Come In from the Porch!

Today is Thursday, the 15th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,653

Ten days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I remember your name in the night,
O LORD,
 and keep your law.
(Psalms 119:55 ESV)

Lord our God, open our ears and our hearts so that we hear you speaking and can follow the voice that cries out to us. May we be a people who prepare the way for you. Grant each of us strength to give up everything at the right moment and to realize, “The way to my heart should be leveled too. It should be straight and level all around me and in the whole world.” The light is now shining for us in Jesus Christ, and through him we want to find strength and help, to the glory of your name. Through hearing his voice we will find help. Help will be very near to us, and the mighty hand of the Lord Jesus will be over us in every need. For this he came. We can believe in his help, and we long for it. Hear the inmost longing of each one of us, and make us part of your people so that we may keep hope in our hearts and serve you on earth. Praise to your name, O Father in heaven, that you have put us on earth and that we can draw strength from the One who fights and is victorious, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

A voice cries: 
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be lifted up, 
and every mountain and hill be made low; 
the uneven ground shall become level, 
and the rough places a plain." 
Isaiah 40:3–4, RSV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that we can be that voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord
  2. for the light that shines for us in Jesus Christ
  3. for hope
  4. for the salvation of the Lord
  5. for unlimited access to the Father, by the blood of Christ

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)


Be strong, and let your heart take courage, 
all you who wait for the LORD.
(Psalms 31:24 NRSV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, 
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
(Proverbs 13:12 NRSV)

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:26 NRSV)


Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:19-25 NRSV)


What is hope? One definition is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” In that sense, “hope” is a noun. We have hope in Christ, an expectation for things to come. John Piper wrote a whole book on how our hope is in “future grace.” The writer of Hebrews, in a different passage, says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for” (11:1)

What are we hoping for? Obviously, there are many levels of hope. Many people are “hoping” they get a certain thing for Christmas. I’ll confess . . . I’ve got one of those. It’s not a big thing, but there is a thing that I really hope I’ll get on Christmas morning. Some of us are hoping for deeper things. I have some of those, too. I’m really hoping S will be Covid-free by Christmas. I’m hoping C will get over this bronchitis-almost-pneumonia that she has. (I suppose that’s sort of a back-handed prayer request, there.)

But ultimately, I am hoping, and all followers of Christ should share this hope, for the fullness of my salvation to be realized. And for that, we wait on the Lord. We are admonished to be strong and take courage in that. We are encouraged to wait quietly for the Lord. We can also know that having to wait can result in the heart being made sick (Proverbs 13:12). It’s true. We get weary of waiting.

Imagine how Jesus’s disciples felt, as well as Paul, when He did not return in a couple of years. It has been pointed out to me that we should read everything that Paul wrote with the perspective that he really, really thought that Jesus was going to come back in his lifetime, if not in two years or so.

And still we wait. Two thousand plus years later. It is easy to lose heart; it is easy to lose hope. In general, the world at large probably thinks we are fools.

What does it mean to wait or hope “quietly?” (Lamentations 3:26) The Hebrew word in that verse is dumam, which means “quietly wait,” or “still.” I’m no Hebrew expert (far from it, as I don’t really know but a few Hebrew words), but I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and say that it is my opinion that in waiting quietly for the salvation of our Lord, we should be in obedience to Philippians 2:14ff.

To wait quietly for the Lord means not to do nothing. I don’t think it means to sit still. We can be active while waiting. However, I do think it means we should “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” There are different words used for “disputing,” in different versions. NIV and NLT say “arguing,” as does the NRSV.

What else can we do while waiting, while living in hope?

We can take full advantage of our most intimate access into the presence of the Father! When Jesus died, at the very moment He gave up His life, this happened:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.
(Matthew 27:51 NRSV)

This also happened, but I’m not about to go there, this morning. Also, I have never, ever heard this verse treated in a sermon. Heh.

The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.
(Matthew 27:52-53 NRSV)

Oddly enough, these two verses in Matthew seem to be the only place this is mentioned. But I digress.

The temple veil was torn, indicating full access to the Holy of Holies. This is the “sanctuary” spoken of in Hebrews 10. The ESV calls it “the holy places.” The NLT says “Most Holy Place.” And I really like the way Peterson puts it in The Message.

So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.
(Hebrews 10:19 MSG)

I fully believe that too many of us stop at the front porch, so to speak. We are satisfied with the mere hope of forgiveness, and never go any further into the Christian life, the walk in the Kingdom.

I’ll us an analogy that will be poor, but most analogies are. There’s a beautiful spot in Fort Worth called “Botanical Gardens.” It is a large area, full of winding paths on which to walk. The comparison for people who stop at forgiveness would be like having a full admission ticket into Botanical Gardens, but stopping at the front gate, being satisfied with whatever one could see from there.

The veil was torn! Access to the Holy of Holies, to the most intimate presence of God Almighty, was granted for all who believe in the work of Christ! “Do not be satisfied to merely stand on the porch. It is not sufficient to cherish the hope that your sins are forgiven. Let us enter within the veil, let us in spirit press on to greater nearness to our God. Let us make our abode in His holy presence.” (Andrew Murray, The Blood of Christ, quoted in Power in Prayer) To quote C.S. Lewis, “We are far too easily pleased.”

We can be satisfied by calling out to our Father from a distance, from the front porch, or we can walk right up to Him, into that Holy Place, and speak with Him intimately, in person.

“Let us draw near to God; let us pray for ourselves and for one another. Let the Holy Place become our permanent dwelling so that everywhere we go we carry about with us the presence of God. Let this be the fountain of life for us, which grows from strength to strength and from glory to glory.” (Murray)


Father, I thank You for the removal of the veil in the Temple, for the access provided, by Jesus Christ, into the Most Holy Place. I pray that Your Spirit would draw us in from the “front porch,” and make us to be dissatisfied with anything other than close-up fellowship with You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Help our prayers to have power, to be effectual. Help us to know the hope that we have in You, the hope of eternal salvation, the hope of life, from this day forward, in Your kingdom. We cannot accomplish these things on our own, Lord. Without Jesus, we can do nothing, at least nothing of any value. But part of our problem, too, is in what we value, I suppose.

So help us to value the right things. I pray that I would worship only You, in Christ, by the Spirit. We worship You in Trinity, the Eternal Three-in-One. This mystery, we do not fully comprehend, and all comparisons are utterly inadequate. Yet, I believe it to be so. And I will worship You in that perspective, in total awe and wonder. May I never become so accustomed to this that I lose the wonder of You.

Let us draw near to You, Lord. Let us, in our prayers, walk right up to You and speak face-to-face, as Moses did.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Today is Friday, the 2nd of December, 2022, in the first week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ surround you, today!

Day 23,640

23 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, 
your salvation according to your promise;
(Psalms 119:41 ESV)

Lord God, our hearts are full of praise and thanks for your promise. You comfort and help us with this promise every day, enabling us to hold true through all distress. Remember us in these times, and let the cry, “Hosanna,” arise often in our hearts. Let a bright light shine out now as you once let it shine around the Lord Jesus, showing him as King and Savior. Protect us and bless us. Bless our land and all those appointed to govern. May your Spirit be with them so that they may carry out your will. For your will must be done and shall surely happen. In this we trust, and in this we hope. We praise you, O Lord our God. Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

The Lord has done it this very day;
 let us rejoice today and be glad.
Lord, save us! 
Lord, grant us success! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 
From the house of the Lord we bless you. 
Psalm 118:24-26, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for hope; without it, we perish
  2. for the promises of God; He will do what He says He will do, I believe it
  3. for the light of Christ, that shines in our hearts
  4. for sleep, perhaps the ultimate exercise of faith
  5. for fellowship with the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)
Praise the LORD! 
Praise the LORD from the heavens; 
praise him in the heights! 
Praise him, all his angels;
 praise him, all his hosts! 

Praise him, sun and moon, 
praise him, all you shining stars! 
Praise him, you highest heavens, 
and you waters above the heavens! 

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
 For he commanded and they were created. 
And he established them forever and ever; 
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 

Praise the LORD from the earth, 
you great sea creatures and all deeps, 
fire and hail, snow and mist, 
stormy wind fulfilling his word! 

Mountains and all hills,
 fruit trees and all cedars! 
Beasts and all livestock, 
creeping things and flying birds! 

Kings of the earth and all peoples, 
princes and all rulers of the earth! 
Young men and maidens together, 
old men and children!

 Let them praise the name of the LORD, 
for his name alone is exalted; 
his majesty is above earth and heaven. 
He has raised up a horn for his people, 
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 148:1-14 ESV)

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— 
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
(Psalms 127:2 NIV)
I lie down and sleep; 
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
(Psalms 3:5 NIV)
In peace I will lie down and sleep, 
for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalms 4:8 NIV)
He will not let your foot slip— 
he who watches over you will not slumber; 
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; 
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
(Proverbs 3:24 NIV)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
(Ephesians 3:12 NIV)

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
(Mark 11:24 NIV)


Faith is surrender; faith is fellowship.

Sleep may very well be the best example of faith that we encounter.

Seriously, think about it. When you go to sleep, you are the most vulnerable that you will ever be. You are at the mercy of the universe when you go to sleep.

What prevents us from sleeping? In my experience, it is usually anxiety, one of the enemy’s most powerful tools, alongside shame. If he can get us worrying about something, sleep evades us.

But look at those verses above, that deal with sleep. The Lord grants sleep to those He loves. We can sleep because He sustains us. He makes us dwell in safety. In contrast, the Lord, Himself never sleeps nor slumbers, which gives us more confidence in His “watchcare” over us. That’s a word I used to hear a lot in peoples’ prayers.

And that verse in Proverbs telling us that, because of our faith and confidence in the Lord, when we lie down, we will not be afraid and our sleep will be sweet.

Sleep is surrender. It is sweet surrender, because, when we sleep, our body heals itself from the day’s abuse.

Faith is surrender and fellowship. Faith does not equal sleep, but does sleep equal faith? Perhaps not, but I believe that sleep is a result of faith. When we fall asleep, we are exercising faith in God to care for us, to watch over us, to protect us in our most vulnerable state.


Father, I thank You for sleep. I had a pretty good night of sleep, last night. There have been some nights, recently, when my sleep was not so good. Does that indicate a lack of faith? Does that show my faith to be weak? Perhaps so, because, as I wrote up there, fitful sleep or lack of sleep sometimes indicates a lack of faith, because it is anxiety over things that keeps me from sleep.

Help us to cast all our cares on You, Lord, for You care for us. Help us to have the confidence to surrender to sleep before You, knowing that You, who watches over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps. Help us, Your human children, to deal in a more effective way with our anxieties that display a lack of faith. And help us, by faith, to not only surrender to You, but also have fellowship with You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Fickle Feet

Today is Saturday, the fifth of November, 2022, in the 31st week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ fill your soul today, and may You find rest in Him!

Day 23,613

Today’s cover photo was taken by Paul Militaru, Romanian photographer. Please visit his site at the link provided to see his wonderful photographs.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
(Psalms 119:14 ESV)

Lord God Almighty, whose eyes keep watch over the whole world, we come before you with the evil from our surroundings still clinging to us. Grant that our lives may be in your hands. Give us your strength to find the way, even through suffering and distress. For we are yours, O Lord our God, and you have chosen your people to be strong and to be freed from all evils. Help us, we beseech you. May we know that you are with us and may your Word bring us blessing, to the glory of your name forever. Amen.

(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

The eyes of the Lord are on those who love him, a mighty shield and strong support, a shelter from scorching wind and a shade from noonday sun, a guard against stumbling and a help against falling. 
Ecclesiasticus 34:19, NRSV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the strength God gives to find the way, even through suffering and distress and sin
  2. for the assurance that God is with us and that His Word brings us blessing
  3. that the Lord, who watches over us, neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121)
  4. that in His presence, there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)
  5. for the gift of faith; “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24

But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
(2 Timothy 1:12 ESV)

A Song of Ascents. 

I lift up my eyes to the hills. 
From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, 
who made heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot be moved; 
he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel 
will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The LORD is your keeper; 
the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day,
 nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will keep you from all evil; 
he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep 
your going out and your coming in 
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 ESV)

. . . fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)


By wisdom a house is built, 
and by understanding it is established; 
by knowledge the rooms are filled 
with all precious and pleasant riches.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 ESV)
You make known to me the path of life; 
in your presence there is fullness of joy; 
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:24 ESV)

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
(James 5:15 ESV)


In one way or another, every Scripture verse used today hearkens back to faith.

We have Proverbs 24:3-4 displayed in several places in our home. In fact, it is written in the center of our house, probably on the foundation.

You see, when our house was framed, before any walls or flooring were put up, we had a picnic in the middle of it, one Saturday afternoon. We had compiled a list of verses and planned to write them all over the house. Proverbs 24:3-4 was written in the center of the house. I can’t remember if it is on the foundation or on a frame post. But I suspect it is on the foundation.

Psalm 100:4 is written on the foundation at the front door.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
(Psalms 100:4 ESV)

For the record, most of the verses are NIV, because ESV did not exist yet. It was 1999.

Also for the record, we do not claim to possess any great amount of wisdom or understanding. Even my knowledge is suspect. The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know, and even things that I thought I knew might not be right.

For example, does anyone else remember being taught in grade school that our taste buds were in groups on our tongues? Research in recent years has proved that this is not quite the case.

I’m not all that concerned with knowing everything, any more. I’m more concerned with knowing God. I know people who know the Bible through and through. I’m fairly knowledgeable about the Bible, but I know folks who know it much “better” than I. However, I’m not sure they know the Creator all that well.

At church, recently, we sang the song, “Knowing You,” written in 1993 by Graham Kendrick. It has some wonderful lyrics.

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know you in your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Chorus:
Knowing you, Jesus
Know you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

And in knowing Jesus (and the Father through Him), I am shown the path of life. He makes it known to me, and by faith, I receive it. And in that, I experience that fullness of joy, and begin to experience the “pleasures forevermore” of which Psalm 16:11 speak.

Also in that knowledge, I can experience the power of Isaiah 41:10, and “fear not.”

All of this, as mentioned, requires faith. We know, from Hebrews 11:6, that without faith it is impossible to please God.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

This is a very simple truth. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists.” Very simple.

I have long identified with that father from Mark 9. Many times, have I cried out to God, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Because I do believe. I do have faith. I have said many times that I believe that God can do it. But I’m not sure that He wants to or will. And therein lies the difference.

I don’t have it all figured out. My life is far from perfect. My walk with Christ looks a lot like Billy’s path when he walks home from the bus stop.

I’ll get there. But my feet are fickle.


Father, I love You. You know my heart; You know that I believe. You also know that I am merely dust, and You know my imperfections and flaws.

I also know that, in Christ, I am made flawless. I do not understand this mystery, and I’m not holding my breath to understand it. I believe that I will, one day, understand that and every other mystery that comes with this walk of faith, when I am with You in eternity.

I believe that there is nothing more important than knowing You. There are so many things that I used to hold on to; things that don’t really matter to me, any more. What matters is faith; and that faith is a gift from You. I pray that You help me in the areas where my faith is weak.

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

I pray for Your Church, Father, the Bride of Jesus Christ. I pray for those who have fallen prey to manipulations by men. I pray for those who have allowed politics to corrupt their faith. I pray for those who put country and “freedom” over faith and Christ. There will be no “country” in heaven, except for the “country of forgiveness.” I cannot wait, Lord, to worship You in that great congregation that is made up of every tribe, nation, language, and people, and to sing the “new songs” in whatever language You give us.

Oh, how I long for Home!

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace is Sufficient

Today is Wednesday, the 2nd of November, 2022, in the 31st week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,610

Reminder, Daylight Saving Time in the US ends Sunday morning, November 6th, 2022, I believe at 2:00 AM. “Fall back” with your clocks. Unless you live in Arizona.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have stored up your word in my heart, 
that I might not sin against you.
(Psalms 119:11 ESV)

Lord our God, we thank you for sending into our lives so much that turns our thoughts to things above and enables us always to look to you. Through Jesus Christ send us what is of heaven. Send what is of heaven into every single life and into the lives of the nations, so that something good may arise and the glory does not go to the Devil but to your Spirit, your heavenly Spirit alone. In their stubbornness people intend to do evil, but you can turn it all to the good. You can change everything. This is our faith. We hope in you, and we want to put our lives in your hands. Bless us with heavenly riches and power. Amen.

(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
(Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. that God is able to turn evil intentions to good
  2. for the hope that I have in Him, and that my life is in His hands
  3. for my weaknesses, in which I can boast of the Lord’s strength
  4. that the Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
  5. for the “high-priestly prayer” of Jesus (John 17), in which we get more of a model of how to engage in intercessory prayer

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; 
of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 ESV)
The LORD is my strength and my song; 
he has become my salvation. 
(Psalms 118:14 ESV)

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. 

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 
(John 17:1, 4, 13, 15 ESV)

I’ve had a fair amount of anxiety over the past couple days. More than usual, I would say. And the sad thing is, it’s all self-created. I allowed myself to focus on things that I believed needed to get done, and the fact that, especially yesterday, there wasn’t time to do them. But they didn’t have to get done yesterday, and there is ample time, today, and tomorrow, as I am off work both days.

This is a weakness. And we all have weaknesses. I’m only using this as an illustration on weakness.

“Weakness” is one of those things that Western culture doesn’t like. It falls into that same category as humility and submission or surrender. Western culture (especially the “patriarchy”) does not like to admit weakness. Yet, here we have an example of Paul being told that his weaknesses will remain; God will not take them away from him.

We have no idea whatsoever what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. It’s another one of those things that has been preached about, and many of speculated as to what it was. But Paul doesn’t tell us. Therefore, I believe, it is not important to know what, exactly, it was. And, therefore, any speculation about it is a waste of time.

Here’s the entire passage from 2 Corinthians:

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
(2 Corinthians 12:1-10 ESV)

Paul “pleaded” with God! He literally begged God to take this “thorn,” this “messenger of Satan” away from him, and God said, “No.” But God gave him a reason for saying no.

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

This is, of course, an isolated incident, and it doesn’t mean that we can or should flaunt our weaknesses. I dare say that, most of the time, I don’t want mine to be known. And there are some of my weaknesses that lead to sin, and those, most definitely need to be dealt with.

But sometimes, the Lord will allow us to live in those weaknesses, those trials, that suffering, in order to prove His strength to us. So, instead of begging for my anxiety to be removed, for example, I might be better off to just take a step back and examine why I’m experiencing it. What is causing it? Like I mentioned, it is of my own making, I have realized.

This is where those beautiful words of Jesus come in handy. He invites us to step into that “easy yoke” that I keep harping on in this forum. But this is one of those pieces of the Gospel that we need to keep repeating to ourselves. Jesus invites us into this yoke, His yoke that He describes as “easy,” and that burden that He describes as “light.” So we take these burdens that we have placed upon ourselves (sometimes, though, the burdens are legitimate, and we definitely need help), and we surrender them to Jesus, stepping into that yoke, and experiencing the marvelous truth that, yes, His burden is definitely light.

Why is it light? First of all, because He is God; He is almighty; He is all-powerful; He can lift it and He can bear it. Second, it is light, because we have now surrendered it to Him, and He is the stronger of the two of us. When I am walking yoked with Christ, He shoulders the burden, and I don’t have to.

This, sadly, is another symptom of Western culture that we see . . . the unwillingness to let someone (even Jesus) carry that burden for us.

Have you ever been lost with a man? You know, then, how hard it is for men to stop and ask for directions. They can figure it out, gosh darn it!

I realize that, with the proliferation of GPS apps in modern technology, this is a rather archaic illustration. But those of you who are “older” will certainly understand.

We don’t like asking for help! Because asking for help displays weakness. And we hate admitting that we are weak.

Jesus would have us do otherwise. Our Father would have us acknowledge our weakness and depend upon His grace, which He says is “sufficient.”

And it is, beloved. It most certainly is. His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.

The LORD is the strength of my life! The LORD is my stronghold! Of whom, then shall I be afraid!


Father, thank You for Your grace, which is sufficient for all things. As I face down my anxieties, through yesterday and this morning, I am able to examine them in light of Your grace, and see that they are self-imposed. This calms my spirit. Thank You and praise You Father!

Your grace is sufficient; Your power is made perfect in my weakness, which I gladly acknowledge. I am not capable of living this life alone. None of us, I believe, is, but there are some who would pretend that they can. I am not one of those.

I thank You for the words of Paul in reference to this, and the illustration that this man, this giant of faith from our Bible, begged for You to remove this “thorn” from him. Yet You would not.

Without You, I am nothing. Without Jesus, I have nothing. And there is nothing that I “possess” that You did not give me. I echo the words of Horatius Bonar, who said, “How shall I go to God? It is with our sins that we go to God–for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own.”

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

“Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.” Amen and amen!!

Grace and peace, friends.

This Is the Air I Breathe

Today is Friday, the twenty-fourth of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,479

I got up early, this morning, because I wanted to get a look at the planet alignment that is going on, right now. I didn’t get a great view, this morning, as it was almost too light out, but I did see Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter. So, right now, we have Mercury, Venus, Uranus, the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter all in a straight line. Saturn is up there, too, but couldn’t be bothered to get in line with the rest. Hah! I could see Jupiter and Venus with the naked eye, but not the rest. As I said, it was a little too close to sunrise. I was unable to get a bead on Jupiter with my telescope, but did get a decent view of the crescent moon.

I had a pretty good day at the library, yesterday. There were a few challenges, and I had to consult my manager a couple of times, but it all went well. I’ll be back at the library tomorrow morning, for a Saturday in the circulation department.

Okay. Time to get on with things.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we lift our hearts to you, our help in every need. You do so much for us even in difficult times, letting us always see your light and giving us your help in the many things you want us to bear in your strength, O Almighty God. In the end you will help our age come to your light. Through your great mercy let us receive your Word. Bless it within our hearts, and help us to serve you everywhere we go and in everything we are allowed to do. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. 
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, 
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, 
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
till he shows us his mercy.
(Psalms 123:1-2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky, especially on days like these, when planets are aligned
2. for the mercy of God in giving us His Word
3. for the breath of life, breathed into me daily by the Lord (I'm alive and breathing)
4. that there is no need to worry about tomorrow, for God is already there
5. that God never changes and, having Him, I lack nothing

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
(Mark 7:6-8 ESV)


Today’s word, in Pray a Word a Day, is breathe. Thich Nhat, a Buddhist monk, is quoted as saying, “Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.”

There will most certainly be some folks who will “lose their minds” because a “Christian” devotional book included a quote from a Buddhist monk about breathing. If you’re one of those people, just scroll on, please.

One of the things that we, as a society, have forgotten how to do is breathe. Obviously, no one really “forgets” to breathe, because that is something we do naturally. Fortunately, the Lord created us with that as a kind of automatic thing. Imagine, if we had to remember to breathe, we would never get anything else done. But we aren’t talking about the natural thing that happens anywhere from 12 to 20 times a minute, for most people.

We’re talking more about how we breathe. We get so stressed out over so many little things, so many “first-world problems,” or, as I have called them in the past, “footstool” problems, that we forget to stop and take a breath for ourselves.

“When that deep pain in my chest starts to rise, for a moment I pause in confusion. What’s going on? Why am I feeling this way? The answer is simple. I didn’t take a breath. I’d let anxiety and stress take over.”

A little over a year ago, I read a book, called Breathe Well, in which the author was of the opinion that we, in the West, have forgotten how to breathe properly. A major cause of this is anxiety, and it begins about the time we start school. The author also believes that technology has hindered our breathing. No surprise, there, right? You can read my review of the book, if you are so inclined, as I have linked it with the title.

While there are certainly aspects of easter religions, such as Buddhism, that we might not want to embrace, we could benefit well from their practices of breathing. When things aren’t going the way we think they should, “Step back. Breathe. Inhale and exhale.” We’ll feel better.

And, in addition, there is certainly no harm in “breathing” a prayer in the process. The Jesus Prayer, for example. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Breathe in: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Breathe out: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Repeat as needed. I have found that practice to be most beneficial.

After all, what is it that made the first man a “living person?” It was breath.

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
(Genesis 2:7 NLT)

Father, when anxiety threatens me, when fear knocks at the door of my heart, help me remember to just breathe, to breathe in the breath of Your life and remember that You are in control of all things. When opinions threaten my well-being, or my relationships with others, help me to remember to “Breathe deep the breath of God.”


You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19 MSG)

Another reason for us to breathe is that, when it comes to our worries and fears about tomorrow or next week or next month or next year . . . God is already there. I wrote about this a few days ago, and it seems to be an ongoing thread, lately. It’s almost as if God is trying to tell me something. It also makes me worry wonder if things are going to get worse in this country. Like, is God trying to prepare me for something?

But, yeah, since God exists outside of time, as we understand it, whatever future events I’m worried about, God is already there, waiting for me. He’s letting me know that, as Julian of Norwich famously said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Then, there is also the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila.

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
(Matthew 6:7-8 NLT)

Breathe deep

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:10-13 NLT)

Breathe deep the breath of God

And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there.
(Revelation 21:23-25 NLT)

Breathe deep

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Breathe deep the breath of God


Father, truly we are blessed. Truthfully, having You, I lack nothing, and You are unchanging. You are not a man that You should lie or change Your mind. Humanity is fickle, ever self-seeking and self-centered. You are constant.

It is so very tempting to worry during these days. The world has been dragged through some deep darkness over the past couple of years, and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, just yet. Unless, of course, we can manage to keep our eyes focused on You, in which case, all we can see is light.

I will not allow myself to be worried. There will, no doubt, be temporary periods where I will forget myself, and, for a moment, lost sight of Your control over everything. But You will, also no doubt, restore that sight and renew my faith and remind me that I have nothing to fear. I pray that we who follow Christ, who truly follow Him, will be able to spread the Gospel of peace and love to the world around us. Help us to follow the commands of Jesus, to love You with all our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

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

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

“Do You Want To Be Healed?”

Good morning. Today is Friday, the twenty-fifth of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your spirit today!

Day 23,388

Yesterday, I believe, was quite successful. Our trip to Mineral Wells and back was safe and smooth. There was no mail to pick up at the Post Office, nor was there any in the mailbox at the house. It appears that the forward order has already gone through, so Mama’s mail should begin appearing at our house soon.

She got her taxes taken care of, which is another box checked off, another thing that she doesn’t have to worry about any longer (until next year, of course). I also made it known that I would be more than happy to drive her back to MW, next year, so the same person can prepare her taxes. It’s not that far to drive.

We got the car loaded up with some big things. We got Mama’s favorite chair, a recliner. That one presented a brief challenge, as it took me a few minutes to get the back separated from the bottom. I also got her TV, as well as her favorite lamp that sat behind her chair. We are looking into mounting the TV on a wall in her room. We’ll figure it out somehow. The room may need to be rearranged, which certainly would not be a problem.

We also picked up some more of her clothes and odds and ends around the house, such as favorite mugs for coffee and stuff like that. Oh, and we retrieved the cable and Internet boxes to send back to Suddenlink, which we will handle tomorrow.

We were quite tired when we got back to Fort Worth, but it was a good trip and “good tired,” because we felt that we had accomplished a great deal.

Today is my day to work in the Computer Center, so I will be at the library all day. It also appears that we may be having Freebird’s for dinner again, tonight. It used to be a Friday tradition, so we may return to that. We really like them, and they don’t have to be unhealthy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. 
Fear God and keep his commandments, 
for this is the whole duty of man. 
For God will bring every deed into judgment, 
with every secret thing, whether good or evil. 
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the good trip that we had to Mineral Wells, yesterday
2. that all who follow Jesus are on level ground at the foot of the Cross
3. that the Lord is my Shepherd, and I lack for nothing
4. that Jesus knows what we are capable of and gives us the strength to  be our best
5. for second chances (and third, and fourth . . .)

Today’s prayer word is “favorite.” This one has me scratching my head, so let’s see what they are getting at. The Scripture references is one that is quite popular.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

I sense that this is a rare case where the word is presented in a sort of “negative sense.” That being that our God does not play favorites. I believe, and I think the Bible backs this up, that we are all equal in His eyes. Yes, we are all gifted differently, but the fact that I have musical talent while someone else has the talent to write a novel or fix the electricity in my house or work on an automobile doesn’t mean that one is favorited over another.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
(Acts 10:34-35 ESV)

I have heard it said that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” This means that we are all in equal standing when it comes to our relationship to God. No doubt someone will have a question about this that I cannot answer, and I will always admit it when I can’t. I don’t make up answers. I will, if applicable, always say, “I don’t know.” But I do believe that, in regard to our standing in Christ, with God, we are all on level ground.

And, while that verse in Jeremiah was written to a specific people, I also believe that it applies to use today. And by “us,” I mean people who follow Jesus, not a country. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:18-19 ESV)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(Psalms 23:1 ESV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

I almost didn’t paste that whole passage from Matthew, but then I thought, maybe someone needs to see that today. So there it is.

Our God is our provider. It’s easy to say when things are going great. But then, when you take a look at events through your life, you can see the places where He was working to provide for today, decades ago. For example, we moved into this house twenty-three years ago, this July. We are the only people who have lived here, as we watched it being built. Not a “custom” home, but still, it was built for us. It is a “ranch-style” house, meaning that it is a single story house. Don’t ask me why that’s called “ranch-style.” I don’t know. (See? Not afraid to say that.)

During the time that we were looking at homes in this area, we considered two-story houses. But we decided to stick with a single story house.

Fast forward a decade or so. C began having serious knee issues, and has, subsequently, had two knee replacements. She would not have been able to navigate stairs. And now, twenty-three years later, my mother has moved in with us, and there is no way she would be able to handle stairs, as she has significant knee/leg issues.

Some would shrug this off as coincidence. But I don’t believe in coincidence. I don’t believe in “luck.” I believe that God’s hand was involved in the decision making that we did twenty-three years ago, and we had no clue.

Some might also claim that this is evidence that God plays “favorites,” because not everyone appears to be so blessed. Let me assure you, we have our share of issues. And I know of people who seem to have more than their share. But I’m not the One who decides what the “fair share” is. And I’m not the One who knows how much anyone can handle in their lives.

And, no, I’m not embracing the fallacy that “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” However, God does know the extent of our faith, so He knows how far we can be tested and still survive.

And this has rambled far more than I intended. Sorry about that.

My whole point in this is that God provides, whether it be physical needs or spiritual needs. And, as long as He is my Shepherd, I shall lack for nothing.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
(John 5:6 ESV)

This verse is in the middle of the passage where Jesus heals the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. Eugene Peterson writes a reading around this verse, and in the reading, at first, he seems to be somewhat unkind, as he points out how little there is to admire in the “people who are prominent in our culture.” At further glance, though, it is explained. He does not pull any punches, however, as he assesses our culture.

“We have celebrities but not saints. Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs. Infamous criminals act out the aggressions of timid conformists. Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators. People, aimless and bored, amuse themselves with trivia and trash. Neither the adventure of goodness nor the pursuit of righteousness gets headlines.”

When we turn to Scripture, Peterson notices, to see what it means to be a “real man” or a “real woman,” we find “neither splendid moral examples nor impeccably virtuous models to imitate” (except, of course, for Jesus). “Abraham lied. Moses murdered and complained. David committed adultery” (and also murdered). “Peter blasphemed. Jacob cheated. What we find, in fact, is not a perfection but a confrontation. Each person is challenged by God to live in a uniquely glorious life of faith in relationship with him.”

When Jesus asked the invalid at Bethesda if he wanted to be healed, the man answered with excuses. “I don’t have anyone to help me,” he whined. Sound familiar?? Here is a man who was “accustomed to living half a life. He had adjusted himself to the average.” As we hear what might be self-pity in his answer, we might also even hear him blaming someone else for his plight.

Jesus would have none of it.

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
(John 5:8 ESV)

“Jesus commands our best and thrusts us into lives of excellence that we never knew we had the strength or capacity to embrace.” He knows “what we are good for. And with a word, he can make us good at it.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

This reminds me so much of some very famous words by C. S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory.

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Father, I acknowledge that I all-too-often fall into the habits that Peterson writes about here, and that C. S. Lewis also writes. I am, it seems, far too easily pleased, much of the time. And in this, I ask for Your forgiveness and thank You for Your patience and long-suffering with me. It seems that Your patience is infinite, but that is, perhaps, because You know the outcome and are manufacturing a life for me that will end in the result that You want. For I believe in Your sovereignty over all aspects of life.

May I never be one to answer with self-pity or even worse, blame others, when I am experiencing difficulty. When Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” may I be quick to answer to something appropriate and truthful, not something silly or vague.

I thank You for the way You are present in all of our lives. I thank You for Your providence, throughout the life of our family, and the way we can look back and see Your hand so active in all things. Sure, You allowed me to stray from the path, from time to time, but You always brought me back, and preserved many wonderful things in my life. The blessings are beyond counting. My gratitude soars.

I pray for the future that we have here. While I want to pray for comfort, I also want to pray to not be too comfortable. In the words of one of the Scripture writers, I pray that I have enough, that You not let me have too much, so that I don’t forget You, and that You don’t allow us to fall into lack or want, so that we profane Your name in other ways. My faith is in You alone, Father.

I thank You that the biblical examples are flawed characters, just like us, so that we can’t look at them and claim that they are too far beyond what we can believe or accomplish. Through all of them, we see how strongly Your grace and mercy works in all circumstances, and that You can take the most messed up life and fix it so that it can glorify You.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Focus On the Light

Today is Monday, the twelfth of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,132

38 days until S’s birthday.

So Monday has rolled back around. The weekend seems like it went by really quickly, and it wasn’t very restful. But yesterday was pretty awesome.

The worship gathering portion went well, as we discussed Psalm 34, which is among my favorite chapters of Psalms. Lately, we’ve only been getting through a single chapter, because we have been talking about the previous week, and the things that we want to celebrate or request prayer about. Those times have been really meaningful over the past few weeks.

The cookout afterward continued to heighten the experience. Some folks didn’t show up until after noon, which is fine. One family that has historically worshiped with us came, and we haven’t seen them in quite some time. It was very nice to get to interact with them again. One of our leaders has two adult sons, one married with a toddler, and they all showed up for lunch. It was also great to see them, along with their spouse/girlfriend, and see how much they have grown since the last time we saw them.

The food was great, and I ate way too much. But that was also intentional. I wasn’t “ambushed” or surprised, or anything like that. I counted about 45 points for the experience, and I may have forgotten to count the serving of potato salad and pasta salad that I had. But it was all good.

I know I feel asleep in the recliner at least once, yesterday evening.

But it’s back to the routine today, with a new week beginning. It’s just another “Manic Monday,” as The Bangles once sang.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.
(Psalms 34:10 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a new week, along with the opportunities that will arise to serve; may I not be too wrapped up in myself to catch those opportunities.
2. that I lack no "good thing;" I may not have everything I want, but I find that I am lacking nothing.
3. for the good food and fellowship that we had with our brothers and sisters in Christ yesterday.
4. that I can sing Your praises because You have been good to me.
5. for the equality that will be realized in Your Kingdom.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK EIGHT – DAY TWO

INVITATION

The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!
(Zechariah 9:16-17a NIV)

I pause, briefly, to consider that I am in Your presence, and to give You thanks for yesterday’s fellowship with the community of saints.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
(Psalms 13:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
(Revelation 5:1-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit in Your presence, my Lord and Father, I ask Your Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and meditations through these two passages. Teach me something, this morning, and then help me to carry it with me throughout my day. I so often forget, by the time I arrive at work.

The Psalmist struggles with his thoughts. I know this struggle. I have wrestled with thoughts, and this comes at any time of day, and involves many different subjects. Sometime it is temptation to sin; sometimes it is frustration caused by a situation at work. There are any number of reasons that could cause this struggle. David’s struggle seems to have been a fear of his enemies.

But in the end, his final proclamation was, “But I trust in your unfailing love.” “The Lord has been good to me.”

We all should be able to end every lament with those statements.

Just as we should be able to sing along with the twenty-four elders and four living creatures in Revelation 5, when they sing the praises of the Lamb. He is worthy of so many things. In this passage, it is specifically to take the scroll, break the seals, and open the scroll. But we could spend the rest of eternity proclaiming the worthiness of the Lamb.

The highlight of this particular song, to me, is the fact that this Lamb “purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” This lines up with Paul’s statements that, in Christ, there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or master. In Him, we are all equally made into “a kingdom and priests to serve our God.”

There is no room for bigotry or prejudice in God’s Kingdom.

Father, I praise You that I can sing Your praises because You have been good to me. I thank You that You have given me eyes to see Your goodness to me. And even though I, just like David, frequently have reason (or at least think I do) to lament, may I always land in the same place David landed in Psalm 13, that I trust in Your unfailing love. I also thank You for the fact that the blood of Christ has bought “persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Lord, please bring this kind of thinking into fruition in Your Church today, especially in the white-supremacy-burdened United States. I pray that You bring down the bigotry that is holding down this nation. I pray for the unity of all nations and tribes as we sing praises to the worthiness of the Lamb.

Lion of Judah,
Lamb of God--
you are worthy to hold the keys of history.
You were unjustly judged and condemned for my sake;
you stood trial in my place and removed the whole curse from me.
With all of heaven,
I worship you,
the judge who is my Savior.
Amen.
(Westminster Larger Catechism 56/Heidelberg Catechism 52)

BLESSING

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV)

“but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:14 NIV)

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
(Isaiah 12:3 NIV)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
(Isaiah 55:1 NIV)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
(John 6:35 NIV)

Every now and then, the reading from The Book of Mysteries just blows me away. Today is one of those days.

“He didn’t take away our problems or remove them from the world. He did something better–He gave us the answer. He poured the answer into the world. You see, salvation is not the absence of sin. It’s the presence of God. Salvation is not the removing of the world’s darkness. It’s the shining of God’s light into the darkness. And by the light, the darkness is driven away. Salvation is the incarnation of God. It’s His presence. It’s Yeshua. It’s the Immanuel Solution.”

“You don’t overcome the darkness by focusing on the darkness. You overcome the darkness by focusing on the light.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14 ESV)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:27-36 ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:9-21 ESV)

Father, indeed, help us to focus on the light, rather than on the darkness. Too many of Your children are wrapped up in complaining and grumbling about the things that are wrong with this world. I, myself, have also fallen into this trap, from time to time. Help us to proclaim what is right with the world, the salvation that is available in the Gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven that is available for us to walk in here and now! May we push out the darkness by focusing on the Light of the World!

Lord, I pray, this morning for the role of Your people in the care of creation. I lift up all who are involved in the science and engineering of this care, that You would give them all wisdom, that we might all be good stewards of the limited resources that have been provided in this planet.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Delight

Today is Monday, the twenty-eighth of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,118

Six days until July 4th!

So it’s Monday, again, and we go back to work, but only for four days, before a long weekend! I think I’ve mentioned that I’m taking PTO Friday, and Monday is our official fourth of July holiday. So a four day weekend is coming up!

There are no big plans, though. C will be continuing her kitchen cabinet remodel project. I will meet up with an old friend on Friday morning, for coffee, and then I will try to schedule a recall repair on my Honda CR-V for Saturday. Sunday, we will be in Mineral Wells, attending church with my mother, and Monday, there are no plans at all.

We had a great church gathering, yesterday morning, of the Church that Meets at Brandon and Kristin’s. We spent much time praying for one another, and managed to read through Psalm 33. Good fellowship, good prayer, good Bible reading, and the Supper.

There are serious talks about having a Night of Worship soon.

The Texas Rangers swept the KC Royals, over the weekend! That’s pretty huge, considering the way they have been playing, lately. Of course, they are still far down in the cellar, last place, eighteen games out of first. Their next game is tomorrow, in Oakland.

The Red Sox also enjoyed a sweep, over the weekend, taking three games from the division-rival Yankees. According to their web site, it’s the second time they have swept New York this season! The Red Sox are, unlike the Rangers, in first place, a half game ahead of the Rays.

The San Francisco Giants are enjoying being the best team in MLB, at the moment, being the first team to reach 50 wins. The Arizona Diamondbacks are not enjoying (maybe?) being the worst team, with a 22-57 record. That’s the team S and I will see play the Rangers on July 28, as we attend Globe Life Field for the first time since it has opened.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
(Psalms 33:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace that comes in knowing that, having You, I lack nothing.
2. that Your word is upright, and You are infinitely faithful in Your workings.
3. that You delight in us (Psalm 149)!
4. that You will help me to live peaceably with all people.
5. that, by the power of Your Spirit, everything that I do CAN be done in love.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK SIX – DAY TWO

INVITATION

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.”
(Daniel 2:20 NIV)

I pause to consider the name of the Lord, and the uprightness of His Word, thanking Him for the sufficiency of His provision and presence in my life. I acknowledge His presence right now and reach out to His Holy Spirit.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 149:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.
(Hebrews 4:1-2 NIV)

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over these passages, I ask the Holy Spirit to direct me toward a word or phrase, teaching me something about my walk with Christ in His Kingdome. I enjoy His presence in this place.

Psalm 149 continues in the theme of praise and singing. This one begins with exuberance, calling for dancing and music with percussion (I believe that the “timbrel” is some sort of tambourine).

Look at verse 4, though. “For the LORD takes delight in his people.”

Have you ever considered the fact that the Lord delights in YOU?? I know some people that have so much delight in themselves that they have no problem figuring that God must delight in them, as well.

I’m not one of those, though. I struggle with self-appreciation. Not to the point of self-loathing, mind you. I just have never felt that I was all that special, in any category. I know that I am pretty darned good at a few things, but not to the point of self-glorification.

I am also greatly aware of my faults and shortcomings. I know my “pet sins” very well, and figure God must know those even better than me. So why would He delight in me? He who knows how many stars there are and calls them all by name. He who, as we read in Psalm 33 yesterday morning, breathed a word and created all of those stars.

Yet, here is a simple truth. He delights in you and me, because He delights in “His people.” So let us rejoice in that truth and embrace it! Not to the point that we become arrogant, mind you, but let His praise be on our lips, even as we lie on our beds. Our last thoughts every night should be praise, and we should awaken with praise on our lips, in the morning.

That’s a goal for me, for the rest of this week.

Father, the truth that You delight in me is a hard-to-grasp truth. I read it in Your Word, and because I read it in Your Word, my mind believes it. But my heart remains skeptical, wondering how on earth You could delight in me, with all my sin?? But then I remember that the blood of Christ has erased all my sin!! It has not just covered it; it has not just colored it red so You can’t see it when You look at us through “rose-colored glasses.”

My sin is . . . erased; eradicated; expunged; rubbed out; obliterated; bowdlerized!

How can I do anything but praise You in the face of that truth? And, Lord, I believe it, but help my unbelief!!

Lord of the Sabbath,
I can faithfully observe a day of rest and yet miss its point.
Your rest is the goal of life;
it's what you intended for all of creation--
to know you and enjoy all your goodness.
Thank you for the gospel invitation to catch my breath,
to stop all my striving and enjoy everything accomplished for me in Jesus.
In his name I pray,
 amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 103)

BLESSING

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NIV)

Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)

ALL that you do.” “Let ALL that you do be done in love.” Just think about that for a minute.

Father, help me to obey this today. Let all that I do be done in love. Let there be no hint whatsoever of hatred in my actions, or even of sever dislike. Let nothing be done out of spite or contrariness. Insofar as it is up to me, let me be at peace with all men.

Lord, please give me eyes to see You in all things; let every creature and plant be a word from You. May Your love and care shine in the face of natural disasters (and even unnatural ones, such as what is happening in Florida right now); show Your power in a creation that is groaning, looking for ultimate redemption. May our communities be faithful in caring for this creation and the resources that You have provided human-kind.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12:18 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Ordinary Life

Today is Friday, the eleventh of June, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,101

Nine days until Father’s Day

The big news around the Bickleyhouse today is this:

Player to be named later

Yes, we adopted another kitten last night. She is a Seal Point Siamese. One of my Facebook friends called her an Applehead Meezer. We don’t know if she is full-blooded or not, and we really don’t care. We got her from a family in Denton (about a mile from R’s house), who still owns the mom and the dad. As the caption states, we have not named her yet. Or, as I have told some folks, she has not yet told us her name.

We have a couple of choices that are floating around. C thinks she might be Sophie. I’m wondering if she is Cleopatra. We have also tossed around the idea of Elvira. Not because we like the queen of horror movies, but because . . . okay, there’s this podcast, see? Called My Favorite Murder, and one of the hosts used to have a Siamese cat named Elvis. At the end of every episode, she would say, “Elvis, want a cookie?” and Elvis would say, “Mrowr!” Well this cat is a girl, so we don’t want to name her Elvis, you know.

Anyway . . . as soon as there is a name, we will let everyone know.

We stopped by R and J’s house before coming home, to show them the new kitty. That was a nice addition to the day. I think everyone in the family knows, by now, so it’s safe to let out that they are planning, it seems, to move to Indianapolis. Yes, the one in Indiana. Why Indiana? They have friends there. R can continue to keep her current job with pretty much no regard for where she lives. J would probably have to find a new one since he works for UNT. They have actually made an offer on a house out there.

That’s about it for current events, so on to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
(Psalms 27:8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You have said, "Seek my face."
2. for kittens, puppies, rainbows, and other things that make children smile
3. for the ability to take my everyday life, the most mundane things, and offer them up to you as a "living sacrifice," embracing all that You do for me
4. that I own nothing, yet have everything (2 Corinthians 6:10)
5. for Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 3 – DAY 6

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

I pause, briefly, at this time to reflect on seeking God’s face. My gratitude is flowing, this morning, like a river after the spring rains.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

LORD, remember David and all his self-denial.
He swore an oath to the LORD, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
(Psalms 132:1-5 NIV)

For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
(Psalms 132:13-16 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
(Romans 12:9-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy God’s presence, this morning, I reflect on these two passages, asking the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and ponderings, leading me toward a deeper understanding of my walk with Christ.

I am drawn to the idea of the “living sacrifice” presented in Romans 12. How do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices? I like the way Eugene Peterson put it in The Message.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
(Romans 12:1 MSG)

It’s not a matter of going out and doing spectacular things for God, though that is certainly a good thing. It’s a matter of taking that everyday life, your ordinary life, the mundane things you do every day, and offering them up to God. I love the idea of “embracing what God does for you.”

I am reminded of Brother Lawrence, who is well known for this thought of finding God in even the most mundane tasks, like washing the dishes.

But the real nuts and bolts of offering up your life as a living sacrifice comes in that second passage from Romans 12, this morning. Let’s go back up there and read that again.

It starts with, “Love must be sincere.” The NLT words that, “Don’t just pretend to love others.” “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Let’s be clear on this. It does not say, “Hate evil people.” And this cliché about “love the sinner, hate the sin,” is all well and good, but most people who say that don’t really love the sinner. You can tell by how they treat the sinner, all the while forgetting that, oops, I’m a sinner, too!

“Honor one another above yourselves.”

We haven’t been doing too good with that one through a pandemic, have we . . . what with all this insistence on “my rights,” and “my freedoms,” and acting like being required to wear a mask is like the most inconvenient thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your entire life.

If we are offering up ourselves as living sacrifices, we are also giving up our so-called rights.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I’ll confess that we could do better at the hospitality thing. We don’t invite people into our home very often. We could definitely do better. I think we do alright at the sharing part, though.

How are we at blessing those who persecute us? Let’s get real for a second. I don’t know that I have ever been really persecuted. So I don’t think I have had a chance to test that one.

Then, at the end, Paul lays it down with telling us to “live in harmony with one another.”

Boy, do we have some work to do.

Father, Your Church is in disarray, these days. We aren’t doing a great job of living in harmony, nor are we doing very well at honoring each other above ourselves. I pray for the Holy Spirit to have His way with us in these times. I pray that Your people would open their hearts to Your Spirit in such a way that we might be truly transformed into a people of love, a people who take Your Words seriously, and not just the parts that we like. I pray for my own attitudes toward others, which, I think I can say, is improving, these days. But we could do better in the hospitality arena. Help us in that area. Lead us all toward a deeper fellowship with You and with one another.

Loving Father,
how quickly we can become discouraged about your church,
especially when we measure it by attendance,
political influence,
budget,
or programs.
Free us from trying to size up your church by the pattern of this world.
Instead,
keep us in your way of simple service and humble love,
energized in your mission,
always encouraged,
knowing your hands guide and keep your people.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 27)

BLESSING

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 MSG)

Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
(Psalms 69:30 MSG)

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
(James 1:17 NLT)

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
(2 Corinthians 6:10 NLT)

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:20 NLT)

Father, these last Scriptures are sinking deep into my soul. I give You thanks and praise in all circumstances. You are my keeper, my provider, my Rock and my salvation. You are my fortress and my deliverer. You are my hiding place, where I can run when I feel afflicted. I shout Your name with a praising song, today. I will tell of Your greatness in my prayers of thanksgiving. Indeed, everything that is good and perfect in my life comes from You. I do not “have” anything. I own nothing, and yet have everything. All glory to You, Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.

Lord, give all of us a deeper gratitude for the work of Christ on the cross. I pray, today, for those who live in poverty and injustice. May Your Spirit prevail and justice be done for all. I also pray for the equal treatment of women in our society, and in all of the world, as well.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends!

Kitty update: It appears that her name is Cleo (Cleopatra).

Calmed

Today is Thursday, the tenth of June, 2021

Peace be with you! Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,100

Ten days until Father’s Day

We had a cool thing happen, yesterday evening. I got home from work to an empty porch. In context, that’s not a good thing, because I had a notification that an Amazon package had been delivered. S had not brought it in, she said. She didn’t know one was out there to be brought in (which, in fact, it was not). Not too long after C got home, a few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Thinking it was the second package that was due to be delivered, C went to the door.

She actually let out a startled yell when, unexpectedly, a man was standing at the door holding a package. Turns out, the first package had been delivered to the house behind us, same house number, different street. How very kind of him to bring it to us! The sad thing was that, on this occasion, I could find no way to leave feedback on the mis-delivery. At least we got the package. That’s what really counts.

The other one arrived a while later, found safely on the porch.

Here’s to good neighbors.

My health metric numbers continue to be encouraging, although my blood sugar was a bit low, this morning, at 76. BP was good at 105/67, and my weight was exactly the same as yesterday, which is just about a pound heavier than Saturday, which is normal for me. My weight fluctuates, normally, to be anywhere from one to three pounds heavier, mid-week, than it was on the weekend. I don’t get it, I never have, but I have come to accept it. If I graphed it, it would make a perfect bell curve. So my body seems to be acclimating to the med changes made a couple weeks ago.

Did I mention that my work is having an ice cream truck stop by this afternoon? I believe I will stay inside. Heh.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
(Psalms 27:6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for good neighbors
2. for singing and making melody to the Lord
3. that I have two jobs--love God and love people
4. that my opinions do not figure into those jobs
5. that there is, therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

INVITATION

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to meditate on the goodness of God, praying for unity among His people.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 131:1-3 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
(Romans 8:1 NIV)

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(Romans 8:12-17 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit here, I become aware of God’s presence. It’s really not that difficult. All you have to do is simply think about it. It’s not like you’re “conjuring” God’s presence. It is always there. But by thinking about it, you become aware of it.

Being aware of His presence, now, I read these passages again, asking Him to point me toward words or phrases that speak directly to me.

I am immediately drawn to the word “calm” in Psalm 131. I have been feeling more calm, this week, thanks to my meditations and the Holy Spirit. The psalmist says, “I have calmed and quieted myself.” He does not concern himself with great matters, he says. I am getting more and more like that, these days.

In a recent interview, Amy Grant said that her basic life principle (I’m paraphrasing greatly, here) was that she had two jobs and one prayer. The two jobs, biblically, are to love God and love people. The prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, which centers around forgiveness.

Once, when someone was pressing her for an opinion regarding gay people, her response was that her opinions were not part of her job description for those two jobs.

What a brilliant answer! And I agree 100%. God doesn’t want or need my opinions, which makes them irrelevant in most cases. My opinion on what I want for dinner tonight is more relevant than my opinions about politics. God wants me to love Him with my whole being, and to love my neighbor as myself. I would add to that Jesus’s “new command” to love my brothers and sisters as He has loved us. My opinions about controversial issues do not it anywhere in those two jobs.

This philosophy/attitude creates a great calmness in my soul, just as the psalmist has experienced.

But the really great news is that, even if you are one who angrily expresses your opinions on social media, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation,” if you are in Christ Jesus.

If you can read that verse without getting some kind of emotion going, maybe you’re not “in Christ Jesus.” That verse contains the heart of the Gospel, and maybe the best news in the whole Bible.

It goes back to what Jesus did and what that accomplished. What He did was die on the cross, and then rise from the dead. What it accomplished was to erase my sin for all eternity. That’s why there is no condemnation for me.

Ever. Even for the sins I have yet to do. Because I will.

My obligation, then, is to live by the Spirit. And what does that look like?

Go back up there and read the two job descriptions.

Father, my praise is not enough. My “hallelujahs” are not enough. They are all I have, along with the life that I can live in Your honor. But they will never be enough. And they don’t have to be “enough” because You do not expect repayment. All You expect is for me to love You and love people. You have been giving me more of that mindset, recently, and it is wonderful. The peace and calm in which I have been walking, lately, is marvelous. I pray that You continue holding me in such a way as to prevent the enemy from working into my psyche, to create disharmony and unrest. Let me be a servant to You and to people, as I walk through this world. May my overflowing cup splash out onto all around me, displaying the wonders of Your love, mercy, and grace.

Thank you,
almighty God,
that we are free in Christ Jesus--
free from the pointing finger of condemnation,
from the curse of the law,
the bullying of sin,
the sting of death,
free from fear.
But more than that--
freed to love you,
to willingly yield our lives to you,
to know you,
and to cry from our hearts,
"Abba, Father."
Amen.
(Westminster Confession 20)

BLESSING

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV)

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?
(Job 38:25-27 NIV)

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.'”
(Job 42:2-4 NIV)

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
(2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

Just some reminders that “bad” things always manage to work out for our good.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
(Romans 8:28 NLT)

I praise You, Lord, that You do work all things out for our good. As You work Your plan, we are the beneficiaries of Your steadfast love, mercy, and grace. May we walk calmly in that truth, today, love You and loving the people around us.

Lord, give us a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Christ, especially that bit about no condemnation. I pray that we might experience the fullness of our adoption as Your children, as we anticipate our eternal reward. Give us glimpses of Home! May we all have vibrant prayer lives, as we care for one another as we should.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends!