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Present to God (2)
Morning Encounter:
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16.5-11

Psalm 16 reflects the thoughts of a man who has set his heart on God and rests secure in the knowledge of God’s ultimate care for him. The single-mindedness of the psalmist in the first part of this Psalm (v1-5) result in the blessings expressed in the second half of the Psalm. ‘I have set the Lord always before me’ is the key to life with God and being close to him throughout each day.

Practise setting the Lord before you today. Try to return your mind as often as possible back to God and invite him to be with you in everything you do. Carry a cross in your pocket, write something on your hand, place a stone on your desk – whatever may help to remind you to return your mind to God throughout this day.

Midday Meditation:
‘The first and most basic thing we can and must do is to keep God before our minds. This is the fundamental secret of caring for our souls. Our part in thus practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him. In the early time of our “practicing” we may well be challenged by our burdensome habits of dwelling on things less than God. But these are habits—not the law of gravity—and can be broken. A new, grace-filled habit will replace the former ones as we take intentional steps toward keeping God before us. Soon our minds will return to God as the needle of a compass constantly returns to the north. If God is the great longing of our souls, He will become the pole star of our inward beings.'

(Dallas Willard)
Evening Reflection:
I will bless the Lord forever
And I will trust Him at all times
He has delivered me from all fear
And He has set my feet upon a rock

I will not be moved, and I'll say of the Lord
You are my shield, my strength, my portion
Deliverer, my shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need
The Shadow of the Cross
Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also… —Luke 2:35a NKJV

An anonymous artist has painted a stunning picture of Jesus as a child. The little One is playing with three large spikes in Joseph’s carpenter shop, and light streaming from the window paints a cross on the floor behind the baby. Jesus was, literally, born to die.
Singer/songwriter Barbara Mandrell wrote the words:
It must have broken God's heart
For the future He could see.
Yet He formed the hands
And feet knowing one day
They'd be nailed to a tree.
You and I, too, have been born with a purpose, and that is to serve God. God loves us unconditionally and has provided a way we can be rescued from eternal death.
Present to God (3)
Morning Encounter:
Our Lord and Ruler,
your name is wonderful
everywhere on earth!
You let your glory be seen
in the heavens above.
With praises from children
and from tiny infants,
you have built a fortress.

It makes your enemies silent,
and all who turn against you
are left speechless.
I often think of the heavens
your hands have made,
and of the moon and stars
you put in place.

Then I ask, “Why do you care
about us humans?
Why are you concerned
for us weaklings?”
You made us a little lower
than you yourself,
and you have crowned us
with glory and honour.
You let us rule everything
your hands have made.

And you put all of it
under our power—
the sheep and the cattle,
and every wild animal,
the birds in the sky,
the fish in the sea,
and all ocean creatures.
Our Lord and Ruler,
your name is wonderful
everywhere on earth!
(Psalm 8)

The psalmist is overwhelmed by the grandeur, majesty and presence of God. There is nowhere we can go to escape the presence of God. At the dead centre of the Psalm comes the phrase ‘why do you care about us humans?’ Whilst we receive power from God to look after creation and to have a sense of responsibility on the earth, we will always take second place as servants and worshippers.

Make it your aim today to allow all that you see around you to prompt you to return your thoughts back to God in praise and gratitude.

Midday Meditation:
‘We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.’
(C.S. Lewis Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)

Evening Reflection:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Emerging from Isolation

For where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I among them—Matthew 18:20

Imagine, for a moment, a man ever isolated, living alone in the mountains, perhaps. Imagine him living a vigorous, adventurous, spiritual life, but lacking community. The knowledge this man would have of God, the knowledge he’d have of himself, would be modest compared to the knowledge he’d have of both, were he to have full access to relationships, friendships, brotherhood.

You see, the isolated man may know about God. But, no matter how much he might read and study, he cannot know God. That takes community. We get to know God by seeing his Holy Spirit moving in others. We encounter God, we experience him, we understand him when he works through the love and sacrifice of other people. In brotherhood, we get to show God to one another. And, the more we’re in community with brothers, the deeper our understanding becomes.

The isolated man may also know about himself—his talents, his likes, his dislikes. But, he cannot know himself. He cannot know the man God intends him to become. That too takes community. It takes others around him, who know his story, who spend time with him, who watch him, to discern and affirm and call forth things true and eternal in him, things God longs for to emerge. It takes brotherhood to call forth the true man.

Though we live in cities and towns, many of us are yet like the man isolated in the mountains. We know about God, but we don’t knowhim. We know the men we’d like to be, but we don’t know the men he created us to be. This message, right now, is another call for brotherhood. It’s a call for you, brother, to get into community with other men. Find some brothers; find your place.
Present to God (4)
Morning Encounter:
The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down in front of the Lord and was listening to what he said. Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10.38-42)

We may read this story to emphasise contemplative prayer over action. Yet we know that Jesus was someone who balanced both withdrawal and solitude with engagement and action. We need both. Jesus is not chiding Martha for providing food and being hospitable, but inviting her to leave her frustration, busyness and anxiety to come and be with him.

Keep company with Jesus today as you enrol in the mundane tasks of washing up, school runs and commuting. As you do, you may discover (as Brother Lawrence did) that he is with us amongst the pots and pans.

Midday Meditation:
“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
(Brother Lawrence Practicing the Presence of God)

Evening Reflection:
Christ be in my waking, as the sun is rising,
In my day of working, with me every hour.
Christ be in my resting, as the day is ending,
Calming and refreshing, watching through the night.

Jesus, this is my devotion; all my life to know you
Every day to walk with you.
Saviour, You’re my deepest longing,
You’re the one I live for, teach me, Lord, to walk with You.
Hearing God's Voice
And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. —1 Kings 19:12 ESV

Noise! We are daily beset by a cacophony of raucous sounds. When quietly blessing food in a noisy restaurant, a friend might ask, “Think God could hear that?” The more important question should, perhaps, be: Can we hear God?
Elijah was in fear for his life when Jehovah directed him to go to the brook Cherith where he would be provided with food and drink. There was little for him to do there but rest and await further instructions.
When we find ourselves in a place of fear or despair, we often resort to telling God what He ought to do. Our urgent prayers, giving Him orders, often drown out the quiet whisper of God.
The Psalmist offered excellent advice: “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14 NKJV).
Present to God (5)
Morning Encounter:
Moses, the Lord’s servant, was dead. So the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had been the assistant of Moses. The Lord said:
My servant Moses is dead. Now you must lead Israel across the Jordan River into the land I’m giving to all of you. Wherever you go, I’ll give you that land, as I promised Moses. It will reach from the Southern Desert to the Lebanon Mountains in the north, and to the northeast as far as the great Euphrates River. It will include the land of the Hittites, and the land from here at the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea on the west. Joshua, I will always be with you and help you as I helped Moses, and no one will ever be able to defeat you.

Long ago I promised the ancestors of Israel that I would give this land to their descendants. So be strong and brave! Be careful to do everything my servant Moses taught you. Never stop reading The Book of the Law he gave you. Day and night you must think about what it says. If you obey it completely, you and Israel will be able to take this land.
I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.
(Joshua 1.1-9)

As God prepares Joshua to take over from Moses there are promises of his presence and the command to be strong and brave. Alongside these commands, comes the instruction to never stop reading the law of God. Effective leadership called for meditation and study of the Scriptures. One way of practising the presence of God is to meditate on his words so that we carry them with us throughout each day.

Commit some verses of Scripture to memory today. It may help to write them down, take them with you and look at them often.

Midday Meditation:
‘Our concentration on Jesus will be strengthened by memorization of great passages (not just verses) from Scripture. This practice of memorizing the Scriptures is more important than a daily quiet time, for as we fill our minds with these great passages and have them available for our meditation, “quiet time” takes over the entirety of our lives.’
(Dallas Willard)

Evening Reflection:
God blesses those people
who refuse evil advice
and won’t follow sinners
or join in sneering at God.
Instead, the Law of the Lord
makes them happy,
and they think about it
day and night.

They are like trees
growing beside a stream,
trees that produce
fruit in season
and always have leaves.
Those people succeed
in everything they do.
(Psalm 1.1-3)
The Thief of Joy
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” —1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV

What is the one thing designed to rob your joy? It is worry! Worry changes nothing—not our circumstances, not the bottom line on our bank account, not the diagnosis from the doctor. Prayer changes everything. When we lay our concerns at the feet of the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Ruler of the Universe, we trust Him to answer as He sees fit.
British clergyman William Ralph Inge wrote: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” George MacDonald, Scottish author and minister said:
  • No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow's burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.
God has an answer to every problem that you and I could ever have imagined. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at all times! He knows what you need before you ask. You can trust Him fully.
Present to God (6)
Morning Encounter:
You are my God. Show me what you want me to do, and let your gentle Spirit lead me in the right path.
(Psalm 143.10)

In this verse, David is seeking guidance and asking the Lord for his help. He is listening to God for direction and leadership. We may have some reservations about whether God speaks to us but we stand in a long line of people who have been addressed by God. The ancient Israelites heard the voice of God, including people like Samuel, Moses, Isaiah and many others.

How do feel about the idea of hearing from God? You might like to read out loud this verse several times. Enjoy the phrase ‘you are my God’ and then sit quietly and available to God for him to speak gently to you.

Midday Meditation:
Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation -- and for me the most important part is listening to God's replies.’
(Frank C. Laubach)

Evening Reflection:
Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings,
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you, help me to trust
that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you.
Trust No One

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts—Psalm 28:7

The Apostle Paul set a challenge before us: “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25). No small thing, that one. We men have such a hard time with transparency, with vulnerability. “I don’t know you guys that well.” “I have a hard time trusting other people.” “I don’t know everyone here.” These and objections like them surface naturally in men facing the prospect of being transparent and vulnerable with brothers in community. We’ve all said them, in some version or another. But, this approach, of hesitating and waiting to open up, waiting to tell our brothers what’s really going on, what we’re afraid of, what we’re struggling with, until we have complete trust of the men we’re opening up to, is foolish and based upon misplaced trust.

You see, we can trust no man completely. All “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, waiting for complete trust means waiting for something that’ll never happen. We’re all broken, capable of wickedness even toward those we love most. God, however . . . God is not. So, in him and in him only, brother, should we put our trust (Psalm 118:8). He calls us to be transparent, vulnerable with others, so we must. Now, it might not always go well (at least from our perspectives). That’s okay. It’ll go well from God’s perspective—our obedience to him always does. And, he knows better than we.

Next time you meet with a brother or two or three, look around. Which of them do you trust more than God? In that moment, tell yourself: “I trust God. So, I know what I must do” No more lies. No more pretending. No more posturing.
Present to God (7)
Morning Encounter:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
(Romans 12.1)

How easy it is for us to forget to be with God in every part of our lives. Our inclination towards dividing the sacred and secular means we can make the mistake of assuming we are only with God when we are in church, reading the Bible or praying. But do we look for God in other areas of our lives?

As you go about your day, whether in church or not, make a point of placing your life before God wherever you are and being aware of his presence. Perhaps God might want to speak to you through conversations with friends, through music you listen to, TV or films that you watch or just in the silent spaces today brings.

Midday Meditation:
‘God is still in the business of coming down to earth: to this cubicle, this email, this room, this house, this job, this hospital room, this car, this bed, this vacation. Any place can become Bethel, the house of God. Cleveland, maybe. Or the chair you're sitting in as you read these words.’
(John Ortberg God is closer than you think)

Evening Reflection:
Through the dark hours of this night protect and surround us
Father, Son and Spirit, Three
Forgive the ill that we have done
Forgive the pride that we have shown
Forgive the words that have caused harm that we might sleep peaceably and rise refreshed to do your will
Through the dark hours of this night protect and surround us Father, Son and Spirit, Three


It's Not about Luck
Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! —Psalm 17:1 ESV

My friend, luck has little, if anything, to do with success. You will likely find that a successful person is often a tireless and dedicated servant of God, a prayer warrior who seeks God’s will at every turn. Missionary John Hyde discovered the key to powerful prayer:
We need to be still before Him, so as to hear His voice and allow Him to pray in us—nay, allow Him to pour into our souls His overflowing life of intercession, which means literally: face to face meeting with God—real union and communion.
Does it mean that the prayer warrior has never faced challenges or hard times? Not at all. It simply means that through the good times and bad, she has faithfully served God with the confidence that a loving Heavenly Father would grant her favor with both Him and man and turn every problem into an opportunity for blessing.
Don’t hesitate to pray for God’s favor; but while you pray, extend grace and favor to those you meet along the way.


Holy Week (1)
Morning Encounter:
This week is Holy Week – a time to remember and reflect on the events that led Jesus to the cross and to his resurrection. Easter is Christianity’s oldest celebration – every year since the resurrection we have remembered that Easter is the time when death was conquered, sin defeated and nothing would ever be the same!

Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing.

(John 13.3-5)
Foot washing was usually carried out by a servant. You can imagine the awkward silence of the disciples as Jesus, the Son of God, picks up the towel, pours the water and proceeds to wash and dry each pair of dirty feet. Jesus knows full well who he is, he knows the events to come and that these last hours will be unbearably hard. By washing his disciples' feet, he is giving them a vivid symbol to explain his death and how he wants them- and us- to live in response.

Who can you find to serve today? What simple act of kindness or service can you offer to others?

Midday Meditation:
‘Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness.’
(Richard J Foster Celebration of Discipline)

Evening Reflection:
Lord Jesus, servant and saviour of the world, help us to redefine our understanding of greatness in the light of the cross. Through being loved by you, may we learn to love and serve others. Amen


Holy Week (2)
Morning Encounter:
After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. And you gave him power over all people; so that he would give eternal life to everyone you give him. Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent. I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you gave me to do. Now, Father, give me back the glory that I had with you before the world was created.
(John 17.1-5)

Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without him. At the beginning of John’s Gospel Jesus is introduced as the ‘Word who was with God in the beginning’. He willingly became man and in so doing was lowered in some senses to our level (Philippians 2:7). Here he prays to be fully glorified once more. These verses also remind us that eternal life begins the moment we enter relationship with the living God; it is not something that starts after we die.

Who do you know that needs eternal life – a life with God that begins now? Spend some time praying for them today.

Midday Meditation:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Evening Reflection:
You have looked deep into my heart, Lord, and you know all about me.
You know when I am resting or when I am working, and from heaven you discover my thoughts.
You notice everything I do and everywhere I go. Before I even speak a word, you know what I will say,
and with your powerful arm you protect me from every side. I can’t understand all of this!
Such wonderful knowledge is far above me.
(Psalm 139.1-6)