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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

The Narrow Path

MEDITATION:

Written by Martin Luther (1483-1546), a German priest, theologian, author, and hymn writer who was a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation. This is an excerpt from his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.

The life of a Christian is hard as if he were walking on a narrow path, in fact, on nothing but razors. Beneath us in the world is the devil, who is continually snapping at us with his jaws in order to bring on impatience, despair, and murmuring against God. In addition, the world is advancing on us, and it refuses to yield to us or to let us pass. And around our neck lies our own flesh. Thus, we are hemmed in on every side. The way itself is so narrow that it would be difficult enough even if there were no dangers or obstacles in the way. Nevertheless, we have to go through or become the property of the world and the devil. Think about this and guide yourself accordingly. If you want to be a Christian, then be one. It will never be any different. You will never make the way any wider…But let this be your comfort: first, that God is standing next to you; and second, that after you have gone through, you will enter a beautiful and wide room.

PRAYER:

Written by Joyce Meyer, a contemporary speaker, teacher, and writer.

Father, help me to choose the narrow path today—in my thoughts, with my words, and through my actions. When my feelings rise up and I’m tempted to take the broad path, please strengthen me by Your Spirit and help me to make wise decisions I will be happy with later. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Bursting the Bubble

MEDITATION:

Written by Meghan Kleppinger, a contemporary author and activist.

Washington D.C. is a politically powerful city and it’s easy for young professionals working there to get carried away by all of its bells and whistles. As a recent college graduate who experienced this firsthand, I found that it doesn’t take long to adapt to the culture. It’s an exciting place to be, but the problem with becoming a full-blown Washingtonian is that too often, people forget why they are there to begin with. Most people move to Washington to support a cause or to work for a politician representing a state. I, for example, worked for a non-profit that worked to preserve family values, and many of my peers worked for their state senators or representatives. To help pop the D.C. bubble we were living in, several of us developed the discipline of reading our hometown papers online each morning. By reading the Richmond Times-Dispatch every day, I was reminded of my roots, culture, where I was from, and for whom I was really working. This practice, along with repeating our mantra, “this isn’t the real world,” enabled many of us to start each day in Washington as Virginians, Pennsylvanians, Texans, etc., representing the states we called home. Sometimes life gets tough, circumstances cause confusion and doubt, purpose becomes unclear, and faith seems irrelevant and far removed from everyday struggles. It doesn’t take much for the line between the world we currently live in, and the promise of our eternal home, to become blurry – it’s those times when “home” with Christ sometimes seems so far away. For me, these bleak moments almost always coincide with periods of times that I’ve stepped away from praying and spending time in God’s Word each day. It’s not that prayer and study act like a magic formula changing my circumstances, though sometimes God does change them; usually, it is simply this set-aside time that causes me to regroup and change my perspective of the circumstances. God is greater than man. He’s our creator, sustainer and He’s in control of everything. He loves us, gives us purpose, and promises us a future with Him. This life is temporal and is nothing in comparison to spending eternity with Christ. How do I know these things? It’s all in God’s Word. Revisiting scripture and praying on a daily basis acts as a needle bursting the bubble I live in. Like reading my hometown paper each day, scripture reminds me that this world doesn’t own me. No matter how long I’m on earth, it’s not my home and I’m not here to represent it – instead, I need to be an ambassador for my Father until it’s time to go home to Him.

PRAYER:

Written by Callie Logan, a contemporary teacher and writer.

Lord, we ask today for more of Your Holy Spirit in our lives. Lord, it can be easy for us to become consumed with the fears that surround us in life, but we know that just as Your eye is indeed on the sparrow, so also do You care for and see us. Teach us today to become more reliant on You. Bring us into a greater discernment of how You operate, so that we may come into a deeper understanding that all we see with natural eyes is not all that is. Today we ask for eyes to see Your hand in all matters, and hearts open to Your work. Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Sarah Phillips, a contemporary author.

There is much written today about how the world has lost touch with God and morality. It’s easy to view the past with rose-tinted glasses, to believe in “the good old days” or reminisce about a golden era.  We do this in the Church all the time, often pointing to one practice that, if resurrected, would surely turn this generation around. “If only the women still wore head coverings in church… ” “If only we sang ancient hymns… ” “If only young men and women got married earlier… ” Don’t read me wrong here… these issues are important. But the stark reality is, every generation has fallen short of God’s glory. Every generation has sinned. Does this sound familiar? “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” How often have I been tempted to mutter these words when encountering today’s teenagers? But this quote is attributed to Socrates by Plato. Apparently, teens weren’t doing so well in the ancient world either. The fallen nature of man has followed us through the ages, plaguing the youth and old alike. Our broken nature manifests itself in so many ways… from the darkest sins to our lack of basic manners and courtesy. Jesus himself seemed to grow weary of the sins of his own day. I imagine the opening scripture was expressed with a mix of sadness and righteous anger. But what is the rest of the story? Even as his sinful followers surrounded him, Jesus healed the spiritual and physical afflictions of a possessed boy. We see here that going back to the “good old days” doesn’t have the power to save us. It’s the person of Jesus Christ who saves.  Is the world worse today than it was yesterday? Does it matter? God’s patience and mercy for our “perverse and unbelieving generation” reveal the depths of his divine love. And those forgiven the most sins have the greatest number of reasons to rejoice.

PRAYER:

Written by William Barclay (1907-1978), a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, professor of Divinity, and minister in the Church of Scotland.

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Max Lucado, a contemporary pastor, speaker, and author. This is an excerpt from his book “Live Loved.”

It’s a simple promise. . . . Everyone who believes in [him] will have eternal life (John 3:15). The simplicity troubles many people. We expect a more complicated cure, a more elaborate treatment….We expect a more proactive assignment, to have to conjure up a remedy for our sin. Some mercy seekers have donned hair shirts, climbed cathedral steps on their knees, or traversed hot rocks on bare feet. Others of us have written our own Bible verse: “God helps those who help themselves” (Popular Opinion 1:1). We’ll fix ourselves, thank you. We’ll make up for our mistakes with contributions, our guilt with busyness. We’ll overcome failures with hard work. We’ll find salvation the old-fashioned way: we’ll earn it. Christ, in contrast, says: “Your part is to trust. Trust me to do what you can’t.” By the way, you take similar steps of trust daily, even hourly. You believe the chair will support you, so you set your weight on it. You believe water will hydrate you, so you swallow it. You trust the work of the light switch, so you flip it. You have faith the doorknob will work, so you turn it. You regularly trust power you cannot see to do a work you cannot accomplish. Jesus invites you to do the same with him. Just him. Not . . . any other leader…Not even you.  You can’t fix you. Look to Jesus . . . and believe.  —From 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE

PRAYER:

Written by Max Lucado, the author of today’s meditation.

 Lord, you have invited us to trust you for salvation and for everything we need. You’ve promised rest and restoration if we will simply trust in you. Teach us to trust you more. Forgive us when we struggle to do what you long to do for us, amen.

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United To God

MEDITATION:

Written by Julian of Norwich (1342-?), an English anchoress (a woman who chooses to withdraw from the world to live a solitary life of prayer and mortification. This is an excerpt from her work “Showings.”

God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God. In this little thing, I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it. But what did I see in it? It is that God is the Creator and the protector and the lover. For until I am substantially united to God, I can never have perfect rest or true happiness, until, that is, I am so attached to God that there can be no created thing between my God and me.

PRAYER:

Written by John Eldredge, a contemporary American author, counselor and lecturer on Christianity.

 Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and choosing me before You made the world. You are my true Father – my Creator, my Redeemer, my Sustainer, and the True End of all things, including my life. I love You. I worship You and I trust You. I give myself over to You now to be one with You in all things as Jesus is one with You. Thank You for proving Your love for me by sending Jesus. I receive Him and all His life and all His work that You provided for me. Thank You for including me in Christ, for forgiving me my sins, for granting me His integrity and righteousness, for making me complete in Him. Thank You for making me alive with Christ, raising me with Him, seating me with Him at Your right hand, establishing me in His authority, and anointing me with Your love and Your Spirit and Your favor. I receive it all with thanks and give its total claim to my life. And I bring the life and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ over my home and over my family this day, over my life and throughout my household and my vehicles and my work and my finances and throughout my domain. I stake it there in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Mother Teresa (1910-1997), an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary who served the poor of Calcutta. This is an excerpt from her book “My Life for the Poor.”

I’ll never forget during the Bangladesh suffering: we had ten million people in and around Calcutta. I asked the government of India to allow a number of other congregations to come to our aid, to help us, because we were working the whole time. They allowed them to come: about fifteen or sixteen different sisters came to help us, and each one, on leaving Calcutta, said the same thing: “I have received much more than I have given and I can never be the same person again; because I have touched Christ, I have understood what love is. What it is to love and to be loved!” … Giving needs not be confined to money or material gifts, but I would like more people to give their hands to serve and their hearts to love—to recognize the poor in their own homes, towns, and countries, and to reach out to them in love and compassion.

PRAYER:

Written by Janel Breitenstein, a contemporary author.

 God, as people head to school and work, I ask that You would help us to love one another through our work. Thank you for the roles each person in our community plays so we can all benefit! I ask Your forgiveness for the ways we work for our own glory, control, and comfort; for others’ approval of us; and out of fear. Creator, reorder our worship so that we’re not making a name for ourselves, but so your Name and renown are our goals. Turn the eyes of our community’s hearts outward, so that we are inspired to use our gifts to serve. Like Ruth, multiply our faith in you and our service performed out of love so it produces far more than we’d ever comprehend.  Amen.

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Spiritual Joy

MEDITATION:

Written by Richard Rohr, a contemporary Franciscan friar, ecumenical teacher, and author. This is an excerpt from his book “Everything Belongs.”

We are desperately afraid of having no power. We fear loneliness, poverty, and boredom. We fear failure terribly. Nonviolence, nonpleasure, nonaggression are also part of our American shadow. These are the things that we avoid to create our character armor. We lust after the king of aggression that allows us to be dominant, to be powerful. We settle for a certain kind of pleasure that really isn’t joyous. Sometimes pleasure, as a liminoid [secularized sacred] experience, is the avoidance of joy. It is to entertain one part of our body, perhaps, but at the price of the inner glow and juice of our whole being. Poverty is the ultimate shadow for many of us. We cannot imagine being happy without our money. We would be petrified to be without our many options. We’ve substituted freedom of choice for the freedom of the soul which alone gives spiritual joy.

PRAYER:

Written by Debbie McDaniel, a contemporary Christian author.

 Dear God, at the start of each day, help us to recognize you above all else. Enlighten the eyes of our heart that we might see you, and notice how you’re at work through our lives. Give us wisdom to make the best choices, fill us with a desire to seek after you more than anything else in this world. Let your Spirit and power breathe in us, through us, again, fresh and new. Thank you that you are greater than anything we may face in our day. Thank you that your presence goes with us, and that your joy is never dependent on our circumstances, but it is our true and lasting strength, no matter what we’re up against. We ask that your peace lead us, that it would guard our hearts and minds in you. We ask for your grace to cover our lives this day. We love you Lord…we need you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Bill Kynes, a contemporary pastor. This is an excerpt from his book “Seven Pressing Questions: Addressing Critical Challenges to Christian Faith.”

Why any creature God created should ever turn away from Him is the great conundrum of the cosmos. And the Bible gives us no answer to that question, perhaps because in the good world God created evil is ultimately irrational and therefore inexplicable. I can’t say why God couldn’t have made a world in which He knew every person would live in perfect faith and obedience before Him. Therefore, I can’t say why there is a hell. But I can suggest what hell does—that is, what it tells us about God. Three things come to mind: First, hell demonstrates God’s holiness. However, we conceive of the love of God, we must recognize that it is always a holy love. It’s only our meager understanding of the utter purity of God’s holiness, and of His absolute abhorrence of all evil, that makes it difficult for us to conceive of the appropriateness of hell as God’s response to it. Our thoughts of God are too shallow, too tame, and domesticated. We have made God too much in our own image, rather than allowing Him to shape our thinking. Consequently, we don’t understand the sinfulness of sin. Instead of thinking, “Sin is not so bad; how extreme of God to punish it in hell,” we should think, “What must sin be like, if it results in sinners justly going to hell?” Hell shows us just how holy God is—such is His revulsion of our sin. Second, we can say that hell vindicates God’s justice. The existence of hell testifies forever that in God’s universe, righteousness rules. Let there be no mistake; evil will get its due. When God says the wages of sin is death, He means it. When God punishes sin, He will be seen to be just in all His ways. God will be glorified even in the display of His wrath. And finally, and perhaps paradoxically, the existence of hell magnifies God’s grace. If I came up to you and said, “I just paid your bill,” you’d be grateful, I’m sure. But the degree of your gratitude would rise dramatically if you discovered that it wasn’t your bill for lunch that I paid, but it was the entire principal of your house mortgage! In a sense, this is what hell says to us. It is the measure of God’s grace; this is the length He went to save us. Hell is the bill He has paid. … If you say, “The God I believe in would never send anyone to hell,” then you will never know the true depth of the love of the God who reveals Himself in the Bible—the God of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the God who in love bore hell itself for us. His is not a sentimental love, but a holy love—a love described by Isaac Watts as being “so amazing, so divine,” that it “demands my soul, my life, my all.”  How could a loving God send people to hell? That’s a question we will all wrestle with to some extent. But the question we should ask is this: how could a holy God allow me into His heaven? That’s the question that points us to the grace of God in the cross of Christ. In Jesus Christ, God rescues us from that broad road that leads to destruction—eternal destruction, and in Him God puts us on that narrow path that leads to life—eternal life.

PRAYER:

Written by Augustine of Hippo (354-430), an early Christian theologian and philosopher. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius (modern day Annaba, Algeria) and is viewed as one of the most important church fathers in Western Christianity.

 God to glorify. Jesus to imitate. Salvation to work out with fear and trembling. A body to use rightly. Sins to repent. Virtues to acquire. Hell to avoid. Heaven to gain. Eternity to hold in mind. Time to profit by. Neighbors to serve. The world to enjoy. Creation to use rightly. Slights to endure patiently. Kindness to offer willingly. Justice to strive for. Temptations to overcome. Death perhaps to suffer. In all things, God’s love to sustain you.

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MEDITATION:

Written by W.E. Sangster (1900-1960), a British preacher. This is an excerpt from his work “What if Calamity Comes?”

Calamity isn’t always the outcome of obvious sin. It overtakes the saints. Untimely death has nipped the life of the noblest souls, and not death merely, but death through agonizing pain … Nor is that the problem at its worst. Hardly a year passes but some great disaster stuns the public mind: the Tay Bridge disaster; the ramming of the Victoria, the loss of the Titanic; the wreck of the R101. No easy answer leaps to our lips. The man who finds in all such disasters the judgment of God on a wicked people is both unconvincing and inhuman. Choice souls perish in such an hour, and these calamities visit a thrifty and industrious people as well as a profligate and frivolous one. Disaster, like the rain, falls on the just and the unjust. The horror of it strikes one dumb, and when speech returns, a tempest of questions rises to the lips. Does God guide us? Is there knowledge in the Most High? Does he lead us to the lip of a calamity and leave us to fall in? The problem demands an attempt at an answer because any day might thrust it on our notice again and because it challenges faith. If anguish comes, can doubt be far behind? It is the opinion of the writer that the perfect will of God is constantly thwarted by human ignorance, stupidity, carelessness, and sin. No other view seems tenable as one looks at this chaotic world. It is a consequence of God’s great gift to men of freedom, and without that freedom, we should be marionettes and not men. We are born, moreover, into a society and a world where the perfect will of God has been thwarted for ages, and we are bound up in the bundle of life with our fellows. We gain immeasurably by these relationships. We can love one another, serve, help, and influence one another; necessarily we can also harm one another as well. We could not have the blessing without the risk of the bane. God took the risk. Everything sweet in this life has come to us from others. Our mothers suffered pain to give us birth. Our fathers worked for us. When we were ill, doctors and nurses bent their strength and skill to make us better, and our dear ones turned night into day as they watched at our side. Nor were we allowed to grow up untutored in mind or soul. We were educated. All that clever men and women had ever discovered, or thought, was put before us in ways we could take in, and the best the world has ever learned in things spiritual was made attractive too. We learned the name of Jesus. The imperishable stories of the Bible were told us, and all along the path of life precious things, the most precious, have come to us from other people. Friendship, counsel, encouragement, and love streaming in on us from others because God has set us here in a great family life and made us so that our lives intertwine. It should not surprise us, in the light of all we gain, that there is some risk of loss as well. When God made us so that we could love and help one another, he exposed his family to the possibility that they would hate and harm one another. Necessarily. The one goes with the other. And sin came in, with its long entail of sorrow and suffering, and we can be hurt at any time by the folly, carelessness, or crime of another. But would you rather live in a world in which that couldn’t happen? Do you wish God had so made us that we could never influence each other, never be friends, never guide, comfort, or help each other … never love? It would be a hateful and unendurable existence, loathsome to us all.

PRAYER:

Written by Aaron Brown, a contemporary writer, teacher, and visual artist.

 Dear God, this season I have experienced and bore witness to the loss of relationships, jobs, and even faith. The news keeps telling me all that is going wrong, and sometimes I just can’t see anything that is going right. In times like these, I think of your servant Job and how for a season of life he lost. He lost a lot…family, friends, and possessions. Job was even stricken with sickness. In the end, though, you restored him. You renewed his strength. Please look upon your servant with mercy and favor. Lord, help me to keep my eyes focused on you. I ask that you either restore what has been lost or help me to find something new, something greater in the end. Please bless me in a way that I can be a blessing upon others during such a turbulent season for many people. If I can maintain my trust and my hope in you, and not give up, you will renew me, God. Please help me to persevere in the hope that better days are ahead. Amen.

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Do Not Be Afraid

MEDITATION:

Written by Norman Shawchuck, a contemporary teacher, University consultant, and author. He has worked and taught in Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, and Israel.

Fear kills a mind and soul by slowly obliterating the visions we hold for our lives. That we should not fall prey to fear is a constant theme in the scriptures. God does not want us to succumb to the chilling and killing aspects of fear; God encourages people not to be afraid of the circumstances in which they find themselves. It seems that one of God’s favorite themes is “Do not be afraid” or “Do not fear.” Perhaps God repeats this theme so often because we so often fear circumstances that confront us in our lives and ministries. God is not suggesting that we will not confront fearful realities in our lives. God is simply promising not to abandon us to fearful circumstances but to go with us through the dark night of fear, danger, and uncertainty.

Fear, left to eat away at us, finally brings us to a “little-death.” We must not deny our fear or avoid dealing with the fearful moment. In scripture, God never suggests an escapist attitude as an antidote for fear. The many “do not be afraid” promises in scripture do not suggest that we shun the fearful prospects in which we find ourselves, but God consistently promises to be with us in the dark and ominous moment.

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is from Psalm 3, David’s prayer for deliverance.

Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

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