Which Side Are You On?

Today is Wednesday, the 8th of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always!

Day 23,708

It has been thundering since late last night. It is milder, this morning, but last night, between 10:00 and 11:00 PM, it was quite loud. It has been raining for most of that time, as well, pretty heavily, at times. It has slowed down for the moment, though. I’m hoping it will stop by around 10:30 AM, because I have to take S to see her therapist at 11:00.

That’s pretty much the only thing I have to do today, until choir practice, this evening. I’ll be cooking Beefy American Goulash (from Emily Bites) for dinner, tonight, which will result in having a couple of leftover servings, which will be nice for tomorrow’s lunch. This has become the family’s favorite, I do believe.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Go away from me, you evildoers, 
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
(Psalms 119:115 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Dear Father in heaven, you are among us and we can call you Abba, dear Father. In the joy of being your children we want to lay our lives into your hands to be made good and happy. Care for us like a shepherd pasturing his flock so that we can have community with one another. Help us to realize that you have many children here and everywhere, and that again and again you take a child by the hand saying, “You are mine. I am caring for you.” We thank you that your eyes watch over all the world. We thank you that your rule is over all humankind and will bring good to all people, wherever they may live. May this happen soon through our Savior. We call to him, “Lord Jesus, come. Come soon! May your hand keep us all close to the Father in heaven.” Amen.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:14-17 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the rain we have received overnight, into this morning
  • that the Spirit bears witness with my spirit, that I am a child of God
  • that I am able to praise the Lord, both on musical instruments, and with my lips and my tongue
  • for new mercies each morning; “great is Thy faithfulness”
  • that the Lord does NOT take sides in human arguments; The Lord is on HIS side

Your power and your righteousness, O God, 
reach the high heavens. 
You who have done great things, O God, 
who is like you? 
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities 
will revive me again; 
from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 
You will increase my honor, and comfort me once again. 
I will also praise you with the harp 
for your faithfulness, O my God; 
I will sing praises to you with the lyre, 
O Holy One of Israel. 
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you;
 my soul also, which you have rescued. 
All day long my tongue will talk of your righteous help, 
for those who tried to do me harm
 have been put to shame, and disgraced.
(Psalms 71:18-24 NRSV)

Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:13-15 NRSV)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, 
his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, 
"therefore I will hope in him."
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NRSV)
Out of my distress I called on the LORD; 
the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
(Psalms 118:5 NRSV)

I’m seeing a couple of different things, this morning, and I’m going to try to bring them together. I may or may not succeed.

First and foremost is the passage from Joshua 5. This has stood out to me for a number of years, now, especially as I grow more and more weary of the political morass in this nation. There is a very important truth that we need to understand, here. God is not on anyone else’s side! God is not on the Republican side; God is not on the Democrat side; God is not on the Tea Party side. God is on God’s side.

Joshua mistakenly assumed that the angel he saw was on one side or the other. The angel quickly set him straight. “Neither,” he said,” but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Now, it may appear, from subsequent events, that the Lord was on Israel’s side. But that is only because that action was part of the Lord’s plan to accomplish His own purpose.

I have seen, all too often, humans from one persuasion or another, declare, “God is on our side!”

No. He is not. But if you happen to align yourself with God’s side and purposes, it may appear that He is. Rather than deciding on a “cause” and begging God to support your cause, it is better to ascertain what God’s “cause” is and join up with Him. That is one of the few positive things I brought away from the old “Experiencing God” study a few decades ago. We need to be looking to see what God is doing around us, and join in.

Instead, we all too often decide what we want to do and expect Him to join us. That ain’t gonna happen, folks. Unless we get “lucky” and what we decide to do is what He is already doing.

Now, on a positive note, we see that His steadfast love never fails and that His mercies are new every morning. In His mercy, He remembers that we are dust (this has become a favorite concept of mine, of late), and so when we start this silliness about God being “on our side,” He is patient with us, I believe. But He also reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (or generosity), gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

If we strive to exercise those qualities in our lives every day, we should wind up on the right “side,” which is God’s side, not any other human’s side. But if we find that we have inadvertently taken up with the wrong side (which is anyone’s side but God’s), we have the assurance that, when we cry out to Him in our distress, He will place our feet in “a broad place.”

So consider . . . which side are you on?


Father, I thank You that You do not take “human sides,” but that You are on Your side. I pray for the wisdom and strength to always be on Your side. It is so very easy to become swayed by human arguments and policies and “causes,” when, in fact, Yours is the only “cause” that is worthy of my support. And I believe that cause to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which tells us that Your kingdom is here, now, and available for all to join in.

I pray that You will give me the ability to show this kingdom to all around me. I pray that You will, by the power of the Spirit, enable me to display the fruit of the Spirit in my life, at all times. There are pieces of that fruit that I struggle with, mightily. Patience is one of those. Self-control and gentleness are others. Goodness/generosity, I do pretty well at, I think. I’m not too bad with the joy and peace parts, either, usually. But when my anxiety gets the better of me, those suffer, as well.

But it all starts with love. I don’t think it’s an accident that “love” is mentioned first. So help me love, Father, always. And that has been a major prayer of mine for a while, now, as You continue to drive me toward that kind of love for You and for others. Our world needs a Love Revolution, Father.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Praise the LORD! 

Praise the LORD, O my soul! 
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; 
I will sing praises to my God all my life long. 

Do not put your trust in princes, 
in mortals, in whom there is no help. 
When their breath departs, 
they return to the earth; 
on that very day their plans perish. 

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD their God, 
who made heaven and earth, 
the sea, and all that is in them; 
who keeps faith forever; 
who executes justice for the oppressed; 
who gives food to the hungry. 
The LORD sets the prisoners free; 
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. 
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; 
the LORD loves the righteous. 
The LORD watches over the strangers; 
he upholds the orphan and the widow, 
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

The LORD will reign forever, 
your God, O Zion, for all generations. 

Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 146:1-10 NRSV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Great and Awesome God

Today is Wednesday, the 1st of February, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ bless you today!

Day 23,701

Once again, my header photo is courtesy of Romanian photographer Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided and take in his magnificent photos of the land in which he lives.

It is now officially my least favorite month of the year. I have severely disliked February for almost 40 years, for a variety of reasons, none of which I will share here, today. This year, February seems to have stolen the last two days of January, at least in DFW, Texas. We continue to be in winter weather, and we are officially in an “Ice Storm Warning,” until 6:00 AM tomorrow. The library is closed again, today. They say they are going to open at 10:00 tomorrow morning, but I’m skeptical. There is a 78% chance of more stuff falling from the sky today, and it may not get above freezing until after 9:00 AM tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that much to me, because I’m not scheduled to work again until Friday, but I do care about the safety and well-being of the best group of co-workers I’ve ever worked with.

Well, that may not be 100% true. I did have a pretty awesome crew to work with when I was the loading supervisor at Tex-Pack Express. But they are definitely my best group of work associates in almost 40 years. I’m still in contact with one of them, all these years later, shoutout to Robert Warden.

C continues to work from home today. I’m not sure what her plans are for tomorrow. She may be asked to come in later, around noon or so. I’m pretty sure she won’t be trying to get out and drive at 6:15 AM.

I thought I would share the video of our church orchestra playing, this past Sunday morning. I’m the bald head trombone player on the right. You can see the top of my head over the cellist’s music stand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, 
and teach me your ordinances.
(Psalms 119:108 NRSV)

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Lord our God, we thank you that we may be your children and may be led by your hand. Give us patience and faith, especially when our way on earth seems difficult and life is full of grief and hardship. You are light. You show us the right path. You go before us in the self-denial and patience taught us by your Word. Protect us on all our ways. May your kingdom grow among us until it can be plainly seen that you, O God, are truly with us doing your work and bringing us joy, even though what we do seems fruitless. But your work endures. In your work we rejoice, and we want to give thanks to you every day. Amen.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that we are safe and warm; praying for all who may not be so fortunate
  • for patience and faith, “especially when our way on earth seems difficult”
  • for the love that the Father has given us, “that we should be called children of God”
  • that we have nothing to fear in any circumstance of life; our God fights for us
  • that our God listens to us: “Everything we say, every groan, every murmur, every stammering attempt at prayer: all this is listened to” (Eugene H. Peterson)

Worship the LORD in holy splendor; 
tremble before him, all the earth.
(Psalms 96:9 NRSV)
To the leader: 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]
(Psalms 67:1 NRSV)
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.
(Psalms 119:164 NRSV)
O guard my life, and deliver me; 
do not let me be put to shame, 
for I take refuge in you. 
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, 
for I wait for you.
(Psalms 25:20-21 NRSV)

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:5-8 NRSV)

Praise the LORD, all you nations! 
Extol him, all you peoples!
 For great is his steadfast love toward us, 
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 117:1-2 NRSV)
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)

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.

"Almighty and everlasting God,
you govern all things both in heaven and on earth:
Mercifully hear the supplications of your people,
and in our time grant us your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen."
(The Prayer Appointed for the Week - The Divine Hours)

Do not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.”
(Deuteronomy 3:22 NRSV)

From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the LORD your God and heed him. Because the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.
(Deuteronomy 4:29-31 NRSV)

So acknowledge today and take to heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
(Deuteronomy 4:39 NRSV)

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. 

Hear, O Israel: 
The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6:1-9 NRSV)

Have no dread of them, for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God.
(Deuteronomy 7:21 NRSV)


O sing to the LORD a new song; 
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
(Psalms 96:1 NRSV)
My foot stands on level ground; 
in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.
(Psalms 26:12 NRSV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
(Colossians 3:16 NRSV)

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
(Hebrews 13:1-2 NRSV)


“I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.”
(2 Corinthians 6:16 MSG)


Over and over again, in Moses’s long sermon series that is the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “Do not fear them,” or some variation of that statement. The “them” for Israel was the different nations they would encounter as they entered the Promised Land.

The “them” for us is entirely different. I’m not rampaging through a new, foreign land, destroying every people in my path. My troubles pale in comparison to what the children of Israel went through. In fact, the majority of my “troubles” would fall under the category of what I have, in the past, referred to as “footstool” problems. I don’t remember where I got that . . . but I will say that I did not originate that idea.

Today, it’s the fact that the trash didn’t get picked up this week because of the winter weather we are experiencing. So it sits until next Tuesday. But at least we are allowed four extra bags that can be set out at the curb, next week. But that doesn’t help the recycling. Our recycling bin will be completely full, which will cause us to have more trash.

Footstool.

Last week, it was the police drama outside on my street, that caused me to not be able to park in my driveway until well after 11:00 PM.

Footstool.

Earlier in our lives, though, it was the challenge of raising and autistic daughter, who is now an adult who still lives with us. There were times during those years that I admit that we forgot to not be afraid of “them,” because the Lord will fight for us.

“Them” is different for everyone. But one thing is the same for all of us (and I’m speaking of Christ-followers, here). And that is the truth of Moses’s statement to Israel.

Do not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.”
(Deuteronomy 3:22 NRSV)

And then, in chapter 7, verse 21, he adds this little bit, “for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God.”

This is why we can “sing a new song” (Psalm 96:1). This is why “my foot stands on level ground” (Psalm 26:12). This is why the word of Christ can dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16).

And this . . . this is why we can (and must) “let mutual love continue” (Hebrews 13:1).

It is a beautiful thing. Our God has said, and I believe Him because He said it, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Yes. Our God is a great and awesome God! So do not fear “them,” whoever your “them” is. Have no dread of “them.” God is bigger and stronger, and He dwells with us.

To use more modern terminology, He’s got this.


Thank You, Father, that You are a great and awesome God! Praises to You for choosing to dwell with us and in us, so that we have nothing to fear, no “them” to dread. I pray for all of my brothers and sisters who seem to live in a constant state of fear over “them.” May their hearts be filled with Your love, and their eyes be opened to the truth that we have nothing to fear or dread in this world. Let us remember that, in the words of Dallas Willard, in Your kingdom, things are far better than we could ever imagine.

Let us love one another with the love with which Christ has loved us. Let us love You with all of our beings, heart, soul, mind, and strength, and in doing these two things, fulfill all of the Law and Prophets. May the Word of Christ dwell richly within us as we walk through this world. And keep our feet on level ground in You, that we might not slip or stumble.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

It’s All About Love. Still. Again.

Today is Wednesday, the 18th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always.

Day 23,687

I’m due in at the library at 9:15, this morning, so I won’t dally.

Update on that: I seem to have come down with a bit of a chest cold. I don’t feel terrible, but don’t feel great. After a text conversation with my manager, it was advised that I stay home and take care of myself. I don’t work tomorrow, anyway, so I feel confident that, by Friday, I will be better. I’m negative for Covid, so it’s not that. I feel like it’s related to weather and/or air quality, i.e. Mountain Cedar and so on.

Yet another thing I love about my library job. I have worked way too many places where the response would have been, “We really need you here, today,” rather than, “You stay home and take care of yourself.” ❤

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I am yours; 
save me, for I have sought your precepts.
(Psalms 119:94 NRSV)

Lord our God, be with us. Touch us with your Spirit so that our hearts may receive something from you. Let us find joy even in a life of struggle and temptation. Let us find joy in every need we face, even in the agony of death. Protect us through your Word, and let it always be a light to us so that we can follow you and do your will. Be with us on all our ways. Guide everything with your hand until the goal for all humankind is reached and we may rejoice over all the trials and testing because in the end the glorious prize can be won. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, . . . Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 
(James 1:2, 12 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that joy can be found in even the most unpleasant circumstances
  • for the hope of the crown of life, promised to those who love the Lord
  • that we are chosen by God, in Christ, appointed to bear fruit
  • for mercy
  • for love; may we truly understand and obey the commands of Jesus

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34-35 NRSV)


You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
(John 15:16 NRSV)


We're watching and waiting, 
holding our breath, 
awaiting your word of mercy.
(Psalms 123:2 MSG)

Not as Scripture to work from, this morning, which gives me more of a challenge. I’ve got some good verses, but do they fit together at all?

The Lord has chosen us. Jesus said as much, speaking to His disciples. There was a period of my life when I was a strict, five-point Calvinist. I’m not quite so firm in that, any more. I shifted back a little; the pendulum swung back toward the center. Earlier in my life, I was more Armenian (but didn’t really have a clue what that meant). I was introduced to “Calvinism” in seminary, and it fascinated me. Certainly there is plenty of Scripture to support the theology. May not all five points, but at least some of them.

But there is also Scripture to support the theology of “free will.” And what happens when we try to put God in a box is that, well, you just can’t. That’s what happens. You cannot put God in a box. He is greater than any box you could try to fit Him into. And His ways are not our ways. As soon as you try to fit Him into one particular theology, you’re going to find Him busting out of it with His ways, not yours.

I still believe that I am chosen by God. There’s not doubt in my mind about that. And I also believe that I will walk on this earth until He is finished with me. Maybe not, necessarily, “walk,” you know, but at least be alive. I have this somewhat fatalistic belief that I cannot die until God is finished with me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to test that theory by standing in the middle of Loop 820 during morning traffic.

God’s purposes cannot and will not be thwarted by humans. We are chosen by Him to bear fruit. “Fruit” can mean a lot of different things, though, not just other believers. There is a very narrow interpretation of that, in evangelical circles, that believes that that only refers to getting more people to pray that “sinner’s prayer” (which is nowhere in the Bible, mind you, and neither is any notion of “inviting Jesus into your heart,” but that’s a topic for another day).

If you read around the verse from John 15, up there, it brings more understanding. Verse 17, for example:

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
(John 15:17 NRSV)

Also, check out verses 12-14:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
(John 15:12-14 NRSV)

Why has it taken us so long to figure this out? I mean, down through the ages, there have been individuals who got a glimpse of this truth. We celebrated one of them a couple days ago. MLK, Jr. had the right idea.

So we killed him.

Makes sense . . . we killed Jesus, too, and we would probably do it again, today.

Think that’s harsh? Then you’re not paying attention. There is still enough bigotry in this world, that if Jesus showed up today, preaching what He preached in the Gospels, certain groups of humanity would crucify Him all over again.

But here’s the challenge. We are supposed to love those people, too. One of the things that I have said, in recent years, is that if you hate the haters, you’re just another hater. What makes us different from the world is not the things we don’t do. That’s a common notion, that we are supposed to illustrate our difference from the “world” by abstaining from things.

The problem is, there is no consistent list of what things we are supposed to be abstaining from. One group thinks it’s alcohol and R-rated (or worse) movies. Another group thinks it’s dancing and cards (but dominoes are okay). More groups pick on homosexuality or abortion. Everyone has their “pet sins.” Oh, I almost forgot about divorce. That’s a big one, too.

In my opinion, Jesus was very clear about the main thing that should separate us from the world.

Love.

Love your enemies. You believe in God? Good for you, so do the demons. No doubt, some would point out that that passage also teaches that “faith without works is dead.” Yes, it does. And the “works” that we do are born out of love. When we feed the hungry, we do it because of love. When we clothe the naked, we do it because of love. When we visit the prisoners and sick, we do it because of love. When we take care of widows, orphans, and refugees, we do it because of love.

It’s all about love. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. Jesus loves us to the point of death, giving up His life for us. Jesus commands us to love one another in the same way, and He tells us that all (ALL) of the Law and Prophets are summed up in two commands . . . love God and love people.


Lord, have mercy on us. We have lost our way. We read Your commands to love one another, and, instead, we focus on the Law, the things we should not be doing.

Have mercy on us. Teach us Your ways, that we might walk in Your truth, and realize the importance of love in this world. There is way too much anger and hatred running through Your Church, today. I know that there are people who are following Your commands and doing the right things. Unfortunately, they don’t make as much noise. May Your favor rest on all who are quietly going about the business of following the commands of Jesus.

Help me, Father, because I struggle to love the people who won’t show love, themselves. I have no desire to have any hatred in my heart toward anyone. Anyone. I have no human “enemies,” and refuse to consider any human being my enemy. Help us to come together, Father, to be unified in our love for Christ, for You, and for one another.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

To Be Known

Today is Wednesday, the 11th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,680

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

All your commandments are enduring; 
I am persecuted without cause; 
help me!
(Psalms 119:86 NRSV)

As previously noted, I am not enduring persecution, as the psalmist, here, was. However, I find that the last two words in the verse are sometimes the most potent prayer one can offer up.

Our dear Father, we ask you to come to us from heaven and surround us with your goodness and mercy, with your light and life. We are weak, poor, and lost just when we need to stand firm and hold on. But you are faithful. You stay by us and help us. Continue to help and sustain us, we pray. Do not let our lives be lived in vain. May something of eternity be with us in all we have to face in life, so that over and over again we may find courage to start anew. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

 The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
 of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for the infinite faithfulness of God; He will never react the way humans will, when we fail; it is perfectly safe to rant or vent to Him, because He will not rant back or lash out the way a human will
  • that, because the Lord is my light and my salvation, I have nothing to fear
  • that I am known by the Lord
  • for His provision in my life
  • that I take refuge in the Lord, rather than in mortals

O taste and see that the LORD is good; 
happy are those who take refuge in him.
(Psalms 34:8 NRSV)
Gladden the soul of your servant, 
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
(Psalms 86:4 NRSV)
With my whole heart I seek you; 
do not let me stray from your commandments.
(Psalms 119:10 NRSV)
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, 
and sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 NRSV)

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6:31-33 NRSV)

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in mortals. 
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. 
All nations surrounded me;
 in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; 
in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 
They surrounded me like bees; 
they blazed like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. 
The LORD is my strength and my might; 
he has become my salvation. 
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: 
"The right hand of the LORD does valiantly; 
the right hand of the LORD is exalted; 
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly."
(Psalms 118:8-16 NRSV)

Let me seek the Lord while He may be found. I will call upon His name while He is near.

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.

"Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Let mutual love continue.
(Hebrews 13:1 NRSV)

For it was you who formed my inward parts; 
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
(Psalms 139:13 NRSV)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5 NRSV)


Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.
(Galatians 1:11-12 MSG)


Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
(Exodus 1:8 NRSV)

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong.
(Exodus 1:15-20 NRSV)

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.
(Exodus 3:13-15 NRSV)


There’s a phrase in the passage from Matthew 6. “Your heavenly Father knows . . .,” Jesus said. And while any form of the word “know” is not present in Psalm 139:13, it is found in other verses in that great psalm.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
 you discern my thoughts from far away.
 You search out my path and my lying down, 
and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, 
you know it completely. 
You hem me in, behind and before, 
and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is so high that I cannot attain it. 
(Psalms 139:2-6 NRSV)

In His words to Jeremiah, God told him that He knew him, even before he was formed in the womb.

We are known by God. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I find this to be very comforting. God knows me. He knows everything about me. He knows what I’m going to say next. He knew I was going to type that. He knows what I need, not only before I can pray for it, but even before I know I need it!

God knows me; God knows you. And this doesn’t just apply to people who are believers in Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that God knows everything about every human on the planet, past, present, and future.

The benefit of that knowledge is great. One benefit is given us, by Jesus, back in Matthew 6. Because of our Father’s knowledge of us, we ought not worry, we ought not be concerned about what we will eat or what we will wear. We should be confident of the promise that, if we seek His kingdom, all of the things we need, that we are worried about, will be given to us.

Another benefit is love. When we feel that we are known, it promotes more of a feeling of being loved. The person who knows us best should be our spouse, if we are married. It could be a parent, but once we are adults, and, perhaps, become married (or intimately attached to another person), we become known by that person.

But look what happens in Exodus. Chapter 1, verse 8. A new king arose, and he did not know Joseph. And because he did not know Joseph, he became afraid of Joseph’s family, the Hebrew people.

When people don’t know you, they may be more likely to mistreat you, misunderstand you, abuse you, say mean things about you, and so on. But when those things happen, hopefully someone who does know you will defend you.

God knows us. And He will defend us. It may not always look like we would like it to (for example, He probably won’t smite our “enemies”), but He will defend us. More importantly, He understands us and loves us. And He hears us when we cry out to Him. Because He knows us.


Father, I praise You that I am known. I am known by You, most importantly, but I am also known by a few other people. That gives me great comfort. It is nice to be known. It is comforting to be known. It is encouraging to be known. So I am grateful for that.

Help me to be a friend to someone else. Help me to know others the way I am known. Help me to love others the way I am loved. This is challenging, because prejudices get in the way; self-righteousness gets in the way; misunderstandings get in the way. These are the kinds of things that are dividing not only our nation, but also Your Church, during these days.

I pray for unity, for knowledge, and for love.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

A Spiritual Sacrifice

It’s Wednesday, the 28th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the fourth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ dwell within your soul, today!

Day 23,666

Four days until 2023.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a rather lazy day around here. C is still off work, taking vacation, and I don’t go back to work until Friday morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The insolent smear me with lies, 
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 
their heart is unfeeling like fat, 
but I delight in your law.
(Psalms 119:69-70 ESV)

O Lord God, we thank you for everything you allow us to see and hear. May our hearts become awake and alive through all we receive so that we await your final revelation and recognize your ultimate will for all people, for all nations and races on earth. Hear us in these days, for we know your kingdom is coming. Your kingdom is before our eyes. Your Word, your help, is coming, and in Jesus Christ light will dawn for all the world. Praise and honor to you for all you do! May we see it all before our eyes so that our expectation of the last days is a living expectation, full of joy and blessing. We want to wait in joy, in love, and in longing for the day that is coming to your glory. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 
Galatians 4:4–5, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for a day of relaxing with not much to do
  2. for our cats; Trixie, Rocky (Rachmaninoff), Luna, Cleo (Cleopatra), and Maggie (Magnolia)
  3. that God sent His Son to redeem us, that we might receive adoption to sonship
  4. for the sufficiency of God’s grace in the face of my weaknesses; “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  5. that the ways of God are perfect, and that He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 18:30)

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
(Ezekiel 43:1-5 ESV)


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

This God—his way is perfect; 
the word of the LORD proves true; 
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
(Psalms 18:30 ESV)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; 
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
(Psalms 19:7-9 ESV)

More thoughts from John Henry Newman on Christmas:

“It is a day of joy: it is good to be joyful–it is wrong to be otherwise. For one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and rejoice in the perfections of our Saviour Christ, without thinking of ourselves, withing thinking of our own miserable uncleanness; but contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His overflowing love. We may rejoice in the Lord, and in all His creatures see Him. We may enjoy His temporal bounty, and partake the pleasant things of earth with Him in our thoughts; we may rejoice in our friends for His sake, loving them most especially because He has loved them.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NRSV)


Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:4-5 NRSV)


What is a “spiritual sacrifice?” I don’t have a deep theological answer to that. But I believe it can be almost anything. What it is not is a physical sacrifice. It is not a literal sacrifice. Jesus Christ is our only literal, physical sacrifice. We need no other.

When I read the 1 Peter passage, I also think of Romans 12.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 NRSV)

We are to be a “living” sacrifice, which means that we stay alive, presenting ourselves to the Lord, “holy and acceptable to God.” How can I become holy and acceptable? Only through Jesus, by walking in His commands. I cannot become holy and acceptable by actions or works. I cannot pray enough to be holy; I cannot confess enough to be holy; I cannot abstain from anything enough to be holy. I can only be made holy by Jesus and His sacrifice for me/us.

The spiritual sacrifice involves what is presented in Romans 12:2, though. It involves not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. It involves discerning what the will of God is, and learning what is “good and acceptable and perfect.”

In short, I suppose it means what Jesus said when He told us that we must take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. That is a “spiritual sacrifice.”

And while those photos that we see, occasionally, of some person dragging a real cross down the side of the road (sometimes cheating by putting a wheel on it), can be moving and inspiring, they are also rather pointless.

That is not what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross. He was not, I assure you, speaking of a literal cross. For goodness sake, He did that FOR us!

But it is also important to note that Jesus was also not talking about something that happens to us, over which we have no control. Usually, when someone says, “Well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear,” it isn’t. Because usually, they are referring to something that they cannot control or choose. A horrible disease, for example. Cancer is not anyone’s “cross to bear.” You don’t “choose” cancer.

But we do choose to not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world. We can choose to renew our minds through meditating on the Word of God, which is all of those things described in Psalm 19, above.

Another thing that is important is to know that, when we do take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we do it joyfully! Remember what Jesus said about fasting, which is one of those sacrificial things which we can choose to do.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV)

So, yes. Take up your cross. Deny yourself. Make that spiritual sacrifice. Follow Christ.

And don’t complain about how miserable it makes you. Bear the cross joyfully, celebrating Christ in all things.


Father, help us to take up our crosses, whatever it may be for each of us, individually. And help us to do it joyfully, celebrating Christ in our lives. May we never try to draw attention to our “spiritual sacrifice” or our suffering that may come because of it. If I am fasting, yes, I will be hungry. But I should not talk about how hungry I am, so as to draw attention to it.

Help me to always remember the words of Christ, who told us that, if we do those things, visibly, in order to be recognized by men, that will be the extent of our reward. Rather, let us be joyful when we do these things. Let us show the world joy in our relationship with You and Christ. No one wants to be involved with any “god” who is constantly making his people miserable. So why would we act that way?

Teach us joyfulness in all things, Father. Help us to be grateful and thankful in all circumstances, that we might display the life of Christ and spread the good news of the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Wonder of Mystery

Today is Wednesday, the 14th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you always!

Day 23,652

Eleven days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your statutes have been my songs 
in the house of my sojourning.
(Psalms 119:54 ESV)

Thank you, Father in heaven, for gathering us together and opening a door which can be entered by all who are like children. You open the door for all who have the childlike hope that you are carrying out your purpose, that in the midst of the ruin and sin of world history, life remains, the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, life for all the world. No one can destroy this life, which will soon gather power until all people see him, Jesus Christ, who for the salvation of humankind is the same yesterday, today, and in all eternity. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. 
Hebrews 13:8, RSV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that Christ has opened a door for all to enter into God’s Kingdom
  2. that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever
  3. for God’s Word, which lends itself to singing
  4. for the mystery of God’s Holy Spirit, abiding within us
  5. for the example of Jesus Christ, who emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2)

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. 
Therefore God has highly exalted him 
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:3-11 ESV)

My feet have closely followed his steps;
 I have kept to his way without turning aside.
(Job 23:11 NIV)

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
(Deuteronomy 6:7-8 NIV)

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
(John 5:19 NIV)


“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
(John 14:19-20 NRSV)

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(Jeremiah 31:33 NRSV)

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
(Ezekiel 36:26 NRSV)

“This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
(John 14:17 NRSV)


When I read that verse from the book of Job, I am skeptical. That’s a very bold statement. I don’t know that I could ever say that. Sure, I have tried to follow closely in the steps and ways of the Lord. But have I “kept to His way without turning aside?” That’s almost laughable.

But then, we see the mystery. I love mystery. I like to read mysteries (full disclosure, I’m a big fan of the paranormal type of mysteries, more than the “cozy” type). But this is a different kind of mystery. This is similar to the mystery of the body and blood of Christ being present in the communion elements.

Jesus Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, dwells within us. God, himself, in the Trinity is a mystery. And these are mysteries that we are not going to solve, at least not on this side of paradise. Word is that we will someday understand it. But not in this lifetime.

That passage in John presents a great mystery. Jesus is in the Father. We are in Jesus. Jesus is in us. And if we are in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father, then we, also, are in the Father.

Head spinning, yet?

Keep reading. God tells His people that He will put a new spirit within them. He will take away the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, a living heart. He will also write His “Law” on our hearts.

And then Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, says that He will be in us, and will abide in us.

The words of Job were spoken before Christ, before the Holy Spirit was sent to earth to dwell in the hearts of men. Job’s sin was not yet propitiated. He had to perform animal sacrifices to atone for his sins.

We live in times that are post-Christ. Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, all of our sins, past, present, and future, are atoned for. They have been cast as far as the east is from the west, and cast into the deepest part of the ocean (figuratively). In reality, God Almighty promises that He remembers them no more. It is as if they never happened, and, perhaps, in the same way that the body and blood of Jesus Christ are present in the Eucharist, they truly never did happen.

Which means that, in the spirit of this mystery, maybe I never have turned aside from His path, at least not in His eyes.

I’m shaking my head in wonder, right now, even as I’m typing this, because it is difficult to take in. And I’m going to have to consider it for a while, and maybe even talk to someone wiser than I. As the psalmist proclaimed, such knowledge is too high for me, I cannot attain it (Psalm 139).

But I know that it is a mystery, and something for which I can be thankful, in these days.


Father, I praise You for the mystery of Christ in You, us in Christ, and Christ in us. I praise You for the mystery of the Holy Spirit, sent to dwell within us and being present in us. I thank You for the forgiveness of the entirety of our sins, past, present, and future.

I pray for the ability to abide in this, to live in it, fully, and to truly walk in Your path, never straying from it.

Help me to have that mind of Christ, that does nothing out of selfish ambition, and that empties self, taking on the form of a servant. Help me to embrace the truth that whoever would be first, must be last and servant of all. Abolish all pride within me. Make me Your servant, and make me a blessing to all.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Indescribable

Today is Wednesday, the 30th of November, 2022, in the first week of Advent. The last day of November.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul, today.

Day 23,638

25 days until Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Turn away the reproach that I dread, 
for your rules are good.
(Psalms 119:39 ESV)

Lord our God, let your miracles be done among us, and bless us through your deeds. Bless us in Jesus Christ, the Savior of so many people. May your kingdom come to us and at last bring the great miracles that carry out your will and that do what is pleasing to you. Lord God, Father in heaven, we praise you! In you we live, in you we believe, in you we hope, in you we want to live day by day and hour by hour. May your name be honored among us, for you are our God and the God of all the world. Let your light shine among all people so that many millions and whole nations may glorify your name, for in the last days the nations shall come and worship you. So protect and bless us today and in the coming time, and again and again let something happen to bring us new life and strength. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Shout for joy to God, all the earth! 
Sing the glory of his name;
 make his praise glorious...
Come and see what God has done, 
his awesome deeds for mankind! 
Psalm 66:1–2, 5, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the awesome deeds that God has done for mankind
  2. for the theme of this first week of Advent; hope
  3. for the light of God that shines through His people, when they are faithful to walk in His commands
  4. for good news
  5. for the indescribable love with which our Father loves us

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, 
"therefore I will hope in him." 
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, 
to the soul who seeks him. 
It is good that one should wait quietly 
for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:21-26 ESV)
Let us test and examine our ways, 
and return to the LORD! 
Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:
(Lamentations 3:40-41 ESV)
"I called on your name, O LORD, 
from the depths of the pit; 
you heard my plea, 
'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!' 
You came near when I called on you; 
you said, 'Do not fear!'
(Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV)
Praise the LORD! 
Praise the LORD, O my soul! 
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; 
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. 

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; 
on that very day his plans perish. 

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD his God, 
who made heaven and earth,
 the sea, and all that is in them, 
who keeps faith forever; 
who executes justice for the oppressed, 
who gives food to the hungry. 

The LORD sets the prisoners free; 
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. 
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; 
the LORD loves the righteous. 
The LORD watches over the sojourners; 
he upholds the widow and the fatherless, 
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

The LORD will reign forever, 
your God, O Zion, to all generations. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 146:1-10 ESV)

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:23-24 NIV)

“True faith is much more complex and powerful than the easy answer.” ~ Isabella, in Pray A Word A Day


Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.
(Romans 12:19 TLB)
Depart from evil, and do good; 
seek peace, and pursue it. 
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, 
and his ears are open to their cry.
(Psalms 34:14-15 NRSV)

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.
(2 Peter 1:5-9 NRSV)


First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)


Our God is indescribable. The works of His majesty defy description. We try, but we fall short.

Another thing that is indescribable is the love that He has for us.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
(1 John 3:1 ESV)

He pours this love into us, through Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. How tragic is it when we fail to spread that love around us?

Andrew Murray makes a bold statement concerning intercession. “It is only love that can enable us for the work of intercession.” (From Absolute Surrender, quoted in Power in Prayer) I had honestly never considered this before.

I can’t remember how many years it has been since the Lord drew me into the ministry of intercessory prayer. It was definitely a drawing of the Holy Spirit, and I felt it quite deeply. I contemplated it long and hard, and it might even be said that I resisted it. After all, the main thrust of my life, up to that point, had been worship.

But that is where God led me, and continues to lead me. I will be quick to confess that I don’t think I’ve done a great job of it. At least until more recently, that is. (Don’t be mistaken, I am still not “tooting my own horn,” here.) And I believe that one thing that has made the difference, in the past couple years is this concept of loving one another.

A couple years ago, I was listening to a podcast called “True Tunes,” in which John Joseph Thompson was interviewing Amy Grant, who had recently turned sixty (how on earth was that possible??). In this podcast, Amy said something that changed my life; changed my perspective on everything.

She said that people were always asking her opinions about things, and her response had become to say that she has two jobs. You probably know where I’m going with this. Those two jobs are (say it with me) love God and love people. That’s what the commands of Jesus boil down to, right? Even Paul says that to love fulfills the entire law. Jesus said that loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself fulfills the entirety of the Law and the Prophets.

Amy went on to say that her opinion about certain things, especially “hot topics,” is not in the job description for those two jobs.

Mic drop.

I felt like that eighties song by Dead or Alive, “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby . . .” And from that day forward, I have adopted that philosophy. I believe it’s biblical, and I believe it is spot on.

I have opinions. Occasionally, I share them. But I try to keep the political ones to myself, because what I think about controversial issues is not part of my “job description.” And, moving forward into 2022, and thinking about 2023, this is even more important. Because I am asked to pray for people for whom I have sharp disagreements in opinion. But that doesn’t matter. I am called to love them.

And, as Andrew Murray stated, I can only truly be successful at intercession if I have love. In that quote up there from 1 Timothy, Paul urges us make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for “all people!” I believe I may have addressed this recently in another blog entry.

The Greek word for “all” is “pas.” Here are the Strong’s definitions for it: “pas; including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole:—all (manner of, means), alway(-s), any (one), × daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no(-thing), X thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.”

In other words, “all” means “all.”

I cannot successfully intercede for “all people” unless I love “all people.” And this is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing that we have been called to do. It seems like a burden, right?

But here’s the thing. And I could easily drift off into a discussion about “burnout,” here. If I am walking with Christ, properly, nothing is ever a burden. Things are only burdensome when we allow them to be, and when we try to take them on in our own power or strength. What did Jesus say about burdens?

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV)

The love of God is amazing . . . it is truly indescribable. And it is the same love with which we are called to love “all people,” and to intercede for “all people.” What joy it gives me to consider this! What pleasure I get out of considering that love and considering the task of intercession! It is indescribable.

You show me the path of life. 
In your presence there is fullness of joy; 
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 NRSV)

Father, I thank You for these revelations. I thank You for that testimony from Amy Grant from that podcast. I thank You for causing me to listen to it, and for making me pay attention to it. I thank You that, since then, You have increased my capacity for loving others. I’m far from perfect, and I still struggle with loving some people, but I also confess and acknowledge that You expect me to love those people, as well. So help me, Father.

I do believe! Help my unbelief!

As we prepare to launch into another year, Lord, things still are pretty upside-down in this nation and in this world. We are still suffering the effects of a pandemic that began almost three years ago, and, in spite of our thinking, may not truly be over. But there is one of those opinions that doesn’t figure into my job description. Lord, I’m seeing a lot of people spout out some pretty outlandish opinions, but You have called me to love them, anyway, and You have called me to intercede.

So I continue to acknowledge this calling, and I commit myself to it even more, today, than before. I still love to worship You, and look forward to doing this on Saturday night, with the brothers and sisters who gather for Night of Worship. But intercession is where You are directing me, with the emphasis on loving one another.

With that in mind, I pray for Your Church, especially in America, that we would do a better job of fulfilling that command from Jesus. First, that we would love You with all of our being. Second, that we would love our “neighbor” as ourselves. And, third, that we would love one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, more intensely and more intentionally. Pour Your love into us, that we might pour it out to others!

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

“Take Heart; I Have Overcome the World”

Today is Wednesday, the 23rd of November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,631

Thanksgiving is tomorrow!

Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru, Romanian photographer. Please visit his site at the link provided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
(Psalms 119:32 ESV)

Some translations of the above verse have the second part saying something like, “You have broadened my understanding.”

Lord our God, we thank you for ruling us with your shepherd’s staff so that again and again we can be refreshed and can delight in what you are doing for us. We thank you that we can have eager, joyful faith even when sorrows come, looking again and again to the good you give us. We are thankful and want to be thankful always. Be a mighty Lord over the peoples, we pray, and protect our country. Show your sovereignty by guarding the flock close beside you and by pouring out your grace to give life to the dying and resurrection to those who have died. O Lord God, hear and bless us. May your will be done on earth as in heaven, so that your kingdom may break in and everything may come right, according to your great purpose. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep. When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. 
John 10:11–12, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ
  2. that “The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1 NLT)
  3. that God knows everything there is to know about me, even before I do, say, or think it; yet still He loves me
  4. that Jesus, in spite of what we think we see, has overcome the world
  5. for the forgiveness of God, with which we must also forgive all

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
(2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. 

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 
you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down 
and are acquainted with all my ways.
 Even before a word is on my tongue,
 behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, 
and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
 it is high; I cannot attain it. 

Where shall I go from your Spirit? 
Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! 
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning 
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me, 
and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
 and the light about me be night," 
even the darkness is not dark to you; 
the night is bright as the day, 
for darkness is as light with you. 

For you formed my inward parts; 
you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works; 
my soul knows it very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you, 
when I was being made in secret, 
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; 
in your book were written, every one of them, 
the days that were formed for me, 
when as yet there was none of them. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! 
How vast is the sum of them! 
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
 I awake, and I am still with you. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! 
Try me and know my thoughts! 
And see if there be any grievous way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting! 
(Psalms 139:1-18, 23-24 ESV)

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(Matthew 22:39 ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
(Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)


Last night, in Chesapeake, VA, a shooter left seven people dead at a Walmart store, including himself.

This past Sunday, five people were killed and many more injured when a lone gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs.

On November 13, three UVA football players were killed by a gunman.

On November 12, four Idaho students were stabbed to death while they slept.

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The four news items I have listed above are not there to make any kind statement about guns or weapons or even violence. They are to illustrate the turmoil that is quite easy to see in our world, these days.

As some have indicated, it seems as though the world is burning. Are these not “signs of the times,” though?

I am far from a doomsday prophet. Nor am I a fear-mongerer. In fact, I am quite the opposite. I do not want to instill peace and hope into everyone’s minds.

“How can you see hope in any of this?” you may ask. And well, you might.

But I see it in the words of Jesus. He knew. He was able to tell us, through His disciples, two thousand-plus years ago that we will have “tribulation.” But then, He reminds us, He has overcome the world. Note that that statement is in present tense.

“I have overcome the world.”

Not, “I will overcome the world.”

Even before He died on the cross and was resurrected from the grave, Jesus Christ had already overcome the world.

And He has given us all we need to do the same. We have all we need to “rise above” the world and overcome. This doesn’t mean that we are going to get rich and always be healthy. This is not a “name-it-claim-it” religion or a “prosperity gospel” (which is no gospel at all).

Peter tells us, in the Scriptures above, that we have received everything we need for “life and godliness.” David, in the most famous of psalms, says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” I lack nothing. Period.

And just relish that Psalm 139. Read it and read it again and love the words of David, telling us how deeply our God knows us, and how there is nowhere we can go where we are not in His presence!

He has overcome the world. Even though there be shootings and stabbings, murders and arsons and whatever else, out there. He has overcome the world, and we can, right along with Him.

That is why I’m not afraid. Sure, I say that . . . sometimes I do let fear creep in. But in the long run, in the “Big Picture,” I am not afraid. Because my Savior has overcome the world; and my God knows me more deeply than I know myself, and He loves me, still.


Thank You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for these encouraging words in some of the darkest times. It is tempting to look around and lose hope. It is tempting to despair. But I refuse. I will lift my eyes up to the heavens and give You thanks, praising You that You, Jesus, have overcome this world, and that You, Holy Spirit, dwell within my soul, and that You, Almighty Father, really do have “the whole world in Your hands!”

There is nowhere I can go that You are not. There is nothing that I can do, say, or think, that surprises You (even though I certainly surprise myself, sometimes). I praise You for these thoughts and truths, Lord. And for this knowledge that is too high; so high that I cannot attain it. Yet You have revealed it to us and given us everything we need for “life and godliness.” All we have to do is make full use of what You have given us, and depend fully on You for our lives.

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Grace and peace, friends.

Stop. Think (and Pray). Dismiss.

It’s . . . (what day is this??) Wednesday, that’s it! Wednesday, the 16th of November, 2022, in the 33rd week of Ordinary Time.

In case you don’t get the “Ordinary Time” reference, it’s a Church calendar thing. The season of Advent will be upon us soon, beginning November 27th, four Sundays before Christmas, which happens to fall on Sunday, this year.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today!

Day 23,624 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

My soul clings to the dust; 
give me life according to your word! 
(Psalms 119:25 ESV)

Lord our God, we come to you in community of faith and trust, in expectation that you will act. May our hearts be strengthened in all the pain and in all the conflicts of our world. Reveal your will, Almighty God, and protect those you have appointed as our leaders and rulers. Let your will be made plain to them. O Lord God, help your people in these times and give them strength to wait expectantly for what is good, to live and serve in this expectation. Grant your help to all who strive for this. We can all tell of the help that comes from you, for you always support us with your power, also in hard times. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. 
Hebrews 11:1, TEV

Today I am grateful:

  1. that my first vein treatment went smoothly, no complications, and very little pain; hoping the rest go that well
  2. for the community of saints, of faith and trust in the Lord, expecting Him to act
  3. that, with every temptation that comes our way, God provides us a way out, a way of escape
  4. for the illuminating quality of love
  5. that we, as human beings, can control what we allow our minds to dwell on

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
(James 4:11-12 ESV)


“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship


No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
(2 Samuel 11:1-5 NIV)

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

"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.'"
(Matthew 6:5-13 NIV)

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
(James 1:13-14 NIV)


"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? 
My hope is in you. 
Deliver me from all my transgressions."
(Psalms 39:7-8 NRSV)

Judgment. It’s not one of the “seven deadlies,” but it definitely spawns from at least one of them.

Just for review, what are those seven “vices,” as I like to refer to them? I didn’t come up with that, myself. It comes from a very good book I once read about the “seven deadly sins,” called Glittering Vices.

  1. Envy
  2. Vainglory (pride)
  3. Sloth
  4. Avarice (greed)
  5. Anger
  6. Gluttony
  7. Lust

Under which one of those would judgment fall? Could it be all of them, perhaps? I just now thought of that.

Judgment could definitely be caused by envy. Perhaps you are envious of the position or popularity of another individual. This could cause a reaction of publicly judging them, pretending to disapprove of their popularity.

The probable main vice that judgment would spring from, though, in my opinion, is pride. I think I’m a better Christian than that person who does or thinks differently than I. Therefore, I judge them.

Judgment is also (or can be, at least) lazy. Someone acts in a certain way, and our immediate response is judgment, without bothering to do the work to find out what is behind the action. Our society is really bad about this, these days. We can’t be bothered to find out the truth, so we make snap judgments.

Greed can spawn judgment, just like envy. Envy and greed are closely related. I want everything. I want it all. Someone I know of has more than me, so I am judgmental.

I am angry about the way someone votes or believes, so I judge them.

I feel guilt over my own gluttony, so when I see someone else grabbing for everything they can get, I judge them.

As for lust, well, another reason we judge people is to make ourselves feel better about our own sins. I’m lustful, but maybe I’m not as lustful as that guy over there. Remember the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank God I’m not like that tax collector?”

So, yeah. Being judgmental could easily spring from any of the seven deadly vices.

And, in the bigger picture, it really doesn’t matter which one it is coming from. What matters is that we fall prey to it. And we direct it toward our own brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember the words of brother James, concerning the tongue.

With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
(James 3:9-10 NRSV)

And while we are remembering words, perhaps more importantly, we should remember the words of our Savior.

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 NRSV)

Then, just a few verses later, He said,

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
(Matthew 7:12 NRSV)

Judgment. Plain and simply, we are told not to do it. Period.

We make excuses as to why it’s okay. But it’s not okay.

I am guilty of it, almost every day. It’s like I can’t help myself, sometimes. I fall into the trap. I feel like quoting Paul.

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:24 NRSV)

Who? I’ll tell you who! In fact, Paul tells us who in 1 Corinthians 10:13, quoted above. God, that’s who! Judging is a temptation. It’s one of those that is quick and almost silent when it comes. We see or hear something, and the judgment pops into our brain, and before we can stop it, it’s out our mouths.

But James says this ought not to be so! And Paul says that God provides a way of escape for any temptation.

I also love what Dallas Willard says about this, in regard to our minds. He says that we, as human beings, have the unique quality of being able to control what our minds dwell on. And he is dead on about that.

We play victim, too often. The thought pops into my brain, and I let it out through my mouth, like I had no choice. But I always have a choice. Always. There is always a way of escape.

Who doesn’t remember what they always taught us to do if we find ourselves on fire?

  1. Stop
  2. Drop
  3. Roll

Fortunately, I’ve never been on fire, because I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to do that. It would probably look more like this.

  1. Scream
  2. Run
  3. Scream and run

Maybe when that judgmental thought (especially in regard to a brother or sister saint) should evoke a similar response.

  1. Stop
  2. Think (and pray)
  3. Dismiss the thought

I’m aware that this looks easier than it is. I know, from experience, how quickly it happens. And how it feels, usually, afterward. Feelings of regret after opening my big mouth (actually my mouth is rather small) are not pleasant at all.

My beloved, we are supposed to love one another. Go back up and read that quote from Bonhoeffer again. Love is illuminating. Judgment is blinding. Let us love, that we might see. Let us love one another that we might be unified in the Name of Christ, that the world might see the beauty of following Christ. What example are we showing the world by our constant judging and backstabbing? What example are we displaying when we don’t treat others the way we would like to be treated?


Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Father, have mercy!

Teach us to love, rather than judge. Tame our tongues, Father! Let not blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth! Help us to love one another the way Christ has loved us. Help us to follow that “golden rule,” and treat others the way we would like to be treated.

I pray that Your Spirit would dwell within me, filling me, so that, when thought of judgment come into my mind, I would be quick to stop, think and pray, and then dismiss the thought before it can do any harm.

Perhaps a thought that we need to espouse is the idea of “harm no one.” Maybe if we thought that more often, we would not harm anyone with either words or deeds. And maybe we could even get to where we don’t even have judgmental thoughts. That’s harder, I think. But possible.

To work toward that, Father, I pray that You help me exercise that control that I can have over what I let my mind dwell on. And when I see that person with whom I disagree, help me to feel love, not judgment, especially if he or she is a brother or sister in Christ.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace is Sufficient

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

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,610

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the entire passage from 2 Corinthians:

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

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

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

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

Grace and peace, friends.