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Being Present

MEDITATION:

Written by Marjorie Thompson, a contemporary parish minister, author, teacher, and retreat leader. This is an excerpt from her book “Soul Feast.”

The one condition that precedes every kind of prayer is being present to God with conscious awareness. God is always present with us, whether or not we can feel this reality. In a very real sense, then, the foundation of all prayer is being present to the presence of God. Quaker writer and teacher Douglas Steere speaks of “being present where we are” and “not too elsewhere.”

PRAYER:

Written by Sheri Dursin, a contemporary writer, speaker, and retreat presenter.

Loving God, I come to you as I am,

Rushed and frazzled, electricity buzzing from my fingertips,

Or sluggish, plodding through the mud, footsteps heavy and slow.

Whatever my pace, I have arrived at this precise moment with you.

Lord Jesus, I rest in the knowledge that you will meet me here,

At the crossroads of sorrow and joy,

Of confusion and clarity,

Of stress and serenity.

Heavenly Father, help me to pause.

To listen, and pray, and sit in the quiet

With you, my song blending with yours

In beautiful harmony

God of love, I pray for the inspiration to put away my own plans,

And discover what you have in mind for me

I am listening, I am here with you.

I will be present.

I will just BE.  Amen.

Bringing Unity to Humankind

MEDITATION:

Written by Dallas Willard (1935-2013), an American philosopher, theologian, and author.  This is an excerpt from “Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge.”

The unity of humankind is to be achieved by witness to truth in love, co-working with God. In a remarkable continuity with Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, and Paul’s repeated affirmations of human unity under Christ in his letters (Colossians 3:11), the prophet Isaiah spoke long ago to Israel for the God of Israel: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (49:6). But this was not to be achieved by political or military power, though the Jews of Jesus’s day, including his own apostles, could think only of that. Many today have gone no further in their understanding. By the force of truth and love alone—spoken and lived—the people of Christ, as they dwell in their part of the earth and move about on earth, “make disciples of all nations,” all ethnic groups, all kinds of people. But what that means must be rightly understood if it is to be effectual for good in the way Jesus intended. Most Christians of the Western world today take this directive to “make disciples” to mean doing “missionary work” in other parts of the world, especially in “underdeveloped” or “backward” countries. That is how it has been presented to them. Thus, they look to “the ends of the earth” from where they stand and forget that the process starts in “Jerusalem and Judea,” which in their case is precisely the Western world and its churches. It is right where they live. The “all nations” is above all our own “nation.” North America, for example, is the primary place for North American Christians to make disciples from the various human groupings, surround them in trinitarian reality, and “teach them to obey everything” Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19–20). The failure of the American church to do this is very obvious, but to fail here “at home” is to fail the need of the world as a whole.

PRAYER:

Written by John Birch, a contemporary author on Celtic and other prayer.

 Lord, you have said

that to truly love you

then I must also

love my neighbor,

which can be difficult

when we disagree

or lifestyles clash.

Yet in overcoming

those difficulties

it is possible to see

the miracle that you

love someone like me.

Teach us to love, Lord,

as you have loved us

that this world might be

a better neighborhood

in which to live and share.

The Storm of Repentance

MEDITATION:

Written by Macrina Wiederkehr, a contemporary author and spiritual retreat director. This is an excerpt from her book “A Tree Full of Angels.”

My beginning advice to you is this: Always read the Scriptures with a heart ready to repent. Receive the storm that repentance brings. Let the holy winds toss you to and fro. You will be awakened to new depths as you wrestle with the life forces within. What seems like violence at first will lead you gently into the eyes of God where all is calm and quiet, like the eye of a hurricane. When you finally surrender and stop fighting the winds, you will be carried by angels into the eye of God. There you will rest in peace and lean to see like God. It will be the great harvest of contemplation—through the storm into the quiet.

PRAYER:

Written by Kristine Brown, a contemporary Christian author and speaker.

Almighty God, Sometimes I feel like the disciples when they were in the boat, tossed around by powerful winds and fierce waves. But then I remember how the story ends, with your son Jesus speaking peace to the storm. The disciples were amazed, wondering what kind of man this was who could calm a raging storm. I adore you because you are the only One powerful enough to quiet the storms in our lives. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when I’m struck by difficult circumstances. But I don’t have to fear anything as a child of God. All power belongs to you! Thank you Lord for your mighty power at work in my life right now. Thank you also for your Holy Spirit who provides power within me to do the things you’ve called me to do. I will never forget where my source of power comes from. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

The Root Is Jesus

MEDITATION:

Written by Evan Heerema, a contemporary retired pastor.

It’s wonderful when someone comes into the kingdom of God. That person receives God’s gift of grace through faith in Jesus, and they begin a new life of walking with the Holy Spirit. The new believer realizes that their old life of selfish pursuits offers nothing that will ever satisfy. They have turned their back on the darkness and are enjoying the light of the world, Jesus. Praise God for his love! Paul is filled with thanks to hear that the people of Colossae have come to faith in Christ Jesus and are showing their love for all God’s people. He even says, “We always thank God . . . when we pray for you . . .” They have become wonderful examples of living by faith in Jesus. They believe and trust, they love, and they hope in what God has already stored up in heaven for them. Drawing all this together, we can say with Paul that the faith of the Colossian believers is rooted in Jesus Christ. Friends, my prayer is that you will have faith in Christ Jesus; my hope for you is that in Jesus’ name you are loving others, giving yourself up for them, and growing in hope in all that God has promised and is storing up for you in heaven. Stay rooted in Christ, anticipating the reality of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

PRAYER:

Written by Evan Heerema,  the author of today’s meditation.

Gracious God in whom we hope, strengthen our faith in Jesus, the Savior of the world. Increase our love for others and build our hope in what we know is yet to come. Amen.

Idolatry

MEDITATION:

Written by Heidi Vegh, a contemporary writer, speaker, and ministry leader.

I often find myself in places of discontentment, heavily bombarded with opportunities to compare myself to others and allow the monster of idolatry to sit on the throne of my life. I wish I could be like her, look like her, have a business like her, or even have children like hers. I measure my accomplishments up against unrealistic expectations that the world has placed on me and place the importance of them before God, essentially worshiping the hustle to get where I want to be and much more. This, my friends, is a sin. The sin of idolatry is nothing new. In Ecclesiastes, we read, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” We fight the sin of idolatry just as the people did in ancient Israel. It may look a bit different or be packaged differently, but the sin of idolatry is alive and well. When the Israelites became discouraged as they wandered in the desert, they allowed themselves to be distracted by their world and forgot about God and how he had freed them from slavery. They erected a lifeless, golden calf made from the riches they had taken with them from Egypt. They worshipped the golden idol and made sacrifices to it. This was empty and worthless. However, they believed that this idol would help them or save them. They were aiming their worship at the wrong thing, taking matters into their own hands. This may sound ridiculous to some; however, we do the same thing. In our current world, it is so easy to set things before God and forget His faithfulness in our lives. We become overwhelmed by our own needs, desires, and abilities that we are tricked into believing that we are completely self-sufficient. Even the most devout Jesus followers tend to fall into this trap of idolatry.  We have a jealous God, meaning that He is vigilant and fiercely protective of us. He wants our affections to be aimed at Him and not the world. Not just for His sake but also ours. He knows that the idols of this world will never satisfy. Only God can truly satisfy.  God will not tolerate idolatry and longs to set us free from this sin. When he created mankind, he created us with a heart that desired worship, and it was intended that we worship Him and Him alone. He wanted to be close to His people and have deep loving relationships with Him. When we are focusing on things other than God to fulfill us, we are tempted to believe that we need something more and that God is not enough. Humans longed to be affirmed, and it is so easy to look to other humans to obtain this and not to God. But this is empty and worthless. Humans are flawed, and God is perfect. God’s approval is rooted in who Jesus is and what He did, not by what we accomplish or how we perform.  We tend to idolize our jobs, our families, our marriages, our social media presence, or our wealth. We think that if we have the next best thing, the approval, or the riches, then finally, we will be happy. We strive to make our own happiness and to take control when we should be surrendering.  But even after all this, God is still the same. He is still the same loving and jealous God that He was in the days of Exodus. He longs for us to reach for Him, worship Him, and love only Him. Remember, only God can truly satisfy. We could search to the ends of the earth to find something to fulfill us like God and we will always come up short.

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is adapted from 2 Kings 17:7-23 and was written by Dustin Ray, a contemporary pastor.

O God, You have loved us so well. You have been kind to us. You have given us all that we need. You have kept us from danger. You have given us new life and forgiveness in Your Son, Jesus, but we have sinned against you, doing what You told us not to do. We think and live like You don’t love us, like You don’t see our struggles, like You don’t see our needs. We think that other gods of money, more stuff, looking good, seeming smart, and feeling accepted will make us whole and happy. But really, only you can make us whole and joyful. Help us trust You when You say, “I will be with you.”

Offered Forgiveness

MEDITATION:

Written by C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), a British author, professor, and lay theologian. This is an excerpt from his essay “Fern-Seed and Elephants.”

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocation of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us!” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions.

PRAYER:

Written by William Cleary, a contemporary Irish author and missionary.

You accept us–at times of self-doubt

Thank you, God of all,

Creator of our world,

For allowing us to be imperfectly made:

Because it makes us, if we are wise, forgiving.

Do you accept us as we are?

We condemn people too quickly:

We judge them for flawed thinking, disguised egotism,

Unworthy acquisitiveness, or skewed opinions.

But we can forgive them once we accept our own shadow,

And realize how well we ourselves fit

Into the ranks of a less than perfect human race.

You, Holy God, accept each of us,

Prophets tell us, just as we are:

Provided our moral judgments of others

Are reciprocally generous and compassionate.

Imperfection fits this evolving reality,

For the universe thrives on diversity,

Including random failure,

One of the very preconditions for the unfolding advances.

May it be so. Amen.

Sovereign Calling

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.”

There is another and worse evil that springs from this basic failure to grasp the radical difference between the natures of the two worlds. It is the habit of languidly “accepting” salvation as if it were a small matter and one wholly in our hands. Men are exhorted to think things over and “decide” for Christ, and in some places one day each year is set aside as “Decision Day,” at which time people are expected to condescend to grant Christ the right to save them, a right which they have obviously refused Him up to that time. Christ is thus made to stand again before men’s judgment seat; He is made to wait upon the pleasure of the individual, and after long and humble waiting is either turned away or patronizingly admitted. By a complete misunderstanding of the noble and true doctrine of the freedom of the human will salvation is made to depend perilously upon the will of man instead of upon the will of God. However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. 

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is from the Gelasian Sacramentary, a book of Christian liturgy, which is the oldest western liturgical book that has survived.  The book is linked to Pope Gelasius I. It was compiled near Paris around 750.

O God, you have made all those who are born again in Christ to be your chosen people, royal priesthood, and holy nation. Grant us both the will and the power to do what you command, that your people who are called to eternal life may have the same faith in their hearts and the same devotion in their actions; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

MEDITATION:

Written by Liz Lampkin, a contemporary speaker, teacher, and author.

Faith. A small word with so much meaning. Faith is the stuff, the things hoped for. It is the evidence or proof of things we want but don’t see. It is believing that the God we serve whom we cannot see exists. It is having confidence that He will keep the promises of His Holy Word. Walking by faith in God is a charge that all believers are challenged with. Every day, we as believers are faced with tests of faith to secure and strengthen our faith in God. As we go through life, many obstacles befall us, and let’s be honest they are not easy to go through or overcome. Many times, when we face challenges of any kind, or when we are given a new assignment from God we have the tendency to smile and pray our way through it, publicly. We show others our strength in the Lord. We show them how “unshakeable” our faith is in Him. However, what we fail to exhibit to other believers and non-believers of Christ are the struggles that come along with faith. We hide our tears, questions, and frustrations from others. We conceal and deny our doubts. We mask our fears behind our beliefs.  Why do we do this? Why do we not want others to see where we falter in our walk-in faith? Why do we fail to show others that while we are believers in a very living God, we are still human flesh? Is it pride? Is it a fear of being judged or misjudged? Is it shame? Is it fear that God will turn His back on us? There may be a number of reasons why we as believers do not live in transparency when it comes to openly sharing our struggles with faith. However, what many of us fail to realize is that struggling in faith isn’t anything new. 

Imagine being given away at birth, becoming royalty, becoming a murderer, having a speech impediment, and being told by God that you are to free His people from bondage. Moses, the man sent by God to free the Israelites from Pharaoh, struggled with His assignment from God. He constantly gave reasons as to why he could not fulfill His assignment. He did not believe he could do what God instructed Him to do. However, he did. Imagine having everything you’ve ever wanted: good health, wealth, family. Then suddenly, everything is gone. Everyone around you encourages you to walk away from God, but you don’t. You remain steadfast and unmovable, but you don’t do it without expressing some frustration. God’s servant Job. While he remained firm in his faith, he questioned God, he openly displayed his emotions of pain and anguish for his suffering. He was not ashamed of expressing his struggle with his losses.  These two servants of God had faith in Him, but it was clear that they had moments of difficulty. God is aware of everything we go through before we go through it, and He wants us to be open about our struggles. Here’s why. If we keep our struggles to ourselves, we create a false narrative to believers and non-believers about God. People will believe that our walk with Christ is easy. They will believe that we do not struggle. They will believe that we are always happy. This is not true. Not only this, if we hide our struggles how will that shape our testimony about God’s faithfulness to us? If it appears that Christians do not have challenges in our faith people will become misled in their walk. They will go in blindly thinking that God will instantly solve their problems without struggle. Again, not true. The fact is, that if we don’t struggle in our faith we won’t grow. If we hide our struggles within, we can’t help others see how God works in our lives.

PRAYER:

Written by Vivian Horton, a contemporary pastor.

Our Heavenly Father, forgive us for not loving one another as our Lord Jesus commanded.  Search our hearts. May our hearts break for the people Your heart breaks for. Give us wisdom to know we need to seek forgiveness and to be transparent.  Give us strength and courage to be transparent and to seek forgiveness. In Jesus Name, Amen.

God’s Grace Is Sufficient

MEDITATION:

Written by Hanmer William Webb-Peploe (1837-1923), an English pastor, author, and leader of Evangelical thought.

It had pleased God to remove my youngest child under circumstances of peculiar trial and pain; and as I had just laid my little one’s body in the churchyard, on return home, I felt it my duty to preach to my people on the meaning of trial. Finding that this text (2 Corinthians 12:9) was in the lesson for the following Sabbath, I chose it as my Master’s message to them and myself; but on trying to prepare the notes, I found that in honesty I could not say that the words were true; and therefore I knelt down and asked God to let His grace be sufficient for me. While I was thus pleading, I opened my eyes and saw a framed illuminated text, which my mother had given me only a few days before, and which I had told my servant to place upon the wall during my absence at the holiday resort where my little one was taken away from us. I did not notice the words on returning to my house; but as I looked up and wiped my eyes, the words met my gaze, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The “is” was picked out in bright green while the “My” and the “thee” were painted in another color. In one moment, the message came straight to my soul, as a rebuke for offering such a prayer as, “Lord, let Thy grace be sufficient for me”; for the answer was almost as an audible voice, “How dare you ask that which is?”  God cannot make it any more sufficient than He has made it; get up and believe it, and you will find it true, because the Lord says it in the simplest way: “My grace is (not shall be or may be) sufficient for thee.” “My,” “is,” and “thee” were from that moment, I hope, indelibly fixed upon my heart; and I (thank God) have been trying to live in the reality of the message from that day forward to the present time. The lesson that came to me, and which I seek to convey to others, is, never turn God’s facts into hopes, or prayers, but simply use them as realities, and you will find them powerful as you believe them.

PRAYER:

Written by Rachel Dawson, a contemporary author.

Thank you for your amazing power and work in our lives, thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over us. Thank you that you are Able to bring hope through even the toughest of times, strengthening us for your purposes. Thank you for your great love and care. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you that you are always with us and will never leave us. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Forgive us for when we don’t thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all that you’ve given. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh. Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy. We love you and we need you, this day and every day. We give you praise and thanks, for You alone are worthy! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Attention to God

MEDITATION:

Written by Craig Dykstra, a contemporary minister and author. This is an excerpt from his book “Vision and Character.”

If this idea that prayer consists of attention to God seems strange to us, perhaps it is because we have given up the discipline and no longer really know how to pray. In most of our praying, our attention is neither focused nor on God. What we attend to is largely our own selves, and this in a rather generalized and ambiguous way. Prayer, both public and private, and particularly among Protestants, tends to be almost totally prayer of petition. We have some need, and we pray that it will be met. We are in some trouble, and we pray that God will take it away. Even when we do pray prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and confession, we do so with our attention turned to what we are pleased with, thankful for, and guilty of. We find it extremely difficult to allow our praise, thanks, confession, petition, and intercession to be formed by attention to God, and awfully easy to allow the God to whom we pray to become a mere reflection of our own concerns. At least this is what I experienced myself as a prayer and what I perceive in most public worship. “Simple attentiveness” is most difficult. It is also very important.

PRAYER:

Written by Kristine Brown, a contemporary Christian author and speaker.

Almighty God, You deserve all the glory, honor, and praise I can offer. Forgive me for any prideful thoughts that would bring glory upon myself. Instead of relying on my own abilities, I choose to praise you and acknowledge that you have everything working for my good. I give glory to you and to the name of your son Jesus, Amen.