Opportunity Knocks Constantly

Today is Thursday, the twenty-eighth of July, 2022, in the seventeenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,513

22 days until S turns 29!

My weather chart for yesterday looks a lot like the day before. The high temp was 103 again. That’s three straight days of 103 for a high. Keep in mind that I am getting my information from the nearest airport which is not DFW Airport, but Meacham Field in Fort Worth. I saw other information, yesterday, which had one more day of 100+ temps than I am showing. I have 32 days total, with a current streak of twelve. Today’s high is predicted to be 102.

We have now had no rain for 54 days. The ten-day forecast promises no relief.

The Texas Rangers kept Jon Gray in the game one inning too long, yesterday, and they lost 4-2 to complete the sweep by the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers are now 43-54, eleven games below .500, somehow still in third place in the AL West. They are still twenty games out of first place (the cheaters lost again), and 9.5 out of the Wild Card race. They begin four-game series in LA with the Angels today.

The Red Sox, after going ahead 6-5, couldn’t hold the lead, and lost to the Cleveland Guardians, 7-6. They are now 49-50, and remain in last place in the AL East, seventeen games out of first place and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race. They have another game with Cleveland today.

The Dodgers have overtaken the Evil Empire (I have been waiting to be able to say that!) by .003 percentage points, with a 65-32 record. While the Yanks have won one more game, they have also lost one more, which accounts for the percentage difference. The Nationals continue to have the worst MLB record, at 34-66. The Chicago Cubs now own the longest win streak, at six games, and the Giants continue to have the longest losing streak, now at seven. The Yankees maintain the highest run differential, at +196, and the Nationals keep the lowest, at -160. The Rangers are now at +3, and the Red Sox are at -16.

Today being Thursday, I will be working from 11:15 to 8:15 in the computer center at the library.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we come into your presence, pleading with you to bring the world what it needs, so that people may be freed from all their pain and enabled to serve you. Let the power of Jesus Christ be revealed in our time. For he has taken on our sin that justice might arise on earth, that all might have life and might see your salvation, which you will bring when the time is fulfilled. Let your power be revealed in the world, and let your will be done, your name be kept holy, and all wrongs be righted in this turbulent and difficult age. O Lord our God, you alone can help. You alone are the Savior of all peoples. In your great mercy you can bring peace. We look to you. And when we consider your Word, we remember the mighty promises you have given, promises which are to be fulfilled in our time. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Now we find that the Law keeps slipping into the picture to point the vast extent of sin. Yet, though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God his grace is wider and deeper still! 
(Romans 5:20 Phillips)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the senses, which allow me to have enjoyment in things in this life
2. for poetry . . . there are many poets who inspire me in this world
3. for the many opportunities that will come my way, to serve the Lord, today; may I be faithful and keep my eyes open for them
4. for the intricate connection between prayer and God's Word
5. that our Father will always be accessible to those who walk in Christ

On This Day, by S. Michaels, LightWriters

Let there be a change
the north west wind speaks
the willows drink deep

©2022 S. Michaels
A Season of Singing
(Haiku 5-5-5)

That’s an example of one of the poets who inspires me. Please check out her website for more beautiful imagery and poetry.


So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
(1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV)

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:13-14 KJV)

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)

Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.
(Psalms 55:17 ESV)

And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.
(Numbers 7:89 ESV)

Opportunity is the word of the day. Opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.”

In the Scripture passages above, there are opportunities galore. Opportunity is something my day is full of. It has been said by someone that “Opportunity knocks but once.” That may be true in some cases, because some great opportunities may only come to us one time. But opportunity, in general, happens constantly. Everywhere I look, if I’m paying attention, opportunity presents itself.

For example, in the Isaiah 55 passage, we are told to “seek the LORD while he may be found.” It’s not like He is hiding from us. He is available for us to find Him. For a season, at least. Seeking the Lord is one way of “making the most of every opportunity.”

Another way of making the most of those opportunities is in prayer. Now, we must be careful to note that that passage in 2 Chronicles, the one that well-meaning Christians love to quote when things are going bad in the nation, is directed to a specific people for a specific time. “My people,” in this case, is Israel. It is fair, as well, to say that “My people,” in this day and age, is the Church (capital C). What is not accurate or true is to think that “My people” represents a particular country, today.

Nevertheless, the encouragement to pray goes out to all people, to everyone who calls the name of Jesus. One of the ways that we seek the Lord (while He may be found) is through prayer. Side note: God will always be found by His own people. The Psalmist recognized that opportunities to pray were constant. In Psalm 55, he speaks of praying “evening, morning, and noon,” which is a way of saying “all the time.”

In Psalm 119:164, the psalmist says, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.” That information led the Church, through history, to implement “fixed hour prayer.” By the sixth century, the monastic orders had implemented seven fixed times of prayer. Benedict added an eighth time in the sixth century. So they had Matins at midnight, Lauds at 3 AM, Prime at 6 AM, Terce at 9 AM, Sext at noon, None at 3 PM, Vespers at 6 PM, and Compline at 9 PM. Consequently, there was “opportunity” to pray every three hours.

Needless to say, the average Christian who works for a living cannot follow such a rigid schedule. However, it gives us the realization that we can truly, as Paul admonished us, “pray without ceasing.”

And we are not restricted, as Moses was, to a specific place to speak to God. Isn’t that wonderful? We can meet with God whenever and wherever we want, as well as whenever and wherever He wants.

Prayer and God’s word are inseparable. Attempting to experience one without the other will diminish both.

“A prayerful spirit is the spirit to which God will speak. A prayerful spirit will be a listening spirit waiting to hear what God will say.”

“The Word gives you a subject for prayer. It shows you the path of prayer, telling you how God would have you come. it gives yu the power for prayer – courage in the assurance that you will be heard. And it brings you the answer to prayer as it teaches what God will do for you.”

But prayer also prepares our hearts to hear God through His Word.

God should be the aim of my heart, the one object of my desires. Through prayer and His Word, He abides in me, and I in Him.

"Lord, make me willing to be used by Thee. May my knowledge of my unworthiness never make me resist being used by Thee. May the need of others always be remembered by me, so that I may ever be willing to be used by Thee.
"And open my eyes and my heart that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for Thee."
(Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country)
Today's sources:
Pray A Word A Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I praise You that You are always right there, ready for me to find, and waiting for me to both speak and listen to You. While there will come a time when those who do not believe will no longer be able to find You, You will always be found by us who call the name of Christ.

I thank You for the many, many opportunities that will come my way today. I pray for the readiness to utilize them, and pray for the willingness, as Alan Paton prayed, to be used by You. Every day that I walk into that library, I will be faced with dozens of opportunities to serve You by loving someone. May I be faithful to fulfill that responsibility.

I thank You for Your Word and for prayer, and the way that they are inextricably linked. It is true that prayer prepares me to receive Your Word and all of its benefits, but Your Word also prepares me to pray and gives me subjects for prayer, as well as answers my prayers. I really praise You for the book of Psalms, as it constantly gives me material for prayer, as well as a source of praise to You.

I pray for Your healing in the Church, Father. I pray that You would heal the division that has been brought on by people seeking peace in men rather than You. I pray that we would stop aligning ourselves with politicians and start loving You with all our being and loving one another the way Christ has loved us.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


“When opportunity knocks a pessimist dials 911;
when opportunity knocks an optimist sets the table.”
Matshona Dhliwayo

Grace and peace, friends.

Confess Your Own Sins

Today is Thursday, the twenty-first of July, 2022, in the sixteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts today!

Day 23,506

29 days until S turns 29

The skies teased us, yesterday evening. As I was driving home from my day at the library, the sky was dark with clouds, teasing of rain. While one of my HS friends (who lives in Denton) posted a picture of some light rain later in the evening, we saw none in my area. I will say that it felt slightly cooler, since the sun was hidden. Nevertheless, the high temperature hit the projected 109 degrees, for our twenty-fifth day of triple-digit temperatures. The current streak sits at five days.

We were hoping for a break today, but this morning, the projected high for today is 102. The positive in that is that there is also a 46% chance of rain in today’s forecast. In the next ten days, the first day that is projected to be below 100 is Saturday, July 30.

Baseball resumes for at least two teams today, as the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins play a “make-up” game. One game. The other two are scheduled later in the season.

Since it’s Thursday, I’ll be at the library Computer Center today, 11:15-8:15. The taco soup is in the crockpot.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, our souls long for you and for your glory, for the day when it shall be said, "All is accomplished! Now your kingdom comes. Now your day appears. When we look back on all that has happened to us, everything becomes clear." We thank you that we can live without fear, again and again refreshed and renewed, waiting for the good you give on earth. Show us the way we have to go. Grant your blessing in our hearts so that in need and death, in fear and distress, we may always have light and strength. You are our salvation, Lord our God. From you comes the salvation of our souls. We trust you today and every day. We praise your name, and in you we hope for the day you hold in readiness for the whole world, the day when light will dawn in every heart. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; 
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 
Even the sparrow has found a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, 
where she may have her young – 
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; 
they are ever praising you. 
(Psalm 84:2–4 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the constant refreshing and renewing that comes from the Lord
2. that I can live life without fear ("can" being the operative word, there)
3. for light and strength and salvation
4. for connections in life, that enable us to work together to do great things
5. for a sense of humility, especially before the Lord, that enables me to confess my own sins and shortcomings

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-3 ESV)

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8:8-13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is connect.

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” ~ Mother Teresa

Connections are inevitable. I’ll confess to you a “secret” (tongue firmly planted in cheek, there, because it’s not really a secret to anyone who knows me). I don’t really like people.

But here’s the thing, and it kind of shocks me. I just had a conversation, last night, with one of my library friends, who was gushing over my ability to connect with people in the library. I’m deeply humbled by her assessment of me, and explained it away because I’m in the environment of my dreams in that place. I mean, it’s a building full of books, for crying out loud! And, for the most part, I’m having conversations with people about books (sometimes music, but mostly books).

But here’s the thing. Going back to where I said I don’t really like people. I still believe in trying to be kind to people. and, as I said, connections are inevitable. Unless you live as a hermit in a cave, somewhere, and are able to completely survive on your own, connections are inevitable. By the way, I don’t know one single person who could survive without anyone else. Not one. I’m sure there are some out there, but I don’t know them.

If you believe you are one of them, I will prove you wrong.

“Connecting with other people can provide new knowledge and understanding,” says the writer of today’s reading. Not only, as Mother Teresa said, are there things you can do that I cannot, there are things that you know that I don’t know. This is yet another reason that we all need one another, and that is so very important that the Body of Christ stop being so ridiculous and get unified.

We have a mission on this earth, which has several parts. And believe it or not, the most important part, according to Jesus, Himself, is NOT telling everyone you meet about Jesus! Yes, I’ve actually met people who say that the Bible says that we are supposed to do exactly that.

It doesn’t.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know what Jesus said is the most important part of our mission.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:37-40 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)

Making disciples, of course, is also an important part of the mission. But honestly, if we can’t manage to love one another as Christ has loved us, we aren’t going to do (and we aren’t, as it is easy to see) a very good job of making disciples.

We seem to be just a tad too busy pointing out other peoples’ sins, at the moment. I wonder . . . does that make us feel better about ourselves?

It’s possible that I’ve strayed a little, here. We were talking about connections. But in order for us to be connected and do those “great things” that Mother Teresa spoke of, we have to “get together.”


Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
(James 5:16 NIV)

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
(Jeremiah 29:12 NIV)

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
(1 John 5:14 NIV)

As James writes to believers, he tells them to confess their sins to one another. What does he not tell them to do? He does not instruct them to “confess” the sins of everyone else!

I’m applying this principle to something I said above, about how “Christians” seem to be too busy pointing out the sins of others.

James says we need to confess our own sins. I need to be concerned about my own sins, not the sins of the person across the street. It hurts my soul to see how much enjoyment some folks have in pointing out the sins of others. There is almost a sense of glee about them. Again, I suppose it makes them feel better about themselves. But that’s been a problem with people forever, I guess. In order to feel better about ourselves, we compare ourselves with someone else, but we just make sure we aren’t comparing ourselves with someone, you know, better than us.

And then we wonder why God isn’t answering our prayers . . .

I’m reminded, her of something Paul said in 1 Corinthians, which I have been reading through, lately.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
(1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV)

And that, coupled with what Jesus tells us,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:1-5 NIV)


Father, I pray for the Body of Christ. As recent years have gone by, I have watched it being splintered by politics and politicians. It hurts my soul to see this, because I love the Church. I have always loved the Church. You have deepened my understanding of who/what the Church truly is, over the years, as well as deepening my love for her. I have come to believe that one cannot love Jesus without loving His Bride. Jesus loves the Church. If I say I love Jesus and don’t love the Church, I am a liar.

I pray desperately for unity. The division is horrific. Sins that have been covered up for decades are coming to light and “mega-churches” are being brought down because of sinfulness and abuse. “Leaders” are being discredited right and left, and the world watches while the “church” (small “c”) crumbles. But Your Church is alive and well, Father, I truly believe this.

I believe massive pruning is happening, as You said it would. And, just as it would hurt if I cut off one of my own limbs, it is painful to experience and watch. Help us, Father! Give us the strength to survive and thrive in Your mercy and grace. I pray that the ones who are making the most noise would be silenced, and that real truth would prevail.

Help us to love You and love one another. Help us to stop being so eager to point out the sins of others, when Your Word tells us exactly the opposite. Help us to take care of our own “bodies,” as well as Christ’s “Body,” and teach us how to leave the judging to You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.


"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Breathtaking Vistas of the Holy”

The primary means of expansion of the ‘civilization’ of God in a ‘barbarian’ world is not by lecturing people in the truth or coercing them to be good. It is by establishing communities of imitation, worshipping congregations where we simply live the common life – but in God’s way.” (Eugene H. Peterson, On Living Well)

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of July, 2022, in the fifteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your heart today!

Day 23,499

I’ve started a spreadsheet to chronicle the weather. I found out that our electric billing provider’s app shows me the high temperature for each day. So, to catch everyone up, our first day of 100+ temperature, for 2022, was June 11. The average first day of 100 in DFW is July 1. Up through yesterday, we have had 20 days of 100+ temps, and 10 consecutive days. The highest, so far, has been 105 (last Friday and Saturday). The 10-day forecast shows no relief. In fact, next Friday and Saturday are projected to be 106. (Not tomorrow, but the following weekend.)

We have had no rain since June 3. The longest streak of 100+ days was back in 1980, when we had 42 consecutive days. 2011 saw 40 in a row. I am not hoping for a new record this year.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, kindle true light in our hearts and minds, that we may recognize what we are and become free of everything false and dishonest. Let this light of righteousness, this judgment, go through all nations, that people no longer use empty words when they talk of "mercy" and "truth." Grant that your mercy and your truth find the right soil and bear fruit. May they find soil prepared by you, for you judge us and make right what is wrong in our earthly life. We thank you that however painful many of our experiences are, we may still say, "Through how much need has not our merciful God spread out his wings to protect us!" Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
At that time I will answer the prayers of my people Israel. I will make rain fall on the earth, and the earth will produce grain and grapes and olives. I will establish my people in the land and make them prosper. I will show love to those who were called "Unloved," and to those who were called "Not-My-People" I will say, "You are my people," and they will answer, "You are our God." 
(Hosea 2:21–23 TEV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for mercy and truth; may they not be "empty words" when we use them
2. for the privilege of prayer and the joy of seeing answers
3. for the peace found in God's embrace (see the poem below)
4. for joy experienced, even in the face of trials
5. that I am able to grasp the breathtaking vistas of life in God's Kingdom, walking in the Gospel

Let There, by Daryl Madden

Let there be nothing
To do or to say
Only an entrance
A time here to pray

Let there be only
The need to receive
That God is here dwelling
And fully believe

Let there be silence
And no light to show
Only Gods voice
And vision to know

Let there be peace
In God’s embrace of
Mercy and grace
Wrapped in His love

I especially love that last stanza. Please visit Daryl’s site at the link provided to see more of his poetry.


And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 ESV)

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
(1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray A Word A Day, is joyfulness.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

The writer of today’s reading expresses joy in the midst of painful, even horrible circumstances. I have addressed the idea of joy, before, here. There is a stark difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not. Joy is more internal, and is dependent mostly on faith.

I can have joy, even when I am not happy. I can even have joy when I am angry, but it’s harder to see. Anger is tricky. I love what Dallas Willard says about it. “Anything done in anger can be done better without it.” That is so true.

It is also difficult to see joy in the midst of depression. I suppose that, out of all “emotions,” depression might be the one in which joy is least visible, if at all.

But the Bible exhorts us to have joy, even when we face trials, because we know this testing produces perseverance. Let’s look at the next verse in that passage.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(James 1:4 NIV)

Joy rests in the hope of things to come. If we know there is something better ahead, we can have joy. Joy eludes us if we have lost that hope.


By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
(Hebrews 11:8 NIV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
(Isaiah 42:16 NIV)

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:8 NIV)

All of these verses, while they do not contain the word “joy,” give reasons for it. We don’t always know where we are going, but we can have confidence that the Lord does. He knows where we are going, and He has it all planned out for us.

I think they left out one of the best verses, though.

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)

In the presence of the Lord, which is always and everywhere, there is “fullness of joy!” I looked up “fullness,” just for kicks. It means, “the state of being filled to capacity.” When I am in the presence of God, I am filled to capacity, even to overflowing, with joy!

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalms 23:5 NIV)

There may be differing opinions on what it is that the psalmist’s cup overflows with, but I like to think it is joy.


“The Christian faith by any accounting, even by those who do not embrace it, has to do with things vast and splendid: breathtaking vistas of the holy, awesome insights into the human, prodigious commands, and bright blessings.”

Thus begins today’s reading in On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson.

“The sheer extravagance of the gospel dazzles us.”

I wonder, though. Does it really? Have we become so jaded by our modern world and all its bells and whistles that the gospel no longer dazzles us? Do we no longer see the “breathtaking vistas of the holy?”

Based on what I see around me, and interactions on social media, I think that this may be all too true. I believe that most people who call themselves “Christian,” have no clue how grand and breathtaking the Gospel really is. They are basically living in a place that I would consider to be just inside the front door of salvation. They have stepped in, and they have gone no further.

I believe God has just shown me something, so bear with me.

I’ve been to Yellowstone. It is breathtaking. It is vast, indeed. So vast that, in order to visit one of the “main attractions” (Old Faithful, for example), you must drive anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes from the entrance. Yellowstone, after all, takes up a majority of the state of Wyoming.

Can you imagine driving your car into the entrance, and then just sitting there for an hour, never going any further? The person who did that would say, “I’ve been to Yellowstone. I wasn’t impressed at all. It was rather boring.”

“Many of us fail to live the fullness of the faith not because we don’t believe it but because we don’t feel up to it. At such times, we don’t need strong arguments to persuade us of the truth. We need simple directions to guide us into participation.”

Consider, as well, learning the English language. Most of us have gotten pretty good at it. There are a few of you out there who need work, let me tell you. But what if you were simply satisfied with the few thousand words you had learned by the age of, say five years old? Sure, you could get by in life, but you would certainly be limited. By the way, the average grown-up knows anywhere from 30,000-42,000.

The way we accomplish such things is not on our own. We have help. Knowing the fullness of the Lord (joy, included) comes from associating with others who have been there. Knowing how to get to the best places in Yellowstone comes from knowing and trusting people who have experienced it.

In short (is it too late?), we learn things by imitation. “Christians set down to live the common life, much as everyone else does, except that we do it in Christ’s way. The primary means of expansion of the ‘civilization’ of God in a ‘barbarian’ world is not by lecturing people in the truth or coercing them to be good. It is by establishing communities of imitation, worshipping congregations where we simply live the common life – but in God’s way.” (Emphasis mine)

Right now, in our culture, we are seeing the opposite. We are seeing a large group of people who are doing a lot of lecturing and coercion. We also see how that is working out.


Father, I have experienced much joy in my lifetime. And I am still experiencing it. I thank You for this joy, that comes in fullness from being in Your presence. Many times, I have felt my own “cup” overflowing, just as the psalmist wrote. Thank You that we are able to feel and see joy in the midst of trials, as well, because we know that, through those trials, You are perfecting us in perseverance, and preparing us for the pleasures of eternity with You.

I praise You for the faith that I have that, even when I don’t know or can’t see where I’m going, You are there, and You have the destination completely planned out. You show me the path, and You keep me on the path. Yes, I am “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,” but You keep me heading in the right direction. And, by faith, I am moving that way, moving forward.

Father, I pray, still more, for our society, today. I pray for “Christians” who can’t seem to make it past the front door, and are satisfied with simply having “fire insurance.” They’ve got their “ticket,” and that’s all they want. I pray for those who feel that the way to “convert” the “wicked” is by lecturing and yelling at them, telling them how “bad” they are and that they’re “going to hell.” That doesn’t seem to be having much effect, these days.

Help us to be more effective by imitation – imitating You by imitating Christ by imitating those who have gone before us in this journey. And, as we grow in our own journey (this is an important part of it, because if we don’t grow, how can we help someone else grow?), let us know the “breathtaking vistas of the holy,” as Peterson described. Help us to have the capacity to see the grandness, the vastness of You and Your Kingdom, through the Gospel. May we not try to contain You in a box of theology.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:3-8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Mary, Martha, and Things

Today is Thursday, the seventh of July, 2022, in the fourteenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,492

Yesterday had some crazy moments at the library. A couple were pretty funny, and none of them were at all bad. That, of course, helped the day go by quicker.

Today, being Thursday, I will spend my day in the Computer/Media Center (11:15-8:15). It’s very interesting there, because we have a few regulars, who are there, if not every day, at least most of them. I wish that I could know their stories. Some seem to be seeking jobs, while others are seeking citizenship. I know that there is one man who comes in several times a week, and always has someone different with him. One of my associates has said they think he is a pastor who is helping people with their citizenship applications, and that he doesn’t charge them anything.

Some folks just come in to print things, because paying ten cents a page for black and white prints is cheaper than buying a printer. And, I suppose, there are still people who don’t have computers at home. Many people print things directly from their phones, which is, of course, a pocket computer, these days. In fact, there are people who come in to get a library card just so they can use the computers, and never check out a book.

The Texas Rangers got swept by the Baltimore Orioles. They lost last night’s game 2-1. This drops them to six below .500 (37-43). They are still in third place in the AL West, 15.5 out of first, and now 6.5 out of the Wild Card. At this point, they are only a half game ahead of the Angels. They have today off, and will begin a weekend series with the first place Twins, in Arlington, tomorrow night.

The Boston Red Sox lost the series to the Rays, losing last night’s game 7-1. This puts them in a dead tie for second with Tampa, both being 45-37. They are 14 games out of first place, and both teams are tied in the first Wild Card spot. Boston begins a four-game weekend series with the Evil Empire, in Boston, tonight. This could be a very important series for them.

The Oakland Athletics continue to have the worst MLB record, at 28-56. The Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and Detroit Tigers all have a four-game win streak going. The St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians, and Texas Rangers (uh-oh) all have a four-game losing streak going. The Pittsburgh Pirates have taken sole possession of the worst run differential, at -129. The Rangers are now at +10, and the Red Sox have dropped to +53.

We started a new TV show (new for us) last night, during our dinner. It’s a show from the Acorn network, called The Brokenwood Mysteries, and is set in New Zealand. We started with Season One, Episode One, and enjoyed it. We usually keep captions on, these days, and it’s a good thing, because the New Zealand accent is one we aren’t used to hearing. For example, every time they say “letter,” it sounds like “litter.” It appears to still be going, according to IMDB, and is in the eighth season, currently.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for all you have done for us, for all you are doing for us, for deliverance from need and death. We thank you for all the signs you give us that you hear our prayer when, without wavering or weakening, we set our hopes on you. We thank you that we can be without fear of sin and death, for you stand by us in everything. In spite of our imperfections you show us your goodness again and again. May the light in our hearts never be extinguished, the light that enables us to look into heaven and earth and see the good that is on its way to us today. May joy remain with us, and may we have the strength to be a community that follows the paths of life which bring praise and honor to you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
(Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all that God has done, and continues to do, in my life
2. that, in spite of my imperfections, God shows me His goodness again and again
3. for the light in my heart that allows me to look toward heaven and see the good that is on its way; it will never be extinguished
4. for the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible
5. for the many things in our world that are there to help us connect with the Father through the Son and by the Spirit. 

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
(Mark 14:3-9 ESV)

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
(Mark 14:21 ESV)


“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

I’m sure that many of us have both aspects of Mary and Martha within us. My wife is more of a “Martha.” She always needs to be doing something. I’m kind of in-between, but lean more toward Mary. I have these desires, and frequently feel guilty for not doing something that I think I should be doing.

The key, I believe, is in the heart. And that is true about so many things. Martha, according to Jesus, who could read the heart, was “worried and upset about many things.” I remember a skit that was done in a church I was attending at the time. The person who played the part of Martha nailed it, I believe, as she swept furiously, muttering under her breath. In reality, everything would have been perfectly fine if Martha had sat down at Jesus’s feet, right next to Mary, to soak in the Master’s teaching.

There are definitely things we should be doing. Jesus speaks clearly about helping others, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, unshackling the chains of the oppressed, and so on. These are things of action.

But the passage from 1 Thessalonians also speaks of attitudes that must be nurtured. Be thankful. Be joyful. Pray.

I like the prayer that Julia Attaway put in today’s Daily Guideposts reading.

“Father, help me do what You ask instead of bemoaning my inability to serve in the way I desire.”

What has God asked of us? You know what I’m going to say.

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-31 NLT)

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
(John 13:34 NLT)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
(Romans 13:8 ESV)


There are many things in this world. Just in this room, as I look around my desk, there are literally over a hundred “things.” I’m typing on a thing. I’m reading a thing. I have three musical things in this room. Probably more than that, actually, if you count a turntable an amplifier, and several speakers. Inside the closet to my right are many more things.

Things, in and of themselves, cannot be inherently good or evil. They are just things.

But when these things are used in the service of God, they become holy. The above-mentioned woman brought a “thing” into the house where Jesus was sitting, broke it open, and anointed the Lord. That thing was just a thing until she did that. Then it became holy.

“No part of creation can be bypassed in the life of faith. None of it is an inconvenience to be put up with. None of it is a stumbling block intruded by the devil to trip the feet of those whose eyes are piously lifted in praise to God. Creation is made by God as a structure for meeting God. Sacrament means that the external and internal are parts of the same reality. Creation and redemption proceed from the same God. Our bodies and souls are sustained by what God makes in creation and gives in redemption.”

Such profound words. And so very true. The bread and wine that we consume in the Eucharist are things. And, until they are used for that purpose, that are just simply things. But when we eat the bread and drink the cup that are the body and blood of Christ, they become holy.

And, on that night, when Jesus had that “last supper” with His disciples, Jesus, according to John (the only one who saw fit to record this), did something surprising. He took another ordinary thing, a bucket of soapy water, and made it holy by washing the feet of His disciples.

“A ministry of sacrament is responsible for announcing and demonstrating that the world is holy, as opposed to, say, useful or beautiful or profane or mean. A ministry of sacrament insists on the holiness in the sick body, in the lonely heart, in dirty feet, in polluted streams, in a depersonalized institution, in vineyards, in wheat fields – and then involves us in meeting God there. The baptismal font and the communion chalice are the boundaries between which we discover that no part of this material world is unusable by God and that every part of it is created to be good, a vital part in the machinery of salvation.”

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


Father, I am grateful, this morning, for the reminder that this world, as bad as it seems, at times, was created by You, to be enjoyed by us (and You), and to be a means of connecting with You and ministering to one another. Help us to take the things of this world, so often mistakenly deemed “secular” or “unholy,” and make them holy by using them for Your purposes. While we may not need to physically wash one another’s feet, there are similar tasks that we can do for one another, tasks that involve and employ “things,” things that are neither secular or holy until we begin to use them. In this, You have declared all things in this world to be potentially holy.

Father, help us to also have the attitude of Mary, while at the same time knowing that are things that do need to be done in order to minister to this world. It’s okay to spend time sitting at the feet of our Savior, learning from His teachings. And there are times when we would, perhaps, like to be doing something that we think is more helpful, when, in fact, it is more helpful for us to simply “be still and know” that You are God. In this way, we also remember that You are in control of this hot mess of a world. We also remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are far, far better than we could ever imagine.

For Martha, the broom was holy. For Mary, the floor was holy. For the woman (possibly also a “Mary”), the alabaster vial of perfume was holy. For Jesus, the bucket of water, the bread, and the wine were holy. All of these can be true for us too, Lord, if we but pay attention. May we not walk through this world blind, but keeping our eyes on You and being attentive to everything around us.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Choice of Wisdom

Today is Thursday, the thirtieth of June, 2022, in the thirteenth week of Ordinary Time. The last day of June.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,485

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I didn’t leave the house, except to take the trash out and go to the mailbox. Oh, and to pay the lawn guy. Today is my full shift in the computer center of the library, from 11:15-8:15. And I’ve got Chicken Ranch Crockpot Soup cooking for dinner tonight.

The Texas Rangers lost their afternoon game to the Royals, yesterday, but they won the series. So they are back to two games below .500, at 36-38, still in second place, 11 games out of first place, and four games out of the Wild Card. Their next game is tomorrow, in NYC, against the Mets. That could be challenging, as the Mets are having a good year.

The Boston Red Sox salvaged the series (they still lost it, but didn’t get swept) against the Blue Jays, winning 6-5, yesterday. This puts them back in second place in the AL East, at 43-33, a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, 13 out of first place, and in the first Wild Card spot. Their next game is tomorrow, in Chicago, against the Cubbies.

The Yankees continue to have the best record in the MLB, at 56-20 (I’m really getting tired of typing that). The closest team to them is eight games back (Houston, today). Oakland remains on the bottom, at 25-52. The Yankees and Brewers continue their winning streaks, up to four games. The Mets (did I say they were having a good year?) and Athletics both have three game losing streaks. It would be nice if the Rangers made that six games for the Mets. The Yankees have outscored their opponents by 151 runs, and the Athletics have been outscored by their opponents by 114 runs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 13 runs, and the Red Sox have outscored theirs by 60.

I still think the Yankees must be cheating.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for your Word, which is light and strength to us. We thank you for all you give us. We thank you that we may be counted among the simple-hearted, among the children. We do not want to be anything great in the world. We want only to be with you as your children, helpless little children, watched over by you, the Creator and Father of all. Grant us your blessing. Help us in all that is good and right, also in our daily work, so that we can be your children and do what you have commanded. May your name be honored at all times, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who have wronged us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.”
(Matthew 11:25 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the ability to receive the Kingdom with childlike faith
2. that I am alive and breathing, able to praise the Lord; may I praise Him with every breath
3. that to be great, one must be a servant of all
4. for the resources God provides, and the heart to believe that they all belong to Him
5. that Wisdom is easy to find, if we but search for her
6. for the two commands; if you know, you know

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

And Jesus said to [Bartimaeus], “What do you want me to do for you?”
(Mark 10:51 ESV)


Today’s word, from Pray a Word a Day, is offering.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

This is interesting, as I just finished reading 2 Samuel, this morning, and chapter 24 tells of when David went and bought a threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah would have given him the floor. He was king, after all. But David said, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

The story of the widow and her two “mites,” or small copper coins, makes the point that it’s not the amount that is given, but the heart behind it, or the motivation. The rich people were putting in “large sums,” and tradition says that they were quite loud about it, so that everyone would notice how much they were putting in.

This reminds me of a time when I was in seminary. I played trombone in the seminary wind ensemble, and every Christmas, at least for several years, I was hired to play in a Christmas musical at a certain independent Baptist church in the area. One year (and C can verify this, as she was there), the pastor got up after the Christmas music was over and, in preparation for taking the offering, said, “if everyone would get caught up on their tithes today, we could pay all our bills and sink the rest of our money into evangelism!” And then he proceeded to hold his wallet up high, as did every other man in the audience (because that’s really what it was, you know), to put on a show that they were giving their offerings.

Based on the words of Jesus, they received the only “reward” they would get for that action on that day.

Jesus gives us very specific instructions regarding “giving alms” and other acts of service and devotion, such as fasting and prayer. One brother I knew took that so seriously that he never declared his tithe on his income tax! In fact, if memory serves me, which it frequently doesn’t, I think he always gave his in cash, anonymously! He didn’t want any record that someone else could see. His heart was admirable.

I don’t think Jesus means that we should never let anyone see what we do. I believe He means that the reason we do it should not be for recognition or to put on a show. And only we and He know the truth of that matter.

In regard to this matter, Hannah More says, “Vanity is at the bottom of almost all, may we not say, of all our sins. We think more of distinguishing than of saving ourselves.” (From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, everything I have belongs to You. Take whatever You need to take from me, in order to serve Your purposes in this world. I know that You, Yourself need nothing from us. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to You, and if You were hungry, You wouldn’t bother telling us about it. But You choose to use us and the resources You have given us to work Your plans in this world. So all I have is Yours, and I ask forgiveness for the times I use my resources selfishly. But I am also grateful that You allow us to use them for our own recreational purposes, at times.


“I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.”
(Proverbs 8:17 NLT)

The main thrust of this passage in Proverbs is speaking of “Wisdom” personified. “I” is wisdom. These are fascinating passages, indeed, as wisdom proclaims her own virtue and worth. I recommend reading the entire chapter, if time allows.

Wisdom is not difficult to find. She shouts from the street corners. If we search for her, we will surely find her. We just have to be looking for her.

Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 12:28 NLT)

This, also is wisdom. It is wise to obey the commands of the Lord. And what are His commands? If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Jesus summed them up in only two. Love God and love people. The entirety of the law and prophets are summed up in those two commands.

Father, I pray for wisdom. Help me to find her, daily, in all my ways. Help me to remember to search for her in everything I do, not so that people will think me wise, but so that my life will be lived in obedience to Your commands and to Your glory. As I go through my day today, at work, I pray that You will give me wisdom in interacting with the patrons who need help.


I’ll round out the morning with words from Eugene Peterson that seem to bring together both of the above subjects.

"We all have had well-intentioned (if somewhat vague) plans to do something nice for another person. 'Love your neighbor' (Matthew 22:39) is a command that we all plan on obeying . . . sometime.
"For many of us, it never amounts to more than a sentimental daydream, but for others, this fuzzy benevolence gets real. It becomes a simple, unpretentious, focused act of love that leads to health, to hope, to salvation for an actual person. The general, dreamy desire to help out in some way or another becomes a specific, creative act of compassion. A person walks out on the gossipy discussion of all that is wrong with the world and all that needs to be done in the world, finds another who needs help, and keeps the holy appointment she did not know she had."

Beautiful words from the master wordsmith. I’ve had too many sentimental daydreams in my life, but have also had some focused and unpretentious acts of love. I’ve also had far too many of those gossipy discussions, and am striving very much to stay out of those, going forward.

Father, as I go out today, keep my eyes and heart open. I may not find anyone who needs a focused act of love, today, but if I do, make me ready and able to jump in and do it. Please, oh please, keep me out of any gossipy discussions of all that is wrong with the world and help me to be one who notices opportunities to do something real and helpful. Help me to love my neighbor today!

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.


A Witness

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

Today is Thursday, the sixteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,471

I’ll be working my usual eight-hour shift in the computer center today, from 11:15 to 8:15 tonight. That reminds me, I need to start tonight’s soup in the crock pot. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

Oh. That also reminds me. Last night’s dinner was delicious! Here is the recipe for what I made last night.

Spaghetti Pie

It’s a great dish, but one that I should only try on days when I don’t work, as it is a little involved and takes close to an hour, total time. But it was well worth it.

Tonight will be our standard Chicken-Ranch Crock Pot Soup.

The Texas Rangers lost pretty badly, yesterday afternoon, 9-2, to the Astros. It was dismal. Unfortunately, they put a rookie in for his first MLB start. Against the Astros. So much for his ego. Anyway, the Rangers are now 29-33, in second place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Angels, and 9.5 behind the Astros. They are also 4.5 behind in the Wild Card race. They begin a four-game series in Detroit tonight.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox discombobulated the Athletics, last night, 10-1. Egad. Of course, any time the Athletics lose, it benefits the Rangers. The Sox are now 34-29, but still in third place in the AL East, 1.5 behind the Rays, and 12.5 out of first place. Barring a complete disaster (which most of us are hoping for), there won’t be any catching the Evil Empire. Best we can hope for is a wild card, and the Sox are currently in the third wild card spot. I didn’t find out until two days ago that there will be three wild card in each league.

I’m tired of telling you who has the best MLB record. You know. 46-16. The worst record, though, seems to fluctuate, daily, lately. Today, the Athletics are the proud owners of the worst record, at 21-43. The Braves won again! They now have a fourteen game win streak! That sounds like a lot, but they have a ways to go to catch the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row. The poor Chicago Cubs have now lost nine games in a row. You-know-who also still has the best run differential, at +130. The Washington Nationals have taken over the worst, for today, at -102. The Rangers dropped back into the red, yesterday, and are now at -2. The Red Sox now have a +54 run differential, still the sixth best, but only one behind the Cardinals.

Tune in tomorrow for more meaningless but fun (at least to me) statistics.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let Me Give,” by Daryl Madden

Let me give my eyes to You
Your vision of seeing
Let me give my ears to You
Your Spirit of hearing

Let me give my feet to You
To Your way of walking
Let me give my hands to You
To souls of suffering

Let me give my heart to You
To Your grace of cleaning
Let me place my trust in You
For Lord you are my king

Let me give my praise to You
My song is what I’ll sing
Let me pray a prayer to You
A humble offering

Let me give me will to You
For I can do nothing
Let me receive Your grace oh Lord
For You bless everything

Let me give my soul to You
Faithfully trusting
Let me give my life to You
In Your love of sharing

What a beautiful prayer to being the day! You can read more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link above.

Lord God, we thank you that you have upheld us and brought us to the Savior. Help us to remember this truth through your Holy Spirit, and constantly remind us while still on earth to live in heaven with all your angels. We are helpless without you. Your Spirit alone can overcome our sinful nature so that we never forget to be in heaven with the Savior now and in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
(John 14:2-3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is preparing a place for us in His Father's home
2. that we are able to walk in God's Kingdom while still on earth
3. that God is control, not me
4. that I can pray with confidence, knowing that You hear, and will answer according to Your will
5. for the witness we give when we attend a house of worship together; the witness that "God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift." (Eugene Peterson)

But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
(Daniel 3:24-25 NLT)

Today’s prayer word, from Pray a Word a Day, is acceptance. The quote is from the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

There are some very wise words in today’s reading. Words that seem even more wise in the midst of today’s struggles.

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

This applies to more than the rampant complaining and whining that is going on in social media circles, right now. It also applies to how upset I get when things don’t go the way I think they should, like when I was trying to switch mobile carriers Tuesday afternoon. It was a terrible and complicated process that looked, on the surface, like it shouldn’t take very long.

I got quite upset. And it didn’t help anything. I also got frustrated as I tried to cancel the one remaining line on our ATT plan, yesterday evening, so that account would be closed out. The issues were most definitely caused by ATT, but there was nothing I could do to change those. So my frustration only served to raise my blood pressure and make everyone around me uncomfortable.

So today’s word is good for me. And while the word acceptance can apply to a wide range of things (accepting people for who they are, for example), the focus today is on accepting things as they are, if I have no means of changing them. If I can do something to change it, then my responsibility lies in doing that thing, but my emotions still need to remain in check.

Father, I confess my failure to keep emotions reigned in when things are outside my control. Things happen the way they happen, and I can do nothing about that. I can’t control the complexity of processes when it comes to certain things in life. I can’t control which TV channels are provided by which carriers. I can’t control whether other people will answer their phones or respond to voice mails. I can’t control whether technology will work properly. What I can control is the way I react to these things. I pray that Your Spirit will fill me with His fruit, each day, and that I might dwell completely within Your Kingdom as I walk through each day. But also, let me take this life one step at a time, and not get ahead of myself.

“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.”
(Matthew 6:7 NLT)

While this verse refers to how we pray, audibly, using words, I think there might be something here that we can apply to the concept of silence. And that’s not all. I think it also has some wisdom in the subject of anxiety.

Of course, Jesus spoke a good bit about anxiety, as well, didn’t He?

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? 
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 
“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
(Luke 12:22-34 NLT)

Another reason to not pile on the needless words or “vain repetitions” is found in the verse immediately following the one that heads up this section.

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
(Matthew 6:8 NLT)

I’ll admit that I’m on the fence about something when it comes to prayer. And that is the matter of whether I need to ask God more than once. I have a prayer book where I keep requests that are sent to me. And I do go through the requests on a semi-regular basis. But I also stop and whisper a prayer immediately, in most cases, when I see a prayer request.

I really don’t think it is an issue to be concerned about. The important thing is where our heart is when we are praying. Am I repeating prayers because I’m anxious about something? When I pray for something once and let it go, do I find myself being doubtful or anxious, or am I confident that God hears and will answer according to His will?

He knows what we need before we ask. Therefore, I believe, it is pointless to blather on about things. Jesus’s model prayer that follows these instructions is short and to the point. It takes five short verses (six if you add the benediction that was added in later manuscripts).

Have you ever heard someone pray out loud, in church, for ten or fifteen minutes? I really believe that that is what Jesus is addressing, here.

Don’t babble on, don’t be anxious, don’t pray for show. And, honestly, I have found, sometimes, that prayers in silence do a lot more for my state of mind than praying out loud.

(Inspired by Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help us to pray better. Help me to pray better and more faithfully. I also pray for a better mindset when it comes to prayer. Help me to have consistent faith and practice, believing that You will answer my prayers, but not always, necessarily, the way I think they should be answered. After all, You are God, not me. I don’t need to explain the situation to you; I don’t need to tell you what kind of disease a person has. I don’t need to be frantic or anxious. There are no “emergencies” in Your Kingdom. Help us/me to live in this world with that same point of view. You are in control. Help me to remember that at all times, and to pray with that truth in mind.

As for praying without ceasing, that means not praying out loud for a long time, but, rather, walking through my day with my mind and soul focused on You, remaining, as much as possible in constant contact with You and being aware of Your presence throughout the day.

Why do we go to church?

This is a question that a former pastor (and still good friend) used to ask us. To our frustration, he never answered it. Hah!

I believe I have found an answer (at least partial) from Eugene H. Peterson, this morning, in his book, On Living Well.

First of all, he points out that worship is not voluntary. It is a requirement for anyone who calls the name of Jesus. But it is also not coerced. In generations past, the “church” official attempted to coerce people into going to church, even to the point of being punished when they were not in attendance. “But coercion is no attribute of God.”

One answer to the above-mentioned question, of course, is that we go to church to worship. But, some may object, we can “worship” anywhere, and this is, to a degree, true.

I believe that Peterson nails down a major reason for going to church, for meeting together with the saints on Sunday morning (or whatever day your group meets). That reason is for a witness; “a witness that God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift.”

You see, there are people in this world who are not aware that God is present and speaking and saving and giving Himself. They believe that, if He exists at all, He is remote and silent. Oh, sure, He’s a nice idea when crisis comes, but “they don’t know that God is right now speaking and changing lives and pouring out abundant life.” They need to know these things, and one way we show them is by the witness of “going to church.”

“When you walk into a house of worship and take your place – singing, praying, listening, receiving – you are a witness to this action of God, the greatest of all actions in the world. You are irreplaceable in this witness. No one has your particular slant on it.”

Each of us is unique. If one hundred people gather to worship and you are missing, the other hundred cannot replace you. Evangelism, says Peterson, “begins in the act of worship.”

Father, I pray that we would do better at being that witness for You. I am grateful that You are speaking to us and changing people and lives and giving Yourself to us that we may live. May we gladly and joyfully receive Your gifts, and spread them around our little “kingdoms” with great joy. Let us not become affected by the distress in the world, right now. Let the circumstances of life not steal our joy in You. These things, You have told us, will always be around. They were around when You walked the earth, they were around when Your disciples started Your Church, and they are around now. You are still in control, and You are still acting in people and circumstances. And it is our duty and responsibility, our requirement, to worship together, that You might be glorified.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! 
Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

Today is Thursday, the ninth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,464

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our Savior, you are our Lord and our Helper. Show yourself again and again in our hearts as the Savior who is strong to help us even in difficult times. Remember the many people who sigh to you. Guide them into the protection of the almighty God. Even if they suffer pain and distress and have to go through fear and anxiety, even if they die, Lord Jesus, you are comfort and help. In everything life brings us you will show yourself as the One who does the will of God and who carries it out for us on earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord takes delight in us with gladness
2. that the Lord calms all our fears with love
3. that real transformation is possible, changing the way I think, renewing my mind, by dwelling in and meditating on the Word of God
4. that by doing the things in number 3, I can live a life of love, joy, and laughter
5. that regularly gathering with other saints enhances this even more
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. . . . Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. . . . So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.
(Romans 14:1, 4, 10-13a NLT)
O God, you know how foolish I am; 
my sins cannot be hidden from you. 
Don’t let those who trust in you be ashamed because of me, 
O Sovereign LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 
Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated, O God of Israel.
(Psalms 69:5-6 NLT)

It seems to me that a large number of us needs to spend some time in Romans 14.

The prayer word of the day is “mind.” This is not the verb sense of the word, but, rather, that which is somewhat synonymous with “brain.”

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 12:2 NIV)

I prefer the way some other translations word this, though.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 NLT)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:2 MSG)

In this day and age, it is not unusual for one’s mind to feel scattered. Society has pushed the myth of multi-tasking on us. Susanna asks, “How can I figure out God’s will when I can’t even navigate my day?”

The presence of God and His Word can “rewire how I see things, changing priorities, bringing peace in the midst of chaos, resetting my moods with His grace.” This is the “transforming” or “renewing” of the mind that Romans 12 speaks of.

If we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, it will certainly change the way we think.

All too often, though, and this is what causes the attitudes that Paul is speaking against in Romans 14, we allow the way we think to “transform” what God’s Word says.

Just sit on that for a minute.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
(Proverbs 31:25 NIV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:26 NIV)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
(Matthew 5:8 NIV)

Most people are probably familiar with Proverbs 31, and that it speaks of a “wife of noble character,” beginning in verse 10.

But that’s not what we’re talking about, here, today. I want to focus on that bit about laughing at “the days to come.”

I’m pretty sure that no one would deny that we have been living “hell on earth” for the last two years or so, maybe closer to three. First there was a pandemic (honestly, there still is . . . as much as some folks want to believe it’s over, we are still having close to 100,000 new cases a day in the U.S.). Weather has been unpredictable (February in Texas, 2021, the entire state was frozen for three to five days). Russia invaded Ukraine. Prices are skyrocketing.

Here’s the thing. Because of my faith in Christ, because of my walk with Him and in God’s Kingdom, because of abiding in His Word and His Word in me, I can do what Proverbs 31:25 says. I can laugh at the days to come.

Not because I think it’s going to be funny. I don’t think that at all. I have opinions about the way things are going. They aren’t relevant to pretty much anything, though, so I keep them to myself, for the most part. I do believe, however, that Dallas Willard nailed it when he said that, in Christ, “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.” And this is the attitude portrayed in Proverbs 31:25.

The psalmist alluded to that in Psalm 73:26. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” The verse immediately preceding that has long been a favorite of mine. Verse 25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Because of these things, I can “live a life filled with love, joy, and laughter.” I can, as “they” say,

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

What makes this state of mind even better is when we can enjoy it with other believers. “Honesty in worship is maintained by keeping in touch with other Christians in company before God. There are no instances that we know of when Christians have successfully severed themselves from a regular gathering in community.”

Worship is not an option, something you add on whenever you feel like it. “Community worship keeps our relationships with God from depending on our feelings (our feelings are notorious deceivers) and restrains us from indulging. It keeps us connected to the whole revelation in the whole company of all God’s people.”

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

Father, I praise You for joy. I praise You that I can look at the days ahead and laugh, not because things are funny, but because I have You, and because I desire You more than I desire anything on earth. I pray that You keep this mindset alive in me. Continue to transform and renew my mind, my way of thinking, as I continue to read, pray, and meditate on Your Word.

I also pray for continued gathering with other saints to keep this alive and enhance the mindset. As we gather, Father, help us to have joy in our lives, regardless of outward circumstances and appearances. May Your will be done on earth as in heaven; bring heaven to earth, Father. And please do it “soon.”

Even so, come soon, 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.

Strong Tower ~ Refuge ~ Redeemer ~ Deliverer

Today is Thursday, the second of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,457

We finally got C home, last night, but it wasn’t easy. S and I headed to the airport at about 2:45, planning to meet C when her plane landed at a little before 3:30. We got there and parked across from the expected gate. It was then that I saw, on Spirit Airlines’s terrible website (it constantly gives errors) that the plane had been diverted to AUSTIN, because of a tiny thunderstorm that was in the area for about five minutes. They would be returning, but not until close to 6:00 PM. Ugh.

So we went back home, not 100% sure that we would be seeing C last night, at all. In fact, I was prepared to drive to Austin to get her. But, eventually, everything worked out fine. C and I talked, after they finally told the passengers what would be happening. Then she texted me when their plane taxied back onto the runway. I kept checking the website, and when it finally said that the plane was “in flight,” I got S and we headed back to the airport. The ETA was 6:49, but at 6:39, while we were still a few minutes away, C texted us and said they had landed. We met her at the baggage claim, and there was much rejoicing.

Suddenly I could breathe again.

I noticed, during all of this, that Spirit’s website declared that they would soon be combining with Frontier Airlines. That figures. I wonder what you get when two terrible airlines combine?

The Texas Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, last night. Well, the Rangers didn’t actually lose (my opinion, here). MLB lost it for the, with their ridiculous Little League “zombie runner” in extra innings. The reall sad thing is that Jon Gray pitched excellently, striking out twelve batters. The Rangers are now 24-25, in third place in the AL West, eight games out of first, and 2.5 out in the Wild Card race. They have guaranteed at least a split in this series with TB. They will play again today, at 1:05 CDT.

The Red Sox finally won a game, beating the Reds 7-1, last night. They are now 24-27 for the season, in fifth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 3.5 out in the Wild Card race. They are playing the Athletics in Oakland tonight, at 9:40 EDT. I always feel sorry for east coast teams when they play on the west coast. Check that. I only feel sorry for the Red Sox. There are no other east coast teams for whom I ever feel sorry about anything.

The NY Yankees (34-15) continue to have the best MLB record. The KC Royals (16-33) are holding onto the worst record, for now. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to have the longest win streak, now at seven games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at six games. The Dodgers are atop in the run differential category, with +112 (it seems to be going down), and the Royals are now tied with the Pirates for the worst run differential, both at -77. The Rangers are at +12, and the Red Sox are at +22.

Today being Thursday, I will be working in the Computer Center at the Hurst Public Library, from 11:15-8:15. I have Creamy Italian Chicken soup cooking in the crock pot.

All is well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, with all our hearts we want to thank you for giving us joy on earth and for sending us your radiant light from heaven. We praise you for the light you give our hearts, the light that lets us find great joy together because we become one in you, one in your Spirit, one in awaiting your promised good. Grant that we may be your children. May we always find the paths where you can go with us and give us what we cannot give ourselves. May our whole life glorify you and our every breath belong to you. Through communion with you may we remain in your safekeeping in body, soul, and spirit. For all you have done and for all you will do for us, we ask you to accept our thanks. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Let all that I am praise the LORD. 
O LORD my God, how great you are! 
You are robed with honor and majesty. 
You are dressed in a robe of light. 
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
(Psalms 104:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the radiant light from God, sent from heaven to light our hearts and our paths, and to give us joy
2. for the "starry curtain of the heavens," stretched out for us to see
3. that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing . . . NOTHING (not even sin!) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
4. for the hope of being mature (perfect?) in Christ, lacking nothing, being complete (teleios)
5. that God is our strong tower, to whom we can run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10, Psalm 91, Isaiah 41:10)
6. that God interacts with us, validating our language and words as we have conversation with Him
"Of one thing I am sure. Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive. Whenever I express my complaints in the hope of evoking pity and receiving the satisfaction I so much desire, the result is always the opposite of what I tried to get. A complainer is hard to live with, and very few people know how to respond to the complaints made by a self-rejecting person. The tragedy is that, often, the complaint, once expressed, leads to that which is most feared: further rejection. . . . Joy and resentment cannot coexist."
(Daily Meditation from Henri Nouwen)

Based on this quote, and my observations, there is very little joy on social media, these days.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 NLT emphasis mine)

This is truly good news. This is the BEST news. This verse may very well sum up the Gospels. But here is a question: Why is it that so many people, who claim to belong to Christ Jesus, are so full of condemnation?

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
(Romans 8:10-11 NLT)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

Nothing.

Not. Even. Sin.

If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins do not separate you from God. Any preacher who tells you that is lying (maybe not on purpose, mind you, because he might actually believe it) and doesn’t understand God’s Word.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
(Psalms 62:1-2 NLT)
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will not be shaken. 
My victory and honor come from God alone. 
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 
O my people, trust in him at all times. 
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 
(Psalms 62:5-8 NLT)
God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: 
Power, O God, belongs to you;
 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. 
Surely you repay all people according to what they have done.
(Psalms 62:11-12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “teleios.” This is a Greek word that has a number of possible meanings. In today’s context, it means “mature” or “complete.”

“When we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

It’s kind of interesting to me, sussing out the real meaning of teleios. Bob, today’s writer, says it means “mature, . . . a state in which nothing is left out or lacking.” And, if I read the cited verse, Ephesians 4:13, in most versions, the word is, in fact, translated “mature.”

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NLT)

until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:13 ESV)

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NIV)

until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 MSG)

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
(Ephesians 4:13 KJV)

Wait. What?

“Perfect??”

Regardless of whether we translate it “perfect” or “mature,” I think we can probably agree that the idea behind it is completeness, which is the word way up there in the Spurgeon quote. Complete, lacking nothing, which is, in my opinion, more along the lines of “perfect.”

But who am I to cast dispersions on Bible translators?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
(Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the LORD, 
"He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." 
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare 
and from the deadly pestilence. 
He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge;
 his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 
nor the plague that destroys at midday. 
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 
You will only observe with your eyes 
and see the punishment of the wicked. 
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge," 
and you make the Most High your dwelling, 
no harm will overtake you, 
no disaster will come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways; 
they will lift you up in their hands, 
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
 I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 
He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
(Psalms 91:1-16 NIV)

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

I really like the way Eugene Peterson begins the reading for today.

“Can there be conversation between a God who speaks worlds into being and speaks our lives into being and those of us who use words to get a second helping of potatoes or to tell a checkout clerk that we were overcharged $3.50 on some broccoli? Are these words compatible? Aren’t we dealing with two completely different orders of magnitude?”

Do we, in our own minds, truly believe that our meager words are on the same level of validity as God’s words? Do we believe that our words are “worthy of being entered into a conversation with God? When we express our own unworthiness, even by not expressing it (does this make sense at all?), we initiate a conversation with God; we include ourselves in a dialogue, by answering Him.

“When our words and God’s words are joined, something new starts to happen. Our words are validated. They become authenticated. They function for the exact reason God’s words function: to reveal and create.”

Part of the meaning of being created in God’s image (remember that, back in Genesis?) is that we have language. This relates to yesterday’s reading. (Or maybe the day before . . . I can’t remember.) We have the ability “to speak and listen to words that link these mysterious interiors of our lives in love and understanding.”

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning is a resounding “Yes!” And another reason for that is that God condescends, or stoops down, as it were, to interact with us. That’s another way that He shows His great love for us. He could very well, as the Creator of the universe, He who spoke the word and brought worlds into being, sit up on His lofty throne, high and mighty, and pretty much ignore us. Which is how a lot of people already view Him, as an entity that created everything, set things in motion, and then just sat back to see what happens, without having a hand in anything else.

That is not the God we serve. The God we serve and worship interacts with us. He initiates conversation with us! And when we “respond” by not responding, because we think our words are unworthy, we have answered Him. But He answers back, continuously calling us into conversation with Him, validating our words, just as He validated Jeremiah.

GOD told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.”
(Jeremiah 1:7 MSG)

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

There is so much to be thankful for, here, today, Father. I am so thankful for the joy that comes from knowing You, but acknowledge that, as Henri Nouwen said, this joy cannot coexist with resentment. If I am complaining about anything, there is no joy present. I confess that this happened, yesterday evening. I complained a lot about the circumstances as we were delayed picking C up at the airport. I was not happy. I did not feel joy. But, all the while, You were there. I know that You never left me, nor will You ever. I pray that You can help me overcome situations like that and not resort to complaining. Remind me, quickly, when things like that happen, that You are there, in control, and that joy is still possible.

I praise Your name that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. This is such great news, and we are doing such a poor job of declaring this to the world. We are real good at declaring it to ourselves when we’ve messed up, I think. But then we turn around and refuse grace to a dying, lost world, offering up only condemnation and guilt. For far too long, Father, Your people have been trying to guilt and shame people into the kingdom. I don’t think that’s working any more (if it ever did). The “good news” is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Therefore, if there is no condemnation for me, who am I to dish out condemnation to anyone else?? God help us!

Father, You know how I love those verses and passages that talk about You being our strong tower and refuge. I love passages like Psalm 91 that tell us how You care for us and take care of us. I have long believed those verses that tell us that if we dwell in Your tent, no harm will come to us. This seems counterintuitive, especially when “harm” does come to us. But it all hinges on how we define “harm.” I believe with all my heart that there is nothing that anyone in this world can do to me that can truly, ultimately harm me. There is nothing that the universe can throw at me that can do me any ultimate harm. Because You are my God and You are with me. You will help me; You will strengthen me; You will hold me up with Your righteous right hand! And, when this life on earth is over, You will gather me up and take me Home, where I will be “teleios” for eternity.

Finally, Father (but this will not end my prayers today), I am very grateful that my words are reaching Your ears and eyes. I praise You for stooping down to interact with us. I thank You that You gave us language and that we can speak to You, respond to You, and You hear us, You understand us, and You make us able to understand You. May Your words fill me up today, Father, filling me with joy and peace, and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Promises, Promises

Today is Thursday, the nineteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,443

We stayed up (well Mama, S, and I) to watch the end of last night’s Texas Rangers game, and I’m glad we did. It went into extra innings after Matt Bush blew the save in the top of the ninth. They were ahead 4-2, and for reasons that only God Himself knows, Chris Woodward elected to not use the closer. Bush blew the save, and the game was tied 4-4. The Rangers got bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth but were unable to plate a run. My new favorite Texas Ranger, Jonah Heim struck out.

The Angels scored in the top of the tenth, because of the loathsome “zombie runner” lunacy that was instituted in the shortened pandemic season. That was all well and fine for that weird year. But it should not be continued. It’s a little league thing, in my opinion, and has no place in “grown-up” professional baseball. So the Rangers were behind 5-4 going into the bottom of the tenth. Zombie runner on second base, Nathaniel Lowe plonks the first pitch into the right-field stands to win the game. Walk-off home run.

You might say, “But the zombie runner helped them win.” My response to that is that the zombie runner also put them behind. With no zombie runner, the score still would have been 4-4 in the bottom of the tenth, and Lowe’s home run still wins the game.

I’m also glad Bush didn’t wind up getting the win. One of the things that MLB desperately needs to change is allowing a pitcher to blow a save and then come away with a win if the team wins in the bottom of that inning. No pitcher who blows a save should ever get credit for a win.

Anyway, the most important thing is that the Rangers won, and that they swept the Angels! Final score, 6-5. Dennis (I think I called him Danny, yesterday) Santana got the win again. The Rangers are now 17-19, only two games below .500. They are in third place in the AL West, five games behind the Angels, who were tied for first until last night. The Rangers begin a four game weekend series against the first place Astros tonight, in Houston. Bring ’em on! Game time is 7:10 CDT.

Speaking of the Astros, the Red Sox beat them soundly, yesterday, 5-1, behind a very strong outing by starter Rick Pivetta. The Sox are now 15-22, in fourth place in the AL East, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore, and 4.5 behind the Blue Jays. The Sox play the Mariners tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

The NY Yankees (28-9) keep winning. They still have the best MLB record, and still haven’t lost that tenth game. Somebody please beat them!! The Reds (10-26) still have the worst MLB record, by a game and a half. The LA Dodgers continue to have the best run differential, at +83, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the worst, at -71. The Rangers have reduced theirs to -4. The Dodgers also have the best win streak, currently at five. (The Rangers have a four-game win streak.) The Orioles and Diamondbacks are still tied with the “best” losing streak, at six consecutive losses.

Today being Thursday, I will be heading to the library for my eight-hour shift at 11:15 today, working until the library closes at 8:00. My shift goes until 8:15, because it takes a few minutes to do our closing process, which involves several of us walking through the stacks to make sure no one is still in there, and also checking the restrooms. I will be starting a crockpot soup as soon as I finish my blog, this morning. Today it will be Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken, which we have tweaked a bit (not much) to make it more of a soup. We just add more cream of chicken soup and a little more chicken.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you that we have often felt you close to us. We thank you that you are near us and that you strengthen the weak. Remember us and give each one the help he needs to be true to his calling. Remember all humankind and grant that we may go forward in spirit and in truth. Give new light to the peoples who are still in great darkness. Let your kingdom and your reign be revealed and your name at last be honored by all. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I love you, LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the nearness of God and His help to be true to that which He has called me
2. that God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer
3. that God has called me to spread the message of love for one another
4. for the great and precious promises of God that enable me to partake in His divine nature
5. for the community of saints and how they have encouraged and loved me, through the years; may I be as loving and encouraging in response
6. for language; that You speak to us, and that we can speak to You in response

The prayer word for today is “promise.”

Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
(2 Samuel 7:28 NIV)

It is almost ludicrous to compare the promises that God has made to His people to promises that we make one another. Every time I’m watching a TV show and one person says to another, “I promise I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” I feel like shouting back at the TV. Because no one has that ability. There is not a human being on earth that can keep that promise.

And guess what. God never promised that, either. God has not promised that He will keep anything “bad” from happening to us. God didn’t even keep anything bad from happening to Himself! Have you considered that?

The idea of “promise” is tricky. There are many things in the Bible that people say are promises that are not promises. The biggest one is the thing that fuels that “prosperity gospel,” which is, of course, no “gospel” at all. One of their main verses is the second verse of 3 John.

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
(3 John 1:2 NLT)

Looking at it in KJV makes it a little clearer as to why the prosperity people like it so much.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
(3 John 1:2 KJV)

You see, KJV actually uses the word. “Prosper.” Oddly, the Greek word there literally means, “to help on the road,” or “succeed in reaching.” But here’s the thing. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) That is not a promise. It’s not even God speaking. This is a greeting from John, the author of the epistle, to his “dear friend,” Gaius. Basically, it is John saying, “Hey, there, I hope all is well with you!”

That’s all it is.

But there are some promises that God has made to us. One of my favorites is in Isaiah 41:10.

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)

And while the word “promise” is not used there, I believe that any time God says the words, “I will,” He is making a promise, because God will do what He says He will do.

Here’s another statement that Jesus made, that I believe is also a promise.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
(John 10:27-30 NLT)

I read this as a promise that my eternal salvation is secure.

Finally, I will mention a verse in 2 Peter. Several verses, actually.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
(2 Peter 1:3-7 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for Your “great and precious promises,” through which I can share in Your divine nature. I pray that You help me to respond properly to these promises, that I might escape the corruption in the world that is caused by human desires. May I supplement my faith with moral excellence, and with knowledge, and with self control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly affection and love for everyone! And because of Your great and precious promises, help me to be faithful to keep promises that I make here on earth. And remind me, before I open my mouth and make some promises, that there are some “promises” that simply cannot be kept. Give me the wisdom to know when to not make those promises.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. . . . And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
(Philippians 1:3, 6 NLT)
In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry. 
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. 
May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. 
May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings. 
Interlude 
May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. 
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
 May the LORD answer all your prayers.
(Psalms 20:1-5 NLT)

Side note: Is Philippians 1:6 a promise? We have certainly looked at it as one, historically. I am not 100% sure that it a promise. I believe it is true, mind you. I do believe that God will complete the work that He has begun in me. But this verse is, not unlike the verse in 3 John, part of Paul’s opening greeting to the Philippians, and is more of an encouragement than a promise. Just my nickel’s worth.

The idea behind these readings, though, is community. Paul opens Philippians by thanking God for them. He is grateful to God for the people he has encountered in his journeys. Do we feel the same way about the people we have encountered, the people with whom we worship on a regular basis? Do we encourage them? Do they encourage us?

Paul’s certainty that God will complete the work He has started is directed toward the Church in Philippi, not any individual within that group. This is another thing to consider when we are considering “promises.” Are they made to us as individuals, or to us as the Church?

Then I look at Psalm 20 in that same light. What a wonderful blessing/prayer is the first five verses of that Psalm! I may start alternating that with the traditional Aaronic blessing from Numbers. I challenge anyone who reads this to pray Psalm 20:1-5 over someone today.

Father, I am grateful for the people You have placed in my life, through the years. Most assuredly, I am grateful for the community of saints, the believers with whom I have worshiped in my life, in all the various places. Many of them encouraged me; some of them taught me; some of them challenged me, and not always in a good way. Most of the, though, loved me, and that is the most important thing. Help us to remember that most important part, Father. When someone in the Body of Christ challenges us or annoys us, help us to remember the command from Jesus that we are to love each other in the same way that He has loved us. This is a difficult challenge, at least for me. So I pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in times when I am challenged by another believer.

Father, You work all things together for our good. I believe that is a promise. When we love You and are called according to Your purpose, You are actively working for our good (we have to remember that “good” is according to Your definition, though, not ours). Since You are actively working for our good, then we should also be actively working for each other’s good, as best as we are capable of understanding that.

“God speaks to us. This is the great foundational fact of our faith.” In His speaking, God has brought us both into existence, as well as into salvation.

Regardless of what we believe about the length of time that creation took, I think we can agree that God spoke things into existence. He created everything, ex nihilo, by speaking. In his song, “AlrightOKuhhuhAmen,” Rich Mullins said, “Well the Lord said let there be and there was.” He initiated language, and with that language, he brought things into existence.

Side note: I believe it is worth noting that God created “light” on the first day, but didn’t create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day. Ponder that, eh?

“Language is the means by which what is unknown becomes known and what is hidden becomes accessible.” God brings His will into existence through language.

“In return, we speak to God. This is the great foundational consequence of our faith.” We do not bring anything into existence with our language, at least nothing that is “new,” or was not already in existence. Let me clarify this. Certainly, being created in God’s image, we are able to create, to a degree. But we do not create ex nihilo. While God can, according to Romans 4:17, create new things out of nothing, we cannot.

But what can and does happen when we speak is that “our speaking brings into the open his glory, our assent to his creating and saving Word, and our sheer and exultant joy in him.”

“Language–this wonderful gift, this mysterious capacity that we have to say who we are, to bring out into the open the secrets of our hearts, the nuances of our emotions, and the thoughts whether confused or clear in our minds–is our basic means for working out who we are by answering god, responding to his invitations and commands.”

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

But there is a warning about language, as well, seen in the little book of James, perhaps one of the most difficult books of the Bible to digest.

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. 
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
(James 3:1-12 NLT)

Father, when I consider Your works of Your “fingers,” the moon and stars, like the psalmist, I am amazed and think, “what is man that You are mindful of him?” I consider that You, in Your wondrous majesty, simply spoke language and things came into existence. I believe, perhaps, that we should beg forgiveness for even entertaining the notion that we could also call things that are not as though they are.

I praise You for Your creation. I praise You for speaking those words and bringing the universe into being, because that universe includes me and all of those whom I love. It also includes beauty; things that I can see with my eyes (another miracle); mountains, oceans, trees, flowers, deserts, colors, the myriad of stars that I can see in the night sky, which You know by name.

I pray that You, by Your Spirit, which resides within my soul, would help me to respond correctly to Your language, using language that You have also created. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. And may my words not be like James warned against. I pray that blessings and cursings would not both come out of my mouth; that I would not be hypocritical. That is so difficult, sometimes, as I’m sure many would agree with me. But it is how we should be as people of Christ. So, as I call myself by the name of Christ, may my tongue represent that Name well on this earth. And when I am tempted to say things that would be unbecoming to a child of Yours, please stop me and make me reconsider.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

True Evangelism

Today is Thursday, the twelfth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,436

It was a pretty good day, yesterday. The library was moderately busy, but not too much so. I issued at least five new library cards before lunch, which is an unusual amount. I also replaced a few cards for people, as well.

We had a new version of our crockpot chicken soup, last night. I thought of this a week or so ago. I got some Alfredo sauce mix, and instead of Ranch mix, I sprinkled it in the crockpot with the chicken and the cream of chicken soup. That’s the only difference, but then we served it over cauliflower linguini, and it was most delicious!

The Texas Rangers lost last night’s game, 8-2, to the KC Royals. They had won Tuesday night, but I didn’t have time to talk about that, yesterday morning. The Rangers are now 12-17 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, a half game ahead of the Athletics. They finish the series with KC tonight, at 7:05, and tomorrow, the Red Sox roll into town. That should be an interesting series, as the two teams have had similar starts to the season.

Speaking of the Sox, they lost last night, to Atlanta, 5-3. They are now 11-20 for the season. Their next game is tomorrow night, here in Arlington.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“This Day Is,” by Daryl Madden

It’s blessed to us
A gift of His
And that is what
This day is

Let us receive
His love, adore
That is what
He’s longing for

His love to share
Abundantly
That is where
Our joy will be

Of heaven here
His love to bind
That’s how this day
Becomes divine

Please check out more of Daryl’s poems at the link provided.

Lord our God, we thank you that we can be children of your Spirit. We thank you that because you have called us, we receive eternal gifts that enable us to stand firm even when many sorrows and burdens weigh us down. For you are our life, and in all the darkness, even that of death, you give us light and strength and joyful hope. Keep these alive in us. May an ever brighter light shine on all that you have already put into our hearts, on all that draws us daily to you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”
(John 14:23 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day, a gift of blessing from God
2. for His eternal gifts that help me to stand firm, even when things threaten to weigh me down
3. for faith, without which it is impossible to please God
4. for the Word of God and the impact it has had on my life
5. for the Gospel of Christ, that the kingdom of God is here, now, available for us to live in right now
6. for the love of my wife

Today’s prayer word is “faith.” About time we got around to that one, right?

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
(Matthew 19:26 NLT)

“I understand the power of faith. I can touch it on my daughter’s face, smell it in the roses gracing my garden, and read it in the Bible. It’s forever. And it’s mine.” ~ Heidi

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Faith is real. We are mocked, frequently, by people who think that faith is unrealistic, that we are believing in a myth. That’s fine. Let them think that. But even they exhibit faith. Every time someone sits in a chair or turns on a light switch, they practice faith. My faith is just a little bit bigger. I believe that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected. I believe that I, too, will one day be resurrected to live with Him in eternity. I don’t know what that will look like. But I believe it. Because God has given me faith. My faith is a gift from Him.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)

Father, thank You for my faith, and for the faith of all of Your children. I pray that our faith will ever increase as we draw closer to the Day of the Lord. I pray that this faith will lead us into the most wonderful love that this world has ever seen. And I pray that this faith will cause us to never worry about or fear the things that are happening in this world, today.

My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart.
(Proverbs 3:1 NLT)

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
(Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NLT)

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NLT)

I have, through life, endeavored to remember the things that my parents taught me. There were certainly times when I strayed, but God has always brought me back to the path.

We tried, as parents, to commit ourselves “wholeheartedly” to God’s words. We taught them to our children, and now, they are grown. One of them still lives with us, but the other is pretty far away. We continue to pray that God will keep her in His sight and draw her closer to Him. It is no longer up to us.

Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise? I used to believe it was. But this is considered “wisdom” literature in Scripture, just as the Psalms are “poetry” and “songs.” It is not always wise to attempt to build a theological system on poetry, songs, and wisdom. But, then again, it is wisdom. Maybe it is not so much a promise as it is a truth.

Father, I thank You for the things that my parents taught me, as I grew up. I thank You that these things have stayed with me, well into adulthood. I pray that those same things will stick in the hearts and minds of our daughters as they grow older. And may we all continue to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Your Word.

I’m going to talk about an unpopular word, for a minute. Well, it’s unpopular with half of the country, at least. “Evangelism.” What is evangelism?

Evangelism is the label we give to all those words and gestures, acts of witness both deliberate and subconscious, that get out the news in a person way that God is alive in the world, that it is his will that we experience his love, and that Jesus Christ provides the way in which we get in on it.”

There are many who do not quite grasp this “good news.” Many do not understand that “God is for them;” many who “don’t know the way and are wasting their lives hunting and pecking, guessing and groping, hoping that they will get lucky someday with a lottery ticket to heaven.”

On a side note, there are also quite a few who are not interested at all, and don’t even believe that there is a heaven.

The true Christian knows that God is for us and knows that the way to get to Him is through Jesus. “We don’t know everything about these great issues, but we know at least that much.” We also know that we have an obligation to share this “good news.”

Another side note: there are those who believe that this “obligation” requires us to mention Jesus in every single conversation that they have. I have even heard suggestions on how to manipulate conversations with random people, say your barber or someone, around to salvation and Jesus. I am not one of those people. I am, however, as Paul suggested, ready to give an answer should someone ask the reason for my hope.

Part of the problem is that we think we have to put on big productions in the name of “evangelism,” you know, like with “football-stadium crowds and television glamour.”

“But most evangelism is incremental and unobtrusive. Most evangelism takes place in the world as Christians live and work alongside one another in families and at jobs over the course of ten and twenty and thirty years. The primary field for evangelism is not with strangers who cross our lives briefly but with the people with whom we live and work and socialize over a lifetime. That is why it is so difficult–we must learn how to communicate through the ordinariness of our lives the extraordinariness of God’s grace. We need constant stimuli and direction in both what to say and how to say it right with our words and our lives.”

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

Here’s the thing: the people who believe that we must constantly be talking to strangers about Jesus (they claim that the Bible says that we have to talk about Jesus to everyone we meet . . . this is not true) would rather do that than with the people they live and work with every day. Why is that? More than likely because, in their everyday lives, they do not live according to the words of the One whom they want to talk about to all the strangers.

I’m doing some conjecture here, but it is based on observation. A lot of these people, who would manipulate a conversation with their hairdresser, treat their co-workers with contempt and scorn, abuse their families, and possibly other things, as well. They spew hatred on social media toward people who don’t think the way they do, and call them things like “idiot” and “stupid.”

I could very well be wrong, but this doesn’t seem very “Christlike” to me.

I am, at heart, evangelical. I happen to be white. However, I am most definitely NOT a “Christian Nationalist,” which is what “evangelical” has come to mean in our current culture.

I can’t help but wonder what brother Peterson would have to say about that.

Father, I thank You for the “good news,” and I thank You that You given us this news to share with others. I pray for the ability to share this Gospel with the people with whom I live and work on a daily basis. I pray also that I would be able to share it in the way that I live and the words that say, both toward random people, as well as those with whom I am in contact on at least a semi-daily basis. I thank You fort he social media platforms I have to share the Gospel. And I thank You for the simplicity of this Gospel, which is nothing more than the fact that Your kingdom is here, now, and that we can walk in it right now.

I pray for the souls of the people who claim to know You and claim to follow Jesus, but turn around and treat their fellow man with hatred. I pray for Your intervention in these circumstances. And it is because of these circumstances and others in our world that I pray, daily . . .

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything GOD does is right— 
the trademark on all his works is love. 
GOD's there, listening for all who pray, 
for all who pray and mean it. 
My mouth is filled with GOD's praise. 
Let everything living bless him, 
bless his holy name from now to eternity!
(Psalms 145:17-18, 21 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.