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Thread: In step

  1. #1481
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    Think, man, think

    For reading & meditation: Romans 12:1-8

    "' be transformed by the renewing of your mind '" (v.2)

    The second thing the psalmist learned about himself as he paused in self-examination was this: "I saw myself so stupid and so ignorant" (Psa. 73:22, TLB). There were things he knew which he had foolishly chosen to forget. He forgot that God was in control.

    He forgot the temporary nature of success and prosperity. He forgot the whole purpose of godly living. He forgot that God always has the last word. If you and I react as the psalmist did to trials, then there is only one thing that can be said about us - we are stupid and ignorant.

    The third thing the psalmist learned about himself was that he had reacted like an animal - instinctively: "I was a brute beast before you" (Psa. 73:22b). What is the difference between a beast and a human being? A beast lacks the faculty of reason. It is unable to stand outside itself to consider itself and its actions. An animal responds to any stimulus instinctively without any interval for thought.

    The psalmist had been doing that - he had failed to put an interval of thought between the stimulus and the response. Once he did stop to think, and put the situation in a different context, his negative feelings immediately dissolved. Is not this the value of the Scriptures?

    As we read them they reason with us. They tell us not to react instinctively to things, but to think them through. They give us a new framework for our understanding, a new context in which to reason. The more we draw our understanding from the Scriptures and learn to think God's thoughts after Him, the more secure and the more effective our lives become.

    Prayer:
    Father, I am grateful that You have made me with the ability to think. My thoughts can lead me astray or they can lead me to You. Help me to draw my thought patterns not from the world but from Your Word. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.

  2. #1482
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    Nevertheless

    For reading & meditation: Psalms 31:19-24

    "In my alarm I said, 'I am cut off from your sight!' Yet you heard my cry for mercy '" (v.22)

    Once the psalmist reached the place of utter abandonment before God there came into his heart an instant reassurance: "Yet I am always with you" (Psa. 73:23). Some translations put it like this: "Nevertheless I am continually with you". Personally I prefer the word "nevertheless" as it conjures up to my mind a movement in the soul of the psalmist that was vital to his spiritual recovery.

    He did not stop at the point of self-examination and turn in upon himself - he looked into the face of his heavenly Father and realised that he was accepted and loved. If we end at the point of self-examination and don't remember the next words, "Nevertheless I am continually with you," then we will stay locked into the negative feelings of guilt and self-condemnation.

    This is why I said earlier that self-examination must not be undertaken except in the presence of God. Many have spent time examining themselves, and because they have judged themselves to be worthless and useless, they have gone out and committed suicide.

    Am I talking to someone like that today? If so, put your foot on this next rung of the ladder and realise that although you may be feeling useless and worthless nevertheless you are still in the presence of God. He still permits you to come into His presence, even though you have forgotten His promises and misunderstood His ways.

    God does not cast you away. Let the wonder of this break afresh upon you today. Whatever has gone wrong in your life, confess it to Him and look into His face and say: "Nevertheless I am continually with you."

    Prayer:
    Father, how can I sufficiently thank You for giving me the right word at the right time? You knew how much I needed this today. It is a lifeline to my spirit. As I hold on to it let it bind me closer to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

  3. #1483
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    What of the future?

    For reading & meditation: Philippians 1:3-11

    "' he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (v.6)

    We saw yesterday how the psalmist sensed that despite his doubts and failures he was still accepted by God. But there's more - he realises also that God's restraining hand has been constantly with him: "You hold me by my right hand" (Psa. 73:23). What was it, after all, that prevented him going over the brink?

    It was the protecting hand of God. God Himself had put it in his mind to go into the sanctuary and had thereby turned him round. Realising that, he thinks of the future. What is the future going to be like? His conclusion is that the future is going to be just as secure, for: "You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory" (v.24).

    Can you sense the psalmist's security as he contemplates the future? He is saying, in effect: "You are doing this now, holding me by my right hand, protecting me, restraining me, restoring me and delivering me, and I know You will keep on doing this right up to the time when I meet with you in glory."

    How does God guide us? Through circumstances, through reason, through the fellowship of Christians, but mainly through the Scriptures. The Word of God, when we consult it, unfolds reality, dispels illusion and guides us safely through the snares and problems of this earthly way until we eventually arrive in glory.

    The psalmist had seen the end of the ungodly and it had helped to change his perspective. Now he sees the end of the godly and thus his perspective becomes even more clear. And what is the end of the godly? It is glory!

    Prayer:
    O Father, let the prospect of coming glory fill and thrill my soul this day and every day. Help me never to forget that no matter how hard and difficult my earthly pilgrimage may be, it is as nothing compared to the glory that lies ahead. Amen.

  4. #1484
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    No satisfying substitute

    For reading & meditation: John 6:60-71

    "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." For reading & meditation John 6:60-71(v.68)

    We come now to what is without question the topmost rung of the ladder which the psalmist began to ascend when he entered the sanctuary of God. Here, in view of his experience, he can do nothing but give himself to the adoration of God. This is what he says: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Psa. 73:25).

    The inevitable consequence of working through our problems in the presence of God is that we worship Him. Countless times I have seen people fall upon their knees at the end of a profitable counselling session and worship God. In fact, this is one of the great purposes of Christian counselling - to enlighten people about their spiritual resources and help free them to draw closer to God.

    The psalmist has found that there is no one in earth or heaven who can do for him what God has done. He has come to realise that when he plays truant with the Almighty there is simply no way in which he can make sense of life; that, as Othello put it: "Chaos is come again."

    Have you come to this same place in your own life? Can you say that you have seen through everything in this life and have come to the conclusion that nothing can satisfy you but God? Then you are in the happy position of the disciples who, pausing to consider how they could replace Jesus, said "Lord, to whom shall we go?

    You have the words of eternal life." They saw, as hopefully you have seen, that there is no satisfying substitute for Jesus.

    Prayer:
    O Father, how can I ever be grateful enough for the realisation that no one can do for me what You can do? You are my centre and my circumference; I begin and end with You. May the wonder of it go deep within me today and every day. Amen

  5. #1485
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    The desire for God

    For reading & meditation: Psalms 42

    "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God '" (v.2)

    Yesterday we looked at the words: "Whom have I in heaven but you?" Now we examine the second part of that text: "And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Psa. 73:25b). Personally, I find these some of the most enchanting words in the whole of the Old Testament. The first part of the verse is put in a negative, and the second in a positive form. Having looked around and seen that there is no satisfying substitute for the Almighty, the psalmist goes on to make the positive assertion that from the bottom of his heart he desires to know God.

    He has come to see (so I believe) that it is more important to desire God for who He is than for what He does or what He gives. In a sense, the psalmist's entire problem arose out of the fact that he had put what God gives in the place of God Himself.

    The ungodly were having a good time while he was having a bad time. Why was he having to suffer like this? His trouble was that he had become more interested in the things God gives than in God Himself, and when he didn't have the things he wanted, he began to doubt God's love. Now, however, he has come to the place where he desires God for Himself.

    The ultimate test of the Christian life is whether we desire God for Himself or for what He gives. Each one of us must ask ourselves: "Do I desire God more than forgiveness? More than release from my problems?

    More than healing of my condition? More than gifts and abilities?" How tragic that our prayers can be full of pleadings that show, when they are examined, that we are more interested in enjoying God's blessings than we are in enjoying God.

    Prayer:
    O Father, forgive me that so often I am concerned more with Your gifts than I am with You - the Giver. Help me to long after You, not because of what You give me, but because of who You are. In Jesus' Name I ask it Amen.

  6. #1486
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    The Rock of Ages

    For reading & meditation: Psalms 28

    "To you I call, O Lord my Rock ' if you remain silent I shall be like those who have gone down to the pit." (v.1)

    Now that the psalmist's faith is no longer conditioned by material factors, and he is confidently resting in God, he makes this interesting statement: "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever" (Psa. 73:26). Some commentators say he is referring here to the time when his flesh will decay through old age, while others say he was experiencing some physical problems at that very time. Both may be right.

    When he looks into the future he knows a time will come when he will be an old man when his heart and flesh will fail. He will be unable to look after himself but it will still be all right, says this man, "For whatever may happen, God will still be the strength of my heart."

    A commentator who feels the psalmist's words have a direct bearing on his physical condition at that time says this: "You cannot pass through a spiritual experience such as this man passed through without your physical body suffering.

    His nerves would be in a bad state and his heart would have been affected by the strain. Nevertheless he still affirms that God is his strength."

    It is generally agreed that the word which is translated "strength" is the word for "rock", and so the verse may justifiably be translated: "God is the rock of my heart and my portion for ever." What a thrilling thought this is - God is my Rock. As one Welsh preacher put it: "There are many occasions when I tremble as I stand upon the Rock, but there are never any occasions when the Rock trembles under me."

    Prayer:
    O Father, help me this day to go out into life aware that although I may not know much about the ages of the rocks I know much about the Rock of Ages. And everything I know makes me feel deeply, deeply secure. I am so grateful. Amen.

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    Nearer my God to Thee

    For reading & meditation: James 4:1-10

    "Come near to God and he will come near to you." (v.8)

    The final two verses of Psalm 73 form a conclusion and a resolution. Listen to them once again: "Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds" (vv.27-28).

    The psalmist has finished his review of the past and is now hammering out a philosophy with which to face the future. He is resolved that no matter what anyone else may do, he is going to live in close companionship with God.

    He helps us to see the importance of this resolution by putting it in the form of a contrast: "Those who are far from you will perish ' but as for me, it is good to be near God." Really, when it comes down to it, there are only two positions in life - close to God or far away from Him.

    I wonder, as the psalmist penned these words was something like this going through his mind: "What caused me so much trouble in recent days and accounted for all my difficulties was the fact that I did not keep close to God. I erroneously believed that the cause of my problems was the prosperity of the ungodly, but having entered into the sanctuary of God I see that this was not the cause of my problems at all. My problems came because I had chosen not to remain close to Him. For me there is now only one thing that matters - staying close to God."

    How are things with you at this moment? Do you feel close to God? If you don't, then let me put what I want to say in the words of a wayside pulpit that arrested my attention some years ago: "If you feel that God is far away guess who moved?"

    Prayer:
    Father, I am grateful for the promise of Your Word to me today that when I draw near to You, You will draw near to me. Help me put those words to the test by moving closer to You than I have ever done before. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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    Take and tell

    For reading & meditation: John 20:10-18

    "Go ' to my brothers and tell them '" (v.17)

    Today, on this penultimate day of our meditations on Psalm 73, we face the important practical question: How do we go about the task of keeping close to God? Firstly, we do so by prayer.

    The person who keeps close to God is the one who is always talking to God. Many definitions of prayer have been given; I add another: prayer is co-operation with God. In prayer you align your desires, your will, your life to God.

    You and God become agreed on life desires, life purposes, life plans, and you work them out together. Secondly, we do it by constant study of the Scriptures.

    God's Word is alive with meaning, and when you read it something will happen to you, for "the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb.4:12, NKJ). Expect it to speak to you - and it will. Faith is expectancy: "According to your faith will it be done to you" (Matt. 9:29). Remember also to surrender to the truth that is revealed: "If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know '" (John 7:17, NKJ).

    In a moral universe the key to knowledge is moral response. The moment we cease to obey, that moment the revelation ceases to reveal. We do it, thirdly, by sharing with others.

    Remember, nothing is ours if we do not share it. When we share, the things go deeper inside us. We must share what God is doing, both with our fellow Christians and with non-Christians also.

    The psalmist's last words are these: "I will tell of all your deeds." We take and we tell - we take and we tell; these, we must never forget, are the two heartbeats of the Christian experience.

    Prayer:
    Gracious Father, I don't want nearness to You to be an occasional experience - I want it to be a perpetual experience. Help me to pay the price, no matter what it costs. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.

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    Reflections

    For reading & meditation: Psalms 73

    "But as for me, it is good to be near God '" (v.28)

    A tinge of sadness is upon my spirit as I come to this last day of our meditations on Psalm 73. In all my years of writing, never can I remember being so personally blessed. The truth this psalm conveys has gripped my own heart and life in a most unusual way.

    Let's remind ourselves of what the psalmist has taught us. Life is filled with many painful and perplexing problems which at times cause us to cry out: "Lord, why don't You intervene?"

    Yet just as our feet are about to slide, something always comes to us - an idea or a thought, which, if we hold on to it, serves to halt our downward progress. We discover that when we act responsibly and do what is right, even though we do not feel like it, we put ourselves in the way of experiencing inward change. But it is not God's purpose to bring about only a little change - He desires to bring about a lot of change.

    How does He achieve this? He does it by bringing us into His presence and revealing to us His Word. There we discover that our greatest problems are not the ones that are outside us but the ones that are inside us - our perspectives are wrong. Real change comes about not when our feelings are soothed but when our thinking is changed.

    Changed thinking leads to changed desires. When our perspectives are controlled by the Word rather than by the world, then we will experience inner peace. The psalmist resolved to draw near to God and stay close to Him so that he could "see life steadily, and see it whole." Let's make that our resolution too.

    Prayer:
    O Father, I see that the secret of effective living is looking at life from Your point of view. I resolve by Your grace to give myself more and more to learning this secret. Help me, my Father. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.

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    Get Hold of This!

    For reading & meditation - Romans 8:28-39""... we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."" (v. 28)

    Before going on to examine some of the major ways in which life breaks us, we pause to review what we have been saying over these past few days. We said that while the same things may happen to us all, they do not have the same effect upon us all.

    Life's blows make some people querulous and bitter; others, they sweeten and refine. We also saw that the reason some respond to life positively and turn their problems into possibilities is because of right inner attitudes.

    There are many non-Christians who put us to shame when it comes to the question of rightly responding to life, and it is high time, therefore, that we Christians got our philosophy of living sorted out once and for all.

    If, as the Scripture teaches, God will let nothing happen to one of His children without supplying the necessary grace to turn the stumbling block into a stepping stone, then we ought to be ahead of the world in demonstrating how to meet whatever life sends us with confidence and faith.

    Be quite clear about this: no one can fully represent the Christian way of living until they commit themselves to believing that, though God may allow what appears to be a disaster in the life of one of His children, He does so only if He can turn it to good effect.

    If transformation is not possible, then God would never have allowed it to happen in the first place. So let this truth sink deep into your spirit - God only allows what He can use.

    Prayer:
    Father, I come to You now to ask that this truth be so impressed upon me during the weeks ahead that never again will I have to be reminded of it. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.

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    Framework for generosity

    For reading & meditation -Proverbs 11

    "The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight." (v.1)

    How do we go about establishing a framework for generosity? First - decide that nothing you possess is your own but that everything you have belongs to God. This puts God in His place and you in yours. You are now ready to manage His possessions, not as you like but as He likes. This is real freedom.

    It gives you a sense of accountability to another - God. You get your life orders not from a whim, a notion, self-impulse or whatever takes your fancy, but from the One who saved you and redeemed you.

    Second - go over your life and see what belongs to your needs and what merely belongs to your wants. Your needs are important - God has promised to supply them - but your wants? Ah, that is another thing. You need as much as will make you fit - spiritually, physically and mentally - for the purposes of God while you are here on the earth. Beyond that, what you have belongs to the needs of others.

    How do you decide what belongs to your needs? No one can decide it for you - though they can make suggestions - for you are accountable to God. Go over your life item by item and ask Him for directions. Your family should figure prominently in your concerns, but you must check everything with the Lord.

    Third - fix it as an axiom in your mind that you will be generous to people, not for the good feelings that generosity brings, but because you are determined to bless them in some way. You must never be generous in order to get a blessing - you must be generous to be a blessing.

    Prayer:
    Father, I am thankful that the basis of my life is fixed in You and from that I am able to build a framework for generosity. From now on help me to give with all the stops out. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

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    Choose to Forgive

    Proverbs 17

    "He who covers over an offense promotes love ..." (v. 9)

    Jesus gives us stern and uncompromising warnings about forgiveness. But if forgiveness is so important and yet so difficult, how do we go about it? We must do several things. First, we must not try to minimize or dismiss the offense as if it never happened.

    If it hurts, then we must face it and feel it. A common misconception that keeps people from forgiving is that they think in order to forgive they must come to the place where they look upon the things done to them as being really not that bad.

    That is excusing, not forgiving. C. S. Lewis says: "Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness." Second, we must see that forgiveness is not an emotional thing (though it can affect the emotions), but a matter of the will. It is making the decision that the wrong done against you will not count or cause a separation.

    In making that decision, remember you have all the resources of God available to you. This applies not just to minor matters like snubs, but major matters like divorce. The task of forgiving must be more than a match for the magnitude of the pain involved. Our text today makes clear that a choice is involved. No matter how we are wronged, we can choose out of a desire for love to forgive.

    Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You looked into the eyes of those who hammered You to a cross and cried: "Father, forgive them." Help me do the same when I am confronted with lesser injury or hurt. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.

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    Victim - or victor?

    For reading & meditation - Ephesians 1:11-23

    "' the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might '" (vv.19-20, RSV)

    Permit me to ask you: What will the obstacles and opposition you meet do to you today? Will they make you bitter, or will they make you better? The last word is not with them, but with you. If your own concerns and interests are well and truly "dead", and you are committed to pursuing God's purposes, then the issue is not so much what your circumstances will do to you, but what you will do to your circumstances.

    The Christian who understands this has the power to say to life - do your worst, I have the resources to take every negative and turn it into a positive.

    Nothing successfully opposes the believer whose life is hidden with Christ in God. Jesus once faced great opposition in His ministry: "They were filled with madness, and began to discuss with one another what they should do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11, Weymouth). Here was opposition in its most terrifying form.

    What did Jesus do? Listen again to the Weymouth translation: "About that time He went out ' into the hill country to pray" (v.12). Prayer, that powerful means of communicating with God and controlling, not so much the situation as the outcome of the situation, made Jesus, not a victim, but a victor.

    One of the major purposes of God seems to be that of producing character in His children. Not their ease, not their happiness - except as a by-product - but their character. And how is character produced? One way it is produced is through overcoming difficulties.

    So don't groan at the obstacles and opposition that face you today - grow in them. They help to sharpen your character - and your wits!

    Prayer: O God, forgive me that so often I cry to You for tasks equal to my powers. Help me to pray instead for power equal to my tasks. I ask this, not for my sake, but for Yours. Amen

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    Not on Approval

    Psalms 19"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul." (v. 7)

    We live in an age which is increasingly contemptuous of laws and moral prohibitions. Not only the moral teaching of the Sermon on the Mount but the Ten Commandments also are mocked with impunity by millions of people.

    Sadly, with some exceptions, there seems to be little remorse at what is happening. We Christians must be careful that this attitude does not rub off on us too.

    We must resist the spirit of the age and refrain from bending the rules, or rationalizing moral or ethical issues, because it suits us to do so. A curious thing happened in a London court some time ago. A man was summoned before the magistrates for not having a television license.

    He claimed the TV set was not his and that he had received it from a dealer only "on approval." Until he decided to buy it, he said, he did not feel under an obligation to take out a license.

    He argued that because of that he was not breaking the law. The magistrate decided to fine him a certain sum and stated: "The law knows nothing about 'approval.' The law is to be obeyed. Pay the fine!" In some minds today, it would seem, the law is binding upon you only if you approve of it.

    The reasoning appears to be this: if the law is not to your taste, it ceases to have authority over you. Christians should never hold such a view. God did not give us His commands for our approval. He gave them to us to be obeyed.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Redeemer, like Peter, when I take my eyes off You I am in danger of sinking -- into the moral morass of the day. Help me keep my eyes always on You. Then I shall see clearly the ethical issues of the passing hour. Amen.

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    How to forgive

    For reading & meditation - Proverbs 30:21-33

    "' as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife." (v.33)

    If difficulties concerning basic trust on a natural level can hinder our ability to trust at a spiritual level, how do we as Christians overcome this? The first thing we must do is demonstrate a willingness to forgive those who hurt us. "That's hard," you might say. My reply is: "Yes, in the case of those who have been badly let down, it is hard - but not impossible." Here's how you do it. Focus first on how much you have been forgiven.

    The key to forgiving others is to enter into a realized awareness of how much God has forgiven you. When people say to me during a counselling session, "My problem is that I can't forgive," I usually respond by saying, "No, that's not your problem.

    Your problem is that you don?t know how much you have been forgiven." It may be difficult for some to see this, especially those who have gone through deep hurt, but nothing others have done to you is as awful as what you have done to God.

    If you have difficulty with the last statement, it is because you do not understand the nature of sin. Sin is taking the Creator of the universe and relegating Him to irrelevance; it is saying to the One who made us - "I can run my life on my own terms." Sin is insanity - and you and I have been guilty of that.

    Yet in Christ God has forgiven us, pardoned us, and bestowed upon us His royal favor. Having been given such forgiveness, can we, dare we, withhold it from anyone who has betrayed our trust, no matter how horrifying that hurt has been?

    Prayer:
    Father, Your Word is frank and open - help me to respond to it in the same way. Take from me every biting hesitancy, every fear and apprehension, every refusal to accept responsibility. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

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    Why God Requires Worship

    Psalms 50
    "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it." (v. 12)

    During the early days of my Christian experience, I queried why God put so many texts in the Bible that command us to worship Him. It seemed to me that many of these commands bordered on egotism and self-centeredness. We all despise those people who clamor for our attention or commendation, and a picture of a God who needed constant ego strokes threatened to impress itself on my mind. It happened most when I read the Psalms. "Praise Me, worship Me," the Almighty seemed to be saying everywhere.

    Then I read C. S. Lewis's Reflections on the Psalms and the whole matter dropped into the right perspective. This is what he said: "The miserable idea that God should in any sense need or crave for our worship like a vain woman wanting compliments or a vain author presenting his new books to people who had never met or heard of him is implicitly answered by the words: 'If I be hungry I will not tell thee' (Ps. 50:12).

    Even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite. I don't want my dog to bark at my books."

    He went on to point out that in commanding us to worship Him the Almighty is demonstrating far more interest in us than in Himself.

    Our worship of Him completes us. We perfect our personalities to the degree that we give ourselves to God in worship. In eternity we shall experience full joy because we shall be able to worship Him fully. Meanwhile we are tuning our instruments.

    Prayer: O God, I want to worship You in the way You deserve to be worshipped. Help me give You my worship not because I am completed by it but because You are so worthy of it. I worship You, Father, with all my heart. Amen.

  17. #1497
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    A personal word

    For reading & meditation: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

    "But by the grace of God I am what I am '" (v.10)

    Today we ask ourselves: Why is it that even though we may have a fairly mature faith in God, we still find it frustrating to be caught up in situations where we have no clear direction or control? The root cause of this is misplaced dependency - we depend too much upon ourselves and not enough upon God.

    As I examine my own life, I am constantly amazed that after over fifty years' experience in the Christian faith, I am still sometimes prone to take the way of independence rather than dependence. Do you not find a similar tendency in yourself? I want God's way - so very much - but I want it on my own terms. Granted, this is less of a problem now than it was, say, thirty years ago, but it is still sometimes a struggle nevertheless. What does this say about me?

    It says that in this area of my life, there is still a need to die to my own self-concern, and even before these lines were written I had to get down on my knees and acknowledge this before the Lord.

    I may still have struggles with this issue in the future, but I know for sure that at this moment, my will is more yielded to Him than ever. Perhaps this is the last battle I shall have to fight on this matter, and when I find myself facing situations in the future that are vague and ambiguous without fearing the outcome, I will know the issue has been settled once and for all. I have exposed my heart to you in obedience to the prompting of the Spirit. I need Him as much as you.

    Prayer:
    O Father, as we see yet again where we should be centred - in You - help us to die in those areas of life where we have established our independence. Only in You can we be safe and steady and growing. Help us, dear Lord. Amen.

  18. #1498
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    Wise Fools

    For reading & meditation - Proverbs 4:1-9

    "Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you." (v.6)

    It is time now to ask ourselves: What exactly is wisdom? How is it to be defined? Some say wisdom is synonymous with knowledge, and use the two words interchangeably. There is, however, a world of difference between knowledge and wisdom, as writers and philosophers down the ages have pointed out. Knowledge is the capacity to comprehend and retain what one is taught; wisdom is the ability to put that knowledge to best effect.

    If knowledge is the same thing as wisdom, then, as Paul Larsen points out, "There are many 'wise' men who are fools." Our colleges and universities cram information into the minds of thousands of people, so that they come out knowing a good deal about such things as the solar system, microbiology, bacteriology, psychology, the laws of physics, art and so on, but knowledge by itself does not stop them from making a mess of their lives.

    In the United States, a second year university or high school student is called a "sophomore," which is the Greek word for "a wise fool." How revealing. When we get into the higher stages of education, we think that we know it all, but if this attitude is not changed, then we will soon demonstrate what it means to be a fool.

    A "fool" in Proverbs is not someone who can't pass a simple literacy or numeracy test; he is someone who thinks he knows what life is all about but doesn't. Those whom the world recognizes as "wise" may, from heaven's standpoint, be the biggest fools.

    Prayer:
    Father, I see now what Paul meant when he said "we are fools for Christ" (1 Cor. 4:10). My Christian lifestyle may appear foolish to those around me, but help me never to forget that from Your perspective it is the highest wisdom. Amen

  19. #1499
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    To die - or not to die?

    For reading & meditation: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

    "' as dying, and behold we live '" (v.9, RSV)

    Today we ask: What is the meaning of this strange spiritual paradox that before we can live, we must first be willing to die? The best illustration of this truth can be seen in the passage from John 12 that we read on the first day of our meditations and which we will now look at in greater detail.

    One day a group of visitors from Greece arrived in Jerusalem, and hearing of the fame of Jesus sought out Philip, one of His disciples, and said to him: "Sir, we would like to see Jesus" (John 12:21).

    When Philip informed Jesus that some Greeks wanted to interview Him, this precipitated a spiritual crisis in our Lord's heart: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified ' unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). Why should the Greeks' simple request precipitate such a crisis in Jesus' heart - a crisis in which dying or not dying seemed to be the vital issue?

    Could it have been that He sensed that the Greeks were coming with an invitation for Him to bring His message to Athens - the centre of philosophy and learning - where it might be more readily received?

    Did He sense that in wanting to interview Him, they were going to say: "Sir, if You go on the way Your face is set, the Jews will kill You. Don't stay here in Jerusalem and die: come to Athens and live"? If this was the situation, then how dramatically it would have underlined the issue that was constantly before Him - to die or not to die.

    Prayer:
    Blessed Lord Jesus, it is clear that I face a similar issue to the one You faced when here on earth - to die, or not to die. Help me, dear Lord, for I can only face it in Your strength. Amen.

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    Come to Athens and live

    For reading & meditation: John 7:25-39

    "' Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?" (v.35)

    We ended yesterday by suggesting that the issue which the Greeks might have wanted to talk over with Jesus was that of taking His message to Athens - the centre of philosophy and learning. Were they intent on saying to Him: "Put Your marvellous message of the kingdom of God into the medium of Greek thought, and in no time it will spread throughout the world. Don't stay in Jerusalem and die; come to Athens and live"?

    We have no way, of course, of knowing for sure that this was the situation, and I am simply suggesting that this is what may have been in their minds. The idea is not as far-fetched as you might imagine when placed against the verse that is before us today: `"Does he intend to go to the Dispersion ' and teach the Greeks?" (v.35, RSV). Had other nations beyond Israel's boundaries showed interest in His revolutionary approach to life?

    Tradition says that the king of Edessa once sent a message to Jesus inviting Him to come to his country and present His message concerning the kingdom of God. Whether or not this was so, one thing is certain - the coming of the Greeks precipitated a crisis in Jesus' soul: "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? '

    Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:27-28). He would not rationalise or compromise; He would face the issue to which He had always been committed. It was not to be a philosopher's chair in Athens, but a grisly cross in Jerusalem. He would fall into the ground and die, and bear a harvest richer than anything the world could offer.

    Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to catch something of Your spirit as I face the challenges that lie ahead of me in the coming days. I want to make my life count for the utmost - show me how we can work things out together. Amen.

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