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Serving Others

MEDITATION:

Written by Rick Warren, a contemporary pastor, author, and speaker.

Many people have the misconception that being “called” by God is something only missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other church leaders experience. But the Bible says everyone is called to serve God by serving others…We are not saved by serving, but we are saved for serving. The Apostle Paul gives three insights related to this: First, the basis for serving others is salvation…You cannot serve God until you’ve been set free by Jesus. It’s the prerequisite for serving. Until you experience the transforming power of God’s grace in your life, you’re too enslaved by your own hurts, habits, and hang-ups to think much about others. Without the freedom of forgiveness, you’ll end up serving for the wrong reasons: trying to earn the approval of others, trying to run away from your pain, trying to remedy your guilt, trying to impress God. Service motivated by these illegitimate reasons is bound to leave you burned out and bitter in the end. Second, the barrier to serving others is selfishness… The number one reason we don’t have the time or energy to serve others is that we’re preoccupied with our own agendas, dreams, and pleasures. Only a small minority of people use their lives to serve others…Third, the motive for serving is love. Paul says, “Serve one another in love.” This is an important key to building community…God is far more interested in why you serve others than in how well you serve them. He’s always looking at your heart, serving willingly and eagerly out of love for Jesus and gratitude for all he’s done for you. You are most like Jesus when you’re serving others.

PRAYER:

Written by Geevtha Mary Samuel, a contemporary author.

We pray and pledge that we will walk with love. May we be of service to as many as we can in our lives as You called us to be, as is the Father’s will. Lord Jesus, may Your life of love and service be our guide to love and serve the underprivileged, the abandoned and the needy amongst us. Help us, Lord, to love beyond measure, without expectations and limitations, those who need our love. Those in prison, rehabilitation centers, and the home-shelters. The old folks who are disowned and lonely and look forward to seeing someone visiting them and extending love and words of comfort. Amen.

The Joy of Jesus

MEDITATION:

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

The joy that Jesus offers his disciples is his own joy, which flows from his intimate communion with the One who sent him. It is a joy that does not separate happy days from sad days, successful moments from moments of failure, experiences of honor from experiences of dishonor, passion from resurrection. This joy is a divine gift that does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression, or persecution. It is present even when the world laughs or tortures, robs or maims, fights or kills. It is truly ecstatic, always moving us away from the house of fear into the house of love, and always proclaiming that death no longer has the final say, though its noise remains loud and its devastation visible. The joy of Jesus lifts up life to be celebrated.

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.

Break open our lives and pour your light into the night of our sorrow, that we may live in the joy of your resurrection, now and forevermore. Amen.

Hope for the Hurting

MEDITATION:

Written by David Powlison (1949-2019), an author, speaker, and Biblical counselor.  This is an excerpt from his book “Good and Angry.”

Perhaps you find it curiously liberating to say you’ll never get over a particular hurt.  How freeing to admit the truth. A human being is not meant to deal with a terrible wrong by having it simply washed away. So, you don’t have to chase an impossibility. You don’t have to try to numb yourself with various substances and activities. You don’t have to feel like a failure because you are not happy and smiley all the time. If you aren’t expecting to find some magic that will leave you unmarked, then you can get down to working through your painful experience.  Perhaps, though, it’s not a relief to hear that some experiences will never go away. Instead, you feel even more hopeless. But there is hope. Yes, the experience will always be there, but you do not need to be forever defined by what happened. The reasons for realistic hope run deeper than any hurt. You won’t forget, but you do not need to endlessly revisit what happened. You do not need to be imprisoned in your reactions. It’s never easy to transmute a very deep furnace of pain into something fruitful. It is refreshing to admit, “That pain will mark me. I will never ‘get over it.’” You would be untrue to your humanity if you simply got over it. Instead, a new sense of life purpose will in some way be shaped by what happened. A significant experience will mark you for life; it should mark you. But the pain and hatred and despair do not need to remain a running sore infected by rage, mistrust, and callousness. There is a way to go through it and come out in a good place.

PRAYER:

Written by Debbie McDaniel. a contemporary Christian writer.

Dear God, We confess our need for you today. We need your healing and your grace. We need hope restored. We need to be reminded that you work on behalf of those you love, constantly, powerfully, completely. Forgive us for trying to fix our situations all on our own. Forgive us for running all different directions and spinning our wheels to find help, when true help and healing must be found first in You. Forgive us for forgetting how much we need you, above everyone and everything else. We come to you and bring you the places we are hurting. You see where no one else is able to fully see or understand. You know the pain we’ve carried. The burdens. The cares. You know where we need to be set free. We ask for your healing and grace to cover every broken place. Every wound. Every heartache. Thank you that you are able to do far more than we could ever imagine. Thank you for your Mighty Power that acts on behalf of your children. We reach out to you, and know that you are restoring and redeeming every place of difficulty, every battle, for your greater glory. Thank you that you will never waste our pain and suffering. We release to you this day every need and problem we’ve carried or tried hard to control. We believe in your goodness to see us through. We love you. We need you today.

Overburdened

MEDITATION:

Written by Joel Vande Werken, a contemporary pastor.

Are you too busy? It is hard to imagine many people answering “no” to that question today. Our lives are filled with things to do, places to go, people to meet. The distraction of all these things can overwhelm us. We were created with a clear purpose in life: to care for the world and for one another. But then sin came in and distorted our sense of purpose. Life comes at us quickly, and we often respond by just trying to keep up. Whether it’s the “rat race” at work, extracurricular activities with our kids, or other commitments, there are always more distractions and demands on our time. The harassment of all this is not new to our generation, though. Jesus walked among people who were overburdened with the stresses of life; they needed comfort, help, and rest. And “he had compassion on them, because they were . . . like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus pays attention to people’s needs. And like a good shepherd, he tends, provides, guides, heals, and shares his love with all. He also points his followers to God’s work in restoring purpose to tired lives. He urges us to pray for all whom God wants to raise up as workers to share his good news of salvation and new life. Are you refocused and engaged in this empowering ­adventure?

PRAYER:

A prayer from the Roman Breviary, a liturgical book published in 1482 and became known as the Liturgy of the Hours.

O Lord,

be our Sanctifier and the Shepherd.

Strengthen and help us,

that in our daily life walk with you,

we serve you in all quietness of spirit;

through Jesus Christ our Master. Amen.O Lord,

be our Sanctifier and the Shepherd.

Strengthen and help us,

that in our daily life walk with you,

we serve you in all quietness of spirit; through Jesus Christ our Master. Amen.

Love of Neighbor

MEDITATION:

Written by Lloyd Wicker, a contemporary pastor and chaplain in the US Navy.

It can be difficult to show compassion to someone you might despise. It can also be difficult to receive help from such a person. That’s because you would think of that person as an enemy. The parable of The Good Samaritan is about showing God’s love and compassion without strings attached, even for an enemy. The question could be asked, “How could a holy God offer love to any of us, who are basically his enemies because of all the sins we do against him?” The answer is grace (unearned favor)! In Jesus’ parable, a priest and a Levite pass by and notice the man who has been robbed and beaten, but they keep going without offering any help. Then along comes a Samaritan. (In those days the Jews and Samaritans despised each other.) This man stops and takes action in practical ways. He doesn’t just throw money at the problem; he also gives his time and resources to see that the beaten man is restored to health again. Many people tend to measure their love for God by their commitment to church attendance, Bible study, giving money for ministry, or volunteering at church. Yet loving our neighbor demands more. To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength goes hand in hand with loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are commanded to do both—regardless of who they are, what they have done, or where they come from.

PRAYER:

A prayer inspired by Fratelli Tutti, the third encyclical of Pope Francis.

You teach us in your parable that there are two kinds of people–
–those who bend down to help and those who look the other way.
Which kind of people will we be?

We say, “Yes, Lord, I will love you and love my neighbor.”
But then we ask:
The migrant… is she my neighbor?
Those in poverty…are they my neighbors?
Victims of war across the world… are they neighbors?
One who faces racism… is he my neighbor?
Those disabled or elderly… are they my neighbors?

You remind us: Yes. All of us neighbors.

Show us how to love, Lord.
May we open our eyes.
May we emerge from our comfortable isolation.
May we build a world of compassion and dignity.

Lord Jesus, who was neighbor to all,
Help us to persevere in love.
Help us to restore dignity to the suffering.
Help us to build a society based not on exclusion, but on community.

Amen.

What You Wear

MEDITATION:

Written by Gerrit Bomhof a retired pastor and author.

Sometimes what you wear ­allows other people to see what you value and what your character is like. If you go to a sports game, you will be surrounded by a sea of team jerseys. When pictures of Prince Harry and Meghan of England first appeared in public, the apparel she wore was sold out in minutes.In today’s Scripture passage [Colossians 3:12], we are encouraged to dress in a way that shows what we value and who we are. In verses 5-11, we are reminded to put off things that are sinful, demeaning, and hurtful, such as malice, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. Then we are urged to put on a new set of clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We also add love, “which binds them all together in perfect unity.” In other words, that makes our outfits perfectly coordinated! All of these articles were “worn” perfectly by Jesus Christ; as his followers, we model our lives after him.

I remember a time when I was wearing a “March for Jesus” tee shirt. I was in a department store and unhappy with the customer service department. I was ready to give the clerk a piece of my mind, but then I remembered what I was wearing. If I acted rashly, what would the clerk think of Jesus? Very quickly, my attitude and tone of voice changed for the better. May we always put on the mind of Christ and glorify him before others.

PRAYER:

Written by Gerrit Bomhof, the author of today’s meditation.

Coordinate our attitude with the clothing you call us to wear, Lord Jesus. Thank you for sharing the virtues that help us to identify with you. In your name, Amen.

I Surrender

MEDITATION:

Written by Dr. Charles Stanley, a contemporary pastor and founder of In Touch Ministries, which broadcasts his sermons through television.

There is nothing we can do to save our own souls, but we must wholly trust in Jesus who bore our sins and paid the penalty we deserved. It’s ironic that we surrender our souls to His authority for salvation yet try to control other areas of our lives. If Jesus is our Savior, and we acknowledge Him as Lord, then we should also realize that He is the Lord of our lives as well. Yet many Christians resist full surrender to Jesus because it seems too costly, too demanding. It’s not like surrendering to another person because when we yield ourselves to God, it includes every area of our lives— even the things hidden deep within our hearts. Yet this absolute surrender is exactly what God expects because Christ died for us, and we belong to Him. However, the application of this principle looks different for each believer. What one person finds easy to release to the Lord, someone else may not. But we can each sense what He is asking us personally to relinquish. It’s a conviction or that “thing” that keeps cropping up when we pray. It may be a bad attitude or habit, or it could be something that isn’t sinful but is not presently part of God’s will for our lives…Full surrender is like opening the closets of our lives and inviting Him to clean out whatever He wants. To try to keep parts of our lives to ourselves only hinders our walk with Him. Yet we often rationalize, saying, “This one little thing isn’t that important. After all, no one is perfect. We all have our weaknesses so God will understand.” But that’s not how the Lord operates. It requires that we open our hearts and lives to the Lord, asking Him to take out whatever does not please Him. We must be willing to confess, repent, walk away, give it up, and lay it down. Until we do, we will never become the person He wants us to be or enjoy His blessings.

PRAYER:

Written by Bob Hostetler, a contemporary author and speaker.

Lord God, my Sovereign, I offer You this day and all that will come to me in it. I surrender to You and ask You to sanctify every moment, every breath I take, every decision I make and all I think, say, or do. Let the words of my mouth, the work of my hands, and every meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, whatever may come, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Joy in Obedience

MEDITATION:

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

Christian joy is joy in obedience, joy in loving God and keeping God’s commandments; and yet not in keeping them as if we were thereby to fulfill the terms of the covenant of works, as by any works or righteousness of ours, we were to procure pardon and acceptance with God. Not so: we are already pardoned and accepted, through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Not as if we were by our own obedience to procure life, life from the death of sin: this also we have already from the grace of God. Us “hath he quickened, who were dead in sins,” and now we are “alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But we rejoice in walking according to the covenant of grace, in holy love and happy obedience. We rejoice in knowing that, “being justified through his grace,” we have “not received that grace of God in vain,” that God having freely (not for the sake of our willing or running, but through the blood of the Lamb) reconciled us to himself, we run, in the strength which [God] hath given us, the way of [God’s] commandments.  “But can Christ be in the same heart where sin is?” Undoubtedly he can. Otherwise it never could be saved therefrom. Where the sickness is, there is the physician, “Carrying on his work within, striving till he cast out sin.” Christ indeed cannot reign, where sin reigns, neither will he dwell where any sin is allowed. But he is and dwells in the heart of every believer, who is fighting against all sin, although it be not yet purified, according to the purification of the sanctuary.

PRAYER:

Written by Pete Briscoe, a contemporary pastor, radio host, and author.

Heavenly Father, we are saved by no works of our own, but by your sacrifice alone. Let us take joy in that, and glorify your name. Father, do not allow us to doubt your grace. You have taken every sin upon your shoulders, and washed away every blemish from our hearts. Amen.

Leadership

MEDITATION:

This meditation is an excerpt from a book by contemporary authors Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges, and Phyllis Hendry: “Lead Like Jesus Revisited.”

People often see leadership based on an “It’s all about me” approach. In all kinds of organizations and institutions, the rewards of money, recognition, and power increase as an individual moves up the hierarchy. Self-promotion (pride) and self-protection (fear) dominate today’s leadership style. Many leaders act as if the sheep are there only for the benefit of the shepherd. In personal relationships, leadership based on mutual respect, loving care, self-sacrifice, and openness is often undermined when pride, fear, and indifference replace intimacy with isolation…An alternative approach to leadership is driven by four basic beliefs:  1) Leadership happens anytime we influence the thinking, behavior, or development of another person, 2) Jesus is the greatest leadership model of all time, 3) Servant leadership is the only approach to leadership that Jesus validates for His followers and, 4)  Effective leadership begins on the inside with our hearts…Leadership is the alignment of four essential domains: the heart, the head, the hands, and the habits.

PRAYER:

This prayer is from Xavier University’s Jesuit Resource.org resource.

Leadership is hard to define. 
Lord, let us be the ones to define it with justice. 
Leadership is like a handful of water. 
Lord, let us be the people to share it with those who thirst.
Leadership is not about watching and correcting. 
Lord, let us remember it is about listening and connecting. 
Leadership is not about telling people what to do. 
Lord, let us find out what people want.
Leadership is less about the love of power,
and more about the power of love.

Lord, as we continue to undertake the role of leader let us be 
affirmed by the servant leadership we witness in your son Jesus.
Let us walk in the path He has set and let those who will, follow.

Let our greatest passion be compassion. 
Our greatest strength love. 
Our greatest victory the reward of peace.

In leading let us never fail to follow. 
In loving let us never fail. Amen.

Three Mile an Hour God

MEDITATION:

Written by Rich Villodas, a contemporary American pastor and author. This is an excerpt from his book “The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus.”

Our lives can easily take us to the brink of burnout. The pace we live at is often destructive. The lack of margin is debilitating. We are worn out. In all of this, the problem before us is not just the frenetic pace we live at but what gets pushed out from our lives as a result; that is, life with God…What would it look like to live at a different pace? What if there were a rhythm of life that could instead enable us to deeply connect with God, a lifestyle not dominated by hurry and exhaustion but by margin and joy? As long as we remain enslaved to a culture of speed, superficiality, and distraction, we will not be the people God longs for us to be. We desperately need a spirituality that roots us in a different way…The pace of our lives can be brutal.  The late theologian Kosuke Koyama wrote a book titled Three-Mile-an-Hour God.  Dr. Koyama was trying to convey that if we want to connect with God, we’d be wise to travel at God’s speed. God has all the time in the world, and as a result, he is not in a rush. Thus, Koyama’s claim that God travels at three miles an hour is not an arbitrary figure. On average, humans walk at this pace. And it’s in just such ambling, unhurried, and leisurely moments that we often encounter God. N.T. Wright similarly affirmed, “It is only when we slow down our lives that we can catch up with God.” … Speed has helped remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating. But speed has also caused our connections with God and others to be incredibly superficial. There’s a severe lack of depth in our lives and communities because we have allowed ourselves to be swept up by a world under the influence of addictive speed. And, as philosopher Dallas Willard famously said, “Hurry is the enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

PRAYER:

Written by Rachel Wojo, a contemporary author and speaker.

Dear Father,

Thank you for this exact point in time.

Sometimes I struggle

To enjoy the gift of the present.

I push forward before your timing is perfect

And then feel the pain of rushing.

My spirit longs to savor the moment

While my mind scrambles to snatch the next minute.

Will you slow my heart to beat your rhythm?

Will you sync my step to mirror your tempo?

May my spirit fail to chase after the next beautiful experience

Until I’ve unwrapped the gift of right now-the present.

Amen.