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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Pre-Advent Thoughts

MEDITATION:

Written by Kimberly Matthews, a certified lay minister and author. She also writes under the name Sandpiper.

This morning I picked up a book by Paula Gooder called The Meaning is in the Waiting. I haven’t started the book itself yet, but I did read the forward by Lauren F. Winner. “She says this: We are told, by advertisements and by our Blackberries, to squeeze time dry, to use it well, to maximize it. The church tells us a different story about it (time) — it is God’s and there is enough of it, more than enough. The church’s narrative about time is never clearer than during Advent when we are invited to spend our time very foolishly indeed. We are invited to wait. Just to wait.” Take a breath. Take some time. Waste it. Waste it during a season when everything around you demands that you make the most of your time. Wait on God. Lauren Winner tells us that something amazing happens when we do. We find that God is waiting on us. The image that came to my mind was of a parent waiting up at night for a teenager to come home. God is waiting for us. “The Lord waits to be gracious to you.” I find myself in a time that feels like limbo. Thanksgiving has come and gone; Advent has yet to come. We are waiting to begin waiting. My devotional challenge to you this week is to give some thought to Advent. What will you do as you wait for God? How will you prepare yourself to begin? My commitment this Advent is to find some quiet time each day for devotionals and prayer. I commit to more spiritual reading during this month. I want to draw closer to the Truth during this time of waiting, and I am going to be intentional about it. It is God’s time, and there is enough of it. Do what seems wasteful and wait for God.

PRAYER:

Written by Kimberly Matthews, the author of today’s meditation

Creator God, who stretches a hand across the heavens and spreads the stars in the sky, meet us in our waiting. Loving Son, who came and comes and will come, come today and meet us in our waiting. Abiding Spirit, who waits with us, speak to us in our waiting. Loving God, grant us the courage to wait for you and the grace to realize you wait for us. Amen.

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Prayerful Joy

MEDITATION:

Written by Calvin Hoogendoorn, a contemporary pastor and author.

The great hymn “Amazing Grace” summarizes biblical faith well: “Grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” If grace reveals that joy is a gift, then prayer is the Lord’s gracious means through which he daily sustains that joy. We sometimes believe we are independent, self-sufficient people. Our tired minds, aching backs, and callous hands that produced a successful career and a comfortable home seem to affirm that myth. But what if corporate restructuring takes away the paycheck, or terminal illness robs our strength and vitality? Anxiety, worry, and fear set in, taking the place of our pride. Life comes from the Lord, and so does daily help. We come to the Lord through prayer, and the fruit of prayer is peace. Yet prayer is not a mantra, and we can’t use it to try to manipulate God. Prayer is a divine gift to strengthen the bonds of love between us and God. The act of prayer itself affirms our dependence on him for peace and joy. Peace is knowing that death is overcome by resurrection, falsehood by truth, confusion by wisdom, hatred by love. This is the joyful fruit of believers who seek the Lord! Then, when all else has failed, we can still say, “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:18).

PRAYER:

Written by Jennifer Rothschild, a contemporary author and speaker.

Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed, overwhelm me with Your peace. Lead me to You, my rock. Guide me to Your Word which gives me strength and refuge. Help me not to run to lesser things. Draw me to run to You first. Help me get into the habit of taking my “overwhelmed” and placing it under your will. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Thanksgiving

MEDITATION:

Written by Debbie McDaniel, a contemporary Christian writer.

All across our nation, Thanksgiving is a day that we set aside in order to do one thing. Be thankful. And usually what goes along with it, is lots of food, family and friends, laughter and fun, times of giving to others in need, maybe some football, or traditions that you’ve recognized through long years. And sometimes too, there is also loneliness. And struggle. Or deep loss. Feelings of hurt and painful circumstances that you’re still trying to hurdle over.

Whatever you’re facing this Thanksgiving Day, in the midst of all of it, may we remember again that God gives us the opportunity each and every day, to give worship and thanks to Him. Every morning He gives us breath, is His invitation to come joyfully into His Presence. He reminds us that He alone is God and we belong to Him. He assures us that His plans in our lives are for good, that his love covers us securely, and His faithfulness extends from generation to generation. No matter what, He’s given us so many reasons to choose thankfulness and joy this day. Let’s do what the Psalmist says:  Shout for joy. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him with joyful songs. Know that He is God. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. Recognize His goodness, love, and faithfulness, through all the generations of our family.

PRAYER:

Written by Debbie McDaniel, author of today’s meditation.

Dear God, thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over our lives. Forgive us for when we don’t thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all that you’ve given. We’re so grateful to you for your amazing love and care, for your mercy and grace, for always working on our behalf, even behind the scenes when we’re unaware. Thank you that you are always with us and will never leave us, even through loss and the most difficult of times. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh. Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy, this Thanksgiving Day and every day. We give you thanks and praise, for You alone, are worthy! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Weak Enough to Rescue

MEDITATION:

Written by Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), an American pastor and author.

Watchman Nee, a Chinese teacher who founded many Christian churches, told a story of a man who was drowning. A crowd had gathered, but no one in the crowd could swim except for one man. To everyone’s shock and consternation, it appeared he would not jump in the water and rescue the drowning man. Finally, the swimmer jumped from the riverbank, swam out, put his arms around the man, and brought him to safety. But the crowd didn’t cheer the rescuer. In fact, they scolded him.  The rescuer explained to them, “I’m not that good a swimmer. Had I gone out there while this man was still fighting, he would have drowned us both. I had to wait until he was weak enough for me to save him.”  Are you weak enough to let God save you, or are you, like the swimmer who was flailing around, are you still trying to do it on your own?  Psalm 50:15 says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Stop flailing around. Yield to Him.

PRAYER:

Written by Izwe Nkosi, a contemporary South African author, passionate about worship and prayer.

God of rescue and restoration, thank You for Your great and beautiful mission in the world. Here I am Lord, fill me with Your Spirit and send me. Amen.

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Hope

MEDITATION:

Written by Greg Laurie, a contemporary American author and pastor.

A lot of people in our culture today are starting to lose hope. Experts say that one of the reasons suicide rates are so high is because people have lost hope. From the inside of a very large fish, Jonah was beginning to lose hope. But then he prayed.  Jonah said, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple…But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:7,9). Jonah didn’t have any promise that God would deliver him from the belly of that beast. But he gave thanks to the Lord while he was there. Maybe you’re going through a hard time right now, and you’re thinking, “I don’t feel like giving thanks to God. I’ll give thanks when I get through this problem.” Give thanks to God now. When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel, we read that “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). The Bible says, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).  It doesn’t say, “Give thanks to the Lord when you feel good” or “give thanks to the Lord when circumstances are good.” If you’re losing hope today, don’t give up. I don’t know what kind of situation you’re in right now, but you’re going to get through it. Remember this acronym for hope: holding on with patient expectation. Don’t lose hope. God is in control. God is sovereign. And if He got Jonah out of a fish, then God can get you through whatever you’re facing today.

PRAYER:

Written by Michael Saward (1932-2015), an English chaplain, journalist, broadcaster, and hymnwriter.

God of peace,

keep us always rejoicing in you,

make us gentle to everyone,

let us be anxious about nothing –

help us to ask you for what we need,

with thanksgiving;

and may your peace

guard our hearts and minds

in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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God’s Home in Us

MEDITATION:

Written by Dallas Willard (1935-2013) an American philosopher known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation. This is an excerpt from his book “Hearing God Through the Year.”

On the evening before his crucifixion, Jesus assured his little band of followers that although he was leaving them, he would continue to show himself to all who loved him. Judas Thaddaeus then asked just the right question: How would this manifesting take place (John 14:22)? Jesus replied that he and his Father would “come to them and make our home with them.” The abiding of the Son and the Father in the faithful heart involves more than communication or conversation, but it surely does involve these too, in a manner and measure our Lord considers to be appropriate. It is simply beyond belief that two persons so intimately related as indicated in Jesus’ answer would not speak explicitly to one another. The Spirit who inhabits us is not mute, restricting himself to an occasional nudge, a brilliant image, or a case of goosebumps.

PRAYER:

Written by Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), the author of confessional letters and diaries that describe her religious awakening amid the persecutions of Jewish people in Amsterdam during the German occupation.

The jasmine behind my house has been completely ruined by the rains and storms of the last few days, its white blossoms are floating about in the muddy black pools on the low garage roof.  But somewhere inside me the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed, just as profusely and delicately as ever it did. And it spreads its scent round the House in which you dwell, O God. You can see, I look after you, I bring you not only my tears and my forebodings on this stormy, grey morning, I even bring you scented jasmine. And I shall bring you all the flowers I shall meet on my way, and truly there are many of those. I shall try to make you at home always. Even if I should be locked up in a narrow cell and a cloud should drift past my small barred window, then I shall bring you that cloud, O God, while there is still the strength in me to do so. I cannot promise you anything for tomorrow, but my intentions are good, you can see.

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For Our Good

MEDITATION:

Written by Christine Caine, a contemporary Australian activist, evangelist, author, and international speaker.

In the Bible, Joseph is abused by his brothers and sold into slavery, then repeatedly scarred and neglected by his enemies. But Joseph made an amazing discovery: Anything meant in this world for evil, God can use for good. This is no less true for us today. God is able to take the mess of our past and turn it into a message. He takes our trials and tests and turns them into a testimony. Romans 8:28 does not say that all things that happen to us are good, but it does say that God is able to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. If we trust him with our broken and wounded hearts, he will bring healing, restoration, and wholeness. He takes the weak, the marginalized, and the oppressed and makes all things new. What someone else would leave for broken, he sees as beautiful. And very often, the thing the enemy uses to try to destroy your life is the very thing God uses to help others. God can heal every hurt and turn your scars into signs of strength for his glory. Your past mistakes, hurts, and pain can help give someone else a future. Whatever we have gone through enables us to help others. God doesn’t waste one experience of our lives. He uses everything to help someone else. He doesn’t want us to remain crippled, immobilized, or paralyzed by the past. Instead, he sent us Jesus to show us how to step into the future. I have always known that I was not the only one carrying around such pain. We are all broken in some way. We all have wounds. Some of us use that as an excuse to do nothing, to serve no one, but rather to sit and nurse our misery. That’s not what God wants, and not the model we see over and over again in the Bible. The biblical model is that God deliberately chooses imperfect vessels—those who have been wounded, those with physical or emotional limitations. Then he prepares them to serve and sends them out with their weakness still in evidence so that his strength can be made perfect in that weakness.

PRAYER:

Written by Stella Dhinakaran, a contemporary writer and woman of prayer.

Our loving heavenly Father, we look unto you, for you alone have the power to deliver us in times of trouble. You are a great God who delivered your servants as you promised them. Master, I am a broken vessel, I commit my life into Your hands, mold me and strengthen me to overcome this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Tyranny of Things

MEDITATION:

Written by Albert Edward Day (1884-1972), a Methodist minister, lecturer, and author. This is an excerpt from his book “From Discipline and Discovery.”

Things tyrannize over us. Money, clothes, houses, furniture, food, automobiles—all the material paraphernalia of existence—captivate our interests and dominate our thoughts. “To have” concerns us a great deal more than “to be.” Few of us have attained the freedom from things.  The proof of our thing-mindedness is very easy. Try for five minutes to give God the “loving attention,” which is the essence of true prayer. You will find your mind reverting over and over to things—to what you are wearing or what you would like to wear, to what you had for breakfast or what you want for lunch, to the salary you receive or the increase you are seeking, to the house you live in or the house you are trying to find, to the condition of your car or the prospect of a new one! With amazing frequency, things in some fashion will insert themselves into your brief effort to keep you mind fixed on God.

PRAYER:

Written by Emilie Griffin, a contemporary American author who writes about religious experience and spiritual life.

Dear Christ, teach me to love your world and everyone in it. May I love with an unworldly love. Let me understand the godly use of material things, to delight rightly in your creation. May I remember those words from John’s first letter: “Those who do the will of God live forever.” Amen.

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True Religion

MEDITATION:

Written by John Wesley (1703-1791), an English clergyman, theologian, and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism.

But true religion, or a heart right towards God and [humanity], implies happiness, as well as holiness. For it is not only righteousness but also “peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” What peace? The peace of God, which God only can give and the world cannot take away, the peace which “passes all understanding,” all (barely) rational conception, being a supernatural sensation, a divine taste of “the powers of the world to come,” such as the natural man [or woman] knows not, how wise in the things of this world, nor, indeed, can…know it, in his [or her] present state, “because it is spiritually discerned.” It is a peace that banishes all doubt, all painful uncertainty, the Spirit of God bearing witness with the spirit of a Christian, that he [or she] is a child of God.

PRAYER:

Written by Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), a French Carmelite nun, is known as “the Little Flower of Jesus.

May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be confident knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

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Size Matters Little

MEDITATION:

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

To God quality is vastly important and size matters little. When set in opposition to size, quality is everything and size nothing…Man’s moral fall has clouded his vision, confused his thinking and rendered him subject to delusion. One evidence of this is his all but incurable proneness to confuse values and put size before quality in his appraisal of things. The Christian faith reverses this order, but even Christians tend to judge things by the old Adamic rule. How big? how much? and, how many? are the questions oftenest asked by religious persons when trying to evaluate Christian things…The Church is dedicated to things that matter. Quality matters. Let’s not be led astray by the size of things.

PRAYER:

This prayer is from the Mozarabic Rite, a liturgical rite of the Latin Church once used generally in the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania), in what is now Spain and Portugal.  Developed during Visigoth rule of the Iberian Peninsula in the 500s AD.

Make us, O Lord, to flourish like pure lilies in the courts of Thine house, and to show forth to the faithful the fragrance of good words, and the example of a Godly life, through Thy mercy and grace. Amen.

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