “man of lawlessness.” We do know, however, thanks to verse 8, that Jesus will make short work of this man when he returns. Take note of the activities, though, in verses 9-12. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Also take note of who sends the “strong delusion!” It is God! It is very important to realize who is in control of all things. The Lord is in control of everything.
Paul then gives thanks for the Thessalonians, though, and encourages them to stand firm. Then he shoots out a short prayer for them. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (vv. 16-17)

In Jeremiah 21, the king sent the priest, Pashhur, to Jeremiah to ask him about the impending invasion by Babylon. Jeremiah told him that the Lord said that he would fight against Jerusalem. But then he gave an interesting prophecy. “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’ (vv. 8-10) So they were told that if they went willingly with their attackers, they would be spared.
In chapter 22, the Lord declares his desire for justice. Thus says the LORD: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation. (vv. 1-5) God has always cared deeply for the oppressed, the widows, and the fatherless. If a nation refuses to care for these, that nation is doomed.

Today’s reading in Grace For the Moment, by Max Lucado, is called “Fretting Is Futile.” The Scripture reference is Matthew 6:27. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Another word for “being anxious” is a word that we are all too familiar with…”worry.” “The biblical word for worry (merimnao) is a compound of two Greek words, merizo (“to divide”) and nous (“the mind”). Anxiety splits our energy between today’s priorities and tomorrow’s problems. Part of our mind is on the now; the rest is on the not yet. The result is half-minded living.” Wow. That’s pretty amazing. And very accurate, I think. But there’s more.
Worry, though not a disease, is responsible for other diseases. Anxiety has been connected to “high blood pressure, heart trouble, blindness, migraine headaches, thyroid malfunctions, and a host of stomach disorders.”
Know what the really sad thing about all this is? Worry accomplishes absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero. It is totally futile. “Worry has never brightened a day, solved a problem, or cured a disease.”
My mother used to tell me, “Don’t borrow trouble.” Is faith the opposite of worry? I don’t know. But it is certainly the cure for it.

Father, please teach us how to not worry. Teach me how to have faith that preempts worry. Anxiety is useless. Yet I find myself directly disobeying Scripture by indulging in it. Do I enjoy worry? Is it fun? No. Yet I find that I lack faith and tend toward worry anyway. Thank you for this definition that shows me that my mind is divided when I worry. There is not point in being focused on the “not yet.” It is completely useless and a total waste of time. Not to mention that it’s a sin, as well. I truly believe that, Father. So forgive me for my sins of worry. And make me more faithful and obedient.

I pray for the church, Lord, as the end draws closer. Obviously, none of us knows when it will happen. It may not happen in our lifetime. Many are convinced that it will; that times are so much worse than ever. But are they really? All you ask of us is to be prepared. That we stay alert, and be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about our faith. I pray that I will have that answer, should that time arise. Keep me alert, Lord.

I thank you for a good doctor visit yesterday with Stephanie. I thank you for the change in her when the decision was made to try to change her circumstances. I pray for her mind, Father. I pray that you would work to change it and heal it.

I pray for this work day for me and Christi. Help us to get things accomplished that need to be done. I pray for our lifehouse meeting tonight. And I begin praying for our worship celebration on Sunday. I pray for our pastor as he prepares a message for this week. Give him great faith and peace as he prepares, and open his mouth to speak exactly what you would have him speak.

Worrying never solved anything.

Grace and peace, friends.

Back Into the Old Routine

I don’t quite know where to begin with this today. I will start by saying that that the weekend in Glen Rose was glorious. Hopefully, I will get around to blogging about that on my Other Blog later. We have pictures to share, as well. But after we got home, it was the same old thing. Rachel graciously stayed at the house with Stephanie while we were gone, and was doing some testing for school on her when we got home. As soon as we got home, the trouble started. Instantly, Stephanie didn’t want to cooperate any more. We got her to, though, and she finished the tests. But then an argument started over what time she was going to leave to take her to “Echo,” the Sunday night church youth meeting. Rachel was going to drop Steph off on the way home. Stephanie had told us it started at 6:30. At 5:45, she started asking what time they were leaving. We all looked at the clock and said, probably around 6pm. “But everyone starts getting there at 5:45!” “Well, you told us 6:30!” Somehow, we managed to jump from that argument to another one about school. When we went to pick her up at 8pm, that argument continued. She’s stressed out about school. Now she’s talking about quitting altogether. Granted, we had threatened her with withdrawal if we had to leave work to pick her up again, so I’m not sure why it bothers me that she is thinking dropping out. And I’m not sure why I feel like a failure if my kid drops out of school. It’s certainly not doing anything for her, and, even if she stays and graduates, she won’t have a “high school” education. Needless to say…we are very down this morning. The thing that has us boggled the most, I believe, is that week before last was nearly perfect for her at school. We’re not sure what has happened. We need serious prayer.

Today’s Bible readings:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Jeremiah 15-16; Proverbs 21:16-23

The passage beginning in Thessalonians 4:13 describes the second coming of Christ. Paul is encouraging the people by assuring them that, when Christ comes, those who have already fallen “asleep” will be raised first. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (vv. 16-18) I’m not convinced that this is describing anything other than Jesus’s second coming. Many people see this as something called the “rapture” (a word the Bible never uses…), but I’m not sure I believe that. One reason is that, in chapter 5, Paul calls this thing he just wrote about the “day of the Lord.” When Scripture uses that phrase, it is referring to the final coming of Jesus. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (vv. 2-3) Paul encourages the people to be ready, so that they are not surprised. Jesus, himself, even cautioned his disciples to be ready, because we don’t know when this will occur.

I want to include something that I underlined in the weekend reading from Tabletalk Magazine. The reading was called “Blame It on Babylon.” Essentially, the author says that we all live in “Babylon,” which is not a place so much as it is a cultural influence. At one point, he provides a possible solution for the Church. “It’s being supremely relevant to a dying world by smashing the idol of relevance. If you want to always be relevant, you must deal with the things that touch eternity, and if you are dealing with eternal things, you always seem a bit irrelevant.” The reason this quote resonated within me the way it does is that, for many years, I have believed that one of the biggest enemies of the Church is “relevance.” The modern (or “post-modern”) church has bowed down to the “idol of relevance” to the point that it has made itself irrelevant to the Kingdom. In order to have a true impact on our world, the Church must smash that idol.

Father, I look forward to the day when you come back to take us home. Right now, I am so weary of this battle. There seems to be no end to it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy life, because I do. But I know that the life that is waiting for me is infinitely better than the one here. I pray that I am ready. By your Holy Spirit, I pray that you help me be alert and ready when Christ comes, should I be alive still. If not, I will rejoice with all the rest of the saints when our bodies are raised to live with you for eternity.
I pray that the church can be “relevant” without falling prey to the “idol of relevance.” The only way to be truly relevant is to preach your word with no alterations; with no clever marketing schemes; to understand that there is nothing that we can do to make you more beautiful than you are.

Father, we pray desperately for some help with Stephanie. I think I can truthfully say that we are at our wits’ end. If she needs to drop out of school, then so be it, but I pray that you help Christi and me to not feel like such failures if this happens. Help us to find our value in you, not in the achievements (or lack thereof) of our children. We have tried to do the best we know how with them, and that’s pretty much that. Sure, we made choices that weren’t ideal. We could have done better, we acknowledge that. But the way we feel right now, Father…we feel like we’ve been “sucker-punched.” We need some affirmation from you today. I pray that we have a good day at work as we go back after this “vacation.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Count Others More Significant

Good morning. I almost said it’s Monday. But it’s Tuesday. The really nice thing about that is that we’re on vacation next week, to celebrate our anniversary. So that means only four more work days until some time off.
I’m going to try to have time to post a new entry in my Other Blog today. I haven’t been there in a while. Perhaps I can get back into the habit of updating there more regularly.
We had another blowup/meltdown last night. It was one of those “classic” ones that lasted at least an hour and jumped from subject to subject over the time. It all started over half of a hot dog. Yep. My heart breaks for her sometimes, because it seems that she just can’t help it. Please pray for us all to come up with better solutions to these episodes.

Today’s Bible readings:
Philippians 2; Zephaniah 1; Proverbs 18:1-5

Paul gives us some good instructions in Philippians 2. He asks us to be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (v. 2) Then he tells us something that is probably the most contrary thing to human nature. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (vv. 3-4) Whoa, what??? I’m supposed to count others more significant than ME???? Yes. Can you imagine what the Church would look like if every one of us could succeed at that? It would truly be a beautiful thing. I know very few people who have gotten this one right. But I do know of some. And they are truly beautiful people. I am glad that he gave us a little room to look out for our own interests in verse 4. As long as we are also looking out for others’ interests, too. I need to count others as more significant than me.
Of course, Paul goes to the ultimate example of this next. Verses 5-11 are probably the most famous verses in Philippians.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I don’t have time to fully break down this passage. I have heard week long seminars taught, just over these verses. But we find the ultimate example of humility here in Jesus Christ. Even though he was/is equal with God, he did not hold onto that, but “made himself nothing.” He took on human form and humbled himself, “to the point of death.” His name has been exalted. His name is above every other name. We see in this passage that, at some point in time, every knee is going to bow to Jesus and proclaim that he is Lord. EVERY knee. I’ve always read that to say that, at some point in time, even those who never believed will be compelled to bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord.
Now, Paul says something that has caused a little controversy in verse 12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling… However, we need to keep reading in verse 13. …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. That’s all one sentence. No, Paul is not telling us that we have to work FOR our salvation. He is telling us to work it OUT! Make it evident. Work it from the inside out. Are you saved? Let it show. The works that we do are the evidence of salvation. God is actually doing the work in us, and we are working “for his good pleasure.”
Do all things without grumbling or questioning… (v. 14) Oh, no. First I have to count others more significant than me, and now I can’t complain?? I’m sunk. Seriously, who among us…never mind. Suffice it to say that I have not been very good at following these instructions. I do believe I’m getting better, but every time I read this chapter, I cringe. I’ve done more than my fair share of “grumbling or questioning.”
Paul finishes the chapter telling them that he is sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to Philippi soon.

A quote from Zephaniah:
The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. (vv. 14-18)
I would say that this prophecy probably has a dual fulfillment, one as the destruction of Jerusalem took place, and another at the final “day of the Lord,” which will be the second coming of Christ.

Jesus, we pray so often that your return would be hasten, that you would come quickly. Maranatha! But reading the above description of “the day of the Lord” makes me wonder if we should be quite so eager for it. While it would most certainly mean eternal peace in heaven for some of us, I can’t imagine being happy that some will experience “distress and anguish,” “ruin and devastation,” “darkness and gloom.” Should we not, rather, be praying for it to be delayed so that maybe a few more would be saved? Of course, I understand that, when all who are destined for salvation have come to know you, then the end will come. But I don’t know when that is. No one does. And I don’t know who is and isn’t destined for salvation. Only you know that. Therefore, it is our duty to be gospel sharers in this world, both through actions and words.
Some of those actions should be the instructions that Paul gave in Philippians. Father, I truly do cringe when I read those words, because I know how badly I have failed at them. I hang my head in shame when I think about the times I have failed to consider others as more significant than me. I have also not done a very good job of doing everything without grumbling or complaining. Father, I pray for the help of the Spirit in succeeding at these instructions. Help me to think of others as more important than me. Not that I am not important. And I don’t believe Paul says that…because he does allow us to look out for our own interests. But we need to consider others. Let that be a goal for me for the rest of this year, to try to look out more for others. I am nothing without you, Lord. Help me to “work out” my salvation. Help me to make it evident in everything I do.

I pray for Stephanie today, Lord. It was a hard night last night, and she must be feeling down. I pray that you would lift her up today so that she has an awesome day at school. She did very well at school yesterday (maybe that’s why things were tough at home…). I pray for another one today.
I pray for Christi. She is not feeling well. Hasn’t been for several days. I pray that you would touch her body and heal her of whatever is going on in there. I pray for my day at work, as well. Let it be smooth and stress free. I have a lot to get accomplished before my vacation starts.

Challenge for today: Count others more significant than yourself. That just grates against every human nerve in my body…

Grace and peace, friends.

What Do We Deserve?

It’s Tuesday morning, and I don’t have anything clever or pithy to start out with. I guess my brain is still waking up. So, I guess I’ll jump right into the Bible readings.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Proverbs 8:12-21
In verse 13, we get one definition of what it means to “fear the LORD.” The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. Please note that it does not say that we are to hate those who do evil. Too many times, Christians get that confused. Am I saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner?” Well, okay. Yes, I am. But I prefer not to use that worn out cliche. We need to hate evil. Yes. Because God hates evil. But we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s kind of difficult to do if we are busy hating them because we think they do evil. There is a part of wisdom that includes knowledge and discretion (v. 12). Too often we judge people without either one of those characteristics of wisdom. Wisdom also walks in “the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice (v. 20).

Matthew 20:1-16
I’ve always loved this parable. Jesus tells of a vineyard owner who goes out and hires some laborers at the beginning of the day, for a day’s wages. Every few hours, he goes back to the marketplace and hires some more workers, all the way up until the “eleventh hour.” When it came time to pay, he lined them up, starting with the last ones hired. When the ones hired at the eleventh hour got paid for working a whole day, the ones hired first thought surely they would get more. When they only got a day’s wages, they were angry. ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ (v. 12) The vineyard owner replied, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (vv. 13-15) Once again, Jesus says, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Life with God is all about grace. We fall into a dangerous trap when we start believing we deserve anything at all from God. I don’t deserve anything from God! And I have no right to look at the person next to me and expect the same blessing they have received. So what if I’ve been a Christian since I was nine or ten years old? So what if I have spent most of my life “serving the Lord?” (Have I really? Out of my 53 years, I would really be afraid to see a graph showing what percentage of those years was truly used in “serving the Lord.”) The point is, God gives grace as he sees fit. If this parable were to happen in real life today, there would be lawsuits, the ACLU would get involved, and I’m sure that the vineyard owner would be forced to pay more to the people that worked longer. There will be no such thing with God, at the judgment. God is the judge. He is the final authority. And he gives what he gives to whom he will give it, and we have no right to complain.

Isaiah 34-35
Chapter 34 is all about the judgment of the nations. It is pretty gruesome, actually. But I believe verse 8 explains it pretty well. For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
In contrast, chapter 35 speaks of the return of the ransomed to the kingdom. After the previous judgment, the land will be restored. The return of the redeemed will be a beautiful thing.
8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Proverbs 8:22-36
Wisdom, still being personified, was present before the world was created. Her advice, at the end of the chapter:
33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

Matthew 20:17-34
After Jesus foretells his death yet again, a strange request is made. The mother of James and John comes up and asks Jesus a question. “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Whoa! I can’t help but wonder if James and John were embarrassed by this request. Perhaps not, though, because they seemed to be right there with her. Jesus’s response was, “You do not know what you are asking!” He then proceeded to ask them if they were able to drink from the same cup that he has to drink. Their response, quite shockingly, was “We are able.” Normally, the idea of the “cup” indicates extreme suffering, and in Jesus’s case, it signified the outpouring of God’s wrath, to the point of death. These disciples would experience suffering and death for the sake of Christ, but “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Understandably, the other disciples were just a little miffed. The ESV uses the word “indignant.” At that point, Jesus has to remind them (again!) that the last will be first and the first will be last. The natural order of things gets turned upside down in the kingdom of God.

As they were leaving the place, Jesus healed a couple of blind men, who, in turn, followed him.

2 Kings 18; Isaiah 36
So we’re back in 2 Kings, and Hezekiah takes the throne. He was a good king, who did right in the eyes of the Lord (v. 3).
5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.
6 For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses.
7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.
8 He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

The rest of chapter 18 concerns Assyria’s attacks on Samaria and Jerusalem. At one point, there is a lengthy speech from the Rabshakeh of Assyria, mocking Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah for trusting in the Lord. Isaiah 36 is almost verbatim the same words in 2 Kings 18.

Proverbs 9:1-9
Wisdom calls out from the street to all who would hear.
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Father, I pray for your wisdom this morning. Let me eat of the bread and drink of the wine of wisdom. I would leave my “simple ways” and walk in the ways of your insight.
I trust in you, Father, no matter what our enemy may throw in my direction. I know that you have loved me all the days of my life. No matter how I feel each day, I realize that I have never lived a day without love, for you have loved me. No matter what my actions, on any day of my entire life, there has never been a time that you did not love me. I have been clean because of the word that you spoke in me. I have been forgiven by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ.
I pray for continued understanding of the concepts that Jesus was teaching in the last few days of readings. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Positions of power and authority, of riches and wealth, mean nothing in your kingdom. What matters in your kingdom is that we serve each other and you, out of the love that issues from our hearts. Let my service to you have no underlying motives of any gain. When I get up early on Saturday to go help set up for the worship celebration, let it be purely from a motive of love for you and your kingdom. Let it be for joy. Let me never seek to be “ahead” of another believer.
I look forward to the day that is spoken of in Isaiah 35. I believe this is a picture of the day when you will reign supremely over all creation. The description is beautiful.
I understand that I do not deserve any blessing from you. I have understood this for many years, Lord. I know that everything that I have is given to me by your grace and mercy. Let me never fall into the trap of believing that I have deserved any of this.

I pray for this day, Father. I thank you that Steph had a great day at school yesterday, and that her teachers think she is doing well. I pray for another great day today. I pray for a good day at work for Christi and me. Let it go smoothly today, without stress or anxiety.

Fill us with your grace today, Lord. Let our cups overflow.

It is important, I believe, to understand the depths of God’s grace, especially in light of the fact that we do not deserve anything from him.

Grace and peace, friends.

Power Over Death

It’s Monday morning. I’m really tired. I’m pretty sure it’s Brett Gardner’s fault. He’s the one that hit the home run that put the Evil Empire ahead 2-1. The Sox tied it in the bottom of the ninth, and went into extra innings. Fortunately, the Sox rewarded me for staying up to watch the end. The won, 3-2, in the bottom of the 10th. Thank you, Marco Scutaro and Josh Reddick. I would thank you, Carl Crawford, but all you did was get intentionally walked. Scuts scored the winning run off of Reddick’s hit. I should thank Big Papi, too. He started the rally in the 9th that resulted in the tie game. Because of that win last night, two good things happened. (I know…I’m not supposed to write about baseball in this blog, but I’m SLEEPY!!) Where was I? Oh, yeah…two good things. One: The Sox are back in first place. Two: After last night’s win, they are 10-2 against the Evil Empire on the season, which means, regardless of what happens the rest of the year, THEY HAVE OFFICIALLY BEATEN THE EVIL EMPIRE FOR THE SEASON SERIES!!!!!

Okay…I’m going to read the Bible for a few minutes now.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 9:18-38
18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”
19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.
20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment,
21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”
22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,
24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.
25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.
26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Word gets around. Obviously, this ruler had heard about Jesus’s miracles. And he had the faith to believe that all Jesus had to do was touch her. While Jesus was on his way, he was interrupted by a woman who had been sick for 12 years. She had the faith to believe all she had to do was touch his garment, and she would be healed! But Jesus felt the touch. Other gospels have him asking “Who touched me?” Matthew doesn’t go into that detail. But Jesus does tell her, “Your faith has made you well.” When Jesus got to the house, he took the girl by the hand, and she lived.

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”
29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”
30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”
31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Again, faith is tied to healing.

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him.
33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

Jesus had some choice words for the Pharisees at another time, when they made this accusation.

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Jesus gives some interesting prayer instructions here. I believe that we can and should continue to obey this command.

Isaiah 2
Many who are Pre-millennial dispensationalists believe that verses 1-5 refer to the end times. However, they could refer to things fulfilled over a long period of time, even including the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah. On the other hand, verses 12-22 pretty clearly refer to “the Day of the Lord.”
12 For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills;
15 against every high tower, and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft.
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols shall utterly pass away.
19 And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.
20 In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats,
21 to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.
22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?

The day described here will be a great and terrible day. Personally, I don’t think I want to be around to witness it.

Proverbs 1:8-19
In this passage, Solomon encourages us to hear the instructions of our parents, and to shun the invitations of “sinners.”

Father, I am grateful that I had parents that gave me good instruction. I am also grateful that, over time, you gave me the wisdom to heed that instruction. I pray that you will continue to give me wisdom as I try to guide my own children into life. One is grown; is our guidance finished? I don’t think a parent’s guidance is ever finished. Keep supplying us with wisdom, Father.
Lord, your day of judgment is coming. When? I sure don’t know, and I’m not wise enough to say whether we are in the “last days” or not. Some say it is close. But only you know. The best thing I can do is keep myself alert and stay watchful and ready. I can also continue to keep my habit of reading your word daily and thinking on it throughout the days. That and prayer are the best things I can do.
I pray, as Jesus instructed, that you send workers into the harvest. True workers, who preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. May your gospel shine brightly into the darkness of this world.

I pray for this day, Father. Give Christi and Steph a good day, as they go pick up Stephanie’s school schedule for her senior year. She is so excited! I pray that she has the best year ever.

I’m grateful for the people who cared enough about Stephanie to encourage her to go to the sleepover last Friday night. Bless them, Lord.

Thank you for leading us to The Exchange Church, and the wonderful messages that we have been hearing there.

I can’t think of anything else to add this morning. So I won’t. Have a blessed day!

Grace and peace, friends.