Today is Saturday, the 3rd of December, 2022, in the first week of Advent.
May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!
22 days until Christmas!
We are having a Night of Worship, tonight, for the first time in what must be at least two years. I’ll be playing keyboard alongside a couple of friends who play guitar. We all sing, so each of us will be “leading” several songs. Here is one of the songs I will be leading.
Today’s header photo was taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided to view his inspiring photography.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. (Psalms 119:41-42 ESV)
I crave Your steadfast love, O Lord, like a newborn craves its mother’s milk. No one is taunting me, right now, but I still desire Your Word to be imbedded in my heart, that I might always have an answer for anyone who questions my faith and devotion.
Lord our God, we thank you that you let light shine out every day and every year. Thank you that we may always look to you, whose right hand will bring order into everything and set all things right, even in difficult times. May our hearts receive strength to persevere and go on praising you, for you remain, no matter what happens on earth. You are our God, you have sent us the Savior, and we can draw close to you. You have made us the firm promise that your day is coming when truth and justice will arise on earth to the glory of your name. May the hearts of many people turn to you so that they worship you and call to you for help, to the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:76–79, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- for the light of God that shines out, daily, in us and through us
- that, no matter what happens on this earth, our God remains and is faithful
- that, because of Jesus Christ, we can draw close to God; may He draw us closer and closer
- that the Lord takes pleasure in His people, and adorns the humble with salvation (Psalm 149)
- that it’s not about me, but it’s about Jesus; it may be for me, but it’s not about me
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
(Galatians 6:2-3 ESV)
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
(Galatians 6:14 ESV)
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
(Ezekiel 3:1-3 ESV)
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 149:1-9 ESV)
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”
(Joshua 7:19 NLT)
But the king will rejoice in God. All who swear to tell the truth will praise him, while liars will be silenced. (Psalms 63:11 NLT)
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
(Mark 9:33-37 NRSV)
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19 NRSV)
Surrender. We do not like that word, we westerners. We bristle with pride when we are called upon to surrender anything that we believe is a “right.” We love our “rights,” especially in the US of A.
We also like glory. Oh, how we love to be noticed and applauded. We love the glory. But here’s the thing. If we are followers of Christ, the glory is not to be ours. And one of the main things we are called to do is, in fact, to surrender.
As a person who has lived in Texas all my life (so far), I see the struggle lived out right in front of me, daily. One of the biggest stages where this is worked out, in reality, is on the highways. Watching people drive is a great indicator of their level of maturity. People become monsters when they get behind the wheel, it’s rather strange. Monsters with a two-ton weapon in their hands.
I was intensely moved by today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2022. Here is the piece of it that struck me the hardest.
"We aren't designed to compete with His glory; we're made to reflect His grace. "Through my own, much humbler experiences, I know that not a single talent I possess is mine alone. Rather, they were given to me for His specific purpose. God opens the doors He wants opened and closes the ones He wants closed. I don't know His plans. I do know I will give my utmost for what is asked of me and leave the rest up to Him." (Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2022)
We humans, who drive like bats out of hell, are made to reflect His grace. Next time you get behind the wheel of a car, think about that, and consider how much grace you reflect in your driving habits. Or any other habits, for that matter. How do you respond when the people at the restaurant get your order wrong? Again. (I’m point the finger back at myself on that one, so I’m not just preaching at those who will read this.) How do you respond when the grocery store leaves something out of your delivery order?
How do I respond when the Internet doesn’t work right?
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I’m stomping on my own toes, people.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the past couple of decades is that it’s not about me. Pretty much nothing is about me. This past Sunday, in a sermon entitled “For You,” Pastor Kari Malinak, Discipleship Pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church, said that God’s plan of salvation isn’t about you; it’s for you.
Nothing God does is about me. The talents that I have, that, as Erika so aptly stated, cannot be called my own, because they were given to me “for His specific purpose.” I have musical talent with which I have been gifted. Admittedly, it appears to be somewhat genetic, as both my parents also had musical talent. Nevertheless, it is a gift from God, and it is not so that I can receive glory.
When I was an adolescent, I wanted to be a rock star. I mean, who doesn’t, right? I finally outgrew that a few years ago. (That was supposed to be funny.) But, later in life, I realized that this talent that I was given was for the specific purpose of leading others to lift up the name of Jesus in worship. It’s not about me. It is for me, yes, but not about me.
It is always about Jesus.
When Jesus took those three disciples up on the mountain and they witnessed His transfiguration, during that event, Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Him. Moses represented the Law; Elijah represented the Prophets. And then, suddenly, as quickly as they appeared, Moses and Elijah were gone.
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
(Mark 9:7-8 NRSV)
It is all about Him. It may be for you and me, but it is about Jesus.
So, today, when I get out on the highway, I’m going to think about this when someone cuts me off in traffic or drives too slow in front of me. I’m going to graciously leave space between me and the car in front of me, so that someone can change lanes if they need to, or if they suddenly realize that they need to be over there, somewhere.
When I got to a restaurant, I’m going to remember that if I have to wait longer than I think I should have to wait (boy, we Americans hate waiting), or if they get my food order wrong. And, should a piece of technology suddenly stop working properly, I’m going to remind myself that it is an inanimate object and, as such, bears me no ill will. It’s not personal.
In short, I am going to remind myself that I am supposed to be reflecting the grace and glory of our Father in heaven.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Father, I confess that I constantly forget that it’s not about me. I can try to blame our society, but that doesn’t really fly. I have no one to blame but myself. Society doesn’t hold a gun to my head and force me to be a jerk to people. I have full control over my mind and my emotions, and it is up to me to own that. As a famous blues song once said, it’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine.”
And, in the same manner, the talents that I have are not mine at all, but Your gifts to me. And I praise You for those talents. Tonight, when I am playing and singing in this Night of Worship, I pray that I, along with the other people participating, will make it all about You and none of it about us. Let us praise and worship You and give You all the glory as we worship You. Even though some of the songs we may sing are about “me,” let us realize that it is because of You that we are even able to exist, from day to day.
I also pray that the whole world would see this truth, and acknowledge that we owe all to You. Someday, that will come to pass, as it is Your will, on earth as in heaven. But we would love to see this happen sooner than later, and would prefer to see it be voluntary.
Thank You, Father, for all You have done for us and help us to remember that it is not about us. May we reflect Your glory and grace in all aspects of our lives. Word of God, speak.
All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant us Your peace. (Agnus Dei)
Grace and peace, friends.