The Tyranny of Peer Pressure

Good morning. It is Monday . . . no wait! Tuesday! September 2, 2014. It’s a four-day work week!

Today is V-J Day, the day that marks the official end of WWII. Even though the Japanese surrendered on August 15, the official ceremony occurred on this date in 1945. President Truman marked this day as V-J Day.

We had a nice holiday yesterday, although I’m a little sad that we never got in the pool all weekend. We still have time, though, before it starts to get cool again. We actually got out of the house and ran around some yesterday afternoon. We started by having lunch at a place that we have never been before. DeVivo Bros Eatery has been open for a few months, now, and we finally made it up there to try them. Located in Keller, on S. Main (which is also Hwy 377), they feature fresh-made food at a median price. Christi had their meatloaf, which was delicious. I had the day’s special, a sandwich called the Navajo, which was grilled chicken breast on pizza dough bread, with chipotle mayonnaise. Stephanie had a grilled cheese, by far the worst value in our meal. We overheard the guy sitting at the next table saying that his cheeseburger was the best burger he had ever had. We tried their bread pudding for dessert, and it was the best bread pudding we have ever had. Yes, it was better than Chef Point Cafe! Stephanie tried their strawberry short cake, which was also delicious, featuring home-made ice cream and a foundation of a biscuit! Very unique. I’m sure we will be back, because I want to try that burger!

Later in the evening, we watched Winter’s Tale, a movie with Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, and Will Smith. It also featured Jessica Brown Findley, who played Sybil on Downton Abbey. The first half of the movie was pretty good, and, over all, it was entertaining. But the ending was a bit silly. At least, in my opinion. Will Smith was a most excellent Lucifer, however.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

Psalm 66:16
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Psalm 67:1-2
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
Psalm 119:54
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

Psalm 85:8-13

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name.
May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Matthew 5:27-30

Another one of Jesus’s “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” statements. He has moved from anger to lust, with basically the same message about a different topic. The Law says, “You shall not commit adultery,” but Jesus takes it to a deeper level, just as he did the murder command. If we even look at another person with lustful thoughts, we have committed adultery in our hearts. Does Jesus advocate self-mutilation here? I’ve never read a commentary or interpretation that thought Jesus was being literal, here. But he is illustrating the severity of sin in the hearts of believers. The “hand” commits the physical act, but the “eye” commits the mental act. We are to avoid both at all costs. I think it also important to note that Jesus did not say “everyone who looks at another man’s wife,” but rather simply stated, “everyone who looks at a woman.” And just to be clear, I don’t believe he was saying that only men can commit adultery!

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Living Out Of the Center.”

“Living out of the center frees us from the tyranny of peer pressure.” And what tyranny peer pressure is! How many foolish acts have been committed simply for the sake of pleasing other people? We should be living to please one and one only–our Father in heaven; this should be the basic impulse of our lives. But this requires “a remarkable degree of freedom.” It is obvious that Jesus was never swayed by public opinion. “In order to be free for the outcasts, the sinners, the marginals in his social world, Jesus had to keep his distance from the expectations and the moralizing judgments of the authorities and the respectable.” Imagine the scandal when he went to have lunch with Zacchaeus! He didn’t care. “He wasn’t looking around anxiously, fearing what people might say.” He went to the house of Zacchaeus because Zacchaeus, a sinner, just like me, was a child of his Father.

Be strong and courageous.
Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the LORD your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Father, I pray for myself and for all Christians, that we would completely free ourselves from the tyranny of peer pressure. While we must not go out of our way to purposefully offend people (I fear that is done all too often), we must also not be too worried about what they think of us. That should be our goal as we walk this earth, looking for opportunities to help people and bring your Kingdom to their lives. May we be observant as we walk; may we always be able to see when someone needs us for whatever reason, and may we never be afraid to offer our help, whether spiritual or physical.

I pray for this day. May it be a day full of grace and peace, your grace and peace. I pray for our drive to work, that it will be safe. I pray for Christi’s second day at the new job, that she will have smooth sailing as she begins to get acclimated to the new systems and work responsibilities. I pray that she will continue to get on famously with the people she is working with. I pray for Stephanie, that her day will be a day of discovery of your love for her, as you draw her closer to you.

Your grace is sufficient, Father!

Peer pressure is, indeed, tyranny that threatens to trap is daily. May we shed that pressure and live in freedom, out of the center of God’s holiness.

Grace and peace, friends.

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

The Importance of Prayer

Good morning. It is Monday, September 1, 2014. It is Labor Day in the U.S., making it a holiday for most non-retail employed folks. Unfortunately, for retail businesses, it’s a big sale day. Labor Day typically marks the “end of Summer” for people, as school has now started. It is usually the last weekend for public swimming pools, parks like Hurricane Harbor, and the last day that places like Six Flags Over Texas are open daily. Six Flags will probably stay open on weekends through October (Fright Fest) and then reopen for Holiday in the Park around thanksgiving. However, Summer doesn’t officially end until September 22, the Autumnal Equinox.

Today is Calendar Adjustment Day. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything. Apparently, this has something to do with Great Britain switching to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.

Turns out Christi didn’t need a new battery. At least that’s what Wal-Mart said. They tested it, and it was testing okay. Hopefully, we don’t have any other issues with her car. I guess we’ll see.

Yesterday, we watched several movies. We started out with The Call, starring Halle Berry (got that one at Red Box). It was a great movie! Very intense, a story about a 911 call center operator (Berry) and a kidnapping victim. We both enjoyed it very much and thought it was the best movie we’ve seen in quite some time.

After we watched that, Christi went out to take her car to Wal-Mart (and do a couple of other errands). While she was gone, I watched The Awakening (on Netflix) a nicely done ghost story, with Rebecca Hall and Dominic West. When she got back (The Awakening wasn’t quite over yet, so I finished that one), we watched About Time (also from Red Box), a simply beautiful love story starring Rachel McAdams, that just happens to involve time travel. Bill Nighy is also in it, and I really like him. He plays the English dad in a family where the men get the “gift” of being able to travel back in time when they reach the age of 21. There are a few really sad moments, but at the end, the message of the movie, a very positive message, I believe, is that we should live each day taking care to notice the beautiful and magical things around us, rather than just trudging through, only noticing the tension and stress. Plus Rachel McAdams! Yeah.

At some point in there, Christi cooked steaks and baked potatoes, and they were delicious! We also watched an episode of CSI: Miami on Netflix. Then I watched another movie on Netflix, called 13 Sins. This one was quite a trippy film, involving a man randomly selected to play on a “game show” via cell phone, that challenged him to do increasingly more difficult and sinister challenges, each paying significantly more money. Ron Perlman had a part in this one, as a police detective.

We still have one more Red Box movie to watch, Winter’s Tale. We’ll get that one in, sometime today.

(Source: This Date In History)

It was on this date in 1964 that the first Japanese baseball player played in the MLB. Masanori Murakami pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants.

Sharing birthdays today are Gloria Estefan, Rocky Marciano, Conway Twitty, Barry Gibb, Lily Tomlin, Yvonne DeCarlo, James Rebhorn, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Johann Pachelbel, Engelbert Humperdinck (the composer from 1854), Boxcar Willie, Ann Richards, Seiji Ozawa, and Archie Bell.

Johann Pachelbel was a composer who is probably most known for his ubiquitous Canon in D. Rather than giving you the Canon, I have chosen to give you this comedian’s rant about being a cello player as a young boy, and playing that Canon on the cello.

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)

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
Psalm 71:8
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71:17
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man,
runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1-6

Today’s Gospel reading

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:21-26

This begins a section of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus begins each part with “You have heard that it was said. . . ” What he seems to be quoting in these segments is Jewish law, not necessarily the Law of God. Nevertheless, he takes things to a completely different label when he compares anger against a brother to murder. Some manuscripts add the phrase “without cause” in verse 22, but the most reliable and recent translations do not. The Jewish leaders had made the mistake of believing that the Law of God, as received by Moses, only forbade the external act, and had no bearing on the internal thoughts of the heart. So Christ has now told us that if we are angry, we have, in effect, committed murder. Even if we do add the “without cause” phrase, we must be careful, because many of us believe that we have “good cause” to be angry, especially when that jerk cuts us off in traffic. After all, he broke some law, right? Never mind the fact that we were already going 20 mph over the speed limit. I hear the words “righteous indignation” thrown around a bit. But the fact is that only Christ was righteous, so, it is my opinion, only he is justified to have “righteous indignation.” Should I be angry over sin? Perhaps. I’m not convinced of that. I should definitely be mournful over sin, that was made clear a few verses back, in the Beatitudes. But I don’t believe I have the right to be angry at someone else who sins, because I also sin. Should I be angry over my own sin? I’m not sure of that, either.

The thrust of this teaching, though, is clearly anger directed toward other people, other souls, created in the image of our Father. It is, apparently, never justified, and we had best be very careful, because if we utter defamatory language, directed at another individual, we are “liable to the hell of fire.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Jesus’ Intimate Prayer Life.”

“Jesus’ self-awareness and unflagging zeal in the ministry must be seen in direct and unceasing relation to his interior life of growing intimacy with the Father.” Is this where we modern men err, by losing sight of this connection? Whence does the power for mission derive? From theological reflection? From the desire to edify others? From “trendy spirituality?” Nay! The wellspring of our desire for mission (whatever our mission might be) must be the Father’s holiness and our self-awareness in our relationship with the Father. “This is not a question of words or pious sentiments, but a burning and divine reality.”

How did Jesus stay centered in this “self-awareness?” We see numerous times in the Gospels, especially toward the beginning of his ministry, where Jesus withdrew “from the mainstream of activity to pray.” It is indicated that Jesus “needed this special kind of intimate touch with his Father.” If the success of Jesus’s mission (remember that he is equally human and divine), depended that much on prayer, how much more so do we need it, being that we are merely human, and not at all divine?

. . . and behold, a voice from heaven said,
“This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:17

Father, I pray for more intimate prayer with you. I realize it sounds silly on the surface to pray for more prayer, but it is the setting and attitude behind the prayers that I am getting at. While I spend a rather significant (at least in my own eyes) time in prayer, it is largely in the are of intercession, focusing on the needs of others. What I’m asking for is for you to help me to spend a bit more time in the kind of intimate prayer that is being spoken of in this reading. While we seldom are privy to the content of those prayers of Jesus, I believe it is enough that we know that he prayed, that he prayed in solitude, and that he prayed to gain strength and power for his ministry. If I’m not seeking your face regularly, and at length, the power of my ministry will falter. I pray that your Spirit will prompt me to spend more time abiding, for that is the gist of this whole concept, isn’t it? To spend time in intimate communication with the Father is abiding. So help me to abide more and better.

I pray for this day, Father, that, even though there are things we want to accomplish, we might still rest and be ready for the truncated week to follow. I am grateful for an additional day of rest today. I pray that we might work from that rest, and that we might bear fruit from our abiding. May our relationship with you, our relationship with the Body, and our relationship with the world be in balance.

I pray for Samantha Alexander, that you would put your healing hand on her back today, and relieve her pain.

It is imperative that we find time to be alone with the Father, in order to gain power and strength for our mission. If we do not, we will burn out.

Jesus-in-Gethsemane

Grace and peace, friends.

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

From the Inside Out

Good morning. It is Sunday, August 31, 2014. Last day of August. Labor Day tomorrow.

First of all, let me just say that I’m very disappointed in the web site I use for the “special holidays” every day. I found out later in the day that yesterday was, in fact, “International Bacon Day!” Fortunately, it was not too late to salvage the day and get some bacon in. It was close, though.

Today is Pony Express Day. I wonder if, in less than a decade, the USPS will have gone the same way as the Pony Express. . .

I hope I don’t find out later that today was International Pepperoni Pizza Day, or something like that . . .

We had a pretty nice day yesterday. Christi got the grocery shopping done for her mom and step-dad (I didn’t try to “help” this time), we had a light lunch from Subway, and we had a pretty wood worship service last night. Not much else to speak of yesterday.

Today, we need to take Christi’s car to the auto parts place and get a new battery for it. At least we hope that’s what is wrong with it. The time is about right . . . she’s had this car for about three years, so it’s due for a new battery. We may hit up the Red Box after that, to see if we can get a movie or two to watch. Christi got some steaks and potatoes at the store yesterday, so we’ll probably have those today or tomorrow.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1955 that the first solar-powered automobile was introduced by William Cobb of General Motors.

Did you catch that date? 1955!! THREE YEARS BEFORE I WAS BORN, technology existed to have solar-powered cars! Have any of you seen one? Me, neither. This tells you how much power the petrol companies have!

Today’s birthdays include Chris Tucker, Richard Gere, Van Morrison, James Coburn, Deborah Gibson, Itzhak Perlman, Buddy Hackett, Frank Robinson, Maria Montessori, Hideo Nomo, Arthur Godfrey, Fredric March, Caligula, James E Ferguson, Alma Mahler, Dan Rather, Bob Welch, Gina Schock, Glenn Tilbrook, Tom Candiotti, Jeff Frye, and Nathan Minchey.

Bob Welch was an American singer/songwriter who was part of Fleetwood Mac from 1971-1974. He was born in 1945 and passed away in 2012. Here is a clip of the Fleetwood Mac song, “Hypnotized,” written by Welch, and featuring his vocals.

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)

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Psalm 111:1
. . . that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 83:18
But I will hope
continually
and will praise you yet more and more.

Psalm 71:14

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in my heart
the love of your Name; increase in me true religion; nourish me with all goodness; and
bring forth in me the fruit of good works; 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 abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:17-20

I have to confess that I struggle with this passage. First of all, “the Law or the Prophets” basically, I understand refers to the entire Old Testament. Jesus does not alter, replace, or nullify the O.T. writings. In fact, the passages that come after this statement seem to restore “the true nature of God’s law as demanding total and radical holiness. Jesus demands a deeper obedience, not disregard of God’s commands.” (Reformation Study Bible notes) It is also important to note that Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for their strict observance of the law. It was for the outward focus that they received criticism. They were more intent on outward obedience than they were inner attitude.

Matthew Henry opines that this might even be a sort of assurance to the Jews that Jesus was not there to totally disassemble everything that they had believed and served for centuries. He had no plans to dishonor the Scriptures, that they saw as coming from God. To those who would live lawlessly, Jesus speaks, saying that he has not come to allow them to live as they please.

How can we exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? By allowing our inward attitudes to drive our obedience. Jesus gave us two commands that he said summed up the law and the prophets. Love God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself. Later, he added a “new command” to his disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you.” If we follow these commands from our inner-most being, we will exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. In coming days, I will be reading the passages that follow, which further comment on these statements of Jesus.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Acting On the Word.”

“Most failures to act on the Word can be traced to ignorance, inattention, or insufficient esteem for the Person of the Word.” The most frightening piece of that statement is the last phrase, “insufficient esteem for the Person of the Word.” I certainly don’t want to be guilty of that, but if I have to be honest, I am. Isn’t that why I’m not better at sharing my faith with the world? Isn’t that why I still dabble in sin, rather than obeying the commands of my Savior?

The Gospel demands “radical conversion and explicit death to self,” but we tend to replace that with “a boozy goodwill toward the world.” Brennan follows this up with a most chilling thought. “We do not want a God would would change us.” But I can say unequivocally that this is not true of me. I most definitely want a God who would change me! I desire change!

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says, For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. It’s not terribly different today. There are segments of “Christianity” who are obsessed with miracles, and there are parts of society who would eschew Christianity for the search for “wisdom.” “If the people of God are not hearing the call to repentance and the power to fulfill it, is it because we ministers of the Word are preaching another Christ from the pulpit?”

I have not come to call the righteous
but sinners to repentance.

Luke 5:32

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner! I pray for “radical conversion and explicit death to self!” Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your Name! let me not replace your demands on my life for a “boozy goodwill.” The words that I have read today have pricked my heart, Father. The passage of Jesus’s words has always given me trouble. How do I balance grace and law? Help me to be obedient to the commands of my Savior without falling into the trap of external “holiness.” I pray for righteousness that would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. I pray for repentance. I pray for the power of the Spirit in my life. I pray for you to constantly change me.

I pray for this day. May we accomplish the few things that need to be done, and have time to rest and enjoy ourselves for the rest of the holiday weekend. May your grace and mercy overflow in our lives during these days, and help us to see you.

I pray for a friend of a friend, named Darrell Hodge, who recently had to have a leg amputated, due to diabetes complications. May you grant healing and recovery, as well as mental and spiritual strength to go on. Keep his faith strong through this, and I pray for comfort for his family, and that they would stand beside him through the long and difficult rehab stint. May your grace truly be sufficient. I thank you for Robert Warden, a good friend who looks out for his friends, calling for prayer for them.

Law vs. grace. Holiness vs. goodwill. How do we do it?

Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. May his Spirit grant us power to live in obedience by working from the inside out.
from-the-inside-out-650x269

Grace and peace, friends.

Posted in Birthdays, Devotions, History, Prayer, The Divine Hours, The Gospels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living Out Of the Center

Good morning. It is Saturday, August 30, 2014. First day of a three-day weekend!

Today is Slinky Day. Don’t lie. You’re wishing you had one, right now, aren’t you?

Christi’s first day of work went very well. After she got there, she was escorted to her office, which is quite large and very nice. They already had a nameplate on the wall next to the door! She said they made her feel very welcome, and everything went very smoothly.

On a down side, Christi should have gotten what we assume to be her last paycheck from Mindtree yesterday, and it did not appear in our checking account. Her boss got hers, so we are a little concerned about what is going on. More details on that, as they become available. We’re sure it has something to do with her last day being the day before the paycheck was due, but not sure how that has affected it.

We have no plans, whatsoever, for this long weekend. We’re just going to take it as it comes and be somewhat spontaneous, or completely predictable. Which means we’ll sit around and watch TV all day. Or maybe hit up the Red Box. Or we might invite some friends from church over for a swim.

Tonight, we have our worship service and prayer gathering, starting at 4:45. If you’re in the area, come visit us. We are The Exchange.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1965 that the great and mighty Casey Stengel retired from Major League Baseball. He was the manager of the New York Mets at the time of his retirement, and had broken his hip the month before. His doctor warned him that returning to his duties as a manager would be too much for him. He was 75 years old at the time. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966. Casey passed away in 1975.

Today’s birthdays include Cameron Diaz, Warren Buffett, Ted Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Kitty Wells, Michael Chiklis, Shirley Booth, Fred MacMurray, Geoffrey Beene, Lewis Black, Joan Blondell, Jean Claude Killy, John Phillips, Ernest Rutherford, Bill Daily, Ruth Westerheimer, Robert Crumb, Molly Ivins, Tug McGraw, Peggy Lipton, Timothy Bottoms, and Marlon Byrd.

John Phillips was a member of The Mamas and The Papas. He was also a promoter for the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival. He was born on this date in 1935, and passed away in 2001. Among his children are Mackenzie Phillips, Bijou Phillips, and Chynna Phillips, of the pop group, Wilson Phillips.

Here is a You Tube clip of my favorite Mamas and Papas song, “I Call Your Name,” taken live from the Monterrey Pop Festival.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Psalm 96:7-9
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Psalm 84:4
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
Psalm 16:7

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who
watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship
may give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-16

Still a part of the Sermon on the Mount, this passage is sobering, yet encouraging. By comparing us to salt, Jesus was probably not speaking of flavoring, which is the way our modern culture uses salt. Rather, salt in those days was used as a preservative, since refrigeration was not yet a gleam in any inventor’s eyes. So, we might see our comparison to salt as Jesus saying that we are to hinder or prevent corruption in the world. I don’t see this as an admonition to go out and try to stop all sin in the world. Rather, I see it as an admonition to make sure that it stops with me. In other words, I am not to be a part of corruption or sin, but to halt it in its tracks. We are also, to carry this even further, to do good. This kind of segues into the thought of the next paragraph. By doing good, and by insinuating ourselves into others’ lives, we are being light, and letting our light shine before others. When we refuse to participate in workplace gossip, for example, we are accomplishing two things. We are acting as the preservative of salt (resisting corruption), and we are letting our light shine before others. When we drive in a gracious and courteous manner, the people around us will not know that we are doing this because we are letting the light of Christ shine, but they will, at least, know that we are not jerks. :-)

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “My Real Self.”

Brennan Manning relates an interesting story in today’s reading. He was four months away from being ordained as a priest, when he developed a “bad case of hay fever.” Every morning, at around 5:30, just when the leading of the prayer for sixty students was to occur, he would break out in a horrendous bout of coughing and sneezing. The cleric master called Brennan into his office and “accused me of insubordination, claiming that I was deliberately disrupting morning prayer with my antics. He warned me that my future actions would be monitored and that my ordination to the priesthood, just four months away, was in jeopardy.” Needless to say, Brennan was both devastated and angered by this. As he prayed, silently whispering the name of Jesus over and over, he had a breakthrough moment. “I realized that ordination to the priesthood was not so almighty important. It pleased Jesus more to have me as my real self–hay fever allergies and all–than to have a cowed and intimidated priest.” He got up from those prayers and never looked back. He was ordained the following May, “still sneezing.”

While this story may not rank up there with the heroism of ancient martyrs and saints, it still presents us with a good picture of “living out of the center and experiencing the freedom of the sons of God.”

I will make with them an everlasting covenant,
that I will not turn away from doing good to them.
And I will put the fear of me in their hearts,
that they may not turn from me.

Jeremiah 32:40

Father, may we all experience the kind of freedom that Brother Manning experienced on that day, refusing to be intimidated by the words and actions of mere men. Rather, let us live “out of the center” of your grace and mercy, in the center of your holiness, knowing your freedom and giving you our real selves, imperfections and all. Teach us your way, that we may walk in your truth.

I pray for this day, that you will be glorified in our worship service this evening. Guide me as I lead the prayer service this afternoon, that we might pray for the things that are closer to your heart.

Give us rest during the remainder of this weekend.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Continual Conversion

Good morning! It is Friday, August 29, 2014. Long weekend ahead!

Today is Individual Rights Day, celebrated on the birthday of John Locke, who championed the rights of individuals to “life, liberty, property, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to petition government.”

Christi begins her new job at the U.S. Bowling Congress today. Even better, she doesn’t have to be at work until 9:00 AM today, so she’s still asleep! It is also currently raining outside (better than raining inside!), and only 71 degrees! Looking at the forecast, it appears that we may be done with 100+ temps for this year. I hope so, anyway. It’s actually been a somewhat mild summer this year.

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and we have a three day weekend after today. No plans at all, as of yet, so we may just rest and chill out. Hopefully, we will find time to get in the pool and just float around.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

(From The Divine Hours)

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.
Psalm 100:3
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness . . . make your way straight before me.
Psalm 5:8
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!

Psalm 118:25-27
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
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!

Psalm 119:4-8

Today’s Gospel reading

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11-12

Once again, some not so popular words. After all, who among us is truly happy when someone reviles us or persecutes us? But these are the words of Jesus. What it makes me believe is that we are not to spend too much effort in defending ourselves against the revilings and persecutions, but to continue rejoicing that we have been chosen by the Lamb. And once again, we must note that the evil that is done against the readers is “on my account,” says Jesus. Just like yesterday, if you are having evil things said about you because you are mean-spirited or hateful or violent, this does not apply.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Conversion Daily.”

“There is nobody in the Christian community who is not called to continual conversion.”

Wait a minute. I thought I was “converted” once for all, right? I’m saved forever, right? Well, yes, but . . .

I still have the daunting task before me of “building up the image of Jesus Christ . . . by the steady practice, day by day, of Christian virtues.” Brennan quotes Edward O’Connor as saying, “You don’t sing your way around that stuff.” Haha! I like that! Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 9:27, But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. Some translations render “discipline” as “bruise” or “buffet.” In Galatians 6:7, Paul says, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. In other words, just because I am saved, once and for all, does not mean my work is over. I must preach the Gospel to myself daily, and daily be converted as I work to build that image of Christ in my life.

Father, help me with my conversion today, and every day. Help me to build up that image of Christ, while, at the same time allowing him to live his life in me. I daily pray for the be characteristics of the Beatitudes to be working out in my life, and I daily pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be visible in my life. I pray that again today. May the life of Christ be lived in me, and may I build up his image in me, that all of my actions, reactions, thoughts, words, and anything else, might be glorifying to you as I live this life.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will have a marvelous day at her new job, and that our trip to work and home will be safe, especially considering the rainy conditions. I pray for a restful weekend, as we have Monday off. I ask that you continue to draw Stephanie closer to you, and always help us to be patient with her, as she is “living in a world she didn’t choose.”

Preach the Gospel every day. Perhaps more to yourself than to others.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Mercy, Not Idolatry

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, August 26, 2014.

Today is Race Your Mouse Around the Icons Day. “Go crazy with your cursor” today!

Today is the last day for Christi and Mindtree and Southwest Airlines! The last 6:30 AM conference call. Tomorrow morning, she reports to the U.S. Bowling Congress in Arlington at 8:00 AM! Woot!!

Unfortunately, it is not my last day to drive all the way to Carrollton for work. I’m seriously thinking about trying to find something closer to home, though. I really don’t like spending more than two hours on the road every day. Getting to work is not that bad, but, for some reason, coming home, the traffic is horrible, no matter which way I go.

Not much else going on, but we have a three-day weekend coming up, so that will be very nice. And we currently have no plans at all for the Labor Day weekend.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8

(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!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 96:2-4
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.
Psalm 69:1
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation—
Psalm 18:46
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,
who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!

Psalm 104:31-32

The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance!
O Lord, make haste to help me!

Today’s Gospel reading

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10

Not one of the more popular of the Beatitudes, I dare say. None of us really wants to be persecuted, do we? Yet Jesus tells that that, when we are, or if we are, persecuted “for righteousness’ sake,” we are blessed, or even, dare we say it, “happy!” But there’s one very key point in there. Those three words, “for righteousness’ sake.” If we get persecuted for just being flat-out stupid, we aren’t blessed. If we get persecuted for being ugly and mean to people, we aren’t blessed. If we get persecuted for being hateful and violent, we aren’t blessed. So far, in the USA, we are not persecuted for being Christians. I know a lot of people think we are, because we aren’t allowed to pray before a high school football game, or because we can’t have the ten commandments on the wall of the court house. It pains me to think that there are people who would compare that to what is happening to Christians in the Middle East right now. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Just know that, if the time comes when I am persecuted for my Christian beliefs, I mean, really persecuted, I will be blessed, and will consider myself happy because mine “is the kingdom of heaven.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Divided Within Myself.” I know I have certainly felt that way before, but let’s see what brother Brennan means by that.

“The proof par excellence of the Christian who has experienced God’s unbearable forgiveness and infinite patience is that he is able to be forgiving and patient with others.”

Uhoh. I should probably just quit writing right now.

Brennan quotes Francis Macnutt: “If the Lord Jesus Christ has washed you in his own blood and forgiven you all your sins, how dare you refuse to forgive yourself?”

“Self-hatred is a sin. Anything that causes division in the Body of Christ is sinful.”

This next quote is well-worth reading.

“When I am divided within myself, when I am so preoccupied with my own sins, egocentricity, and moral failures that I cannot hear the anguished cry of others, then I have subtly reestablished self as the center of my focus and concern. Biblically, that is idolatry.”

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:36

Father, these are strong words today, and words that I need to hear well. I pray that I will not fall into the trap of focusing so much on my own sins and shortcomings that I fail to hear the needs of others. Open my ears and my heart that I might be aware of the pressing needs around me. There are so many people who have so many oppressing needs that a child of God does not have time to be concerned about their own. I believe strongly, that if the Church were operating correctly, no one would ever have to be concerned about their own needs, because someone else would be watching out for us. Lord, have mercy! Help your Church to operate correctly. Fill us with your Spirit, and take our eyes off of ourselves, that we may focus on the needs of others. Make us merciful.

I pray for this day. As Christi is finishing up her last conference call for this job, I pray that her day will be light-hearted and full of joy. I pray for the transition to the new job tomorrow, that it will be smooth, and that she will find herself fitting in much better. I pray for safe travel to and from work today, and a good work day for me, as well. Draw Stephanie ever closer to your heart, Lord.

May we think hard today about refocusing our energy toward others, rather than on ourselves. This would be good advice for anyone, Christian or otherwise, don’t you think?

Grace and peace, friends.

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“Abide in Me”

Good morning. It is Wednesday, August 27, 2014. Only four more days of August.

Today is Tug of War Day. I feel like I play that at work every day.

Christi only has two more 6:30 AM conference calls! It’s kind of funny, whenever she interviews anyone for the tech lead position they have available, when she tells them about the early morning conference calls, they suddenly aren’t interested any more.

Christi did an awesome job of leading our huddle last night. And everyone who was there was pretty talkative, so it went very well for her.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

(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
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Psalm 86:4
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Psalm 119:10
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
Psalm 7:17
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
Isaiah 55:6

Today’s Gospel reading

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Matthew 5:9

According to the Reformation Study Bible notes, Jesus is primarily speaking of spiritual peace, perhaps indicating those who help others make or find peace with God. Matthew Henry has quite a bit to say about this one, and time prohibits me from including all of it, but he says that the “peacemaker” must have a peaceful disposition, and he also references the passage in James that speaks of Godly wisdom. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “‘Come To Me.'”

A prevalent theme in the second half of the Gospel of John is unity with God in Christ. In John 15, he gives us that beautiful imagery of the vine and the branches, in which he calls us to himself. “Abide in me,” he says over and over in the passage. Note that Jesus does not say, “Come to a day of renewal, a retreat, a prayer meeting, a liturgy,” but “come to me.” If Jesus were not Lord, this would be “self-flattering superiority.”

But he is Lord, and therefore, has the right to say, “I am the way, I am truth and life . . . I am the light of the world . . . I am the bread of heaven. He who eats of this bread will never know what it is to die . . . He who believes in me will have everlasting life, and the one who does not believe in me will be condemned.”

When he entered the house, the blind men came to him,
and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

Matthew 9:28

Father, help me to abide. I don’t spend enough time abiding in Christ, and therefore, am not as much of a “peacemaker” as I should be. I pray that you help me find a way to abide throughout the day. Abiding doesn’t have to be done just sitting and reading your Word or in a quite space. Although those things certainly help, abiding is a state of mind and heart that can surely be achieved throughout all of the day’s activities. May I dwell in you throughout this day. May I seek you while you may be found.

I pray for this day. May we have safe travel between work and home today. May your grace and mercy fill this day as we work. May Stephanie’s day be full of your love and mercy, and may you draw her closer to you. I also pray for Rachel and Justin today (I pray for them every day), that you might help them get off to a good start in this new semester.

I pray for Cindy this morning, as she has knee surgery. May your grace and healing be upon her this morning.

May we find more time to abide in Christ, that we might, in turn, bear much fruit and accomplish much for his glory in this world.

Grace and peace, friends.

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