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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

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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Meaning of Life

MEDITATION:

Written by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), an English poet and cultural critic. This is an excerpt from his work “The Buried Life.”

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets
But often, in the din of strife
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life:
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us—to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.

PRAYER:

Written by the Rev. Michaela Youngson, a Methodist minister from London. She is a poet, author, and broadcaster.

Merciful Father, you have not stood aloof from our joys and sorrows, but, in your Son Jesus Christ, you have entered into our happiness and our sadness. Teach us that it is by involving ourselves in all that enriches human life that true meaning is to be found, and that it is by keeping ourselves from all that debases human life that true joy is to be experienced. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The Power of God

MEDITATION:

Written by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), one of the greatest preachers and churchmen in American history. He is credited with bringing about the first Great Awakening of American history.

There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist Him, nor can any deliver out of His hands. He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but He can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God…Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associated themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that anything hangs by; thus easy is it for God, when He pleases, to cast His enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before Him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

PRAYER:

This is a prayer transcribed from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

 I have reached the inner vision

and through Thy spirit in me

I have heard Thy wondrous secret.

Through Thy mystic insight

Thou hast caused a spring of knowledge

to well up within me,

a fountain of power,

pouring forth living waters,

a flood of love

and of all-embracing wisdom

like the splendor of eternal Light.

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Be Transformed

MEDITATION:

Written by Dallas Willard (1935-2013), an American philosopher, theologian, and author .  This is an excerpt from his book “The Spirit of the Disciplines.”

The persons and ministries of John the Baptist and of Jesus himself, both rich in the practice of activities designed to strengthen the spirit, were held constantly before [early Christians]. So, wherever early Christians looked they saw examples of the practice of solitude, fasting, prayer, private study, communal study, worship, and sacrificial service and giving—to mention only some of the more obvious disciplines for spiritual life. These early Christians really did arrange their lives very differently from their non-Christian neighbors, as well as from the vast majority of those of us called Christians today. We are speaking of their overall style of life, not just what they did under pressure, which frequently was also astonishingly different…We can become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of the Father.  What activities did Jesus practice? Such things as solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God’s Word and God’s ways, and service to others. Some of these will certainly be even more necessary to us than they were to him, because of our greater or different needs. But in a balanced life of activities, we will be constantly enlivened by “The Kingdom Not of this World.” … Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different. In reality, we vainly struggle against the evils of this world, waiting to die and go to heaven. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing…We have simply let our thinking fall into the grip of a false opposition of grace to “works” that was caused by a mistaken association of works with “merit.” … Today, we think of Christ’s power entering our lives in various ways—through the sense of forgiveness and love for God or through the awareness of truth, through special experiences of the infusion of the Spirit, through the presence of Christ in the inner life or through the power of ritual and liturgy or the preaching of the Word, through the communion of saints or through a heightened consciousness of the depths and mysteries of life. All of these are doubtlessly real and of some good effect. However, neither individually nor collectively do any of these ways reliably produce large numbers of people who really are like Christ and his closest followers throughout history…when we call men and women to life in Christ Jesus we are offering them the opportunity of a vivid companionship with him, in “transforming friendship.” We meet and dwell with Jesus and his Father in the disciplines for the spiritual life.

PRAYER:

Written by David Mathis, a contemporary author and editor.

Lord, thank you for your abundant, abounding grace. Thank you that we don’t have to earn a drop of the mighty river of grace that flows freely for us today. Thank you for the unexpected, unmerited favor you’ve showered on my life. Help me put myself in the path of your love and grace. Help me not neglect the disciplines I need to meet with you regularly and to drink from the water of life. Thank you for your rich love. Amen.

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Shared Prayer

MEDITATION:

Written by Martha Graybeal Rowlett, a contemporary pastor, and author. This is an excerpt from her book “Praying Together.”

Shared prayer adds power to the work of intercession. Christians dare to believe that God needs and wants our prayers, our compassionate intercession for one another and for the world. Through our prayers for one another, circumstances are changed, and the work of the kingdom is done. An individual may feel overwhelmed by the needs of the world, or even the needs of a single congregation, but there is strength in numbers. Individuals gain courage for the task of intercession when the community prays together, aware of Christ’s presence among those gathered in his name. And the person for whom prayers are offered feels the added force of multiple prayers.

PRAYER:

Written by Mother Marie de Laroche (1812-1857) a French noblewoman who became the co-foundress of the Sisters of Divine Providence. La Roche University is named in honor of her.

We pray in the strength of Your sovereign name. Amen.

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The Lord is My Strength

MEDITATION:

Written by L.B. Cowman (1870-1960), an American author. This is an excerpt from her work “The Silver Lining.”

The Lord imparts unto us that primary strength of character which makes everything in life work with intensity and decision. We are “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” And the strength is continuous; reserves of power come to us which we cannot exhaust. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be”—strength of will, strength of affection, strength of judgment, strength of ideals and achievement. “The Lord is my strength” to go on. He gives us power to tread the dead level, to walk the long lane that seems never to have a turning, to go through those long reaches of life which afford no pleasant surprise, and which depress the spirits in the sameness of a terrible drudgery. “The Lord is my strength” to go up. He is to me the power by which I can climb the Hill Difficulty and not be afraid. “The Lord is my strength” to go down. It is when we leave the bracing heights, where the wind and the sun have been about us, and when we begin to come down the hill into closer and more sultry spheres, that the heart is apt to grow faint. I heard a man say the other day concerning his growing physical frailty, “It is the coming down that tires me!” “The Lord is my strength” to sit still. And how difficult is the attainment! Do we not often say to one another, in seasons when we are compelled to be quiet, “If only I could do something!” When the child is ill, and the mother stands by in comparative impotence, how severe is the test! But to do nothing, just to sit still and wait, requires tremendous strength. “The Lord is my strength!” “Our sufficiency is of God.”

PRAYER:

Written by John Calvin (1509-1564), a French theologian, pastor, reformer of the Protestant Reformation, and principal figure in developing the theology known as Calvinism.

Almighty God and Father, grant unto us, because we have to go through much strife on this earth, the strength of thy Holy Spirit, in order that we may courageously go through the fire, and through the water, and that we may put ourselves so under thy rule that we may go to meet death in full confidence of your assistance and without fear.   Grant us also that we may bear all hatred and enmity of mankind until we have gained the last victory, and that we may at last come to that blessed rest which thy only begotten Son has acquired for us through his blood.  Amen.

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