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Repent

MEDITATION:

Written by Reuben P. Job (1928-2015), an American bishop of the United Methodist Church.

Whenever we see a person whose life is exemplary in every way, we are drawn to live like that. When we see clarity and purity of motive, generous attitude, unobtrusive service, righteous acts, and righteous motives, we want to turn our lives in that direction. It is easy to understand the obedient response of those who heard Jesus call the disciples, crowds, and sinners in general to repent and believe. Here was purity and righteousness beyond compare calling all to repent or turn their lives in the direction that his life modeled so well. The good news is that we can live those exemplary lives. We can repent—turn our lives toward God. We can turn away from everything that keeps us from God and from living within God’s reign. You and I can repent and believe. But it is not always easy. To repent, or turn our lives in another direction, requires our will, our effort, and our faith as we call on God to supply the strength to turn toward God in all aspects of our living. And to believe in the unseen Companion who calls us to goodness and fills us with goodness is difficult when all those visible companions tend to discount the divine companionship promised to all who believe.  What will it mean for you to repent and believe? Only you can fill in the details. But Jesus promises the power and presence to enable you to live the good life, a life in harmony with God.

PRAYER:

Written by George Matheson (1842-1906), a Scottish minister, hymn writer, and author. He was blind from the age of 17.

Oh! You who have come to seek and to save lost things, buried things, I lift my eyes to you. Many have offered me a golden tomorrow; you alone have offered to retrieve my yesterday. Restore to me the waste places of my heart. Reveal to me the meaning of my failures. Show me that there was manna in my desert that even Canaan did not hold. Then shall mine be a harvest joy, a resurrection joy, the joy of gathering the buried past. Then shall my heart be satisfied that the travail of the soul was autumn’s gain. Amen.

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Forgiveness and Community

MEDITATION:

Written by Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996), a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer, and theologian. This is an excerpt from his book “Bread for the Journey.”

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another “seventy-seven times.” Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good times and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love…To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you.” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

PRAYER:

Written by Meg Bucher, a contemporary writer and teacher.

Father, Praise You for the sky and sun, for both remind us of a new day’s challenge and chance to chase You. Thank You for reminding us life is not always easy, but that we don’t have to carry the hard into each new day. Forgive us for dwelling on the past and for holding onto grudges. Bless our hearts to be held back by nothing as we seek You each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Christ is Wisdom

MEDITATION:

Written by Margaret Bottome (1827-1906), an American reformer, Bible teacher, and author.

I remember a summer in which I said, “It is the ocean I need,” and I went to the ocean; but it seemed to say, “It is not in me!” The ocean did not do for me what I thought it would. Then I said, “The mountains will rest me,” and I went to the mountains, and when I awoke in the morning there stood the grand mountain that I had wanted so much to see; but it said, “It is not in me!” It did not satisfy. Ah! I needed the ocean of His love, and the high mountains of His truth within. It was wisdom that the “depths” said they did not contain, and that could not be compared with jewels or gold or precious stones. Christ is wisdom and our deepest need. Our restlessness within can only be met by the revelation of His eternal friendship and love for us.

PRAYER:

Today’s prayer is from the Saram Primer, a book of prayers and Christian worship resources from the 1500s, collected at the Salisbury Cathedral.

O God,

you count the number of the stars,

and call them all by their names.

Heal the contrite in heart,

gather together the outcasts,

and enrich us with the fullness of your wisdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Christian Community

MEDITATION:

Written by Chris Webb, a contemporary Benedictine Anglican priest, author, speaker, and teacher.

The ancient church has taught us much about the val­ue of care­ful­ly craft­ing the archi­tec­ture of our com­mu­ni­ty life inten­tion­al­ly and delib­er­ate­ly. Some of the great­est pio­neers of the Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al life — such as Basil of Cae­sarea, Bene­dict of Nur­sia, Augus­tine of Hip­po, and Fran­cis of Assisi — dis­tilled the wis­dom gleaned from ground­break­ing exper­i­ments in com­mu­ni­ty into their reg­u­lae or com­mu­ni­ty ​‘Rules’, the doc­u­ments in which they encap­su­lat­ed the essen­tial rhythms of a shared life in Christ. They learned that it is pos­si­ble to turn our pat­terns of activ­i­ty into a pow­er­ful cat­a­lyst for spir­i­tu­al development. It is impor­tant to under­stand that a Rule in this con­text is not a legal­is­tic set of instruc­tions keep­ing the com­mu­ni­ty in strict order. It is more an evoca­tive descrip­tion of the way a group of peo­ple might live togeth­er (and their rea­sons for desir­ing to do so): an invi­ta­tion to com­mit our­selves to one anoth­er in a par­tic­u­lar way. Think­ing of the wood­en rules used to draw a lev­el, straight line in geom­e­try, Bene­dict wrote of his Rule: ​“it is called a rule (reg­u­la) because it straight­ens out (diri­gat) the lives of those who obey it.” A good Rule guides peo­ple with­out con­fin­ing them. It is pos­si­ble for any church, con­gre­ga­tion, group, or team to draw togeth­er their own Com­mu­ni­ty Rule — whether a detailed descrip­tion of com­mu­ni­ty struc­ture and life, or a loos­er, cre­ative expres­sion of the rhythm and val­ues which we seek to embody. Our com­mu­ni­ty may have thou­sands of peo­ple, or just three or four. We may share a home togeth­er, or live in the same neigh­bor­hood, or be spread across a town or city, or even be dis­persed all around the coun­try and beyond. No mat­ter. It is still pos­si­ble for us to cre­ate a com­mon pat­tern of life, built around our shared pas­sions, val­ues, and com­mit­ments, which help us cre­ate a more Christ-immersed life together. Shap­ing such a Rule can be both a chal­leng­ing and an extreme­ly reward­ing exer­cise. The pat­tern of life expe­ri­enced in many church com­mu­ni­ties is usu­al­ly some­thing that has evolved rather hap­haz­ard­ly. Our dai­ly, week­ly, and annu­al rhythms are formed by clus­ters of activ­i­ty that have slow­ly coa­lesced over the years: ele­ments of church life we assume to be indis­pens­able (Sun­day wor­ship, youth group, com­mit­tee meet­ings), par­tic­u­lar min­istries for which some­one or oth­er has a spe­cial pas­sion (mis­sions prayer group, prison vis­it­ing, meals for the house­bound), and stuff that is just plain fun (soft­ball team, church pic­nic, the annu­al Super­bowl par­ty). All these have a valu­able place in a church’s life. But the over­all pat­tern of activ­i­ties also shapes the way we will fol­low Jesus togeth­er. It is worth think­ing about shap­ing that rhythm more intentionally.

PRAYER:

Written by St. Patrick (AD 385-461), a Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland.

May the Strength of God pilot us. May the Power of God preserve us. May the Wisdom of God instruct us. May the Hand of God protect us. May the Way of God direct us. May the Shield of God defend us. May the Host of God guard us. Against the snares of the evil ones. Against temptations of the world. May Christ be with us! May Christ be before us! May Christ be in us, Christ be over all! May Thy Salvation, Lord, Always be ours, This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.

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Who Is a Disciple?

MEDITATION:

Written by Margaret Campbell, a contemporary designer and leads a discipleship evangelism ministry with her husband.

What does it mean to be a dis­ci­ple to Jesus? A dis­ci­ple of Jesus is a per­son who has decid­ed to live in atten­tive­ness to Jesus. We live in atten­tive­ness in order to become like Jesus on the inside and, there­by, able to do what Jesus would do on the out­side. As matur­ing dis­ci­ples we pro­gres­sive­ly learn to live in atten­tive­ness, ado­ra­tion, sur­ren­der, obe­di­ence, and thank­ful­ness to God, and all of this, with­out ceasing. Through the hid­den work of trans­for­ma­tion, God writes his good way on our minds and hearts and this is very good. By his grace, our hearts are divine­ly changed. We are pro­gres­sive­ly con­formed to be like Jesus in mind and will and soul and word and deed. What we say and what we do more con­sis­tent­ly reflect the glo­ry and good­ness of God. Our lives work as God intends them to. The right­ness of God’s good way becomes what we expe­ri­ence in our ordi­nary lives.  The kitchen, the free­ways we dri­ve, our offices and schools, hos­pi­tals and homes are where we meet the Father through Jesus in the pow­er of the Holy Spir­it. These are the places where Jesus teach­es us how to live our lives. These are the places where we seek God in atten­tive­ness and ado­ra­tion. These are the places where we learn to hear the still, small voice of God. And as he prompts, we are obe­di­ent and thank­ful. Those around us — whether fam­i­ly, friend, or stranger at the laun­dro­mat — see love, peace, and joy in us. Jesus is our Teacher and we are his students.

PRAYER:

Written by Paige Deane, a contemporary author.

Lord, you are my God. You take priority over everything in my life. I am your disciple and I will put you first. Lord, help me to leave everything behind for your sake. Help me to hold fast to your truth, your commands, and your desires for my life. You are the most important thing. There is not even a second. You are the only priority in my life. Help me to view everything else only through you as my one priority. Help me to stay grounded in what I know to be true and reject anything that is a lie. Amen.

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MEDITATION:

Written by Lynne Snyder, a contemporary musician and writer.

A crayon is a useful thing.  It can be used to create beautiful artwork, things that bring joy.  It can be used to fashion objects of usefulness: labels, restroom signs, warning signs. There are 64 crayons in certain boxes of crayons. We are all somewhat alike, because we are all made in the image of God. But there are also obvious differences. We are each made with unique talents and gifts. Midnight Blue, Maize, Pine Green, Carnation Pink. Like the Potter’s clay, the crayon is not the artist. We are not the creator, but the tool He uses. Any beauty or utility that we create is due to the gifts which he gave us. Any good work that we perform is from His strength and the talents that he equips us with. We were not made to be ornaments on display, any more than a crayon was made to be unused and pristine. We were made to glorify God and to serve Him in accordance with His will. How do we serve Him and seek to be useful to Him?

A crayon starts its life bright and fresh. It even smells nice. As a crayon does its intended work, it changes. The point is worn down; it gets bumped, even broken. It is sometimes refashioned in the sharpener. The label might become worn or even go missing. Eventually, it ends up in that big bin of broken crayons. I had a shoebox that was full to the brim of worn crayon pieces. Some had broken, and all of them had flecks of other colors all over them. But I adored that box, because the crayons were still useful and brought me joy. I even gave names to some of the “special” crayons in my box. God calls us by name. He knows us and cherishes us. He knows all our scars and brokenness and he treasures us. At times he refashions us in what seems at the time like a crayon sharpener. He knows that we are sadly ineffective unless we have his power, his strength, and his direction. He yearns for us to remember our dependence on him, and delights in us when we rely on his power and strength to do the good works he intends for us.

PRAYER:

Written by Alisha Headley, a contemporary writer and speaker.

Dear God, we pray that you would remind us that that we are all a part of building and expanding your Kingdom. We ask that you give us a fresh vision for your purpose for our lives. We ask that you open our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our minds to your vision so that we can live out our purpose. Remove anything from our lives that hinders us from discerning your vision. We pray that you would draw us closer to you as you bring us revelation to our purpose. Please reveal to us what we need to do today to not run wild, but rather be focused on your divine vision. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Holiness and the Gospel

MEDITATION:

Written by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). An English Baptist preacher, known as the “Prince of Preachers.” This is an excerpt from his book “Adorning the Gospel.”

What is appropriate to the gospel? Well, holiness suits the gospel. Adorn it with a holy life. How pure, how clean, how sweet, how heavenly, the gospel is! Hang, then, the jewels of holiness about its neck, and place them as rings on its hands. The gospel is also to be adorned with mercifulness. It is all mercy, it is all love, there is no love like it: “God so loved the world.” Well, then, adorn the gospel with the suitable jewels of mercifulness and kindness…The gospel also is the gospel of happiness; it is called, “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” A more correct translation would be, “the happy God.” Well, then, adorn the gospel by being happy…Adorn the gospel next by your unselfishness…If you would adorn the gospel, you must love others, love them intensely, and make it one object of your lives to make other people happy, for so you will then be acting according to the spirit and genius of the gospel.

PRAYER:

Written by Scotty Smith, a contemporary American pastor.

Father, may the gospel transform the way we think, feel, and choose. Close the gap between what we confess with our mouths and reveal with our lives. In particular, we pray for the power of the gospel to be at work in our relationships, for the only thing that counts is “faith expressing itself in love.” May kindness and encouragement be the norm, and criticism and pettiness be increasingly rare. Amen.

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Remembering 9/11

MEDITATION:

Written by Tommy Woodard and Eddie James, contemporary videographers and bloggers who teach God’s Word using comedy and drama.

Who doesn’t remember where they were when they heard America was under attack? Or when they first saw the footage of the planes flying into the twin towers? We were shocked, confused, vulnerable, and eventually angry. No longer isolated to other parts of the world, terrorism brought itself to our front door. As a nation, we were changed. In the face of such an atrocious act of violence our cores beliefs are challenged in ways we perhaps never imagined. Paul encourages us to hold fast to our faith. In the face of any tragedy, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s goodness. Surrounded by pain, suffering, and sin we can become discouraged and feel overwhelmed by the situation. But God’s goodness and grace abound even in darkness. And he is always in control, even when, especially when, everything else seems so out of control. It’s because of God’s goodness that we ultimately have hope. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God can heal and restore our joy because he is the giver of true peace. When we are able to embrace that, we rise above the chaos around us to see his face more clearly. In the same way, we have hope for the future when all will be made right and justice will prevail. There will be no more tears and no more pain. And yet the greatest of these is love. There’s such freedom when we open our hearts to love those around us. Yes, we love on those who are hurting, those who are alone, and those who have loved us. But the true testimony of Jesus is to “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your father in heaven” (Matt 5:44-45). If we withhold forgiveness and mercy, we allow bitterness and hatred to take root—the perfect end to Satan’s plan. Don’t let him win any battles. Love is the greatest trump card of all time.

PRAYER:

Written by Carrie Steenwyk, a contemporary director of children’s ministry, editor, and professor.

Gracious God, our world changed with the 9/11 attacks. We have seen how easily buildings can fall and how quickly lives can end. As we remember 9/11, may it remind us that you are our only true security. Give us your strength to face the memory of this attack and the changes it made in our lives. Give us your compassion to help each other and recognize need around the world. Give us your hope as we face an uncertain future. Give us your peace. Amen.

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Turn Toward God

MEDITATION:

Written by Michael Casey, a contemporary author and Cistercian monk living in Australia. This is an excerpt from his book “Toward God.”

The worst thing we can think about prayer is that it is a trivial exercise – saying a few words or channeling one’s thoughts in a particular direction. Authentic prayer is not that. It is usually difficult. That is not because it takes great expertise or is reserved to an elite, but because it takes a lot of courage. To pray well I must first find out where I am. Self-knowledge is never procured cheaply. To pray well I need to face up to realities about myself, that I would prefer to ignore: my anxieties, fears, private griefs, failures, lovelessness, my utter lack of resources. To accept the truth about what I am, as also the truth about other human beings, demands courage. If I do not pray well, it is usually because I lack that kind of courage. Once I have confronted and accepted—as far as possible—that I am a needy person, the act of turning toward God is relatively easy. It is not faith in God that is hard, but the renunciation of illusory faith in myself. To turn toward God means, first, turning away from whatever is untrue or delusory—no matter how much comfort it brings.

PRAYER:

Written by 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, judgment, 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 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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The Great Commandment

MEDITATION:

Written by Dallas Willard (1935-2013), an American philosopher, theologian, and author.  This is an excerpt from his book “The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth.”

The Great Commandment … directs us to first love God with every aspect of our being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Finding well-being or a flourishing existence in such a condition is much less difficult than in the secular proposal. Love is not an abstraction. Christians must be continually reminded to resist making love intangible or primarily theoretical. God’s kind of love must remain vital, concrete, positive, and practical. Agape [love] is devoted to seeking the good of the person loved. It can and must occupy and energize our lives.

PRAYER:

Written by Debbie McDaniel, a contemporary Christian writer.

Lord thank you that your love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, thank you that your love never fails. Help us to love as you love. Fill us with your Spirit so that we can choose what is best. We are weak Lord, but we know also, that even when we are weak, you are strong within us. Thank you that it’s not all up to us. Thank you that you equip us to face each day with the power of your love, your forgiveness, and your grace.

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