I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
2 Corinthians 12:10
Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Words of Grace For Today
Joshua’s words are a great example why military leaders are not great inspirational speakers: he can command all he likes, but deciding to be strong and courageous, not frightened or dismayed is a whole lot short of actually being, doing, speaking, thinking that way.
The gap is what most humans have trouble with. Filling the gap between deciding to be courageous and being courageous with commands does not work, not at all. In fact I’m not sure if I know one thing that does work.
Paul’s approach is confusing and maybe inspiring. It’s just saying when you are weak you are strong doesn’t say a lot. The rest of Paul’s writing fills it in better. When Paul is weak, his witness to Christ’s strength is most obvious, and in what Christ does for him Paul is strong. Borrowed strength as it were.
Joshua may not give great motivational speeches, but his ending or stated cause for our being courageous carries the day, the year, the millennium and really all time for all life: God is with us.
We can be courageous, not because we are strong, but because Christ is strong, and that strength never wavers. Christ is always with us so we can endure many hardships … and still live joyful lives.
This is a day to thank God, and dance on with a good life … good because God dances with us..
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.
1 Timothy 4:10
For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.
Words of Grace For Today
A saviour of all people!
A saviour especially of those who believe, but not only for those who believe!
How often we in the church have claimed salvation only for ourselves. Ah, so wrong we can be about the most important things!
The blessing, for us who believe, is that we know we have strength given to us far beyond anything the world can throw at us. So we say with Habakkuk that God makes our feet like that of the deer and makes us tread even on the heights.
In old age as my feet move more slowly and climbing to any height gets more dangerous, I’m sure that I cannot say this with much literal meaning, but that figurative meaning is even more valuable.
Or at least that’s what one has left to say when one gets older, eh?
Today, we toil and struggle, as people have in every generation. We get to do so with great hope that God walks with us through it all, no matter how deep the shtako gets.
So onward, one step at a time. Clean up before sleeping, and then it starts all over. What a blessed life! This God provides even for those who do not believe. Now that is a miracle, a wonder, an inexplicable reality of God’s good creation.
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split open the rock and the water gushed out.
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.
Words of Grace For Today
While climate change has brought us to experience first-, second-, and internet-hand drought like never before, and likewise floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, drechos, and disasters like glaciers and mountains collapsing on pristine areas, towns, and people, Jesus still stands up in the busy festivals and market places and cries out to us:
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Come all you who are thirsty, come drink your fill.
Right, that was not Jesus, that was Isaiah 55.1.
The theme of thirst and of God providing water is often repeated in scriptures, as well it may be since water is essential for life and it is a symbol of God’s providing for us in all ways (not just physical water) when we are in need.
Isaiah 48 recounts how God provided water for the people during the Exodus, their fleeing from slavery in Egypt into the wilderness. Rocks usually do not provide water, but with God all things are possible.
So, how do you thirst this day?
For water or hunger for food?
For a faith strong enough to see past this day’s challenges and pitfalls to the blessings God pours over you?
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
1 John 1:5
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
Words of Grace For Today
It sounds like an apocalyptic movie: the sun shall no longer be your light by day, and the moon will not give you light by night. Polar darkness, for ever.
Then comes our salvation: the Lord will be our everlasting light, and our God will be our glory.
John puts the words there that seal the deal for us: God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
Thank God, because it was beginning to look like the darkness had taken a firm grip our our world leaving us just a short time before we would plunge into eternal darkness.
January 10, 2022 I wake to a rustle followed by a huge bang. Then more rustling of tarps and more bangs, loud, crisp, close and … the ground shakes. I reach for the light to switch it on, and nothing. The batteries are dead as a 100 year old mummy, and as cold as if the mummy were uncovered from melting polar ice. That’s not right, I remember thinking. The fire should still be quite warm. I try to see what the thermometer reads but cannot see. I zip open the door and wind blows in my face crisp and instantly freezing cold. That’s not right, there was a fire in the fire box sheltered from the wind by a frame hung with insulated tarps. I cannot see anything. I feel for something, anything. But there is nothing. I stumble around pulling on a parka, pants, boots, gloves. I step out to where there had been a wood stove when I went to bed just a few hours ago. I thought I’d stoke it, but it’s not there.
I walk a few steps and the piercing cold bites deep into me, so much so that as I turn I lose my bearings, I flounder around a bit. Trying to work this out, I take one step and feel in a circle. I take a step back and then one more back and feel in a circle. Then I step in each side direction. Nothing. So I repeat the search this time taking two steps. This time my hand brushes against something. I take one more step towards it, trying to ensure I know the direction I’ve come from. It’s the zipper door flapping in the wind. I crawl back into the tent.
A loud to no one I say in a prayer: Would You Hand Me a Light!
As I reach to climb into bed my hand brushes something hard, a flashlight.
I have a light. I turn it on and realize in my restless sleep I’ve turned myself all around so that I have gone out the ‘back’ door of the tent. I look through the zipper of the front door and there is the shelter and fire, dwindling to almost no heat.
I get dressed again and go out to stoke it, lay myself back down to sleep again, and thank God
… for being the Light of my Life.
Or I could have panicked and never found my way back in the tent.
In the morning I see evidence that a bear has taken on a tree not 5 feet from my tent, and the tree lost. It was left banging against the tree next to it. My night of banging waking me turned around. Thankfully God got me straightened around.
God leads us and lights our ways in so many and various ways, but always God lights our ways, even on this day to come.
And No One Is Falsely Accused, Not People, Not God,
but it is not so beyond this small refuge.
Your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just’, when it is their own way that is not just.
Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.
Words of Grace For Today
A common illness among humans is to know full well something is wrong, but somehow be unable to identify oneself as the source. Instead we blame others, believing the fault cannot possibly be ourselves. Innocent people are blamed. It may be simple scapegoating. The blamed person never even knows they are blamed. Seems innocent way to deflect responsibility for one’s sins.
Until it is not so simple, for one has been doing this for so long one does not know when one is blaming others for one’s own sins, and when others actually are the wrongdoers, and one carries on, driving people out of town with their reputations ruined, taking people to court, fully perjurying oneself, and sending innocent people to jail. These things just get out of hand.
Lawyers, Prosecutors, Clerks and Judges see this so often and care not one wit, simply carrying, knowing full well innocent people are accused and then convicted, and very not innocent people blatantly lie under oath in court. The courts care not one bit because they, too, add their lies on top of the perjury provided, in order to convict innocent, unfavoured people, and giving guilty, favoured people the privilege of destroying other people, as the courts themselves participate. There must be some kind of reward for the courts, prosecutors, lawyers, rcmp, and the actually guilty people who perjure themselves. It’s the reward all bullies enjoy as they beat up others who certainly do not deserve to be beaten.
It is an easy step to blaming God for one’s own sins, claiming God is unjust, when the guilty and unjust player is oneself.
Against this there is little defence.
There is only the comfort in knowing that saints of all generations have suffered the same kind of injustice, and even Jesus himself was falsely accused and convicted, and killed in a most torturous way, by crucifixion. The comfort comes in knowing that one is not the only person so unjustly dealt with, and that through the generations, God has always accompanied those falsely accused and convicted, and killed.
While we live, we pray, God save us from such injustice, from such blind and sick people.
While we live, we pray, God helps us each day to find what pleases you, and to think, speak, and do as you would have us.
Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.
In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Words of Grace For Today
Give to the poor?
Keep for one’s own future, security, and dependants or descendants?
Give to get rich?
Hoard to avoid starvation?
Help others a little?
Make it look like one is generous while really being careful to keep enough for oneself and one’s future?
There are all sorts of attitudes to have concerning the poor.
The greatest difference is whether one considers oneself poor. The richest people worry that they are not rich enough, do not have enough, are barely making it, can be wiped out in a day or year. The poorest people can live generously sharing what little they have.
In three small villages in Africa, a place close to my heart, the people were not rich by any standards. Many years ago a wise elder saw how the wet seasons were sometimes sufficient to provide water and growth and food to carry them through the dry season, and sometimes not. That elder had brought his village together and convinced them that they would better survive and even all thrive if through the times of plenty and hard times they would share among all members of the village. For decades the village survived and often had enough to share or trade with neighbouring villages.
A descendent of that wise man grew up not knowing hunger and was able to paint on dik dik skins scenes from their life high on the plateau. She also dreamed. One day she set out to realize her dream. She travelled away from her village for days to ‘see the world.’ She arrived at the ocean, where fishers plied the sea in small outriggers bringing in their catch to feed their families. She befriended one family and offered the small gifts, her paintings, she had brought along on her ‘adventure of a lifetime’.
When she returned she had a greater gift to offer her village. It was such a great gift that she shared it with a neighbouring village, and they shared it with yet one more. The fisher’s family also received this gift and shared it with their village and they shared it with two more villages. The gift was simple: they would come together, all six villages, as one village. Their children would travel to the other villages high on the plateau or down to the sea. Perhaps they would find mates there. The bonds would grow. They would share what gave them joy where they lived and in the other villages. And they would share what they could to feed, clothe and sustain each other in a bond of cooperation.
Now centuries later there are twenty villages, for the people have had more than a few children. These villages are known for miles and miles around. The people are generally happier than others around them. When difficulties arise, they respond more graciously with each other and with the real unsolvable problems of life. And, above all, the children grow up knowing that they will always have enough because they and all the villages together will share among themselves, and even with outsiders, all they have.
The attitude that sets these people apart from their good neighbours is one of gratitude.
This is the gift that the wise elder gave and shared with that one family by the sea, which they shared with their villages and with two more villages.
Today, have we the possibility of sharing this attitude with everyone we encounter?
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
Words of Grace For Today
Yesterday the rains fell, the winds blew, and I slept, fitfully with wild dreams in tune with the ruckus outside.
I woke to see leaves against the back window of the camper. Winter tarps strung on frames quickly assembles as the cold set in, gave out around the camp. Tarps danced with anger in the wind.
I wandered out in rubber boots and my bathrobe to survey the damage. The top rain tarps were whipped back exposing the insulating tarps. The protection for firewood was mostly gone, and I freed the tarps the rest of the way to keep it from ripping itself any more. The tree, well … a tree was blown over onto the back of the camper. Thus the leaves at the window were that tree’s, yesterday a good 6 feet away, today up close and pressing on the glass.
I had hauled in wood the day before yesterday. The ‘ropes’ were still in the truck. I positioned the truck to pull a rope, wrapped around another tree (low for better leverage and less risk of pulling that tree over on to the camper) and on to the tree kissing the camper as high as I could reach (for better leverage on that wayward wood.) With a tug in low 4×4 the tree came upright, and then settled against another tree back towards the ‘pulley’ tree. I reattached the rope straight from truck to fallen tree, and backed up (praying the tree would not find it’s way back on to the camper just 6 feet away). It followed the rope and settled nicely in front of the truck (also a concern that I may not be far enough back and the tree would more than kiss the truck!)
A Kiss, Thankfully, Just a Kiss.
So it was: my morning. A day with plans to endure the rains. I’ve survived a flood, watching waters rise to within a metre of destroying a house that I build with my own hands, crossing up over the river valley to the plain away from town. Then travelling (instead of 3 km to town) back and around and over the dam up river (the only road still in tact over the river) 17 km to get to town, and hearing the rain each night, each day, and the reports that the dam was softened and shifting.
Real dread fills my bones still when heavy rains persist day after day.
This tree, this rain, did little damage that cannot be repaired. The tarps and their supports needed to be better designed and built before another winter. Now it will be done a bit sooner in the summer. A good thing at that.
So it is that I can heartily echo these readings:
The Lord will keep our going out and our coming in from this time on and for evermore and the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
It’s just another normal spring day (normal given climate change.) What will I do with it? What will you do with it?
God certainly does not collect, cut, stack and stoke the firewood.
God does provide trees that die to become firewood.
Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Words of Grace For Today
I decided one day that I would let God do everything.
I stayed in bed and waited for the fire to be stoked, breakfast to be served, and my writing to be done.
My back got sore, I got real cold after the fire went out, I got hungry for no breakfast showed up, and when I looked later I was hours behind on my writing schedule.
God, I decided, does not do everything. It wasn’t personal or anything. God did not just ignore me. God was speaking real loudly at me. I was not listening.
Paul writes to the , the Philippians, who had embraced him early in his ministry, funded him well, and always continued to support him in every way possible as he got into more and more trouble – because he kept preaching a radical Good News, Jesus loves you! When he does, we get to listen in on some of the most profound truths about the Gospel. Paul is less guarded, less polemic, writing to people less inclined to mis-hear or mis-take his words.
Jesus started a good work in the Philippians, in Lydia and her household. Paul assures them that Christ will bring this work to completion. Not they themselves. Christ.
The Psalmist writes what many have come to know is true: we can work all we like and as hard as we like, but if God is not working in us, for us, and through us, our labours are all in vain.
So God does lots.
God does everything.
That does not preclude our having to work hard. It means that as we work hard we need to give God thanks and remember that only God working in us makes it possible for us to do the work we do.
This morning, I got up and made a fire, a blessed fire that boiled water for coffee and washing.
This morning, I gathered more wood for the fire, and will stack most of it in preparation for the winter cold when I will burn lots of wood to stay alive and a bit more to be comfortable.
This morning, I came in and got breakfast ready, which is really not much work at all. It’s just pulling things out of the drying rack, out of cupboard and out of the fridge, and pouring boiling water on the coffee in the french press.
(I’m not french in anyway. It’s made by Ikea probably not in Sweden. And I use it to make coffee. So it’s a coffee press to me. The French can keep the guillotine and lots of other things, too. It’s just this is a coffee press every morning. It makes coffee from somewhere in the world and mixed and roasted and ground and canned. Not french at all. Of course we could say it’s a God press, because everything is from God. But then nothing would have any distinction. So everything is from God, breakfast, coffee, fire, boiling water. But it’s a coffee press to me.)
I’m working at my writing, bit by bit, though I’m still behind schedule, or maybe I gave up on the schedule.
Still, God is at work in all this or this means nothing, to me or to anyone else.
This day God made full of surprises and work and delights and daily bread and forgiveness and … lots more, and I’m still waiting for Christ to complete the work begun in me at baptism, though I’m doing everything I can to get on with that work, and get out of the way of God working hard through me.
One hopes one would be thought of as kindly as Paul did of the Philippians, and not the Corinthians, though I gotta say, sometimes I’m probably more cantankerous than even that lot. God has lots of work left to get done in me.
As for today, the tasks at hand are more than enough to fill the day. It is a small delight to get a few of them accomplished, even if the bigger tasks never quite seem to come to completion. That’s life. I guess when the work is done, it’ll only be so for me because I’m dead. Then the incomplete tasks will be someone else’s.
As for today, it’s time to take delight in God’s gifts, starting with time, breath, and energy to work.
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Words of Grace For Today
Not just a heavy weight champion for millennia and eons, God is the winner in all contests of strength, power, might, abilities, and smarts … oh, and wisdom.
The mountains and the oceans have always attracted humans to them, to be astounded by them, inspired by them, to be dwarfed by them, to be renewed by them … and to be made afraid by them.
God spoke a word, and the mountains and the oceans … and for that matter all matter and the universe itself, were created.
No contest, God is greater.
At least we are able to gawk and shudder at the immensity of God’s works.
Then we try to do marvellous things, building towers to the skies, flying through those skies, building cities that cover miles and miles of land, sending fragile ships across the oceans and into space, and writing and speaking words as if ours could possibly create a universe.
Our words alone can inspire and save lives, redirect civilization, capture memories to be marvelled at and used as guides by future generations (if they’d only read and understand!), and our buildings and cities are amazing, and our ability to travel around the globe in air, on sea, and in space are all astounding accomplishments
and they barely compare to what God does.
Forget about creation for a this moment,
but consider what God does with our sinful, burdened hearts, when God forgives, redeems, renews us, and sends us back into life to be God’s instruments of grace for other people.
That is more awesomely amazing than all God’s word of creating the universe.
And it cost God Jesus’ life. Not cheap.
Jesus promises then that if we ask for something in his name he will do it!
Carte Blanche, with just one proviso: that it be God’s will.
Ask this day, of the Creator and Redeemer and Inspirer, all that you need and want, and trust that God will do what God wills for you, and for us all.
Then it’s time to set about the day’s tasks, of life and of love and of being God’s blessing to others. It’s not nearly as awesome as God creating with a word, but it’ll have to do as today’s ‘blow my mind away’ thought to bring us alert through the 24 hours God gifts us, again!
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’
Words of Grace For Today
God chose to make a life for us, a life filled with peace, grace and love for all people.
We’ve turned it into an entirely different thing; it’s cruel, short, and disappointing. Instead of loving all people, we’ve learned to exert our will over others. Conflicts dominate couples, families, churches, cities, countries and the world.
Isaiah has seen it all. Actually Isaiah is more than one person of more than one generation, so ‘he’ has seen it all through multiple generations, from before Israel was conquered and exiled to Bablylon, during the exile when most of the leaders were in Babylon, and when the exiles return to rebuild Israel. Isaiah starts early on with the vision of God’s justice prevailing, so that, even as Israel is under attack by it’s more powerful neighbours, war will not exist any more.
It’s quite the hope-filled vision, one that we can easily claim as our own still today. We are still caught in the turmoil, suffering, and destruction of conflicts. Evil seems to win at every turn, and the best people suffer injustices they do not deserve. Canada, so proud, polite, and reserved as it may have a reputation of being, is no exception. Evil abounds, corruption prevails, the unjust accumulate more and more … and more and more people suffer trying to live on less, many without enough to subsist on.
Jesus comes promising God’s future is now. People want to see that play out in their daily lives. First they want the Roman rulers to give them independence. Then they want the religious leaders to be replaced with truly faithful priests. And they want prosperity for all people.
So we today would still wish for ourselves. The names of rulers and corrupt religious leaders and evil-doers have changed but the ‘game’ of this cruel, short, and disappointing life are pretty much still the same.
Jesus’ promise, though, is not to bring all that to be. Instead, Jesus leads people to a reform that starts within.
For example, there will still be soldiers. The will be just, not corrupted, and be true peace-keepers.
All our roles in life will be similarly reformed from within. Instead of holding our own interests first, we will celebrate God’s blessings by sharing the basics of life with everyone, ensuring that all people more than subsist. All people will live abundant lives, able to share God’s blessings with their neighbours.
Today, how is the Holy Spirit reaching into our lives to reform our hearts to see not the cruel, short, and disappointments of life, but God’s abundant blessings freely showered on us all?
Will we spend today again chasing after ‘our fair share’ of the limited resources of earth and life? OR
Will we remember all we have is free gift from God and be ready and eager to share these blessings with everyone in need?
Today. It’s just 24 hours. Everything happens within 24 hours. Today is ours to do with as we choose. What will we choose to be and do in these hours?