20 July 2017

Today's Readings and Stuff -- Thursday, 20 July, 2017

Yesterday was a very long day.  Very.
Doctor appointment for Wife early.  Rheumatologist, office along the southern portion of the county south of us.  A trip made far worse by quite a lot of poorly-organized road construction along several of the legs of our route.  And made dangerous by some of the other drivers.  The ones allocating more of their attention to their cell phones and text messages than to the road and road conditions around them.  The ones who seemed intent on 70+ mph in construction zones marked a MAX of 55 or less.  That to include several large trucks, including a FedEx Freight tandem unit who nearly killed us.  And then when getting off the interstates, having to deal with traffic signal arrangements evidently intended to PREVENT the smooth and efficient flow of traffic.  The state dept of transportation here has chronically been staffed and mis-managed by some incredibly incompetent people, many of whom seem to have been hired out of family and political connections.  Fortunately, we left in enough time that we were on time, but it was a near thing, and even that was possible only because I knew some short cuts from long ago.

Took alternate route going home, and managed it in about half the time.

And then , a funeral.  Those are always tough.  This was tough in no small part, because the deceased's half-brother was Dear Wife's ex-husband.  (she'd come home early from work to find him in bed with her best friend).  But the deceased was for a long time married to a dear cousin of Wife's, I  think he was her third husband and she his second wife.  But I could be off a bit.  She's been through quite a lot, truly.  So some serious family tensions there, all too common with some of the "serial monogamy" that seems to have become part of the local "culture".
Funeral was in a "store front church", and I still haven't figured the link between them and the family.  None seemed to be part of it, but some of the extended family were, so perhaps the message that was presented there will, like a seed, sprout and grow.  It's happened before.

Then a very quick stop at a WallyMart to get a few things that we needed Right Now, and home.  Then to make dinner and all that.  We got up from table at 10:40, and I still had to do dishes and get stuff ready for bed.  LONG day, as I said.
So the sun was already up when we rose.  I'd had to kick the cats, actually the little one, out of the bedroom around 03:00 when she decided to do her "I'm starving, feed me NOW" dance and chant on top of us.  It did NOT move me to obedience.  More like thoughts of "felineocide",  or the like.

And yet ...
During the night and in that period of the morning, when you're not quite asleep and not quite awake, the "song of the day" came into my heart and it is still there;
We need the Lord, desperately and at every moment and hour.  We are blessed to be in communion with Him, and it is something that we, certainly including me, need desperately and enjoy the time we spend with Him.  Too easily we let that go by the wayside as we turn our attention to other things.  And, yes, I realize that the "stone in the shoe" things will always come about, walking with the Lord fully still requires us to not walk out in front of a bus.
But what we sometimes lose sight of, is that, miraculously, He enjoys the time we are in communion with Him.  I don't understand that, but I believe it.  It's as big a miracle as any other.  But it is He who sought us out, and only that makes it possible.
So our song is "I Come To The Garden Alone".  There are many good recordings of this, some more intent on being "performances" than anything else, but some being from the heart, even from those we might not expect.  This is one such.  I just can't let go of this.  Can't.  Don't want to try either.


Our Old Testament reading today is  Psalms 31, 32, and 33.
Psalm 32 in particular resonates with me today.  Confession to the Lord is good for us.  Better yet, not repeating  our sins afterwards.  Yes, confession is hard.  It should be, perhaps: our sins are not trivial matters as they distance  us from perfect communion with the Lord.  If we're not interested in that in this life, why should He welcome us into full communion with Him in the next?

Psalm 31
1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. 2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. 3 For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. 4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength. 5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. 6 I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD. 7 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities; 8 And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room. 9 Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. 10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed. 11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me. 12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. 13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. 14 But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God. 15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. 16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies' sake. 17 Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave. 18 Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. 19 Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! 20 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. 21 Blessed be the LORD: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. 22 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. 23 O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. 24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Psalm 32
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. 3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. 4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. 5 I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. 6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. 7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. 8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. 9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

Psalm 33
1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. 2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. 4 For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. 5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. 11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. 13 The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. 15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works. 16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. 17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. 18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; 19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. 22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.


Our New Testament reading is verses 15-40 of chapter 21 in the Acts of the Apostles.  Most of us in the church today have little or no experience with Jewish believers.  Yes, they certainly exist.  But not equally found in all parts of the country or of the world.  At the time of the early Church, many expected that all Christian would either be Jews or Jewish acolytes first, and Christians afterward.  So followers of the stricter of the Jewish beliefs and customs had reactions.  When that expectation was violated, there was considerable backlash, both within the Church and also among traditional Jews.  The path of the evangelist and apostle was seldom a smooth and easy one, opposition, including physically violent opposition, was more often the case.  We don't know how easy we have things in the Western church.  Try preaching the Gospel in Iran or Chechnya or central China, or even in Mexico!  They did, and we've been blessed thereby.

Acts 21:15-40
15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. 16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. 17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. 33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. 34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. 35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. 37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

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