The Choice of Wisdom

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,485

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

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

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

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

I still think the Yankees must be cheating.


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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

“Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

Today is Saturday, the twenty-second of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,326

Tomorrow, we finally get to see Hamilton! Our show is a matinee show, beginning at 1:30 PM. We will likely head straight over to Bass Hall from our church gathering. Since I have seen the original cast in the movie presentation that is on Disney+, it will be interesting to see someone else’s interpretation of the different historical figures in this story. Of course, I have no idea who is in the cast, nor would I likely recognize any of their names.

Today is another full day at the library, in the circulation department. Several hours of that time will be spent at the front desk, but will be broken up by an hour or two doing different tasks, such as clearing the external and internal book drops and processing new material that is coming in. Processing is probably my favorite task when I’m working circ, because I get to see what new books are coming into the library.

I don’t want to run out of time, like I did, yesterday, so I’m getting right to the matter at hand.


“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
 I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; 
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I can walk without pain (most of the time)
2. that I have all of my senses (even though sometimes I act as though I have no sense at all)
3. that I have trusted in the Lord from birth (Psalm 22:9-10)
4. that I know that I'm never too old to stop learning or gaining wisdom, and that You are still teaching me
5. that You have given us ample resources, along with the willingness to share them; please show us where we can share them

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson’s chapter on Proverbs is called “The Art of Living Skillfully.” He points out that many people mistakenly believe that the majority of the Bible has to do with “getting people into heaven.” Having grown up Southern Baptist, I can say that this is not inaccurate. There are a lot of folks out there whose main thrust in life is getting to heaven when they die, and taking as many people with them as they can, willingly or not.

I confess that that statement was typed with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

But there is a measure of truth to it. In fact, there are a lot of people who care nothing whatsoever about what kind of life they lead, once they say “that prayer” that they believe automatically gets them into heaven. “Fire insurance,” as it were.

We would do well to remember that line in Jesus’s model prayer. You know the one . . . it’s the title of today’s blog. “On earth as it is in heaven.” The Scriptures are concerned with “living on this earth – living well, living in robust sanity.” This might also be called “wisdom.” “Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such.” (italics mine)

Just because one has a college degree does not guarantee that one has wisdom.

The ways of right-living people glow with light; 
the longer they live, the brighter they shine.
 But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker— 
travelers can't see a thing;
 they fall flat on their faces.
(Proverbs 4:18-19 MSG)

I’m going to quote a more lengthy passage, here, because, well, I certainly can’t say it better than Eugene did.

“Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; 
don't try to figure out everything on your own. 
Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; 
he's the one who will keep you on track. 
Don't assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! 
Your body will glow with health, 
your very bones will vibrate with life! 
Honor GOD with everything you own; 
give him the first and the best. 
Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. 
But don't, dear friend, resent GOD's discipline; 
don't sulk under his loving correction.
 It's the child he loves that GOD corrects; 
a father's delight is behind all this. 
(Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG)

And here may be the most important statement in this entire book.

“In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.”

Proverbs is more concerned with the here and now than any other book of the Bible. Some of them are quite humorous; others are downright frightening. But they all come together to give us that thing called “wisdom.”

And honestly, going back and re-reading that paragraph about what constitutes wisdom, I’m not so sure that I have very much. But I also fully acknowledge that I’m not through gaining it, either. One thing I know . . . you are never through learning and never through gaining wisdom, no matter how old you are.

"I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; 
Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street. 
The Fear-of-GOD means hating Evil, 
whose ways I hate with a passion— 
pride and arrogance and crooked talk. 
Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; 
I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out."
(Proverbs 8:12-14 MSG)

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
(Luke 3:11 ESV)

"And now, O sons, listen to me: 
blessed are those who keep my ways. 
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 
Blessed is the one who listens to me, 
watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 
For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, 
but he who fails to find me injures himself; 
all who hate me love death." 
(Proverbs 8:32-36 ESV)
"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, 
or thirsty and give you drink? 
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, 
or naked and clothe you? 
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 
And the King will answer them, 
'Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, 
you did it to me.'"
(Matthew 25:37-40 ESV)

I’m sensing a firm direction in prayer today.

Today’s prayer word is “twist.” The referenced verse is Luke 1:30 from The Message.

God has a surprise for you.
(Luke 1:30 MSG)

Yes, the context has this spoken to Mary, by the angel, Gabriel. But let’s step back a bit. While we don’t ever want to attempt to build “theology” by taking Scripture out of context, I think there are times when we can take such a line in the Bible and apply it to ourselves.

Remember Isaiah 43? That passage popped up a number of times about three weeks ago.

"Forget about what's happened; 
don't keep going over old history. 
Be alert, be present. 
I'm about to do something brand-new. 
It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! 
I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)

God is constantly in the business of doing “new things.” He is full of surprises, and anyone who has truly followed Him for any length of time can attest to that. I know I have been surprised by God countless times in my almost sixty-four years on this planet.

That is not necessarily, however, the full meaning of this word, “twist.” It might mean that we have to intentionally “twist” to look at something. We might have to bend over and get uncomfortable for a moment to see something that God is doing. In other words, it’s not always going to be right there in front of us, in plain sight.

I might have to (GASP!!) inconvenience myself!

Father, as I walk through this day (and every day, for that matter), remind me that I have to look around, that I have to keep my spiritual eyes (and my physical eyes, too) open, watching to see what You might be doing around me. Help me to see what You are doing and enter into that, whenever applicable. You have gifted me with abilities, talents, resources. These are not to be hoarded. I have too many coats. Show me someone who needs one. We have plenty of food. Show me someone who needs some. We have plenty of money. Show me someone who needs help. I’m going to seriously begin to pray for You to point these things out, and then ask You to make sure that, when You do, I’m paying attention. And make me willing to go out of my way, sometimes, to help someone. And, above all else, give me wisdom to live on this earth. Make me fully aware that You are the most important subject for me to consider, and that my most important job is to love You. However, when I am doing that right . . . if I am loving You, then I will be loving others, too.

Please help us all be aware that the most important thing in life is not necessarily getting into heaven when we die. Help us to live in Your Kingdom, on earth as in heaven. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Grace and peace, friends.

Anger, Wisdom, and Humility

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
(James 1:19-20 NLT)

Today is Friday, October 9, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,856

TWO DAYS until we head to Broken Bow, OK!

Three days until our 35th wedding anniversary!

And, we have begun our six days of PTO (Paid Time Off, what they call “vacation” now; actually, it also includes “sick leave,” at least in Texas).

I actually slept until almost 8:00 this morning! So I’m feeling pretty well-rested, this morning. According to my Fitbit, I got seven hours and six minutes of sleep with a sleep score of 90. The “sleep score” is “a daily snapshot of your sleep quality and duration.”

It includes “Time Asleep,” “Deep and REM,” and “Restoration.” For “Time Asleep,” I got 46/50 points. I was sleep for 7 hours, 6 minutes, awake 53 minutes over the course of the night. This measurement includes a cool graph that displays the times I was awake. The longest awake times were around the times I had to get up to use the bathroom. The others are times when I probably wouldn’t even recognize that I was awake.

For “Deep and REM,” I got 21/25 points. I had 1 hour and 36 minutes of deep sleep, and 2 hours and 16 minutes of REM sleep. The value of these, according to the Fitbit app, is that “during deep sleep your muscles relax and repair themselves, blood pressure drops and energy is restored. REM is when you’re likely dreaming, which is key for memory and mood.”

One interesting tip that is given is to avoid alcohol three hours before bedtime, as it can suppress REM sleep.

In “Restoration,” I got 23/25 points. In this category, it measures my sleeping heart rate. For 95% of the night, my sleeping heart rate was lower than my resting heart rate. My average sleeping heart rate was 63 bpm. My average resting heart rate is usually around 70 bpm. I only had 5% of the night where my sleeping heart rate was over my resting heart rate, and that bit is tagged as “restless.’

They recommend meditation or breathing exercises before going to sleep, which I did attempt last night. I fell asleep during the exercise.

All of this is courtesy of “Fitbit Premium,” which I got free for a year with my new Fitbit Inspire 2.

Don’t worry. I won’t bore you with this every morning. For one thing, during the work week, I wouldn’t have time. It is fascinating information, though. I never knew how much healing goes on during sleep. Even WW has been teaching us these facts, when the workshop weekly topic deals with sleep.

So. Today, we plan to go to Mineral Wells and have lunch with my mother. We are taking the ingredients (and a pan) for our Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken, and are going to cook that for her. Oh. That reminds me. I need to print a copy of that recipe to take with us.

Okay. Did that.

I also plan to take a quick side trip to the Crazy Water store and grab a couple cases of Crazy Water #4. I still have almost two full cases, but any time I’m in town, I’m going to buy some.

Tomorrow, we’ll be making last minute preparations for our trip to Broken Bow. A brief grocery run might be necessary. Especially if C eats all the grapes before then. Hahaha!

Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, 
I have sought you. 
I became weary and I labored. 
O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and 
never to cease seeking you. 
Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance.
 Give me the strength to seek you, 
for you help me to find you and you have more and more 
given me the hope of finding you. 
Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. 
Preserve the first and heal the second. 
Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. 
Where you have opened the door to me, 
welcome me at the entrance; 
where you have closed the door to me, 
open to my cry; 
enable me to remember you, 
to understand you, 
and to love you. 
(Prayer to Seek God Continually, St. Augustine of Hippo)


Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
(Psalms 98:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For time off from work
  2. For the promise that, if we delight ourselves in You, You will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37)
  3. For the promise that we will find You when we seek You
  4. For the admonition to not be angry, but to be filled with humility
  5. For the book of James, which I don’t like to read

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
(Psalms 119:76-77 ESV)

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
(Psalms 108:3-4 ESV)

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
(Luke 17:7-10 ESV)

Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.
(Psalms 37:3-9 NLT)

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
(Isaiah 55:6 NLT)

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.

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.
(Proverbs 15:1-2 NLT)

A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.
(Proverbs 15:18 NLT)

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.
(Proverbs 15:31-33 NLT)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
(James 1:19-20 NLT)

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
(Romans 12:16 NLT)

How do you handle criticism?

I’ll confess right away that I do not handle it very well. Especially depending on from whom it comes.

But I have two different kinds of anger when confronted with criticism.

If I am told that I made a mistake, and it is proven to be true (I’ve never claimed to be perfect), I become angry at myself, because I loathe making mistakes. I WANT to be perfect! At least when it comes to my job responsibilities. The other day, I was shown a mistake that I had made. I was picking a part, and I went to the location, and there was a large crate. The lid was loose, so I pulled the crate, strapped the lid down, and sent it out.

Turns out there were five pieces in that crate, not one. I didn’t check the putaway label, or the inventory count. I assumed that the crate held one piece. It all worked out okay, because the reason the mistake came up was that the customer had submitted an order for the other four pieces. When the picker went to get them, the location was, of course, empty.

I was very angry with myself. My friend who pointed out the error tried to soothe me by telling me that that whoever did the putaway should have taken the top of the crate completely away, so that it was evident that there were multiple parts in there. Nevertheless, the fault is mine because I didn’t verify the stock.

But another way that I react is with anger toward the person doing the criticizing. One time, I went to a person to apologize for something I said, or at least in the manner that it was said. That person then spent the next fifteen minutes telling me why I was wrong, and so on. That didn’t set well with me. Frankly, that’s not, in my opinion, the way to accept an apology. And that person tends to think he’s right about everything.

I would say that, in both cases, the anger is out of order. I make mistakes. No, I don’t like to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that I should get so angry with myself when I make them. I should simply accept the facts, learn from them, and move on, taking whatever action is necessary to make sure that I don’t repeat that mistake.

In the second instance, people are going to be who they are. My anger in that situation didn’t help anything. And, of course, I, being who I am, did not express that anger. Well, I may have expressed it to my wife, later.

Look back up there at those verses from my least favorite book of the Bible, James. (Yes, I would rather read Leviticus than James. Why? Because Leviticus doesn’t constantly punch me in the gut. I would rather be bored than convicted.)

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.


Dallas Willard said (“there he goes again with that Dallas Willard guy”), “There is nothing that can be done in anger that cannot be done better without it.” On a related note, he also said, “The person who has the most power in your life is the person you have not forgiven.”

So how do we prevent anger? Proverbs gives us answers. A gentle answer; wisdom that “makes knowledge appealing.” In these tumultuous pre-election times, anger is not going to change anyone’s mind. But gentle words might at least get someone to listen to your point of view. And the concept of “How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian vote for . . .” should just be thrown out with yesterday’s garbage.

I am easily angered, it’s true. I don’t always express it, but my wife can tell. And some days, I just wake up mad at the world, for no apparent reason.

Wisdom and fear of the Lord are two good resolutions. Another verse up there from Proverbs says, “Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.

Ooh. Humility. Another gut-punch. And not even from James!

Father, I hesitate to pray for humility, because I know what kind of trials that can bring. Tests that produce humility are, well, humiliating. But that’s the point, isn’t it? So I need more humility in my life. And I need less anger. I confess . . . I get angry over silly things. The Internet doesn’t work right; some technology doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Someone at work asks a question that I feel like they should already know the answer to, or maybe I have even already provided the answer. Humility and wisdom would not allow anger in those situations. So, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would produce more humility in me. Calm my soul and help me to always have a gentle answer.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Fear of the Lord

Today is Monday, May 28, 2018. Memorial Day in the U.S. Day 21,991.

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” ~ Doug Larson (The Quotations Page)

The word for today is sacrosanct, an adjective which means, “most sacred or holy : inviolable.” Also, “treated as if holy : immune from criticism or violation.”

As mentioned above, today is Memorial Day in the United States. This is the day that is set aside to honor any in the military who gave their lives in service for their country. We celebrate by staying home from work, having cookouts, and drinking beer. At our house, we will actually only do one of those things.

In all seriousness, there will be a number of events around the country, some of which even occurred on Saturday and/or Sunday, where our fallen heroes will be commemorated. As far as I know, I don’t have any in my family who lost their lives in service, although there are several who did serve. Those we remember on Veteran’s Day. Today is for the ones who gave their lives.

We had a wonderful time at the horse races, yesterday. We reserved a six seat inside box, just one table away from the glass, so we had an excellent view of the home stretch. We invited our pastor, his mother, and his brother to come along, and they were all there. It was great fun. Did we win? Ultimately, no, but we didn’t do too badly. C came out the best, winning $34 out of $42 spent, so she only lost $8. S and I didn’t fair quite so well, although we did win in a couple of races. I had at least two where the horse that I picked to win was ahead in the home stretch, but another came out of nowhere to win. But that’s what happens when you pick a horse to win. If I had picked to place or show, I would have won something in those races. But the most important thing was that we had fun. S was with us, and she had a blast, and behaved very well.

Chris Sale had a rare loss in yesterday’s Red Sox game against the Braves. They lost 7-1, in a game with very little Sox offense. So far Dustin Pedroia’s return to the lineup has been unremarkable. Their record is 36-17, still MLB best, and they are one game up on the Yankees, who beat the Angels 3-1. The Sox begin a series with the Blue Jays, this afternoon.

The Rangers also didn’t fare well, and lost to the Royals 5-3. If I remember correctly, they split the four game series with them. The Rangers’ record is now 22-33, and they are 12.5 games out in the AL West. They begin a series with Seattle, this afternoon.

Just in case no one is paying attention, the Milwaukee Brewers currently have the third best record in MLB, at 34-20, only 2.5 behind the Sox. The Orioles occupy the bottom spot all alone, only a half game behind the White Sox and a whole game behind the Royals. The Rangers are sixth from the bottom.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Of David.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

Psalm 103 is probably one of the more famous Psalms, with several popular worship songs/choruses springing from it. It is definitely a powerful Psalm, with some inspiring/motivating words. We are encouraged to remember what the Lord does for us, including his redemption, his “steadfast love and mercy,” his forgiveness, and his healing. The thing we may forget the most often is that he satisfies us with “good.” How often do I forget that I have all the “good” that I need in God? I search after so many things that I might perceive as being “good,” but the ultimate good is with Christ in God.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Proverbs 9:10

There’s a lot of profound truth wrapped up in that little sentence. We lack the fear of the Lord in our world, today, even in the churches, where it should be most prevalent. We lack “the knowledge of the Holy One,” to a serious degree, as well. I wonder, if you polled the members/attenders of a large metropolitan mega-church, how many of them could express any deep knowledge of God? I’m sure they could give you three alliterative steps to having a healthy marriage, or maybe even some tips on raising children. They might be able to tell you how to better use their finances. But could they tell you about the Holy One?

I’m not sure when this all started. But if you read the early Church Fathers, you will find a depth of knowledge of God, or at least the desire to have such deep knowledge. You would also find a great fear of the Lord, “fear,” perhaps being more appropriately defined as “awe.” A lot of people have tried to downplay the idea of “fearing” God, emphasizing his great love for us. While there is certainly nothing wrong about teaching people about God’s great love, I sincerely believe that the lack of the fear has led us down a precarious path. Even in my own life, it has led to not taking sin as serious as I should.

Multiple times, the writer of Proverbs tells us, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” We would do well to take that to heart.

Father, let me not forget the fear. I desire to be your friend as well as your child. I desire to be one whom Jesus calls “friend.” As I continue to work out the disciplines of this life, help me remember the fear as well as the love.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

Grace and peace, friends.

Walk With Integrity

It’s time to get moving on this Thursday morning. There’s some good news on the horizon. We are seeing the temps cool a little. Low hundreds today through Sunday, then nothing over 100 predicted all next week. Even down to 70 one night next week for the low. I don’t see any significant chance of rain, yet, though. That’s disappointing. But we’ll certainly take what we can get.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 21:23-46
In verse 23-27, the Pharisees come to Jesus, questioning his authority. But he turns it around on them by asking whether John’s baptism was from God or men. They were stuck and they knew it. So they said the couldn’t answer that question. Jesus’s response was, Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (v. 27)
Then he started slamming them in parables. First the parable of the two sons (vv. 28-32) Which son truly did the will of the Father? The one who said he would go and didn’t, or the one who first said he would not go, but later repented and did what was asked? When the Pharisees answered correctly, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (vv. 31-32)
Next, the parable of the vineyard owner and the tenants. (vv. 33-41) When the owner sent servants to get the fruit form his vineyard, the tenants killed the servants. Okay, they didn’t kill all of them. Beat one, killed one, stoned one. He sent some more…they did the same. “Hey, I know! I’ll send my son,” said the owner. That was a bad idea. The tenants thought that if they killed him, they could steal his inheritance. Jesus asked, When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? The Pharisees knew the answer. He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons. (vv. 40-41) Jesus proceeded to tell them that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them and given to a people that would produce its fruit. I love verse 45. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. Ya think??

2 Kings 20
Hezekiah has become ill and was about to die. He prayed to God for more days, though, so God agreed to extend his life for 15 years. As a sign that the Lord would heal him, the sun was made to go backwards so that the shadow on the steps retreated by 10 steps. Then there is an interesting event. Some envoys from Babylon showed up. I guess Hezekiah didn’t have any gripes with Babylon at the time, and they had come because they heard he was ill. So he showed them around…gave them the grand tour. Later, Isaiah wanted to know what happened. What did they see? “Pretty much everything,” was Hezekiah’s response (not literally, of course…).
16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD:
17 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD.
18 And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Hezekiah’s response is interesting, and even a little disturbing.
19 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”
Hezekiah basically said, “Oh, well. As long as it doesn’t effect me.” Perhaps his pride had finally gotten the best of him.

Proverbs 10:1-9
Here we begin the collected sayings of Solomon, most of them merely a verse, a few of them taking more.
1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

One way to read these is to look for character traits that make a difference in God’s eyes. Character is found in the heart. God looks at the heart. And the truths reflected in Proverbs all point to the heart. Check out verse 9. The one who walks in integrity walks securely. We must understand where our security lies. It does not lie in wealth, power, or fame. It lies in walking with integrity in the eyes of the Lord.

Father, I pray this morning that you help me to walk in integrity. Let my path be secure in you, and may I not seek security in anything that is perishable. I pray for the wisdom of Solomon as I read through the Proverbs over the next couple of months. Let me seek righteousness and peace as I walk through this life.
I pray for humility, Lord. Do not let pride become a problem for me, pride that cares nothing about how my actions affect other people. Let me always seek you first when a crisis comes, or when an opportunity may arise that may not be proper for me to accept.
I pray that I would never question your authority, as the Pharisees constantly did. I pray for understanding when it comes to who you are and what you are doing in this world, and in my life. I thank you for the work that you are doing in the life of my family right now.
I pray for this day, that Steph will have a good day at school. I pray that Christi will have a good day at work. I pray for her comfort as she faces yet another friend leaving the company for another job. And I pray for a good day at my work today. I also pray that, as I work this Saturday, that it will go smoothly.

I will seek to walk with integrity with every step I take.

Grace and peace, friends.

We Do Not Get To Decide If God Loves Us

It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m really sleepy. I think I have some kind of sinus thing going on, and caused me to have trouble sleeping from about 330 on, this morning. And I’ve got this muscle twitching thing going on in my right knee. It’s weird. No pain at all. But every couple of hours, it just starts twitching. In almost perfect rhythm. Monday night, it happened in the middle of the night. It’s hard to sleep when your knee is twitching. Once every t-3 seconds. It’s not twitching right now, so I should be able to concentrate. If I can stay awake.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 21:1-22
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent a couple of them to fetch the donkey and her colt. I just noticed that Jesus asked for both of them. I never caught that before. The prophecy Matthew quotes in verse 5 is from Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The word that the crowds are saying, “Hosanna,” means “Save, now.” But when people asked the question, “Who is this?” the answer given shows their misunderstanding of who Jesus truly is. They said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” They called him a prophet. Although that may have been true, it was not the whole truth. Jesus was/is so much more than a prophet.
Jesus spoke about faith again, in verses 20-22. It’s a similar statement to the mustard seed parable. However, this time, he adds And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. This has caused much controversy in the church, as people have attempted to abuse this teaching to get whatever they want. “Name it/claim it” theology has taught that all you have to do is believe and you’ll get that new car, that new house, that new job, or whatever. I do not believe that Jesus meant anything close to that. I agree with the notes in the Reformation Study Bible, which say this: “Freedom from doubt arises from an awareness that something is truly God’s will. True faith receives what it asks for; trust in God is not presumptive arrogance but submission to His will.” My interpretation of this is that faith is more than just belief, it also assumes understanding; comprehension. In other words, I must discern what God’s will is before I pray. Now there are times when I pray for things, not knowing what God’s ultimate will is. Like those days when I pray for rain or for a break from the heat. I have faith that God can do all things. But what is really going on in those prayers is hope, rather than all-encompassing faith. But there are things that I can pray that I know are God’s will. Like prayers for his eventual second coming. I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I know that it will happen.

2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37
Hezekiah is disturbed to the point of tearing his clothes (an ancient sign of great despair) when he hears of the the Rabshakeh’s public mockery of the Lord. But Isaiah reassures him that God will take care of things. The Rabshakeh returns to Assyria, and king Sennacherib sends a letter of similar mockery to Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s prayer follows:
15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands
18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

I like how he ends his prayer. The main purpose for God saving them would be “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” You see, we need to understand that everything God does is for his own glory. Even the great mercy and grace he lavishes on us are for his own name’s sake. He is creator. He has that right.
The Lord, through Isaiah issues a prophecy concerning Assyria. God planned “from days of old” that Assyria would lay waste fortified cities. It was all part of the plan.
27 “But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me.
28 Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.”

And then God tells Hezekiah that the king of Assyria will not so much as even shoot an arrow in Jerusalem because he will defend her. And here is the end of Sennacherib:
35 And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.
37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

I think it’s important to notice that what Hezekiah did when all this started was exactly what we should do in a crisis. He turned to the Lord! He didn’t run to Egypt or other nations, like some kings before him (and after him) did. He consulted the One who has all things in his hands.

Proverbs 9:10-18
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (v. 10) If there could be a theme verse for Proverbs, that would be it. I believe that is the single most important teaching in the whole book. If we do not fear the Lord, we don’t even begin to have wisdom.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10) In Daily Devotions for Kingdom Seekers, Dennis Jernigan speaks of God’s love for us. As parents, we, of all people, should have more of an understanding of God’s love for us. Nobody love my children more than me. So why is it that I can’t seem to comprehend how much God loves me? I love this statement that Dennis has made before, “We do not get to decided if God loves us!” But yet we try to do exactly that. We “decide” that we are not worthy of his love, or that we have done something wrong that has made him stop loving us. This is not possible! God will not stop loving us. Ever. And this reminds me of something that Joel Engle said in our message Sunday morning. A proper understanding of our status before God is necessary before we can properly worship him. How can we worship God when we think he hates our guts?? The answer? WE CAN’T!!! But if we understand that we are cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus, and we understand that any discipline that comes from God’s hand comes through his LOVE, then we can truly worship him, and we can worship him with abandon! “We do not get to decide if God loves us!”

Father, I thank you for loving me. I thank you that I am forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. I thank you that I am free. I pray that I might grow more and more in my comprehension of this love that you have for us, to the point that I no longer ever think you are “angry” at us when we sin, or even that you might stop loving us when we do wrong things. Help me remember that you are my Father, and that you will never stop loving me; that you will never love me less than you do right this minute. But also help me to remember that you will never love me any more than you do right this minute, as well. My works will not make you love me more. Everything I do is done because you love me and because I love you, and is for your glory.
I thank you for the examples of trust that we are given in Scripture. Examples like Hezekiah show us where we need to turn when we enter into a crisis. Too often we run straight to people instead of straight into your arms first. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from people, especially from other believers, but we need to go to you first.
I pray for the faith that Jesus is talking about in Matthew. Several times, he has referenced this faith that can move mountains. Faith that withered a fig tree instantly. It is my contention that only Jesus had that kind of faith. But I believe that we can exercise true faith as well, when we understand your will and pray in that will. Help me to not ask for anything that is not within your perfect will. Give me discernment, Lord, to understand your will.

I pray for Stephanie today, Lord. I pray that she will feel better today than she did yesterday. She made it through the day yesterday, but her stomach was not feeling well. I pray that she will have a better day today.
I pray for Christi’s work day, Lord. Let it be a good one. Also for mine. Yesterday was challenging…today could be as well. But if I remember to look to you, that could make all the difference.

I pray for a friend’s grandson this morning. Newly born yesterday, there was a possibility that something was wrong with his heart. I pray your healing hand on that little baby.

“We do not get to decide if God loves us.”

Grace and peace, friends.

What Do We Deserve?

It’s Tuesday morning, and I don’t have anything clever or pithy to start out with. I guess my brain is still waking up. So, I guess I’ll jump right into the Bible readings.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Proverbs 8:12-21
In verse 13, we get one definition of what it means to “fear the LORD.” The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. Please note that it does not say that we are to hate those who do evil. Too many times, Christians get that confused. Am I saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner?” Well, okay. Yes, I am. But I prefer not to use that worn out cliche. We need to hate evil. Yes. Because God hates evil. But we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s kind of difficult to do if we are busy hating them because we think they do evil. There is a part of wisdom that includes knowledge and discretion (v. 12). Too often we judge people without either one of those characteristics of wisdom. Wisdom also walks in “the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice (v. 20).

Matthew 20:1-16
I’ve always loved this parable. Jesus tells of a vineyard owner who goes out and hires some laborers at the beginning of the day, for a day’s wages. Every few hours, he goes back to the marketplace and hires some more workers, all the way up until the “eleventh hour.” When it came time to pay, he lined them up, starting with the last ones hired. When the ones hired at the eleventh hour got paid for working a whole day, the ones hired first thought surely they would get more. When they only got a day’s wages, they were angry. ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ (v. 12) The vineyard owner replied, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (vv. 13-15) Once again, Jesus says, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Life with God is all about grace. We fall into a dangerous trap when we start believing we deserve anything at all from God. I don’t deserve anything from God! And I have no right to look at the person next to me and expect the same blessing they have received. So what if I’ve been a Christian since I was nine or ten years old? So what if I have spent most of my life “serving the Lord?” (Have I really? Out of my 53 years, I would really be afraid to see a graph showing what percentage of those years was truly used in “serving the Lord.”) The point is, God gives grace as he sees fit. If this parable were to happen in real life today, there would be lawsuits, the ACLU would get involved, and I’m sure that the vineyard owner would be forced to pay more to the people that worked longer. There will be no such thing with God, at the judgment. God is the judge. He is the final authority. And he gives what he gives to whom he will give it, and we have no right to complain.

Isaiah 34-35
Chapter 34 is all about the judgment of the nations. It is pretty gruesome, actually. But I believe verse 8 explains it pretty well. For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
In contrast, chapter 35 speaks of the return of the ransomed to the kingdom. After the previous judgment, the land will be restored. The return of the redeemed will be a beautiful thing.
8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Proverbs 8:22-36
Wisdom, still being personified, was present before the world was created. Her advice, at the end of the chapter:
33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

Matthew 20:17-34
After Jesus foretells his death yet again, a strange request is made. The mother of James and John comes up and asks Jesus a question. “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Whoa! I can’t help but wonder if James and John were embarrassed by this request. Perhaps not, though, because they seemed to be right there with her. Jesus’s response was, “You do not know what you are asking!” He then proceeded to ask them if they were able to drink from the same cup that he has to drink. Their response, quite shockingly, was “We are able.” Normally, the idea of the “cup” indicates extreme suffering, and in Jesus’s case, it signified the outpouring of God’s wrath, to the point of death. These disciples would experience suffering and death for the sake of Christ, but “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Understandably, the other disciples were just a little miffed. The ESV uses the word “indignant.” At that point, Jesus has to remind them (again!) that the last will be first and the first will be last. The natural order of things gets turned upside down in the kingdom of God.

As they were leaving the place, Jesus healed a couple of blind men, who, in turn, followed him.

2 Kings 18; Isaiah 36
So we’re back in 2 Kings, and Hezekiah takes the throne. He was a good king, who did right in the eyes of the Lord (v. 3).
5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.
6 For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses.
7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.
8 He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

The rest of chapter 18 concerns Assyria’s attacks on Samaria and Jerusalem. At one point, there is a lengthy speech from the Rabshakeh of Assyria, mocking Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah for trusting in the Lord. Isaiah 36 is almost verbatim the same words in 2 Kings 18.

Proverbs 9:1-9
Wisdom calls out from the street to all who would hear.
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Father, I pray for your wisdom this morning. Let me eat of the bread and drink of the wine of wisdom. I would leave my “simple ways” and walk in the ways of your insight.
I trust in you, Father, no matter what our enemy may throw in my direction. I know that you have loved me all the days of my life. No matter how I feel each day, I realize that I have never lived a day without love, for you have loved me. No matter what my actions, on any day of my entire life, there has never been a time that you did not love me. I have been clean because of the word that you spoke in me. I have been forgiven by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ.
I pray for continued understanding of the concepts that Jesus was teaching in the last few days of readings. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Positions of power and authority, of riches and wealth, mean nothing in your kingdom. What matters in your kingdom is that we serve each other and you, out of the love that issues from our hearts. Let my service to you have no underlying motives of any gain. When I get up early on Saturday to go help set up for the worship celebration, let it be purely from a motive of love for you and your kingdom. Let it be for joy. Let me never seek to be “ahead” of another believer.
I look forward to the day that is spoken of in Isaiah 35. I believe this is a picture of the day when you will reign supremely over all creation. The description is beautiful.
I understand that I do not deserve any blessing from you. I have understood this for many years, Lord. I know that everything that I have is given to me by your grace and mercy. Let me never fall into the trap of believing that I have deserved any of this.

I pray for this day, Father. I thank you that Steph had a great day at school yesterday, and that her teachers think she is doing well. I pray for another great day today. I pray for a good day at work for Christi and me. Let it go smoothly today, without stress or anxiety.

Fill us with your grace today, Lord. Let our cups overflow.

It is important, I believe, to understand the depths of God’s grace, especially in light of the fact that we do not deserve anything from him.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Humility Of A Child

It appears to be Thursday morning. I’m still a little groggy as I start this today. I’ve been staying up to watch Red Sox v Rangers games. And for the most part it has been great fun for me. But I won’t go into that here. There are more important things to do on this blog. So i’ll get right to it.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 18:1-14
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them
3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

What is it about humans that we always want to be the greatest, the best? We do have a competitive spirit, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Jesus pretty much turns it upside down here. If we want to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” we must “become like children.” What does that mean? Verse 4 offers a pretty good explanation: humility. We must be humble like children, and we must receive each other in our humility. However, if, by our own irresponsibility or pride, we should cause one to sin…It would be better if we had had a mafia burial (cement shoes, as it were, in modern terms). Jesus goes on to talk more about temptation.

7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Temptations are a necessary evil, but we had better not be the source of them! Then Jesus repeats something he said back in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus certainly was not advocating self-mutilation (I’ve never seen a Christian with no hands or eyes). We know that it is not the hand or eyes that cause temptation or sin, but the mind and heart.

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
11 [For the Son of Man came to save the lost.]
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(Verse 11 is not in the older and more reliable manuscripts.) So what is Jesus talking about here? Is he really talking about children, still? I don’t think so. Remember, he is using the child to represent God’s redeemed “children.” Can we take this to mean that we each have an angel (or multiple angels?) representing us before our Father in heaven? Interesting question. Then he compares us to sheep again. And after this comparison, I must take verse 14 to be specifically speaking of the elect. Jesus speaks of ownership…the man in the parable has a hundred sheep and one is astray. When he finds it, he rejoices. He does not love that one more than the other 99. “God elects, seeks out, and preserves not only His church as a whole, but each individual within the church.” (Reformation Study Bible notes on verses 12-14) There is a suggestion that Jesus may have had Ezekiel 34:11-16 in mind when he said this. 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Isaiah 28
He starts out with a judgment against Ephraim, who is described as being a drunkard. Verse 2 seems to describe Assyria as the are about to come down on Ephraim to bring God’s judgment. But, as always, there is a thread of hope in verses 5-6: In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. But God’s people (even the priests and prophets) had become as drunkards…hard-hearted, sensual, even sarcastic. They speak in verse 9, insulting Isaiah, saying To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? But God will speak to the people himself, saying in verses 12-13, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. That line, “precept upon precept, line upon line,” is a a taunt that was thrown at Isaiah, but he throws it right back at them.
It is said that the rulers of the people have made a covenant with death (v. 15), and that they have made lies their refuge and falsehood their shelter.
16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”
18 Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.

Psalm 118:22-24 seems to be related to verse 16. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Note the context for verse 24. I don’t suppose there is anything wrong with us quoting that on Sunday morning before our worship services, but it’s not the context of the verse. The “day that the LORD has made” is the day that Jesus became the cornerstone!
Back in Isaiah, notice the standard of measurement in verse 17. Justice and righteousness are the standards. The lies and falsehoods of the religious leaders and rulers will be swept away.

Proverbs 7:1-5
Solomon is really stressing the importance of avoiding the “adulteress!” But he begins chapter 7 just as he began the section in chapter 6, verse 20.
1 My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you;
2 keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
3 bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend,
5 to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.

We are encouraged to be cling closely to wisdom, so that it might keep us from a multitude of sins.

Father, I pray for wisdom each day of my life. I pray that you would give me the wisdom and knowledge to live a successful life in your eyes. Let me not be tied to the ideas of success that come from this world, but, rather, let me see success as you see it; a life lived holy before you.
Let me not be one who is “in haste” or “put to shame” by the Cornerstone that you have placed. I pray that I will be, as it were, broken by this Cornerstone…broken to the point of ultimate submission to Christ. I pray for the humility of the child that Jesus spoke of. Let pride not be a stumbling block for me, and I pray fervently that I never be a source of temptation or sin to another child of God! I believe that I am one of your sheep, Lord! I praise you that you elected me, sought me out, and are preserving me in your tender care. You are my rock and my fortress, my shelter to which I can run.

As I pray for this day, Lord, I hear thunder outside, and have heard some rain. We praise you for the rain, and would ask that we get more. The lakes in our city are depleted beyond recognition. Give us rain to replenish the earth.

As I life up our nation’s leaders, Lord, I pray for wisdom for President Obama and Vice President Biden on matters of domestic and international policy. The president is seeking counsel from others as he works on a plan to try to get our nation back on its economic feet. I pray that they will have wisdom, and I pray that you would bring our nation back to the place of financial stability.

Give us a good day today, Lord. I thank you that Steph had a great day at school yesterday, and pray for another one. Let her not be overly anxious from the thunder outside right now. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at our jobs today.

The humility of a child…this is no small feat for us. (I said “FEAT!”) We can only do it with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

Whose Wisdom?

It’s Wednesday morning. The week is almost half over.

Just got a call from Christi, who is on her way to work. It seems her mother and step-dad have decided they want to go back home. This is very discouraging, and we believe it’s a very bad idea. Christi told them she is stepping back. She’s had so much involvement in trying to get them set up in a place where they could live, and now they go and decide to move back home. Prayers would be appreciated. Not sure what to pray for, other than peace for Christi, or that they would come to their senses and realize what is reasonable.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 10:24-42
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

I wasn’t sure why he broke it off here yesterday, as these two verses seem to go with the preceding passage. He also seems to be referring back to the part in chapter 9 where they accused him of casting out demons by “the prince of demons” (9:34). Basically, what he is saying is “however they treat me, expect the same.”

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

The central message of this passage is that we should fear God more than we fear men. Men can kill our bodies, but they cannot touch our soul. God, however, can “destroy both body and soul in hell.” I once heard a preacher say, from the pulpit, that that line referred to Satan. I was astounded. Satan has no power, and hell is not his dominion. All of the depictions that we see of Satan ruling over hell are dead wrong. Hell, the lake of fire, or whatever you want to call it, is Satan’s punishment, not his dominion.
As our Father takes notice of a sparrow falling from the sky, so much more valuable are we to him than they. See? “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” The intimate detail with which our Father cares for us is amazing.
Verses 32 and 33 have often been used as an excuse for modern evangelicalism’s invitation format, believing that walking down an aisle and “accepting Jesus as your Savior” equates acknowledging him before men. I don’t buy it. The invitation system, which I have observed for several decades, is nothing more than crass manipulation. I applaud churches that have taken this and adapted it to more of a prayer time, just calling people to get before God in their spirits. There are many ways that I can acknowledge or deny Jesus before men. But the ultimate denial is refusal to believe in him. And in the context of this passage, I believe that Jesus is referring to instances where we might fear men more than we fear God, which might cause us to clam up about our belief, or, even flat out deny him completely. Jesus was talking about persecution. (Which means that, maybe, the first two verses do belong with this passage…) He was preparing his disciples for a time of struggle. But wait! Peter denied him before men, didn’t he? And he was restored! I believe that what is in the heart is very important at this point. And it is entirely possible that I’m not making any sense at all. Moving on…

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

VERY difficult words here, eh? Bottom line is, we have to love Jesus more than anything else in our lives, even our life! By the way, I’ve heard people sigh and say that something is “just my cross to bear.” Unless it’s something they have a choice about, no, it’s not. A disease or affliction is not your cross to bear. A pesky relative that you can’t be done with is not your cross to bear. Identifying with Jesus Christ even to the point of death. THAT’S a cross to bear! Getting dis-owned by your entire family (who has a “funeral” for you because you became a Christian). THAT’S a cross to bear. Even choosing not to join the partying crowd at your local school, because you love Jesus more than you want the approval of your peers…that, too, is a cross to bear.

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.
41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.
42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

We are emissaries of Christ. If someone receives us, they receive Christ; and if they receive Christ, they receive God. There is even a reward for someone who gives a disciple a cup of cold water. Interesting. Generosity is very important.

Isaiah 5
The Lord compares Israel to a vineyard that he planted, but it only grew wild grapes. So he removed the hedge and allowed it to be trampled. Verse 8 is interesting: Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. Very interesting. The houses in our neighborhood are, like, 8 feet apart.
The Lord condemns those who do nothing but seek after pleasure.
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands.

Man will be humbled, but the Lord will be exalted (vv. 15-16) Many woes are pronounced upon the people:
20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!

Notice the lack of justice while claiming to have great wisdom.

Proverbs 2:1-8
1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

This is a beautiful passage. It’s all about heeding the words of the Lord, seeking wisdom, and praying for insight. If you treat wisdom as great treasure and seek it like silver, you will understand God. Wisdom comes from God. Understanding comes from God. Knowledge comes from God.

Father, I thank you that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding belong to you. I pray that they would be imparted to me, as I ponder your Scriptures on a daily basis. I pray that you watch over my way each day, and over the way of my wife and children.
Lord, I pray that I would always fear you more than I fear men. Men can do nothing eternal to me. They may hurt and kill my body, but they cannot touch my soul, which belongs to you. I pray that you keep my soul, as you have promised to do; keep it safe; keep it yours. My soul is wrapped in your Holy Spirit, and nothing can touch it! It is eternally yours, and nothing can change that. I praise you for this, Lord.
I pray that I would always bear my cross for you, Lord. Let me not put it down. But if I do, remind me, Lord, that I might pick it up again, and continue to carry it. Let me never love anything else more than I love you. Let me keep my priorities straight in life, Father. And I pray that, if a time of persecution of Christians ever comes in this nation, that I would stand firm for you, and never deny your name before men. Make me strong, Father.

I pray for this day. I especially pray for Christi right now, Lord. She is very discouraged. I pray that someone would minister to her at work this morning, in some way, to brighten her day. I also pray for her mother and step-father. I don’t pray for them to fail. I pray for them to succeed. But I also pray for good sense.
I pray for Stephanie today. I pray that her school year will be successful this year. I pray for our party this weekend, that it will be a good time for all who attend. As her 18th birthday approaches, I pray that we will be able to get things arranged that need to be arranged. Give us wisdom as we prepare for Stephanie’s future as an adult. We need it badly, Lord. Lots of wisdom.

Let us not be wise in our own eyes; rather let us seek the Lord’s wisdom.

Grace and peace, friends.

No Corrupt Talk

My guest blog is up! Woohoo! First time ever! To read it, go to Too Soxy For My Shirt. Also, to read my blog about other stuff, go to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 10:1-23
1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.
2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

We don’t have the specific record of all of these being called. However, this is the first time, at least in Matthew, where we see them all together. And, at this point, Jesus passes on some of his authority to them. Notice, Judas is included in that. Then he sends them out.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans,
6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts,
10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.
11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.
12 As you enter the house, greet it.
13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

At first, the gospel was going out only to Israel. They were told to take no money with them, nor were they to take any payment for their teaching, preaching, and healing. They would be provided for by the people to whom they ministered. There is a serious injunction in verse 14. If no one in a town would receive them, they were not to try to stay there, and even “shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” The resulting judgment on that town would be worse than Sodom and Gomorrah!

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,
18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.
19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.
20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death,
22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

First of all, if I had been one of the disciples, listening to this, I would not have been very encouraged. I’d be thinking, “What have I gotten myself into, here?” But of course, none of these things happened on this particular “mission trip.” Jesus was referring to a time in the future. The difficult part, to me, is relying on the Spirit to give us the words, to speak through us. “What will I say if they ask such and such,” is always my fear. Seriously…people have questions that I cannot answer. Sometimes they are truly dumb questions, like “Can God make a rock that’s so heavy that God can’t lift it?” Really? Is that the best you can do? Answer: I don’t know…why would he want to? The thing is, there ARE some things that God CANNOT do! *gasp* WHAT????? He can’t stop being God. He cannot lie. He cannot do anything that is contrary to his own nature. But, for all practical purposes, as Jesus said, nothing is impossible with God. So, I’m not afraid of the weird questions, any more.
The destruction and persecution spoken of by Jesus in these verses could have several meanings, but I believe that it probably refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

Isaiah 3-4
The first thing spoken in chapter 3 is that times in Jerusalem and Judah will get so bad that if someone is found with even so much as a cloak to wear, they will be made leader. There will be great famine in the land. For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. (v. 8 ) They have even gotten proud of their sin! (v. 9) But, as always, there is encouragement for the righteous in verse 10: Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
In verses 13-15, the Lord will contend with those responsible; the leaders of the people.
Most of chapter 4 speaks of a reward for the faithful. It is a short chapter.
2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.
3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.
5 Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy.
6 There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

Proverbs 1:20-33
Wisdom is personified, in this passage (and others, as well), as a woman, crying out in the street. “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.” (vv. 22-23) But, since no one listened, she will laugh and mock at them when calamity strikes. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. (vv. 29-31) BUT…whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. (v. 33) There is great benefit in listening to God’s wisdom.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Uh-oh. Yeah, I know. This verse headlines today’s reading in Tabletalk Magazine. “Our hateful speech, undiscerning words, and statements delivered at inopportune times can destroy relationships, end careers, and otherwise bring us much pain.” Don’t I know that!! Folks I speak from painful experience when I tell you that these words are true! Words can be used as weapons, and, even though our words can harm ourselves, they can be even more harmful to other people. James warned against the misuse of the tongue in his short book of the New Testament. Paul, in today’s verse, admonishes us to stay away from negative, corrupt talk, and to use only words that edify. “Putting off our old selves in favor of Christ means putting away vulgarity, spiteful speech, mocking of others’ flaws, and other corrupt talk.” Wait. Did he say, “mocking of others’ flaws?” Whoops. That’s a tough one, isn’t it? We do that a lot, don’t we?

“Christians must never utter a harmful word.” I just had to stop for a minute to let that sink in. “Christians must never utter a harmful word.” “The Greek word translated corrupt…is used elsewhere to describe spoiled fruit, rotten fish, and anything else that is worn out and useless. Words with such corruption bring decay to the bonds of fellowship in the church, undermining the effectiveness of the covenant community.”

There are times when harsh words are appropriate. The key, here, is motive. Are our words designed to build up or tear down?

Does anyone else have shredded toes right now?

I meant to briefly summarize the message we heard Sunday morning. But time was short yesterday morning. It was called “The Death of Death.” The key phrase of the message was, “Jesus defeated death so He could deliver life to us!” The Scripture passage began in Acts 9:32, and first included the healing of a man named Aeneas. Aeneas had been bedridden for eight years. Peter simply said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And he did. He got up. Note who did the healing. Jesus did. Not Peter. But the greater healing occurs in verse 35, when all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. “Jesus heals powerless people.”

The next section began in verse 36. A disciple named Tabitha (also called Dorcas) had gotten ill and died. They had heard what Peter had done in Lydda, so they called for him to come to Joppa. In verse 39, there is a touching moment. All of Tabitha’s friends and people she had reached gathered around Peter, showing him garments that she had made. “Jesus comforts hurting people.” Tabitha had been a very compassionate woman. Is my life marked by blessing people? The greatest apologetic for Jesus is the changed lives of his people. Christians should be filled with compassion.

Finally, beginning in verse 40, Peter, after praying first, simply turns to the body and says, “Tabitha arise.” She opened her eyes, sat up, and Peter helped her get up. Again, the result was that many believed in the Lord. “Jesus brings life to dead people.” But do we frequently slip back into “death mode?”

God’s master plan of evangelism is to do such a magnificent work in my life that people around me notice and come to the Lord!

Father, I pray for that work in my life. Let people around me notice your work in my life and come to you! I pray that I might listen to wisdom as she calls from the marketplace. Let me heed the wisdom that comes from you.
Put a bridle on my tongues, Lord Jesus! I know that words have cost me so much over the span of my life. I realize that part of the reason that I am not leading worship right now is because I could not control my tongue. It doesn’t negate the wrong actions of some others, but my responsibility is there. I can’t go back and undo the past, any more than we can take back words that are spoken. So let me examine my speech daily Lord. Let the Holy Spirit be my filter, so that anything that might come out of my mouth has to go through him first. Stop words that would be harmful, Father! Let no harmful speech come out of my mouth. Let me not mock anyone else’s flaws are bad judgment. Let words like “idiot” and “stupid” be erased from my vocabulary! Let me not even refer to myself with those words!
I pray for the power that you gave the disciples. Not that I want to go around casting out demons or anything like that. But the power of the gospel. Let it flood through my life and give me strength for living and faith to rely on you completely.

I pray for this day, Father. I thank you that Christi and Steph had a great day yesterday. I pray that Christi will have a good day at work today. I pray that my day will be good, as well. I pray for a successful birthday/back to school party this coming Saturday.

I continue to pray for relief from the heat wave and drought, Father. We desperately need rain. The temperatures might drop a few degrees by the end of this week, but there is no rain forecast. Father, please intervene and give us much needed rain.

Take heed of your words. I will examine mine. I will try to stop any harmful words before they get past my mouth. That’s a tough one.

Grace and peace, friends.