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Archive for October, 2021

Spider Webs

MEDITATION:

Written by Jennifer E. Jones, a contemporary writer, editor, and online producer.

Lately, the spiders in my neighborhood have gotten out of control. First of all, they’re the size of silver dollars, and they’re everywhere! Just in time for Halloween, I suppose. You don’t see them much during the day, but they’re often hanging out at night and in the wee hours of the morning. Frankly, they creep me out. One morning I was walking my dog and noticed the increase of spider webs along my block. It seemed like out of nowhere these things just popped up. And that wouldn’t be strange normally, but I’m not talking about a little string dangling from a corner. I’m talking about huge, elaborate webs that stretch between trees. They’re massive as though they’re out of a movie. I thought, Who has time to build something like this? I mean, I know they don’t have jobs, but come on! I never see these spiders move, and over night, they’ve taken over. I felt the Lord say, Yes, it’s interesting what can be accomplished in the midnight hours.

Of course! While we are all sleeping, these guys are slowly weaving their homes. Strand by strand, these little web-slingers work diligently even though we never see it. It’s no wonder they are part of God’s creation. You may also be in your midnight hour. You’ve been at work when no one else noticed, building up your faith in the dark. It doesn’t look like you’ve got anything – certainly not anything sturdy enough to hang on to. However, God wants you to keep working. Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep speaking those things that are not as if they were. Dawn is coming, and when the sun hits the dew on your web just right, you’ll see a beautiful masterpiece in the morning light. People will stop and stare in amazement. They will marvel at what faith created and be encouraged by all that can be done in the darkness.

PRAYER:

Written by Ray Simpson, a contemporary author. The prayer is from his book Liturgies from Lindisfarne, which are drawn from early and contemporary Celtic devotion, Anglican, Orthodox, Reformed and Roman Catholic resources.

We give you thanks that you are always present,

in all things, each day and each night.

We give you thanks for your gifts of creation, life

and friendship. We give you thanks for the blessings of this day.

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A Song of Comfort

MEDITATION:

Written by John Van Schepen, a retired pastor.

Each of us needs a healthy dose of comfort from time to time. The child at play who trips and scrapes her knee badly needs comfort from a parent or other caregiver. The young man or woman at college with its unfamiliar surroundings needs someone to talk to. Consider also the young couple whose first child was stillborn, the middle-aged couple whose son died in an accident, and the elderly man whose wife of 60 years is slipping away because of Alzheimer’s. Who will comfort them? When we need comfort, we must remember, first, that God is the Sovereign Lord. He will meet us in every situation with his powerful arm. As an old hymn puts it, “Oh, let me not forget that, though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.” Never forget it! This is our Father’s world. Second, our Father is a loving, compassionate God. No matter what adversities you may be going through today, you can take comfort. Like a shepherd with his sheep, God carries us close to his heart. Remember Jesus’ parting words: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

PRAYER:

Written by John Van Schepen, author of today’s meditation.

Thank you, Lord, that you are our powerful God of comfort. Even as you carry us close to your heart, so too may we joyfully carry each other’s burdens as we live for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Mountains and Molehills

MEDITATION:

Written by Vince Amlin, a contemporary pastor and church planter.

Ben Nevis is Scotland’s tallest mountain. Which, at around 4400 feet, is not saying much. But the ascent starts basically from sea level, so you earn every foot. I had climbed the first few dozen stairs when the path curved around the mountain, and for the first time I got a view of what lay ahead: the longest staircase I had ever seen. My mind balked. Could I make it up all those stairs? Did I want to? In thirty minutes I could be back down in a pub eating a full Scottish breakfast. Grudgingly, I started up, praying just to make it to that final stair in the distance. And when I did, heaving in triumph, the path turned again, and I found a staircase three times longer than the one I’d just finished. This is not God’s best pep talk: “If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?” Jeremiah complains. And God assures him: it’s gonna get so much worse. You think this is a big staircase? But there is a note of hope in God’s reply. If you can hear it from the bottom step. You are meant to run with horses. Not only will you climb these stairs, but the ones after them. And the scree switchbacks after that, and the steep icy section, and the boulder field. You will step onto the highest rock and look down on the clouds. Because you were made for the mountaintop. Which is so much farther than you imagine.

PRAYER:

Written by Nan Jones, a contemporary author and speaker.

Lord, the valley is deep. I’m stumbling over giant stones of despair and brokenness. I find myself tripping over the lies of the enemy — the very lies I recognize as such and yet yield to their evil intent to take my eyes off You. Forgive me, Lord. I know You to be faithful, full of love and mercy. I know You as El Roi, my God who sees me and knows all about it. You are my hope. You are my peace. You are my Light in this present darkness, this valley of the soul. I can see Your mountaintop, Lord. I yearn for its rest. I yearn for its glory — the glory of Your Presence, Your precious touch, the empowerment of Your Holy Spirit. I yearn for You. On the mountaintop. Amen.

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Disappointment and Hope

MEDITATION:

Written by Christine Caine, a contemporary Australian activist, evangelist, author, and speaker.

Disappointment is a sad and terribly lonely place. We all land there at some point in life. Our children move away and never call. Colleagues betray us. The company to which we’ve devoted our years “downsizes,” and we’re on the layoff list right along with the newcomer and the slacker. The man we love doesn’t love us back. The perfect child we dream about and tend in pregnancy is born with defects that will make the rest of our lives, and all our family members’ lives, nothing less than challenging. We get a disease or suffer an injury for which there is no relief or cure. Our investments dwindle. Friends disappear. The one we’ve prayed to find Jesus never does. Our dreams shatter, and our best-laid plans go astray. Other Christians fail us. People disappoint us. We even disappoint ourselves. The long series of disappointments we accumulate in a lifetime can stop us from moving forward into all the goodness God has planned for us—and that means they’ll be stopping not only us but also those God has destined us to reach along our life’s journey. After all, how can anyone stuck in their own disappointment help others out of theirs? How can we convince others of the wonder of God’s promises if we doubt them ourselves? How can we share how God has saved us when we don’t feel saved at all? Why is it that we can know in our heads that God has our good in mind and that he can redeem any and every circumstance, and yet we can still feel hugely disappointed and deeply despondent? Our heads tell us God is trustworthy—but in a moment of aching disappointment, our hearts tell us he’s not even there.  In these places of deep disappointment, we must remind ourselves of those things about God that we know to be true, though they might not feel true at the moment. We must conclude for ourselves that the valley of death we are walking through isn’t, to borrow an image from Pilgrim’s Progress, a Slough of Despond from which we would never emerge, but simply a shadow, and that shadow does not define our lives. Christ does. There is so much we don’t know. But we do know this: If we are to accept the disappointments that we cannot escape in life, we must turn to God’s Word for hope and encouragement.

PRAYER:

Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), a cavalry officer in the French Army, an explorer, geographer, and finally a Catholic priest and hermit who lived in Algeria.

My Father, I commend myself to you, I give myself to you, I leave myself in your hands. My Father, do with me as you wish. Whatever you do with me, I thank you. I accept everything. I am ready for anything. I thank you always. So long as your will is done in me and in all creatures, I have no other wish, my God. I put my soul into your hands, giving it to you, my God, with all my heart’s love, which makes me crave to abandon myself to you without reserve, with utter confidence. For are you not my Father?

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See God in Everything

MEDITATION:

Written by L. B. Cowman (1870-1960), an American author. This is an excerpt from her devotional book “Streams in the Desert.”

See God in everything, and God will calm and color all that thou dost see!” It may be that the circumstances of our sorrows will not be removed, their condition will remain unchanged; but if Christ, as Lord and Master of our life, is brought into our grief and gloom, “HE will compass us about with songs of deliverance.” To see HIM, and to be sure that His wisdom cannot err, His power cannot fail, His love can never change; to know that even His direst dealings with us are for our deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say, in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain, and loss, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath, taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

PRAYER:

Written by Brother Lawrence (1640-1691), a Carmelite monk and author of “Practicing the Presence of God.”

My God, you are always close to me. In obedience to you, I must now apply myself to outward things. Yet, as I do, I pray that you will give me the grace of your presence. And to this end, I ask that you will assist my work, receive its fruits as an offering to you, and all the while direct all my affections to you. Amen.

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A Radical Idea

MEDITATION:

Written by Gary Chapman, a contemporary pastor, marriage counselor, and author.

As heir to the Borden Dairy estate, William Borden was a millionaire by the time he graduated from high school. While a student at Yale University, Borden was president of Phi Beta Kappa and was active in football, baseball, crew, and wrestling. But his passion was his religious work, particularly the rescue mission he established.  By the time Borden finished Yale in 1909, he had decided to become a missionary to China despite warnings from his friends that he was wasting his life. He enrolled in Princeton Seminary and traveled to other colleges and seminaries, urging students to give their lives to missions. Through all of his other commitments, he kept up his visits to the Yale Hope Mission and gave generously to support its ministry. Borden died at the age of twenty-five while training in Egypt, but his influence lives on. As Princeton professor Charles Erdman said of Borden, “Apart from Christ, there is no explanation of such a life.”  True humility doesn’t make sense in human terms. Giving up a privileged life to serve others is nothing less than a radical idea. Indeed, apart from the humility God models for us, there is no explanation for it at all. 

PRAYER:

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

O Heavenly Father,

give me a heart like the heart of Jesus,

a heart more ready to serve than be served,

a heart moved by compassion

towards the weak and oppressed.

A heart set upon the coming of your kingdom

in the world of men and women. Amen.

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Let Trials Bless

MEDITATION:

Written by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), an English Baptist preacher, highly influential among Christians of various denominations.  

We have need of patience, and here we see the way of getting it. It is only by enduring that we learn to endure, even as by swimming men learn to swim. You could not learn that art on dry land, nor learn patience without trouble. Is it not worthwhile to suffer tribulation for the sake of gaining that beautiful equanimity of mind which quietly acquiesces in all the will of God? Tribulation in and of itself works petulance, unbelief, and rebellion. It is only by the sacred alchemy of grace that it is made to work in us patience. We do not thresh the wheat to lay the dust: yet the rail of tribulation does this upon God’s floor. We do not toss a man about in order to give him rest, and yet so the LORD deals with His children. Truly this is not the manner of man but greatly redounds to the glory of our all-wise God.

PRAYER:

Written by Charles Spurgeon, the author of today’s meditation.

Oh, for grace to let my trials bless me! Why should I wish to stay their gracious operation? LORD, I ask You to remove my affliction, but I beseech You ten times more to remove my impatience. Precious LORD Jesus, with Your cross, engrave the image of Your patience on my heart. Amen.

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Sabbath Rest

MEDITATION:

Written by David Strain, a contemporary pastor and chairman of the board of Christian Witness to Israel.

For a few people today, an hour or two on Sunday mornings is occupied with public worship, but for most people, the idea that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath—an entire day set apart for worship, rest, and ministry—is entirely novel. And yet, in an age of frenetic and unrelenting busyness, when technology allows us to stay plugged in to the world twenty-four-seven, when entertainment becomes the de facto purpose of so many lives, nothing could be more countercultural, nor bear more eloquent testimony to a Christian’s citizenship in another world, than a well-spent Lord’s Day.

Growing up in Scotland, I had a residual cultural awareness that Sunday was the Sabbath Day. Even my secular parents spent the day with the TV switched off, quietly reading and resting. Years later, I came to faith through the faithful witness of a Pentecostal friend, and I saw the Lord’s Day as nothing more than a needless imposition upon my Christian freedom, more reflective of old covenant convictions than new covenant joys. When I went to college, however, that all changed. After worship every Sunday, church families would vie with one another to bring students and visitors into their homes for lunch. There we’d be invited to spend the afternoon enjoying a veritable banquet, returning to evening worship with them at day’s end. After lunch, the TV remained silent. Some dozed contentedly in an armchair. Others went for a walk. Some brought a Christian book to read. Often, lively discussion would spill over from the lunch table to fill the afternoon. Sometimes we’d gather around the piano and sing hymns together. Well before I could ever articulate a clear theology of the Lord’s Day, I contracted the happy contagion of joyful Sabbath observance. Were there nothing to support a well-spent Lord’s Day but the practical benefits of it, I would still commend this day of rest as an excellent mechanism for promoting our spiritual best.

PRAYER:

Written by Peter Greig, a contemporary writer and church planter. He cofounded the 24-7 prayer movement around the world.

May this day bring Sabbath rest to my heart and my home. May God’s image in me be restored, and my imagination in God be re-storied. May the gravity of material things be lightened, and the relativity of time slow down. May I know grace to embrace my own finite smallness in the arms of God’s infinite greatness. May God’s Word feed me and His Spirit lead me into the week and into the life to come. Amen.

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Wait

MEDITATION:

Written by Albert B. Simpson (1843-1919), a Canadian pastor, theologian, and author.

Some things have their cycle in an hour and some in a century. Long or short, God’s plans shall complete their cycle. The tender annual which blossoms for a season and dies, and the American aloe which develops in a century-each is true to its normal principle. Many of us desire to pluck our fruit in June rather than wait until October, and so, of course, the fruit is sour and immature. But God’s purposes ripen slowly and fully, and faith waits while it tarries knowing it will surely come and will not tarry too long. It is perfect rest to fully learn and wholly trust this glorious promise. We may know without a question that His purposes shall be accomplished when we have fully committed our ways to Him and are walking in watchful obedience to His every prompting. This faith will give a calm and tranquil poise to the spirit and save us from restless fretting and trying to do too much ourselves.

Wait, and every wrong will righten,

Wait, and every cloud will brighten,

If you only wait.

PRAYER:

Written by Debbie Przbylski, founder and director of Intercessors Arise International.

Lord, I thank You that You will answer my prayers in Your perfect timing. Reveal what is in my heart, and make me ready to handle the answer in the right way when it comes. Help me to pray by faith consistently and long-term, to believe, wait, and then move forward in Your timing. Help me to be patient in prayer, not give up, and trust You even during moments when I feel negative emotions. I don’t want to live by feelings but by faith. Help me not to take matters into my own hands. I choose to trust you, and I refuse to believe the lies of the enemy. I choose to be faithful in prayer. I choose to hold unswervingly to the hope that I profess. Stretch my faith in the midst of the wait, just as You did with Your disciples when encountering a storm at sea. I thank You that You have all wisdom and will answer my prayers in the perfect way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The J-Curve

MEDITATION:

Written by John Ortberg, a contemporary pastor, speaker, and author.

If you have been hitting tennis backhands the wrong way, when someone teaches you the correct grip, proper form, and right footwork, when you begin to try to hit them the right way — you will actually hit them worse than when you were trying the wrong way! If you stick with it, however, eventually your backhand will be far better than before. But you have to accept that at first it will be worse.  When the disciple Peter first exercised enough faith to get out of the boat, he sank and looked worse than any of the other disciples. When he tried to defend Jesus, he cut off a man’s ear. When he promised to be loyal, he fell flat on his faith. When he tried to advise Jesus, he was a devil’s advocate. Eventually, though, Peter’s faith and boldness and loyalty and wisdom enabled him to become a leader of the church. But he got worse before he got better. Notice that this did not surprise or discourage Jesus. In fact, Jesus was so patient with his disciples that we might think of the J-curve as the Jesus-curve. He will never stop helping a follower of his who is sincerely seeking to grow.

Jesus will always lead us toward growth, and growth always requires risk, and risk always means failure. So Jesus is always leading us into failure. But he never gives up on a student just because he or she fails. If you haven’t been confronting when you should and you begin, you will do it badly at first. If you have rarely encouraged people, your initial attempts may be clumsy. If you have never shared your faith with someone, the first time you do it you may stumble all over yourself. Go ahead and stumble. Failure isn’t falling down; failure is refusing to try. We ought to celebrate failure. We are living on the J-curve.

PRAYER:

Written by Steve Ybarrola is a contemporary seminary professor.

Lord, would you help us to focus on you when so many things are drawing our attention. Lord, would you help us to understand that in the midst of crisis, you are the Lord of crisis. Lord, would you help us to realize that you are the One who walks among us, comforting us as you did the humbled in your own context. Lord Jesus, we trust in your unfailing love to us, and believe that You care for us more than we care for ourselves. Guide us, lead us, and make us forever thankful that it is YOU, and not us, that leads us, guides us, and makes us thankful that we are your disciples. Amen.

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