The Law of the Spirit

Good morning. It is Saturday, August 23, 2014.

Today is Valentino Day, commemorating the death of Rudolph Valentino.

With one more Friday gone, Christi only has four more 6:30 AM conference calls before she begins her new job with the U.S. Congress. Oops. Bowling Congress, that is. :-D We’re very excited about this new job. The way she has described the people she will be working with, it sounds like it’s going to be perfect for her. Plus, you know, BOWLING!! I’ll remind you again, we met in a Friday night bowling league, almost thirty years ago. (It may have already been thirty years. This December 7 will be the thirtieth anniversary of our first date!

This evening, we have our weekly prayer gathering and worship service. Tomorrow, we will travel to Mineral Wells to visit with Grandma and Grandpa, and cap off our celebration of Stephanie’s twenty-first birthday week.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 2006 that Austrian teenager Natascha Kampusch escaped the house of the man who had abducted her ten years earlier. He had kept her imprisoned in his house for ten years, and she finally escaped when he walked away to answer a phone call while she was vacuuming his car. She ran to a neighbor’s house, who called the police. The abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, later committed suicide by jumping in front of a train.

Today’s birthdays include River Phoenix, Gene Kelly, Barbara Eden, Rick Springfield, Keith Moon, Shelley Long, Jay Mohr, Vera Miles, Nicole Bobek, Sonny Jurgensen, Mark Russell, Ernst Krenek, Tex Williams, Julio Franco, and Christian Beranek.

Julio Franco is a baseball player who turns 56 today. He has played with the Texas Rangers, and, at the age of 49, became the oldest position player in the history of MLB. His Wikipedia page says he was signed as a DH for the Fort Worth Cats in May of this year, but I don’t see his name on the current roster.

Here is a You Tube clip of a grand slam he hit in 2005, making him the oldest player to ever hit a grand slam home run.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 95:2-3
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!
My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Psalm 119:18-20
. . . but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:11

Today’s Gospel reading

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5

There is a common misunderstanding about this particular statement that Jesus made. “Meek” and “weak” are not the same thing. The Reformation Study Bible notes suggest that this Beatitude may have been based on Psalm 37:11, which says, But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. Once again, the thought here is about spiritual things, “an attitude of humility and submission to God.” Our example for meekness is Christ, himself. It might also be useful to point out that the constant usage of the word “blessed” in these statements seems to mean “happy.” So, we would be “happy” if we could exemplify all of the characteristics of the Beatitudes, which, of course, goes 180 degrees against the natural order of the world. If we are “meek,” we are also, according to Matthew Henry, “gentle towards all men.” Mr. Henry also defines meekness as being able to “bear provocation without being inflamed by it;” being either completely silent, or returning “a soft answer;” being able to show displeasure without being indecent about it; being “cool when others are hot.” The meek one would rather “forgive twenty injuries than revenge one.”

I wonder how many of us (self included) are able to accomplish these? I am constantly reminded of the words that God spoke in Luke 9:35. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Law and Grace.”

Paul tells us that the law has become “an occasion of sin. It tells man not to covet, but it leaves him helpless in avoiding covetousness.” This is why we cannot live by the law! “Rules and regulations provide sinful man with just another opportunity to sin.” The Catholic law says, “Do not eat meat on Good Friday.” However, it gives no power to “push the hamburger away.”

Are we, then, who live without the law, free to sin? Paul is very emphatic about this. In Galatians 5:13, he says, Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

So how do we live, then? How do we determine right from wrong? What shapes our behavior, if not the “law?” Paul’s answer is that the “law of the Spirit giving life has replaced the old law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2 says, For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. And in Romans 6:14, this law of the Spirit is identified with grace. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:8

Father, I pray for this law of the Spirit to be alive and active in me. I have recognized that trying to follow the “law” is unfruitful, as all it does is tell me what is wrong, without giving me any power to avoid doing that which is wrong. Your Spirit not only gives me this new “law,” but also gives me the power to live by it. It is truly a mystery, that I have not fully comprehended (nor do I expect to be able to), Christ in me, the hope of glory! Flesh is death, but the Spirit gives life. May I truly live in this life every day, while maintaining a meekness about me that mirrors Jesus Christ. May I be “gentle towards all men.” May I be able to bear provocation without lashing back. May I be the one who stays cool when all around me are heating up.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

I pray for this day. May we be successful and safe in getting our chores done today. May you prepare our hearts to worship you this evening. I pray for safe travel to Mineral Wells tomorrow, and that we will have a good time with Grandma and Grandpa to celebrate birthdays.

Romans_8-2

May we all consider ourselves free from the law, living under grace by the power of the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Birthdays, Devotions, History, Prayer, The Divine Hours, The Gospels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christian Being

Good morning. It is Friday, August 22, 2014.

Today is Hug Your Boss Day. Uhuh. Not gonna happen.

Christi only has five more working days until she starts her new job. This means only five more 6:30 AM conference calls!

There really isn’t much more going on. Oh, except that I decided not to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge. I know. Wimp. There’s more to it than that, though. And I don’t have to explain. :P

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.
God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah.

Psalm 55:16-17, 19
To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Psalm 28:1
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
Psalm 13:5
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:1-2

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Today’s Gospel reading

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

The implication here is more than just being sad about a tragic loss in one’s life. There is a feeling of mourning over sin and evil, especially one’s own, as well as “the failure of mankind to give proper glory to God” (Reformation Study Bible notes). We could also be mourning over the afflictions of others, as well.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The New Life.”

When a mother runs to the bedside of her crying child in the middle of the night, the last thing she is thinking about is “law and obligation.” Rather, she is responding to an “internal law of her maternal being.” For us, who call ourselves by the name of Christ, “law is perfectly compatible with liberty.” We have been transformed, if we are truly “Christian.” By the Spirit, we live in Christ and Christ in us. “Life is doing what comes supernaturally. Our new being must overflow into action as the natural expression of our real self.” Paul has told us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not obey the lusts of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16) “What matters is Christian being. The new law is the internal principle of operation.”

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Father, I pray for more awareness of the “Christian being,” this allowing the new law of the supernatural to work in and through me in all circumstances. Give me grace to live the way I need to live, with Christ being the center of all things.

I pray for this day. I pray that we will have safe travel to and from work. May your grace follow us and go before us as we work today, making all things new and showing the inexplicable grace of your Gospel through us to all people. I pray for Stephanie, that she will know your overwhelming love and mercy in her life.

Your grace is sufficient.

I love that quote, “Life is doing what comes supernaturally.” We don’t want to do what comes “naturally,” because the “natural” man is not in Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Prayer, The Divine Hours, The Gospels | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

He Is God and I Am Not

Good morning. It is Thursday, August 21, 2014.

Today is Poet’s Day. There a number of poets in the WordPress blogosphere, so I wish them all happy Poet’s Day! I’m not going to try to tag them all, because I’ll forget someone. But if I make it over to their blogs today, I will make sure and wish them a happy Poet’s Day “in person.”

I worked late again last night, and still had a bit of work left on my cart. Hopefully, we can all pitch in and get it done before the 24 hour window is up, this morning.

Apparently, I have been challenged in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, or whatever it’s called. I’ll have to try and get that done after work today.

I picked up Stephanie’s new laptop at Best Buy on the way home from work yesterday. She really loves it. She may have the best one in the house, now, and it was the cheapest one, too. If you catch them at the right time, some of those “open box” deals at Best Buy are excellent!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

(From The Divine Hours)

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:15-17
Hide not your face from your servant; . . . make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
Psalm 69:17-18
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:13
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.
Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

Psalm 68:19-20
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 62:5-7

The Gloria
Glory be to God the Father,
God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
so it is now and so it shall ever be,
world without end.
Alleluia.
Amen.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Romans 2:1
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12

Today’s Gospel reading

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:1-3

We really begin to get into the meat of the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel at this point, so I’m going to go a little slower through this part. Today’s reading begins the well-known section we call “The Beatitudes.” Jesus begins by pointing out that those who know their deep spiritual need already own the Kingdom of Heaven. As any evangelist knows, it is very difficult to get someone to accept the teachings of the Gospel when they have no perception of their spiritual need. Those of us who are aware of our spiritual poverty are more likely to depend on God alone for everything, because we know we have nothing in and of ourselves.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “No Apologies.”

My heart’s desire is to share Jesus’s “intimate experience of God as Father.” One of the meanings of that word “father” in Scripture is “lord and ruler, full control and authority.” We see Jesus acknowledging this aspect of God his Father. He never tries to defend or justify God when it comes to tragedies that occurred. “Jesus makes no effort to exonerate God from the scandal of suffering, to bail him out, to rationalize or minimize the presence of tragedy in his world. He surrenders without reservation to the infinite wisdom and awesome majesty of God.”

This reminds me of a favorite verse in the Psalms. Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3) This is the answer to the cop-out question that so many unbelievers ask. You know the one: “If God is loving and merciful, why is there so much suffering in the world.” We need not try to answer that question with any deep theological meanderings. If Jesus didn’t try to defend his Father in that area, who are we to attempt to rationalize an answer that the Bible doesn’t give? (One of my pet peeves is when pastors and preachers make up answers to difficult questions, instead of admitting that they just don’t know.) From now on, if anyone asks me that question, I will shrug my shoulders and quote Psalm 115:3 to them. God is sovereign. I don’t understand everything that he does or allows. He is God and I’m not.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure,
for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

Micah 5:4

Father, I pray that we will stop trying make excuses for the things that you do and allow in our world. Yes, there is suffering, but we can’t know why, so we need not make up reasons. You are sovereign, and I accept whatever you allow or do in my world. Yes, there might be times when I do throw my hands up and cry out, “WHY??” to you. But, in truth, I expect no answer, because you most certainly do not owe me an answer to anything! May your Spirit constantly remind me of this, as I walk through my days. May you help us to simply accept these things and, when other people ask us questions that would tempt us to make excuses for your actions, may we just throw back your word to them, telling them that you are in heaven, and you do whatever you please. You are our creator. We all belong to you, whether we acknowledge this or not. You are sovereign.

I pray for this day. I pray that you would grace us with safe travel to and from work. I pray for Christi’s last few days at this job to go well. I also pray that we will be able to get all our work caught up this morning. I pray that Stephanie will have a good day, and that you will draw her closer to your heart and show her your unfailing love.

May your sovereignty reign in my heart today!

May we all remember the words of Psalm 115:3 today.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

psalm-115-3-pleases-god-web

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Prayer, Reflections for Ragamuffins, The Divine Hours, The Gospels | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

True Religion

Good morning. It is . . . Monday? No. Wednesday! That’s it! It’s Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

Today is Lemonade Day. Started in 2007, Lemonade Day is a day aimed at teaching children how to start and run their own business. Better get a permit for that.

Yesterday was a spectacular day! We began with Stephanie opening birthday presents. She got a few small things, then got the series boxed set of The Gilmore Girls, as well as The Firm “Zip Trainer” set, which has a medicine ball in it. Then we listened to Frank Reed tell her “Happy birthday” on KLTY. After we all got ready to go, our first stop was Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Grapevine. From there, we went to Nail Spa in Euless (I always thought it was in Grapevine until yesterday), where we got pedicures, and Christi and Steph got manicures. Stop number three was the AT&T store in Grapevine (we were already out there, so we went to that location), where Stephanie got her first surprise, a new iPhone 5C! Stop number four was Best Buy, where we got her a new laptop. I have to go pick it up after work today, because the one we got was an “open box” special, An ASUS i5 that had been the floor demo and was the last one they had. They had the Geek Squad do a total system restore on it after we bought it, which took 3-5 hours. On the way back home, we stopped at Northeast Mall, where we picked up the cookie cake for the evening’s birthday party, which was the last event of the day. This took place at Fogata’s, and a few of our friends from church came along for that! We had a wonderful time at the party, and Stephanie was a very happy young lady last night.

This Sunday, we will be going to Mineral Wells to see Grandma and Grandpa, if God says so, too.

Today, it’s back to work.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
Luke 9:35

(From The Divine Hours)

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Psalm 96:2-3
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!
Psalm 79:9
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
Psalm 89:14
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Luke 6:27-31

Today’s Gospel reading

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 4:23-25

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Jesus At the Center of Religion.”

There are three elements to all religions. First is the intellectual element, or what it believes, “its doctrines or dogmas.” Second is the ritual element, “the sacrifices and ceremonies of worship.” Third is the mystical element, which is the personal relationship with whatever “god” is being worshiped. In the case of Christianity, “Jesus stands at the center of each of these aspects.” Since he is the “doctrine” we believe, he is the intellectual element.

Jesus is our revelation. He is the ritual element, as well, as the Eucharist, or Communion, or Supper, whatever you choose to call it, consists of his body and blood, whether in reality, if you believe in transubstantiation, or in symbol, for the rest of us. He is at the center of all other rituals performed in any church. Saint Augustine said, “It is Christ alone who baptizes, confirms, forgives, and heals.”

Jesus is also most certainly at the center of the mystical aspect of our lives. “In him we live and move and have our being. Outside of Jesus there is no personal communion with God, no mystical life.”

“Christian mysticism is essentially a personal relationship in which one member is a human being and the other is the eternal God revealed in Jesus.” There are many, in the more “fundamentalist” camps, who would disdain the mystical. I do not understand how they can explain our relationship with God through Christ without at least a touch of the mystical. There is not explaining this mystery that is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27

Father, help me to understand and fully take in the truth that Jesus is at the center of our faith, in the intellectual, ritual, and mystical aspects of it. Everything that we do, say, or think, should be about him. My actions each day should be controlled and colored by what I believe about Jesus, what he says to me, and his presence in my life. My words each day, spoken to others, or even when I talk to myself, should be controlled by your Spirit that resides in me because of the blood of Jesus Christ. All of my thoughts (definitely the most difficult part) should be also controlled by your Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Help me to cast out any impure thoughts immediately, no matter what the subject matter.

I pray for this day. May our trip to work be smooth today. I pray for a good work day for Christi as she begins to wind down her time at this job and transition to the new place. I pray that she can keep her attitude positive through all of this. I pray for my work day, that we can stay up on everything and not get behind. May you give Stephanie your grace and overwhelming love today, as she begins her 22nd year of life.

Your grace is sufficient. Keep my prayers fervent and effective, Lord. It is only you who can enable me to do the ministry to which you have called me.

May we constantly remember that Jesus is the center of all that we do and believe.
Center
Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Prayer, Reflections for Ragamuffins, The Divine Hours, The Gospels | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Dream of Jesus

Good morning. It is Tuesday, August 19, 2014. Let’s see . . . there’s something special about this day. What was it??

Oh, yeah!! Stephanie is 21 today!!

21

And for the Tuesday song . . .

Besides being Stephanie’s birthday, it is also Photography Day.

We had a nice evening yesterday, after work. We had not been to Chef Point Cafe in a while (if you click on that link, you can see the “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” feature on the restaurant), so we planned to go last night. We went straight there after work, in order to beat some of the crowd (the parking lost is always over-flowing). The food was every bit as delicious as we remembered it being. They had some new additions, such as “Italian Nachos” for an appetizer. They were absolutely delicious! Then I had “Atlantic Salmon Piccatta” for my dinner. It was truly amazing. But I couldn’t eat it all . . . had to bring some home. After dinner, we went to Braum’s for sundaes.

This morning, Stephanie opened her presents, then listened to Frank Reed, from KLTY wish her a happy birthday. She had happy tears after that. After a little while, we are going out to get pedicures (Stephie wants a manicure, too), donuts at Krispy Kreme, and then, who knows what else? Tonight, we are having a birthday celebration at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Fogata’s.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1964 that The Beatles kicked off their first American tour, performing at the “Cow Palace” in San Francisco. Their set for that show (as well as the other stops on the tour), which lasted just over thirty minutes, consisted of: Twist and Shout, You Can’t Do That, All My Loving, She Loves You, Things We Said Today, Roll Over Beethoven, Can’t Buy Me Love, If I Fell, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Boys, A Hard Day’s Night, and Long Tall Sally. (In the clip below, I also heard Till There Was You.)

“At other stops on the tour, the Beatles’ performances would last approximately 33 minutes, but the show that night in San Francisco lasted some five minutes longer—not because of any difference in the Beatles’ performance, but because of police intervention to stem the growing pandemonium. Within the first few seconds of the first song that night, at least one radio journalist traveling with the Beatles had been trampled to the ground along with a young female fan who broke a leg in the melee. And thanks to an offhand comment by George Harrison about the group’s favorite candy in the days leading up to the show, the Beatles themselves were pelted with flying jelly beans throughout that night’s set. Though John, Paul, George and Ringo were uninjured, they left the Cow Palace that night by ambulance after their limousine was swarmed by berserk fans. It was a scene that would become familiar to them as they continued on their first historic tour of America in the months ahead.”

Sharing a birthday with Stephanie, we have Justin Nowlin (her brother-in-law), John Stamos, Bill Clinton, Matthew Perry, Christina Perri, Coco Chanel, Veronica Roth, Orville Wright, Kyra Sedgwick, John Deacon, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Frakes, Gene Roddenberry (El Paso, TX), Ginger Baker, Jim Carter, Ian Gillian, Erika Christensen, Peter Gallagher, Malcolm Forbes, Ogden Nash, Philo T Farnsworth, Willie Shoemaker, Diana Muldaur, Jill St. John, Johnny Nash (Houston, TX), Tipper Gore, Gary Gaetti, Ron Darling, and Jason Starkey (son of Ringo). Wow. Stephanie’s birthday is way cooler than mine!

Ian Gillian was one of the lead singers of Deep Purple during the Ritchie Blackmore years. There seems to be some discrepancy as to whether it is “Gillian” or “Gillan.” I have always spelled it “Gillian.” I could be wrong. Anyway, he’s 69 years old today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6

(From The Divine Hours)

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
Psalm 31:24
O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Psalm 141:1-2
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17

Today’s Gospel reading

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-22

I have to confess, I’ve always felt a little bad for Zebedee in this scenario. I can’t help but wonder what his reaction was. I mean, his sons just left him high and dry. So to speak. On a more serious note, the words of Jesus, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” are brief and to the point. Are those words meant for us today? I’m not sure about that. I’ve had more and more questions, recently, about how we should read the Bible, one of those being the popular practice of taking every single word of the Bible and claiming it is written to modern Christians. I just don’t think that is either true or wise. However, we can’t go wrong following Jesus. Whether or not we all wind up being “fishers of men,” depends solely on his plan for our lives.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Dream of Life.”

We all have a dream or vision of some kind, “a vision of life that corresponds to our convictions, embodies our uniqueness, and expresses what is life-giving within us.” This dream “gives definition to our lives and influences the decisions we make, the steps we take, and the words we speak.” We often get distracted by circumstances and temptations, but that dream is still there, prodding our consciousness, nurturing our fantasies and sustaining our will.

“The dream of Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of God, and the committed Christian buys into his dream.”

Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him,
and he will act.

Psalm 37:5

I like to include verse 6 with the above quote:

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

And some people believe that verse 4 goes better with it:

Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Father, help me to buy into the dream of Jesus. I pray that the desires of his heart will be the desires of my heart in all things. Once again, I seem to have become constantly distracted by the elements of the world around me. I pray that you will direct my heart so that I hear your voice, through the Spirit, every day, only listening to the desires of your heart for me. Your Kingdom is what is important. I pray that we, your Church, will help bring it to earth, however we can. May we be imitators of Christ and show your Kingdom to all who come in contact with us. This doesn’t mean that we all have to be evangelists. There are many ways in which we can share your Kingdom, not the least of which is wrapped up in how we act and how we treat other people, especially when they frustrate us. May the dream of Jesus, your Kingdom, be that which gives definition to my life and influences the decisions that I make, the steps I take, and the words I speak. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

I pray for this day. May we have a safe and fun time with Stephanie as we celebrate her birthday today. I pray that she will experience great joy today as we try our best to make this day all about her.

delight

May we be committed to the dream of Jesus in our lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Surrender

Good morning. It is Monday, August 18, 2014. Tomorrow is the big day! Stephanie turns 21!

Today is Mail Order Catalog Day, being the anniversary of the first Montgomery Ward catalog.

I have to hurry this morning, as I am supposed to be at work by 7:15 for a meeting in the boss’s office. So I’ll jump right on in to what is important. Let me first say, though, that we had our first “Twisted Root” experience yesterday. Twisted Root is a burger place in Roanoke, about 10 miles north of where we live. The burgers were delicious, and the sides, as well. They even serve kangaroo burgers! I was not quite brave enough to try one of those.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
Psalm 147:1
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
Psalm 28:2
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,

Psalm 92:1-2
But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Psalm 79:13
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23

Today’s Gospel reading

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:12-17

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Surrender Versus Submission.”

The first thing is to make note of the fact that these two things are not the same. Submission is “the acceptance of reality consciously, not unconsciously. There is a superficial yielding, but tension continues.” Surrender is “a moment when the unconscious forces of resistance cease effectively to function.” As Christians, we don’t try to avoid the Spirit’s call, but accept it willingly.

“When the Christian surrenders to the Spirit on the unconscious level, there is no residual battle, and relaxation ensues with freedom from strain and conflict.” When we submit, we only accept half-heartedly. We must surrender in order to experience “whole-hearted acceptance.”

who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body,
by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Philippians 3:21

Father, I feel like I have been on the verge of complete surrender many times in my life, but have stopped short at submission. There is still an ongoing battle in my spirit, or rather, in my flesh. Perhaps it is both. My spirit and my flesh battle against each other. And perhaps that will never cease until this flesh is no more and I am completely and fully redeemed! Until then, I pray for surrender. Teach me to surrender whole-heartedly to your will for my life.

I pray for this day. May we have safe travel to and from work. May our work day go smoothly. I pray for Stephanie, as she lives her last day to be twenty years old. Give her wisdom and understanding, showing the fullness of your love to her.

Your grace is sufficient.

Surrender and submission are two words that we don’t like in our culture. Most of the time, when pressed hard, we will submit. But we don’t often surrender. I’ll do it, but I won’t like it! By God’s grace, may we all surrender to his will with our whole hearts.

Grace and peace, friends.

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The Tender Love of God

Good morning. It is Sunday, August 17. Only two days until Stephanie turns 21.

Today is Black Cat Appreciation Day. This makes me think of our cat, Midnight.

Midnight

Midnight


We had to have her put to sleep on July 4, 2012, after she had some kind of seizure. We still have one of her “kittens,” Screamer, who turned 16 years old this year!
Screamer

Screamer


(This picture was taken just a few minutes ago.)

Remember that part, yesterday, when I said I was going to spend the drive to work meditating? Well, that didn’t work out very well, at all. The first thing that happened was that they got my order wrong at McDonald’s. I guess it’s possible I said “biscuit” instead of “McMuffin,” but I’m pretty sure I said “McMuffin,” and I got biscuits. Which I didn’t discover until I was already back on the road. Later when I looked at the receipt, it said “biscuits.” Just goes to show that you need to pay more attention to the little screen when you order. Then, out on Loop 820, I took the wrong way, and wound up going south on 820 instead of east on 183. This is because they keep changing the lanes back and forth!! The last time I drove that route, you had to take the left lanes to get on 183! Not yesterday! So much for “meditation.” I spent almost the entire drive to work being frustrated by those two things. I’ll admit it, that was wrong. The “enemy” won that round.

Work was tough, too. Saturdays, at least for me, are harder than regular days, because there is a lot of “bulk” freight to do “make ready” on. “Make ready” is the process by which we prepare parts to be put away. That includes “detrashing” the material, which means taking out extra packaging materials that are not needed. In the case of large boxes, there is frequently an awful lot of bubble wrap that needs to be discarded. So there’s a lot of bending over, rearranging parts, pulling out the wrapping, re-taping boxes, etc. Our warehouse is somewhat climate-controlled, but not totally, so I was sweating rather profusely by the time all the bulk was finished. I owe a great debt of gratitude to one of my coworkers who came in to help yesterday. She stayed with me right till the end. I wouldn’t have gotten it all done without her.

I barely made it to church (almost didn’t go at all), and I’m glad I did. Jacob’s message was very good last night, going through John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus. Learned a few interesting tidbits, too.

Today, Rachel and Justin are coming over so we can celebrate Justin’s birthday, which is Tuesday (same day as Stephanie’s). We plan to take them out to eat fro lunch, and Christi is, right this moment, making a chocolate cake. YUM!!

(Source: This Day In History)

It was 45 years ago today that the Woodstock music festival concluded. The event was held at the farm of Max Yasgur, in Bethany, NY, which is actually around 50 miles from Woodstock. As the sun began to rise on August 17, Roger Daltrey was belting out the words to “See Me, Feel Me.” The closing performance was Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Sharing a birthday today are Robert DeNiro, Dustin Pedroia, Taissa Farmiga, Davy Crockett, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Mae West, Belinda Carlisle, Tarja Turunen, Boog Powell, Kevin Max, Henry Drummond, Samuel Goldwyn, and Glenn Corbett.

Dustin Pedroia, of course, is the star second baseman for the Boston Red Sox. He is 31 years old today. Here is a highlight clip of Dustin from 2013.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
Luke 9:35

(From The Divine Hours)

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
Psalm 119:147
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92:4
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
Psalm 130:5
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Psalm 43:3-5

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, who has given your only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin and
also an example of his godly life: Give me grace that I may always most thankfully
receive that his inestimable benefit and also daily endeavor myself to follow the
blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and
“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written,
‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Matthew 4:1-11

Yesterday, I read Matthew’s first recorded words of Jesus. In today’s passage, I see the second set of words spoken by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. In this event, which is part of Jesus’s ministry preparation, he engages “the devil” (named as “Satan” in verse 10) in a battle of Scripture quotes. It is important, I think, to notice that the devil quotes Scripture, too. He knows the Bible, perhaps better than I. For many years I have heard that it is important to memorize Scripture verses. Whether or not that is true, I don’t know, but it most definitely is important to know what the Bible says, and what it does not say. This keeps us from making mistakes like thinking the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves,” or “God will never give you more than you can handle.” The Bible does not say either one of those things, yet well-meaning people constantly quote these statements, believing they are quoting Scripture. The Bible also never instructs us to “invite Jesus into our hearts.” That’s a whole ‘nother blog entry, right there. :-)

Jesus says three very important things in this passage. First, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (v. 4, referencing Deuteronomy 8:3) While we need physical food, we also need the nourishment of God’s words. Second, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. (v. 7, referencing Deuteronomy 6:16) This is a very dangerous activity that we all too frequently engage in. “God, if you really want me to [insert activity], give me a sign.” We probably already know the answer, anyway. Third, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. (v. 10, taken from Deuteronomy 6:13 and 1 Samuel 7:3)

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Healing Process.”

“To live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is to let go of cares and concerns, to stop organizing means to ends and simply be in each moment of awareness as an end.” Let us hear with our hearts the words of Paul in Titus 3:4-5:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

“We can embrace our whole life story in the knowledge that we have been graced and made beautiful by the providence of our past history.” All of those mistakes that we have made (some of them more willful disobedience than “mistakes,” right?), all of that ugly, painful stuff in our past, “melts and dissolves in the warm glow of accepted tenderness.” We must be open to the healing process, no matter how bad we think we have been. The tender, compassionate loving-kindness of God can and will overcome everything in my past.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Father, I pray for the ability to accept your healing process in my life. There are still moments from my past that flash in front of me, from time to time, and cause me to falsely believe that you must still be angry with me over those events. Let me know and believe the truth that you are NOT angry with me, and that your tender love follows me wherever I go. I pray for the ability to, as Brennan puts it, to “simply be in each moment of awareness.” That is something that has failed me drastically. I need to be more aware of your presence in my life at all times. There’s a double meaning, there, because my awareness needs to be at all times, and I need to be aware that you are with me at all times. Your presence is always with me. I’m just not aware of it, frequently. My heart’s desire is to change that. Help me to practice your presence every day.

I pray for this day. I pray that you help Stephanie deal with the disappointment of not getting to go with Summer to see the horses today (it’s raining). I pray for safe travel for Rachel and Justin as they come down to visit. And I pray that our time together this afternoon will be meaningful, relaxing, and fun. I also pray for some good rest for Christi and me, as we wind up this weekend and prepare for another work week.

As people are gathering to worship you in many places, at this time, I pray that your name will be lifted high. I pray that the Gospel will be clearly spoken, to both believers and unbelievers alike, and that in every church, everywhere, all people will hear exactly what your Spirit directs them to hear. May people’s lives be changed as they hear you and worship you.

Your grace is sufficient.

Live in the moment, with the awareness of God’s presence with you, knowing his tender, compassionate loving-kindness.
Psalm 56 3-4

Grace and peace, friends.

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