Psalms, Prayers, and Promises

Today is Sunday, September 16, 2018. Day 22,102.

Twenty days until Galveston!!

“I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations that I’ve traveled to. But first, I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.” ~ Mitch Hedberg, 1968-2005, The Quotations Page

The word for today is tunesmith, ” a person who composes popular music or songs.”

The Night of Worship, last night, was great! I don’t believe there were as many people as last time, but we didn’t advertise it so much at our own church, this time. There was a nice crowd from Mount Zion Baptist Church, and they seemed to respond well. The only downer was that Terry, our Exchange worship leader, was coming down with something, and by the end of the night, had no voice left. So Brandon and I covered for him in the last song we did. The funny thing is that we didn’t change the key, which made it a bit of a struggle for both of us. It was a good time, though, and an awesome time of worship.

The Red Sox beat the Mets 5-3 to make their record 102-47. Rick Porcello notched his seventeenth win. To add to our joy, the Blue Jays beat the Yankees, which knocked the magic number down to four! The Sox are 10.5 games ahead of the Yankees. One more game with the Mets this afternoon. Thirteen games left.

The Rangers came back and beat the Padres 6-3 to make their record 64-84. They play San Diego again this afternoon. They have fourteen games left.

There are two weeks of regular season baseball left. The Indians have become the first team to clinch their division. No team has even clinched a Wild Card spot in the National League.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering this morning. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street in Fort Worth. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

In the middle of one of my favorite Psalms is this verse.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15

What a beautiful truth. God is merciful and gracious. He abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. I’ve mentioned before that “steadfast love” is translated “mercy” in some translations. The definition of “abound” is “exist in large numbers or amounts.” In truth, the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness are never-ending.

But ours, sadly, are not. Our steadfast love, mercy, graciousness, and faithfulness all have their limits. Because we are not God. And we don’t have anything in infinite quantities.

But if we walk in Christ, and walk in God’s Kingdom, we can at least exhibit some of the character of Christ. That’s the challenge. Because all of those things that threaten our mercy and grace, our steadfast love and faithfulness, come screaming at us on a daily basis. Sometimes, they are trivial things; sometimes, they are serious things.

One way to fight against these is prayer. Praying a Psalm like Psalm 86 would be a tremendous help. It also includes verses like the one I chose for my “life verse” a couple decades ago.

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

You can’t possibly go wrong praying that verse! And I pray it, if not daily, at least several times a week.

We can also pray some of Paul’s prayers for each other. Like this one:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Colossians 1:11-12

And we can count on His promises, such as this one found in 2 Peter 3:9.

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.

So. Pray for yourself, praying Psalms back to God, acknowledging His steadfast love, kindness, graciousness, and faithfulness. Pray for Him to teach you. Then pray for someone else that you know, that they would be strengthened in His power, according to His glorious might. Then rest on His promises, knowing that he will fulfill them, and, most importantly, that He is patient toward you.

Father, I thank You and praise You for Your steadfast love and faithfulness; faithfulness that transcends my faithfulness, infinitely. I praise You that You are infinitely merciful and kind, and that You are infinitely glorious! I do pray today, Father, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth, and that You would unite my heart to fear Your name. I pray for my brothers and sisters, that they would be strengthened in Your glorious might. And I thank you for Your very great and precious promises, and the promise that You will keep them. You will do what You say You will do.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Most High Is My Refuge

Today is Sunday, January 21, 2018. Day 21,864.

67 days until Opening Day.

Wolfman Jack, born on this date in 1938 (died 1995) said, “I know it sounds corny, man, but I like to bring folks joy, and I like to have a good time. I know folks like to be with somebody who’s having a good time. You sure as hell don’t want to be with somebody who’s having a bad day.”

The word for today (really yesterday’s word, but I gave today’s word last night), from, is doodlesack, a noun which means, “a bagpipe.” I like that.

C is feeling better this morning. A little light-headed, but not as bad as yesterday. She is getting ready to go to our worship gathering.

We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach St., in Fort Worth, TX. The worship gathering begins at 10:15 AM.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! 
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! 
May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah. 
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! 
May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! 
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. 
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 
They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. 
O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call.

Psalm 20

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 
You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 
no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 
On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

Psalm 91:7-13

(From The Business of Heaven, C.S. Lewis)
Defending the Faith

“We are to defend Christianity itself–the faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the Creeds, expounded by the Fathers. This must be clearly distinguished from the whole of what any one of us may think about God and Man. Each of us has his individual emphasis: each holds, in addition to the Faith, many opinions which seem to him to be consistent with it and true and important. And so perhaps they are. But as apologists it is not our business to defend them. We are defending Christianity; not ‘my religion.’ When we mention our personal opinions we must always make quite clear the difference between them and the Faith itself. . . .

“This distinction, which is demanded by honesty, also gives the apologist a great tactical advantage. The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it is good for society or something of that sort. . . . This immediately helps them to realize that what is being discussed is a question about objective fact–not gas about ideals and points of view. . . . Do not attempt to water Christianity down. There must be no presence that you can have it with the Supernatural left out. So far as I can see Christianity is precisely the one religion from which the miraculous cannot be separated. You must frankly argue for supernaturalism from the very outset.” (Christian Apologetics)

Wow. This is quite profound, and worthy of pondering. It is not our duty or business to defend our opinions! We must defend the facts of Christianity, not our own idea of “religion.”

Father, help me to not ever defend my ideas and opinions about “religion,” but only the facts about Christianity. May any defense that I give be concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, concerning the Kingdom of God that is here and available for all to join. May I also be on the lookout for people to encourage and love, people for whom I might be a sort of “guardian angel.” Save us, O Lord!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

The Hazard of Faith

Today is Sunday, January 22, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“Intense feeling too often obscures the truth.” – Harry S Truman

Word of the Day

Talisman – anything whose presence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence on human feelings or actions.

Today is Celebration of Life Day, a day set aside to show appreciation to our children and grandchildren. Take some time to appreciate what special people your children and grandchildren have become.

Definitely not much to write about on a personal level, this morning. C continues to struggle with her bronchial asthma. She did rest quite a bit, yesterday, though. I have a PAT (Pastoral Assist Team) meeting after church today. Most people know how I feel about meetings.

We are getting ready for our worship gathering this morning. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach St., in Fort Worth. The gathering begins at 10:15 AM.


Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Psalm 111:1

. . . that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. Psalm 83:18

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. Psalm 71:14

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Psalm 118:22

“Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”~~The Divine Hours

(From Living the Message)

If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. Matthew 10:38-39

“What is hazardous in my life is my work as a Christian. Every day I put faith on the line. I have never seen God. In a world where nearly everything can be weighed, explained, quantified, subjected to psychological analysis and scientific control I persist in making the center of my life a God whom no eye has seen, nor ear heard, whose will no one can probe. That’s a risk.”

Jesus, there are many day that I don’t deserve you. There are many days that I don’t pick up my cross and carry it for you. There are many days that my first concern is me. I confess and ask your forgiveness for these days. Help me to find myself in you every day. Help me to go out and put faith on the line every day, wherever my feet and your will take me. I have never seen you, either, yet I believe in you. I am willing to be thought a fool for the sake of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Spiritual Pluck

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

Today’s word of the day, from, is gaucherie, which means, “lack of social grace, sensitivity, or acuteness; awkwardness; crudeness; tactlessness.” I know a few people like that.

Well! Today is Chocolate Chip Day. As usual, any “holiday” that has “chocolate” in it has my support.

There’s not a lot to report about yesterday. It was a very normal day, with nothing really happening. The Red Sox beat the Astros in extra innings, as David Ortiz hit a walk-off double to drive in the winning run. This was the 600th double of his career, which put him in an extremely elite category of baseball players. He also has 513 career home runs. Only two other players in MLB history have 500 home runs and 600 doubles. Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds, two home runs kings. Big Bapi is certainly having an epic final season.

The Texas Rangers also won in extra innings, last night, against the Boo Jays, as Drew Stubbs hit a walk-off home run. Baltimore won their seventh consecutive game, so the standings didn’t change for Boston. However, the Mariners lost a second game in a row to the Angels, so the Rangers moved to within a half game of first place. Both teams finish their series this afternoon.

As always, we are getting ready for church. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, 9100 N. Beach Street, Fort Worth, TX. Our worship gathering is at 10:15 this morning.


(From Praying With the Psalms)

O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.
Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

Psalm 68:15-20

The victories of God are not just exhibitions of his power or his righteousness. “The are what is experienced in history by his people. The God who is raised up raises us up with him.”

“Dear God, when my shoulders droop and my steps drag, speak your encouraging word. It is not, I know, your will that I carry burdens of anxiety: lift them from my shoulders so that I may lift my eyes to you in glad faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

“The Habit of Rising to the Occasion”

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

We spoke, in yesterday’s reading, of what we are saved for being that we might manifest the life of the Son of God in our “mortal flesh.” We must expend all of our energy to this task; we must “rise to the occasion every time.”

We cannot do anything for our salvation, but we have to do something to manifest it. We must “work out what God has worked in.” If we are still the same miserable people we were before, then we have very little grounds to claim salvation.

God will allow difficulties to come into our lives as tests, to see if we handle them properly. “Rise to the occasion; do the thing. It does not matter how much it hurts as long as it gives God the chance to manifest Himself in your mortal flesh.”

“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.”

Father, both yesterday’s and today’s readings have pricked my soul. I realize how much I have failed in this area. I pray for the “spiritual pluck and athleticism” to rise to the occasion and do the right thing whenever difficulties and disagreeable moments arise in my life. May your Holy Spirit empower me in this, and may I learn from the words and life of Jesus Christ. May I truly manifest his life and walk in your Kingdom.

Come, Lord Jesus!”

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

Grace and peace, friends.

A Thirsty Tongue

“A thirsty tongue is liable to be a murmuring one. When Israel was not satisfied, she tested God with her lips. So with me, and how often I have known this, when I have not been wholly satiated with the water of life in the morning, the tongue is apt to move loosely in criticism of God’s children, His ways of leading, His apparent slowness to provide.” (From The Journals of Jim Elliot, March 6, 1948)

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”~~Erich Fromm
“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”~~William Blake

Today’s WotD, from, is commodius. While it may sound as if it is referring to a particular piece of bathroom furniture (in a Roman form, even? “Marcus, I must visit the commodius!?), it, in fact, means “spacious and convenient; roomy: ample or adequate for a particular purpose.” Perhaps you have a commodius house, or a commodius office at work.

Today is White Chocolate Cheescake Day. Why? Because chocolate!

We had a very nice time at the Irish Festival, yesterday. We drove to a nearby train station in Dallas and hopped on the Dart Rail for $10 ($5 each for two Day Passes). The train dropped us off right in front of the gate of the Fair Park. Parking at the Festival was $15, and we probably would have had to walk a mile to get there from the car. So that was a “win/win” situation. I realized, while on the train, that a $5 Day Pass also provides some people with a pseudo comfortable place to sleep for the day. You never know what you are going to see when you ride the train. The important thing is to not panic and realize that anything you might see on the train is “normal.”

The festival was fun. We heard a lot of good music as we walked around, even though we never really stopped to listen to any for a significant length of time. It was just everywhere. There were also a number of food booths with free samples. We even bought some of the food products, too. We bought some really good jelly/jams, some salsa mix, and some beef jerky for Rachel. Then I got a nice Celtic “Circle of Life” t-shirt and a new hat. I’ll be wearing those to church this morning. The hardest part was deciding what to eat, though. I finally settled on a Scottish sausage sandwich, and some “gravy french fries.” I was disappointed that the gravy was brown, but they were okay. The sausage was okay, but not great. Christi got a patty melt at one booth that was out of this world. She shared it with me. Afterward we bought a funnel cake and a couple of Diet Cokes. The miraculous thing is that we planned it out and didn’t have any of the food/drink coupons left! That never happens!

The one thing that disappointed me is that they didn’t have any Mead this year. The closest thing that had was some apple cider, so I had a cup of that. It was pretty good. But I really wanted mead. Oh, well. Scarborough Renaissance Faire is right around the corner.

This morning, we have our worship gathering at 10:15. Christi isn’t running the Mac today, so we don’t have to be there early. Our church, The Exchange, meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N Beach, in Fort Worth, TX. Come join us if you are nearby.


By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Psalm 33:6-9

“Do words really make any difference?” Eugene Peterson asks. “Does talk ever cause anything to happen?” I doubt that, when he wrote that, he knew that I would be reading this in the middle of one of the strangest and, perhaps, worst Presidential campaigns we have ever experienced; one where words seem trite and meaningless, and, at times, even obscene and insulting. But they are words that are definitely attached to deeds. Empty promises. But the words of God, that’s a totally different story. We have here, “a biblical witness that traces the very world we live in to the word of God.”

“O God, by men who make promises that they never keep and by people who make statements that they do not mean, I begin to treat words as ‘mere words.’ And then I look around at what happens in creation and in salvation when you speak, and I’m ready to listen again, especially to the ‘Word made flesh’ in whose name I pray (John 1:14). Amen.”

On second thought, maybe he did write that during a Presidential campaign!

“A thirsty tongue is liable to be a murmuring one. When Israel was not satisfied, she tested God with her lips. So with me, and how often I have known this, when I have not been wholly satiated with the water of life in the morning, the tongue is apt to move loosely in criticism of God’s children, His ways of leading, His apparent slowness to provide.” (From The Journals of Jim Elliot, March 6, 1948)

Father, I see the truth in what Jim Elliot has written here. I pray that the eyes of my heart would be satisfied in you. May the times that I spend in your word burrow deep into my spirit, satisfying me so that my tongue does not wander into territory that it unseemly. I cannot count the number of times that my loose tongue has gotten me into some kind of trouble. Tame it, my Lord, in the name and power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

With My Whole Heart

“Do you hunger for Jesus Christ? Do you yearn to spend time alone with him in prayer? Is he the most important person in your life? Does he fill your soul like a song of joy? Is he on your lips as a shout of praise? Do you eagerly turn to his memoirs, his personal testament, his Gospels, to learn more of him? Are you making the effort to die to anything and everything that would inhibit, diminish, or threaten your friendship?”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Sunday, June 15, 2014. Today is Father’s Day. I would like to take this moment to wish my own father, Ken Bickley, a Happy Father’s Day. I am so thankful that I have had such a positive role-model to look up to all these years. You have been a constant source of inspiration and wisdom (not to mention quite a few good books to read!). I thank God for you and Mom every day.

Today is also Smile Power Day. It is truly amazing how much power something as simple as a smile can have. Give it a try. Smile at someone today.

Yesterday was a great day. Stephanie and Megan had a great time together, and we also had a great lunch with our old friend Lindsey and her husband Eric. It was our first time to meet him, and we seemed to all get along really well. We took them to lunch at Fogata’s.

After going home and resting a little more, we headed up to church, taking Megan with us. She seems to have really enjoyed our time there last night. After church, we had a church-wide dinner meeting at, guess where . . . Fogata’s! While it seems redundant, we had planned the lunch with Lindsey a few weeks before the church dinner was planned. We had the largest attendance we have had since Easter last night. It created a small problem (not a bad one, though), in that we had told Fogata’s that we expected thirty people, give or take ten. When we saw how many people were at the worship service, Christi called them and said it would definitely be closer to the forty mark. Turns out, we had over fifty people at dinner! We had to add two tables to what was already set up. And we counted at least ten more people that were not there last night!

As well as the dinner, we were also celebrating one year with Jacob Seay as our pastor. He was totally surprised at this, having no idea we had this planned. One of our members created a memory book for him, from Shutterfly, in which many of us submitted emails written to Jacob, letting him know our feelings about him for the past year. It was a beautiful book, full of pictures of all of us, our email letters, and some pictures that some of us sent in that showed notes that we had taken of his sermons. I may see if I can get a copy of the book, I liked it so much. There was also cake! Yes, cake! Very good cake!

Let there be cake!
Let there be cake!

We are very grateful for our church family at The Exchange, and are looking forward to more years ahead, with Jacob as our pastor.

Today, Rachel and Justin are supposed to be coming over for lunch and hanging out. Not sure what we will do after lunch, but Christi is cooking baked potatoes and steaks for lunch. YUM!!! My stomach just growled!

Christi starts back to work tomorrow, at her new job!!! Thank you, Jesus!! Ironically, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am off tomorrow, because this coming Saturday is my Saturday to work.


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

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:3
Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
Psalm 102:1-2
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.
Psalm 18:46
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 it so shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
The Gloria
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1

“Holy Father, creator and sustaining wisdom of all this is, both in heaven and on earth,
take from me those thoughts, actions and objects that are hurtful. Give me instead those
things that are profitable for me and all who seek rightly to praise you. I ask this grace
in the company of all believers and through the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, who is,
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.”

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Hunger For Jesus.”

What if your entire life and future of both you and your family, even your eternal destiny, depended on the personal relationship you had with your pastor? “Wouldn’t you arrange to spend considerably more time with him than you do now?” Would you try (with his help, of course) to overcome character defects that you knew were not pleasing to him? If you got called away on business, wouldn’t you drop him a line more often, or perhaps email or text him?

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1

“And if he confided to you that he kept a diary of personal memoirs, which were the deepest whisperings of his inner self, wouldn’t you be anxious not only to read them but to steep yourself in them so that you might know and love him more?”

Every disciple must answer these questions with complete honesty. “Do you hunger for Jesus Christ? Do you yearn to spend time alone with him in prayer? Is he the most important person in your life? Does he fill your soul like a song of joy? Is he on your lips as a shout of praise? Do you eagerly turn to his memoirs, his personal testament, his Gospels, to learn more of him? Are you making the effort to die to anything and everything that would inhibit, diminish, or threaten your friendship?”

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Psalm 119:10


Father, I confess that there are still many things that distract me from my relationship with Christ. Even as I type this prayer, I am distracted by other things on this computer. These are such difficult questions! Because, deep in our hearts, I believe that every Christian would have to answer many of them, “No.” But yes, I do hunger for more of Christ in my life. I do yearn to spend more time alone with him in prayer. Is he the most important person in my life? Probably not. I yearn for him to be more important in my life than other people or things. Does he fill my soul? Sometimes, yes, sometimes, no, just has there are times when he is on my lips like a shout of praise, and there are other times that he is not. I pray for more consistency in my walk with Christ. Give me more of a desire to engulf myself in the words of the Gospels, that very place where I can learn the most about my Savior, his ways, and his words. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth, and that I might desire more intensely to die to “anything and everything that would inhibit, diminish, or threaten” my relationship with Christ.

I pray for this day. I pray that you keep Rachel and Justin safe as they travel down here to visit with us. I pray that we will have a great Father’s Day visit with them. I also pray for children everywhere, both young and old, that they might experience joy today, either in visiting with or remembering their fathers. If they cannot come up with good memories of their earthly fathers, I pray that they would enjoy some special time with you, our heavenly father.

I pray for Christi as she gets closer to her first day back at work. Give her wisdom, discernment, and confidence. Help her to do her best in this new job.

Your grace is sufficient.

Yes, these are difficult questions that our brother Brennan has asked. I do not believe they are designed to induce guilt, because I don’t know anyone who can answer all of these questions affirmatively all the time. What they are intended for, I believe, is to inspire a deeper desire to know Jesus more and more, and to have deeper communion with him on a regular basis. After all, our future DOES depend on our relationship with him!

Grace and peace, friends.

Submission Results in Provision

Good morning. It is Wednesday, October 2, 2013.

Today is “Name Your Car Day.” I’ve done that. My Hyundai Sonata is named “Amadeus.”

My dreams of a 1975 World Series rematch were short-lived, as the Pirates beat the Reds in the NL Wild Card game last night. Oh, well. Tonight’s game features Cleveland vs. Tampa Bay in the AL Wild Card game. I’m not terribly concerned about who wins, but whoever it is faces the Red Sox, starting Friday night. I wonder if I’ll have my new shirt by then. . .

We had a great Huddle group last night. There are changes a-comin’! I can’t really divulge anything yet, but there is going to be a major announcement this Sunday. We (Christi and I) are pretty excited about the future of The Exchange.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1187, after being under Christian rule for just under a century, Jerusalem fell to the Muslims under the leadership of Sultan Saladin. European Christians had captured Jerusalem during the First Crusade. But King Baldwin IV died of leprosy and, instead of passing to his young nephew, the throne was manipulated by Baldwin’s sister Sibylla, who seized the crown and had her husband Guy de Lusignan declared King. Unfortunately, Guy “had neither the intelligence nor the ruthlessness of former Christian rulers” and was lost the city to the Muslim raiders. Interesting fact. . . “To the delighted astonishment of the conquered Christians, Saladin and his men treated them with kindness and courtesy rather than the indiscriminate slaughter that followed the Crusaders’ capture of the city.”

Today’s birthday is Don McLean, born on this date in 1945. McLean is a singer/songwriter who has made many really good records. His most well-known song is, of course, “American Pie,” from the album by the same name. Also on that album, however, is a very fine song, a tribute to the painter, Vincent van Gogh, called, simply, “Vincent.”

Honorable mentions go to Sting, 62, Kelly Ripa, 43, Maury Wills, 81, Groucho Marx, 1890-1977, George “Spanky” McFarland, 1928-1993, Bud Abbott, 1895-1974, Annie Leibovitz, 64, Rex Reed, 75, and Mike Rutherford, 63.

Bonus video. Mike and the Mechanics (Mike Rutherford) singing “The Living Years.”


O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.
Psalm 54:1-2
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. . . Psalm 116:13
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:19
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Psalm 56:10-13

Father, I do praise you, but I am still in the formative stages of trusting you. Yes, even after all these years, I struggle with trusting you. It must be a human thing. But I find myself closer to being able to fully trust you with my whole heart. May your Spirit guide me into that place. I do believe that I can speak that last line of Psalms, above, with clarity and confidence. You truly have “delivered my soul from death,” and you have delivered “my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” I praise you for this, Father. I ask you to guide me into your word this morning and teach me your ways.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Israel Would Not Submit to Me.” The scripture verse is Psalm 81:8-14.

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.”

This seems to be a psalm used on a specific feast day, “perhaps the fall Festival of Tabernacles.” The song celebrates “God’s saving power, particularly noting God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt.” God invites his people to “reap the benefits of his adequacy and generosity.” If we trust him with our whole hearts, we will get all that we need.

In this psalm, “submit” seems to mean “obey.” We know from the Biblical record that Israel, time and time again, failed to obey the Lord, which resulted in many negative consequences, not the least of which was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, unable to enter “the promised land.” We should be able to learn a lot from Israel’s experience, but I’m afraid we don’t. However, God’s commands are different to us. And that is a totally different discussion that revolves around the words of Jesus Christ. The point of this morning’s reading is that, if we submit to the Lord and follow his ways, obeying his commands, we will be well-provided for.

Father, I pray for a spirit of submission to be prevalent in my life. I know that I struggled with that yesterday, and, after things that were revealed last night, now know that it was in vain that I struggled, because there was no need for the anxiety at all. I love how you are teaching me to trust you, even though it’s uncomfortable at times! I pray that you continue to teach me, as well as all your people, to be submissive to your will. Your plan is the ultimate priority; your plan will come to pass. What I must do is walk in that plan, walk in your truth, walk in your ways. Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

I pray for this day, as always. May we have a good work day, and may we be more aware of the people around us and their needs, not just walking in blindness, stuck in our own little world. Make us people of grace, people of peace. May we help others find your peace, Father. Teach Stephanie your will and your ways, Lord, and draw her closer to your heart.

I lift up a special prayer for our pastor, Jacob, as he leads us into unfamiliar territory. Give him strength and courage to do what you have shown him must be done. I pray that he is hearing you rightly and discerning accurately. Fill him with your Spirit and your truth.

God has shown us the truth; if we fully submit to him, we will be taken care of. Jesus reinforces that truth in Matthew 6:33. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Forget!

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m the first one up. I actually had to set an alarm this morning, because we are going to go up to the school building where The Exchange meets and help them set up the room at 8:30. Anyone who knows us, knows just how significant this is. I don’t know when I’ve been excited enough about a ministry to want to be somewhere other than sitting in this chair in front of this computer at 8:30 on Saturday morning!

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 15:21-39
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

This is an interesting passage. Jesus was not going to do anything for this Gentile woman because the “wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile was not yet broken down. However, the woman had no presumption of being deserving of the blessing reserved for Israel, but simply hoped to “benefit from the overflow of those blessings” (Reformation Study Bible). Jesus complimented her faith and her daughter was instantly healed. It is also important to note that, when she called him “Lord, Son of David,” that he did not in any way correct her or deny this. She somehow knew that he was the Messiah.

29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.
30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them,
31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

The end result of all of the healing, as it should be, is the glorification of God.

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”
34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”
35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground,
36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

My first observation here (and one that I think has been glossed over in lieu of the bigger story) is that the people had been following Jesus for three days and had not had anything to eat! THREE DAYS!! Jesus commanded such attention that people were willing to go without food for three days to hear him teach and to have their infirmities healed!
My next observation is the…um…forgetfulness of the disciples. (I’m trying to be polite here.) Didn’t Jesus just feed 5000+ people a few days a ago? I mean, I’m not positive of the time line here, but “been there, done that,” right?? And the first thing they say is, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” *face palm* Really, guys? I like to think that I would have grabbed the first sack lunch I saw and run to Jesus with it and said, “Hey, Jesus! Do that thing you did before!” Anyway, everyone was fed, and this time there were seven baskets of leftovers.
A final observation is that Jesus met both physical and spiritual needs. There have been controversies over social gospel ministries for decades. But James nails it in his little book when he told us, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16) If you see someone who is starving for food and all you give him is a gospel tract, there’s not much chance he’ll even read it. But if you give him a meal first, he might hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if you don’t speak it. Actions always speak louder than words. Jesus backed up his words with actions.

Isaiah 21-22
21:1-10 is an oracle “concerning the wilderness of the sea,” which must be a term for Babylon. It ends with the words, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.” O my threshed and winnowed one, what I have heard from the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, I announce to you.
The chapter closes out with an oracle about Arabia:
16 For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.
17 And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.”

Chapter 22 is an oracle concerning Jerusalem, but the city is called “the valley of vision.” Is this sarcasm? For what was once on a hill, has now been called a “valley.” There are vivid images of desolation and destruction in this oracle. Again, I’m not sure of the timeline in this prophecy. The Lord calls for weeping and mourning in verse 12, but instead he finds joy, gladness, and gluttony. The “joy” here is more “revelry;” mad partying, as it were, with the attitude, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (v. 13) Verses 15-25 concern Shebna, who was steward under Hezekiah. Apparently, he had a pride problem and was going to be taken down. In fact, according to verse 17-18, Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, would be installed in his place.

Proverbs 5:15-23
These verses warn against adultery, using metaphors such as Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. (v. 15)
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.

The results of sin can be devastating, and it can certainly have a grip on a person.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Father, I pray today that you continue to strengthen me against sin. Let me never be ensnared by the “iniquities of the wicked.” I pray that I would not be guilty of revelry when you call for fasting and mourning. But I also pray for true joy in my life…the joy that only you can bring. I believe I am experiencing that right now. Even when circumstances are less than desirable, we can experience your joy in our lives, joy that is unceasing and that cannot be taken away.

I pray for this morning, Lord, that the setup will go smoothly and quickly. I thank you for getting us involved in this church and pray that our excitement will continue.

I pray for safe travel for my parents as they come to Fort Worth today, and I pray for a good celebration for Stephanie and Justin’s birthday.

True faith requires that we also remember what we have experienced. When we forget what God has done for us in the past, we tend to lose faith that he will do so again in our present or our future.

Grace and peace, friends!

Elijah and Ahab

It’s Monday morning, so it’s back to work today. Yesterday was a pretty awesome day. At almost the last minute yesterday morning, we decided to go to a church that we had never even heard of until Saturday night. I had seen it Saturday night when, out of desperation, I found the web site for the Tarrant Baptist Association, thinking surely they would have a list of all the churches in Tarrant County (Baptist ones, at least). And there was this one listed, called The Exchange. It’s kind of up in Roanoke. Which is 15-20 minutes north for us (we used to go to Roanoke all the time to eat at a Mexican restaurant called Fernando’s). I clicked on the link for the staff, and the lead pastor is Joel Engle. I think, “I know that name.” Sure enough, he used to writer of worship music and travel singing his music. He has “retired” from that, back about three years ago, to plant this church. I showed the church to Christi, and she went and spent some time looking at it yesterday morning. She came back in and said she was excited about this one. So we went.

I’m excited to say that we may have finally found it. The worship music was very good. The actually worship leader was out, because they just had a baby this week, so Joel led the worship, along with another guy. Plus the acoustic guitar player could sing some, too. It was a nice set including “Blessed Be Your Name,” “Your Grace Is Enough,” a song we didn’t know, but it was very good, and a version of “Jesus Paid It All.” Joel’s preaching was very good. I believe it was Biblically sound and applicable to my life. The phrase that he kept repeating yesterday had to do with the fact that if we center our lives around Jesus, he will give us what we need to have an eternal impact on people. Next weekend, we will be in Houston/Galveston, but we are definitely going back in two weeks.

The Red Sox finally beat the Pirates yesterday, but not by much. Final was 4-2. But Grumpy Old Men also won, so we are still in second place. The Rangers still couldn’t manage to beat the Mets, losing 8-5. The Halos lost, but the Mariners won, so THEY are now in second, 1.5 behind the Rangers. Kevin Youkillis did not hit a home run yesterday, so my total for that game remains at zero (apparently Big Papi did, though). But Gonzo got a couple of hits, so I’m back up to 1 on Beat the Streak. Both the Rangers and the Red Sox have the day off. AGAIN?? Weren’t they just off a day last week? So, for the home run, I think I’ll pick Carlos Pena, and for the hit, I’ll select Aramis Ramirez. The next game the Red Sox have is against the Sandwiches (I stole that from Lauren). The Rangers are on their way to Houston for more of the “silver boot” challenge.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another–if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Here, Paul gives instructions concerning the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, the Corinthians were having a problem with things getting a little out of control. Some were getting drunk on the wine that was set aside for the Lord’s Supper. Others were eating up all the bread, leaving none for others. This was never intended to be a full meal. Perhaps they were trying to be as authentic as possible, for on the night of the last supper, Jesus and the disciples did have a meal before sharing the bread and the wine. Paul suggested that people eat their fill at home before coming to the Lord’s Supper.
Many people that I have known over the years objected to having any kind of meal at the church, based on this passage. I would not go that far. Those are reactionary ideas, and not exactly rational. There is nothing wrong with the practice of having an occasional “fellowship meal” or even those who have Wednesday night meals every week. They serve a different purpose. The Lord’s Supper is for the purpose of proclaiming “the Lord’s death until he comes.” (v. 26)
Now, what does the passage beginning in verse 27 mean? Many have taken it to mean that if you don’t feel worthy, you shouldn’t partake. It is important to remember the context. The Corinthian Christians had a different kind of problem. Note, in verse 27, Paul says “in an unworthy manner.” This described what was happening in Corinth. They were profaning the body of Christ by the manner in which they were eating the supper. And because of this, some were ill, and some had even died! We can never be worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus! The only thing that makes me “worthy” of taking the Supper is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, sacrifice for my sins. I do believe that, if one is not a believer in Christ, he should definitely not eat the crackers and juice or bread and wine or whatever your particular church serves. And I do believe that I should be “examining” myself when I do eat it, but not to see if I’m worthy of taking it. It’s a somber event, and it should never be taken lightly.
The author of the book says, “…he means to separate those living in obedience to Christ from those who are unsaved or have unconfessed sin in their lives.” I really don’t like it when people add things to what the Bible says. “Unconfessed sin” is nowhere mentioned in this passage, and to think that completely ignores the context of the passage.

1 Kings 17-18
Enter Elijah. Out of nowhere! First he tells Ahab that there will be no rain (not even dew) for years! Then he goes and hides, where the Lord sends ravens to feed him. Then the Lord sent Elijah to Zarephath, where he lived with a widow and her son. She was almost out of food, but because she obeyed Elijah and shared with him, her food supply never ran out as long as he was there. When her son became ill and died, Elijah prayed to the Lord, and her son was raised from the dead.
Finally, God tells Elijah to confront Ahab. Obadiah had hidden some prophets, and was out looking for some grass for Ahab’s horses and mules. He came upon Elijah, who told him, “Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.'” His response is amusing. Obadiah said, How have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? (18:8-9) Apparently, Elijah had a habit of disappearing, and Obadiah was afraid that, after he told Ahab that Elijah was there, Elijah would disappear again, and Ahab would kill Obadiah. Elijah promised not to do that.
When they finally came face to face, Ahab said (again, amusing), Is it you, you troubler of Israel? Elijah said, I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table. (vv. 17-19)
The next passage is amazing. They all get together, and Elijah has Ahab and his 850 “prophets” gather with Elijah, and Elijah proposed a test. Both Elijah and the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah would prepare a bull. If their “gods” answered with fire, serve them. If Yahweh answered with fire, serve him. So it began. Ahab’s prohets prayed. They prayed some more. They danced. They cut themselves. Nothing happened. Elijah mocked them. “Perhaps he’s in the bathroom,” he jibed. Finally, after this went on, most of the day, Elijah said, “Enough.” He gather them around his altar. He had them throw water on the altar, completely soaking the wood and the bull. Three times. Finally, Elijah prayed, O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back. What happened? Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (vv. 36-39) Elijah had the people seize all of the prophets of Baal and slaughter them. Not one of them survived.
Immediately afterward, the Lord brought rain.

Psalm 125
1 A Song of Ascents. Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the LORD will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel!

Do I trust the Lord enough to be like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved? I can only pray that I do…

Father, I pray that I can trust you in the way the Psalmist describes above. I pray for the kind of faith that enabled Elijah to face 850 prophets of false gods, driven by an evil king. I pray for the kind of faith that can keep my chin up, no matter what life throws at me. And I pray for the kind of faith that can resist temptation and find “the way out” that is described in 1 Corinthians 10. You are sovereign, Lord! Help me to trust that and believe that daily, hourly, minute by minute!
I praise you for the time we had at The Exchange yesterday. We feel really good about the place and hope that this continues. We will return in a couple of weeks, taking Steph with us. I pray that that day of worship will be every bit as exciting as this one was.

I pray for this day of work, Lord. Let it go smoothly. There is much potential for trouble today and tonight. I pray that everything happens exactly as it should tonight. I pray that you somehow ease my manager’s mind about things, and make his day less stressful. Also, I pray for less stress during Christi’s day.

I take great comfort and encouragement from the story of Elijah. Our God is mighty. He can take care of himself, and certainly of us. Trust in him.

Grace and peace, friends.