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Practice Hospitality

MEDITATION:

Written by Richard M. Gula, a contemporary priest, lecturer, and educator. This is an excerpt from his book “To Walk Together.”

Hospitality does not seek power over others. Cruelty does. Cruelty deliberately causes harm, especially by crushing a person’s self-respect. By manipulating a disparity of power, cruelty sets up a relationship wherein the stronger becomes the victimizer of the weaker. As long as the difference in power is maintained, cruelty will be maintained. To the extent that the difference in power is eliminated, to the extent cruelty will be eliminated. Philip Hallie’s studies of cruelty led him to discover that the opposite of cruelty is not liberation from the disparity of power. Rather, he found that the opposite of cruelty is hospitality, a sharing of power.

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is a reflection from  the Celtic Rune of Hospitality. A rune is a written character that was used in northern European cultures before the use of Latin and Latin letters took over. This Celtic Rune predates our alphabet, but doesn’t predate the Christian witness.

We saw a stranger yesterday.
We put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place.
And with the sacred name of the triune God
He blessed us and our house,
Our cattle and our dear ones.
As the lark says in her song:
Often, often, often, goes the Christ
In the stranger’s guise.

Blessed Are the Powerless

MEDITATION:

Written by Vicki Kemper, a contemporary pastor.

Here are some things I learned from almost four years of walking with the faithful, strong, courageous, and utterly vulnerable Guatemalan immigrant who took sanctuary in our church: Powerlessness is exhausting. It affects every single thing. Powerlessness will chew you up, spit you out, and then come back for what little is left of you. Powerlessness will leave you gasping for breath and grasping at straws. Some days will feel like a roller coaster ride, others like a train wreck. Fear and desperation will never be far away. The temptation to despair will be constant. Anger and bitterness will nag you to feed them. Powerlessness can be existential or circumstantial, trivial or life-threatening, imagined or all-too-real. You may feel powerless over the design flaws of your kitchen, powerless to change your partner’s annoying habits, powerless to end systemic racism, powerless to get out of debt, powerless to fix the climate crisis, powerless against gun violence, powerless against the ravages of Covid-19, other diseases, or the bittersweet march of age. You may feel powerless in the face of your job’s nonstop demands or the constant clamoring of your kids. So here are some other things I learned, most of them from Lucio Perez, the seemingly powerless immigrant who lived in our church, and his family: God’s faithful love lasts all day long, every day. Prayer is the key that unlocks the door. There is power in community and strength in solidarity. Blessed are the powerless, because they know their need. Blessed are the powerless, because God dwells with them.

PRAYER:

From the Roman Breviary, the liturgical book of the Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church. Published in 1482, it became known as the Liturgy of the Hours.

Almighty and merciful God,

you give your faithful people

the grace that makes every path of this life

the straight and narrow way which leads to life eternal.

Grant that we,

who know that we have no strength to help ourselves,

put all our trust in your almighty power,

and by the assistance of your heavenly grace,

always prevail in all things,

against whatever arises to fight against us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I Release You

MEDITATION:

Written by Hugh Prather (1938-2010), an American writer, lay minister, and counselor. This is an excerpt from his book “The Quiet Answer.”

I release you from my hurt feelings. I free you from my reading of your motives. I withdraw my “justified” outrage and leave you clean and happy in my mind. In place of censure, I offer you all of God’s deep contentment and peace. I will perceive you singing, with a soft smile of freedom and a glow of rich satisfaction. I bless you. You are a shining member of the Family of God, and I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind.

PRAYER:

Written by Jessica Van Roekel, a contemporary author and speaker.

Holy God, we come to you unknowing how you will work things out, but we stand firm in our faith that you love, that you are our refuge, that through you we are strong. And as we stand, we release our praise for your goodness and kindness. That you are great and mighty and oh so gracious. Oh Lord, you are with us, right here, right now. You are in our past, and already in our tomorrows, and we are grateful. God, we release our angst over our lives and our kids’ lives and the circumstances that we have no control over, but seem to be controlling us. We surrender them to you and we trust you. We know that as we trust, we cannot be shaken, we cannot fail, because you are our rock and refuge. You help, you provide, and you guide. Lord, as we release we ask that you would move on our behalf and that you would enable us to trust you even when we cannot see you. Holy One, you are mighty and good and filled with inexpressible love for us and we receive you. We believe you and we receive your love. Let us go into our todays with confidence and face our tomorrows with trust because you are with us. I love you, Lord and praise you with all that I am. I look to you. You are my everything, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Beauty of God

MEDITATION:

Today’s meditation is from the “Our Daily Bread Mountain Life” devotional.

The privilege of worship includes beholding the beauty of God. Have you ever wondered why there is so much beauty in the world in the first place? There is simply no way that this beauty we enjoy came about by accident. It is also not an accident that we all enjoy beauty so much. We are all drawn to beauty for a reason – God designed us to be drawn to beauty! This is why, when we see something or someone we deem beautiful, it is very hard not to stop and look. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the ability He gives us to take in the beauty of the world.

During this pandemic, my wife and I have been watching a series on Netflix called, “Our Planet”. This series reveals some very profound nature and animal scenes that have brought great joy to our hearts. Though the narrative does not give God glory for His creation (huge mistake – see Psalm 19:1), we are happy to do so as we watch it! Our love for God has grown in the ongoing realization that He has made all things for us to enjoy. Now, what many of us fail to realize is that behind the beauty of the world is our beautiful God. He designed creation to be an expression of His artistic character. The beauty of God resides in His splendor, majesty, brightness, holiness, glory, goodness, loving kindness and greatness. These descriptive words help us realize that when the eyes of our hearts begin to look at God our souls will delight in Who He Is, even as we are ever amazed that He welcomes us to come to Him. So as we worship God what we need to be looking for, with the help of His Spirit, is His beauty. When we even begin to catch a glimpse of it, our hearts will leap for joy, and our desire to spend more time with Him will certainly grow!

PRAYER:

Written by Dan George (1899-1981), chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. He was also an actor, musician, poet, and author.

We bless you, Lord,

For the beauty of the trees,

the softness of the air,

the fragrance of the grass.

We bless you Lord,

For the soaring of the skies,

the rhythms of the earth,

the stillness of the night.

We bless you, Lord,

For the twinkling of the stars,

the freshness of the morning,

the dewdrops on the flower.

We bless you, Lord,

For the taste of good food,

the trail of the sun,

and the life that never goes away.

The Importance of Listening

MEDITATION:

Written by Dallas Willard  (1935-2013), an American philosopher and writer on Christian spiritual formation.  This is an excerpt from his work “The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives.”

Practice in not speaking can at least give us enough control over what we sat that our tongues do not “go off” automatically. This discipline provides us with a certain inner distance that gives us time to consider our words fully and the presence of mind to control what we say and when we say it.

Such practice also helps us to listen and to observe, to pay attention to people. How rarely are we ever truly listened to, and how deep is our need to be heard. I wonder how much wrath in human life is a result of not being heard. James says, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (1:19). Yet when the tongue is moving rapidly, it seems wrath will usually be found following it. God gave us two ears and one mouth, it’s been said, so that we might listen twice as much as we talk, but even that proportion is far too high on the side of talking.

PRAYER:

Written by Melissa Spoelstra, a contemporary Christian author.

Dear Lord, I want to learn to listen more than I speak. Show me how to interact with others in a way that helps them dig deep to find wisdom. Reveal to me when I am talking too much and need to ask questions instead. I’m grateful that I can bring all my questions to You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God Uses People

MEDITATION:

Written by James Banks, a contemporary Christian pastor and author about prayer.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m invisible. But I so want God to use me. Ann was tidying up the exercise room at the hotel I was visiting when we struck up a conversation. As we talked, I discovered she had an amazing story. “I used to be a crack addict and prostitute living on the streets,” she said. “But I knew God wanted me to put down my pipe and walk with Him. One day years ago I knelt at Jesus’ feet and He set me free.”  I thanked Ann for sharing what God had done for her and assured her she wasn’t invisible—He had used her in our conversation in a beautiful way to remind me of His power to transform lives.

God loves to use people others might overlook. The apostle Andrew isn’t as well known as his brother Peter, but the Bible recounts that “the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon (Peter) and tell him, “We have found the Messiah’…And he brought him to Jesus.”  Peter met Jesus through Andrew. When Andrew, one of John the Baptists’s disciples, learned about Jesus from John, he followed Jesus and believed—and immediately told his brother. Andrew’s quiet faithfulness had an impact that would shake the world. God values faithful service over fame. He can use us powerfully wherever we are—even when no one is looking.

PRAYER:

Written by Maano Pohamba, a contemporary author.

Oh Lord, give me a mind and a heart like the Father’s heart. Let me be able to know what God thinks and feels towards His people so that I may be able to represent Him correctly. Give me a heart that wants to serve others. Let me be sensitive to the needs of those around me, that I may offer help where I can.

Use me for your glory, Lord. Use me to build up your Church. Let the world see You in me, my God. Your word tells me that I am a member of the body of Christ.

Biblical Hope

MEDITATION:

Written by Christopher D. Hudson, a contemporary writer and teacher. This is an excerpt from his book “Following Jesus.”

Most people use the word hope as a synonym for wish. They say things like, “I know we’re down by forty-five points, but I sure hope our team can pull off a win!” or “I hope one day someone actually finds Sasquatch out in the Pacific Northwest.”  This is a far cry from the hope the prophets and apostles wrote about. Biblical hope isn’t crossing your fingers and engaging in wistful daydreaming about outcomes that are highly unlikely. Biblical hope is confident expectation. Hope involves waiting. In fact, the Old Testament word for hope is also often translated as wait. And this waiting involves the settled assurance that the thing being waited for is just around the bend. What’s the real hope for Christians? That Christ our Lord is coming back to make the world right. Things may seem hopeless. They’re not. Our God is “the God of hope.”

PRAYER:

A prayer of Paul the Apostle from Ephesians 1:17-19.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father, give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Amen.

True Freedom

MEDITATION:

Written by Joan Puls, a contemporary author.  This is an excerpt from her book “Every Bush is Burning.”

True freedom, as true love, rids us of fear. In the economics of the kingdom, faith is sufficient. Faith the size of a mustard seed. The faith that is confident assurance concerning things we hope for and conviction about things we do not see. The faith that recognized the nobility of the poor and the beauty of the arthritic. In the spirit of such faith, one comes to a certain self-possession. And it is security and currency enough for life’s transactions. If we possess ourselves, in truth and in humility, we need not fear what might be taken from us. For all else is bonus and non-essential. Anyone who has been given the kingdom need not fear the loss of lesser goods and more tangible riches.

PRAYER:

Written by Megan Bailey, a contemporary author and content producer.

Father, I am grateful for Your gracious offer to give me a new heart, one that loves You, one that is tender and responsive to Your voice and one that reflects Your love back to everyone in my life, friend and foe alike. How can I access this heart? Through faith – just the same way I received my salvation in the first place. So in faith, I take You at Your word. I receive today a new heart and a new spirit. I will walk with this new heart and care for this new spirit by my commitment to Your Word and by seeking Your face through prayer and worship. Praise You! I receive a new ME! Amen.

How To Disagree

MEDITATION:

Written by Matthew Dickerson, a contemporary Christian author and professor of Computer Science at Middlebury College in Vermont. This is an excerpt from a devotional he wrote for the Fuller DePree Center  “Life for Leaders.”

It’s easy to ridicule those who have a different religious, moral, or even political viewpoint than we have, using derogatory or dismissive terms for those we disagree with. In doing so, we build barriers that may prevent people from hearing the Gospel. Perhaps instead we should follow Paul’s example: trying to understand those around us who do not hold the same views we have, and looking for evidence of spiritual hunger, wisdom, and God’s ongoing revelation. Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus to the people of Athens is a watershed moment in Christian history. It’s the first time we read of Paul preaching in a public non-Jewish setting…Paul, in this message, starts by affirming them, noting how they are “very religious.” It would have been tempting for a devout Jew like Paul to see only the false beliefs of their pagan religions and to dismiss everything the Athenians believed—perhaps with a tone of ridicule or disdain… Paul does not begin his message by telling the people of Athens how awful they are, or how terrible their culture is, or even how wrong they are…Instead, he finds something about the Athenian culture he can affirm: a glimmer of wisdom and truth even in a false belief system…Rather than building more barriers through antagonistic language, Paul seeks to break down barriers and open doors of understanding…It’s easy for Christians to look at our culture and ridicule those who don’t hold our worldview—who have a different religious, moral, or even political viewpoint. It’s common in our culture to use derogatory or belittling terms to describe those we disagree with. Sadly, even those who seek to serve Christ can fall into this behavior. When we do so, however, we build more barriers that make it harder to have real communication and understanding; such language and dismissiveness may hinder people from hearing the very Gospel we want them to hear. Perhaps instead we should follow Paul’s example: trying to understand those around us who do not hold the same views we have—looking for and affirming evidence of spiritual hunger, and even a type of wisdom.

PRAYER:

Written by Matthew Dickerson, the author of today’s meditation.

Thank you, Lord, for how you revealed truth about yourself to the people of Athens even through their pagan myths, helping to prepare their hearts for the true Gospel that would be preached to them by Paul. Thank you for Paul’s gentleness in preaching the good news of Jesus in a secular setting, and for his example of getting to know something about the secular culture to which he was bearing witness of the truth. Help me to learn from Paul’s example. Give me a deeper understanding of those around me that will enable me to build bridges rather than walls. Amen.

The Study of God

MEDITATION:

Written by James I. Packer (1926-2020), an English-born Canadian evangelical theologian, cleric and writer. This is an excerpt from his book “Knowing God.”

We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.

PRAYER:

Written by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), an English Baptist preacher, known as the “Prince of Preachers.”

Oh! dear Savior, we come to You and we remember what our state is, and the condition we are in encourages us to come to You  now as beggars, as dependents upon Your heavenly charity. You are a Savior and as such Your are on the outlook for those that need saving, and here we are, here we come. We are the men and women You are looking for, needing a Savior.