Last day of February. I keep telling myself that Spring, at least the astronomer's benchmark, is only three weeks away. But we were below zero last night, half our pipes are frozen, and we are expecting little relief from the cold blast for the better part of a week. And with heavy snow predicted over the weekend.
Meanwhile, I am scheduled to shortly transport Dear Wife to a medical appointment in the larger of the nearby cities for an analysis of her asthma situation. For she has that, on top of her worsening vision -already is legally blind - and her kidney issues and her rheumatoid arthritis and a raft of other issues. Things have been difficult. So we will make the trek, Lord willing, and perhaps they can tell us something or even provide a remedy for her. Would be nice, definitely. I know that the Lord is in charge, but I confess that I do sometimes get discouraged by it all.
But we shall get through. And others have worse problems.
Dear Wife was married before. Husband had, well, a less than total commitment to the matter, and broke the vows early and often, and it was discovered that his legal status was such that the marriage was never valid. Something about not getting divorced from his previous wife before "marrying" a new one. Leaving Dear Wife with a child on the way and suddenly no husband or any support. He, by the way, has since remarried at least once. Legally those times, at least I think so. And our oldest, technically my step-daughter, has several half-siblings. She's made an effort to be in contact with at least some of them for mutual support and such. One called her yesterday. She has a child and the child has pneumonia, a very bad case of it. They were transporting the child via helicopter to a regional children's hospital with chest tubes and IV's already inserted and were to be in surgery last evening. As of this moment, we've had no further word. I really play no part in this matter, know none of those involved, but surely the serious illness of a very small child is worth intercessory prayer. And there are others going through their own rough times. This time of year, the cold, and dark, and drab despair, wears a lot of people down. Even me. So one tries to keep things in the proper perspective.
As I've been doing, the request for prayers and other assistance for the ministry at Bridges of Faith continues. If you saw any part of the news of the region last night, things are not getting better, they're getting worse and my heart fears that they may get much worse. The history of the region is not a pleasant one. I know a bit of it, not all. And it's not real nice. As always, there are those caught in situations not of their making. We have an opportunity to show the love of God to them if we can.
Check it out. Rev. Benz won't mind.
The Old Testament reading today is chapters 21 and 22 of the book of Numbers. Things are getting interesting. You do recall the Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times", don't you?
And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners.
And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.
And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.
And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.
And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising.
From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared.
From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.
Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,
And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.
And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.
Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:
The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah:
And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth:
And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon.
And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,
Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king's high way, until we be past thy borders.
And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel.
And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong.
And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.
For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.
Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:
For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon.
Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites.
We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.
Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites.
And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.
And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.
So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.
And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:
Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.
And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?
And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying,
Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.
And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.
And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.
And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honorable than they.
And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me:
For I will promote thee unto very great honor, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.
And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.
Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more.
And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.
And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.
And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.
And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honor?
And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.
And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth.
And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
The New Testament reading is verses 14-32 from teh 7th chapter in the Gospel of Mark.
And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.
For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.
And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.
And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.
And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.
And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;
And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;
And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.