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RiverOL

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Messed Up Theology
Job 13
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him ..." (v. 15)
A friend of mine who is an instructor in the field of Christian counseling says that one of the things he likes to do with his students is to mess up their theology.

He does so by asking them difficult questions about the realities of the universe in order to see how they attempt to square these issues with their view of God. "God always answers the prayer of faith," said one of his students. "Then why," he asked the student, "did I pray for an hour for my father who was desperately sick to have a good night and then hear that he had the worst night since he had been in the hospital?"

"You didn't pray in faith," replied the student. That's the kind of glib answer many people would give to that question. Such people can't sit quietly in the presence of mystery and say: "I don't understand why this is so but nevertheless I still believe God is good." They must have some kind of answer that they can hold on to because when they have no answers they have no faith. Faith is Job saying: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him."

Anyone can believe when there are explanations and answers. The person who goes on to know God in a deep and intimate way is the one who can affirm that God is good even though there may be a thousand appearances to the contrary. Pray for me and I will pray for you that together we might come to the place of trusting God even when we cannot trace Him.

Prayer:
O God, bring us closer day by day to that place of deep confidence and absolute trust. May we know You so deeply that nothing we see around us will shake or shatter our belief in Your unchanging goodness. In our Lord's Name we pray. Amen
 

RiverOL

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Doing Too Many Things?

The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day—Psalm 139:16


There are twenty-four hours in every day. We wish for more. We often act as if there were more: stay at work a little longer; stay up a little later, cram a bit more in. No matter what we do, though . . . still only twenty-four. God’s set the length. He’s also set the absolute number of those twenty-four-hour days each of us will ever get. We often act, though, as if that too weren't settled, as if our earthly days might stretch on forever. They won’t:

“Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5).

Our time is scarce—it’s limited and there’s less than we’d like. How we allocate it, therefore, how we run our calendars, matters. If we’re not intentional, external factors will govern the allocation: things that are more urgent will claim top priority. The problem is, urgent things aren’t always important things. In fact, many unimportant things become urgent if we let them: e.g., we sign up for something, maybe simply because someone asked us to or because everyone else is signing up, and its demands escalate and it begins to take too much time. This happens some and we default into calendars that don’t reflect our true priorities. We end up with days filled, but with the wrong things.



Look at your weekly calendar. Grab some paper. List the major items. Then sort it by importance (not urgency). What’s most important to you? Most important to God? Now, brother, begin to cut from the bottom, from what’s least important. Go up as far as you can. Cut what you can right now, and commit to phase out what you must, over time.
 

RiverOL

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Staying Strong
Morning Encounter:
Read:
Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives, as he often did, and his disciples went with him. When they got there, he told them, “Pray that you won’t be tested.”
Jesus walked on a little way before he knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you will, please don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what I want.”
Then an angel from heaven came to help him. Jesus was in great pain and prayed so sincerely that his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood.
Jesus got up from praying and went over to his disciples. They were asleep and worn out from being so sad. He said to them, “Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.”
(Luke 22: 39-46)

Reflect:
Jesus and his disciples have had their Passover meal and in a short while Jesus will be arrested, tortured and crucified. His prayer is private and raw. When he comes back to the group and finds them asleep, he wakes them; they need to be praying if they are to stay strong.
There are many things that undermine faith, among them suffering, exhaustion, distraction and isolation. Praying with others who follow Christ builds us up, bolsters our resolve and gives us courage to stay in the fight.

Respond:
Thank God for the Christians you have in your life, and for the encouragement they are to you.

Midday Meditation:
“The prisoner, the sick person, and the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God…It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us.”
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)

Evening Reflection:
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
(Ephesians 6.10-11, 18)
 

RiverOL

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The Old Rugged Cross
Romans 5
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (v. 8)

Can we believe that God is good even though things may be happening around us that seemingly give the lie to that fact? The only place we Christians can go when we are assailed by doubts about God's goodness is the cross. At Calvary we were given undeniable evidence that God is good. We must cling to the cross when in doubt and remind ourselves that a God who would give His only Son to die for us simply has to be All-Goodness. A songwriter put it like this: God is love, I see it in the earth around me; God is love, I feel it in the sky above me; God is love, all nature doth agree; But the greatest proof of His love to me ... is Calvary.

Many things about the cross are mysterious, but there is no mystery about divine goodness. There at Calvary it blazes forth for all to see. I often wonder to myself what was happening that was good when my wife was dying with cancer. I couldn't see anything, but because I know God is good I accept that something good was being worked out. A good God was in charge, and I am prepared to wait for the clarification of that until I get home. Then I know He will tell me Himself. God is good no matter what the appearances to the contrary. The "old rugged cross" makes that crystal clear. Let us cling to it, come what may.

Prayer: O Father, I am so thankful for the cross. It is the one place in a dark and mysterious universe where light breaks through. Help me interpret the darkness by the light, not the light by the darkness. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Putting God First
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” —Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV

Often, I think we are like little children—not so much hard of hearing as we are hard of listening. We hear, but do not necessarily heed His warnings.
Learning to hear God’s voice from Scripture—learning the way He expressed Himself to the men and women of old—teaches us how to distinguish the sound of His voice from our own and helps us avoid the deceptive whispers of the Enemy.

My journey to wholeness in Christ has been painful at times, but it is not an unfamiliar path. God tells us that in order to hear Him, we must wait and seek and listen closely. Seeking first the Kingdom and His righteousness leads us to increased faith and less worry. Peace and worry cannot occupy the same space. One forces the other out.
Your daily prayer should be, “Help me to wait patiently for the very best You have for my life.”
 

RiverOL

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Praying En-Masse
Morning Encounter:
Read:
As soon as Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and burned up the offerings. The Lord’s dazzling glory then filled the temple, and the priests could not go in.
When the crowd of people saw the fire and the Lord’s glory, they knelt down and worshiped the Lord. They prayed:
“The Lord is good, and his love never ends.”
Solomon and the people dedicated the temple to the Lord by sacrificing twenty-two thousand cattle and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. Everybody stood up during the ceremony. The priests were in their assigned places, blowing their trumpets. And the Levites faced them, playing the musical instruments that David had made for them to use when they praised the Lord for his never-ending love…

For seven days, Solomon and the crowd celebrated the Festival of Shelters, and people came from as far away as the Egyptian Gorge in the south and Lebo-Hamath in the north. Then on the next day, everyone came together for worship. They had celebrated a total of fourteen days, seven days for the dedication of the altar and seven more days for the festival. Then on the twenty-third day of the seventh month, Solomon sent everyone home. They left very happy because of all the good things the Lord had done for David and Solomon, and for his people Israel.
(2 Chronicles 7.1-5, 8-10)

Reflect:
The Israelites knew how to throw a good prayer meeting! This particular get together, for marvelled at God’s glory and love.
Have you ever had the experience of praying with a vast number of others in the same place? There is something spine tingling about the sheer weight of the presence of God among his people when they call on his name together.

Respond:
Thank God for his promise: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7.14)

Midday Meditation:
“Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;”
(George Herbert, Prayer)

Evening Reflection:
“It was surely in answer to so much persevering prayer that in the first decade of the 20th century, we witnessed the most remarkable global outpouring of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost. Revival movements shook Wales, North America, Korea, China, Scandinavia, India, Indonesia and many other parts of the world. More than five million people in these nations turned to Jesus between 1900 and 1902 alone. The Welsh awakening of 1904 triggered a domino effect around the world. Between 1905-1906 the Christian population in India grew by 70% while in Japan the church doubled and in Indonesia it tripled. But we now know that God was simultaneously stirring a passion for prayer, night and day in North America that would impact many millions more to this day.”
 

RiverOL

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One Long Search for God
For reading & meditation: Mark 7:8-23
"For from within, out of mens hearts, come evil thoughts ..." (v. 21)
We need to be reminded that there is in life a dark and terrible problem - the problem of evil. Herbert Spencer in Natural Law in the Spiritual World defines physical life as "inward correspondence with outward environment."

When we take in food, air and water, we live. When we don't, we die. There must be a response to our environment. But there is also a spiritual environment to which we must respond, and when we are in correspondence with God we live spiritually. The facts of life fairly faced proclaim with heart-breaking obviousness that human beings are out of touch with their spiritual environment. To be out of touch with God means, inevitably, that we will be out of touch with ourselves and with others.

But the history of humanity is, as one historian put it, "one long search for God." We stand beside our altars, we breathe our prayers, we make our vows, we repeat our ceremonies, we crave with inexpressible yearnings of the inmost heart, we long for fellowship with God. Yet something dark, dreadful, and sinister stands between us and God.

We realize God is pure, and because we are conscious of our impurity we hardly dare ask for fellowship with Him. We are separated and guilty. The object of all religions is to bring those who long for fellowship with God into correspondence with Him. But how is that achieved? Christianity says it can be done only through the cross. Other religions point to other ways, and claim their way is as valid as the Christian way. But God says the cross is the only way.

Prayer:
O God my Father, what way could You have dealt with my sins except through the cross? My sins needed something more than disinfecting; they needed incinerating. In the flames of Calvary that is what happened. Now I am free. And how! Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Overcoming Evil in the World
Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”—Mark 9:17-18 NKJV

In Mark, chapter 9, the disciples came to Jesus, frustrated and downcast. A father had brought his child to them for healing. The little boy had what his father described as a “mute spirit.” After Jesus rebuked the spirit and the little boy was healed, the disciples privately asked Him why they could not heal the child. Jesus answered, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

September 11, 2001, was an assault from hell, planned and executed by evil spirits, just as have been other attacks worldwide—in Paris, London, San Diego, Boston, Las Vegas, New York. The continuing terrorist attacks in Israel, and indeed worldwide, are a result of the same dark spiritual powers. These powers cannot be defeated without prayer. Praying saints are God’s agents to carry out His will on earth.
If Jesus said that He could do nothing without prayer, then you and I surely cannot hope to accomplish anything of eternal value and significance without daily, fervent prayer.
 

RiverOL

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Playing with Fire
Morning Encounter:
Read:
On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.
Many religious Jews from every country in the world were living in Jerusalem. And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. But they were surprised, because they were hearing everything in their own languages.
(Acts 2: 1-7)

Reflect:
Prayer meetings aren’t generally thought of as particularly exciting. I’m sure most of us have experienced the kind that involve sitting around on uncomfortable chairs while the group takes turns droning out stilted requests concerning a great aunt’s neighbour with an ingrowing toe nail or the church’s tough decision regarding the colour of the new foyer carpet.
But when we get together to pray, we are playing with fire and we should expect the unexpected. Our God is glorious, powerful, loving, terrifying, and he has chosen to dwell in the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3).

Respond:
How do you feel about getting together with a group to pray? Ask God to open your eyes to the spiritual significance of corporate prayer.

Midday Meditation:
“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”
(Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk)

Evening Reflection:
“To worship is to experience Reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is a breaking into the Shekinah of God…the glory or the radiance of God dwelling in the midst of his people.”
 

RiverOL

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At-One-Ment
For reading & meditation: Romans 3:21-31
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faithin his blood." (v. 25)

Herbert Spencer, whom we quoted earlier, wrote: "The task of religion is at-one-ment: atonement. If it fails to do this it fails at the vital point." Its ritual may be beautiful, its sanctions may be ancient, its precepts may be good, but if it fails to bring men and women into correspondence with God it fails vitally and irretrievably. All else is useless, for if the problem of evil is ignored or passed over, we are like the person who dreams about and plans next year's happiness while an incurable disease is eating at his vitals. The wonderful distinctive of Christianity is this - Jesus Christ has done something about the problem of being out of correspondence with God. He puts the hand of a penitent sinner into the hand of a pardoning God.

Because of the nature of the problem - the problem of evil - no other solution is possible. Salvation is a task which only God could engineer. As one theologian puts it: "It is a task worthy of God." The ancient Greek playwrights used to warn their students that when writing a tragedy they should not bring a god onto the stage unless there was an entanglement worthy of a god. The presence of evil in this world, I suggest, presents an entanglement worthy of God. But it is no mere stage affair. It is a tragic fact. To deliver men and women from evil was a problem that challenged God's power and made the deepest claim upon His love. The cross is the answer. If we don't take God's way of salvation, then nothing else will do.

Prayer:
Father, I rejoice that You have brought me to Your way -t he only way. Help the millions who strive to earn their salvation see that the penalty for sin has been fully paid. And all they have to do is humbly receive. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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The Labor of Prayer
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. —Matthew 7:7 NKJV
Prayer is not for the faint of heart; it is hard work! As Scottish author and theologian Oswald Chambers wrote:
We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.
My life has been bathed in prayer, protected by prayer, and guided by prayer. Blind English preacher William Walford wrote what may be the consummate hymn about prayer:
Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
 

RiverOL

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The Open Space of Silence
Morning Encounter:
Introduction
If we are going to experience a deeper life of prayer, then we will benefit from embracing the practice of silence. We all admit that “silence is golden.” In fact we’ve agreed on this since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. It is highly valued and strangely illusive. We are swimming in sound, words, music, a whole lot of noise. For us moderns, silence must be intentional. Silence has two expressions. One is found in the receiving of silence and the other is found in the giving of silence. Intuitively we know both are necessary to live well. In receiving silence, we enter into the opened space of intimate relationship with God. In giving silence, we learn to listen. Join us this week as we step into this discipline and experience the rest and trust God has for us.

Read:
Only God can save me, and I calmly wait for him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe and the fortress where I am secure. Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure. God saves me and honors me. He is that mighty rock where I find safety.
Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety. We humans are only a breath; none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less than a puff of air.
(Psalm 62: 1-2, 5-9)

Reflect:
Silence is hard to find in our day; and yet only in the open space of silence are we stripped of pretension. In silence, we hear the voice of God. He reminds us that for all our efforts, still, he is the only one who can save us. In silence, we bare our souls and he receives us. In silence, we abide in God’s presence, and our trust in him is strengthened.

Response:
Draw your attention to the open spaces of silence today. Notice the invitations to be silent. It might be found in a few moments of silence before a meal or in disconnecting from media for half of a day. Perhaps step outside just before going to bed and rest in the silence of God.


Midday Meditation:
Let all the world be silent-- The LORD is present in his holy temple. (Habakkuk 2:20)
In the next few moments, try to be as silent as possible. Quiet as many external noises as you can; lean into the internal silence. Take a deep breath. Rest. Consider the ways in which God has been present in your day thus far.

Evening Reflection:
Evening Reflection:
“Only silence will allow us life-transforming concentration upon God.” (Dallas Willard: Spirit of the Disciplines)
If you can, settle into a space of extended silence this evening. Calmly wait for God. Reflect upon your day—your morning, your afternoon and now, your evening. When did you enter into silence? How did God meet you there? Give thanks.
 

RiverOL

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An Unintentional Tribute
For reading & meditation: Matthew 27:32-44
"'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can't save himself!' " (v. 42)

What humiliation and shame our Lord endured for us on the cross of Calvary. Cicero, a Roman philosopher, said of crucifixion: "Far be the very name of a cross not only from the bodies of Roman citizens, but from their imaginations, eyes and ears." But He, our Lord, though sinless, was crucified on a cross. Although His blood was flowing freely from wounds inflicted by the crown of thorns on His head, from His back that had been lacerated by cruel thongs, from His hands and feet through which He was skewered to the tree, yet He refused the deadening drug offered Him.

He underwent the ordeal with brain unclouded and with nerves unsoothed. The crowd who watched Him cried: "He saved others, but he can't save himself!" But strange as it seems, that mocking phrase became the central truth of the gospel. He was saving others and therefore He could not save Himself. That is one of the greatest truths of life -if we are to save others we cannot save ourselves. To quote Spencer again: "It is a great mystery," he says, "yet an everlasting fact, that goodness in all moral natures has the doom of bleeding upon it, allowing it to conquer only as it bleeds. All goodness conquers by a cross." This law of saving by self-giving runs through life. Those who save themselves cannot save others, and those who save others cannot save themselves - cannot save themselves trouble, sorrow, hurts, disappointments, pain, and sometimes even death. This is a law of the universe, and it applies to God as much as it does to us.

Prayer: O God, I have seen this law at work in human nature but I never thought it was part of the divine nature. But where could it have come from other than You? The highest in mankind is the deepest in You. I am staggered by it, but I know it to be true. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Going Too Many Directions?

. . . let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us—Hebrews 12:1


Every man has a sweet spot—a skill, an aptitude, a function that results in maximum impact for a given amount of effort. We’ve all felt them, finding ourselves “in the zone.” We probably have one, maybe two, but our sweet spots are what make us indispensable to others—to our employers, our families, our friends, to the people we’re meant to serve. Of all the things we do, our sweet-spot activities are where we make a unique difference. They’re the things we’re made to do.

Sweet spots aren’t random, nor accidental. They’re crafted by our Creator. And they indicate where he wants us to focus our lives—for impact. You see, sweet spots are crafted with specific needs in mind. God cares about those needs, whatever they are, and he designs us to address them (Ephesians 2:10).

Identifying our sweet spots allows us to analyze our days, our weeks, and prioritize. It allows us to begin to concentrate our efforts on activities for which we were made. It also allows us to create margin in our work life. As Jethro counseled Moses, we can learn to curtail or delegate activities that fall outside our sweet spots and, thereby, keep our work from unreasonably impinging on other important areas of our lives (Exodus 18:13-27). We cannot eliminate all outside activities, of course; but, we can better manage our time to emphasize the inside ones.





Spend some time pondering your sweet spots. Now, grab a piece of paper and sketch out an ideal job description, one that perfectly leverages you in those spots. You won’t be able to move into that job instantly, of course . . . but the description should serve as a reference for making future decisions, allowing you to move closer to it, over time.
 

RiverOL

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Safe Silence
Morning Encounter:
Read:
I am not conceited, Lord, and I don’t waste my time on impossible schemes. But I have learned to feel safe and satisfied, just like a young child on its mother’s lap. People of Israel, you must trust the Lord now and forever.
(Psalm 131:1-3)

Reflect:
The NRSV translates the second verse as, “I have calmed and quieted my soul.” In calm and quiet we realise just how impossible our schemes are. In calm and quiet we find all we need in God and our relentless striving can be seen for what it actually is. Our striving for position and affluence show their futility in silence.

Respond:
Remember what it was like to sit on your mother’s lap. In this space of security and love, striving ceased. Position and affluence didn’t matter. Trust is an eternal bond of unspoken intimacy. For ten minutes (set an alarm if you need to) sit in the open space of silence. God is near. He is your loving Father. Receive this silence from him.

Midday Meditation:
‘Be silent, and listen to God. Let your heart be in such a state of preparation that his Spirit may impress upon you such virtues as will please him. Let all within you listen to him. This silence of all outward and earthly affection and of human thoughts within us is essential if we are to hear his voice.’ (François Fénelon)

Evening Reflection:
Our God says, “Calm down, and learn that I am God!" (Psalm 46:10a)
When today did you crawl upon the Father’s lap and rest in silence? When today did you find yourself swept up into the noise of striving and schemes? Just as child tells their parent about their day, tell the Father about yours. Then, silently rest in unspoken intimacy.
 

RiverOL

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The Ultimate Discovery
For reading & meditation: Mark 15:16-39
"... when the centurion ... saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God!' " (v. 39)

I cannot believe that God would write a law of "saving by sacrifice" within our hearts and evade it Himself. The psalmist asks: "Does he who formed the eye not see?" (Ps. 94:9). And Browning said: "He that created love, shall He not love?" We might add: "He that created sacrificial love, shall He not sacrifice"? The old Chinese scholar was right who, after listening for the first time to a missionary telling the story of the loving sacrifice of God through His Son on the cross, turned to one of his pupils and said: "Didnt I tell you there ought to be a God like that?"

The leaders of the world's religions stumble over this. A leading Muslim said recently during a television debate: "A God who would stoop and suffer is not perfect." And a Hindu commented: "If Brahman would suffer He would be unhappy, and if He were unhappy He would be imperfect, and if He were imperfect He would not be God." The cross spells out the message that God is prepared to take into Himself the suffering caused by sin and, indeed, to take on Himself the very sins of the ones He created. No other religion can conceive of such a thing. The cross raised on Calvary is but a reflection of an inner cross lying in the heart of God. Through it we see that at the center of the universe is redeeming love. No greater discovery could be made or will be made than that - in earth or in heaven. It is the ultimate in discoveries.

Prayer: O Father, I see that if self-giving love is the meaning behind the cross, and the meaning of the universe, then it must be the meaning behind my life too. May the cross work itself out in all my relationships from this day forward. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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A High and Holy God
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
—1 Chronicles 16:29 NIV

Mankind cannot worship a holy God any other way except through righteousness and holiness. Why? He requires that we worship according to His precepts. He is, after all, a God who demands order, and He reveals that to His people beginning in Genesis through the last chapter of Deuteronomy.
A holy God commands respect and veneration, reverence in worship, and devout consecration. But what does it mean to worship God in the beauty of His holiness? How can we mere mortals hope to be holy enough to worship Jehovah?

Dr. Jack Hayford, chancellor of The King’s University in Van Nuys, California, provides an answer. He said:
I would contend that what is on God’s mind when we worship Him is not how many grandiose thoughts we have about Him, but how passionately our hearts desire Him.
 

RiverOL

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The Struggle of Silence
Morning Encounter:
Read:
The holy Lord God of Israel had told all of you, “I will keep you safe if you turn back to me and calm down. I will make you strong if you quietly trust me.” Then you stubbornly said, “No! We will safely escape on speedy horses.” As few as five of them, or even one, will be enough to chase a thousand of you. Finally, all that will be left will be a few survivors as lonely as a flag pole on a barren hill. The Lord God is waiting to show how kind he is and to have pity on you. The Lord always does right; he blesses those who trust him.
(Isaiah 30:15-18)

Reflect:
In silence, we are actively listening to God. We reflect on the words God has given us.
In silence, the words “quietly trust me” are knitted into our being.
In silence, we are awakened to the reality that God really does want to show us how kind he is.
In silence, we learn to see blessing and goodness.
In silence, we rejoice that the foggy noises of self-centeredness are quieted.

Respond:
“…silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.”
(Dallas Willard: The Spirit of the Disciplines)
What do you need from God through silence today? Make your requests known to God. Rest in silence and receive.

Midday Meditation:
When we are young, it is good to struggle hard and to sit silently alone, if this is what the Lord intends. (Lamentations 3:27-28)
In the open space of silence we offer our hearts to God. “Help us,” we cry, “We can’t carry our burdens alone.”

Evening Reflection:
'True silence is a key to the immense and flaming heart of God.' (Catherine De Hueck Doherty)
Reflect on your day. When did you settled into the gift of silence with God? When did you resist this gift? Invite God into the receiving and the resistance. Trust that his love covers both. Give thanks.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
A Sacrificial Head
For reading & meditation: Luke 9:18-27
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (v. 24)

Suppose a tiny seed had a will of its own and decided to save itself by refusing to be buried. It would abide alone. It would save itself but would not save others. When it decided to be buried and die, then the result would be a golden harvest. Take a mother: she goes down into the valley of the shadow of death to bring a child into the world. When the child becomes ill, a loving mother forgets herself and spends her strength to give everything she has to the child. The spirit of self-giving is the most beautiful thing in life.

Through it life rises to the highest level. "The extent of the elevation of an animal and of course any free moral agent," said Pascal, the great French Christian and philosopher, "can be infallibly measured"by the degree to which sacrificial love for others controls that being." Here is a law by which life may be evaluated and judged. When the sacrificial spirit is absent from life, that life is of the lowest kind; where it is perfectly embodied, that life is highest on the scale of being. Is this law to be found in God also? I believe it is. If this law holds true on earth but is reversed in relation to God, then laws are meaningless and the universe is without a Head. Then the highest in mankind would be better than God. But such is not the case. God is not a disappointment. The cross shouts out to all who will hear that the universe has a sacrificial Head.

Prayer:
O Father, how could I know that there is an unseen cross lying in Your heart unless You had shown me by the outer cross raised up on Calvary? Such revelation is almost too much for me to comprehend. Yet it is true. My gratitude will just not go into words. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Never Missing a Wrong Note

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."1

Before Ansel Adams became famous as a landscape photographer, he studied piano and showed some talent. At one of his first recitals he played Chopin's Nocturne in F Major. "In some strange way," he said, "my right hand started off in F-sharp major while my left hand behaved well in F major. I could not bring them together. I went through the entire nocturne with the hands separated by a half-step. The next day, someone walked up to him and jokingly commented, "You never missed a wrong note."2

I can identify with Adams in that in much younger days I used to play trumpet on a gospel team and one of the first times I played a solo, I was so nervous I was thinking one song and playing another! You can imagine the effect. It was very embarrassing, to say the least.

Such mistakes are easily overcome. But some mistakes we make in life can have long-lasting serious consequences. With these mistakes, however, the good news is that God's mercy is always available to all who confess their sins and failures and ask for his forgiveness.

Have you forgiven all who have ever hurt you? And have you experienced God's forgiveness? If not, why not do that today. For further help be sure to read the article: "Forgiveness: The Power That Heals." It's online at:http://tinyurl.com/dvwh5.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that 'You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness,'3 and that you forgive all my sins and trespasses when I genuinely confess them to you. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 
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