Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Heart of Jesus

Jesus is the vulnerable child, the humble preacher, the despised, rejected, and crucified Christ. But Jesus also is "the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, ... [who] exists before all things and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15,17). Jesus is the King, ridiculed on the cross and reigning from his throne in the heavenly Jerusalem. He is the Lord riding into the city on a donkey, and the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is cursed by the world but blessed by God.

Let's always look at Jesus, because in his crucified and glorified heart we will see ourselves called to share in his suffering as well as in his glory.


Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

God So Loved

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."1


In a tribe of Indians, or so the story goes, someone was stealing chickens. The Chief declared that, if caught, the offender would receive 10 lashes.

When the stealing continued, he raised it to 20 lashes. Still the chickens methodically disappeared. In anger the Chief raised the sentence to 100 lashes.

The thief was finally caught, but the Chief faced a terrible dilemma. The thief was his mother! When the day of penalty came, the whole tribe gathered. Would the Chief's love override his justice? The crowd gasped when he ordered his mother to be tied to the whipping post.

The Chief removed his shirt, revealing his powerful stature, and took the whip in hand. But instead of raising it to strike the first blow, he handed it to a strong, young brave standing at his side. Slowly the Chief walked over to his mother and wrapped his massive arms around her in an engulfing embrace. Then he ordered the brave to give him the 100 lashes.

That's what JESUS did for you and me when he came to earth clothed in an external garment of human flesh some 2000 years ago, which is commemorated as "Christmas." In love he became our substitute and died in our place to pay the penalty for all our sins. He overcame our inability to save ourselves by paying the price for our sins. His death bridged the gulf between God and man and made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and to be restored to fellowship with him through faith in Christ and in his atoning death for us.2

1. John 3:16 (NASB).
2. Contributed by Alexandra Perros from Holland.

<:))))><

Acts International - Daily Encounter

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Light in the Darkness

We walk in a "ravine as dark as death" (Psalm 23:4), and still we have nothing to fear because God is at our side: God's staff and crook are there to soothe us (see Psalm 23:4). This is not just a consoling idea. It is an experience of the heart that we can trust.

Our lives are full of suffering, pain, disillusions, losses and grief, but they are also marked by visions of the coming of the Son of Man "like lightning striking in the east and flashing far into west" (Matthew 24:27). These moments in which we see clearly, hear loudly, and feel deeply that God is with us on the journey make us shine as a light into the darkness. Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. Your light must shine in people's sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).


Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Monday, December 21, 2009

Where is GOD?

I think that we have hardly thought through the immense implications of the mystery of the incarnation. Where is God? God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless. How can we come to know God when our focus is elsewhere, on success, influence, and power? I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need.

If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form. Each one of us is seriously searching to live and grow in this belief, and by friendship we can support each other. I realize that the only way for us to stay well in the midst of the many "worlds" is to stay close to the small, vulnerable child that lives in our hearts and in every other human being. Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. When we discover him we can truly rejoice.
Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Active Waiting

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God's footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert - yes, joyful - waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

A Christian

A visitor asked an old bedridden woman who said she was trying to be a Christian: “Are you trying to be Mrs. Whyte?”
“No, I am Mrs. Whyte.”

“How long have you been Mrs. Whyte?”

“Ever since this ring was put on my finger.”

“That is how it is with me. I do not try to be a Christian. I have been one ever since I put out my empty hand and received Christ as my Saviour.

The Prairie Overcomer

Acting in the Name of Jesus

Ministry is acting in the Name of Jesus. When all our actions are in the Name, they will bear fruit for eternal life. To act in the Name of Jesus, however, doesn't mean to act as a representative of Jesus or his spokesperson. It means to act in an intimate communion with him. The Name is like a house, a tent, a dwelling. To act in the Name of Jesus, therefore, means to act from the place where we are united with Jesus in love. To the question "Where are you?" we should be able to answer, "I am in the Name." Then, whatever we do cannot be other than ministry because it will always be Jesus himself who acts in and through us. The final question for all who minister is "Are you in the Name of Jesus?"" When we can say yes to that, all of our lives will be ministry.


Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Monday, December 7, 2009

Trusting God Is A Choice

"When we fail examinations or any other kind of test, we don't disappoint God and he doesn't love us any the less. Certainly God feels for us when we fail because he cares deeply for us. However, his love for us is totally unconditional. He doesn't love us on the basis of what we have done or haven't done. He loves us just because we are a part of his divine creation.

"Parents who love their children on the basis of how well they do in school or on the basis of their achievements in other areas are setting up their children to become neurotic perfectionists, compulsive performers, or dismal failures. You can be assured that God, our Heavenly Father, never ever treats us this way.

"It sounds to me like you have disappointed yourself. Chances are that when you were a child you probably felt that you could never please your earthly father (and/or mother). Always remember that God, your Heavenly Father, is not the same as your earthly father (or mother) or anyone else you couldn't please.

"Regarding your relationship to God, the important thing to do is to choose to daily trust and commit your life and way to him every day for the rest of your life. That's what I do and that's what King David did when he was afraid."

Abstract from Daily Encounter, Acts International

Restored to Eternal Life

One thing we know for sure about our God: Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. God is life. God is love. God is beauty. God is goodness. God is truth. God doesn't want us to die. God wants us to live. Our God, who loves us from eternity to eternity, wants to give us life for eternity.

When that life was interrupted by our unwillingness to give our full yes to God's love, God sent Jesus to be with us and to say that great yes in our name and thus restore us to eternal life. So let's not be afraid of death. There is no cruel boss, vengeful enemy, or cruel tyrant waiting to destroy us - only a loving, always forgiving God, eager to welcome us home.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our Lives, Sowing Times

Our short lives on earth are sowing time. If there were no resurrection of the dead, everything we live on earth would come to nothing. How can we believe in a God who loves us unconditionally if all the joys and pains of our lives are in vain, vanishing in the earth with our mortal flesh and bones? Because God loves us unconditionally, from eternity to eternity, God cannot allow our bodies - the same as that in which Jesus, his Son and our savior, appeared to us - to be lost in final destruction.

No, life on earth is the time when the seeds of the risen body are planted. Paul says: "What is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable; what is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; what is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful; what is sown is a natural body, and what is raised is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This wonderful knowledge that nothing we live in our bodies is lived in vain holds a call for us to live every moment as a seed of eternity.

The wonderful knowledge, that nothing we live in our body is lived in vain, holds a call for us to live every moment as a seed of eternity.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Giving Permission to Die

One of the greatest gifts we can offer our family and friends is helping them to die well. Sometimes they are ready to go to God but we have a hard time letting them go. But there is a moment in which we need to give those we love the permission to return to God, from whom they came. We have to sit quietly with them and say: "Do not be afraid ... I love you, God loves you ... it's time for you to go in peace. ... I won't cling to you any longer ... I set you free to go home ... go gently, go with my love." Saying this from our heart is a true gift. It is the greatest gift love can give.

When Jesus died he said: "Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit" (Luke 23:46). It is good to repeat these words often with our dying friends. With these words on their lips or in their hearts, they can make the passage as Jesus did.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nurturing the Eternal Life Within Us

The knowledge that Jesus came to dress our mortal bodies with immortality must help us develop an inner desire to be born to a new eternal life with him and encourage us to find ways to prepare for it.

It is important to nurture constantly the life of the Spirit of Jesus - which is the eternal life - that is already in us. Baptism gave us this life, the Eucharist maintains it, and our many spiritual practices - such as prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, and spiritual guidance - can help us to deepen and solidify it. The sacramental life and life with the Word of God gradually make us ready to let go of our mortal bodies and receive the mantle of immortality. Thus death is not the enemy who puts an end to everything but the friend who takes us by the hand and leads us into the Kingdom of eternal love.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beyond Jealousy

Jealousy arises easily in our hearts. In the parable of the prodigal son, the elder son is jealous that his younger brother gets such a royal welcome even though he and his loose women swallowed up his father's property (Luke 15:30). And in the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, the workers who worked the whole day are jealous that those who came at the eleventh hour receive the same pay as they did (see Matthew 20:1-16). But the Father says to the older son: "You are with me always and all I have is yours" (Luke 15:31). And the landowner says: "Why should you be envious because I am generous?" (Matthew 20:15).

When we truly enjoy God's unlimited generosity, we will be grateful for what our brothers and sisters receive. Jealous will simply have no place in our hearts.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spiritual Bodies

In the resurrection we will have spiritual bodies. Our natural bodies came from Adam, our spiritual bodies come from Christ. Christ is the second Adam, offering us new bodies not subject to destruction. As Paul says: "as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man [Adam], so we shall bear the likeness of the heavenly one [Christ]" (I Corinthians 15:49).

Our spiritual bodies are Christ-like bodies. Jesus came to share with us the life in our mortal bodies so that we would also be able to share in his spiritual body. "Mere human nature," Paul says, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50). Jesus came to dress our perishable nature with imperishability and our mortal nature with immortality (see I Corinthians 15:53). Thus it is in the body that our spiritual life finds its fullest manifestation.


Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Monday, November 30, 2009

Doubting John: Lessons in Trust

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” [Matthew 11:1-6 NRSV]

(Also read Matthew 3:1-17, Luke 7:11-28, John 1:19-35)


Jail is not a nice place to be in. I should know; I was in one. John the Baptist was in one too, and he definitely would have hated being there. Used to wide open spaces, the prophet would have felt extremely claustrophobic behind bars and the confinement undoubtedly addled his mind. In his confusion, he began to ask a lot of questions. For John, they were extremely disturbing ones.

John was an amazing man. Isaiah had prophesied about him, saying that he would be the one who prepared the way for the Lord (Isaiah 55:8). Jesus, himself, said that there was no greater prophet who ever lived (Matthew 11:11). John had a relatively brief ministry, but one that was extremely powerful, and people came from Jerusalem and Judea to hear him preach. Even the Sadducees and the Pharisees wound their way towards him, though they probably wished they hadn't because the prophet never missed the chance to hurl invective at them.

On one occasion, with typical outspokenness, he castigated a man for sleeping with his brother's wife. The man was Herod, ruler of Galilee and Perea, and, allergic to being corrected, he promptly tossed John into prison. While in prison, news about Jesus began filtering down to him. John heard that Jesus was healing the sick, cleansing those who had leprosy, and even driving out demons. Then news came to him of an extraordinary miracle in a town called Nain.

Jesus had entered Nain with his disciples in tow, and as he approached the town gate, he saw a funeral procession. A dead person—the only son of a widow—was being carried out to the burial grounds. When Jesus saw the grieving woman, he was moved with compassion. He stopped the procession and told the dead man to get up, who, obediently, sat up and began to talk!

Even as people gaped in awe at this amazing miracle, John's disciples immediately went to their master to tell him about what had happened. Instead of being delighted as might have been expected, however, John called two of them aside and sent them to Jesus with a startling question: "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

It was a shocking display of doubt, especially for someone like John who had been the first to proclaim Jesus for who he was. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," he had exclaimed when he saw Jesus approaching him at the river Jordan. He later testified that he had seen the Spirit coming down from heaven as a dove and resting on Jesus. "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God," he said. This very man was now doubting his own testimony! What happened?

The same thing that happens to all of us when God doesn't behave in the manner we expect him to. We begin to question his motives, if not his very existence. John, like the rest of the Jews, had been expecting a savior who would deliver them from the yoke of Roman oppression and set up a socio-politico-religious system where all the sinners would be toasted and the righteous would be rewarded. John, himself, had said this of the coming Christ: "His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

But Jesus was doing none of what John had expected. On the contrary he was consorting with sinners, sharing meals with them and visiting their homes. He was even making disciples of them! And if that weren't bad enough, John the Baptist, who by all rights should have been free, was locked up in jail! If he was truly the Messiah, why wasn't Jesus getting him out? John didn't get it.

Very often we don't get it either. Though not behind bars, we too are prisoners—to our troubles, our anxieties, our fears, our weaknesses, our sins, and a hundred other things than chain us. When Jesus doesn't deliver us, we also raise questions similar to that of the Baptist: "I have been praying for years, Lord, yet my husband remains an abusive philanderer. Why aren't you changing him?" or "My son is a drug addict and he steals money from the house to pay for his habit. Why aren't you setting him free?" or "I am struggling to live a holy life but I keep committing the same sins over and over again. Why aren't you delivering me?" The real question, even if unspoken, is always this: "Are you really there, God? And if you are, why aren't you answering my prayers?"

Jesus was speaking to hundreds of people when a similar question was put to him. It was a provocative and challenging question, more so because it was asked by John's disciples, but it didn't seem to perturb Jesus. His reply was rather strange, however. He didn't reassure the men that he was, indeed, the Messiah. Instead, he told them to go tell John what they saw and heard. "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them," he said. And then he slipped in the kicker. "Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." Another version puts it in simpler language: "Blessed are those who do not give up their faith because of me." (NIRV)

Jesus was aware that John knew about all the miracles he was performing. It wasn't his purpose to inform him of them, or to remind him of them either. "I have the power to save you, John," Jesus seems to be saying. "However, there are reasons why I won't. But because I do not fulfill your expectations, do not believe the devil's lie that I am misguided or powerless or not what I seem to be. Do not fall away on account of that."

I imagine Jesus's words would have been like a bucket of cold water thrown into John's face. I imagine him thinking, as he came to his senses: "I will not pretend I understand what you are about, Jesus. I will not pretend I understand your method or your message either. But I do believe that you are the Messiah and I believe you know what you are doing." And when he bared his neck for Herod's blade, I imagine there was no fear or anxiety in him because he had understood the truth, and the truth had set him free.

We need the truth to set us free. And the truth is this: God's thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). When we struggle with life's burdens and cry out to God to grant us relief, very often He does. But there are times when He doesn't. It isn't because he doesn't care, or because he doesn't want to. It is because he has his reasons, and they are good ones, even if we don't realize that.

I was not always the man I am today. I was a rather bad person. Even as a youth I led a depraved life much to the dismay of my parents. They were a God fearing couple and I am sure that in bleaker moments they must have wondered what they did to deserve a child like me. I am sure my wife too, also extremely faithfull to God, in her darker moments, wondered what sin she had committed to get an unfaithful, tyrannical, and abusive husband like me. Their faith never shattered, though, and when they look at me today, they know that God had his reasons -- and they were good ones.

Paul told the Romans "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). God does work for the good of all who love him. Blessed are those who believe it.

May the Spirit be with you.

Aneel Aranha

Holy Spirit Interactive


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Telling the Story of Jesus

The Church is called to announce the Good News of Jesus to all people and all nations. Besides the many works of mercy by which the Church must make Jesus' love visible, it must also joyfully announce the great mystery of God's salvation through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The story of Jesus is to be proclaimed and celebrated. Some will hear and rejoice, some will remain indifferent, some will become hostile. The story of Jesus will not always be accepted, but it must be told.

We who know the story and try to live it out, have the joyful task of telling it to others. When our words rise from hearts full of love and gratitude, they will bear fruit, whether we can see this or not.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Liberty or License?

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command."1

A Daily Encounter reader writes: "I know lovely people who go to church and say they want and embrace an intimate relationship with Jesus—and are living with their lovers outside of marriage. A girl who works where I work says she loves Jesus and wants a close relationship with him. She goes to church every Sunday and is living with her boyfriend. We can't judge."


Can we really say we love the Lord but don't obey him? As Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." The reality is it's what we do, not what we say, that counts.

As God's Word, the Bible, says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."2 And again, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body."3

True, as Christians we have freedom and don't want to slip back into legalism—that is, doing the "right" thing outwardly but not from the heart. At the same time, our freedom or liberty in Christ is not a license to do as we please. As the Bible also says, "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."4 If we continue to sin, we actually lose our freedom because we become a slave to, rather than a master of, sin.

Our reader also says that we can't judge. Actually, while we are not to judge others, we are to judge actions. Again, God's Word says, "But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one."5

Pastors and teachers are also instructed to rebuke and correct people who are sinning. Admittedly, there is a fine line between judging people and their actions, but if Christians would read the Bible, know what it teaches, and were sincere about obeying the Lord, their actions would judge themselves.

Sadly, too, what so many people fail to realize is that God's instructions are for our good, not to take away the joy of living. Living in harmony with God's will gives us true liberty but it doesn't give us a license to do as we please. Also, when we sin, we not only hurt ourselves but very often others we are close to as well.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to love you sincerely from the heart. Help me to overcome my bent for sinning so that I will always want to live in harmony with your will and live to please you and not myself. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. John 14:15 (NIV).
2. Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)
3. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV).
4. Romans 6:15 (KJV).
5. 1 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV).

<:))))><

Acts International - Daily Encounter


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Mission of the Church

There are more people on this planet outside the Church than inside it. Millions have been baptised, millions have not. Millions participate in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, but millions do not.

The Church as the body of Christ, as Christ living in the world, has a larger task than to support, nurture, and guide its own members. It is also called to be a witness for the love of God made visible in Jesus. Before his death Jesus prayed for his followers, "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18). Part of the essence of being the Church is being a living witness for Christ in the world.


Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Relationship

The fact is we were created for relationships and while it may not be the most desirable, we can live without romantic love, but we cannot live healthily without close, loving relationships with at least one trustworthy friend. God himself is in relationship within the Holy Trinity. And think of Jesus; one of the first things he did when he commenced his ministry was to choose the twelve disciples "that might be with him." And while he never married, he certainly had close friendships with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. If Jesus needed close friends, how much more do we? To truly "be" is to be in relationship.

Perhaps the most pathetic loneliness of all is to feel separated and isolated from God.

For many of life's problems there are no simple, quick-fix answers. One way, at least for some, is to find a Christian church where the people welcome strangers and reach out to the lonely—and where you can find God.* It can take a while to gain a sense of belonging, but I encourage you to hang in, and especially to join a small and accepting group. In countries where the Christian church is forbidden, some find companionship in an "underground" church. All of these people surely need our prayers.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, how I thank you that you have created mankind for relationships and today I especially pray for the lonely who are everywhere. Please help me to be an encourager and supporter of at least one lonely person or family and please lead all of our churches to do likewise. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

Acts International - Daily Encounter

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Becoming the Church of the Poor

When we claim our own poverty and connect our poverty with the poverty of our brothers and sisters, we become the Church of the poor, which is the Church of Jesus. Solidarity is essential for the Church of the poor . Both pain and joy must be shared. As one body we will experience deeply one another's agonies as well as one another's ecstasies. As Paul says: "If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy" (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Often we might prefer not to be part of the body because it makes us feel the pain of others so intensely. Every time we love others deeply we feel their pain deeply. However, joy is hidden in the pain. When we share the pain we also will share the joy.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Friday, November 13, 2009

God far away?

When God feels far away, it isn't God who has moved. The barrier is in us. Neither does it have anything to do with whether or not we were christened or baptized. While Jesus picked little children up and blessed them, he didn't christen them, and (though some will disagree with me) as far as I know there is nothing about being christened as such in the Bible, and while baptism is important, not being baptized doesn't cause God to distance himself from us.

When God feels far away, it can be caused by un-confessed sins and/or by persisting in doing things we know that are out of harmony with God's will. More often than not, however, that barrier has more to do with our impaired relationship with others, and especially so if it was with our parents in our developmental years. For those who had a close, loving, warm relationship—especially with their fathers, it is very easy to feel that God, the Heavenly Father, is also close, loving, and warm. But for those of us who felt their father was distant, cold, and/or punitive, we tend to project that on to God the Heavenly Father and feel that he too is cold, distant, and punitive. I've had to wrestle with this problem, too, so I can understand how you feel.

To overcome, you not only need to confess your sins to God, but you also need to have an open, honest, and trusting relationship with other men—or at least with one soul brother with whom you can share all your inner thoughts, feelings, victories and failures—one who will not judge, criticize or put your down or tell you what you should or shouldn't do, but one who will love and accept you just as you are. Ask God to give you such a soul brother. As we grow close to others we will be able to feel close to God. (If you are a woman, you need a soul sister for this type of supportive relationship.)

Also, be sure to commit and trust your life to God every day no matter how you feel. Remember that God is close to you whether you feel it or not. Learn to thank God and accept this by faith regardless of how you feel.

Acts International - Daily Inspiration


WHOLENESS

Of one thing you can be certain, God loves you totally and unconditionally no matter how you feel, what you have ever done or have failed to do. Be assured, too, that it isn't God who causes our problems. We happen to live in a broken, sinful world where we all face trials and go through tough times. We won't be delivered from tribulations until we get to heaven.

In the meantime, God wants us to keep growing towards wholeness so we will overcome many of our personal struggles.

Acts International-Daily Inspiration

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Lawyer's Question

"Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?"1


A lawyer whom I believe was sincere wrote saying, "As my profession is a lawyer, when someone cites the Bible, I always tend to think about different ways of interpretation of the Word—such as during the times of the inquisition."

Good point. I think many people genuinely struggle with the same question as there are so many different interpretations of God's Word … and so many different applications of the same passages.

Answering a lawyer is out of my league; however, suffice it to say that legalists (out of their own insecurities and authoritarian stance) will use God's Word to control people to get them to conform to their (the legalist's) neuroses. At the opposite end of the scale are those who say what "speaks" to them in the Bible is God's Word and the rest they conveniently ignore—a very comfortable but, like the legalist's view, a self-deceptive way to live. Somewhere between these extremes are those who seek a balanced view of what God is really saying.

One major problem is that we all interpret situations, etc., on the basis of who we are and often on what we want to see… and on how honest or dishonest we are with our own selves.

In other words, we all look at truth—including God's Truth, the Bible—through our own warped lenses. The more dishonest we are with ourselves, the more warped our lenses will be, and the more warped our lenses, the more we will distort all truth (including God's Truth) to make it match our perception of reality—and thereby interpret it to say what we want it to say. Alternatively, the more honest we are with ourselves (less defensive, etc.) the less warped will be our lenses, and the clearer we will see all truth, including God's Truth. I believe it is impossible to be intellectually honest without being personally honest.

If we want to interpret God's Word correctly and see and hear what God is really saying, we need to start by "melting" our hardened hearts (the cause of which is personal dishonesty and defensiveness), and by becoming courageously honest with ourselves.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be real, authentic, and courageously honest with myself so I can see your Word more clearly, and follow your directives more closely. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Mark 8:17-18 (NIV).

<:))))><

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The One Who Made Me

A scholarly foreigner was employed to translate the New Testament into his native language. After a while, he exclaimed, “What a marvelous Book this is!” “Why do you think so?” asked the missionary. “Because it tells me so exactly about myself. It knows all that is in me. The One who made this Book must be the One who made me!”

Unknown

The One Who

A scholarly foreigner was employed to translate the New Testament into his native language. After a while, he exclaimed, “What a marvelous Book this is!” “Why do you think so?” asked the missionary. “Because it tells me so exactly about myself. It knows all that is in me. The One who made this Book must be the One who made me!”

Unknown

The One Who

A scholarly foreigner was employed to translate the New Testament into his native language. After a while, he exclaimed, “What a marvelous Book this is!” “Why do you think so?” asked the missionary. “Because it tells me so exactly about myself. It knows all that is in me. The One who made this Book must be the One who made me!”

Unknown

The One Who

A scholarly foreigner was employed to translate the New Testament into his native language. After a while, he exclaimed, “What a marvelous Book this is!” “Why do you think so?” asked the missionary. “Because it tells me so exactly about myself. It knows all that is in me. The One who made this Book must be the One who made me!”

Unknown

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Focusing on the Poor

Like every human organization the Church is constantly in danger of corruption. As soon as power and wealth come to the Church, manipulation, exploitation, misuse of influence, and outright corruption are not far away.

How do we prevent corruption in the Church? The answer is clear: by focusing on the poor. The poor make the Church faithful to its vocation. When the Church is no longer a church for the poor, it loses its spiritual identity. It gets caught up in disagreements, jealousy, power games, and pettiness. Paul says, "God has composed the body so that greater dignity is given to the parts which were without it, and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25). This is the true vision. The poor are given to the Church so that the Church as the body of Christ can be and remain a place of mutual concern, love, and peace.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

The Truth

"Our challenge for today and every day is to make it a priority to spend time with the Lord in His Word. We may have to reorganize our schedule or wake up earlier. But it's worth the effort--discernment and wisdom await us if we put into practice the truths we absorb each day." -- Dr. Charles Stanley

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Weakest in the Center

The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control. The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That's the mystery of the Church. As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us - the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick - who form the real center. Paul says, "It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity" (1 Corinthians 12:23).

The Church as the people of God can truly embody of the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part. Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity. It is the essence of being the body of Christ.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

God's beauty

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where is Christ?

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew28: 20

Jesus comes alongside us as we worship. He speaks to us in his Word and sometimes through a stranger, spouse, or child. Yet much of the time we are not aware of his presence. Is it God who pulls the shade over our eyes? We are kept from recognizing him by our doubt, by the depth of our sorrow or the height of our troubles, or just because in our busyness we pay no attention to the many ways he reveals himself.

We often become aware of Jesus’ presence only in looking back. Then we remember the moments when our hearts were strangely warmed. Then we see how he guided our feet, how he covered us with his wings, how he has never failed or forsaken us.

Let’s pray for expectant ears alert to hear His voice, expectant eyes that notice signs of His love, and expectant hearts eager to respond to His call. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

TODAY


THE ISOLATION CHAMBER

"Be still and know that I am God...." Psalm 46:10


There is a time and place in our walk with God in which He sets us in a place of waiting.

It is a place in which all past experiences are of no value. It is a time of such stillness that it can disturb the most faithful if we do not understand that He is the one who has brought us to this place for only a season.

It is as if God has placed a wall around us. No new opportunities--simply inactivity.

During these times, God is calling us aside to fashion something new in us. It is an isolation chamber designed to call us to deeper roots of prayer and faith.

It is not a comfortable place, especially for a task-driven workplace believer. Our nature cries out, "You must do something," while God is saying, "Be still and know that I am God."

You know the signs that you have been brought into this chamber when He has removed many things from your life and you can't seem to change anything. Perhaps you are unemployed. Perhaps you are laid up with an illness.

Most religious people live a very planned and orchestrated life where they know almost everything that will happen. But for people in whom God is performing a deeper work, He brings them into a time of quietness that seems almost eerie. They cannot say what God is doing. They just know that He is doing a work that cannot be explained to themselves or to others.

Has God brought you to a place of being still?

Be still and know that He really is God.

When this happens, the chamber will open soon after.

by Os Hillman

One Body with Many Parts

The Church is one body. Paul writes, "We were baptised into one body in a single Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). But this one body has many parts. As Paul says, "If they were all the same part, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one" (1 Corinthians 12:19). Not everyone can be everything. Often we expect one member of the body to fulfill a task that belongs to others. But the hand cannot be asked to see nor the eye to hear.

Together we are Christ's body, each of us with a part to play in the whole (see 1 Corinthians 12:27). Let's be grateful for our limited but real part in the body.


Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Authority of Compassion

The Church often wounds us deeply. People with religious authority often wound us by their words, attitudes, and demands. Precisely because our religion brings us in touch with the questions of life and death, our religious sensibilities can get hurt most easily. Ministers and priests seldom fully realize how a critical remark, a gesture of rejection, or an act of impatience can be remembered for life by those to whom it is directed.

There is such an enormous hunger for meaning in life, for comfort and consolation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for restoration and healing, that anyone who has any authority in the Church should constantly be reminded that the best word to characterize religious authority is compassion. Let's keep looking at Jesus whose authority was expressed in compassion.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

A Love That Changes Everything

On the night of March 29, 1848, Niagara Falls completely and mysteriously stopped flowing. The estimated 500,000 gallons of water that customarily rushed over the falls stalled to a trickle. James Francis Macklem, a village justice of the peace in the Niagara area, wrote that he had witnessed the subsidence of the waters and that the phenomenon of the Niagara running dry "caused great excitement in the neighborhood at the time."

To some, the mystery of this sudden "turning off" of the river seemed to be a sign, and nightfall found most of the churches packed with people praying or talking in frightened voices about the end of the world. Fear grew into panic.

The cause of this unusual event began along the shores of Lake Erie near Buffalo. For several days, the wind had been blowing to the east over Lake Erie, driving much of its ice flow down river. Then the winds suddenly shifted to the west, driving the lake water west and causing the lake’s ice to break up and dam the river. The Niagara River ceased to flow for almost 30 hours until the ice shifted and the dam broke up.

Up until about a week ago, I was really exhausted. Something had stopped flowing and I was experiencing some struggles and stress, and rather than wanting to learn from them my first instinct was to flee. I wanted to escape the trials. Something had stopped flowing, but then something happened to me. As I prayed, the love which I experienced long ago as child in Jesus Christ when I gave my life to Christ, was poured out all over again. I was overwhelmed by a feeling that no matter what happens in life, no matter what struggles I must face, it’s all going to be all right, because I’m loved. I’m loved by one whose love for me is greater than I can ever explain. And because of that love I can endure and can hope not only in tomorrow but also in eternity. Because of that love I can live, and live abundantly.

Keith Manry


Soar with the Eagles

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."1

Did you know that an eagle knows when the storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come.

When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle doesn't escape the storm; it simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life come upon us—and all of us will experience them—it may not be easy but we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief in Jesus, our God—and daily committing and trusting our life and way to Him. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God's power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives. Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, but rather, how we handle them.2

As God's Word says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."3 Admittedly, this can take time.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to always hope and trust in you so that, when the storms of life rage around me, I will be able to soar like the eagle above the turbulence and become a better, stronger and calmer Christian as a result. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name. Amen."

Note: For additional help read "Lessons from Suffering" at: http://tinyurl.com/exuyw

1. Isaiah 40:31 (NIV).
2. Today's Daily Encounter was submitted by Dick Nichol who has since lost his wife through cancer. Author of the Eagle story unknown.
3. Romans 8:28 (NIV).

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Acts International - Daily Inspiration

Monday, October 19, 2009

Breaking Through the Boundaries

The sacrament of the Eucharist, as the sacrament of the presence of Christ among and within us, has the unique power to unite us into one body, irrespective of age, colour, race or gender, emotional condition, economic status, or social background. The Eucharist breaks through all these boundaries and creates the one body of Christ, living in the world as a vibrant sign of unity and community.

Jesus prays fervently to his Father: "May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me" (John 17:21). The Eucharist is the sacrament of this divine unity lived out among all people.

Henri Nouwen - Daily Meditation

Blessings of Unanswered Prayer

Jesus said, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father [God] in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!."1


Terry Fitzgerald Sieck shared how she "was in the habit of praying very specifically for what she wanted. She told God in great detail about the kind of job, the kind of husband, the kind of life that she envisioned for herself. And Terry was frequently frustrated. One day, a friend suggested that she try a different tack. Give God a blank sheet of paper, the friend suggested, and let God give you his list for your life.

"Not long afterwards, Terry went back to school—something she hadn't anticipated doing. And she met a wonderful new man whom she eventually married. He didn't fit the criteria of her earlier list, but he was everything she wanted in a husband. When Terry turned her life over to God's will, God provided for her needs in ways she couldn't have imagined."2

There's nothing wrong with asking God for what we would like, but to get prayers answered, they need to be in harmony with God's will. And while "some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers" (as the country song puts it), he often does give us the desires of our heart when we pray in harmony with his will.

I think God has a great sense of humor too. For instance, my last car had just under 200,000 miles on it. It was old but still okay for running around town, but I didn't feel safe in driving it long distances anymore. For months I had been looking for a good bargain on a mid-size SUV (not a gas guzzling one) as I carry lots of stuff for our work. I prayed, "God, I don't really need an SUV but it sure would be nice to have one." Within two weeks I found a fabulous bargain on a year-old, low-mileage vehicle. I now own an SUV and have found it a great help in our work.

I think one of my son's "prayers" was answered too. His vehicle was giving him all sorts of problems so I sold him my old car for $1.00—which he borrowed from us to pay for it!

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you hear and answer my prayers. Thank you, too, for the times you haven't answered my prayers according to my wishes which, if you had, it may have done me more harm than good. Help me to live and pray in harmony with your will so that I can be sure that you will answer my prayers one way or another. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

Note: See article, "How to Pray Effectively" at:http://tinyurl.com/kb62w.

1. Matthew 7:11 (NIV).
2. Terry Fitzgerald Sieck, found in Stories of God's Abundance for a More Joyful Life (Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishers, 1999), pp. 196-198.

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AN AUDIENCE OF ONE

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2


What audience do you play to?

Each day you are seen by many who will make a judgment about the way you handle yourself among different audiences.

Politicians have learned to play to their audiences, customizing messages for the needs of their particular groups.

Musicians have learned to play to their audiences.

Pastors play to their congregations each Sunday morning.

Workplace believers play to the audiences who will buy their product.

Christ has called us to play to one audience--the audience of Himself.

When you seek to please any other audience in your life, you become susceptible to situational ethics and motivations based on the need for the moment. Your audience becomes a pawn in your hands because you know what they want. Is that wrong? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

Pure obedience to pleasing God in our lives will often meet the needs of those around us.

It is God's will that you and I love our spouses, provide good services to our customers, and look to the interests of others before ourselves. This will result in meeting many needs of the audiences in our lives.

However, there are other times when our audiences are asking for something contrary to God's will.

Politicians are often forced to appease their audiences, even though it may go against God's laws. When we are asked to go with the flow, we discover which audience is most important in our lives. Is it the audience of One, or the audience of many?

Today, be aware of which audience you are playing to.

Ask yourself why you are taking a particular action.

Is it to please the audience of One?

Or is it to please the audience of others who might negatively impact you should you not play to their tune?

by Os Hillman
AllWorship

Pruning for Productivity

Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father [God] is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."1


In preparation for his sermon about Jesus being the vine, and we the branches, Brett Blair shared the following: "I must admit that I know very little about the particulars of the wine industry. So I did some reading in this area and found it to be quite fascinating. Grape vines are very rugged in one way, but in another sense their fruit is very delicate and requires being treated with kid gloves. A young vine is not permitted to bear fruit for the first three years. It is therefore drastically pruned in December and January to preserve its energy. The particular branches that do not bear fruit are cut out to further conserve the energy of the plant. If this constant cutting back was not done, the result would be a crop that was not up to its full potential."2

Sometimes we wonder why God allows us, his children, to go through so many trials and tribulations; and yet, when we look back over the past, we can see how God was with us guiding our every step and pruning us so our lives would become more fruitful and productive. As the writer to the early Hebrew Christians wrote, "No discipline [or pruning] seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."3

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, while I can't say that I have ever enjoyed your 'pruning' in my life, I thank you for all the trials you have used in my life to do this. Help me to realize when trials come that you are using these to help me become more and more like Jesus in every way and accept them with an attitude of gratitude. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

Note: For further help see "Lessons from Suffering" at:http://tinyurl.com/exuyw.

1. John 15:1-2 (NIV).
2. Rev. Brett Blair. www.eSermons.com.
3. Hebrews 12:11 (NIV).

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Acts Internatonal - Daily Inspiration

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The "Demon" of Lust?

"If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry--get over it quickly; for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil."1

A Daily Encounter reader writes, "I have been fighting with a lust demon for years. I have asked GOD to relieve me of this demon, but I keep slipping back and doing the same thing all over again. I have just rededicated my life to God and am on my church's outreach team. I want this demon of Satan out of my body never to return. Will you pray for me?"

Hello, Jim (name changed), Thank you for being honest and sharing your struggle with lust. To resolve any problem, it is imperative to understand the root cause of the problem. Let me assure you that lust, as with anger, is NOT a demon. If I am wrongfully angry, that is my problem, and when I fail to resolve it, I give the foothold to the enemy.

It's the same with lust. Lust is a struggle most red-blooded men struggle with at one time or another. Severe lust, however, is usually a symptom of repressed love or unmet love needs. As long as you blame the problem on anything outside of yourself, you will never overcome it because lust is a problem within. I don't know who told you it was a demon, but I challenge this person to find anywhere in the Bible where it says there is "a demon of lust."

Sure, Satan is the originator of all sin and does tempt us, but most of us don't need the devil or a demon to make, or even cause, us to lust. We can do it all by ourselves because we are all sinners.

So how do you overcome? First and foremost, you need not only confess your lust to God, but also ask him to confront you with the real cause of your lust ... to show you the root cause of the problem ... and then to lead you to the help you need to overcome. Only by facing the truth will you be set free.

Remember too, as David wrote in the Psalms, "The Lord is near to all who call on him; to all who call on him in truth."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, whenever I have any problem that I can't resolve, please help me to see the root cause of it and help me to find the support I need to overcome. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."

Sample of Daily Encounter by Dick Innes

1. Ephesians 4:26-27 (TLB).
2. Psalm 145:18 (NIV).