Perhaps you’ve wondered where the StarShipCedar has gone. Actually hasn’t gone away, but the Pastor seems to be on ground excursions that interfere with making posts to his thinking and activities. I know! Seems real uncaptainly to me as well . . .
OK! I want to make an entry on one of the most important things I do – spend time in devotional reading and meditation. Since it’s now March, and Easter is this month – the last Sunday of March – in preparation for our Easter celebration, I want to read Luke’s gospel, to follow Jesus again, and then, in those days around Easter, I want to mix in how the other gospel writers talk about the crucifixion and resurrection, and those days immediately after Jesus came back to life.
The greatest moment in the history of mankind occurred on that early morning when Jesus came out of the grave! That’s the moment that changed the whole game. That’s when the rules changed. That’s when the ink dried on the contract, and the deal between God and man went back to how God always wanted it to be. Now, nearly 2,000 years later, we relate to our Heavenly Father through faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross, not in what we do on our sacrificial alter. And our future is a promise of life based on the renewed life of Jesus – Easter Sunday is our proof day – and we receive it by faith.
Well, open your heart, and follow Jesus again, and let’s see what fresh insight we can find into who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.
“Holy Spirit, help me grow more into the image of Jesus as I read these words.”
So check out the devotional reading calendar, and thanks for joining me – devotional reading is indispensable in growing and maturing in our walk with God!
For your interest, perhaps, today’s picture is another 'stunning' full-moon shot in Buckley. This time it’s a Blue Moon, because it’s a second full moon within a calendar month, which only happens every couple or three years. I enjoy the natural phenomenon of things like full moon, and sunrise and sunset – even more spectacular if it happens to be over the ocean – the miracle of how trees and gardens and babies grow, and a thousand other simple processes that our heavenly Father has programmed into our earthly existence. I’m even ok with the process of my hair turning gray and falling out on top, and it still amazes me how this ridiculous little process just happens without either my help or hindrance. It’s predisposed to happen, so it does, as a natural process of nature in my very own personal life! And, in some sort of like manner, there’s a growth process for my Spiritual life that’s been predisposed by my Father, and I can help or hinder this process, and as I pay attention to it, I’m nourished and strengthened in my spiritual and soul man, and my physical being is also benefitted as I pay attention to my Spiritual growth and development. So, some comments on devotional reading this month . . .
I want to finish up the summer of devotional reading with some of the writings of the apostles in the New Testament, and a little added challenge from some of the prophets of the Old Testament . . . if your have the time and courage. I’m not pretending that some of this reading is easy, or simple, but it is at least interesting, enlightening, and will cause some serious introspection.
I do suggest the process is quite simple, however: Simply dedicate a little time when you can be quiet, in some space where you can be still; perhaps pour a cup of coffee, or another refreshing beverage suitable for these beautiful summer days, and open your Bible and start reading. Oh! Open one more thing: Open your heart to whatever the Holy Spirit might want to say to you.
If you get through with your reading, and it seems like you haven’t heard anything from Him, do two things: First, take a look at how you’ve spent this time and honestly assess if you’ve had your head in your devotional time or if your mind has been off somewhere else while you’ve been reading. Don’t beat yourself up over this, but see if you can get your attention to come back while you’re meditating with God. Secondly, if it’s just that you couldn’t connect with these writings on some particular day, accept that it might not have been your day or there simply wasn’t something specific for you here today, but don’t disparage the quiet time you’ve spent before God and the moments you’ve dedicated to being with Him. Then, go out and enjoy your day, knowing the Holy Spirit is still with you, no matter how or if you made a good connection in your devotional reading time. Enjoy August!
I don’t remember when the writings of Solomon, son of David, king of ancient Israel, began to have such a strong appeal to me, but it was at some point in my late teens. And I still probe the Proverbs of Solomon to this day. Today is the eighth of July, so today’s chapter is 8. Today Solomon personifies Wisdom, and he makes it a woman! I’m gonna run the risk of being a sexist, like my mentor/sage, Solomon, and start us with . . . a mind walk . . .
It was day 6 in the creation story, and nearly everything was done – Adam was done, but God said it wasn’t good that he should be alone, so He determined to create just one more being that would be a suitable counterpart to this man . . . God formed woman! This creation account tells us that God determined to make the man-creature in His image, both male and female – explicitly gender-reference terms – and when this piece was all done, He announced to the universe that it was very good! Not just good, but very good. Pardon me while I suggest that woman was God’s crowning, artistically beautiful accomplishment in the creation narrative! Thank you, God, for what You done!
Now back to Solomon, a couple thousand years post creation . . . so Wisdom is a woman! And, if you look ahead into Proverbs 9 – tomorrow’s reading – you’ll find another woman is introduced to the narrative, and Folly is her name – her full given name is Foolishness, and she’s also known as Fool. In chapter 8 we hear Wisdom calling out to those that pass by, and in chapter 9 we hear Folly calling out to those that pass by her . . . two stunningly beautiful women, making promises to any who will listen to them. But, according to Solomon, the promises of Wisdom should be much more appealing to the discretionary heart.
Note: Ladies, for your application, simply change the gender reference here and make Wisdom a handsome guy, and Folly that hunk everyone’s talking about.
When I first started listening to Solomon, I heard him saying to me, “My son, if you’ll pay attention to what I have to say, your life will go so much better. And, if you reject what I have to say, you’ll experience some really painful consequences.” And I began to write my name above “my son” and own these writings as words of wisdom to me personally. And as my life rolled along, I began to recognize both of these beautiful women, Wisdom and Folly, and to recognize the sound of their voices as they make their arguments to me on why I should listen to each of them.
In chapter 8, beautiful, stunning, gorgeous Wisdom tells me that she will bring fruit into my life that’s of greater value and beauty than either the finest of gold or the choicest of silver, and then in chapter 9, she invites me to a BBQ that she’s prepared, and she’s serving the best wine with it.
Later in chapter 9, this other gal named Folly starts going bla bla bla about stolen water and snack food . . . as if I’d prefer washing down some chips and pretzels and salted nuts with bottled water, over ribeye and salad and a baked potato and my choice of a bottle of Cabernet or Merlot or Shiraz! Don’t get me wrong! This girl, Folly, is a doll, and she knows how to own it and flaunt it! She can definitely turn heads and get attention when she walks into a room! A bit brassy, but boy is she a looker! But this girl Wisdom, when she walks into a room . . . well, she just owns the room. And, when you get up close – and she is so approachable and open – you recognize she has all the knock-out natural beauty, and doesn’t rely on the splash and flash and flaunt to get attention.
I’ve made a few Foolish choices in my life, and I’ve also watched a bunch of other folks chase Folly, and the price is high when you catch that girl! I’ve concluded that listening to Wisdom may cost me more than I want to pay, but listening to Foolishness will cost me more than I can afford to pay . . . Foolishness will morally bankrupt me! And I’ve lived long enough now to realize that just because I can get away with a little fling with Folly doesn’t make it right, or that it’ll play out well in my life. Folly might be flashy and popular and legal and socially acceptable, and a lot of people may be flirting with her, but this girl is dangerous, and she’ll kill me!
Welcome to my devotional world! I wouldn’t trade my girl Wisdom for all the paint and splash and flash in the universe! She means the world to me!
Ok! I’m gonna play a little catch-up today. It’s July! We’re half-way through the year, and this half-way month is freedom month! We start the month with our Fourth-of-July celebration, remembering and celebrating that we, as a country, declared that we are free from the rule and tyranny of others, and are answerable only to our own conscience and our God, who rules supreme! It’s not my argument today whether or not we’ve stayed true, as a nation, to our vision of honoring our God above all, but to argue for my personal commitment to walk in the freedom God has put before me, free from the rule and tyranny of any other but my Lord and Savior!
I take it seriously that Jesus said I can know the truth and the truth will set me free, (John 8:32) and that His Word is the sanctifying truth, (John 17:17) and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and when He comes He will guide me into all truth. (John 16:13)
So, my conclusion to these pieces of the teachings of Jesus is that if I want to walk in freedom, I must submit myself to the Holy Spirit as He leads me into an understanding of the Word of God. This means I must consistently expose my heart and soul to what’s been written in God’s Word and make application to my life.
As I’ve pointed out on several occasions, the book of Proverbs is one of the most important pieces of God’s Word for gaining Godly wisdom. This month – freedom month – I’m diving back into proverbs to pick up a few more freedom gems. Come join me. My heart is open to see what the Holy Spirit is going to say to me!
Psalms 20:6-7 --
Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. NIV
Today’s devo reading in Psalm 20 yanks my leash! Of course I know that the Lord saves His anointed – He is my safety – and I do recognize and embrace that as a child of my heavenly Father I am one of His anointed, and I’m committed beyond question that He hears and recognizes my voice and gives response to me from His holy dwelling place, and I’m confident that salvation and safety comes into my life from His powerful hand, and still, I labor under the delusion that my efforts are of greater importance than they actually are . . . my trust in God isn’t effective if I don’t act on it, but still . . .
There are those that trust their beautiful, efficient, effective, powerful, technologically advanced tools of protection and/or aggression – guns, computers, houses, cars, healthy food . . . modern chariots and horses – and David doesn’t spare the horses when he pivots on the ‘but’ clause: “But, we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” This isn’t an inclusive, warm and fuzzy “I wanna be nice to you and make you feel like I’m not making a demarcation between our divergent life philosophies.” This is absolute that there is not a “we can play nice with each other” space for me. I either trust my truck and the guns in my back window and the one under my seat to get me out of trouble, or I trust in the unseen force of my Great God and Father who listens for/to my voice from His ‘holy heaven’ and acts on my behalf with the saving power of His right hand. Where is my heart?
Yes I enjoy my house, my car, my guns – I do like playing with guns and sharp objects – my technology, good food, my friendship-allies, my love for and commitment to the written Word of God . . . but I’m keenly aware that if it weren’t for the powerful right hand of my God – however that power and majesty displays itself for/on my behalf – I’m pretty much just a looser on a doomed dirt-ball zooming around the sun in an orbit speed of about 67,000 mph, while it hurtles through space as part of the sun’s galaxical orbit at something in the neighborhood of 560,000 mph, and our whole galaxy rotates at about 492,125 mph. So, in the total scheme of things I only count for something because the One who either pushes on the accelerator or the brake of how the universe flows is keenly aware of me.
Psalm 16:1-2 -- A Miktam of David.
Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing." NIV
Psalms 46:1 -- God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. KJV
Proverbs 16:2 -- All the paths of a man are pure in his own eyes;
but the Lord weighs out his spirit.
A thread between these verses in my devotional reading for today . . . Psalm 16 starts off telling us that this is a miktam, of the psalmist David. The exact meaning of this strange little Hebrew word is elusive, but the simplest definition seems to be a mark or an engraving, implying a writing or a poem. And I’m attaching significance, that this is a line in the sand, representing what David’s heart is founded in. He makes an open request for safety, and verbalizes his commitment that God is his safe place. Then he reveals a confession he’s made to God, acknowledging the superior goodness of God, and, not just superior, but singular, and not to be separated from.
I remember that my dad would often quote Psalm 46:1. I also observed that he didn’t just recite these words, but that he lived this trust as well. When I was young, I didn’t get it that he was always turning to God for his protection, support and help in stormy times. This isn’t to say that he was perfect, because he was far from it, but, his practice was to always resort to God. Sometimes it took him a few hours, or a few days, to get his thinking squared away, but he would always get his heart back in alignment with his “very present Help in times of trouble.” Dad set me up to always fall back on God as my stable retreat, and I want to do it well!
Proverbs 16:2 is a word of cautious accountability – I see my ways as pure, but, if I’m committed that the Lord sees what the intent of my heart is, and makes the comparison with my actions, what does my balance look like to Him? What does my Lord see in my ways and my heart?
I was reminded of an old adage that it’s nearly impossible to hold a man accountable for his attitude. You have to wait until his actions are not in alignment with stated purpose and hold him to that line. “Lord, no matter how I think I’m doing in life, I want you to weigh out my heart and pull me into alignment with You, because you alone are my safety, and there is absolutely nothing I have or can have that is more important than Your presence in my life.”
Today is a rather non-descript Saturday-the-13th . . . no big deal . . . except that today David is making a forceful complaint to God, and I recognize the voice. Not today, but there have been those times . . . and I didn’t know how to say it in the poetic terms of the poet-king of Israel. But I hear his heart! “How long will You forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will You hide your face from me? How long must I find my daily counsel in the sorrows of my soul? And how long will my enemies be elevated over me?” (Psalms 13:1-2)
I love how David can push ahead with his deep, honest expressions, and since we have the written records today – preserved for us for over 3,000 years – we know God didn’t take him out for the transparency of his soul and the audacity to put it on external speaker. While I don’t express exactly like David, I have asked Him, from time to time, why He chooses to allow some situations that I consider to be wrongs against me, and why He doesn’t vindicate me and settle some scores I think need His attention! Not now, right-now!
There’s a resolution to the inner conflict that David always seems to find and express. I have to confess that when I’m all worked up over something – all wrapped around the axle – I really don’t want a resolution to the problem . . . right then. I want a little more pity-party time, and I want to bring in some supportive sentiment for my pain before I stop to resolve the issue in such a holy dissolve and resolve. “Trust God? Right here? Right now? I can’t say this, out loud, with you listening, but I’m not ready to let God in on my emotions and bring some sort of healing . . . quite yet . . . thank you very much!”
And David finishes this canto with: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” (NIV – verses 5-6) I do love how the King James Version phrases some of this: “But I have trusted in thy mercy . . .” Mercy suggests I shoulda got the bad when I actually got the good. And: “I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” Mmmmm . . . a song in my soul, that probably spills out in my voice, and it’s all because God has brought abundance to my heart.
So, when I finally put my hurt feelings aside, and actually want to find the beauty of God’s abundance for my soul, I find it! I found it! It’s right here! Can you see it?
Devo reading for yesterday included
Psalms 40:1-4 -- To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
As I patiently waited on the Lord, He turned toward me, listening carefully to my cry for help.
2 He raised me out of a horrible pit of slimy mud, set my feet upon a high rock, and ordered my steps.
3 He also put a new song of praise to our God in my mouth, such that many shall see, and fear, and put trust in the Lord.
Patiently waiting on the Lord . . . for the Lord . . . with the Lord, is one of my most arduous tasks. No, it’s not that I don’t trust Him, because I really do trust God, but knowing that God is in control and trusting that He will make stuff work out to both His benefit and to my benefit, and trusting and knowing that He is faithfully working in other people – both those that I know and love, and those that I know and am leery of, and those that are total strangers to me and whom I will never know – is rooted in my soul. But I just want Him to work stuff out and let me see the good ending and how everything works out and is such a benefit, and even how He makes some folks pay appropriately . . . sooner! I don’t like waiting! Sure I understand that His timing is best, but I don’t want to have to wait on it! I want that mysterious and perfect timing to blast along a little faster.
But waiting . . . to confess with the warrior/shepherd/lover/song-writer/song-singer king of Israel that I waited patiently on the Lord, is a joy to my soul that I sometimes can claim, but all too often . . . not so much.
And then, waiting patiently . . . when I do it, and even when I don’t pull it off all that well, He still turns toward me, and listens so carefully to my distressed voice as I cry out to Him, and He has delivered me from the slime and scum of a dark pit, and He raises me safely out to higher, solid ground, and He gives me good counsel and direction to guide my foot steps, and I find that I can sing, and those songs are so honoring to Him, and others are inspired to see what God has done and is doing, and their hearts are moved to put trust in the Lord too.
I’m gonna try waiting . . . patiently . . . some more . . .
The Proverbs reading for today – Proverbs 16 – begins by saying: “To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.” (NIV) and ends with: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (NIV)
I have a plan for Sunday, and I’m of the opinion that it has provoked God’s smile, and His blessing . . .
The Seahawks are playing a home game, with kick-off shortly after noon. So Sunday at Cedar’s gonna be a one hour gathering time, with God and some of His favorite peeps! The band’s gonna fire up with a couple of songs, and we’re gonna relax with prayer time and not rush it, and then I’m gonna bless the kids and send them to class, and then we’re gonna skip coffee break and go straight to the next two points I left undone in my sermon last week – you heard me right! I’m not gonna finish this marathon sermon this week – and we’re gonna go enjoy the Seahawks and cheer at the screen!
I’ve watched more football in the last 6 months than in the entire first whole-bunch-of years of my life before the Hawks became world champs. Am I now some sort of huge football fan? No! But I am enjoying the games, and I’m enjoying hanging out with my family and talking about the good plays with my family and friends. It’s fun! I’m of the opinion God must have fun . . . somewhere . . . maybe by simply watching us have fun . . . if He didn’t have fun, why would we have some capacity for fun? We’re made in His image, right? Hmmmmm
So, an hour together in the Big Room on Cedar Street in Buckley, then off to our smaller family gatherings to hang with some good friends and family, and enjoy some good food and refreshments.
There you have it, boys and girls! My exceedingly spiritual thoughts for the moment. I promise you that my sermon will be a whole bunch more spiritual that the football game, but we’re gonna have fun then too!
Psalms 119:9 -- How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word. NIV
Today’s reading is Psalm 119, which is the longest chapter in the Bible, and is full of commitment to the importance and authority to God’s Word. I have several life navigational verses in this text . . .
Verse 9 was my challenge when I was a teenager. It stayed my challenge through my 20’s and into my 30’s, and now, I’m old enough that I have to talk about ‘feeling young-at-heart’, and even though I may feel younger than my years, I find my body will not react and respond and keep up like it did when I was actually young . . . and, if I want to claim young-at-heart, I’m under the counsel of this text anyway. So, I find myself asking again and again, “How can I live a clean, pure life?”
This text is a word about process, and first I answer the question if I want to live a clean life. If my answer is “Yes.”, then I set my course to live a clean life . . . and if I don’t know how to do it, I ask some questions, and expect to get some good answers.
God is my go-to for life, and this holy book, the Bible, is my go-to for information about God. As I take in His information, and pattern my life after what I learn, my life is changed and I find I’m getting what I want. Humor a personal rendition of Psalm 119, verses 9 through 11 (the Psalmist is talking to God)
How is it that a young man is able to keep his journey pure and clean?
By living it out in harmony with what You have to say.
As I pursue You with all of my inner being,
Please don’t let me wander off from what You are requiring of me.
I have treasured and stored up what You have to say to me,
So that I won’t miss You, and what You have for me.
This kind of commitment feels risky, but it really is the safest, in the long run! I’m all-in for it!