Comfort in Affliction

Good morning. Today is . . . um . . . Tuesday! That’s it. Tuesday, the twenty-first of December, 2021. It’s the first day of winter, and the fourth Tuesday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,294

Only four more days until Christmas!!

Yes, today is the first official day of Winter. You wouldn’t know it from the weather forecast, though. It’s projected to be 63 degrees here, today, and progressively getting warmer until Christmas day, when it is predicted to be 87 degrees.

Yes, you read that right. EIGHTY-SEVEN DEGREES! Almost 90 degrees on Christmas Day! Ugh!!

C and I had a lovely time, last night, at the Winewood Grill in Grapevine, having dinner with her work people. Her top boss and the guy directly under him were both there, and both so very gracious and friendly. We sat across her second in command and his wife, and had great conversation with all of them. The food was delicious. We had some calamari, crab cakes, and some kind of bruschetta for appetizers (those were pre-ordered). For the main meal, I chose a Chilean Sea Bass from the daily specials. It had some kind of creamy sauce on top, on a bed of asparagus, accompanied by two scallops and three shrimp. The Sea Bass was pretty amazing to me. I don’t believe I have ever had that particular fish before. C opted for the ribeye (of course), which came with some au gratin potatoes that were simply “to die for.” I had a few bites of the potatoes, and they may have been the highlight of the evening. We even brought some home to share with S. C also had some ribeye left over. I did not have anything left from my plate.

As for the rest of the day, I feel like I got a good bit accomplished. I got presents wrapped and stockings stuffed (boy are they stuffed . . . I may or may not have gone a little overboard, there), and I got the ingredients for C to make Kahlua fudge this year. We haven’t had that in a couple years, but we’re going to make some Thursday night.

Today, as soon as I finish this, I’m going over to the NE Mall area (not in the mall) to a Nothing Bundt Cakes place. I got a gift certificate at the Hurst Way Conference, back in October, for a dozen “bundtinis,” which I am going to take to the library tomorrow, and then I have decided to get a full-sized cake for Friday and Saturday’s Christmas celebrations.

Come January 1, we are definitely getting serious again, but, for now, we are enjoying ourselves immensely.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Jesus answered, 
"The most important is, 
'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 
The second is this: 
'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 
There is no other commandment greater than these."
(Mark 12:29-31 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. 
(John 13:34 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God sent His Son into the world, that we might know His love, that we might live through Him, and that we might love one another
2. that God is able to do more abundantly than all we could ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20)
3. that God comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 1)
4. that God calls us to bear one another's burdens, and, in so doing, provide some of that aforementioned comfort
5. for the promise of seeing His face
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, 
and death shall be no more, 
neither shall there be mourning, 
nor crying, 
nor pain anymore, 
for the former things have passed away." 
(Revelation 21:4 ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 
who comforts us in all our affliction, 
so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, 
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 ESV)

For now we see in a mirror dimly, 
but then face to face. 
Now I know in part; 
then I shall know fully, 
even as I have been fully known. 
(1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
(Revelation 22:4 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-FOUR

INVITATION

Restore us, O God; 
let your face shine,
 that we may be saved! 
(Psalms 80:3 ESV)

As I pause during this quiet time, I ponder the many promises of God, embracing His comfort, seeking His face, which I will eventually see in glory.

BIBLE SONG

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, 
you who lead Joseph like a flock. 
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, 
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. 
Awaken your might; 
come and save us. 

Restore us, O God; 
make your face shine on us, 
that we may be saved. 
(Psalms 80:1-3 NIV)

BIBLE READING

And Mary said: 
"My soul glorifies the Lord 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has been mindful 
of the humble state of his servant. 
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me— 
holy is his name. 
His mercy extends to those who fear him, 
from generation to generation. 
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
but has lifted up the humble. 
He has filled the hungry with good things 
but has sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, 
remembering to be merciful 
to Abraham and his descendants forever, 
just as he promised our ancestors." 
(Luke 1:46-55 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages again, looking to see how God might be speaking to me through His Word. I dwell on any thoughts that the Holy Spirit brings to me, praying my life to God and allowing my heart to respond to Him. I take refreshment in His presence.

Father, even though Jesus has already come, all those years ago, as a baby, and lived and died for us, that we might be saved and walk in Your Kingdom, I am drawn more, this particular Advent season, into the thoughts of awaiting His return. I know that it’s Christmas time, when we traditionally celebrate His birth, and there is much rejoicing in this. But I am also seeing the importance of the expectation of His return, when He will set right all of the injustice and affliction in our world. Ironically, this is what the first-century Jews expected to see at His first coming.

The repeated prayer of restoration from Psalm 80, this morning . . . “Restore us, O God” . . . I see the repetition as no coincidence. While modern day Christians may not see any need to be “restored,” I can see, embedded in this, the thought of the entirety of Creation need to be restored to its proper state of perfection. And I see this taking place when Jesus returns to claim His Bride, Your Church.

But are we ready?

Make Your Church ready, Lord! Purify her! Show us the truths from Mary’s song. You have, indeed, done great things for us. You continue to do great things for us. Your Name is Holy. Your mercy extends to those who fear You, even to this day. You will scatter those who are proud, and will bring down rulers from their thrones and lift up the humble. Teach us to be humble, that we might, eventually, be lifted up. Fill the hungry with good things, Father. Remember Your promises (as if You needed reminding) to us. Help us also to remember that You are not being “slow” about keeping Your promises or returning. Rather, You are exercising great patience, and making it possible for all people to be saved. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Lord, please equip us to serve You in our communities and workplaces. Help us to be more concerned with serving the common good. I also lift up, specifically, all who work in education during these stressful and trying times.

"Son of David,
today I bow before You as my true King.
You subdue me by humbling Yourself as a helpless baby,
You rule me by subjecting Yourself,
You defend me through a chubby infant's arm,
and the hand of power that conquers all enemies is curled around a mother's finger.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(based on Luke 1:78-79)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends!

How Long?

Today is Tuesday, the thirteenth of April, 2021, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,042

37 days until our Glen Rose weekend

It is currently 56 degrees and raining, this morning. The projected high is 70 for today, with a roughly fifty percent chance of more rain. Most of that looks like it will occur late tonight, going into tomorrow morning. Imagine that! It’s acting like spring out there! April showers, and so on.

The Texas Rangers lost another game, last night, again failing to score any runs. On the plus side, the Rays only scored one run, but it was enough to win the game. Dunning, the starter for Texas, pitched four innings, gave up two hits and no runs. Having not watched or listened, I don’t know why he was removed from the game. Oh, wait. I can see that he had thrown over 110 pitches. That’s why. Taylor Hearn came in from the bullpen to lose the game. If anyone is counting, that is three out of four games in which the Rangers have not managed to cross the plate. They will try again tonight, at 6:10 CDT, with Kyle Gibson (1-0) starting for the Rangers.

The Red Sox and Twins were postponed, last night. They will try again at 1:10 CDT, in Minnesota, starting pitcher TBD.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the rain we are receiving, this morning
  • for the beauty of God’s creation; the wonderful colors in the world, and the silent wonder of the universe above
  • that You are firmly in control of all things
  • that, as I walk in Your kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be
  • that every day is a new beginning; “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before . . . “

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

EASTER – DAY 10

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I am pausing to quietly celebrate the glory of God, this morning, resting in His presence.

BIBLE SONG

A maskil of Asaph.

O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
(Psalms 74:1-2 NIV)

We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.
How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth.
(Psalms 74:9-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

John,
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:4-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I rest in God’s presence, this morning, I reread these passages, inviting the Holy Spirit to enter into this time, drawing me closer and pointing out anything in these passages that I specifically need to notice.

What draws my attention in the passage from Psalms is the thought that “we are given no signs from God.” Does it seem, at times, that God is silent in our time? We have His Word, so, in that sense, He is not silent. And, perhaps, that is enough. I suppose there have been no “official prophets” since Christ ascended. And I believe there is a reason for that. As Michael Card so wonderfully wrote, “His final word was Jesus.” So, while we may not have any real “prophets” or modern-day “signs” (even though there are a number of people who will claim to be “prophets” or claim to have experienced “signs”), we have the Word of God, we have Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit.

So, I say to you, if you believe God has been silent, that’s on you. I may not “hear from God” every day, but most days I believe that I have heard something from Him, through this humble morning devotional.

I also wonder, sometimes, the same as the psalmist, “How long will the enemy mock You?” “Why do you hold back your hand?” I’m sure I’m not alone. This is where our faith and trust must come into play. We must, in our belief, know that God has it all under control. His “right hand” will come out soon enough, and when it does, it will be horrible. I probably don’t want to see that.

The Revelation passage reminds me of some words of Eugene H. Peterson, in This Hallelujah Banquet, which I am still working through, as time allows. Peterson thinks of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, as our Source, and our Destination. He is where we begin, and He is where we are going.

Father, I praise You that You are firmly in control of all things, and that, as I walk in Your kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be. Whenever I begin to question or doubt, as the psalmist so honestly confessed, remind me of this truth. Remind me that there will certainly be a day when Your “right hand” will come out, and judgment will be meted out, and it will not be pretty. I praise You that You are, through Jesus, our Source and our Destination. You are our all in all; You are everything we need. You are enough.

Jesus,
glorious Savior,
I see you resurrected,
unable to be held in the grip of the grave,
immortal and yet still so vibrantly human.
You are the Son of God,
Lord of the living and dead,
head of the church,
and you have completed all your work to bring home to the Father.
Revive me in grace,
strengthen me in the good fight, 
and assure me of my resurrection.
To you be glory for ever and ever.
Amen.
(Westminster Longer Catechism 52)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
(Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”
Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”
Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'”
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
(Exodus 16:2-10 NIV)

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
(Philemon 1:7 NIV)

Father, I thank You that every day is a new beginning. Remind me, each night, as I lie down to sleep, that it is the beginning of a new day. Everything past is gone. Only new is ahead. May we truly “latch on” to this truth, Lord, and focus our energies, our spirits, on that which is new, and that which is ahead, or in front of us. Let me not look behind. And oh, my Father, please help me to stop grumbling and complaining . . . about anything. It does not good, whatsoever, and only makes my own moods darker. Lighten my spirit today; lighten my countenance, so that people can see Your light on my face (at least in my eyes). All glory to You, Lord.

Lord, You have called me to serve Christ wherever I am; in my home, in my neighborhood, in my workplace. May You strengthen me to do so worthily. Help us all to do a better job of serving the “common good,” rather than looking out for our own “rights.” For those who work in the arts, theater, and entertainment industries, I pray a blessing. Shine Your light on them, Lord, as that can be such a marvelous platform to display Your glory.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
(Genesis 1:4-5 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

On Praying for Kings and Presidents

Today is Sunday, the eleventh of April, 2021, the second Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,040

39 days until our next Glen Rose weekend

It’s another chilly morning, today, currently 50 degrees. But it’s going to be warm, as the projected high today is 84. There is virtually no chance of any rain today. The week ahead, though, looks to be cooler, with temps falling into the upper fifties by next Saturday. There is a decent chance of rain on at least four of the days in the coming week.

We had the most wonderful day, yesterday. After everyone arrived, we exchanged the birthday gifts, and decided on Mesquite Pit for lunch. I splurged a bit, point-wise, with a two meat plate of chopped brisket and sausage. I figured the meal to be somewhere around 20 SmartPoints, which may or may not be accurate. I had “Cowboy beans” (pinto beans) and green beans for my sides, which are typically zero points. I have no idea how they cook them, though, so who knows?

But the afternoon was great. After lunch, we just sat and talked and never left the dining room table. I even forgot to go get Crazy Water. By the time I remembered, they would only be open for about twenty more minutes, so I didn’t bother. I still have close to eighteen liters, which will last me over a month, so I’m good. It was so good for us all to be together (less S, of course, but she called while we were there), and we elected to be mask-free in the setting, as all of us but Mama have had both vaccines, and she has had one. I know it meant the world to her, and it felt like more “normal” times.

Our church, as previously mentioned, is not meeting, this morning. I’m still not 100% sure if I am going anywhere. I stayed up late and got up early, as I find it difficult to sleep past 6:30 AM, for some reason. Depending on what time I finish the blog post, and how energetic I feel . . . I may or may not try to go out. C is actually working (from R’s old bedroom), so she’s probably not going anywhere.

S and I will have our normal Saturday night burgers tonight, as I had used up all but one of my daily points, yesterday, and wasn’t that hungry for dinner. My usual Sunday night dinner of tuna and black-eyed peas will have to wait until another time.

The Texas Rangers lost another game to the Padres last night. They started out ahead, scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the second. They were actually ahead when Jordan Lyles left the game, after 4.1 innings. But, sadly, as has been the story for so many years, the bullpen was not able to keep the lead. The Padres won 7-4. Wes Benjamin was tagged with the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers are now 3-5 on the season, sitting in fourth place in the AL West, 2.5 games out. They will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Mike Foltynewicz starting for the Rangers. Hopefully, he will have better command than his previous outing.

The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, have taken first place, and have now won five games in a row! They beat the Orioles again, last night, 6-4, scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning, on a wild pitch and a single. Matt Barnes, as the pitcher of record when the runs were scored, go the win, and another Matt (Andriese) got a save by holding off the O’s in the bottom of the 10th. The Sox are 5-3 on the season. They will play again today, in Baltimore, at 12:05 CDT. Nick Pivetta will start for Boston.

The LA Dodgers currently hold the best record, at 7-2, not surprisingly, as they are widely projected to possibly repeat as World Series champions, this year. The Pirates of Pittsburgh currently hold the worst record, along with the Marlins of Miami, at 2-6. Neither of those is much of a surprise, either.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation:
Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
(The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter)

Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.
I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long, for everyone who tried to hurt me has been shamed and humiliated.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the wonderful day we had yesterday, celebrating family and birthdays
  • for the opportunity to pray for our president and other elected officials; may I be more faithful in doing so
  • for the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, given to us by Christ
  • for the victory that is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ
  • for the music we have, with which we sing and play Your praises

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

EASTER – DAY 8

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I pause to quietly reflect on the “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

BIBLE SONG

Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.
(Psalms 72:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
(John 20:19-23 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, this morning, I reread the passages, asking the Holy Spirit to draw me in, looking for words or phrases that speak to me.

I am immediately impressed that the first four verses of Psalm 72 are a good prayer to pray for national leaders. Whether your country has a king, queen, dictator, or president, this is a good prayer to bring before God on their behalf. We pray for God’s justice to be enacted through our country’s leaders. We pray that our country’s leaders would “judge . . . people in righteousness.” We pray that our country’s leaders would defend the afflicted and the needy, and crush all oppressors.

I have to confess that I have always struggled/puzzled with the passage from John. Not the part about Jesus appearing in their midst in a locked room, as that is told in multiple Gospel presentations. He also gives them bodily evidence of His promise that, wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He will be in their midst.

It’s verses 22 and 23 that give me pause. Not that I don’t believe them. I’m just not quite sure I completely understand what is happening. First of all, the Holy Spirit doesn’t make His grand entrance until Pentecost, in Acts 2. Did the disciples/apostles get a sneak preview, an advanced empowerment? I suppose that is entirely possible. Jesus breathed on them. The Greek word is emphusao, which means “to puff” or “to blow at/on.” The word for Spirit is the well-known pneuma, which literally means “a current of air,” or “breath.” Jesus breathed life onto His apostles, empowering them to move on to the next phase of their lives/ministries.

The second part that I have struggled with is the bit about forgiving sins. My understanding, and commentaries that I see seem to be in agreement, is that only Jesus/God can forgive sins or not forgive sins. So, while this looks like Jesus was giving the apostles authority to actually forgive sins, I don’t think that is the case. The thing is, I might be wrong. It happens quite a bit, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I simply admit that I don’t quite grasp the meaning of this verse. One commentary says that Jesus essentially, with the granting of the Holy Spirit, gave the disciples discernment to tell when people were truly forgiven or not forgiven, and the authority to make the proclamation as such. Without a doubt, it is this kind of authority that caused Ananias and Saphira to be stricken dead on the spot when they attempted to deceive the Church with their little contribution game in Acts.

Father, I will join the psalmist (Solomon, allegedly) in praying for Your wisdom and righteousness to be granted to our president and all other elected leaders in our country. I pray that they would all join together (not an impossible idea) to judge the people in righteousness, to defend the afflicted, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressors. May Your glory be seen in all our land, Father. I also pray for wisdom to understand what is happening in this passage from John. It is not something that will break my faith if I don’t quite get it. It is not something that is essential for me to understand. I will accept on faith that the disciples understood what was being said and what was happening, and that they acted on it. That is enough for me.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus,
friend of sinners,
your resurrected life is not  a private experience or a soothing metaphor but a stubborn public reality.
May your well-attested resurrection impel me to openly announce the outrageously good news - 
that sins are forgiven through what you have done when the gospel promise is received in true faith.
Amen.
(Heidelberg Catechism 84)

BLESSING

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 NIV)

He is not here; he has risen!
(Luke 24:6 NIV)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
(Matthew 28:5-6 NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
(Revelation 2:18-20 NIV)

It’s been a while since I had time to delve into John’s letters to the churches. I’m continuing, this morning, with the letter to the church in Thyatira.

After giving them some praise and encouragement, Jesus moves on to the issue He has against this church. There is a person who is in the congregation, leading them astray with false teaching. Jesus names her “Jezebel,” to compare her to the Old Testament person of that name. And perhaps that was really her name. I suppose it is not necessarily wrong to assume so.

The Old Testament Jezebel was “the most notorious evil woman in Hebrew history.” She was the wife of King Ahab, who was one of the weaker of Israel’s kings. Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was a priest of Astarte. “Astarte was the Phoenician equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus.” This religious system was so grossly immoral that it “encouraged gross sexual immorality under the cloak of piety.”

Jezebel (OT) may have even been a priestess of Astarte, herself. To add to her evil works, she killed all prophets of Jehovah that she could get her hands on. “Ahab did not possess the moral conviction or stamina to withstand her.”

It is almost as though her spirit has been reincarnated in this person addressed by Jesus. She was having some success in seducing disciples of Christ “to indulge in immoral practices.” Her teaching included believing that matter was evil, so sins of the flesh could be indulged without damaging the spirit.

I’m going to quote an entire paragraph, here, because I feel it is important to understanding.

“Jezebel’s answer to the Christian’s conflict with the world was to eliminate the conflict by assimilating the differences. Instead of refusing to participate in what was evil, she taught that the Christian must assimilate all the evil and thereby redeem it. Any examination that we undergo must include an examination of our relation to society. And in particular here, business society. We cannot exclude such a major part of our lives from the probing, searching gaze of Christ. Our tendency is to assimilate, to take on the coloration of those with whom we work – our employers, our companies, our associates. But Christ’s command is that we should differentiate.”

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, may we be careful to not assimilate the practices of evil into our churches, today. But may we also be discerning as to what is truly evil and what is not. Like Your apostles, give us Your Holy Spirit, that we may discern what is worthy and shun what is not. May we not fall into the same trap as the Christians in Thyatira. All glory to You, Father!

Lord, please grant Your church resurrection hope and joy, this day. Give us, like the apostles, the power of the Holy Spirit, along with the discernment, and help us share the Gospel with our communities, in the power of the Spirit.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Name the Road for Its Destination

Today is Thursday (Pre-Friday), the fourth of February, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,974

Yesterday was one of those challenging work days; I’m sure you know the kind, unless you don’t work anywhere. It just seemed like the demands never stopped, all day long. I did get a lot accomplished, but it sure didn’t seem like it, because I was further behind at the end of the day. Sometimes, you just have to stop and breathe, and I need to remember to do that better today.

It was a beautiful day, outside, yesterday, so C took one of her outdoor walks. I don’t think she’s done that but a couple times since we got the treadmill. I did not walk on the treadmill last night, and may not tonight, depending on what we do for dinner. My general rule for weeknights is that, if we cook something after I get home (stir-fry or the Pecan-crusted chicken), I won’t exercise, because it is too late, by the time we get through eating. Unless it’s Friday night. In which case, it doesn’t really matter.

Winter is coming. Looking at next week’s forecast, I see multiple days with lows in the twenties and highs that don’t get out of the thirties. Ugh. This, too, shall pass.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?
(Psalms 85:6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For the nice weather before Winter sets in
  • For the strength I get from You, without which I would fail in so many areas
  • For the model of prayer that Jesus gave us
  • For the Lord’s forgiveness when we acknowledge our sin
  • For this road I travel

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

EPIPHANY – DAY 30

INVITATION

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
(Psalms 119:103-104 NIV)

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A maskil.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
(Psalms 32:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
(Matthew 6:9-18 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

There is something about confession, even if it is just to the Lord. Obviously, we cannot hide anything from God, and I believe that most of us realize this.

But we still try, sometimes, don’t we? Or maybe we are trying to hide our sin from ourselves, by just ignoring it. Maybe if I ignore it, this feeling of guilt will go away.

But it won’t, and the psalmist has recognized this. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away.” I would imagine that most of us know this feeling. It’s horrible; debilitating; almost impossible to function on any level of life.

But then? “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Glory!

“This, then, is how you should pray,” says Jesus.

And while we often repeat the words verbatim, I don’t believe that He means that we should pray exactly this prayer. There is nothing wrong with repeating this prayer, especially if my heart is involved and I mean the words when I speak or think them. You know . . . not vain repetition that He mentioned in yesterday’s passage.

One of the things that our previous pastor taught us, and I still hold on to this, was how to pray around a “hexagon” shape, using the six main pieces of the Lord’s Prayer.

We begin by praying about the Father’s character: Hallowed be Your Name. Then we pray for His Kingdom: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is a powerful prayer. “Your will be done” is the safest prayer anyone could ever pray. If you can’t think of anything else to pray, you can’t be wrong if you pray that. Then we pray for the Father’s provision: Give us our daily bread; just enough for today. Don’t ask for tomorrow’s bread. You don’t need that, yet. Then we pray for the Father’s forgiveness, but be careful with this one. There are dangerous warnings included, here. We follow that with the Father’s guidance: Lead us not into temptation. And we finish with the Father’s protection: Deliver us from evil (or the evil one).

The tag that is added in later manuscripts is certainly worthy, and I always include it.

For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

As far as “formulas” for prayer go, this one is by far my favorite, because it is straight out of Scripture.

But just like Jesus taught us in yesterday’s passage, and like He teaches about fasting in the passage for today, we should be careful about doing this publicly, in order to be seen, or to impress folks. It’s an easy trap into which to fall. Many people won’t even pray out loud in public because of Jesus’s warnings. I don’t think that’s what He was after, but that’s fine, too. To each his own, right? Motivation is the key. Why are you doing it?

Father, I thank You for this prayer that Jesus gave us. I have loved it dearly for many years, now. There have been periods of my life where I prayed it earnestly, several times a day. And I have used it as a model for my own prayers, fairly consistently. I feel inspired, today, to return to this practice, as I have drifted away from it. Help me to renew and refresh my prayer life. I pray frequently, but often just at the prompt of others who send me prayer requests. It needs to be more of a regular part of my life. Kind of like breathing, you know?

"Listening God,
thank you that I can bring
all of my life,
my deepest desires,
to you in prayer.
Don't let my prayers and devotion
become a religious show;
keep me honest and true,
full of gratitude for your mercy.
Amen."
(Westminster Shorter Catechism 98)

BLESSING

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
(Psalms 25:4-5 NIV)

the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:8 NIV)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
(Psalms 91:1-16 NLT)

The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:5-8 NLT)

What powerful words!! Psalm 91 has long been a favorite of mine. Today, the message I receive from this is that we need to believe in God’s protection rather than believing in our fears.

Consider the road you are on in your life. What would you call it? If you were asked to name that road, what would its name be?

In the land of Zion, roads are named after their destination. “The Road to Bethlehem, the Damascus Road, the Road to Emmaus,” and so on.

“In the journey of your life, you will find the road to be at times rocky, at times smooth, harder, easier, dangerous, pleasant, unbearable, joyful. But you must never make the mistake of judging your road or your life by what it looks like or feels like. A pleasant road may lead to a cliff. And a hard and rocky road may lead to the Holy City. A pleasant way may lead to hell, and a hard way may lead to blessing and eternal life. Always look to the end of your course, to where it’s taking you. And if you’re on the right road, don’t get discouraged by the terrain. Never give up. Keep pressing forward to your destination. Because it is the end that matters most. And your road, and the journey of your life, will not be known by its terrain, but by the place to which it brought you.”

The Mission: Today, take your eyes off your circumstances, and focus only on your destination. Press on to the good, the highest, and the heavenly.”

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
(Matthew 7:13-14 NLT)

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NLT)

Father, I praise You for this road I am on. I thank You that, as far as I can tell, at this moment, I am on the right road that leads me to You. Help me to stay on this path, and when I deviate, bring me back quickly. May I not focus my eyes or heart on the terrain or appearance of the road, but keep my heart focused on the destination, on those things above, because my life is hidden in You.

Father, thank You for Your protection over my life and the lives of those whom I love. While this does not mean that we will have no pain or struggles, it still gives me great comfort to trust in Your protection, rather than focusing on my fears. Thank You, Lord!

Lord, I pray for Your blessing on people who work in occupations where they care for Your creation. I lift up human efforts for conservation and energy technologies. Make us better stewards of the natural resources You have provided for us.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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.

Trust

Today is Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in the third week of Easter. Peace be with you!

Day 22,692

Twelve days until Mother’s Day!

I had to get up to go to the bathroom around 4:10, this morning. While I was in there, I saw lightning flashes through the windows. Then the thunder started. Then the hail started. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep between then and 5:15, when our alarm goes off. The hail didn’t sound too big, though, so maybe there won’t be any damage.

The governor of Texas is planning to start “reopening” the state this Friday. His announcement said that stores and restaurants could open at 25% capacity. The thing is, I have no faith in the Texas population to follow that rule. I expect to see places jam-packed with people. I’m not 100% confident that the time is right for this. But, here’s the thing. The choice will be up to each person. No one will force us to go out to a restaurant or go shop at a store. We can still choose to mostly stay at home, if we want to. It will be interesting to see how much longer C gets to work from home.

I do expect that my Friday evening drive home will be back to normal, if not worse. We shall see.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
(Psalms 47:5-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:
1. For the rain we received, this morning, even if it did come with some hail.
2. That You, O Lord, have dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13.6).
3. That You give us rest in the midst of our daily grind.
4. That, if we cast our cares on You, will not allow us to be shaken!
5. That You will teach me to trust in You.

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
(Psalms 70:4 ESV)

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
(Psalms 50:2 ESV)

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
(Psalms 14:7 ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
(John 13:20 ESV)

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalms 13:3-6 ESV)

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

“I thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered me from the dominion of sin and death and brought me into the kingdom of your Son; and I pray that, as by his death he has recalled me to life, so by his love he may raise me to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah. that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

(Psalms 67:1-7 ESV)

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
(Exodus 33:14 ESV)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(Psalms 23:1-3 ESV)

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
(Mark 6:31 ESV)

My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.
(Psalms 55:20-23 NIV)

There’s some great truth in here. If we cast our cares on the Lord (verse 22), He will not allow us to be shaken. Please note what it does not say! It does not say that God will take those cares away! What He will do is sustain us, and give us strength to handle them. Therefore, we will not be shaken, even if the mountains tumble into the sea!

“If we are in a storm and we pray to him, he may still the storm (Mark 4:39), or he may instead help us, as he did Peter, to walk through the storm without sinking (Matthew 14:27-31).” Peter was fine, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, and we will be, as well. If He suffered betrayal and rejection, even to death, for us, so can we endure betrayals and suffering, as we trust in Him.

“Lord, so much of my worry stems from a proud belief that I may know better than you what needs to happen. Teach me to cast my burdens on you–leaving them to your power and wisdom. Amen.”
(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

Father, I’m not sure if my worry stems from pride, or if it is more the result of a simple lack of trust. I certainly don’t think I know better than You. But do I trust You? I want to proclaim that I do! And, in my heart, I think that I truly do. My brain doesn’t always agree, though. And I certainly don’t always act/live as if I do. So, Lord, I proclaim, along with that father of the demon-possessed child in the New Testament, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”
Lord, please shorten these days. Protect our families; protect our church families; protect our nation, and protect our world. We pray for this disease to end. And may we be quick to learn a valuable lesson from these days. Much of what we thought we needed, we truly don’t need. Teach us to trust You!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.” Job 5.8-9

Grace and peace, friends.