Today is Saturday, the 28th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.
Peace be with you!
It’s going to be a pretty lazy day around here, I think. After all the excitement of the week (see Thursday’s entry), and C’s work schedule being a little wacky, I’m thinking we might need a day to just chill. We might go out for lunch, in a little while, and I’ll probably cook burgers for dinner tonight. I do have some reading to do and need to play my trombone for a little while, in preparation for tomorrow’s orchestra performances at church.
I have to be at church by 8:00 AM tomorrow morning, so I’ll try to get a devotional blog in before then. I’m making no promises.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
(Psalms 119:104 NRSV)
Lord our God, we come into your presence and ask you to help us. Help us in every part of our lives, even when we do not understand. Be with us with your Spirit. Guide and lead us with your hand. Let your will be done in all things, even if we must bear suffering. Your will is for good alone and you will set everything right. Help us. Bless us through your Word, through everything we are allowed to hear from you, our God and our Father. Amen.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(Psalms 32:8 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
for the understanding that I get from God’s Word
for the help that we get, in our lives, from the Lord and His Holy Spirit
that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose
for the potential of an undivided heart, that I might truly revere His name and be thankful with a whole heart
that true freedom comes with the ability to see all people as instances of divine love; love others as oneself is an act of true freedom
Come, behold the works of the LORD; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
(Psalms 46:8 NRSV)
(Note: it is interesting to me that the word translated “desolations” can also mean “wonderful thing,” yet almost every major translation says “desolations.” Curious.)
Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.
(Psalms 20:9 NRSV)
O my strength, I will watch for you; for you, O God, are my fortress.
(Psalms 59:9 NRSV)
The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalms 103:6 NRSV)
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again."
(Luke 6:27-30 NRSV, emphasis added)
Rouse yourself, come to my help and see! You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Awake to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. [Selah] Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. There they are, bellowing with their mouths, with sharp words on their lips—for "Who," they think, "will hear us?" But you laugh at them, O LORD; you hold all the nations in derision. O my strength, I will watch for you; for you, O God, are my fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
(Psalms 59:4b-10a NRSV)
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
"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 - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
(Psalms 86:11 NRSV)
Who are they that fear the LORD? He will teach them the way that they should choose.
(Psalms 25:12 NRSV)
I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:3-4 NRSV)
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 NRSV)
For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. (Galatians 5:14 MSG)
“Each person is God’s person, standing before God as his child and before me as a brother or sister. ‘All men,’ wrote William Law, ‘are great instances of divine love, therefore let all men be instances of your love.’
“This person does not stand before me as an obstruction or a threat or an affront. If I cannot see the person in relation to God, then I am not free to love. I will either want to get rid of her because she is in my way, or I will want to use her in order to get my own way. Either way I lose freedom.”
(Eugene H. Peterson, Traveling Light, quoted in God’s Message for Each Day)
It is always a good reminder when my “life verse” appears during my morning devotions. Psalm 86:11. A sincere prayer for God to teach me His way, that I may walk in His truth, and for my heart to be undivided, that I might truly revere His name.
In addition, as illustrated by the verse following that one, when we do manage to revere or fear His name, He will faithfully teach us the way we should choose. When I choose the wrong way, or head down the wrong path, it is because I am not listening to Him; I am not revering or fearing His name.
One of those paths is firmly shown in Peterson’s writing. The path of love. I love how, in his paraphrase of Galatians 5:14, he describes loving others as we love ourselves (following the commands of Jesus) as “an act of true freedom.”
We must recognize that each person standing before us, wherever we are, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, is also standing before God. That person you don’t agree with, whether politically or philosophically or theologically, is, as William Law said, an instance “of divine love.” Therefore, they should also be instances of our love.
When (and this is of the utmost importance) we view those other people with contempt, as seems to be the order of the day, in these times, it is impossible to view them as an instance of divine love. We have dismissed them. We believe that we are better than them and that they are less than us. All because they think about things differently than we.
This is a direct and blatant violation of Scripture, brothers and sisters.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 NRSV)
This utterly removes any chance of contempt in the life of a follower of Christ. If we cannot view all people as standing before God, just as we stand before God, we have failed to follow the commands of Christ.
We must do better at following the “path of love.”
Father, have mercy on us. Forgive us for our failures. Help us to get on the path of love and stay there. Help us, O Lord, to view all others as instances of divine love. Help me to see that everyone who stands before me stands before You as Your child, Your creation. They are not obstructions or obstacles to me. How could they be?? I have no right to consider myself better than them when Your Word commands me to do the opposite.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
Help us to regain our true freedom by loving others as we love ourselves, and considering others to be more significant than ourselves. In this way, we are free to love.
Good morning! Today is Monday, the twenty-fifth of October, 2021.
Peace be with you!
Only thirteen days until Daylight Saving Time ends.
We had a great time, yesterday morning, with our church group. While we had the gathering over Zoom, this time, due to some folks being unavailable for in person gathering, it was a great discussion over 1 John chapter 5. We had actually read that passage the week before, but we had spent so much of our time catching up on each other and “fellowshipping” that we only managed to discuss a couple of verses. So we read it again and discussed more verses that caught our attention. I think we all left feeling like we had made some significant progress in understanding some of the more difficult verses of that chapter. It was awesome.
After church, we had our usual Applebee’s lunch. C and I watched the first episode of a Hulu original, called “Only Murders in the Building.” It features Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, who all play characters who live in an apartment building in New York City. All three are obsessed with the same true crime podcast (which featured Tina Fey). When a murder happens in their building, the all become quite interested in it, and decide to start their own podcast.
We got a new “cat tree” yesterday evening, delivered by Amazon. C really liked that it came yesterday evening, and had to be assembled. It gave her something to do that felt productive. We put it where the old one was, and moved the old one over by the back door, at least for the time being. So far, they have laid on the old one by the back door. Haha! I have yet to catch one of them in the new one. However, C told me that at least two of them were inside one of the compartments of the new one while she was trying to put it together. Helping, you know.
Nothing much on the agenda for today. That’s something I still need to work on . . . planning my days around my work schedule. There is some laundry to be folded, and dinner to be cooked later, after C alerts me that she is on her way home.
Earlier, this morning, I decided to have my coffee out on the back deck, in one of our new lounge chairs that I got C for our anniversary. It was very nice out there. Borderline too cool, but not quite. I drank my coffee and read a few chapters of the book I am currently reading. Which reminds me . . . I believe I have decided to share that each day. What I am reading, currently, I mean. So, for today it is this:
The World Series begins tomorrow night, Braves v. Astros in Houston. My attitude about it has changed a bit, as I discovered, yesterday, that Ron Washington, former favorite coach for the Texas Rangers, is third base coach for the Atlanta Braves. This actually gives me a bit of a reason to care. So I will be actively cheering for the Braves, this year. Doesn’t mean I’ll watch a lot, but who knows?
When we look at the cross the truth to sink in
In wounds that He bears we see our sin
When we look at the cross what do we see?
Our sins swallowed up by His great mercy
When we look at the cross our treasure in store
Of eternal life for death is no more
When we look at the cross we are drawn above
For we are consumed in His passion of love
A Psalm for giving thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:1-5 ESV)
Today I am grateful:
1. that You are good, Your steadfast love enduring forever, and Your faithfulness to all generations
2. that we are Your people, the sheep of Your pasture
3. that You can turn our "hard rocks into springs of water" (Psalm 114)
4. that if we obey the commands of Jesus (love God and love people), we won't have to worry about those seven things that God detests in Proverbs 6:16-19
5. for all of Your creation, living things, both great and small
6. that my cup overflows
7. for Your blessings on the peacemakers
Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-THREE – DAY TWO
A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. (Psalms 84:10 NLT)
I take a moment, during this peaceful morning, to contemplate what I see when I look at the cross of Jesus. Do I see my sins in His wounds, swallowed up by His mercy? Do I see the treasure of eternal life, promised by our Father? Am I drawn above, consumed in His passion?
When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back? Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs? Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water. (Psalms 114:1-8 NIV)
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV)
DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION
As I remind myself that I am in the presence of God, indwelt by His Spirit, I linger over these passages, seeking inspiration for meditation and prayer. I ask the Spirit to guide me in His truth, that I might walk effectively in His Kingdom.
Psalm 114 presents interesting visual imagery. This is all about celebrating Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Oddly enough, the division between Israel and Judah is years in the future. Yet there is a distinction made in this psalm. Both are considered dwelling places of the Lord, though, Israel His “dominion” and Judah His “sanctuary.”
It is easy to envision the events in verse 3. We can easily see the Red Sea “fleeing,” as it parted for Israel to walk through on dry ground. We can also see the Jordan “turning back,” as it was also divided so that the people of Israel could cross over into the Promised Land.
Verse 4 is a little more difficult, at least for me, to picture. I don’t remember anything significant happening to mountains and hills in the journey of Israel. Maybe someone can assist me, here?
Verse 7 calls for the earth to tremble at the presence of the Lord. Would that there was more of this that happened. Maybe that’s what happened to the mountains and hills. Perhaps they trembled in His presence. For He did, indeed, turn the rock into springs of water, to provide sustenance and refreshment for His people.
The Proverb selection presents an interesting literary device. And if you read more of Proverbs, you will see this used several times. It begins saying that there are six things that God hates, and then amends it to say “seven that are detestable to Him.” There are some who say that this means that the seventh is the more detestable of the group. And Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase might actually provide a little support to that idea.
Here are six things GOD hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family. (Proverbs 6:16-19 MSG)
Let’s look at them.
First, in the NIV, “haughty eyes.” The Message says “eyes that are arrogant,” and the KJV says “a proud look.” I think that’s pretty self-explanatory, but I might add that, in my opinion, I get the idea that it means looking down on someone, thinking that we are better than they are.
Second, NIV says, “a lying tongue.” MSG says “a tongue that lies,” and KJV says “a lying tongue.” Again, self-explanatory. God doesn’t like lies. Elsewhere, the Bible says that a lie is an abomination in the eyes of God (Proverbs 12:22). However, it is worth noting that the Hebrew midwives lied, as did Rahab the harlot. Both were rewarded for their deceitfulness. So the motivation behind the lie is important. Corrie ten Boom’s family was deceitful when they hid Jews in their crawlspace.
Third, NIV says, “hands that shed innocent blood.” All of the other main translations are very similar, if not exactly the same. I think it safe to say that “murder” is the operative idea, here. And God is very clear about this in His laws.
Fourth, NIV says, “a heart that devises wicked schemes.” Again, the other translations are very similar. I get the idea of plotting to harm someone, or to steal from them. Perhaps scamming them. There are many hearts out there who are constantly devising “wicked schemes.” I mean, who among us has not received a phone call about extending our automobile warranty?? My mother even gets those, and she has never owned a car! There’s also the ones about lowering your credit card’s interest rate. And let’s not forget the emails about package tracking numbers on things we have not ordered.
And let me say this. These types of schemes prey on the “elderly,” especially those who may not be quite so tech-savvy. They are not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. But they might fall more easily for such scams, at least until they are more aware of what they are.
Personally, when I’m feeling a little bit snarky (and less Christlike, admittedly), I might answer the phone (I don’t normally answer if I don’t recognize the number) and mess with whoever is on the other end. I have succeeded in getting cussed out be several of them, which makes me laugh.
The fifth thing is “feet that are quick to rush into evil.” Now this one might sting a little bit more. At least, hopefully, when we are tempted to sin, we drag our feet a little, at least trying to resist. But I’ll be honest . . . there have been times in my life when there was little to no hesitation. The idea came into my head, and my feet said, “Let’s go!” According to the author of Proverbs (presumably Solomon), God hates this.
The sixth thing is “a false witness who pours out lies.” That’s the NIV. The Message says “a mouth that lies under oath,” and the KJV is similar to the NIV, as is ESV and NLT. This is more than just lying, as this has already been covered with number 2, “a lying tongue.” This has more to do, I think with the idea behind number four. Lying under oath is an attempt to subjugate (boy that’s a hard one to spell) the truth. It probably has a close relationship to number four, though, as it likely involves a “wicked scheme.” Now, I have, for many years, associated the commandment that says “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” as being more associated with gossip than lying under oath.
And that brings us to number seven, which, according to some, God loathes with even more passion than the other six. “A person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Peterson renders this “a troublemaker in the family.” But the ESV and KJV may nail this one even better. “One who sows discord among brothers.” I have no trouble believing that this, in God’s eyes, is the most detestable item in this list of seven things. The “community,” the “family,” the “brothers,” is what makes up the Church. And I believe it safe to rest assured that God Almighty loathes any sowing of discord among the brothers and sisters that make up the Church.
Occasionally, in reading Paul’s letters, you might run across some names at the end, names of people who do just that. At one point, he even speaks of handing someone over to Satan. There is no love lost over people like that in Scripture. And I believe that some serious retrospection is always good, in that regard. Have I sowed discord among brothers? With a heavy heart, I have to confess that, at various times in my past, this may have happened. But I don’t think it was planned or schemed.
And this is where this all comes together. There are people in this world whose main purpose in life is to cause trouble and steal the joy of other people. And the person who lives with that goal in mind is one who pretty much sums up all seven of these things that the Lord hates. Are these people true believers, Christians? I am not wise enough to answer that question, and only God knows the answer to this. That’s kind of like wondering if Judas was saved. Far be it from me to try to guess that answer, although Jesus did opine that it would have been better for him if he had never been born.
And the positive answer to all seven of these things is summed up in one command that Jesus gave us. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Consider it, for a moment. If you are successfully loving your neighbor, you won’t look down on them, thinking that you are better; you won’t lie to them (at least not maliciously); you certainly won’t murder them; you won’t devise wicked schemes to relieve them of their money or property; you won’t rush into evil deeds (this may or may not involve another person); you won’t bear false witness against them or gossip about them, and you won’t try to cause trouble in the family or the community.
If we love God and love people, the way Jesus instructed us, commanded us, none of these seven things will be an issue for us.
Father, thank You for bringing these things to mind, today. I always need reminders about such things, as well as reminders of how I’m doing at loving You and loving others. For the most part, I seem to be having a better time of it, lately. Your Holy Spirit has been guiding me down the path of love. This, of course, makes me think of an old song by The Cowsills. But, God, You have the means and desire to make us follow this path, and I pray for all of humanity, especially in my own country, that You would lead us down this path. I can’t expect a whole lot from those who are unbelievers, although I dare say that some of them are doing a better job of loving others than Your Church is. Or maybe it’s those who are pretending to be Your Church. You alone can make that distinction, as You are the one who is responsible for pulling the weeds. We aren’t wise enough to do that. Above all, Father, please help us to avoid, like the plague, any hint of stirring up discord among Your Church.
Help us, Lord, to see Your work in the world around us. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear.
"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
That’s a really good prayer, and I’m going to save it for later use.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9 NLT)
O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. (Psalms 104:24-25 ESV)
A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23:1-6 ESV)
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:30 ESV)
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 ESV)
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8 ESV)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
Father, please show me Your face. And help me to be Your face to someone else today.