Good morning. Today is Wednesday, June 20, 2012. First day of Summer. Today is “National Ice Cream Soda Day,” as well as “National Vanilla Milkshake Day.” Two closely related items. This could explain why Sonic is offering all milkshakes at half price today.
On this date in 1975, “Jaws” was released, forever immortalizing this music:

On this date in 1863, West Virginia entered the Union. That’s about all I know about West Virginia. And, on this date in 1900, the Boxer Rebellion began in China.

Extra points to anyone who knows what this picture is…

Last night at 24 Hour Fitness, I had my 100th workout there, since we started all this back in January. As reported on Facebook last night, in the past five months, I have lost nearly 70 pounds, Christi has lost almost 60, and Stephanie is close to 50 pounds dropped. Together, we have lost over 170 pounds since January. Workouts at 24 Hour Fitness, along with a lot of meals at Subway. Maybe we could be the next Jared? Still a long way to go, though. I still want to lose a little over 100 pounds. But I’m very pleased with our progress.

I have a couple of prayer requests before I get into my devotional. We have two church family members who went into the hospital yesterday. I’ll give first names. Bart, who has been in the hospital once before in the past couple of months, is having trouble keeping any food down and is getting dehydrated. This seems to be just like what happened before, and they have still not identified what’s wrong. Robin went in for some tests yesterday, and I don’t have any more information at all. Something appears to be wrong, though. Prayers would be appreciated.

Father, I pray that you would show me something today that would help me live this day looking to you. Help me remember what you show me, and make your Word come alive in me today.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 20.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt offerings!

May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.

This psalm was written by David, and the subject of the prayers was the king. However, I see nothing wrong with praying the words of this psalm over friends and family members, or anyone else that we desire to be blessed by God. Verse 7 speaks volumes. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. I don’t have any chariots or horses. But my world is full of things that could be trusted instead of the Lord. I choose to trust in God…perhaps I should say that I choose to attempt to trust in God. I don’t always succeed.

My Utmost For His Highest

And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. Job 42:10

“The plaintive, self-centered, morbid kind of prayer, a dead-set that I want to be right, is never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is a sign that I am rebelling against the Atonement.” You see, there is nothing that I can do to make myself right with God. “I can only be right with God if I accept the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift.” There is much to think about in today’s reading. Chambers says that much of our prayer arises “from real disbelief in the Atonement.” How much of our prayer is directed at making ourselves more holy and righteous? I look back at my prayers. I spend a lot of time praying for myself. However, I spend close to an equal amount of time praying for others, too. In fact, I spend a good deal of my drive to work in prayer, as well. I see his point, though.
Look at the verse from Job, above. “…the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” “The real business of your life as a saved soul is intercessory prayer.” Honestly, I’m not sure I agree 100% with this. There are many people out there, telling me what the “real business” of the Christian is, and they all have a different idea. I do believe that intercessory prayer is of major importance. But I believe the “real business” of my “life as a saved soul” is to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) As stated by Jesus, the second part of my “real business” is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39) Part of loving my neighbor as myself is praying for that neighbor. I don’t see any crime in praying daily for the Lord to fill me with his grace and mercy, and asking him to work out in me what he has taught me during the day’s readings. However, I can see the point that Chambers is making here. We should spend at least as much time, if not more, praying on behalf of others as we do ourselves. “…pray that His Atonement may be realized in other lives as it has been in yours.” Part of this requires that we believe in and trust the Atonement in our lives!

My Father, I see the words that were written for today, and I hear them. I will listen to what Mr. Chambers was trying to say, and, though I may not agree totally with it, I see the importance of prayer in a believer’s life, and especially intercessory prayer. For most of my life, you have been bringing me back to this point. The topic of intercessory prayer has come up continually in my life, and I cannot ignore this fact. I feel so weak when I think of my own prayer life, though. So often, I am at a loss for words when attempting to pray for people. (I’m sure people who know me find that hard to believe.) What do I pray for so-and-so? What is best for them? This is where I must trust your Holy Spirit to intercede as the Scriptures say he does. This is where I must trust that Jesus Christ is interceding for us. (Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34) I will spend time praying for myself, as it is usually reaction to what I have read for the day. But today…I see the connection between Psalm 20 and the reading from Chambers. I believe that this has come from your Spirit, just this moment, in the middle of this prayer. It is as though a light bulb just appeared over my head. Psalm 20 is an example of an intercessory prayer. I could pray that psalm for anyone, pretty much. Make me an intercessor. Show me how to pray for others, Lord. But make me humble about it. I will never get up on a pedestal and proclaim that I am a prayer warrior. Rather, I would hide in a closet while I pray for others. For it is not me that is to be central. It is you. Hide me in the center of your holiness, Lord, and make me the prayer warrior that you desire for me to be. May I worship you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I pray for this day, Father. May Christi have a good, positive day at work, and I pray that she will have a nice time at dinner tonight, as she meets with old friends. Keep her and them safe as they travel to meet together. I pray that Stephanie will have a good day today, doing whatever she chooses to do to pass the day. I pray that she may find some time during this day to read your Word and let it come alive within her spirit. She is your special child, Father, and I pray that you would use her as you see fit. I also pray for my day at work, that there would be minimal stress today. I pray for the good success of both companies that we work for.

Father, I lift up Bart and Robin to you today. I pray for healing for Bart, that his body would get stronger and that he would be able to eat and drink and keep it down. Give the doctors wisdom and show them what is wrong. I pray for Robin…I don’t know what’s going on, but I pray for strength for her, healing for her, and wisdom for any attending physicians.

I pray for the leadership of our church. Give them wisdom as they seek your face for direction. Give them humility as they lead. Lord, they have a passion for you and to see people’s lives changed. I pray that you fan that flame, and grow that passion. I ask for extra grace for Joel, as he has the super-burden of being the lead pastor. I can only begin to imagine the amount of stress that he is under in this position, and I pray that you show him how to place all of that stress on you, because you care for us. Any anxiety that he is feeling, I pray that your Spirit would dissolve it. I pray that you would show him where you want The Exchange to be; where you want us to go. May he focus solely on your word and your direction. Fill him with your Spirit. I pray that words may be given him as you open his mouth to boldly proclaim the gospel. I pray that you would open the ears of everyone who attends The Exchange that we might hear the words of the mystery of the gospel, and that we might fully understand this mystery.

Show us your grace, Lord. May we know it fully. Make your Word alive in us. Alive and awake.

May we focus more on others than ourselves.

Grace and peace, friends.

Trust In the Lord

Friday finally got here (one of these days, I might leave my misspellings in here instead of backspacing and typing over them…it would be funny), and boy, am I glad! But, oddly, the week seems to have gone by fairly quickly. Especially the parts where I was sleeping.
Yesterday, some really dark clouds passed over where I work. For about two hours. Nothing. Not a drop. Someone said it “drizzled,” but I never saw it. I walked outside and smelled rain, but didn’t see any. Maybe I forgot what it looks like and it was really there. It did, apparently rain in some places in Fort Worth, though, so that’s good. The best part? It didn’t hit 100 yesterday! Funny, though…the projected highs for the next ten days are all over 100. There are slight chances of thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. We’ll keep praying.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 11:20-30
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus is pronouncing judgment on cities where he did miracles, yet they refused to repent. Perhaps, Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon would still remain had such miracles been displayed in them.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There are some important words here. First, Jesus is thankful that those who suppose themselves to be wise are not given the truths that Jesus is giving to “little children.” Then he declares that he has the authority of the Father. Then notice: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” This is very important. There are many people who believe that there are many roads to God. Jesus declares that to be false right here. Jesus Christ is the only way to God. This falls within the concept that either Jesus was exactly who he declared himself to be, or he was a blatant liar, or he was a madman. I choose to believe he was exactly who he claimed to be.
Jesus extends his invitation, not to the strong, but to the weak and weary. He will give us rest for our souls. Who among us is not “heavy laden?” We all labor with something. I am not self-sufficient. I cannot bear the burdens of this life on my own. I need Jesus, and his burden is light. Why is his burden light? Because he is God, and has infinite strength!

Isaiah 7
When Ahaz was king, Pekah king of Israel partnered with Syria to attack Jerusalem. When Ahaz found out, he was afraid. But the Lord sent Isaiah to him to reassure him.
7 thus says the Lord GOD: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'”

Then the Lord told Ahaz to ask for a sign, “let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz was not willing to put the Lord to the test. So the Lord said he would give a sign anyway. And here was the sign:
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.
17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah–the king of Assyria.”

Between the time of Ahaz and the time the prophecy of Christ comes to pass, the land will be devastated. The remainder of the chapter describes the desolation that will come. All which is a foreshadowing of the last judgment. There is much other speculation about this prophecy, which I have neither the time nor the understanding to get into.

Proverbs 3:1-10
There is admonition to remember the teachings that are being taught here, with the reward being a long life of peace. There are a couple of verses in this chapter that have been very popular memory verses over the years:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Pretty good advice. From my experience, when we lean on our own understanding, it usually gets us in trouble. But I think we shouldn’t stop at verse 6. For verses 7-8 continue the thought: Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Then finally, there is promise that if we honor God with our wealth, we will never lack for anything.

In Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado writes about God’s patience. “God is often more patient with us than we are with ourselves.” Well, that pretty much goes without saying, doesn’t it? But as he elaborates, the truth becomes evident. Which of us doesn’t wonder about our salvation when we stumble? When we sin, don’t we begin to doubt our security, wondering if we were truly converted? “If we have the old desires, then we must not be a new creation.” But Max would have us remember Philippians 1:6. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. You see, we are not finished, yet.
Then, right across the page, in the evening reading, Max speaks of God’s forgetfulness. I believe these two go hand in hand. Jeremiah 31:34 says, And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” You see that last phrase? “I will remember their sin no more!” And this is not the only place in Scripture that tells us that fact. God is the God of perfect grace. He forgets sin. Period. “He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges.” God has what Lucado calls “loving forgetfulness.” Talk about good news…

Father, I cannot utter enough words to tell you how grateful I am that you have forgotten all of my sins. It is a beautiful and terrifying thing, all at once, to ponder your nature. It is truly unbelievable that you can do this, but you say you can, and I believe it. Thank you, Father!
I pray that I will follow the advice of Proverbs 3:5-8, and trust you totally, with my whole heart and my whole being, rather than leaning on my own understanding. I pray that I will live my life fearing you and turning away from evil.
Lord, I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the only way to you. Therefore, I have given my life to him. I pray that I can live a life worthy of Jesus. Let the power of the Holy Spirit flow through me and make me grow closer to you day by day.

Lord, we thank you for the break in temperature yesterday, along with the rain that fell in some places. We pray that more will come soon, to replenish our water supplies and refresh the earth. We also pray for more relief from the heat as we, hopefully, get close to the end of summer.

I pray for this day, Lord, that it will be a good work day for Christi and for me. I pray for the bowling party tomorrow, that it will be well-attended, and that everyone will have a great time.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Grace and peace, friends.