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I decided awhile back in writing blogs that since accurate quotes are hard to come by, especially from notes taken from live talks (sermons, lectures, conversations, etc), that I would at least communicate with myself when I was not exactly quoting, but just accurately summarizing with words actually spoken (or synonyms thereof) but not necessarily in that order, to surround them with apostrophes (‘) rather than quotation marks (“).(1) See if you think that I am wrong to pass these off as nearly quotes.(2)

In the sermon this morning, my pastor said many noteworthy things. I was dull of mind and slow of pen and didn’t get many of them down, but following are a few essentials I grabbed out of the verbal stream:

“God is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… These are the foundational issues we build our lives upon.”

‘In the variable winds and choppy waves of our rapidly changing culture that make us soul sick, we do not build our lives upon trends in our culture or traditions of better days, but the truth of God’s Word.’ Actually, he didn’t use ‘variable’ or ‘choppy’ but described the bounce on a small boat that made him sick. And though he conveyed all of the thoughts with almost all those words, they never appeared in one sentence. So, what are you building your life upon in these changeable time- trends, traditions, or truth? Trends and traditions may align with truth, but they are not the judge or guide of our choices, truth is.

He read about the sixth day of creation from Genesis 1:24-31. Though he said much more could be gleaned, he did offer 5 applications:

“God is our authority. Life is precious. Men and women are different theologically and biologically. We should celebrate the differences in men and women.” ‘We live within our God given callings and then we are blessed.’ I was behind on my writing and could not get down the last one exactly, but it most interested me. He talked about how obeying God’s calling, which he prefers over the word role, brings life, while living counter to it brings death. We see the promotion of so much death in our culture these days that verify the judgements of Romans 1 on those who refuse to acknowledge God and His callings. Are you as a church-goer, perhaps even devotee of Christ, following these life cursing trends in our culture? For the sake of us all, please stop!

1. That was such a fun sentence to write. I hope it is grammatically correct and easily understood.

2. Do you realize that I am suggesting a new grammatical form and use of the apostrophe? Old School Grammarians would disdain my attempt to amend the rules. They might say, ‘You do not need such non-sense. We already have quotes and summaries of ideas.’ I would retort, “That is what they said. I just am not willing to swear in court that they used those exact words in that exact order.”

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One sunny day not long ago I was resting and reading for a short period of time. After I completed the passage, a deep essay on theology, I looked up and called my wife’s name. The house sounded empty. I cruised through the rooms and she was not to be found. Then I looked out the window and there she was wandering around in the yard with her head down. I went out and made a comment about the beautiful day and asked her what she was doing. She raised up a hand grasping small flowers, most people would call weeds, and said, “They cover the yard, and they are so beautiful.” She had three different flowers. I began the search, and we found seven different types of flowers, some hardly as big as the head of a pin, but covering the yard with blues, yellows, violets, and wee little whites. All the detail for male and female flower parts and nectar production and beautiful little petals. How much of God’s beauty goes unnoticed because we are looking but not perceiving, looking inward and not around us, looking to find fault rather than encouragement, or looking to show off rather than being shown to? So small, frequently unnoticed, but declaring God’s glory anyway, quietly turning heavenward.

Many years ago I watched a program about the exploration and mapping of the cave Lechuguilla that is in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At the very back of the cave is a room with intricate gypsum stalactites, one 20 feet long. The majority of the cave was not discovered until 1986 when cavers broke through an extensive breakdown blocking the main passage. The Cave of the Crystals in northern Mexico features selenite crystals up to 37 feet long and 4 feet in diameter. The conditions are harsh in terms of temperature, humidity, and vaporous sulfuric acid. The cave was discovered in 2000 by two miners after extensive pumping cleared the room of water.

Many other examples of once hidden beauties and wonders could be paraded before you, but these several examples demonstrate to me that God has many hidden beauties in His Creation, quietly giving glory to Him, and how many may never be discovered? Secondly, I believe it gives new meaning to why we explore at all. We don’t just climb a mountain because it is there, we seek something, something wonderful or beautiful or hidden. Our desire to discover and explore reveals God’s glory. Many explorers and exploration societies give glory to the explorers or the less than scientific explanations of what is found, but pieces of God’s character in power and design and goodness and wisdom are revealed in what we find. That is a worthy reason to explore and discover, reveal and describe.

The seventh type of flower is hidden around back and several are facing away, but they decorated our window sill for few days.

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Spring has sprung, and along the Catawba River Greenway, it is in full bloom. The years pass and I have seen every season multiple times on this 6 miles of trail by the river. To long time watchers of this blog (1), this entry might be a bit boring, but there are a few new twists and turns and the beauty of God’s Creation never grows old. I am especially drawn to its ability to regenerate and renew. I didn’t take a picture, but I observed several large Mayapple patches blooming in the middle of a died out Kudzu patch. Of course, as the weather gets warmer, the Kudzu will take over and completely shade and choke out the Mayapple for the remainder of the season. But the plants persist because they sprout, leaf, bloom, and fruit by mid-May before the Kudzu has done much more than sprout.

I found a wildflower new to me. I took two pictures and immediately sent them to sister-in-law, the family resident wildflower expert (2). Within two minutes she replied with the name and inquiries as to the presence of crossbred varieties with different color centers to their flowers. A short distance down the trail I spied a curiously marked songbird, and the two of us stared each other down for a few minutes. I made a cautious one step for a better view, and the bird flipped around on the branch preparing to fly, allowing me to see the backside coloring. After another good look I cautiously moved away, leaving the bird on his branch. I feel quite confident, after looking it up, that I was viewing an Ovenbird, a larger songbird but smaller Warbler. I haven’t the camera to even have bothered to try to take a picture, but the breast markings, eye ring, back and tail feathers were distinctive enough.

To think that this walk had come about because every effort to secure work for the day had fallen through. So, what do you do when you can’t make your best laid plans A, B, and C happen? Take a walk, pray, and look intently around at the beauty of God’s world. For a few of the pictures I did manage to take, click on “Greenway Flowers“.

  1. Some of my former blog entries on Spring on the Greenway follow: “Out and About“, “Small Delights“, “Colorful Treasure“.
  2. In fact, she is a remarkable woman. If you don’t believe me, check out this link: https://www.wate.com/news/local-news/remarkable-women/2022-remarkable-women-linda-francis/

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I previously proclaimed my proclivity for and prowess with lists. You can check that out at Lists.

The other day I stepped up my list using a notch. I now live outside of the town I lived in for 22 years. There and back that is now 50 minutes of driving. There are frequently multiple chores to do when in town. I have recently felt a mild frustration at the inefficiency of getting things done in town, increased by the price of gas. One worried little about either when things were a 3- 5 minute drive from the house. So, I thought, what would be the most efficient route for getting the chores done. I decided to sketch a map, labelling all of the places I needed to go and then mark an order of visiting various venues. It turned out to be a circle. As you can see, I have labelled highway numbers and initials of places to visit.

The oval represents the town, which reminded me of a small developmental art lesson I had one time. An artist had observed many children drawing. In the video children were shown drawing. He points out to the commentator, ‘See, she puts a circle around it.’ Then he explains that at a certain developmental stage, children circle their scribble and call it an object, a person, a thing. Before that they just scribble. After that they are trying to draw an object they hold in their mind.

In the middle of the circuit, we decided that we needed to make an additional stop. I just added it to the circuit without any backtracking or inefficiency. I wondered how few of stops need a map. Is it how many stops I can easily hold in my mind with all of the other details running around in my head and without forgetting a stop? Or is complexity of the route? Or is it the amount time between planning the trip and executing it? Is the number 2 or 3 or 5? Certainly this list of 6 was enough for me to not immediately see the most efficient route without mapping it out.

It saved time, gas, and frustration trying to figure out where I should go next. And given that I don’t just walk or drive a few minutes to this store or that business and come back home, it may become a more regular habit to map-list where to go…”Next!”

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My wife and I had a long weekend with family, the first since Thanksgiving because of sickness, finances, and business. We interacted with 8 our of our 10 grandchildren, two of our children, three of my brothers, one of her sisters, nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces, and in-laws at meals, on hikes, sitting around, and in church. Click here are some pictures of a few of the activities.

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I found the following reflection from 2011 that I never published. It still the way my wife and I do life.

One of the choices our family has made over the years is to live materially conservative lives. Obviously, if a family has financial limitations then their life must be lived frugally to maintain stability. That has been our allotment for which we are thankful to God. As I have said in times past, “Though we don’t always know how, the bills are always paid.” However, it is possible even within this forced frugality framework to choose convenience overr conservation. For instance, three of our babies wore exclusively cloth diapers and the fourth wore them until continuous diaper rash persuaded us otherwise. It began as a clear way to save money but continued as a mindset on how to conserve resources.

          Another attempt at conserving resources is the compost pile. We began our marriage with two gardens and continued maintaining one for most of our first fifteen years of marriage. We miss our gardens but our present plot is very poorly drained with very heavy soil that doesn’t grow garden vegetables well. But even now without a garden we deliver our ‘wet’ garbage to a covered compost bin that is about 3’ x 5’ x 2 ½ ‘ high. The compost pile helps return nutrients to the ground, reduces the number of times a month trash must be delivered by the rural resident to the dump, and reduces the amount of landfill usage.

          For me personally the compost has had another benefit. Though life is busy and I send one of the children out or my wife frequently took it out in times past, I actually enjoy taking out the small bucket full of scraps. In winter I most often carry it out after dark in anything but the hardest rain and never minding the cold. The smell of the air may suggest a coming snow or rain. The wind chills the nose and ears and shoulders and tells of fast changes to warmer or colder. But the best times are the clear, quiet cold nights when the stars are at full brightness. That is a time to reflect on the celestial light peering down through the bare twigs onto the detrital refuse of Earth below, and everything in between- a quiet moment to consider God and His most excellent Creation.

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I had a peculiar feeling today (1). Two people were talking about an animal that had to be put down for attacking the owner and in the past other people. The owner cried during the conversation and the other person empathized and then turned and asked if I had a dog. I do not. Because of a poor experience (2) with a dog as a child, I don’t really enjoy pets that much.

Some people have pet dogs or cats. Some people have pet hamsters or gerbils. Some people have pet fish. Some have pet rocks. Later in the day I received a strange text with a picture (click here). I had a sinking feeling when I saw the picture. I lived under that plant for 22 years. I cleaned up after it. I trimmed it. I looked up at it during various seasons and variable weather. I enjoyed its shade, its shape, and it size. The new owners had ever right to cut it down, but I was still a little upset. It was, as my wife reminded me, the largest tree in the neighborhood, and it was probably 150+ years old. I have long known that I like trees, but today I realized that I must hold some similar emotions to other pet owners of dogs or cats or gerbils. I felt a sense of loss over an old companion. (3) I responded in a quite non-committal way to the text with the picture, “Make a alot of good firewood.”

  1. Let me tell it in the present tense even though a week has slipped away since it happened.
  2. I wasn’t attacked. I just didn’t like the dog because I had to train it and feed it but couldn’t really play with it because it would always run over you when you went into the backyard.
  3. Far older than me, perhaps 120+ years old based on other oak trees of similar girth on which I have counted the rings.

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In Sunday School we have been studying Romans chapter 6. Some weeks we don’t even get through one verse. We were looking at verse 13: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The word translated “instruments” is frequently translated “weapons”, so Paul is using a metaphor that has the parts of your body likened to weapons of warfare. One of the drills in military procedures, particularly since the inception of the firearm, is “Present arms!”. The soldier is displaying his weapon for inspection, drill, and show of allegiance. Also, there is a significant parallelism here, and I find it easier to see if I diagram it. My pastor pointed out that presentation of your members to God is not doing good deeds, which leads to a self-righteous moralism, as opposed to sinning. Rather, we present our members to God, which means sin is everything that is not God and counter to Him. This verse is very practical when it comes to growing in sanctification. This idea is why we must put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10ff. We are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, but “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

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I have been privileged to work on various types of projects since I began Decks And Such (see https://www.facebook.com/decksandsuch). Friends at church asked me to repair the porch on their house that was built in 1875. They built houses differently back then. Likely, the beams and boards were milled on the property. The beams in the porch were treated with tar that smelled like creosote. I can imagine a crew of workers cutting, milling, cooking tar and applying it, building the foundation and floor joists all from materials found close about. Check out the progression of my repair work at This Old Porch

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Wow, time flies whether you are having fun or not. So many challenges and unknowns have come our way in the last 3 months, but God is faithful and His providential care and guidance is unerring even when we can’t see it. We are thankful that our house sold, but we don’t know where we are going next. Houses are hard to get in this rarefied real estate market, and direction for where we should be is even harder at the moment. I am by no means a control freak, but I like a little predictability and consistency in my life, and that is all out the window at the moment. My climbing partner said just today that I seem to handle uncertainty (“the unknowns” as we called it) pretty well. I testified to God’s work in my life to make that so. If I say that I trust God, then I need to prove it by not fretting and by waiting for His guidance.

Having said all of that, I am also thankful for decompression times like hiking hard on an approach to a cliff and climbing hard on climbs that are very challenging for me. That was today. Last week was more chill (or was it?) on a bright sunny day and friends trying hard at the boulder field. Check out a few pictures of that trip at Bouldering with Friends.

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Bless you little girl

Girls are becoming more common in the Francis Clan. Our 10th grandchild was born on 2/23/22. We met her on the Greenway the other day, all bundled up and sleeping as we strolled along. As I held her, I said, “God bless you little girl.” And, as is my custom, I wrote a poem intended for the purpose of saying a blessing over this young one who are our posterity.

May God bless you little girl
With early knowledge of Him
Seek out the greatly priced Pearl
In this evil world that’s grim

Heidi be of noble kin
Who serve God, a priestly race
Quell temptation, quiet din
In the home with love and grace

Louise a famed warrior be
This world is no friend to you
Pray hard and live righteously
Know and teach the Word as true

May God grant that you live free
All your children’s children hold
All following God you see
None to unbelief may fold

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As I stood praying with several brothers and sisters after service, a young sister prayed with fervor and striking wisdom for one so young. The latter is largely the result of her good Christian heritage, parents and grandparents. The former is because she “owned her faith”, as her grandmother said. It was not just her parents’ faith, it is hers.

Suddenly, an analogy flashed across my mind.

Young Christians (specifically, I mean young in Christ, young in the faith) are like Igneous rocks, newly formed and fiery, that is, passionate about their faith and progress in it.

Mature Christians are more to be likened to Metamorphic rocks, who through heat and pressure of this life are become purifying factors making the believer hardened and weather resistant to the wiles of the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Carnal and Disobedient Christians are similar to Sedimentary rocks, who once were living stones, but now have retreated to being mere history lessons of past events recorded in layers of deposition or fossils of mineralized bones of past failures of belief.

The analogy can quickly breakdown (erode) if pushed too far, particularly with inclusion of rock cycle transition. However, I think one transition in the rock cycle that should encourage us in this analogy is that even Sedimentary rocks can be metamorphised into more stable forms, just as Carnal and Disobedient Christians may repent and pursue maturity. Then the history lesson of their sediments is both a precautionary tale and a picture of God’s grace in bringing us to completion.

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Soon after my last blog entry (Transitions), I had a realization about my thinking processes. See if this assertion rings true for you. I frequently think more clearly and find more insight into a subject if I am not directly focused on it. It seems that when I set to determine a course of action, develop and idea or conviction, or gain deeper understanding, I get bogged down in my thinking processes or research when I concentrate on it. If I, instead, look at it as if with peripheral vision, listening to others discuss the idea, having previously considered the subject, allowing rather than pushing my mental wheels to spin and weave a coherent answer or summary, I think and formulate more clearly. If you carefully read, I do not mean haphazardly blab opinionated platitudes, but rather having previously considered the subject and raised it to the light of Scripture. In fact, it is at the moment of so raising it by myself or others to the light of Scripture that I seem to make connections. And connections are the stuff of analysis leading to synthesis.

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Transitions

When I was an educator by vocation, one of the frequent comments in meetings was “Change is your friend; get used to it because it’s here to stay.” I am here to say that change is no friend of mine and never was. Change is a sometime enemy that stalks my peace, effectiveness, efficiency, stability, and progress as a teacher (1) and person. It cannot be avoided but it should not be applauded, lauded, and promoted. In education, I think change is probably an excuse for never settling on a good and meaningful curriculum and pedagogy. Good teachers who are allowed to teach the same subject will reflect on their craft and better it in delivery, content, and relevance. Bad teachers will not be jolted by change to better their approach, but will find loopholes to continue their poor delivery. (2) I am not quite sure where all of that came from. It must have been latently hovering below the surface for a while.

The real subject of this post is change that really is unavoidable if more beneficial outcomes await. Change, just because it is or because we refuse to resist its eroding influence, is frequently contemptible, but change resulting from a transition which leads to a better place may be hard, but good. (3)

So, my wife and I are in a major transition. At our age, 60’s, these are usually to be avoided for settling and security. In our case health, finances, and pursuits are driving change. The basement of our home of 22 years was growing in water content and mold. Given my wife’s health and blood tests identifying mold as a partial culprit of her symptoms, we decided to sell our house. Some of the pictures (click on “Parting Shots“) reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. We could have spent the rest of our days in this house, given its wooded yard, quiet neighborhood, familiar surroundings, and good community facilities. (4)

Financially, it may not be reasonable or possible for us to live at our accustomed and desired standard of living in terms of housing in this town. Anyone at all aware of real estate at present is aware that it is flat out crazy. Pandemic paranoia and panic has doubled the price of houses in our town. The only house we were able to get as far as bidding on was gone by the next day. We cannot compete. But God’s providence, rather than more direct means, very frequently guides those who are trusting Him to where He wants them. To where might this lead?

That brings us to the last transition driving point, pursuits. In this context, I mean what I (we) desire to do with a part of the remainder of our days. For that you must wait until we discern where and how God is leading us, be it down the block or across state lines.

  1. Fill in the blank with your profession.
  2. Certainly opinion but one gathered from 28 years of being in the trenches.
  3. Many of the educational elite would say that this is what they are after. I do not beg to differ; I insist upon it. If transition to a better place was what was sought after (aka reform) then education would be better, but much of “educational reform” is a smoke screen for covering incompetence and wrong presuppositions. Leave the good teachers alone to settle in and improve their craft. Help the bad teachers to see they may need to find other work. Maybe this should have been a post about educational reform (or lack thereof).
  4. We agreed and I said, “I think that perhaps what I like best about this town is the [6 mile] wooded trail by the river”. I have run, walked, biked, explored, photographed, read, disc golfed, played with grandchildren and friends, picnicked, and talked on this greenway for 15+ years. I have not yet seen another one of equal beauty or variety.

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Partial obedience precipitates lasting consequences.

Do you remember Saul’s debacle with Amalek (1)? In First Samuel 15:1-3 the Lord spoke to Saul through His prophet: “Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

He did not kill all the people of Amalek nor their livestock. It came back to haunt him and all Israel.

My pastor was teaching from I Samuel 30 and 31. Amalekites burned Ziklag and took David’s and his men’s possessions and women and children. David attempted to kill every Amalekite (2), for it says he fought from twilight until dusk of the next day. But 400 young men escaped on camels. Now there must have been at least some Amalek women and children at home and other men, too, but this band of young men could certainly repopulate Amalek in time.

Then comes I Samuel 31 and II Samuel 1. Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle by horrible means and their bodies hung from the walls of Beth-shan. When a messenger tells David what has happened, David has him cut down for killing God’s Anointed, Saul (3). The messenger, euthanizer was an Amalekite. So, Saul’s failure to fully obey God in the beginning came back to cause him problem in the end.

And the difficulty did not end there. One Amalekite, Haman the Agagite (4) set out to destroy all Jews in the time of Esther. His designs were foiled by Mordecai and Esther (Esther 9), but he came close to succeeding.

Partial obedience seems like full obedience to the half-hearted disciple. This word is hard. Sinner that I am, I have been there working my half-hearted obedience. And God says, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” (I Samuel 15:22-23) Oh, God give me a whole heart like David’s, so that I may be as him, a man after God’s heart. (Acts 13:22)

  1. Amalek was the grandson of Esau, so Amalekites were Edomites. (I Chronicles 1:36)
  2. Amalek was stubborn in resistance to God and His people. God hardened their hearts and, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”” (Exodus 17:14-16) When Balaam prophesied the final time before Balak, he repeated the idea of Moses’ prophecy, “And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.”” (Numbers 24:20)
  3. Neither the Philistines’ arrows nor Saul’s own sword, but the Amalekite at Saul’s request killed him.
  4. Agagites were descendants of Agag, king of Amalek, at the time of Samuel and Saul. Saul foolishly spared him but Samuel cut him down. (I Samuel 15:8,33)

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The owner built his own house with many days of sweat equity for him and his wife and subcontractors for various major steps. The house is 98% done inside but needs some work and finishing touches on the exterior. The couple enjoyed their deck so much and love to entertain that they decided to add onto their deck, or outdoor living space as he called it. Being from farther north, they were amazed at the fierceness of the summer sun. So, they decided that they would use a covered deck more. For that reason, the most recent deck that I worked on might better be called a porch, because we put a roof over it. The outdoor living space changed the character of the house, giving it a more homey and inviting look and feel. The owner, with whom I have worked, has appreciated my attention to detail. He says most everyone who sees it comments on the quality. Check out a few of those details at “Outdoor Living Space“.

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My pastor’s teaching is sound biblically and practical. He was teaching from Philippians 4:20-23: “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Packed into these closing words are a doxology, a greeting, and a benediction. He pointed out that we should make use of these words to affect how we live in the following ways. The doxology focuses us to “live for God’s glory”. The greeting encourages us to “love people”, especially the saints. The benediction blesses us to “remember the grace of Christ.” He encouraged us to pray these three things before we arise in the morning. Now I had thought at the time that this was good instruction but that the third word, “remember”, was weak. This morning upon rising I was looking for a different word or phrase. In synch with preacher language I decided upon “lay hold of the grace of Christ.” I think that I thought to pray when I awoke because he asked what we should pray before we arose. In my then present frame of mind, I suggested “In the difficulties of this day…” So, I composed my thoughts before God and hope that He will work these truths into my life this day and for many to come:

“Dear Lord, in the midst of today’s joys and difficulties, help me to live for Your glory, love people, and lay hold of the grace of Christ.”

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Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Reading in the Proverbs lately, the sanctifying role of God’s Word to bring understanding and wisdom has captured my notice.

The confused understand; the despondent move toward hope; the fearful find security; the naive accept knowledge; the conflicted settle into peace; the foolish walk in wisdom; the sad perk up with joy; the timid boldly tell of the Savior; the persecuted receive comfort; the sinners dodge wrath and bask in blessing; the righteous are clothed in discernment and eternal riches.

Our God through communicating to man imparts life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) “I wait for the Lord, my sol does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

May you discover more of His grace and glory, and may His blessing overtake you in His light and protection that surround you, as you seek to walk uprightly before Him in 2022.

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I only visit with my brother about once or twice a year. He is kind to let my wife and I stay in his house when we come to town for family functions. It was Thanksgiving week and we sat reading in the living room, and my daily reading was Psalm 116. When I read verse 13, “I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord,” I mused that I did not know what the psalmist was referring to. Up to this point in the psalm there is not the least context hint of what the psalmist is doing or where he is. The rest of the psalm does give hints but could be taken several ways. So, I asked my brother if the cup of salvation was a celebratory cup at a feast or a cup of oblation before the altar. He whipped out his laptop and went commentary hunting on his Bible software. A number of commentators offered both possibilities as explanation, but there began to be a weight of evidence from the cross-references to other Scripture passages that leaned heavily toward cup of oblation. Scripture is always the best way to interpret Scripture, because it never contradicts and always tells the truth. Psalm 16:4-5 says, “

“The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

David gives hint at two types of cup here, both the drink offering of idols he will not sacrifice and the cup of abundant supply he has been allotted by God. A quick survey of the uses of cup throughout the Bible reveals that cup is a symbol for God’s provision. The majority of its uses are for the provision of wrath and judgement for the wicked. Other uses include drink offerings of idols, abundant provision of health and supplies for living, and soul salvation.

In Leviticus 17:11 it says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Here God is explaining why the blood is drained out of a sacrifice and why He commands that blood be drained out of a slaughtered animal before cooking and eating it. The priest would lift up the cup of blood collected from the sacrificed animal, sprinkle some of it on the sacrifice on the altar, and pour most of it at the base of the altar. (ex. Leviticus 4:7,18,25; 5:9) Some small amounts were used for various ceremonies of sanctifying (setting apart) by sprinkling or rubbing some the blood on the the person or object (ex. Leviticus 1:5, 9:12, 14:14, 16:14). This cup of blood is very significant to the understanding of the sacrifice and its symbolic nature. God clearly explains why a sacrifice is accepted in place of the death of the sinner: “to make atonement for your souls” (v.11). God is accepting a life sacrifice in place of the life of a guilty sinner.

But, “Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrew 9:9-10) Old Testament sacrifices were temporary “sweeping sins under the carpet” as it were. A better sacrifice was needed.

David mentions the context of the cup. He is fulfilling a vow in a certain place and way, in the temple:

“in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.” (Psalm 119:18-19)

It seems that His vow is to publicly thank and worship God as David raises the “cup of salvation”, the blood to be sprinkled by the priest on the offering.

And this cup of salvation has its fulfillment in Christ, who “not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”(Hebrews 9:12) The blood of Christ is an abundant supply that satisfies the wrath of God for everyone who believes. At the Passover meal, the Last Supper, Jesus “took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus raised the cup of salvation which He explains symbolizes His blood.

Our worship is a raising of the cup of salvation in thanksgiving for what He has accomplished. David raised it before the fact. Jesus raised it just before the fact, then raised it by His own sacrifice. We raise it in memoriam of what Christ did for us.

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The Word of God is one whole story written by an Infinite Author. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we study it, it yields ever more connections and truths about anything and everything. So, great is the Lord, His name, and His works. As it says in Psalm 111:2:

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them.”

I was reading Psalm 149. It calls loudly for the praise of God. It has a secondary theme as to why “His godly ones” should praise Him: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (v.4) Is “His people” all Israel, godly Israel, or all His people for all time? It certainly is not all Israel for He says through Isaiah the prophet,

“Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,
Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows;
For every one of them is godless and an evildoer,
And every mouth is speaking foolishness.” (Isaiah 9:17)

I don’t believe that He is speaking of merely godly Israel either. Here is the reason. Because He “takes pleasure in His people” the psalm reports two results: 1) “He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation” (v.4b), and 2) “This is an honor for all His godly ones” (v.9).

Oh, what a privilege and joy to be beautified with salvation. I am afflicted and needy and unworthy and sinful, and yet He has lavished His grace upon me, and all those who submit to His rule and trust in Him, by beautifying me, us, with His salvation. Praise God!

But then comes the deep and glorious connection to future events. What is this “honor for all His godly ones”? This phrase is the conclusion of verses 5-9:

“The high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
To bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
To execute on them the judgment written;” (v.6-9a)

God is going to lead them in judgements. I see here some detail filled in for a verse in Revelation 19:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Obviously, the emphasis is and should be on Jesus, but verse 14 includes us: “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” I believe that Psalm 149: 6-9 is telling us what we shall be doing as we follow “Him on white horses”. Even as Christ has had us, “the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” so He will have us fill up His judgements at the end. And it will be an “honor for all of His godly ones.” We follow Him through thick and thin for He is worthy.

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