I Can’t Get It Right

Good morning. It is Friday, October 31, 2014. Today is Halloween! (In case you didn’t know that.)

Today is also Justin and Rachel’s fifth “Hallo-versary.” We wish them a very happy day, and hope that they have a great weekend, as well!

And, finally, today is Frankenstein Day.
young-frankenstein

No, not that one!!

frankenstein

That one! Apparently, today is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s birthday, and, since she wrote Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, this day has been designated “Frankenstein Day.” Appropriate, I think.

I almost forgot! Today is also Tessie’s birthday! 292293_10151048718052975_1468086989_n
She is four years old today!

Tonight, instead of staying home and handing out candy to people, we will be going to our pastor’s mother’s house to have chili! Yum! Should be fun!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah. because they do not change and do not fear God.
Psalm 55:16, 19
Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest.
Psalm 50:3
For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Psalm 25:11
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!
Psalm 109:26
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

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
Matthew 12:43-45

It is important to remember that Jesus is still railing against the Pharisees, at this point, who have accused him of casting out demons by the power of the devil (a rather ridiculous accusation, if you really think about it). Jesus had just cast out a demon. If this demon had been “cast out” by any power other than Christ’s, it would have returned with more than double power. He is speaking to a generation that is determined to stay under the influence of Satan. This is noted by Jesus’s final statement in this passage, “So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Understanding the Indefinable.”

The concept of trying to define God reminds me of a Daniel Amos album from many years back, called “Darn Floor, Big Bite.” The title of the album was demonstrating the difficulty of trying to describe God with human words. It represented a gorilla trying to describe an earthquake. Included in the lyrics of the title song were the words, “You are beautiful; a terrible, terrible sight!” That, to me, is a great description of Almighty God. (These were all my words; now on to Brennan’s.)

“You cannot apply human logic or justice to Yahweh.” Our logic is based on our own experiences and our human nature. God does not conform to this. “If Israel is unfaithful, God remains faithful. This Being of Revelation remains faithful against all logics and all limits of justice because He Is and is unchanging.” God’s love is irrational. Love does tend to be irrational, doesn’t it? “It pursues despite infidelity; it blossoms into envy, jelousy, anger–frantic anger, which betrays keen interest.” This idea of love helps us understand the “divine nature,” which blossoms “into other notions of passion, wrath, and eagerness.”

“The more complex and emotional the image of God becomes in the Bible, the bigger he grows and, paradoxically, the more we approach the mystery of his indefinability.”

God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
Psalm 53:2

Father, help me to comprehend what is incomprehensible! My love for you cannot even begin to compare to your love for me and the rest of us. Help me to understand the passion, wrath, and eagerness that blossoms out of the irrational quality that we call love. I can’t get it right. I try to consider you, and I am baffled. I can’t comprehend how you continue to love when I am so fickle. To me, I am unpredictable, but you know my every move before I make it, my every word before it comes out of my mouth. You somehow combine sovereignty and complete control over humanity with this thing that we call “free will” (I still don’t understand this, and never hope to). The best I can hope for is to follow you with all of my being, loving you and growing more and more into a state of being where I can deny my flesh and its passions, that I might follow you more closely and completely. These sound like the words of a raving lunatic, and if that is the case, I would gladly be a raving lunatic for you.

I pray for this day. Give us safe travel to and from work. I pray for smooth work day, and that we might be able to get off work on time, that we might have good fellowship with some of our church family this evening. I pray for Stephanie, that you would give her wisdom and understanding, and that you would help her to understand your love in whatever way she can.

I pray, this morning, for the people of Burkina Faso, who seem to be undergoing some kind of political uprising, along with the violence this brings. We have missionaries in that country, among them Bart and Jane Anne Gibbs, who are reported to be very close to the violence. Please protect them, along with the others, during this violence, and bring peace to this country.

Your grace is sufficient.

The instance of Koko the gorilla, who has been trained in American Sign Language, is a true story. She apparently, when asked to describe an earthquake, signed, “Darn darn floor bad bite. Trouble trouble.”

Here’s the song inspired by that answer.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Mercy

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, October 30, 2014.

Today is Checklist Day. So make your checklist, and then check that off of your list.

Well, the Giants won the World Series, winning game 7, 3-2. It was a well-fought game, with great pitching on both sides. In a move of managerial brilliance, the Giants brought in their ace, Madison Bumgarner, after only two days rest. He mowed down Royals like nobody’s business. Time to start counting days to Spring Training. Baseball is over for another year.

I’m going in early again today. And I stayed late yesterday. We are snowed under, right now, and can’t seem to dig ourselves out. I keep hearing it’s going to slow down when we get into the holiday season. Bring it on, please! :-)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
Psalm 99:1
Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
Psalm 106:47
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
Psalm 33:8
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.

Psalm 125:1-3

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
Matthew 12:38-42

We should no longer be looking for “signs” from God. Jesus is the sign.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Breaking the Primitive Concept.”

“According to Hosea, God is willing to maintain the relationship even when his spouse has become an adulteress or a prostitute.” This is brought forward into the New Testament, as the woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The people expected Jesus to judge her. “She has been unfaithful, and this divine posture embodied in leadership would stone her.” The Pharisees want just first, only being interested in “the contract.” “The person is expendable in this primitive concept of God.” Sadly, there is still much of this attitude in today’s “churches.”

“But in the man Jesus we see the actual face of God–one in keeping with the whole Old Testament revelation.” He is interested in the woman. “His love moves one step beyond justice and proves more salvific than spelling out the ground rules all over again.”

“The revelation of God’s love comes to full term in Jesus Christ who declares that God is Father.” He calls all of us to the same “Father-Son relationship” that he shares. Paul echoes this in Romans when he says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15)

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
Mathew 7:1-2

Father, help us to show more mercy than judgment. Help us to show grace to a lost world, that we might make more disciples for you. Teach us your way, that we may walk in your truth, and in so walking, not be more interested in judgment than mercy. You have proven over and over again that you desire mercy. How then, can we not show mercy, especially after we have been shown such mercy in our lives??

I pray for this day, that we would have safe passage to work and back. I pray that the work day will go smoothly. I pray, too, that we might be able to get caught up a bit at my job, today. I pray for Stephanie. Father, show her your overwhelming love today. Draw her closer to you.

You have given us mercy. May we show mercy, in return.

We all need to learn that mercy trumps judgment. We are still too quick to judge.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Comfortably Numb

Good morning. It is Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

Today is Cat Day. How could I not celebrate that? Would that I could get a picture of all three of our cats together, but that’s not going to happen!

Going in early again today, so I must hurry a bit. Just a couple of things to say.

ROYALS . . . HECK YEAH!!!! 10-0 win last night to tie the Series 3-3. History favors them to win the Series, now, but they’d better not get cocky!

The second thing is that we will not be home, passing out candy Friday night. We are going to our pastor’s mother’s house to have chili! Yes, she makes chili every Halloween, and invites people over to eat it. We got invited this year! We’ve had her chili, and is most delicious. She uses a mix of beef and venison, and it is quite good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Psalm 31:23
To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Psalm 28:1
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
Psalm 77:13
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
Psalm 25:20
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

Psalm 57:1-3

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Self-Destruction.”

Brennan describes three ways of committing suicide: “taking my own life, letting myself die, and letting myself live without hope.” The last form is seldom recognized in our society and often goes unchallenged. It normally takes the form of “boredom, monotony, drudgery, feeling overcome by the ordinariness of life.”

We start down this road by deciding that the “Christian calling is too demanding, that life in Christ Jesus is too sublime.” This is followed by settling into a rut and forfeiting the “stuff of gospel greatness.” Pretty soon, we are just like everyone else, failing not only ourselves, but our community of faith “by failing to respond to the living, vibrant, magnificent image of Christ that is within us waiting only to be expressed.”

O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
Psalm 130:7

Father, I pray that this not happen to me. Let me not lose hope and fall into a life of routine drudgery. You have brought me into some exciting arenas of life in the past few years, and I desire to continue down that path. I pray that you keep me going in that direction, nudging me, when necessary, with your Spirit. Enable me to praise you daily, worship you in spirit and in truth. I would even pray that I might find myself, at times, facedown on the floor, worshiping your holiness like never before. There is nothing boring about you, or life in Christ. There never should be, and if we get to that point, we need an electric shock; something from you to revive us!

I pray for this day, that our trip to work and home would be safe and smooth. I pray for the work day, that it will go smoothly for both of us, and that we will be faithful to display your Kingdom as we go. I pray that Stephanie will have peace, along with wisdom and understanding. May she feel your overwhelming presence during this day, and, in her own way, display the Kingdom to those with whom she is in contact.

Your grace is sufficient.

I’m reminded of a song lyric that touched my spirit many years ago:

“When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look, and it was gone;
I cannot put my finger on it now;
The child is grown; the dream is gone.
I . . . have become
Comfortably Numb.”

I prayed to God, at that moment that this would never happen to me!

Grace and peace, friends.

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Good morning. It is post-Monday, October 28, 2014.

Today is Animation Day. I am a huge fan of animation. I have very fond memories of getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. I still love a good cartoon.

I’m going in early this morning, so I’m going to get right into the devotional. I will say that we had a somewhat pleasant time last night, taking my mother-in-law and her husband (along with Christi’s niece) out for dinner. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday.

Tonight, our Huddle group is meeting for dinner. I think. Possibly at Cheddar’s. Our leader is still in Thailand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

Psalm 47:5-8
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
Psalm 119:147
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psalm 115:1
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
Psalm 92:13
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:10-14

Today’s Gospel Reading

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:33-37

This passage really goes along with the previous one from yesterday, as Jesus is still speaking warnings to the Pharisees who accused him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Here, he speaks of the kind of fruit that comes out of one’s heart. We get the famous line, “the tree is known by its fruit,” from this passage, as well. Jesus’s words in these verses should be chilling to all of us. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” How many times have wicked words come out of my mouth? This proves that, even though Christ has saved me, my heart is still exceedingly wicked, and is not finished being redeemed.” The flesh and the spirit battle daily. This also points us back to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus insisted that “verbal sins, such as lies, gossip, or insults are condemned as severely as adultery and murder” (Reformation Study Bible notes).

Father, my time is up, and I must be heading to work. I pray that fruit of my mouth will be pleasing to you, this day. May your Spirit be active in me, causing me to monitor everything that comes out of my mouth today, even the thoughts that are in my head, that may not come out my mouth. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, today, O Lord, my strength and my salvation!

I pray for this day, that we will have safe passage to work and back. May our work day go smoothly, and may we display the Kingdom to all around us. I pray that Stephanie will feel better, and that she will be aware of your unfailing love in her life.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we all check our words before they pass our lips. May our words be good fruit, coming from good hearts, and be pleasing to God.

Grace and peace, friends.

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The Priority of Relationship

Good morning. It is Monday, October 27, 2014.

Today is Navy Day. One of my best friends from High School was in the Navy for a while. Happy Navy Day to Rick Mitchell.

It was a good weekend. Yesterday was nice and actually quite a bit of fun. We took Tessie to PetSmart for her shots and nail trimming, and she behaved very well, especially in the car. She is a wonderful car dog. After we dropped her off at home, we swung by the house of one of our elders from church, because his wife is a Notary. We had to get a form notarized for something which I don’t have time to go into right now. It’s a good thing, if it turns out the way we think it will. Then, Christi and I went bowling. We haven’t bowled in at least a year. The alley had leagues starting at 5:30, so we were only able to bowl one game, but that was probably for the best. I scored 150, while Christi scored 127. Not bad after laying off for so long. I would really like to get back into it.

It seems that a group of people from ETSU (my college alma mater) are trying to get a band together for a concert, comprised of people who were around in the late seventies/early eighties. I started working on getting my chops back, yesterday afternoon. If the concert is scheduled far enough out, I might have a chance. If not, I will just be there for support. :-)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
Psalm 31:24
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Psalm 80:3
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
Psalm 71:21
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:18-26

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Matthew 12:22-32

This has always been a difficult passage. This idea of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” has puzzled people for decades. There has been much anxiety, over the years, about this “unforgivable sin.” What I believe, basically, is this (I think it is spelled out pretty well in this passage): blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, at least in this context, is relegating the work of God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit to Satan. This is exactly what the Pharisees have done here, accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebul.” The Reformation Study Bible notes say this: “The notion of the ‘unforgivable sin’ has caused needless anxiety. Anyone who has been convicted of sin by the Spirit and now believes the truth cannot possibly have committed it.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Most Urgent Ministry.”

Brennan asks if the church could possibly have a more urgent ministry than the consideration of Jesus’s question to Peter, “Do you love me?” “Is there any creedal, codal, or cultic priority that supersedes the personal relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ?” Is there any hope for revival or even proper administration of a “social gospel” if Jesus Christ is not Lord of my life?

I think I agree with Brennan on this. While I have, for many years, believed that the “ultimate priority” of the church is worship, nevertheless, if we do not have our relationship with Christ sussed out, we are not properly worshiping, are we? This has to be the most important and urgent ministry of our churches. We must learn to, and then, subsequently, teach others to, follow Christ. Our church’s mission statement is, “We want to see new life in Christ for all people.” We want to accomplish this by loving God, following Christ, and sharing the Kingdom.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:17

Father, I pray for the churches, especially in our country, that they might get the priorities right. It seems that each one has a different priority. But we should be most concerned with making disciples, centering on that relationship of the person with Jesus Christ. I do believe that worshiping you is our first priority, but, as John Piper has said, “Evangelism exists because worship does not.” As we move forward, I pray that we would be better at making disciples. First, we need to learn how to be disciples. There has been a lack of emphasis on that, over the years, and I pray that it can be rekindled. I thank you that our pastor is keen on this. I do believe that his first priority is making disciples. The relationship of the individual with Jesus is high on his list. Help us to follow his leading as we love you, follow Jesus, and share the Kingdom.

I pray for this day, that we would have smooth and safe travel to work and home. I pray for our work day, that it will go smoothly. Help us to carry your Kingdom with us wherever we go, and not to try to compartmentalize our lives. I pray for Stephanie today, that she would feel better . . . she was not feeling very well last night. May your overwhelming love and mercy hold her up today.

Your grace is sufficient for all things.

May we get our priorities right and focus on relationship. Specifically, relationship with Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Sitting In the Lap of God

Good afternoon. Yes, I’m getting a late start today. It is Sunday, October 26, 2014.

Today is Howl At the Moon Day. Is this close enough?

We had a pretty good day yesterday. Our church time went really well. Several of us had a great bonding time during the prayer gathering, and the worship service was fantastic. Afterward, we came home and had Mexican soup from the crock pot, which Christi had started up around 11:00. It was delicious!

This afternoon, we will be taking Tessie to get her nails clipped and get some s-h-o-t-s (just in case she sees this). Not sure what else we have planned. Well . . . there nothing else actually planned. We keep talking about going bowling. Maybe we will do that.

(Source: This Day In History)

Okay, we’ll stick with the Ozzy theme a bit longer. It was on this date in 1984 that 19 year old John McCollum was found dead in his bed from a gunshot wound. It was determined to be suicide. His parents blamed Ozzy Osbourne because their son was listening to Ozzy’s song “Suicide Solution,” from the album Blizzard of Oz, at the time that he committed suicide. They claimed that there were “hidden lyrics” in the song that prompted John to kill himself. Osbourne responded by stating that there were no hidden lyrics, and, in fact, the song was an anti-suicide song, prompted by a fellow musician who “drank himself to death.” A California court dismissed the lawsuit in 1988.

Today’s birthdays include Seth MacFarlane, Keith Urban, Hillary Clinton, Pat Sajak, Jon Heder, Sasha Cohen, Jaclyn Smith, Dylan McDermott, Mahalia Jackson, Cary Elwes, Jackie Coogan, Bob Hoskins, Bootsy Collins, Natalie Merchant, Lauren Tewes, Domenico Scarlatti, Charles Post, Benjamin Guggenheim, Felix the Cat, Ralph Bakshi, and Ivan Reitman. Cary Elwes turns 52 today. He played Wesley/Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. Here is a clip of when Buttercup realizes that the Dread Pirate Roberts is “my sweet Wesley.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
Psalm 97:1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Psalm 80:1
Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.

Psalm 74:16-17
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:64
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 92:12-15
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in me the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that I may obtain what you promise, make me love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
Psalm 139:1
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Today’s Gospel Reading

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Matthew 12:15-21

The “this” that Jesus was aware of can be found in verse 14, But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. At first glance, the Isaiah passage cited to explain Jesus’s reasoning for ordering people not to make him known, seems strange. (Isaiah 42:1-4) Verse 2 seems to be specifically related to this. In the ESV, Isaiah 42:2 says, He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street. Jesus has come to establish justice, but not by “a showy display of power, and not by leading a political or military movement” (Reformation Study Bible notes). I firmly believe that we modern day Christians should take note of Jesus’s avoidance of political issues.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Abba!”

We know from child psychology that, on average, the first words formulated from a child’s mouth are typically, “Da, da, dad, daddy.” Converting this to first century Jewish children, we would get, “Ab, Ab, Abba, Abba.”

“The revolutionary revelation of Jesus lies precisely in this: the infinitely holy God in whose presence Moses had to remove his shoes, the God from whose fingertips universes fall, the God beside whose beauty the Grand Canyon is only a shadow, the God beside whose power the nuclear bomb is nothing, may be addressed with the same intimacy, familiarity, tenderness, and reverence as an eighteen-month-old child resting on his father’s lap.”

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

Father, there have been many times in my life in which I have envisioned crawling up into your “lap” and just resting there. But not enough times. I so often forget that, even though you are the most powerful and beautiful entity in the entire universe, I can still address you in such child-like and intimate ways. The thought of resting in your arms the way a child does in his earthly father’s is so comforting and peaceful! In fact, it is almost indescribable.

“If I could just sit with you a while;
If you could just hold me,
Nothing could touch me, though I’m wounded, though I die.
If I could just sit with you a while;
I need you to hold me,
Moment by moment, till forever passes by.”

My God, I need you more than I even know, every day of my life. Forgive me for forgetting this. Forgive me for failing to make “the main thing the main thing.” I keep chasing after the wrong things like a puppy with ADHD. Keep me focused on what is important. Teach me to pray without ceasing. Teach me your way, that I might walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. Therein lies a major problem. My heart is too divided. Cleanse me and heal me, Father!

I pray for this day. I pray for the errands we need to run in a little while, that everything will go smoothly. Give us a good time together, and I pray that we will get good rest this evening, as we prepare for another work week. During this week, may we be glorifying to you in all things, bringing your kingdom to the people around us. May we be successful at loving you, following Christ, and sharing your kingdom.

Your grace is sufficient.

I just ran across this duet with Jami Smith and Dennis Jernigan, singing his song, “If I Could Just Sit With You A While,” perhaps one of my favorite songs of his. Listen. Enjoy. Worship. Climb in your Abba’s lap!

Grace and peace, friends.

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

What Others Think

Good morning. It is Saturday, October 25, 2014. Welcome to the “Weekend Edition.”

Today is International Artists Day. Since my wife is an artist, I chose this one out of several choices. If you have an opportunity, support your local artists today.

Re-routing my trip to work has been fine. Yesterday, I got to work before 7:45, and had time to put all my stuff away before clocking in. In spite of the numerous traffic signals along the way, it’s a much more pleasant trip. I’m not sure why I ever started going the other way. The work day went fine, but we got 200 boxes in, yesterday, a rather large number, especially of late, so I stayed an hour over to try to get more of them processed. I think they have five or six people scheduled in today, so they should be okay.

Christi continues to absolutely love her job! It is such a blessing that she got this job. I don’t think I have ever seen her happier in a work environment! She is also feeling much better, which is great. I think she got a moment of “positional vertigo” last night, but that normally only lasts a few seconds.

Today should be a normal Saturday. We will probably head out around 10:00 or 11:00 to get groceries for us and Christi’s mom, then grab some lunch, then it will be off to set up for church. Our prayer gathering is at 4:45, and the worship service is at 5:45. Our pastor is still in Thailand, so our other elder will be preaching tonight. If you’re in our area, come check us out. We are The Exchange.

(Source: This Day in History)

It was on this date in 1994 that Susan Smith reported a fake carjacking to cover up the fact that she drover her car into a lake to murder her own children. This is a tragic tale of abuse, anyway, as it is reported that both Susan and her husband “had used their children as pawns in their tempestuous marriage.” It is reported that they both had multiple affairs during their relationship. Susan is currently serving her term of life in prison.

Today’s birthdays include Katy Perry, Pablo Picasso, Craig Robinson, Minnie Pearl, Adam Goldberg, Pedro Martinez, Helen Reddy, Marion Ross, Jon Anderson, Georges Bizet, Smoky Joe Wood, and Bobby Thomson.

Jon Anderson is a singer who, for the majority of his career, was the lead singer for the rock group Yes. He was born in 1944, and turns 70 years old today. Here is an early song of theirs, called “And You And I.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.
Psalm 85:7
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
Psalm 65:4
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Psalm 85:5
But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

Psalm 59:16-17
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Psalm 84:2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Today’s Gospel Reading

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Matthew 12:9-14

Jesus continues to confound the Pharisees, as they attempt to trap him. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is okay to break the law to “do good.” However, I will say that I believe that Jesus enforces that it is better to do good than to be concerned about legalism. After beating the Pharisees at their own game, he heals the man’s withered hand. At this point, the Pharisees begin to plot Jesus’s death.

I remember an incident many years ago, as I was riding in a car with a co-worker, also a Christian and fellow seminary student. It was Sunday afternoon, and we passed a house where a man was mowing his yard. “I wish people wouldn’t do that,” he declared. At first, I didn’t realize what he was saying. But he was holding on to that legalistic view of Sunday being “the Sabbath” (which it is NOT), and proclaiming that the entire world should cater to his opinion. That, of course, is a very slippery slope. And what if that man was mowing the yard of an elderly person who could not do it him/herself? Even if it had been the Sabbath, I believe Jesus would have approved.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Defensive Postures.”

“I find myself threatened, challenged, and exhilarated by Christ’s freedom from human respect, his extraordinary independence, indomitable courage, and unparalleled authenticity. In preaching the gospel I have been graced to speak fearlessly in the knowledge and conviction that the Word of God must not be fettered, compromised, or watered down; but in my personal life, my fears and insecurities lead me voraciously to seek the approval of others, to assume a defensive posture when I am unjustly accused, to feel guilty over refusing any request, to doggedly live up to others’ expectations, to be all things to all men in a way that would make the apostle Paul shudder.”

That’s the whole reading. I quoted it, entirely, because I felt I could not adequately paraphrase any of it without it losing intensity. I have this freedom, given to me by my relationship with Christ, yet I constantly find myself trapped by feelings of needing approval from others. I will say that, as I get older, and, hopefully, closer to God, this need seems to be less and less. There is something about getting older that makes one less concerned about what others think about you. I’ve always felt that to be a good thing. But it’s only a good think if it is in relationship to maturity in Christ. If I’m just being a cantankerous old coot, it’s really not a good thing.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

Father, I pray that you would continue leading me down a path of not seeking after the approval of men, but trying to live a life that is pleasing to you. I pray that, each day, I might live my life in such a way that points people toward you and your Kingdom. May I be faithful in bringing your Kingdom to the people in my life in whatever way you give me to do so. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. I also pray that you would remind me, daily, to pray more often. Teach me to “pray without ceasing.”

I pray for this day, that it will go smoothly, as we do whatever errands that we have to do. I pray for safety as we travel around today. I pray for this evening’s worship and prayer times, that your name will be lifted high, and that all that we do will glorify you. I pray that you empower Jeremy to speak the words that you have given him, and that you would open our ears to hear what your Spirit would say to us. Give us good rest tomorrow as we prepare for another week of work.

Your grace is sufficient.

As we take the Gospel to the world around us, may we be less concerned about what others think.

Grace and peace, friends.

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