Jerry Bridges & The Cincinnati Bengals

The Navigators send a daily devotional. They are featuring Jerry Bridges work Holiness Day by Day. I am sharing this because my words for 2023 are Living Sacrifice.

“Commit your way to the Lord.” Psalm 37:5

When Paul turned his attention from his masterful exposition of the Gospel in Romans chapters 1-11 to practical issues of Christian living, the first thing he did was call for commitment: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, NIV).

As we look at Paul’s call to commitment, we can see one obvious difference between the commitment of the devoted athlete and the commitment Paul called for. The athlete’s commitment is to himself or herself or perhaps to the team. The commitment Paul urged upon us is to God. Commit yourself to God. Offer your body to him as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to him.

When we commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, we need to ensure that our commitment is actually to God, not simply to a holy lifestyle or a set of moral values. The people of my parent’s generation were generally honest, chaste, sober, and thrifty. They were committed to those values, but they were not necessarily committed to God. Many of them were outstanding moralists and even church people, but they were not committed to God. They were committed to their values, not to God.

As believers we need to be careful that we don’t make a similar mistake. We can be committed to a set of Christian values or to a lifestyle of discipleship without being committed to God himself. But Paul said to offer yourselves to God, and in doing that commit yourselves to the pursuit of holiness in order to please him.

Navigators Devotional Holiness Day by Day January 22, 2023

What and who are you committed to? When I hear the term holiness I remember my mom talking about “holy rollers” who were purported to jump pews, handle snakes and all manner of unusual things.

Then I also think of visiting God’s Bible School where my maternal Grandmother used to teach and being amazed that when I toured the school in 1979 the women were not allowed to braid their hair, wear a ponytail, had to wear long skirts, etc. This looked to me to be what Jerry Bridges described above. Only God reads hearts, so the sincerity of those actions is only known to Him. My question is are we committed to God or restrictive legalism and rule keeping? Bridges reiterates ‘they were not committed to God.”

When offering yourself as ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’ I would hope that your commitment to God would be solid. For to be a living sacrifice, you must give up your will and embrace the will of the Trinity. You may be asked to do things outside the realm of your comfort zone, or even the stated rules of your church. Have you watched the series The Chosen? The disciples were often asked to do things outside of their Jewish upbringing. Some of them said Jesus was “turning things upside down” with His teachings.

When the Bengals NFL team began to change over the last 24 months, some looked to see if Joe Burrow would want to be elevated to superstar status like many of his NFL predecessors. He is often compared to other famous quarterbacks because of his skill. Most of the interviews I have seen and the comments I have read point to how common and down to earth he remains.

The team also works to stay down to earth. They have the commitment of devoted athletes. Yes, they train hard, play hard, and are committed to each other as a team, but they also seems to make an effort to stay down to earth as men. Whether they are giving to Demar Hamlin’s charity, praying for his healing after the collapse on the field, or serving children who are ill or in need, these guys seem to be the real deal. I was particularly impressed after their win over Buffalo when many of them dropped down on the field and made Snow Angels! The best shot was from overhead, but this is all I have been able to find online so far.

Are you as committed to God as you are to local or national sports teams? Is yours a seeking to keep legalistic rules or being obedient to what the Trinity asks you personally? (Here is humor, I typed trainity instead of Trinity. Well, how about it? Are you willing to be in training with the Trinity?)

May you pursue holiness always. Hebrews 12:14 reads:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

A W Tozer Quote

Years ago I studied A W Tozer. Recently I was shown his work again through the daily devotions sent out by The Navigators (https://give.navigators.org/email-devotions/) This so reminded me of the time I brought the Word to women at City Gospel Mission. It was about 1986?

If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.

The Pursuit of God, A W Tozer

While the church I attended discussed things like contemporary music for worship in contrast to an organ and a box of hymnals, I was downtown once a week teaching the women at the Mission. Tozer says simplify. I argued that Paul never had an organ, or a box of hymnals nor made any reference to music that I recalled. I wish I had kept better records of names and dates, but basically the lead pastor at teh Mission wanted someone to lead a weekday Bible Study for women. We met in the basement, near the kitchen of the Mission. There was an interesting fragrance down there. Likely from years of meals prepared since the 1920s!

The Mission was founded in 1924 by James N. Gamble of the company Proctor & Gamble, most likely founded in the same building I taught in. (They have a new facility now on Dalton Street.)

Teaching in this room with a concrete floor and block walls was before the jail ministry I participated in, but so similar. The difference here was the women who attended were all free citizens. Most attended to receive better access to food donations but some genuinely loved God and enjoyed the fellowship. Some of them would holler out, “Preach it!” or “Preach it sister!” On one occasion a woman who was drunk attended. She got up on a folding chair and tried to out speak me. I immediately began to pray in my spirit and ask the Lord to hush her. The other participants also told her to sit and hush. Eventually she did. An eye-opening experience indeed for this suburban white girl.

There were times when I needed to drop something off at my sister’s house on my way home from downtown. I told the Lord one week, “This is almost more than I can handle! Shifting my gears from City Gospel Mission to Indian Hill”, (neighborhood of high prosperity and generational wealth). He reminded me that all of us were just people no matter the outside garb or residence.

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, 

Jeremiah 29:13-14a NIV

Tozer says if we are “to find God we must first DETERMINE to find Him and then proceed in the way of simplicity.” I found God in the midst of the City Gospel Bible study attendees. Those women who wholeheartedly pronounced, “Preach it, Sister!” were my cheerleaders and friends in the Spirit. I prayed the inebriated woman would also seek Him and find Him even if not through my lessons. God ‘discovers Himself to babes and hides Himself from the wise and prudent.” The Mission women knew more about God than most people I met in Indian Hill. Mind you, not all of the Indian Hill folks were ignorant of God and His ways; however, the women of the lower income downtown area seemed to me to walk with Him more closely than the rich. I do not claim to read hearts though.

Tozer says we must ‘simplify our approach to God, strip down to essentials, put away effort to impress’ and come with the candor of childhood. Tozer was a wise and an excellent teacher. I am still working on stripping down to the essentials with God, simplifying my approach.

Years later I worked at a branch of the Mission called “Having the Courage to Change” as secretarial assistant to the Director and coach in discipleship with a couple of the women. That is a story for another day.

I pray for you that the candor of childhood will enhance your search for the LORD God Almighty. He is waiting and watching for you!

Praying for Others

I told you about “Going to Jail,” and perhaps about some wounding I had by the public words of another? I had to repeatedly confess my ill feelings towards her. While recovering from the public wounding, I was reminded there is wisdom in praying blessings that you want for yourself over those who have harmed you.

After I confessed my sins in the situation, I prayed blessings over her as often as she came to mind. Eventually she came to mind less and less often.

I had withdrawn from the group this occurred in. I stated I would return when I was ready, though perhaps less often than in the past.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

2 Peter 1:3-4

Years ago I first heard Kirk Franklin when he produced the song called “Stomp.” Recently someone sent me a link to this music. This song certainly ties both themes all together! Praying blessings upon others and jail ministry. Having just written about “Going to Jail” it touched my heart in a special place. I hope you will take the time to listen to it, even though it might not be your style. As you watch the video I think it will be difficult at times for you to tell the prisoners from the visitors. I even spotted a guard this time!

Will you take up the challenge to pray like this for others who have offended or tried to shame you? Can you imagine the faith these prisoners must have to make themselves this vulnerable in a place reputed for violence? They are singing and praying this for their guards, too! Do you have this sort of trust in God?

“Going to Jail”

Recently, I was telling a friend about my experience teaching at the Hamilton County Justice Center on the women’s wing, face to face with the prisoners. At the time I had been leading Bible studies with Women’s Aglow. On the local evening news I heard that they were giving a tour of the newly built Justice Center the next day. I was convinced I should go. While there I signed up for a pass to teach Bible study to the women in the jail.

Interior of Justice Center before it was populated

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

Psalm139:8 KJV

Teaching Scripture at the Justice Center was like ‘walking into hell on purpose’. Linda and I would meet that morning and take communion in her kitchen. We would pray and intercede all the way downtown. Park the car. Get her guitar and my teaching materials. Enter the Justice Center. Show our badges. Go to the Chaplain’s office and leave our purses and personal belongings.

If the guards were sensitive to our purpose they might turn the TV volume down. You have not taught the Word until you do it in a cinder block room with the $10,000.00 dollar Pyramid playing in the background. I quickly learned how to project my voice!

We’d have the ladies sign in with their name and prisoner number. With that information we could write them a note card. We never asked any of them what they did or were accused of that landed them in that place. We just ‘loved on them’ and brought them the New Testament teachings on how to live for Christ.

After the time at jail, usually in Linda’s driveway, we would split the name list. On our own time we would pray over each name and write a card using a Scripture for their encouragement as led by the Holy Spirit.

Next time we saw the women some would often say it was just the verse they needed, asking, “How did you know?” We would answer them that we prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to give us the verse they needed. Sometimes the notes would move the women to share with their fellow prisoners and more women would attend on their say so.

photo on line

All of this was a tremendous time of spiritual warfare, faith building and learning for both myself and Linda. It was hard only if we tried to do it in our own strength. With God it was possible and rewarding to both of us.

When I sensed that it was my time to step down, Linda continued to serve in ministry there for 15 years. She recruited others to help her and the work carried on to thousands of women over the years.

God ordained, arranged and coordinated that ministry. We followed in obedience and did our best to listen to His voice each step of the way. To God be all the glory! I pray those women came to know Him and walk with Him even today.

Prompts

I have been pondering my Advent poem and wondering where it took you prior to and during Christmas?

Self as Manger   HERE AM I © 1993 Molly Lin Dutina 

Here am I, stuff of earth
But by the Spirit's power rebirth
has brought me receptivity.
Fill me with Yourself.

Molded by Your Holy Hand
I wait before You
Cupped and ready,
cleansed, atoned
eager for Your radiant touch
Virtue compelled to enfold Your own
the vessel of Your making.

Here am I, stuff of earth
yielded for Messiah's birth
be it unto me, O Lord,
as in Your word and will.

The Great I AM
dwells in my heart
there to impart the power,
courage and propulsion for
His dream to be fulfilled.

So ‘stuff of earth’ did you yield for Messiah’s birth? Are you asking for His indwelling?

Many of the things I read or subscribe to with daily posts provide me with prompts for writing the blog. Here is one from Grateful Living: “In the bigger scheme of things the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.” – Lucille Clifton

In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), thus God is our universe. What is God asking us to be? Maybe a confidant for one who is hurting? Perhaps His witness among the lost and hungry souls?

Writing Prompt 2

This year as my body seems to be deteriorating more I will likely be the one who does not do so much anymore, but holds the Light for others. I believe holding the Light is more than shining a flashlight upon a hard to see object. Holding forth the Light of Christ is accomplished through being His. There has always been a struggle in American society as to whether it is more important to Do or to Be … which leads to DO-BE-DO-BE-DO. If rebirth has brought you receptivity and you are filled with Him, BE-ing His reigns over any other accomplishment.

Another writing prompt

What if we hold to His power, courage and propulsion and allow Him to fulfill His dream in and through us? To do that we will need to be still (Psalm 46:10). Yield to His plan this year and see how 2023 ends for you!

New Year, New Word?

Wow! Another New Year. How long will it take you to remember it is ’23 now? Have you been thinking about resolutions? We usually form a New Year’s resolution from our flesh and our mind. Statistics show that more often than not the resolution is in the dust before February. So I challenge you to set not a resolution, but one word for the entire year. Have you ever prayed and tried to listen for what the Lord would have you focus upon for the coming year?

I have done this for several years and have found it inspiring, challenging and uplifting. Even when I fail to reach for the goal of the word, if I chose it from the Word of God, He helps me and sustains me in my efforts. I may fail one week and totally grasp it the next. The goal is to consistently reach for it.

So take a few minutes. Sit quietly asking the Holy Spirit what He would have you set as your word of the year. If you do not hear a particular word, keep trying, maybe even for several weeks. Pay attention to Scriptures that come your way. Do you perceive a theme?

I have been reading the book of Mark. In chapter 13 Jesus is speaking about the end of time as we know it. He says only the Father knows when that will occur.

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Mark 13: 32-37 NIV

Even the poet Rumi wrote, “Stay awake. Don’t go back to bed.” Watch. Be alert. NASB says, “Be on the alert.” The Message, “Stay at your post. Keep watch.”

What is the Lord saying to you about 2023? Are you awake, alert, listening, watching? Or have you dozed off to sleep content to just be comfortable, like most Americans want to be? Comfort seems to be our biggest idol these days.

Maybe your word will make you uncomfortable. Perhaps moving out of your comfort zone will bring you new life! Try it for 2023.

What a Celebration!

The opening photo is from a Celtic cross in Ireland. Notice how the hand of God is holding up the cross. Nothing is beyond His notice. He loves our families more than we do!

We had our children with their spouses, grandchildren and one boyfriend over to celebrate Christmas. This was held the Sunday before Christmas due to other family conflicts. It was very difficult to not have our oldest Grandgirl here. She is 21 now and had to work. Still trying to get her attention for gifting and celebrating!

Plus macaroni and cheese, fresh salad, guacamole, hummus, Skyline dip, cheese tray, 4 kinds of bread or buns. We should have invited more people to come and not bring food!

As usual there was way too much food! Even with the boyfriend here to help eat! Oh well, he is a wrestler and always watching his weight. But what a delight! He could not do enough afterwards to help us put the house back together.

The gifts were thoughtful and generous. I am praying the Name of Jesus will be remembered by all the family as they absorb their gifts into the homes (or in the case of gift certificates for zip lining, into their future)!

Fleecy soft blanket, sweatshirt, special order ball cap, 2 Lego sets, 2 beeswax candles, Grogu ornament, beer mix, Jungle Jim’s gift card, Starbucks card, Yankee candles, special socks, knife block, Birkenstock’s, wallet, soccer/football team accessories, quarter holder for Aldi’s, handmade soup paddle from New Mexico, lovely porcelain china cookie/dessert tri-level rack, (the one that belonged to my mother broke when we moved and I packed it), Columbia over shirt, cash, Trades of Hope bracelet, LaRosa’s gift card and likely more.

This morning as I write this I am delighted with view out my window. The other day when in the front garden area I shook up the mealworm feeder. The dried worms sometimes get moist and stick together or freeze to the metal feeder. Today at one point I called Bob to see the 8 bluebirds on and around the feeder.

Here is what I captured when I finally got my camera.

Home Again

Like that Christmas tree image? By the time you read this we will be home for ten days! And more than likely have hit the ground running!

So where does that idiom come from?

The first is that it comes from troops in combat. They must start running as soon as they get off a plane, train, or other automobile, so that they don’t get shot. It is believed that in World War II, paratroopers were given this command as to what to do when they landed.

The second theory is that it comes from hobos and stowaways on a train. They must begin to run as soon as they jump from the train, so that they don’t get caught.

The third theory is that it comes from the Pony Express. This was an early way to deliver mail by horseback in America. The riders had to be fast so they would ride their horses quickly and “hit the ground running” when changing to a fresh horse in order to avoid delays.

However it started, the expression saw a surge in popularity in the 1970s and has seen widespread use ever since.

https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/hit-ground-running-mean

What have we been up to? Small group meeting, Church, helping a young bridal attendant to get her dress sewn just the way she wants it (no bra showing), wrapping gifts, get groceries after travel and before family gathering, Bob medical procedure, Bob doctor appointment, Bob second cataract surgery with complication to be addressed by a second surgeon (back to back docs), Bob follow-up with docs after eye surgeries, making those lists and checking them twice, laundry from traveling, wedding, plan that family celebration on December 18th (Oh! that is when this will post).

Whew! Not certain that travel in December is my first choice, but there you have it! We had tickets we had to use before December 31. Maybe next time we will go to New York for New Years and stay in our room instead of clamoring on Times Square!

Running like troops in combat? Well the enemy of our souls would like for no one to know about the birth of the Light of the world born in a manger, yet we declare that very Light is the Light of the world.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 ESV

Hobos and stowaways? Yes, not of the world but in it to give testimony to God.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 15:19 NIV

Hit the ground running like the Pony Express riders? Yes, but not before asking God for direction and guidance.

And then God answered: “Write this.
    Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
    so that it can be read on the run.

This vision-message is a witness
    pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
    And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
    It’s on its way. It will come right on time.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 The Message

If you, too, have hit the ground running this season, remember to watch and pray as you go forward. God is always with you to lead, guide, comfort and provide! Obedience to Him is paramount if your efforts are to succeed.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

John 1:4, 9 NIV

Prepare Him Room Using Mark 7

Paul wrote many lists of sins, but here is one from Jesus.

And He said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things comes from within, and they defile a man.”

Mark 7:21-23 RSV

So what is coming out of us as we prepare for the Christmas celebration? Is our first response to honor the birth of Christ? The second coming of Christ? or the weight of expectations as we gather with family for another Christmas meal? Are we burdened by gift giving? Rampant greed? Unobtainable expectations of others? Ourselves? Coveting, envy, deceit, slander, pride, foolishness?

None of the lists of sin in the New Testament are told to us as the worst then the second worst, etc. We tend to assign those judgements, but they are all called sin. Sin is “falling short of the mark.”

As we once again prepare room for Christ I pray you will consider asking the Lord to help cleanse and purify your heart and mind. Let the Holy Spirit shine the Light within you and show the areas where you fall short. Then do what we are told in 1 John 1:9

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Prepare Him Room – an article by Jon Bloom

Suddenly, we find ourselves standing where Luke had found us. There are the Christmas lists, the half-trimmed tree, the holiday movie paused, and pans in the sink. The familiar stress of the bustling and bursting schedule of Advent activities reawakens.

But seared in our minds is the pathetic picture of the holy, homeless mother and child. Bustling and bursting Bethlehem had no room for the advent of Jesus. And echoing in our ears are our own words, “Surely we can find some room somewhere!”

Can we?

The real Christmas was nothing like the Christmas we’ve come to know, with its traditions, memories, and legends. It was a desperate moment that occurred for a desperate reason.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/prepare-him-room

Old Prayers for Each of Us

I recently bought another book of Puritan prayers from Christian Book Distributors entitled Piercing Heaven. The author says “That prayer is most likely to pierce heaven which first pierces one’s own heart.”

Every good prayer begins with some form of confession. This one is no exception.

It All Belongs to Jesus by Robert Hawker

Precious Jesus! I do remember my faults this day. So grant me from now on to live wholly to You, gracious Lord, to keep you always in view, walking with you, cleaving to you, hanging upon you, Help me always to remember you and your love more than anything else.

You, my dearest Redeemer! I pray for grace to set you always before me, to record in my heart your mercies, and to set you in my heart. To follow you wherever you go, and to watch the steps of Jesus. To pursue you in all your paths, at your table, at your ordinances, in your words, in your house of prayer, in your providence, in your promises.

Everywhere, and in all things where Jesus is, I pray that there may my soul be. Though I have no way to pay you back for this bounty, Lord, still in your grace may I follow you, to bless you, and to live out the truth that all I am and all I have is yours.

Grant me in this sweet sense to know you, precious Jesus, and to enjoy you in everything, for riches and honor come from you.

Yes, Lord, the work is yours, salvation is yours, glory is yours – everything is yours. All the remains for me is to be forever giving you the praise that is due your most holy name, content to be nothing – even less that nothing – that the power of Jesus may rest on me. Because when I am most weak in myself, than am I most strong in you, Lord, and in your power, amen.

I like the reminder that everything belongs to Jesus. It is so easy in this day to think there are things we obtained that belong to us, not to Him. “All I am and all I have is Yours.”

We have left the mostly clear skies of New Mexico and are firmly back home in the December gloom of Ohio. Though there is no mountain out my widow to remind me of God’s glory and majesty, there are reminders all about me of the same. The white eared squirrel just hopped across the yard. The moisture in the air seems chilly but has brought relief to my sinuses! Our small group met recently and we were re-united after a long session of being apart. Sadly, we will not meet again until next year, but prayerfully the bonds of unity will remain.

Yes, everything belongs to Jesus and He is in control. May I yield to His directions and follow closely in His paths. May you too, “be forever giving praise to His most holy Name, content to be nothing- even less than nothing – that the power of Jesus may rest on you. “ He is strong and is able to keep us in all of our ways.

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, 25 to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.

Jude 24-25 RSV

There are so many passages in the New Testament that contain the phrase He is able – would make a neat study!