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Archive for January, 2023

The Perfect Life

MEDITATION:

Written by Gregory of Nyssa (331-396), one of three Greek Cappadocian fathers who has been called “one of the most powerful and original thinkers ever known in the history of the church.

The perfection of everything which can be measured by the senses is marked off by certain definite boundaries. Quantity, for example, admits both continuity and limitation. The person who looks at the number ten knows that its perfection consists in the fact that it has both a beginning and an end.  But in the case of virtue, we have learned from the Apostle that it’s one limit of perfection is the fact that it has no limit. For that divine Apostle, great and lofty in understanding, ever running the course of virtue, never ceased straining toward those things that are still to come. Coming to a stop in the race was not safe for him. Why? Because no Good has a limit in its own nature but is limited by the presence of its opposite, as life is limited by death and light by darkness. And every good thing generally ends with all those things which are perceived to be contrary to the good. Just as the end of life is the beginning of death, so also stopping in the race of virtue marks the beginning of the race of evil. Thus, our statement that grasping perfection with reference to virtue is impossible was not false, for it has been pointed out that what has been marked off by boundaries is not virtue. I said that it is also impossible for those who pursue the life of virtue to attain perfection. The meaning of this statement will be explained. The Divine One is himself the Good (in the primary and proper sense of the word), whose very nature is goodness. This he is and he is so named and is known by this nature. Since then, it has not been demonstrated that there is any limit to virtue except evil, and since the Divine does not admit of an opposite, we hold the divine nature to be unlimited and infinite. Certainly, whoever pursues true virtue participates in nothing other than God, because he is himself absolute virtue. Since then, those who know what is good by nature desire participation in it, and since this good has no limit, the participant’s desire itself necessarily has no stopping place but stretches out with the limitless. It is therefore undoubtedly impossible to attain perfection, since, as I have said, perfection is not marked off by limits: The one limit of virtue is the absence of a limit. How then would one arrive at the sought-for boundary when he can find no boundary? Although on the whole, my argument has shown that what is sought for is unattainable, one should not disregard the commandment of the Lord which says, Therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect. For in the case of those things which are good by nature, even if men of understanding were not able to attain everything, by attaining even a part they could yet gain a great deal.

PRAYER:

Written by Padre Pio Padre Pio (1887-1968), an Italian friar, priest, and mystic.

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You. Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often. Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor. Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness. Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will. Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You. Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company. Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You. Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love. Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes, death, judgement, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile! Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You. Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of bread, so that the Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart. Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love. Stay with me, Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it, but, the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You! Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for. Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more. With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity. Amen.

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Ambassador of God

MEDITATION:

Written by Angus Buchan, a contemporary author and evangelist  from South Africa.  This is an excerpt from his book “In Quietness and Trust.”

Mahatma Gandhi was the first prime minister of India. He had a quarter of the world’s population eating out of the palm of his hand. He said that he would have no problem following after Jesus Christ; but he felt he could not reconcile himself to Jesus’ followers. This is a sad indictment against us as ambassadors of Jesus. Gandhi came out from England to South Africa as the Queen’s Council. One day he was traveling in first class on a train. When he asked for bedding, he was thrown off the train in Pietemaritzburg, because of the color of his skin. That night he sat on the platform and he made a decision that he would stand up for righteousness and truth. If we are ambassadors then our lives have to be in line with what we say. We are not Christ’s lawyers, we are His witnesses. We don’t have to argue with people about Jesus, we don’t have to try and persuade people to become Christians. The greatest asset we have—the greatest credential that the church of Jesus Christ has—is love. As Christians, we are to love people into the Kingdom of God. You need to know in whom to believe and what to believe.

PRAYER:

Written by Angus Buchan, author of today’s meditation.

Father God, today I come before You acknowledging that there are times that I allow prejudice to overrule my desire to share Your love with others. Forgive me, I pray. Wash me clean and give me a heart filled with love. My witness is worth nothing if it is not infused with love for others. Amen.

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Perspective

MEDITATION:

Written by Lisa Ham, a contemporary author.  This is an excerpt from her book “Devotions from the Mountains.”

The mountains offer us a chance to see the world afresh. Whether we hike or drive, take a chairlift or snowmobile, we get away, breathe fresh air, and see the view. From high on a mountain, the world looks very different. We can see so much more.  Roads dwindle into the distance, and cities look like toy models, if we can glimpse them at all. Faraway hills and peaks may take some work to identify as you see them from a new angle. The landscape stretches out before us, and we gain perspective. Breathing room. Our minds clear a bit. We get some distance, literally and figuratively, from all the things that stress us out. We are calmed. We breathe easier. Our nerves are soothed.

As stunning as that change of viewpoint is, it’s nothing at all compared to the difference between God’s thoughts and our thoughts. He sees everything, knows everything, understands everything. His thoughts and ways are unimaginably higher than ours. And He is love. Because we are secure in His love, we sometimes lose sight of how holy and awe-inspiring God is. Not that we can really comprehend how holy and awe-inspiring He is! But as much as our finite little minds can grasp…we forget even that limited understanding of God’s majesty. Just as we often feel both humbled and exhilarated by the mountains, it is fitting to be humbled and exhilarated in God’s presence. We cannot comprehend His mind or His thoughts, and yet He kindly invites us to draw near. As it says in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

PRAYER:

Written by Lisa Ham, author of today’s meditation.

Dear Father, You are my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Lord. I yield to You and I worship You. Thank You for Your kindness. Please shepherd me through this day. Amen.

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Word of God

MEDITATION:

Written by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), an abbot and co-founder of the Knights Templars and a major leader in the reformation of the Benedictine Order.

The Word of God is indeed a living and effective arrow, sharper than any two-edged sword to pierce the hearts of men. There is another, chosen dart: the love of Christ. This love of His is tender, wise, and strong. Tender in that He took on Him our flesh; careful and wise in that He guarded against sin; and strong in that He suffered death. It is a thing beyond all measure sweet to look upon man’s maker as a Man … a loving Friend, a prudent Counsellor, a mighty helper He! I trust myself entirely to Him who willed to save me, knew the way to do it, and had the power to carry out the work. He has sought me out and called me by His grace.

PRAYER:

Written by Bernard of Clairvaux, the author of today’s meditation.

High and Holy God, give me this day a word of truth to silence the lies that would devour my soul and kind encouragements to strengthen me when I fall. Gracious One, I come quietly to your door needing to receive from your hands the nourishment that gives life. Amen and Amen.

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Love

MEDITATION:

Written by Gary Chapman, a contemporary author.

Growing up, Mary Beth knew her parents loved her, but they were restrained in showing their love. She fondly remembers her childhood bedtime routine, because then she heard their love most clearly. Every night as her mother tucked her in bed she told Mary Beth, “Always remember: Mommy loves you. Daddy loves you. And Jesus loves you most of all.” Now Mary Beth is grown and her mother’s spirited personality has faded under the ravages of Alzheimer’s. As Mary Beth and her father care for her mom, Mary Beth holds her mother’s hands and echoes the words her mom said to her years ag “Always remember: I love you. Dad loves you. And Jesus loves you most of all.” Mary Beth doesn’t know how much her mother understands. She does know that these simple words speak to her own heart because they remind her that God’s love in us is powerful no matter how we feel. Our love is incomplete, but we keep loving people, knowing that Jesus is at work through us to show others the love of our heavenly Father. It is God who loves us more than we can imagine. It is God who gives us the desire to love others extravagantly. And it is God who reminds us that Christ’s unfailing love in us is what matters—most of all. 

PRAYER:

Written by Dennis Yount (1941-1984), a Marine, bartender, and actor.

In the Name of Love, we have come.

In the Name of Love, we are here.

And, in the Name of Love we will go.

Knowing in our Hearts and in our Souls

that what we have experienced is truly Divine.

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Constant Worry

MEDITATION:

Written by Rick Warren, a contemporary pastor, speaker, and author.  This is an excerpt from his book “Living in the Goodness of God.”

You know what it’s like to live in constant worry, don’t you? You feel uptight, your stomach seems tied in knots, and your whole body is tense. But you don’t have to live that way. Anything that’s learned can be unlearned. It’s time to start unlearning worry! God has promised to take care of you; that’s his job, not yours. The starting point to letting go of worry is to maintain this humble attitude: “God is God, and I am not.” When you understand this important truth, worry will start to disappear from your life. Anytime you worry, it reveals a particular area of your life where you have not given God first place. That’s because any part of your life where God is not in control is going to be a source of insecurity and worry. So, what can you do about that? Welcome Jesus into your life’s “house.” Give him access to all the aspects of your life—the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, and even all the closets. He already knows what’s in there. In fact, God knows your needs better than you do. You have needs you’re not even aware of—but none of them will surprise God. When you make Jesus Christ number one in every area of your life, it simplifies your priorities and gives you a lot less to worry about. If God loved you enough to die for you, he certainly loves you enough to feed you, lead you, and meet whatever need you have today.  Try this: Start every day by reminding yourself that God is good. When you wake up, sit on the side of your bed and say, “The Lord is my Shepherd. So, Jesus, I’m expecting you to feed me, lead me, and meet my needs today. I will give you first place in every area of my life. And I will trust you.” As you begin every day by trusting God, you’ll start to see your worries fall away.

PRAYER:

Written by Debbie McDaniel. a contemporary Christian writer.

Dear God, we praise you today with our hearts and songs, we praise you for your faithfulness, we praise you for your great power and love. We confess our need for you, our lives don’t go so well when we just spin around on our own. We struggle and worry, get weary and worn. Yet you never leave us. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for your care over us, thank you that you breathe renewal right into our souls. We ask for your spirit to fill us, to draw us close to yourself, and to work your purposes through us, as we set our eyes on you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Sacred Romance

MEDITATION:

Written by Brent Curtis (1947-1998) a counselor and author and John Eldredge, a contemporary author. This is an excerpt from their book “The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God.

Our journey forward involves a letting go of all that once brought us life; the small story around us. We turn away from the familiar abiding places of the heart, the false selves we have lived out; the strengths we have used to make a place for ourselves and all our false loves. Instead, we venture forth in our hearts into the larger story, God’s story, and we trace the steps of the One who said, “Follow Me.” We stop pretending that life is better than it is, and that we are happier than we are. We lay it all aside and respond to his wooing. He is constantly wooing us on a journey, a sacred romance.

PRAYER:

Written by Jerome (347-420), a Latin Catholic priest, confessor, theologian and historian.  He translated most of the Bible into Latin.

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path; grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching, that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Paul Estabrooks, a contemporary author and speaker. He has written extensively about persecuted Christians.

As I share with numerous audiences my experiences from years of ministry in Asia, I often try to drive home the point that the Church in China teaches us that you can never be too young and never too old to serve Jesus. Our Western church culture marginalizes youths until they have finished some level of higher education. And even worse, we marginalize those who are retired as now being “over the hill” and only fit to sit in a rocking chair for whatever years remain for them. But repeatedly in the Old Testament, there are references to the elderly “still bearing fruit in old age!” And the persecuted church is replete with stories and testimonies giving evidence. In 1997 I wrote a booklet titled Great Bible Women of China in which I share the story of five elderly Chinese Bible Women who completed long fruitful lives of service, finishing strong. In his book, Vietnam’s ChristiansA Century of Growth in Adversity, veteran Vietnam missionary, Reg Reimer, shares the remarkable story of diminutive Mrs. Diep Thi Do. She and her pastor husband served as missionaries among the Stieng tribal people for twenty years. Just before Vietnam fell in 1975, her husband was captured by the communists and was never heard from again. She then did not dare do any tribal ministry except pray. In 1981, emerging from the deep underground during the darkest years, she encountered some very discouraged Stieng Christians in the market. They begged her to be their missionary and pastor. She considered this a strong call from God and courageously called the Stieng back into church groups. She often “stared down” resistance from communist authorities. She presided over the building of the largest church sanctuary in Vietnam. She performed all pastoral functions including marrying, burying, appointing leaders and administering the sacraments. Her bravery and her spiritual authority ensured that no one ever challenged her operating essentially as a bishop. Reg Reimer concludes, “She described herself as ‘only a little woman.’ But her faith and trust in God made her a giant in the lives of thousands of Stieng Christians she had served for fifty-five years. More than four thousand came to attend her funeral and celebrate her life when she died at age eighty-four in 2008.” You can never be too old to serve Jesus!

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is written by Moya Hanlen, a contemporary English nun, educator, and canonical consultant.

All Gracious God, you have given me all I am and have, and now I give it back to you to stand under Your will alone. In a special way, I give You these later years of my life. I am one of those called by You into old age, a call not given to all. not given to Jesus, not given to most in our world today. I humbly ask You, grace me deeply in each aspect of the struggle. As my physical eyesight weakens, may the eyes of my faith strengthen, that I may see You and Your love in everything. As my hearing fails, may the ears of my heart be more attentive to the whisper of Your gentle voice, As my legs weaken and walking becomes more difficult, may I walk more truly in Your paths, knowing all the while that I am held in the embrace of your love. As my mind becomes less alert and memory fades may I remain peaceful in You, aware that with You there is no need for thought or word. You ask simply that I be there, with you. And should sickness overtake me and I be confined in bed, may I know myself as one with Your Son as he offers his life for the salvation of the world. Finally, as my heart shows a little after the work of the years, may it expand in love for You and all people. May it rest secure and grateful in Your loving Heart until I am lost in You, completely and forever. Amen. 

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The Great Invitation

MEDITATION:

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

We have been invited into this fellowship of love. This is why Jesus says, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20, NIV).  In the Bible, a person’s name generally stands for his or her character and identity. To gather in Jesus’ name means to relate to other people with the same spirit of servanthood, submission, and delight that characterizes Jesus in the Trinity. Whenever that happens, Jesus says, he can’t just stand idly by. He is always a part of it, basking in it, cheering it on. A community of loving people is God’s signature. This is why the experience of authentic community is so life-giving. We are taking our place in fellowship with Life himself. When I am in isolation, I feel lonely. When I am in community, I experience what might be called “fullness of heart.” The human heart is forever empty if it is closed in upon itself. In community—the divine community especially—a heart comes alive. To experience community is to know the joy of belonging, the delight at being known and loved, the opportunity for giving and growing, and the safety of finding a true home. We were not made for loneliness; we were made for this joy. When Jesus prays for us to be invited into the divine circle, it is not a casual request. There is an enormous price to be paid for our admittance. The Son will go to the cross. The Father—who had known nothing from all eternity but perfect intimacy with his Son—will now see his Beloved suffer the anguish and alienation of sin. The Spirit will come to earth and allow himself to be quenched and grieved by human beings. At enormous cost to every member of the Trinity, you and I have been welcomed to the eternal circle, to be held in the heart of Father, Son, and Spirit.

The apostle Paul says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.” Paul doesn’t say create unity. This is not a human project. This oneness existed long before us. Paul uses a rare verb of intense urgency. In light of the beauty of community and the staggering cost the Trinity paid to invite us into it, Paul says, human beings dare not take it lightly. The doctrine of the Trinity is honored when the oneness that characterizes it—the “unity of the Spirit”—is prized and guarded and revered by the one true church. There is a line from the musical Les Miserables that gets very close to what John wrote: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” You now are invited to take your place in the eternal circle of self-giving love. Every person you see, every moment of your life, is an opportunity to live in and extend the Fellowship of the Trinity. We have scores of opportunities each day. This is what each “human moment” can be about. Every time you forgive someone who hurt you, encourage someone who feels defeated, extend compassion to someone who stands alone, confront someone in love, open your heart to a friend, reconcile with an enemy, devote time to a child, you align yourself with God’s central purpose in this world. To live in and contribute to God’s dream of community is the reason you were born. It is what you were created for. Neglect this, and you will die a failure. Devote yourself to this one task, to loving “as-is people,” and no matter what else you may not achieve, you will lead a magnificent life.

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is a traditional collect from the Church of England.

Almighty and everlasting God,

you have given us your servants grace,

by the confession of a true faith,

to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:

keep us steadfast in this faith,

that we may evermore be defended from all adversities.

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.

Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), an author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor. This is from his book “Born After Midnight.”

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15,17). Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquility must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian …. Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. He calls them to suffer; we call them to enjoy all the bourgeois comforts modern civilization affords. He calls them to self-abnegation and death; we call them to spread themselves like green bay trees or perchance even to become stars in a pitiful fifth-rate religious zodiac. He calls them to holiness; we call them to a cheap and tawdry happiness that would have been rejected with scorn by the least of the Stoic philosophers….We can afford to suffer now; we’ll have a long eternity to enjoy ourselves. And our enjoyment will be valid and pure, for it will come in the right way at the right time.

PRAYER:

Written by the author of today’s meditation, A. W. Tozer.

Lord, may I be faithful to call people to that which is important to You, at whatever cost. Thank You that ‘we can afford to suffer now; we’ll have a long eternity to enjoy ourselves.’ Amen.

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