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Archive for June, 2022

The Pursuit of God

MEDITATION:

Written by A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), a pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor.  This is an excerpt from his book “The Pursuit of God.”

Retire from the world each day to some private spot even if it be only the bedroom (for a while I retreated to the furnace room for want of a better place). Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart ad a sense of God’s presence envelopes you…Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it. Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think.

PRAYER:

Written by Bonnie Gray, a contemporary author. This prayer is from her book “Why it Takes Courage to Choose Joy.”

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to hear your voice. Touch me once again. Give me the courage to be your beloved. Give me courage to choose joy. I need you now. Be born in me again. Today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Aaron D. Gerrard, a contemporary facilitator at a new church community.

Before Genesis 3, creation was as it was meant to be. After sin entered the scene, creation became distorted. Where there was once shalom, there is now disunity and brokenness. Where human intimacy with others and the Father once created a picture of compassion, love, and togetherness, there is now the marginalizing of people and injustice. Things are out of sorts. Spending time in church, you quickly notice the word “righteousness” popping up with regularity. Throughout Scripture the word is commonplace. God is righteous. Unfortunately, the word “righteousness” is often understood as a state of being. This isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s certainly incomplete. When the Scriptures speak of God’s righteousness, it’s more like an invasion of his goodness, or an active righting of wrongs. It is justice in the face of injustice. It is shalom in the face of disunity. This is essential to understanding our being transformed into righteous people through the Spirit’s work in us. As we become righteous as God is righteous, we are drawn into his movement of righting wrong, of removing the distorted view of creation. Psalm 85 poetically puts this movement of God into perspective. As Christians who are being shaped into the image of the Son, we walk as righteous people, playing our part in seeing that justice and peace walk together hand-in-hand in God’s creation restoration project. We’re not just being made right, we’re doing right.

PRAYER:

A prayer from the Common Lectionary of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Fill us with your strength

to resist the seductions of our foolish desires

and the tempter’s vain delights,

that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with an upright heart. Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Dave Collins, a contemporary pastor, missionary, educator, international development worker, and founder of Paradigm Ministries.

I have watched you, Lord, through the lens of my own desperation. Bills coming due, income uncertain. I have watched you meet my needs, then go beyond the need to pleasures. Then go beyond the pleasures to blessings, then beyond the blessings to extravagance. It overwhelmed me. What I didn’t realize was that, in the extravagance, I shifted my sights to the blessings rather than to their Source. I began to look to see what else you would do instead of keeping my eyes on you. Your somehow became secondary to what I was receiving. The subtlety of blessing is that it is good; it is meant to be enjoyed. It isn’t meant to replace the pleasure of intimacy with God. Rather, it is designed to enhance it. So the question comes down to: When abundance becomes the norm, how can I keep my soul needy rather than distracted? What enables me to purchase extravagance? It is my willingness, my thirst. It draws me to want more. It doesn’t cease to be needy because it recognizes what is good and also what does not satisfy. Don’t become so enamored with the blessing that you pursue it rather than the Source. His invitation, though whispered, still penetrates to the place where I can hear him. “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good…Give ear and come to me; listen that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you…”

PRAYER:

Written by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher, and Christian theologian. He served as the archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109.

O almighty and merciful Father,

you pour out your benefits on us,

forgive our unthankfulness for your goodness.

We have stood before you with dead and senseless hearts,

unkindled by the love

of your gentle and enduring goodness.

O merciful Father, turn us and we will be turned.

Make us hunger and thirst for you with our whole heart,

and with all our longing desire you.

Make us serve you with our whole heart

and with all our zeal seek whatever is pleasing in your sight;

for the sake of your only Son,

to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory,

for ever and ever. Amen.

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Wit’s End Corner

MEDITATION:

Written by Antoinette Wilson, published in the October 1912 edition of Trust Magazine.

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember–at. “Wit’s End Corner”
The Burden-bearer stands.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who faileth not:
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is the “God who is able” proved.

PRAYER:

Written by Martin Luther ((1483-1546), a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and leader of the Protestant Reformation.

Merciful, eternal God, you did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Give our hearts such faith that we may never be frightened or despair; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Life in the Kingdom

MEDITATION:

Written by Dallas Willard (1935-2013), an American philosopher, speaker, and author  known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation. This is an excerpt from his book “Renovation of the Heart.”

The vision of life in the kingdom through reliance upon Jesus makes it possible for us to intend to live in the kingdom as he did. We can actually decide to do it. Of course, that means first of all to trust him, rely on him, to count on him being the Anointed One, the Christ. It is through him that the revelation and the gift of the kingdom come to us individually. If we do not count on him as “the One,” we will have no adequate vision of the kingdom or of life therein and no way to enter it. He is “the door;” he is “the way.” Find another whoever can. Concretely, we intend to live in the kingdom of God by intending to obey the precise example and teachings of Jesus. This is the form that trust in him takes. It does not take the form of merely believing things about him, however true they may be. Indeed, no one can actually believe the truth about him without trusting him by intending to obey him. It is a mental impossibility. To think otherwise is to indulge in a widespread illusion that now smothers spiritual formation in Christlikeness among professing Christians and prevents it from naturally spreading worldwide. Gandhi, who had looked closely at Christianity as practiced around him in Great Britain remarked that if only Christians would live according to their belief in the teachings of Jesus, “we all would become Christians.” We know what he meant, and he was right in that. But the dismaying truth is that the Christians were living according to their “belief” in the teachings of Jesus. They didn’t believe him!  Moreover, knowing the “right answers”—knowing which ones they are, being able to identify them—does not mean we believe them. To believe them, like believing anything else, means that we set to act as if they (the right answers) are true and that we will do so in appropriate circumstances. And acting as if the right answers are true means, in turn, that we intend to obey the example and teachings of Jesus the Anointed. What else would we intend if we believed he is who his people through the ages have declared him to be? Perhaps the hardest thing for sincere Christians to come to grips with is the level of real unbelief in their own life: the unformulated skepticism about Jesus that permeates all dimensions of their being and undermines what efforts they do make toward Christlikeness. The idea that you can trust Christ and intend not to obey him is an illusion generated by the prevalence of an unbelieving “Christian culture.”

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is from a common lectionary from the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

God of the covenant,

in the glory of the cross

your Son embraced the power of death

and broke its hold over your people.

In this time of repentance,

draw all people to yourself,

that we who confess Jesus as Lord

may put aside the deeds of death

and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.

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Worship God

MEDITATION:

Written by N.T. Wright, a contemporary theologian, author, and speaker. This is an excerpt from his book “Simply Christian.”

Because Christian worship is the celebratory praise and adoration of God the creator, one of its key tasks is to tell, in a thousand different ways, the story of creation and new creation. But if we try merely to celebrate creation the way it now is, concealing its flaws and horrors behind pious language, Christian worship can easily deteriorate and become trivial or sentimental. Wise Christian worship takes fully into account the fact that creation has gone horribly wrong, has been so corrupted and spoiled that a great fault line runs right down the middle of it—and down the middle of all of us, who, as image-bearing human beings, were meant to be taking care of it. That’s why Christian worship is also the glad celebration of God’s action in the past in Jesus the Messiah, and of the promise that what he accomplished in dying for our sins will be completed. In other words, worship of God as redeemer, the lover and rescuer of the world, must always accompany and complete the worship of God as creator. This means, of course, telling the story of the rescue operation as well as of creation. Indeed, it means telling the story of salvation precisely as the story of the rescue and renewal of creation. Telling the story, rehearsing the mighty acts of God: this is near the heart of Christian worship. We know God through what he has done in creation, in Israel, and supremely in Jesus, and what he has done in his people and in the world through the Holy Spirit. Christian worship is praise of this God, the one who has done these things. And the place we find the God-given account of these events is of course scripture: the Bible.

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is an ancient collect from the 6th century.

 Bless all who worship You, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same. Of Your goodness, give us; with Your love, inspire us, by Your spirit guide us; by Your power, protect us; in Your mercy receive us now and always. Amen.

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Shallowly Formed

MEDITATION:

Written by Rich Villodas, a contemporary pastor and author.  This is an excerpt from his book “The Deeply Formed Life.”

On the upper decks of the Titanic, there was amazing luxury—conspicuous opulence and riches. In stark contrast were the lower decks, where poverty-stricken passengers resided. A few days after the Titanic sailed, it struck an iceberg, and disaster was shared by all on board, no matter their socioeconomic status…For those up on top, there was a tragic obliviousness. Everything still looked magnificent immediately after the iceberg struck; life was great. But on the lower level, where the iceberg hit, it was a different story. Soon enough, the issues (the water) of the lower level began to rise to the upper deck. The Titanic broke up and was consumed by the icy depths. You can see the metaphor: sooner or later the issues on life’s lower decks, though we remain oblivious, will rise to the top. Truthfully, there are many with us (in our families, churches, schools, and workplaces) who are in the same boat, all unwittingly in danger of being broken up and sucked down. In fact, it often can feel as though our entire world is going under. Pushing the metaphor a bit further, on the upper decks of our social media lives, things can also look great – impressive, even. We like to put ourselves forward as competent, capable people. But as a pastor, I’ve repeatedly seen the truth behind the images we carefully curate…Topside people can look so content, joyful, and successful, but privately beneath they’ll confess suicidal thoughts, drug addictions, marital affairs, debilitating shame, inner rage, and so much more—I see the icy waters rising. It’s a wake-up call…It is in those very lower decks where our spiritual lives take true shape and texture. But notoriously, we won’t take time to go deep down within because we have often been discipled into superficiality—and in the name of Jesus no less. This superficiality works against us as we try to navigate some of the most complex issues of our world, whether related to our emotional health or the complexities of race, sexuality, and justice. How are we to experience wholeness in our own personal lives while being instruments of healing in a world that is breaking apart around us? To start, we must live in a different place. We have to go down to the lower decks…Jesus wants to transform our entire beings, not just the part that shows. Yet Christianity in the Western world is often marginalized as a life accessory rather than the means of powerful life transformation…The work God wants to do in us requires us to look within: to look deeper and be deeply formed. Because we are covertly and consistently being formed by a culture fashioned by shallowness. We are being shallowly formed…by our false selves, our families of origin, the manipulated presentations of social media, and the value system of a world that determines worth based on accomplishments, possessions, efficiency, intellectual acumen, and gifts. We need to be regularly called back to the essence of our lives in God…Christ being formed in us.

PRAYER:

Written by Jane Holloway, the National Prayer Director of  the World Prayer Centre in Birmingham, England.

Holy God, our only hope is in You. We thank you for the past, trust you for today and believe for the future; that all Your promises will come to pass so we can rest forever in Your love. Amen.

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Confront and Support

MEDITATION:

Written by Os Hillman, a contemporary speaker, author, and consultant.

Conflict in the workplace, in ministry, or even marriage is inevitable because you are working closely with one another. God has wired each of us with different personalities that can view circumstances differently. One person can see a situation and conclude something totally different from another. There are times when differences and conflicts just cannot be resolved. It doesn’t mean that one person or the other is evil or sinful. It just means that the difference of opinion or the personality clash has no solution. We see an example of this in the relationship of Paul and Barnabas, two partners in Christian ministry who had a sharp disagreement regarding a young man named John Mark. In Acts 15, we see that Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on a missionary journey. However, Paul refused. John Mark had disappointed him once before and Paul didn’t want to give him another chance. In the end, Paul and Barnabas agreed to disagree and to part company. Paul went one way; Barnabas and John Mark went another. Sometimes, that’s the only solution to a disagreement. There’s a postscript to this story: In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes from his prison cell in Rome and tells Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Sometime after the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, John Mark redeemed himself and became a valued partner in Paul’s ministry. In fact, as Paul faced execution in Rome, he wanted his friend John Mark at his side. Whenever there is disagreement, make sure you maintain support of the person at the same time you disagree with their position. Avoid personal attacks and implying motive behind someone else’s position. This will allow you to disagree and still maintain a relationship.

PRAYER:

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

This day O Lord –Give me courtesy;

Give me both gentleness of demeanor and decisiveness of character;

Give me patience;

Give me love;

Give me self-control and faithfulness in my relationships;

Give me sincerity in my speech;

Give me diligence in the work you have given me to do.

O Lord, who when the time was right raised up our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to enlighten our hearts with the knowledge of your love, grant me the grace to be worthy of his name. Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Meloday Copenny, a contemporary journalist and editor.

Juneteenth, a shortened version of “June Nineteenth,” is a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in America. Known also as Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth was initially observed on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. There, they told enslaved African Americans the Civil War was finished and they were free. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on Jan. 1, 1863, freed enslaved African Americans in the Southern states. But sadly, that news arrived nearly two years later in Galveston, located on the far western edges of the Confederacy.  Juneteenth celebrations give space for the African American community to remember and honor the difficult journey from those years of enslavement to the present day.  America’s relationship with the chattel slavery system brought African people to the developing nation and held them in bondage for 250 years.  The Confederacy’s surrender to the Union on April 9, 1865, ended the country’s bloody four-year war over the Southern states’ secession. And the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified Dec. 6, 1865, abolished slavery nationwide.  But African Americans received deep and painful wounds as a result of slavery — wounds caused by the system’s layers of intense physical, emotional and psychological trauma. The inhumane practice also damaged the community’s relationships, as marriages and family units were constantly torn apart when human beings were sold and exploited.  The effects of those wounds continue today and require the healing balm that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide. 

The human dignity of enslaved Africans was silenced while their personal freedoms were destroyed. They were forced into physical bondage — a soul-stealing experience that gutted their hopes and produced generational trauma that is still being felt in the African American community today. These enslaved men, women, and children who were sold in the transatlantic slave trade were made in the image of God — the Imago Dei. They were created in His likeness. Given significance by Him. Honored with the gift and dignity of life from Him in the same way all human beings made in the image of God are.  Juneteenth stands to remind our nation that though the African American experience includes the brutal chains of slavery, emancipation did come, and it broke those physical shackles free.  God cares for the oppressed, the hurting, and the abused. God’s compassion and action to deliver and restore people physically and spiritually is shown in biblical examples, from the 400 years of slavery the children of Israel endured in the Old Testament to the treatment of the Greek widows in the New Testament.  In His Son, Jesus, God gave the world an eternal emancipator. Jesus is the Savior whose life, death, burial, and resurrection ushered in a spiritual movement that provides spiritual emancipation from the bondage of sin and the fear of death for anyone who would believe in Him.  In our stories, God shows up and offers redemption and resurrection through His love and deep compassion for us. As you engage with your story, by God’s grace, you can build the capacity to lean into the stories of others, seeing and understanding so you can engage in this world and intentionally look for the Imago Dei in other people.  Juneteenth helps us to celebrate the beauty of the Imago Dei in the African American experience. Continue growing in your understanding of this cultural tradition by checking out local Juneteenth events in your city. Experience these times in community with friends so you can share what you’re learning and how it’s deepening your cultural intelligence.

PRAYER:

Adapted from Racial Healing and Liturgical Resources by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Father, thank you for the gift of your Son, the perfect One given for an imperfect one like me. Thank you that Jesus died the way He did so I can come to you just as I am. Jesus, give me grace to reach for Your scars, believing that when You suffered and bled for me, my wounds were healed. Let your peace and power cover and heal my heart. Amen.

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Living in Grace

MEDITATION:

Written by Kyle Norman, a contemporary Canadian pastor and author.

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).  When Paul penned these words, he did not have in mind potlucks, Bible studies, or liturgical services; nor were these words designed simply to conclude his letter in a crisp and poetic fashion. Rather, in writing these words, Paul pronounces a reality that  encompasses the lives of all Christians. Simply, the words of the grace declare a truth about your life. This truth has three components. Firstlythe grace of Jesus Christis upon you. Scripture uses the word “grace” as a shorthand for the entire redemptive activity of our Lord. The entire arc of salvation history is contained in this small 5-letter word. Grace is Jesus entering your world in the most vulnerable of fashions; It is him walking toward you amid threatening storms; It is Jesus touching you in the place of your brokenness and offering his healing presence. Grace is Jesus weeping with you as you mourn the losses and struggles of life; It is Jesus journeying into the place of death and sin, violence and pain, to dethrone their power over your life; It is Jesus rising in the power of God, and extending that resurrection like a blanket over you. Grace is the intimate presence of the Lord precisely in the places where you feel that you do not, or cannot, deserve it.  When Paul writes “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .be with you” everything stated above is declared to be a truth for your life. In hearing these words, you are invited to live in this reality and to allow these promises to enfold you. Jesus, the exalted Lord, surrounds you. Paul does not stop there. Paul also writes about the reality of God’s love over you. I encourage you to sit with the awesomeness of this proclamation. Consider the sheer delight in being able to declare, under the authority of scripture, that the love of the creator surrounds you. The declaration of God’s love isn’t just something quaint we say. It is not a slogan of faith that sounds nice but lacks reality. No, God’s love is extended to you. This is a fact.  Scripture is replete with declarations regarding the activity of God’s love upon our lives. No matter what is going on in life, no matter how far off course one may have gone, God surrounds us with the deepest expression of love that we can ever imagine. And to top it all off, such love will not change or diminish.  It will not lessen in degree or intensity.  The love of God is constant. LastlyPaul concludes this life-giving verse by invoking thefellowship of the Holy Spirit. This statement refers to an active engagement with the Holy Spirit in our lives. This flows naturally out of the other two statements. If we truly recognize that we are immersed in our Lord’s redemptive work, and rooted in the sacrificial love of God, then how can we not see ourselves as filled with the power of Spirit? The Spirit invites us to participate in God’s activity in the world.  We are invited to share in the work of the Kingdom.  

PRAYER:

Written by Louie Giglio, a contemporary American pastor and writer.

Father, thank you for the gift of your Son, the perfect One given for an imperfect one like me. Thank you that Jesus died the way He did so I can come to you just as I am. Jesus, give me grace to reach for Your scars, believing that when You suffered and bled for me, my wounds were healed. Let your peace and power cover and heal my heart. Amen.

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