Just Say “Yes!”

Today is Friday, the twentieth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,444

My day at the library was pretty good, yesterday, and went by somewhat quickly. There were periods when it was relatively busy, and the day started out fairly busy. By that I mean that there were people who needed assistance. There could be someone at every computer in the place, but if no one needs any help, it might as well be empty.

I finished a book, yesterday, The Twelve Tasks, by Katharine Wibell. I will get that review posted on my other blog, this afternoon. Late last night, I started reading Starman Jones, by Robert A. Heinlein. I realized, as I looked at my various lists, that I have not read any of the Science Fiction Grandmasters since last July.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Houston Astros, last night, 5-1. The Rangers scored first, in the top of the first inning, but the Astros quickly answered with two in the bottom of the first. It stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth inning, The Rangers brought Josh Sborz in to pitch in the seventh, and he did okay, but in the eight inning, he completely lost it, and I swear to you, he couldn’t manage to get the ball all the way to home plate! I lost count of how many pitches bounced in front of the plate. He gave up a hit and walked the bases loaded before Woodward finally took him out and brought in Matt Moore. Sborz only got one out in the eighth. Moore got the second out, but then gave up a bases-clearing double, which made it 5-1.

So the Rangers are now 17-20 for the season, but still in third place in the AL West, a game ahead of Seattle and 2.5 ahead of Oakland. They are seven games behind the Astros. They play again tonight, at 7:10 CDT, on Apple TV. Martin Perez gets the start tonight. Hopefully, he can continue his good performance streak.

The reason the Rangers are still alone in third place is that the Red Sox beat the Mariners, last night, 12-6. Wow. They scored runs in five out of eight innings (they didn’t bat in the ninth because they are at home). The Sox are now 16-22 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 1.5 ahead of the Orioles. They will play the Mariners again tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

Someone listened to me, because the Yankees finally lost their tenth game, last night. They still own the best MLB record, though, at 28-10, 2.5 ahead of the LA Dodgers. The Cincinnati Reds (11-26) are still the worst, a game behind the Washington Nationals (13-26). The LA Dodgers have the longest win streak, at five games, and the Cleveland Guardians (can’t get used to that!) are tied with the LA Angels (yay!!!) with the longest losing streak, at three games. The Dodgers continue to have the highest run differential, at +83, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest differential, at -71. The Rangers and Red Sox both have a current run differential of -8.

It’s Friday, so I have pretty much nothing planned today. I like that. C is working from home, so we are all here, and Mama likes that. 🙂 I have to say I like it, too. C is going on a trip, though, next Friday, and I already miss her. 😦 She will have an opportunity, though, to visit with our oldest daughter in Indianapolis while on this trip, though, so that is good. I was unable to go along, because I’m scheduled to work that weekend, and, since I’m part time, I don’t get PTO. Plus, the first part of her trip is work-related.


Lord our God, give us your Spirit, we pray, that we may learn to understand what we are and what tasks you have set for us. We thank you for all the light you give us. Grant that we and many others may come closer to knowledge of the truth and be at peace about all that belongs in your hands, our Father in heaven. Keep us now and forevermore in your almighty hand. May we know your goodness and the blessing it brings. For through your goodness we can endure even the hardest days and be victorious in the battle of life. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 
who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 
For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 2:1-5 NLT emphasis mine)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, who can reconcile God and humanity
2. for the ability to let God worry about the things that only He can control
3. that the Lord has redeemed me and snatched me from the power of the grave
4. for my beautiful and good inheritance in Christ
5. for the reality that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is actually closer to me than any human being; I pray to know this reality in every waking moment
They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. 
Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. 
Redemption does not come so easily, 
for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave. . . .  
But as for me, God will redeem my life. 
He will snatch me from the power of the grave.
(Psalms 49:6-9, 15 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yes.”

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
(Psalms 16:6 ESV)

That verse is tricky, because the reading quotes it from the NKJV, which I don’t have in my Bible program on my PC, and have no desire to pay for. But the NKJV uses the word “yes,” where the ESV says “indeed.” The original KJV says “yea.”

I believe that I can say, along with David, that, yes, I have a beautiful and good inheritance. Truly, the lines have fallen in pleasant places, for me.

I love to cry out “yes!” in praise when I am worshiping the Lord. I say “yes!” to His mercy and grace; “yes!” to His steadfast and unending love; “yes!” to His provision; and “yes!” to His magnificent glory.

But there is another usage of “yes,” that I think needs to be highlighted.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
(2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)

You see, God says “yes!” to us, as well. Not in a “name-it-claim-it” prosperity gospel blank check kind of way. But the real and true promises of God are always “yes” in Christ. And that verse brings up another thing that I forgot about. Essentially, the word “amen” means “yes.” In fact, I recall, when listening to the album that propelled Hillsong into the limelight, back in the nineties, (Shout to the Lord) it became apparent that Australian Christians had a tendency to say “yeah,” in place of “amen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I cry out with a resounding “yes!” in praise to You. I praise You for all Your glory, Your magnificence, displayed around the world in Your glorious creation. I praise You for Your unending love, Your infinite mercy and grace. And I also praise You for Your “yes!” in the promises that You have given and their fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Search me, God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalms 139:23-24 NIV)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
(Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
(Luke 6:37 NIV)

The main thrust of this topic is forgiveness. We all have the tendency, as humans, to want revenge. Or, perhaps, we want what we consider to be “justice.” Sometimes, our idea of justice is nothing more than revenge wrapped in a different skin. But we’re human, after all, and that’s how we roll.

I love The Message version of the Luke passage.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:37-38 MSG)

And wouldn’t you know it? I can tie this all back around to that thing that I keep harping on. Love. And that “golden rule” thing that Jesus talked about. You know the one . . . treat others the way you want to be treated. There’s a thing making the rounds on TikTok, currently. It says, “Turns out when you treat people the way they treat you . . . they get mad.” Well, duh.

We live in an age of unprecedented picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults. Unless, of course, they’re on the same political side as we are. Then, their faults don’t matter. If we were following the commands of Jesus, that wouldn’t be happening. Plain and simple.

This is why I’m paying less and less attention to politics. It’s hard to avoid, sometimes, because it gets right in your face. I just try to move my face.

Just say, “Yes!” to forgiveness and treating people the way you want to be treated. Say “Yes!” to being Christlike.

Father, I pray for us. Not just us in the U.S., but “us” all over the world. I pray for all the people who claim to be following Christ, but insist on disobeying the commands of Jesus to not be judging and picking on people, and treating them the actual opposite of the way they would like to be treated. Help us to love, Father. Help us to say “yes” to forgiveness and love; “yes” to mercy and grace. We love receiving Your mercy and grace; help us to also love dispensing that mercy and grace, and help us, that our mercy and love would be like Yours, infinite and never-ending. I know that’s ultimately impossible, but at least we could try, You know?

Here’s a brief word from Eugene Peterson.

“Worship centers our life. In worship, we let God have the first word. We set the mood of days to come by practicing adoration and praise. We establish a sense of reality in which the ‘great invisibles’ (God, Christ, and Spirit) can be as fresh and present to us in daily life as our family members and workplaces and job lists.”

(From On Living Well)

Okay, just stop for a moment. Can you even imagine that sense of reality of which he speaks? Can you imagine a sense of reality in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are as real and fresh to you as your family?? Can I truly conceive of practicing a reality in which God is as close and real to me as my wife, mother, and daughter that live in the same house as me?

But here’s the thing.




This is reality, folks! God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is literally closer to us than even our families! We just have to enter into a reality where we can feel this and experience it. And this begins, according to Peterson (and I find myself, as usual, in agreement with him), with worship.

Just say “Yes!” to worship!

Father, I pray for the ability to worship You in such a way that leads to this reality. Frank Laubach believed that we could live in such a way as to consider You during every minute of every day (at least the ones in which we are awake). What would our lives look like if we could achieve this? If, during every minute of my waking hours I knew of Your presence within me and all around me, as the prayer of St. Patrick envisions, what would my life look like? I want to know this reality. I desire to live and walk in this reality. Help me to say “yes” to this kind of worship and experience.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

This song wrecks me, every time.

Grace and peace, friends.

Worship God

Today is Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Day 21,719. Six days until the Labor Day holiday!

Temple Grandin, who is 70 today, said, “Autism is a neurological disorder. It’s not caused by bad parenting. It’s caused by, you know, abnormal development in the brain. The emotional circuits in the brain are abnormal. And there also are differences in the white matter, which is the brain’s computer cables that hook up the different brain departments.”

Word of the Day

Coalesce ~ “to grow together; to unite into a whole; to unite for a common end; join forces.”

Today is According to Hoyle Day. Edmond Hoyle was best known for his books on rules for a variety of card games. My parents had one of his books, when I was growing up, and I used to love to read through it. Hoyle died on this date in 1769.

There isn’t much going on around here, right now, but even if there was, it would pale in comparison to what is going on in southeast Texas. I haven’t mentioned it, yet, but Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas on, I believe, Thursday or Friday night. Rockport and other coastal towns got hit pretty hard, but Houston is suffering the brunt of what is now a tropical storm, and seems to be pretty much camped out over Harris County, dumping billions of gallons of water on it. And it doesn’t look like Harvey will be leaving the area until at least Thursday of this week. My family and I are okay, as we live in the DFW Metroplex, which is about 250 miles north of there. We’ve gotten a little rain and some cloudy days, that’s pretty much it. But it’s still raining in Houston, and much of the city is underwater, in some places so high that trucks are underwater. If you are the praying type, you might want to send up a prayer for the rain to stop. There are a number of brave volunteers who are sacrificing to go out and help rescue people who are stranded in their homes. The death toll from the storm is between seven and fifteen, depending on which news you look at. In my opinion, that’s pretty miraculous that it’s that low. Any number is too high, of course.

And while all this is going on, I have Facebook friends who can’t seem to care about anything but whether some stupid football players stand up for the National Anthem. I just don’t understand some people.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psalm 95:1
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Psalm 144:5
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:23
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 89:1
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
John 10:17-18
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. 
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, 
from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:7-9

(From Living the Message)

The Twenty-four Elders and the Four Animals fell to their knees and worshiped God on his Throne, praising, Amen! Yes! Hallelujah!
Revelation 19:4 (The Message)

John spends a lot of time, in this last book of the Bible, describing scenes of worship in heaven. It might lead one to believe that worship is kind of important. I have believed, for decades, that it is the most important thing we, as followers of Christ, can do. Some believe evangelism is most important; others believe making disciples is more important (no, they are not the same thing). However, as Jesus gave the most important command as loving God with all of our being (heart, soul, mind, and strength), I believe with all my heart that this embodies worship. This helps us keep our focus on what is right in this life. If we are worshiping God, everything else that we should be doing will fall into place.

Father, help me to worship you more. I have, it seems, rather fallen out of this practice. Not that I don’t worship you, but the passion seems to be missing. I implore you, please restore the passion of worship that I once had in my life. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Show me the path, make it clear to me, and then help me to keep my feet on it.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Grace and peace, friends.

Between Bethel and Ai

“The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him.” ~~Oswald Chambers

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”~~George MacDonald

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is unputdownable. No, really. I swear I am not making this up. Click on the link. It means, most commonly in reference to a book, “so interesting or suspenseful as to compel reading.”

Today is Cuddle Up Day. I wonder if my boss would accept that as a reason for not coming to work.

Nothing much happening around here, this morning. I stayed about an hour late, last night, we made chili for dinner, watched the season premier of Downton Abbey, and went to bed. Always on the lookout for great lines from Maggie Smith’s character, she did not disappoint. “Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?” the Dowager Countess asked Mrs. Crawley. It seems that they will be engaging in the epic battle to end all epic battles, this season, which is fitting, I suppose, since it is the final season. I will really miss her!

We have plans to get back to the gym, this evening, after work.


(From Praying With the Psalms)

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long?

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Psalm 6

What is causing the intense suffering and fear that the psalmist is experiencing, here? There is no answer to that question, and it truly isn’t important. What is important is “the experience with God in prayer that moves from hopeless depression to assured acceptance.” That is significant.

“You, O Christ, who were despised and rejected by men, know how I feel when, by fault or failure, I am cast into lonely pits of depression. Draw me up from such despair on the thin yet cable-strong rope of prayer to stand on ‘this great roundabout–the world’ and praise you (William Cowper, ‘The Jackdaw’). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Today’s reading is “Worship.”

From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.
Genesis 12:8

“Worship is giving God the best that He has given you.” We cannot hoard what God has given us, it must be given back to him as “a love gift.” Chambers goes so far as to suggest that we should offer whatever blessing God has given us back to him “in a deliberate act of worship,” taking time to meditate before him first. Consider the manna that God gave Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. If hoarded, it became useless, even foul.

In Abraham’s life, “Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two.” Now, Chambers makes a statement that, if pondered properly, actually makes profound sense. “The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him.” Think about that. We must be firmly planted between our Bethel and our Ai. The work we do in whatever acts as our Ai can only be as good as the private communion with God that we experience in our Bethel.

We must also never be in a hurry. “There is always plenty of time to worship God.” We can always find time to be quiet before God, no matter how noisy the world around us may be. More importantly, our spiritual life is not divided, as some might believe, between worship, waiting, and work. The three must go together.

Father, help me to pitch my tent between Bethel and Ai. May my private communion with you be such that it fuels my work in the world. I cannot be successful in the world without knowing you and walking with you. I also pray that you help me find those quiet moments with you throughout my noisy, active day. This will help to calm the frustrations that occur during the day. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Help me to abide in you, as you abide in me.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Hope That Knows No Despair

Good morning. Today is Monday, April 15, 2013. Today is “Tax Day.” Many people will be furiously scrambling to get their income tax returns finished by midnight tonight. Here, at the Bickleyhouse, we’ve already spent our tax refund. And don’t preach at me about how irresponsible it is to let the gummint use my money, blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard all that. I don’t disagree with that. But we like getting that $1000+ “bonus” in February every year, so shut up.

Yesterday was an interesting day. My goal during the time we were at church was semi-successful. I did have some incredible times of worship during the process. The setup time went fine. I struggled, though, during the sermon, and that’s all I’m going to say about that publicly.

After church and lunch, Christi and I got a pile of junk (mostly old electronics) out of the garage and took it to another member’s house to donate for our youth garage sale that is happening next Saturday. I think the guy whose house we were at may keep some of the stuff we donated. 😀

Today is Patriot’s Day. This is the day that the Boston Marathon occurs. In Boston. It is also the day of the year that the Red Sox play a game that begins at 10:05am Central Time. I’ve always thought that was really weird.

Today is also Titanic Remembrance Day. 101 years ago today, the Titanic sank. Unfortunately, that event kind overshadowed another significant historical event that occurred 101 years ago today. That event was the opening of Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark still in use today. It is two years older than Wrigley Field. All of the rest of the baseball parks in existence today were built after I was born.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this day in A.D. 73, a group of Jewish Zealous who had “defied a Roman army of 15,000 men for two years” committed mass suicide rather than surrendering. This occurred at an “unassailable fortress of rock” near the southwest coast of the Red Sea, called Masada. The zealots were attempting to establish a theocracy against the Roman rule in Palestine. They were founded by an extremist named Judas. After building a “monumental siege ramp,” when the Romans finally entered the fortress, all they found was corpses. The only Jewish survivors were two women and five children who had hidden in a water conduit.

Today’s birthday is Corrie ten Boom, born on this date in 1892. Corrie and her family were arrested in Holland for hiding Jewish refugees in their house, hence the title of her autobiography, The Hiding Place She survived the concentration camps, and traveled for years, telling her testimony. The most famous story, perhaps, is that of when she unexpectedly encountered, face to face, on of her prison guards, who had since become a Christian. The story of her struggle to forgive him (which she did, because, you know, that’s how powerful God’s grace is) is legendary. Corrie passed away in 1983.

Honorable mentions go to Leonardo da Vinci, 1452, Elizabeth Montgomery, 1933, Roy Clark, 1933, Dave Edmunds, 1944, Emma Thompson, 1959, and Emma Watson, 1990.


I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:48
O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! Psalm 71:12
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. Psalm 71:17

Father, as I look into your Word this morning, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight. Grant me wisdom for this day as I look to your face.

Today’s reading in Tabletalk Magazine comes from Isaiah 45:1-13, focusing on verses 1-4.

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.

Later on in the book of Isaiah, the Lord says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. This is never seen more clearly than when God rescues his people in unexpected ways. Obviously, no one expected God to redeem his people via “an itinerant Jew.” But 500 years before Christ was born, God delivered his people from exile by the hand of the King of Persia, Cyrus II. In 538 B.C., Cyrus decreed that they could all go home. Cyrus was not “the Messiah” predicted earlier, but Isaiah still uses the term “messiah” to describe him in Isaiah 45:1. Isaiah is writing these words 200 years before the fact. And since he knew that Israel would not believe that God would use someone like Cyrus to deliver them, he spent a large part of chapter 45 declaring God’s right to do with his creation as he pleases. “Just as it would be foolish for the clay to question the work of a potter, so would it be foolish for the Jews to question God’s use of Cyrus to redeem them from exile (vv. 9-10).” What we need to realize is that it is God’s decree that controls what happens, not what we think his decree should be.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Praise Without Ceasing.” The scripture reading is Revelation 4:8-11.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

“When we worship, we join with all the company of heaven in the praise that continually echoes throughout the cosmos.” Have you ever stopped to think about that? A few weeks ago, I was astonished to realize that our prayers are offered up to the Lord in bowls of incense by angelic creatures in the immediate presence of God Almighty. Today, I consider something that I have never considered: When I worship God, I am joining forces with the “four living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders.” Even though the events of Revelation are not happening yet (in our time frame), in a manner of speaking, they are already happening, and have always been happening, because our God is not constricted by time. Okay, that just made my brain hurt. Whether the heaven that we speak of as our eternal reward exists already, the throne of God exists somewhere, because he sits on it. When I worship him, both in my private times and even more so in community on Sunday mornings, I am joining with all of creation in giving glory and honor to the creator of the universe. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

This old hymn is quoted in the book, written by Martin Rinckart in 1663:
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

When last I read from The Necessity of Prayer, by E.M. Bounds, I finished chapter 6, called “Prayer and Importunity.” Chapter 7 continues on that same subject.

In Luke 11:5-13, to illustrate the concept of importunity in prayer, Jesus tells the parable of a man who went to his friend’s house at midnight, asking for bread to feed an unexpected guest. Even though friendship did not gain him success, the outright refusal to give up gained him his goal. The principle that we see here is that, “When the answer is not immediately given, the praying Christian must gather courage at each delay, and advance in urgency till the answer comes which is assured, if he have but the faith to press his petition with vigorous faith.”

Any faintheartedness will be fatal to our prayers. “Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the heart toward God.” When we pray in this way, we throw our entire spiritual self into prayer. Am I bent on reaching God and grappling with him, “to draw from him the treasures of his grace?” Do I have a hope that knows no despair, a faith that will not let go? The great missionary, Adoniram Judson, is quote as saying, “I was never deeply interested in any object, never prayed sincerely and earnestly for it, but that it came at some time, no matter how distant the day. Somehow, in some shape, probably the last I would have devised, it came.”

See the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

The qualities that make up importunity are intensity, perseverance, patience, and persistence. Remember the story of blind Bartimaeus. In Mark 10:46-52, he would not give up, even at the rebuke of many around him who insisted that he be quiet. In the same way, “our praying . . . needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.”

Father, there are many things that have impressed me in today’s devotional time. I have been reminded of your total sovereignty over everything that happens, and that it is your decree which controls all things. It has also been brought to my attention that when I praise and worship you, I am never alone, even though it may seem that way. My praise and worship joins with that of all who are in your immediate presence, crying out to you, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” You are, indeed worthy to receive glory and honor and power and blessing! Worthy is the Lamb! May I never cease to praise you and worship you, as long as I have breath. And finally, I learn (or am reminded) that I must not be fainthearted in prayer. I will continue in importunity when it comes to things that I pray for. I have been praying for some things (for people that I know and love) for close to a year now, if not longer. I will not stop. I will not cease asking, seeking, and knocking on the door! My hope will know no despair; my faith will not let go!

Father, let this day be a day of peace in our work. If and when challenges occur, let us look to you for our strength, not attempting to rectify circumstances in our own power. Let us draw grace from you for this day alone. And may your grace shine forth from our countenance throughout this day, showing people around us that we belong to you. Draw us closer to your heart throughout this day, as well, and draw us closer to each other, in this household, that your grace will be known by all who know us.

Never give up. Ask . . . seek . . . knock.

Grace and peace, friends.


Good morning. Today is Wednesday, March 27, 2013. Today is the final weigh-in for my Biggest Loser contest. Nothing is going into my body until after I step on that scale, around 9am. Nothing, except for my meds. I did take them.

Today is National “Joe” Day. Do with that what you will. Change your name to “Joe.” Or, perhaps, do something extra special for someone named “Joe.” You can even call me “Joe,” if you want. Or, if you really want, you could listen to nothing but this song all day.

(Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1204, one of the most remarkable women of her time, Eleanor of Aquitaine, passed away, at the age of 82. She had lived quite a life, being married to two kings. Her first husband was Louis VII of France, and her second, Henry II of England, with whom she founded the Plantagenet dynasty. As mentioned a couple of days ago, she bore (along with eight other children) “England’s most storied king, Richard the Lion-Heart, and England’s worst, King John.” At the age of 78, Eleanor brought her granddaughter Blanche from Spain to marry the King of France. She would become Blanche of Castile. At the age of 80, Eleanor “directed the defense of a town under seige from a marauding army. At the age of 82, she passed away, “as a candle in the sconce goeth out when the wind striketh it.”

Today’s birthday is Nathan Fillion, born on this date in 1971. Fillion has acted in a number of roles, two of our favorites being his short-lived run as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, of the firefly-class ship “Serenity,” and the other being his current role as author/novice detective, Richard Castle.

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. Psalm 109:30-31
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Psalm 43:3-4

I will give you thanks, this morning, Lord, and praise you. I pray that you send out your light and truth to guide me today, especially during this time that I read and meditate on your Word.

Today in A Year With God, we begin a segment on the discipline of worship. This one is easy for me, as it is probably my favorite discipline. Worship is defined, at least by this book, as “Expressing in words, music, rituals, and silent adoration the greatness, beauty, and goodness of God, by means of which we enter the supranatural reality of the shekina or glory, of God.”

Scripture has made it clear that we are to worship the Lord and only him, as Jesus emphasized this when Satan was tempting him. Jesus responded to one of the temptations with a reference to Deuteronomy 6:13, saying, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” (Luke 4:8) There are many ways that we can worship, and many positions that it can take. However, we cannot guarantee that, just because we are sitting a certain way or doing a certain ritual, we are worshiping. Ritual can be helpful, but “it is our hearts that matter. True worship is about our attitude.”

Worship is often preceded by study (isn’t it odd that we seem to have it backwards in our “worship services?”), because, after we seek to comprehend who God is and all the great things he has done, “all we can do is marvel and adore.” “We can only enter into worship of God if we view God as worthy, if we understand our proper place in our relationship with God.” Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Psalm 96:9

The first reading, and the beginning of the “spiritual practice” for the next ten days, is called “Everyday Worship.” The scripture reading is John 4:23.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

The Lord is seeking worshipers. And our most common response is the hour or two that we spend at church during the weekend. Surely we understand that worship should not be limited to just Sundays, but too often we find that this is exactly what we do. Each day should be spent in “praise and adoration, in a never ceasing conversation with our Lord.” By doing this, we become more sensitive to his voice and presence in our lives. Can you imagine what life would be like if we spent every day trying “to live in constant awareness and openness” to the presence of Christ in our lives? Can you further imagine the impact that would have on the weekly gathering of the saints?

I am challenged to make an effort to worship God in some way during each of the next ten days.

Chapter 3 of The Necessity of Prayer, by E.M. Bounds, is called “Prayer and Trust.” We’ve just spent two chapters looking at prayer and faith. What is the difference between faith and trust? Bounds calls trust “faith in full flower.” It is “firm belief.” “Trust sees God doing things here and now.” Even more so, trust looks and realizes that “God has done things, and regards them as being already done.”

Trust grows richly as we pray, as we experience God’s presence. Bounds makes an interesting statement, one which I had not considered before. He states that trust in God must precede trust in his word. That is a logical progression. Why would I trust what he says if I do not trust him? And this is not a passive trust, as in the kind that trusts in a fact, a written record of something. “The trust which informs prayer centers in a person.” But it goes beyond this. We not only trust in God and Christ, but we also trust in their ability and their willingness to grant that which is prayed for. There is a place that I all too often struggle. I doubt not God’s ability! What I doubt is his willingness. The way to overcome this is to continue spending time on my knees in communion with God, building more trust.

Father, I have studied faith, and now I have studied trust. Teach me to trust you. I believe in your ability, there has been no issue with that for many, many years. But I continue to struggle with believing in your willingness to answer my prayers, and I think that this also come down to a deep-seeded doubt of my worthiness to even be praying to you in the first place. Who am I to be seeking favor from the Creator of the universe?? Who I am is a child of the King! I am a sinner, saved by grace, made pure and whole by the blood of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus has instructed me, nay, commanded me to ask things of you. Therefore, I ask. I believe; help my unbelief! Increase my faith; increase my trust. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth! Help me to not doubt your willingness.

As I worship you during this day, make me more aware of your presence throughout the day. Help me to focus on the fact that you are always there, always with me. May I find myself spontaneously worshiping you randomly throughout this day.

I pray for Christi today, that she will feel okay, and that her day will be free from anxiety. Grant her a peaceful day, and may she look to you for any challenges that may come her way. I ask the same for my work day, as well. Draw Stephanie closer to your heart today and teach her something about you today. Make her aware of your presence in her life.

Our trust in God is based in our belief in his willingness to answer our prayers and give us blessing.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Righteous Right Hand of God

We had a good day of worship yesterday, as pastor Joel Engle shared some of the new songs he has written for worship, and pastor Ben Carr gave us a message on why he loves his church, going along with our current “I ❤ My Church" campaign. The main point of his message was "I love my church because Jesus loves the church." And of course, the church is not a building or the staff or the things that we do. The church is us. The church is you (if you are a believer in Christ) and me. My worship experience was hindered, though, sadly. For the first service I sat at the very back, because I would be leaving early to come back home to pick up Stephanie for the second service. When I got back with her, I was recruited to run the video camera for the podcast in the second service because the guy who was doing that had to leave. So there I was at the very back again for the second service. The reason that this hinders my worship (I did worship, don't misunderstand me…worship is not dependent upon sound quality or anything like that) is that, sitting in the back, the intensity is not as strong. I like being up front with most of the other people behind me. That way, I'm encouraged by the sound of the other people singing, as well as the band's playing. The sound quality of the music was fine. But there is just something not right about being all the way in the back. I haven't been a "back row Baptist" for years. I like sitting close to the front. Now I know it sounds dangerously like I am attaching some condition to my ability to worship. That's not true at all. I can worship anywhere. It's just more intense when I'm in the middle of a group of people who are also worshiping. There is strength in numbers, and I believe that's one reason we are encouraged commanded to worship together, corporately.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Isaiah 41
The Lord encourages Israel in verses 8-10: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. In the following verses, the Lord goes on to say that their enemies will be “put to shame and confounded.” Can we claim these promises for ourselves? This is one thing that I have been somewhat confused about for a long time. There are many promises in Scripture that seem to be exclusive to Israel. I have heard many over the years take these and “claim” them for us, saying that, since we are the “new Israel,” all of these promises apply to us. I have to say, I’m on the fence on this one. That being said, I have no problem proclaiming that the Lord is my strength and my helper. I believe that God will uphold me with his “righteous right hand.” I also believe that if I walk in his Spirit, he will “put to shame” and confound my enemies. I believe with all my heart when he says, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (v. 13)

Verses 17-18 say, When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. We could certainly use some of that right now. I don’t remember when the last time it rained (significantly) in our area. Yeah, we got a couple of hours of a nice soft rain a couple of weeks ago, but that wasn’t nearly enough to put a stop to this drought. And it’s a beautiful 72 degrees in Fort Worth right now, with no highs over 100 predicted over the next 10 days. There is also zero percent chance of rain for the next 10 days! Father, we need rain desperately in our area! We pray that you would supernaturally bring an end to this drought. I say “supernaturally” because the forecast shows no chance of rain. It would be a miracle if it suddenly appeared. Verse 20 explains that, if this were to happen, people would see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Matthew 24:1-28
There is much that is discussed and, possibly, misunderstood in Matthew 24 as Jesus talks to his disciples about the signs of his coming and the “close of the age.” But to me the most important lesson in this passage is not trying to understand what the “abomination of desolation” means or any of that. It is verses 26-28. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. When Jesus comes back it will be unmistakable.

Father, I pray that we will not be led astray by false prophets as we anticipate the return of Jesus. Let us take the words of Christ, himself, to heart, as he tells us that his return will be like lightning flashing across the sky. It will be unmistakable. We will all see it, and there will be no denying it. Let us not listen to the ramblings of false teachers and preachers as the day approaches.
I take comfort in knowing that you are my helper and my strength. I pray that I will always avail myself of the resources that come from your hand as I live my life. Too often I find myself worrying or stressing over things, when I know in my heart that you have it all well in hand. You are sovereign, Lord, and you have all things under you control. Let us, the Church, never forget that!

I pray that, as we observe this holiday, we will be safe and have a restful day. I also, as already done above, pray for rain in our area. We are desperate, Lord.

If things look bad or out of control for you, remember who’s in charge. And it’s not “Charles.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Honest Worship

It’s Sunday morning, and we are getting ready to go worship at The Exchange. It will be interesting this morning, because today, they have split into two services. For now, we will continue to go to the 1030 service. If I get to be on a worship team soon, I may wind up going to both of them. That’s okay, though. It will be worth it to be serving.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 16:1-12
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’
3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

I believe this is the second time they had asked him for a sign. This time, before he referred them as an “evil and adulterous generation,” he pointed to the skies. “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red skies at morning, sailors take warning.” Apparently, that old formula has been around a very long time! By the way, it’s always bothered me that The Fixx got it wrong in their song.

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were able to interpret skies, but not the signs of the times. They had all the prophets at their disposal, but refused to see that Jesus was who they were pointing to. Once again, he states that Jonah is the only sign they will be given.

5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.
6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.”
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Again, the disciples seem to have forgotten what Jesus is able to do. They are worried because they forgot to bring any bread. But Jesus isn’t even talking about bread. When he tells them to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” he’s talking about their teachings; those false teachings that carry just enough truth that they are able to permeate the truth with the lies. In Luke 12:1, Jesus called the leaven of the Pharisees hypocrisy.

Isaiah 23
This chapter is an oracle concerning Tyre and Sidon. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor! From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them. (v. 1) The ships of Tarshish will have to find another place to put in, because the harbors of Tyre have been destroyed. Tyre was known for its revelry, as described in verse 7. Is this your exultant city whose origin is from days of old, whose feet carried her to settle far away? In verses 8-9, it is the Lord who has brought about this destruction. Who has purposed this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth? The LORD of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth. According to verse 15, Tyre would be forgotten for 70 years, but then she would eventually acknowledge the sovereignty of the Lord.

Proverbs 6:1-5
1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger,
2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth,
3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.
4 Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber;
5 save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

This is an interesting passage warning us against entering into a contract to guarantee someone else’s debt. Why allow someone else to control your life for another man’s debts? The instruction here encourages doing everything possible, to annul the contract, even going without sleep.

In today’s reading from Grace For the Moment, by Max Lucado, he quotes Romans 12:1 from The Message. (One quick note: The Message is NOT a paraphrase! It is a translation.) So here’s what I want you to do, God help you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. I’ll continue and add verse 2: Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. This, my friends, is what true worship is! “Honest worship lifts eyes off self and sets them on God.” “We can make a big deal about God on Sundays with our songs and on Mondays with our strengths. Every day in every deed. Each time we do our best to thank God for giving his, we worship.” Worship is more than just singing songs in church on Sunday morning! Worship is life! Let me say that again. WORSHIP IS LIFE! If we are not laying down our lives as an offering to him on a daily basis, then we are not truly worshiping Almighty God.

Father, I pray that I might do my best on a daily basis to give you honest, true worship! Let me lay my life down to you every day. Let me not be guilty of only “worshiping” you on Sunday morning. Yes, we are about to go “to church” and sing songs of praise and worship to you; listen to a message; give you prayers and offerings. But if this does not carry on into tomorrow and Tuesday and Wednesday…all the way to next Saturday, then it is not valid worship. I acknowledge that, Father, and I purpose to worship you every day with my life!

I pray for this day, Father. We have some tasks that we want to accomplish, and I pray that they will go smoothly. I also pray that this morning’s worship service will be acceptable to you. Let our songs of praise waft up to you as sweet incense, and let them come from our hearts. Then let us carry them into our lives after we leave the building.

I pray for Stephanie’s first day of school tomorrow. Let it be a great day, Lord, and let her have no anxiety over her first day of new classes. Thankfully, some of the teachers will be the same ones she has already had.

Worship God this morning. And then worship him tomorrow and the rest of the week, as well. Lay down your lives for him…after all, he laid his down for us.

Grace and peace, friends.

Ears To Hear; Eyes To See

I want to try to pick up where I left off yesterday morning, due to the power outage, mainly because I don’t want to skip any of the Bible readings. But first I want to recap our day at The Exchange Church. It was a pretty amazing day, beginning with some awesome worship, followed by a great message from pastor Joel Engle, part one of a series called “Jesus Is Not A Racist.” The key statement in this message was, “Jesus wants to tear down the walls of prejudice and build a bridge of love in our hearts.” The message centered around Acts 10:1-23, as Peter is instructed to go and see a Gentile centurion named Cornelius. The main points were that God touches the “unclean,” God shows us our blind spots, and God builds bridges. We are encouraged to examine our own prejudices and obey what the Spirit tells us.
Yesterday afternoon, we had a meeting for people interested in serving in various capacities at The Exchange. Christi and I are both interested in getting involved in the worship ministry. The pastor led that part of the meeting and shared his vision for The Exchange. I was overwhelmed by his vision, or perhaps it was the Spirit overwhelming me, because I must say I was moved to tears several times during the meeting. While we were visiting around various churches in the area, I heard at least two messages that told me that God wasn’t through with me yet. My calling as a worship leader is still valid. God still desires to use me in that capacity, and I still have a strong desire to be used. As Joel shared his vision, I realized that it is no accident that God has led us to this place at this time. I won’t share verbatim what he shared (although I took some good notes), but basically, his vision is to have a worship ministry that has an impact on the world! And by “world,” he means the whole world! One of the ways that he wants to do that is to begin making recordings of original worship music. Okay…I have some of that. So one of the first things I need to do is get working on recording some of my original worship music so I can submit it to Joel for possible use at the church.
He also used the word “excellence” a lot, which I really like. I’m a firm believer that whatever we offer to the Lord should be “excellent” in nature and in content. That means we have to practice. We have to know the songs we are going to play/sing. We need to give the Lord our best. After the meeting, we spoke with a couple of people to get the process started. It looks like there will be a mass rehearsal later this month. I’m hoping to be involved in that, in whatever capacity they need me. The program director told me to bring my electric guitar.
I’m both excited and terrified at the same time. I see this as an opportunity like I’ve never had before, and I don’t want to blow this. So I desire the prayers of anyone who reads this; prayers that I might be diligent and consistent, both in musicianship and spirituality. That means that these devotion times become more important than ever. I also need to start listening to God to hear any new songs that he might be sending my way.

Okay…now I’ll get to my devotional.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
I left off yesterday at Isaiah 10. If you remember, I was delayed by a power outage, and was unable to finish my devotion time yesterday.

Isaiah 10 starts off with a woe to people who decree iniquity.
1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,
2 to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

God is very close to the widows and the fatherless, so anyone who preys on them will taste his wrath. What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? (v. 3)

God will even punish Assyria. It is interesting, because God sent Assyria to inflict punishment on Israel, but the king of Assyria got arrogant.
13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
14 My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”

The king of Assyria thinks it is his own strength that has brought this about. But God makes an interesting comparison.
15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
16 Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire.
17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.
18 The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the LORD will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down.

The tables will be turned on the king of Assyria. And the Lord promises that there will be a remnant of Israel that will return.

Proverbs 3:19-26
More benefits of wisdom are given.
21 My son, do not lose sight of these– keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.
23 Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.
24 If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
26 for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.

These are great promises. The Lord will be our confidence! But then the focus shifts, and we are given some warnings.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”–when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.

We are to be generous people! And look at verse 30! Have you ever started a fight with someone just because you felt like it? Oh, dear. I’ll admit it…I have. Just because I was feeling mean that day. We are most definitely not to do that! We are to be a people of compassion and kindness; of gentleness and generosity. We are to seek God’s wisdom, and, thereby, inherit honor.

Matthew 13:1-30,36-43 (I’m not sure I like this jumping around…)
This chapter is a group of the parables of Jesus, beginning with the parable of the sower.
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.
4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,
6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.
7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

This parable has always intrigued me. I’ve gone through various stages of interpretation with it, as well. But where I have landed is this: Only the final soil is “saved.” The other soils may have had an appearance of salvation, but as time went by, it becomes apparent that they were not truly saved. There is one other observation that I have. “Soil” cannot change itself! There is nothing that I can do to cause myself to be “good soil.” That is entirely up to the desires of the Creator. Just as a gardener can manipulate the soil to make it more productive, so can our “Gardener” manipulate us to do the same. However, I cannot change my own heart. Only God can change my heart. Interestingly, it is also God that gives me ears to hear.

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Jesus has to explain to the disciples why he is speaking in parables. He quote a passage in Isaiah that I just read a few days ago. Isaiah 6:9-10, in which Isaiah was given the message to take to the people. The author of the book I’m using stated at that point that “God was not saying that He didn’t want the people to respond to His call. He was telling Isaiah that the condition of the people was such that they would not respond, but they needed to hear nonetheless.” I respectfully disagree with Dr. Addington. He is showing a severe lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty at this point. He most certainly did purpose that the people would NOT heed the message. Jesus told the disciples that their eyes and ears were blessed, for the see and hear. But we have to remember, once again, that it is God who gives ears to hear and eyes to see.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower:
19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,
21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

At this point, Jesus explains the parable of the sower, reinforcing my belief that only the “good soil” truly received salvation.

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,
25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.
26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’
28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

I believe this parable has a very important message for us. The “enemy” will “sow” imposters in our midst. They will look just like us. (The weeds looked just like the good grain.) It is not up to us to weed them out! God will take care of that. The end of the “weeds” is certainly not pleasant, either. Jesus explains this parable in verses 36-43.
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.
38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,
39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.
40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,
42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Father, as I get ready to go to work on this Monday morning, I pray for consistency in my walk with you. As I ponder the possibility of getting involved in the worship ministry at this place you have led us, my spirit is moved. I am inspired to follow you more closely. I am inspired to recognize the seriousness of my devotion to you, and to understand that this is most definitely not a game! I pray for wisdom and understanding. I pray for knowledge. I pray for a sense of devotion to you like I have never had before. I want to be on board with Pastor Joel’s vision for The Exchange. Not for any notoriety of my own, but for your name, for your glory.

I pray for this day, Father. Give Christi and me a good day at work as we try to be productive and get everything done that needs to be done. I pray that we will honor you in everything that we do today.

Pray for ears to hear and eyes to see.

Grace and peace, friends.

My Grace Is Sufficient For You

For the “non-devotional” stuff, go to THIS LINK.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What an interesting passage! Paul claims to have had some kind of supernatural experience, wherein he was “caught up to the third heaven.” He doesn’t even know if it was a physical or purely spiritual experience. Allegedly, this “third heaven” was truly Heaven, where we are all hoping to go. There is one important thing to note here. This happened, according to Paul, 14 years ago! Now, let’s be honest. If that were to happen to one of our modern day preachers, he would preach about nothing else for the rest of his “ministry.” That would become the focus of his life. But look here! Paul has never spoken of it (at least not in any of his other letters) until now! And the only reason he brings it up now is to talk about the weakness that he suffers.
Note that he was given a “thorn in the flesh.” We truly have no idea what that was, except that he goes on to describe it as “a messenger of Satan.” It could be some kind of disability. It could be a demon given reign to harass him. We just don’t know. And the exact nature is not important. What is more important was the purpose. It was to keep Paul from getting “big-headed” about his experience. When he pleaded with the Lord to remove this “thorn,” he was told these beautiful words that should resonate in every one of our spirits: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 8 ) “My grace is sufficient…” Are you suffering? “My grace is sufficient.” Are you lacking something that you believe you need in your life? “My grace is sufficient.” Has somebody wronged you? “My grace is sufficient.” Do you get the point?
Paul finishes by declaring that, for the sake of Christ, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I need to learn this contentment.

Jonah 1-2
Jonah is, in many ways, a very funny story. But it is also a sad story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. He went the exact opposite direction. But God said, “NO!! YOU’RE GOING TO NINEVEH!!” A great storm struck the boat that was taking Jonah to Tarshish. It was about to be torn apart from the wind and waves. Jonah was somehow sleeping through it, and they woke him up and asked him to pray to his God for their safety. Obviously, they already knew that he was a prophet. They even started “casting lots” to see who was responsible for “this evil.” Of course, the lot fell to Jonah. Because God can even control the rolling of a die. Jonah, to his credit, was honest with them, and finally told them to just throw him overboard, and all would be well. They resisted this at first, probably not wanting to be responsible for his life. As soon as Jonah hit the water, “the sea ceased from its raging.” (v. 15) “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly.” Ya think??
Then the most amazing thing happened. A fish swallowed Jonah. NOT a whale. Get that, okay? The Bible never says that a whale swallowed Jonah! It was simply a “great fish” that “the LORD appointed” to swallow him. Jonah’s response, as he stayed in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, was to pray,
2 saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.
7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

These words are taken from other Scripture sources, including Psalms and Lamentations. After his prayer, the scene was probably a relief, but it wasn’t pretty. The Lord “spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.” I know. Ew. And that’s where we leave him for today.

Psalm 147
1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the LORD!

This Psalm (and the others surrounding it) both begins and ends with “Hallelujah!” “Praise the Lord!” “It is good to sing praises to our God,” this one tells us. The great power of God is then described. “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” This is a beautiful praise Psalm.

Father, I sing praises to you! I believe the verse wholeheartedly that says that it is good to sing praises to you! I worship you. My heart desires to worship you more.
I praise you, Lord, that your grace is truly sufficient for all of our needs. No matter what is going on in our lives at any given moment, your grace is sufficient. That is something that I need to remind myself every single day. When work goes badly, your grace is sufficient. When something at home doesn’t go the way I think it should, your grace is sufficient. When the money gets tight, your grace is sufficient. When my children suffer, your grace is sufficient. Let me be content in all circumstances, Father!
I pray that I am not like Jonah. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the belly of a fish. I wonder sometimes, if I ran the wrong way when you told me what to do. Point me in the right direction, Lord. I truly believe that you have begun to do that in the last few weeks, and I am very grateful for that. Keep doing it.

Let this day be a good day, Father, for both Christi and me.

Sing praise to the Lord today. It’s a good thing! And remember…his grace is sufficient.

Grace and peace, friends.