Rest For Your Souls

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, October 23, 2014.

Today is iPod Day, commemorating the release of the first iPod on November 10, 2001. If you stop to consider it, the advances in the portability of music have been astounding since then.

I experienced the worst trip to work in the history of ever (at least for me), yesterday. I left home at the normal time, and made it from the 820 to the 183 just fine. But that’s when the trouble started. The 183 was backed up onto the ramp from the 820 and stayed backed up all the way to the 121, which was also backed up onto the ramp from the 183. The 121 didn’t clear up until I turned north at Grapevine, to go on into Lewisville. By that time, I had already texted my manager and lead to tell them that I would be late. Then I got to the spot where I turn from the 121 onto the access road for I-35. Since I take the non-toll portion of the 121, there are traffic lights at that point. I sat in the line for that traffic light for 15-20 minutes. Total time to get to work was an hour and a half; for a trip that normally takes me 45 to 50 minutes. There was never any visible explanation for the traffic. I have decided that, after that experience, I’m going back to my old route to get to work, cutting through the mid-cities on back roads. It takes about the same amount of time (maybe a few minutes longer), and it is fewer miles, because it’s a straighter route.

Kansas City held on to a lead last night to take game 2 of the World Series, 7-2. Series is tied 1-1 as they make their way to San Francisco today. In other news, the city of San Francisco has banned the playing of Lorde’s song, “Royals,” on their radio stations.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51:16
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Psalm 43:3
O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 89:8, 14
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:9
But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!
Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Psalm 68:3-5

Today’s Gospel Reading

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:25-30

First, we note that God is sovereign in terms of to whom he reveals his truth. Worldly wisdom and philosophies do not gain truth; it is revealed to us by God. Very importantly, in verse 27, we see that Jesus Christ is the only way to know God. There are still many who think that there are many roads to God, but Jesus, himself, declares that this is not true. In like manner, he declares that the only way to know the Son (Jesus) is for the Father to reveal him to us. It is at this point that it becomes impossible to think that Jesus was nothing more than “a good teacher.” Either what he says here is truth, or he is a raving lunatic.

Finally, Jesus calls us to come to him and take on his “yoke.” He is not telling us to take it from him, but to share it with him. I’m told that, in days gone by, when a young ox was put in a team to pull something, he was paired with an older, stronger ox. The older one would pull the majority of the load, helping the younger one along. In the same way, we take on Jesus’s yoke, and he bears the burden for us, as we journey together. Come to Jesus and “find rest for your souls.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Our Understanding of God.”

“Jesus brought a revolution in the understanding of God. It is impossible to exaggerate the extravagance of the Father’s compassion and love.” I love that last sentence.

“It is impossible to exaggerate the extravagance of the Father’s compassion and love.”

Jesus shows us a picture of God as he truly is. “To pray to any god other than a Father who finds sheer delight in reconciliation is illusion, cowardice, and superstition.”

You shall have no other gods before me.
Exodus 20:3

Father, I pray that, first of all, I would take on the yoke of Christ, daily, allowing him to carry my burdens and bring rest to my soul. I praise you that you chose to reveal your truth to me, and that you drew me to Christ early in my life. I thank you that you will keep me in your grip for the rest of my days on this earth, and beyond. I pray, also, that I would never depend on any other “god” besides you. My trust is in you; may that remain truth forever.

I pray for this day, that we would have safe and smooth passage to work and back. May we have a good work day today, as we are now on the downward slope toward the restful weekend. I pray for Stephanie, that you would bring her peace and wisdom today, showering her with your blessings. Teach us your way, that we may walk in your truth.

I pray for Jeremy, as he prepares the message for this Saturday’s worship service.

I pray for Leslie, as she returns to work today. Bring her peace, and take away her anxiety.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we take on our Savior’s yoke and allow him to shoulder our burdens. May we trust only in the God of truth and put away all other “gods.”

Grace and peace, friends.

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

Unshakable Conviction

Good morning. It is Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Hump Day.

Today is Smart Is Cool Day. Wait. Hasn’t it always been? Anyway. Apparently, schools actually put on demonstrations for this day. Because everyone needs to see that smart is cool.

I had another pretty good day at work, yesterday. It seems like the team was clicking a lot better than usual, and we got most of the work done for the day. The only bad thing is that we have nothing to do when we arrive in the morning. But that’s a small price to pay for knowing we’ve met our metrics for the day.

It is certain that there will not be a sweep of the World Series, at least not for the Royals. The Giants took the wind out of their sails in the first inning, on a Hunter Pence home run. It was nothing but tail lights after that. Giants win game one, 7-1. I hope the Royals can come back tonight. There’s another reason I don’t want the Giants to win. At this point, the Red Sox are still the only team to have won three World Series championships in the 21st century.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!
Psalm 113:1
Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
Psalm 26:2
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power,

Psalm 145:10-11
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
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.

Psalm 71:19-24

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.
Psalm 140:13
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Matthew 11:20-24

I believe the message of this passage to be that it will be more bearable for someone who never heard the Gospel than for someone who heard the “good news,” saw the miracles of God, and yet rejected them. Jesus did might works in these cities, yet the people did not believe. Jesus states that the wicked city of Sodom would fare better in the judgment than these two cities!

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Invisible Conviction.”

Speaking of Charles de Foucauld, Brennan says that the “paternal love of the Father and the fraternal love of Jesus” were not just high rhetoric to him. “His trust in the Father was not merely theoretical or verbal. It was so operative that it banished fear, worry, and discouragement from his life and, at the same time, instilled boldness, daring, and boundless trust that God would provide for his daily needs.” Even in death, he was calm and courageous. “Faith that his risen Lord had conquered death and the invincible conviction that ‘in dying we no longer perish for the Resurrection will render our corruptible bodies incorruptible’ (Saint Athanasius) transformed the experience of death from end to beginning, a transition into the only experience worthy of the name life.”

Oh, that I could experience such faith!

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:13

Father, give me that faith! I pray for the same kind of faith and trust that Charles de Foucauld had; faith that transforms death to life, sorrow to joy, anxiety to peace. May I know that “paternal love of the Father and the fraternal love of Jesus” to the point that there is no fear, worry, or discouragement in my life. May my life be marked by “boldness, daring, and boundless trust” in you, Lord! Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth!

I pray for this day, that we will have safe travel to and from work. I pray for a good work day, that any challenges would be met with complete faith and trust in your grace and mercy. I pray for Christi to continue to feel better. I pray that Stephanie will have wisdom and understanding, and that your overwhelming love would surround her with songs of deliverance.

I pray for Leslie, who returns to work tomorrow, still grieving the broken heart of a broken relationship. I pray that you would bring her peace and that she would cry out to Jesus for help.

Your grace is sufficient.

I can only imagine what kind of life one would have with the kind of faith described above. May we all seek that faith through the Father and the Son.

Grace and peace, friends.

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

The Ministry of Mercy

Good morning. It is post-Monday, October 21, 2014.

Today is Count Your Buttons Day. My Grandmama had a jar of buttons in the spare bedroom, if I remember correctly. I’m talking a big jar, too. Not one of those little jelly jars. I never counted them, though, and I don’t know where it is, now. :-(

The thing that used up all my time yesterday morning was this: I had to re-start the computer to update the virus program. When it started back up, the monitor got stuck with a “no signal” message in the middle, and it wouldn’t power off. So I had to reach around to unplug the monitor. In doing that, I knocked a speaker off the desk. After I finally got the monitor back on and running properly, I got under the desk to get the speaker. Its wires were tangled in some other wires. As I was trying to untangle it, I discovered what it was tangled with. The computer mouse! Now, I had the speaker AND the mouse on the floor with me. After much contortion and struggling, I finally got both of them back on the desk. By that time, it was almost 6:30, and I had not even started the devotional yet. I was also seriously considering not even leaving the house. But I did, and wound up having a very nice day, yesterday, at work.

Christi reports that the dizziness is almost gone this morning! She still has a bit of a headache, though, but also had trouble sleeping last night.

We have tonight off from our Huddle meeting, because our leader is in Thailand. I just looked it up, and it is 6:14 PM in Bangkok, right now, exactly twelve hours later than here. That should be fun. Just about the time his body adapts, it will be time to come home.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Psalm 105:4
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!
Psalm 125:4
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16
Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.

Today’s Gospel Reading

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:1-19

This is a lengthy passage in which Jesus, first of all, gives high honors to John the Baptist, but then turns around and says that the “least in the kingdom of heaven is great than he.” What does he mean by that? It could be a reference to the fact that believers after these days would be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Who are these “violent” who attempt to take the kingdom by force? This could refer to people like Herod, who, by violence and force, attempt to stop the forward movement of the kingdom. We know, though, that this is not possible. The kingdom of God will not be stopped. At this point, Jesus also identifies John as the “Elijah” prophesied by Malachi (Malachi 4:5).

Finally, Jesus illustrates that you just can’t please some people.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Works of Mercy.”

“The unglamorous and little-publicized works of mercy: the ministry of small things, feeding and sheltering, visiting the sick and incarcerated, educating, correcting, speaking a healing word, bearing wrongs, listening creatively, counseling, washing dirty feet, praying with people, are all ways of living the life of compassion.” This really is not a minor thing, either. The statement by Jesus to be perfect, in Matthew 5:48, is given to us by Luke as, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (6:36) This is something that we are all called to be.

For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.
Mark 14:7

Father, this theme has been running strong through my life in recent years. As you continue to teach me about loving people, showing compassion, and having mercy, I pray that your Spirit would open my eyes, ears, and heart to this subject, and what you would say to me about it. I admit that I struggle frequently with it. I’m struggling this morning over something that is going on in our small circle of friends. I pray that you keep working on me, showing me how to show mercy and have compassion toward all people. If I am to be seriously involved in intercessory prayer, it is nigh impossible to pray for someone if you are feeling like they are an idiot at the moment. These are thoughts that must be dispensed, destroyed. May your Holy Spirit work within me to destroy such unholy thoughts and attitudes.

I pray for this day, that we will have safe travel to and from work. May your grace and mercy fill the day while we are at work, giving us compassion for the people we work with. I pray for Stephanie, that your love would surround her with songs of deliverance. Teach us your ways, that we may walk in your truth.

I pray for Jacob, as he begins his activities in Thailand today.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we all be faithful in this “ministry of mercy,” today and every day.

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Devotions, Prayer, Reflections for Ragamuffins, The Divine Hours, The Gospels | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Entertaining Angels

Good morning. It is Monday, October 20, 2014. My, but that was a short weekend! :-D

Today is Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day. I wonder if this applies to smart phone “desktops,” as well. There are probably more apps on my phone that I never use than there are icons on my computer desktop.

Christi seems to be feeling better today. Maybe the drugs are working. She feels more stable while walking, but till has some difficulty turning her head from side to side.

We wound up not going to the grocery store until after 5:00 yesterday evening. It went fine, though. What we have done for the last two weeks is, I have taken our list with one basket, and Christi has taken her mother’s list with another basket. We still stay together, but each fill our own basket. The funny thing that happened was that, when we got ready to check out, the head cashier (I’m guessing) tried to get me to move to a different lane. We explained that we were together. She relented, but then began explaining how she is on some kind of metric, and that it looks bad on her if there are two carts in any line. We politely listened, all the while thinking how we really didn’t give a flip about her metrics. And this is the problem I have with performance metrics. They cause people to only be concerned with looking good. Quality and true customer service go out the window when metrics are king.

Anyway, enough about that. We got our “good deed” done for the day, and made it back home to finish watching the last two episodes of “How To Get Away with Murder,” which we had not started watching at the beginning of the season, but heard good things about. Turns out it’s a pretty good show. We got caught up and have the new episodes set to record on the DVR.

Oh, and the World Series begins tomorrow. Go Royals!! :-D

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)

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

Psalm 71:8-9
O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!

Psalm 88:1-2
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

Today’s Gospel Reading

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
Matthew 10:40-42

When God sends people out, and others receive those people, they have, in effect, received God. They will, consequently, receive a reward for showing hospitality to the emissaries. But just as important, if we so much as give a cup of cold water to one who is seemingly insignificant, we are rewarded, as well. The importance of hospitality in the kingdom is highlighted here, and I believe it is in Hebrews, where we are admonished with an equal sentiment about hospitality, stating that we never know when we might be entertaining angels.

Father, I have run out of time, this morning, due to “technical issues.” Nevertheless, I will always have time to pray, I will make sure of that. This morning, I ask for you to impress upon me the importance of hospitality in ministry. We should never turn down anyone who is needy, especially in the service of Christ. Give us wisdom in all circumstances, and a humble heart to receive those whom you have sent. I pray that you always give me open ears to hear your Chosen One, Jesus Christ, and that I will “listen to him!”

I pray for this day. It has had a shaky start, so I pray that you go before and behind us, giving us a safe trip to and from work today. I pray for Christi, that her head will continue to get better, and the dizziness will be eliminated. I pray for a good work day today, as we begin a new week. I pray for Stephanie, that you give her wisdom and understanding in all things, and show your love to her. I lift up the people in India, in the wake of Cyclone HudHud, that you would give your ministers in the area much strength and provision to assist the people whose lives have been devastated.

Your grace is sufficient.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2
angels

Grace and peace, friends.

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

Right Here At Home

Good morning. It is Sunday, October 19, 2014. My one day off this weekend.

Today is Evaluate Your Life Day. Hmmm. . . I don’t know. Maybe I’d rather go with World Toy Camera Day. That sounds like much more fun. I’ll let you pick.

I actually had a very nice day at work, yesterday. Out of the three Saturdays that I have worked, it was definitely the best one. The right combination of people was there to help out, and not only did we get all the work done early, we actually had a very pleasant time doing so. We got finished between 2:00 and 2:30, and I was on my way home before 2:30, which is over an hour early. The way I understand it, I am more than welcome to stay for the whole eight hours if I want to, but I’d rather get home. I was actually home in time to get to our church’s prayer gathering before the service. That was a pleasant surprise, and I’m sure it took a small burden off of the pastor, who was prepared to lead it if I didn’t make it.

Speaking of our pastor, he is heading to Thailand tonight, for an eleven day trip. We wish him the best during this trip, and will be praying for his safety, that he will have a marvelous time, and that God will use him in a mighty way as he travels.

Today, Stephanie will be going on a “horse outing” with good friends, Summer and Terry. Christi and I will do the grocery shopping for us and her mother and step-dad. After that, we will sit around and do nothing for the rest of the day. :-D Well, not technically “nothing.” I’m sure we will get caught up on some TV watching and eat something. Not much else, though.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1985 that the first Blockbuster Video Store opened in Dallas, Texas. Less than thirty years later, only about 50 stores are left (and this information may be outdated). At its peak, there were up to 9000 stores open, world-wide.

Today’s birthdays include Colton Dixon, Robert Reed, John Lithgow, Chris Kattan, Michael Young, Rodney Carrington, Desmond Harrington, Peter Max, Pete Loeffler, Amy Carter, Jeannie C. Riley, Patrick Simmons, and Tracy Chevalier.

Pete Loeffler, 38 years old today, is the lead guitarist/vocalist for the Chicago-based rock group, Chevelle. My favorite song of theirs is a song from their album, This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), called “Vitamin R.” The song is about the ADHD/Autism drug, Ritalin.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Psalm 107:8-9
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalm 18:1-3
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12-13
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.
God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?
There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Psalm 53
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations:
Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere
with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:34-39

Another troubling paragraph in this discourse of Christ in Matthew. Jesus wants prospective disciples to understand that following him may bring strife to a family. This is more true in other countries than it is in the U.S. I have heard true stories of people being disowned by their families, even to the point that a funeral is given for a child who embraces Christianity. In Jesus’s day, there would likely have been an uproar if a family member followed him, departing from traditional Jewish ways. Verse 38 speaks of a willing surrender of personal rights to follow Christ. Taking up my cross is deliberately obeying and identifying with Jesus, even to the point of death, if need be. What it does NOT mean is some particular burden in our lives, over which we have no control. Most of the time, when people say, “That’s just my cross to bear,” it really is not. Neither does it mean I have to pick up a literal cross and walk across the country, carrying it.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Jesus’ Work In Us.” (This is actually the reading for October 18)

We don’t have to go halfway around the globe to do “mission work.” “The compassionate love of Jesus at work within us empowers us to suffer with, endure with, struggle with, partake of, be moved in the depths of our being for the hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, squalid choices, and failed dreams of our brothers and sisters in the human family.” We don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Medical Missionaries in order to live this out. (Now, mind you, if God has called you to such a life, you’d best be on your way.) “The Passion of Christ is being played out in our own communities, perhaps in our own homes, in anyone who is in agony of flesh or spirit.” The presence of Christ in our lives is not some vague, ethereal thing. It is reality, and whatever we do “for the least of these,” we do for Jesus Christ.

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
Luke 19:8

Father, I am grateful, first of all, that my family is not hostile toward the gospel, and that there is no enmity between any of us because of our faith in you. This is a great blessing that many do not have. I pray that I will be always willing to take up my cross and follow you in obedience, as well as identifying with you in all circumstances. I pray for boldness and faith should true persecution come my way because of my faith. I also pray for the compassion of Jesus to be at work in me in regards to people around me in my community. I pray especially for this compassion as I relate to my brothers and sisters in the community of our local church. Help us to understand that “mission work” can be done right in our own community, with people who are near and dear to us.

I pray for this day. I pray that Stephanie will have a good time with Summer on their horse outing. I pray that we will have a pleasant time as we have to do our errands this afternoon, and that we will get some good rest during the rest of the day. May your presence be evident with us as we do whatever we do today.

I pray that Jacob has a safe trip to Thailand tonight, and that his journey will be spectacular!

May we all find ways to be the Church in our communities around us, being Christ to “the least of these” wherever we are.

Grace and peace, friends.

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

Rightly Related

Good morning. It is Friday, October 17, 2014.

Today is Wear Something Gaudy Day. So go ahead. Mix those plaids and stripes today!

Christi has a doctor’s appointment after work today. We’re hoping they can figure out what’s going on with the dizziness and headaches. Her head isn’t quite as bad today, but she says it feels “fuzzy.”

“The Giants win the pennant!” Sorry, Joe Buck, it just didn’t have the same ring to it as it did in 1951. Nevertheless, we will have an all wild card World Series (which has happened at least once before, in 2002) between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants. My money (if I were betting) is on the Royals. I believe they are hungrier, since it has been 29 years since their last playoff appearance.

This is Friday, but I have to work tomorrow, as it is my turn on the Saturday rotation. Bleah. There probably won’t be a blog in the morning, as I’m supposed to be at work by 7:00 on Saturday. We’ll see. I may not get up until 6:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8
Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 71:3
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:13
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:10-12

Today’s Gospel Reading

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 10:26-33

This is not an easy passage, and it has been misinterpreted in a number of ways. I once heard a preacher say, from the pulpit, that “him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” was Satan! NO! Jesus is talking about the Father in that verse! The point of the passage, is that God is the only one we have to fear. We are not to fear humans. This is right on the heels of the passage concerning persecution, and it begins with the word, “So.” Even though Christians will experience persecution, we are not to fear. After all, what is the worst thing they can do to us? Send us “home,” right? Oh, sure, there might be a lot of pain in between, and I can say without any hesitation that I would rather be shot in the head than tortured for days. I hate pain. But we are not to fear. Jesus assures us that the Father even notices when a sparrow falls to the ground, and that we are “of more value than many sparrows.” Now, those last two verses? Modern evangelicals have decided that the “invitation” at the end of every church service is the way to enforce that verse. I have actually heard that as the explanation for it. “People have to acknowledge Jesus before men, so the only way we can do that is to have them walk down the aisle of a crowded church to be saved.” But here’s a puzzle. Peter denied Christ before men. Three times. Yet we saw him restored. The point is, Jesus will own those of us who own him, through all the darkest of times. The context of these verses is persecution, not the “act of being saved.” This isn’t even a passage about “witnessing,” or sharing Christ with the lost. This is a passage about being strong through persecution and never renouncing the name of Jesus, no matter what comes our way. I wonder how many of us are truly prepared for that.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Loving Our Enemies.”

“The incontrovertible sign of the Christian who has experienced forgiveness is that he can love his enemies.” There is no better sign of the activity of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6:35)

“Jesus Christ crucified is not merely a heroic example to the church; he is the power of God, a living force transforming our lives through his Word, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34).”

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “What he cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind of quality–the kind of creatures He intended us to be–creatures related to Himself in a certain way. I do not add ‘and related to one another in a certain way,’ because that is included: if you are right with Him you will inevitable be right with all your fellow-creatures, just as if all the spokes of a wheel are fitted rightly into the hub and the rim they are bound to be in the right positions to one another.”

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

Father, help me to love my “enemies.” I don’t think I have anyone in my life who wants to kill me or even be my undoing. But there are people with whom I struggle to get along, especially at work. Help me to love these people and do good to them. I pray that I will never deny you before men, either by action or by word. I have never experienced real persecution. I do not believe that there are very many Christians in our country who have. I pray that, should true persecution come, your Spirit will give me the faith to stand up for Jesus, even if they take my life. For my Father in heaven is able to protect my soul, and that is what is most important. In the meantime, I pray that you would help me to love you with all my being, love my neighbor as myself, and love the church as Christ has loved me.

I pray for this day. May our travel to work be smooth and safe, as well as the drive home. I pray for Christi’s doctor appointment this afternoon, that something good may come from it. I pray, more so, that your healing hand would be on her and that the dizziness and headache would go away. I pray for Stephanie, that you would wrap your loving arms around her and give her peace, wisdom, and understanding.

May we be rightly related to one another, as we are rightly related to our Father in heaven.

Grace and peace, friends.

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

Being Human

Good morning. It’s Thursday, October 16, 2014.

Today is Dictionary Day. I feel the need to point this out to “alot” of people on Facebook. Maybe even a few people in the “blogosphere.”
ALOT2
(Image borrowed from Hyperbole and A Half)

Last night we had a really good dinner. I think we’ve forgotten what “good food” tastes like. We bought some salmon filets last Sunday, prepackaged in baking pouches with some garlic butter sauce. I baked those in the oven while boiling some corn on the cob and heating up some green beans. It was delicious! The salmon was wonderful! We will definitely repeat that dish in weeks to come.

Christi says she is feeling a little better this morning. Her head is still hurting, but not as much. If she has not improved by tomorrow, she will try to get in to see the doctor. She promised. I’m going to hold her to that. In the meantime, Stephanie has been complaining of a headache. I think hers is probably allergy-related. There’s a lot of stuff in the air right now.

Kansas City completed their sweep of the Orioles yesterday afternoon to earn their spot in the 2014 World Series. I have been corrected, however, as it has been pointed out to me that both of my statements about this year’s series are wrong. The Angels and Giants were both wild cards in the 2002 World Series, and KC and St. Louis played the World Series in 1985. KC won that one. The Royals, however, have already made history, as manager Ned Yost has become the first MLB manager to win all eight of his first eight playoff games. The Royals are 8-0 in playoff games for this season. Can they make even more history by sweeping the World Series? I guess we will find out next week.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:1, 3
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Psalm 86:4
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
Psalm 57:5
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.
Psalm 69:6

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

Matthew 10:16-25

Jesus packs a lot into this couple of paragraphs. I don’t know exactly when this speech is being given, but he is warning his disciples of persecution that is to come, due to their association with him. “Don’t worry about what you will say,” he says to them. “The Spirit will give you the words.” I know that’s not a direct quote, but it’s the gist of what he was telling them. While we need to be prepared for persecution, we need not worry ourselves over it. Whatever will be will be, right? And no amount of anxiety can change that. Who among us has not thought, “If so and so happens, I’ll do thus and so and say this or that?” We really shouldn’t be concerned with that, because there are things going on right now that need our attention. God is working in and around me right now. If I spend my time worrying about some made up persecution that may or may not happen in the future, I may miss out on what is happening now. “Don’t borrow trouble,” my mother used to tell me.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Jesus’ Acceptance of the Human Condition.”

Jesus gave an interesting answer to the rich young ruler. “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” At another time, Jesus said, ” . . . the Son cannot do anything by himself–he can only do what he sees the Father doing.” Everything, even the things that we do, is a “loving gift from the Father’s hand.” I suppose that we could say that Jesus was comparing himself to God when he answered the rich young ruler. But isn’t it also possible that he was displaying the “be-attitude” of being poor in spirit? Could it be that he is saying to us, “How pleasing you are in my Father’s eyes when you have this be-attitude, this attitude of being poor like me, when you accept the limits of your humanity?”

Our enemy hates this. He tried to get Jesus to forsake those limits in the wilderness temptations. It is best to believe that Satan knew what was coming when Jesus embraced the limits of humanity, that the “saga of salvation-history was moving toward its climax.” Satan was furious then and is furious now, when we cling to our humanness. Remember the first temptation to the first humans. “You will be like God . . .” That was Satan’s temptation then, and it has never changed. It is still his temptation today.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9

Father, help me to embrace my humanness today. Help me to know my limits and not try to exceed them. Help me to cling to the fact that I am poor in spirit, and help me to be more like Jesus. May I care nothing for self-advancement today, but care more for others than for myself. I had a bad day yesterday, perhaps even a bit prideful. I’m still not sure about that. But I need not care what other people do or accomplish, and need not compare what I do with anyone else but Christ. Let me glory and boast in nothing else but Christ and him crucified, and the righteousness that he has imputed to me.

I pray for this day. May our trip to work and home be safe today. May our work day go smoothly. I pray for Christi to continue to feel better, as well as relief for Stephanie’s headache. Help her to feel better, too, today.

I pray for Cindy, who is having some kind of stress test for her heart irregularity today. Give her courage going into it, and give the doctors wisdom to interpret things correctly.

We are human. There is nothing we can do about that. Nothing, that is, except to cling to it and embrace it, allowing God to work through us by his Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

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