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Dependency on God

MEDITATION:

Written by Billy Graham (1918-2018), an American evangelist and minister.

Happiness and all the unlimited benefits which flow from the storehouse of heaven are contingent upon our relationship to God. Absolute dependency and absolute yieldedness are the conditions of being His child. Only His children are entitled to receive those things that lend themselves to happiness; and in order to be His child, there must be surrender of the will to Him. We must admit we are poor before we can be made rich. We must admit we are destitute before we can become children of adoption. When we realize that all our own goodness is as filthy rags in God’s sight and become aware of the destructive power of our stubborn wills; when we realize our absolute dependence upon the grace of God through faith and nothing more, then we have started on the road to happiness. Man does not come to know God through works—he comes to know God by faith through grace. You cannot work your way toward happiness and heaven, you cannot moralize your way, you cannot reform your way, you cannot buy your way. It comes as a gift of God through Christ.

PRAYER:

Written by John Baillie (1886-1960), a Scottish theologian and  a Church of Scotland minister.

Grant, O Father, that your loving-kindness in giving me so much may not make me less sensitive to the needs of others less fortunate, but rather move me to lay their burdens on my own heart. If I should experience any adversity, help me to brook on my own sorrows, as if I were alone in the world of suffering; but rather help me to take time to serve, with compassion, those who need my help. Let the power of my Lord Jesus Christ be strong within me and his peace invade my spirit. Amen.

A Consistent Life

MEDITATION:

Written by Christopher Bryant (1906-1985), an English priest and author. This is an excerpt from his book “The River Within.” 

There is a two-way relationship between prayer and life. Prayer can be seen as the focusing and redirecting of an attitude to God and to our fellow [human beings] that runs through all that we do. On the other hand, we can see our daily life as something which prayer purifies, directs, and consecrates. This interrelationship of prayer and life was expressed by William Temple in his well-known saying, “It is not that conduct is the end of life and worship helps it but that worship is the end of life and conduct tests it.” Temple is here using worship in a broad sense to include all of life. For in worship, as the derivation of the word from worth implies, we declare what we value most. If in prayer I declare that I value God above all things and in my life, I show that my own selfish interests come first I am making a nonsense of my praying. We declare how we value God as much by our actions, by the way we treat other people, by the manner in which we do our work, as by anything we say. If my actions are wrong or wrongly motivated prayer cannot make them right. If however, despite my failures and inconsistencies, I do on the whole want to put God above all things then prayer will hep to purify my motives and clarify my judgment.

PRAYER:

Written by Jack Graham, a contemporary American pastor.

 Heavenly Father, each day is a struggle against sin and temptation. Give us the strength to overcome cruelty with grace, and hatred with love. God, remind us that our actions matter. We do not fight a physical battle but a spiritual one, and with each act of compassion we build your kingdom. Help us to be kingdom-builders today. Amen.

Thirst for Holiness

MEDITATION:

Written by James C. Fenhagen, an Episcopal rector, author, theological educator, seminary president, and lecturer. This is an excerpt from his book “Invitation to Holiness.” 

To speak of the thirst for holiness, then, is to speak of a moral vision and a capacity for love that comes from the source of creation itself. Holiness is that which expands our humanity, for it not only provides the context in which growth takes place but provides a vision of what life is ultimately about and towards which we stumble and slowly make our way, owning our brokenness but rejoicing in the Grace that alone will make us whole.

PRAYER:

Written by Basil the Great (330-379) of Caesarea, an influential theologian and pastor. He was one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Almighty Lord, God of the Powers and of all flesh, Who live in the highest and care for the humble, Who search our hearts and affections, and clearly foreknow the secrets of men; eternal and ever-living Light, in Whom is no change nor shadow of variation; O Immortal King, receive our prayers which at the present time we offer to You from unclean lips, trusting in the multitude of Your mercies. Forgive all sins committed by us in thought, word or deed, consciously or unconsciously. Grant us to pass the night of the whole present life with wakeful heart and sober thought, ever expecting the coming of the radiant day of the appearing of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, when the Judge of all will come with glory to render to each according to their deeds. May we not be found fallen and idle, but awake and alert for action, ready to accompany Him into the joy and divine palace of His glory, where there is the ceaseless sound of those keeping festival and the unspeakable delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Your Face. For You are the true Light that enlightens and sanctifies all, and all creation sings to You throughout the ages. Amen.

Skill in Living

MEDITATION:

Written by Eugene H. Peterson (1932-2018), an American Presbyterian minister, scholar, theologian, author, and poet.  He is known for his translation of the Bible called “The Message.”  This is an excerpt from his book “Earth and Altar.”

The opposite of foolish in Scripture is wise. Wise refers to skill in living. It does not mean, primarily, the person who knows the right answers to things, but one who has developed the right responses (relationships) to persons, to God. The wise understand how the world works; know about patience and love, listening and grace, adoration and beauty; know that other people are awesome creatures to be respected and befriended, especially the ones that I cannot get anything out of; know that the earth is a marvelously intricate gift to be cared for and enjoyed; know that God is an ever-present center, a never-diminishing reality, an all-encompassing love; and know that there is no living being that does not reach out gladly and responsively to [God] and the nation/kingdom/community in which [God] has placed us.  The wise know that there is only one cure for the fool. Prayer that is as passionate for the salvation of others as it is for myself. Prayer that is convinced that there is no wellness until everyone is restored to a place of blessing: And prayer that sees the community as a place not of acquisition, but of celebration.

PRAYER:

Written by Kevin Halloran, a contemporary pastor and author.

Merciful Father, Your truth runs counter to our self-exalting world: humble service is the path to kingdom greatness. This truth isn’t weak or foolish as the world would think but is a blessed and honorable gospel garment donned by those who fear You, the One who exalts the humble and brings down the proud. Oh, that the entire world would live in humility before You and each other! Amen.

Live in the Present

MEDITATION:

Written by John Carmody (1939-1995), a professor of religious studies and author. This is an excerpt from his book “How to Make It Through the Day.”

The only time that is fully real is the present. Yesterday is old news and tomorrow is full of maybes. This is obvious enough when one reflects on it, but it takes most of us many years to realize its full implications. So most of us spend a great deal of our time daydreaming about the past or worrying about the future. Not realizing the value of the real bird we have in hand, we leave the present to go rooting in past or future bushes. As a result, the personal business that should stand highest on our agenda often never gets done. What is this personal business? Finding peace of mind, and so happiness, right here and now. Learning to live that we savor each day, waste none of the precious moments God has given us.

PRAYER:

Written by Jerusalem Greer, a contemporary pastor, teacher, speaker, and author.

Oh God, help me be here. May I open my hands to what is instead of just waiting for what might be. Thank you for the signs of life around me.  Especially the messy ones. Help me know when to let go and when to hold tight. Forgive me for trying to do it all alone. May I accept help even when it is imperfect. Help me trust that I am loved. Just as I am. Thank you that you are you. And that you are good. Amen.

God Will Be With Us

MEDITATION:

Written by Chelsea Crockett, a contemporary author.

All of us go through things that “break” us. The break might be a small chip or crack, or more like something shattering into a million pieces. And then we struggle to glue the pieces back together. Some wounds are so deep only Christ can bring the healing and forgiveness we need to move on. But when we invite Him into our pain, He not only has the ability to heal us, He can also use us in extraordinary ways. When someone asks about a hard time in our lives, most of us take a second and go back to that moment. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, and other times it can be absolutely heartbreaking. A lot of us don’t want to go there, so it can be hard to let others peer into that part of our lives. What we often don’t recognize, though, is the beauty in the midst of our trials. How can there be beauty in the struggle?…No matter what has happened in our lives, we can be comforted that God is there. I imagine walking through the roughest times in my life but feeling the most amazing peace and comfort. I think that’s what God wants us to be reminded of. This world is full of hardship, but we can be comforted in knowing that He knows our hearts more than anyone, even ourselves. He hears our cries and wants us to run to Him.

PRAYER:

Written by Toddy Holeman, a contemporary seminary professor.

Gracious and Loving God, You surround us with your loyal and faithful presence every moment of every day. We are never alone, Lord, for you are with us. Yet, in our own moments of anxiety we may feel isolated from you, even abandoned by you. Help us to return our eyes to you when we are caught in waves of anxiety because when we are able to focus our attention on you, Immanuel, God with us, our fears recede, diminish, and fade away. In returning to You, we are captivated in increasing measure by your calming Presence. Holy Spirit, help us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the one who invites us to draw near in times of trouble and find true peace.

Individual Revival

MEDITATION:

Written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), an American pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor. This is an excerpt from his book “Tozer on Christian Leadership.”

No church is any better or worse than the individual Christians who compose it….One consequence of our failure to see clearly the true nature of revival is that we wait for years for some supernatural manifestation that never comes, overlooking completely our own individual place in the desired awakening. Whatever God may do for a church must be done in the single unit, the one certain man or woman. Some things can happen only to the isolated, single person; they cannot be experienced en masse. Statistics show, for instance, that 100 babies are born in a certain city on a given day. Yet the birth of each baby is for the baby a unique experience, an isolated, personal thing. Fifty people die in a plane crash; while they die together they die separately, one at a time, each one undergoing the act of death in a loneliness of soul as utter as if he alone had died. Both birth and death are experienced by the individual in a loneness as complete as if only that one person had even known them. Three thousand persons were converted at Pentecost, but each one met his sin and his Savior alone. The spiritual birth, like the natural one, is for each one a unique, separate experience shared in by no one. And so with that uprush of resurgent life we call revival. It can come to the individual only.

PRAYER:

Written by Carmen Brown, a contemporary author.

Lord, May I always present my body to you as holy and acceptable. May I give my body spiritually to you as a living sacrifice. Use me as You will Lord. Send me where you need me to be. Whether to a neighbor’s home to show an act of kindness or on a mission across the oceans to fulfill a ministry that will ignite revival in Your people. May my mind always be ready and alert to renewing it daily.  May I learn how to discern where You need me. 

Purpose and Passion

MEDITATION:

Written by Ken Boa, a contemporary pastor, writer, and president of Reflections Ministries. This is an excerpt from his book “Conformed to His Image: Biblical, Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation.”

Why do you get up in the morning? What is your reason for being here? If you do not answer these questions about your purpose, the world will define your purpose by default. Arriving at a biblical understanding of purpose is fundamental to the way you live…Determining your purpose cannot stem from merely doing—your interior life fuels your purpose. You have a clear calling in Christ, but you must have intimacy with Christ in order to know your purpose and act on it. Excellence starts with the spiritual first, animating moral excellence, enhancing relational excellence, and leading to functional excellence. We are often more concerned with the exterior than the interior—in the life of the church, for example, we look at attendance, buildings, and finances instead of focusing on discipleship. But the quality of our interior life cannot be quantified. Our calling stems from that interior life. It can be easy to focus on surviving, just getting by—but we are here to thrive. God calls us to a purposeful life that bears fruit for Him. We set our standards too low if our only goal is simply to make it. Remembering death can help us develop a clearer sense of calling. We have all been given a death sentence. Unless the Lord returns first, every one of us will die. As a result, if our hope is in this world, we have a misplaced hope. We are called to anticipate the eternal—the true land of the living. Our calling transcends this world. What is this calling? First, we are called to a Person, Jesus Christ. Second, He calls us to express this relationship with Him in every aspect of our lives, recognizing that the final outcome of our lives is in His hands. We are agents of the kingdom to come, manifesting the life of that kingdom. With that sense of destiny, we walk in faith, hope, and love.

PRAYER:

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

Father, Give me a heart like that of Mary’s, willing to agree with Your Word, Your promises, and Your intent for my life. With Mary there was no negotiating, no hemming or hawing, no 24 hours to think about it, no keeping her options open. You simply spoke, and she unhesitatingly responded with a Yes. You have an intent for me. That purpose will have its challenges, its high points and low points, its joys and sorrows, but Your plan is far and above the best plan for my short life. May my soul be transformed into one that instantly obeys you, comes when You call, follows your lead, and believes Your Word even when I can’t fully comprehend it, for Your Word is Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Gentle Answers

MEDITATION:

Written by George Young, a contemporary missionary and pastor.

Today we might paraphrase Proverbs 15:1  to say that “a gentle answer defuses wrath.” An argument can easily escalate to the point where a single harsh word can cause an explosion of anger. If that happens, the blast can deal out sorrow and endless regret. But a gentle word, with a feather­-light touch, can remove the fuse, or whatever might trigger such an explosion. And those who were arguing can step back, take a breath, and avoid incalculable damage to their relationship. In a passage dealing with trouble between believers, Paul advises, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). He lists gentleness among the qualities with which we should clothe ourselves: “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, ­humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). And the apostle Peter says that a gentle spirit “is of great worth in God’s sight” 1 Peter 3:4. Many people today scorn the quality of gentleness because our times have been infected with a belligerent spirit, preferring confrontation, the harsh demand, the merciless fight. As you go about your day, do you prefer harshness and belligerence? Or is gentleness evident in your words and actions? Do others see that quality of Christ imitated in you?

PRAYER:

Written by George Young, author of today’s meditation.

Lord, our spirits are weary from the warfare of this world. We long for your gentleness. Transform our rough and harsh hearts, and give us a gentle and quiet spirit. Amen.

Living Generous Lives

MEDITATION:

Written by Scott Hoezee, a contemporary pastor, seminary instructor, radio broadcaster, and author.

Paul was a contented Christian. Yes, he could put up with all kinds of things (good and bad), in Christ’s strength. Still, everyone needs a little help from friends now and then. And there is nothing wrong with admitting that. The Philippians had helped Paul by supplying him with some money, and perhaps some food and clothing, on more than one occasion. That did not go unnoticed, and Paul did not pretend that he didn’t need the help, or that he would have been just fine without it. Paul admitted that it was kind and helpful of the Philippians to send their gifts to him. He even said that the Philip­pians did a better job than some other congregations he had worked with. Here it seems that Paul was engaging in a bit of back-handed shaming toward those other churches, and this may be surprising to us. But from earlier in this letter, we know where Paul was coming from. It’s not that he was begging for money or trying to manipulate anyone. For Paul, generosity was clearly a part of the whole Jesus package. Living generous lives shows that we “get it” when it comes to the gospel. In response to God’s amazing grace, we give too! And Paul dearly wanted everyone to under­stand this—because getting Jesus right is the most important thing in the whole universe!

PRAYER:

Written by Scott Hoezee, the author of today’s meditation.

Lord Jesus, you gave yourself for us, emptying yourself of everything but your great love. Help us to catch this vision and to lead generous lives of self-giving always. In your name, Amen.