Following

Today’s Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus,

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, popularity, pleasure, power and influence. Help me to become deaf to those voices and more attentive to your  voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life. -Henri J.M. Nouwen

Today’s Scripture Reading

The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”

The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”

They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.

 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.)

 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.”

But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.”

When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.”

 Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.”

Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.”

 Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!”

Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet! Before this is over you’re going to see heaven open and God’s angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again.”

Today’s Reflective Reading

He leads us step by step, from event to event. Only afterwards, as we look back over the way we have come and reconsider certain important moments in our lives in the light of all that has followed them, or when we survey the whole progress of our lives, do we experience the feeling of having been led without knowing it, the feeling that God has mysteriously guided us. – Paul Tournier

Holy

Today’s Prayer

Gracious and loving God, you know the deep inner patterns of my life that keep me from being totally yours. You know the misformed structures of my being that hold me in bondage to something less than your high purpose for my life. You also know my reluctance to let you have your way with me in these areas. Hear the deeper cry of my hear for wholeness and by your grace enable me to open to your transforming presence in this time. Lord, have mercy.  -M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

Today’s Scripture Reading

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”

Today’s Reflective Video

(I know a video is a little out of the norm. But take five minutes to watch this. It might completely change how you view the word “Holy” -BG).

 

You Feed Them

Go forth now as God’s servant. Remember God’s presence often and draw strength form the knowledge that the One who calls and sends also sustains. Amen.

A Guide to Prayer, Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck

Today’s Scripture Reading

As the day declined, the Twelve said, “Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

“You feed them,” Jesus said.

They said, “We couldn’t scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish—unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody.” (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.)

But he went ahead and directed his disciples, “Sit them down in groups of about fifty.” They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.

Lule 9:12-17, MSG

Today’s Reflective Reading

You give them something to eat.  It seems that a significant amount of doing ministry involves figuring out what you’ve got and then figuring out how to give it and who to give it to. You see, God gave you something wonderfully unique and specific, something that only you can give. It may feel like only five loaves and two fish among so many, but in his hands it is more than enough to satisfy a multitude and still have some left over. “You give them something to eat,”  Jesus is saying. ” Because I gave you something that only you can give. First, give it to me, and then I will give it back to you in abundance. Only then will you be able to give it to them, whoever your “them” may be. And in the giving of ‘it’ to ‘them’ you will find that there is enough to feed you as well.” Incredible!

-Jim Branch

Under the Influence of Christ

Prayer for Today

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

-Ignatius of Loyola

Scripture Reading for Today

2 Timothy 2:1-10, MSG

 So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.

 Fix this picture firmly in your mind: Jesus, descended from the line of David, raised from the dead. It’s what you’ve heard from me all along. It’s what I’m sitting in jail for right now—but God’s Word isn’t in jail! That’s why I stick it out here—so that everyone God calls will get in on the salvation of Christ in all its glory.

Reflective Reading for Today

Put yourself completely under the influence of Jesus, so that he may think his thoughts in your mind, do his work through your hands, for you will be all-powerful with him to strengthen you.

-Mother Teresa

Preparing for Sunday: Do Not be Afraid

Today’s Prayer

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

-Psalm 27:1-3

Today’s Scripture Reading

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:32-34, NIV

Today’s Reflective Reading

The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is ‘Do not fear.’ It’s in there over two hundred times. That means a couple of things, if you think about it. It means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn’t let fear boss us around. Before I realized we were supposed to fight fear, I thought of fear as a subtle suggestion in our subconscious designed to keep us safe, or more important, keep us from getting humiliated. And I guess it serves that purpose. But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life

-Donald Miller

Thirst

Today’s Prayer

You called, You cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkled, you blazed, You drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for You. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with longing for our peace. -St. Augustine.

Today’s Scripture

Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”

 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

 “Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

 The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

John 4:1-26, MSG

Today’s Reflective Reading

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.”

The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

Thinking about God

Today’s Prayer

God be in my head, and in my understanding;

God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;

God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;

God be in my heart, and in my thinking;

God be at mine end, and at my departing.

-Sarum Primer, 16th century

Today’s Scripture Reading

My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
 Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:1-6, NIV

Reflective Reading for Today

We desperately need men and women at our side who have discipline their mind to think God: who God is and what he is doing in an among us; what it means to be created and chosen by God and how we get in on what he intends for us- Eugene Peterson

Don’t Get Weary

Prayer for Today

God,  I pray that I would not boast of anything

but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In him is salvation, life, and resurrection from the dead;

by him we are redeemed and set free.

God,be gracious to us and bless us,

and make your face shine upon us.

Scripture for Today

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:9-10, NIV

Reflective Reading for Today

Sometimes I get tired in the Lord’s work, but I never get tired of the Lord’s work. When you are tired, take a break. Rest. Recharge. Even Jesus took time off periodically. The point is that we must never get tired of doing the Lord’s work. It is a great privilege to be called to do it.

There are sacrifices we make as followers of Jesus Christ. There are things we lose. There are persecutions we face. There are hardships we endure. In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10–12).

Notice the word “blessed” is used twice to emphasize the generous blessing of God on the persecuted. Another way to translate it would be “double-blessed are the persecuted” or “happy, happy are the persecuted.”

We are to be faithful in what we do. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Don’t be weary in reading your Bible and seeking to live by what it teaches. Don’t be weary in praying for your family, friends, and country. Don’t be weary in sharing your faith with others. Don’t be weary in serving the Lord with the gifts that God has given you. Don’t be weary in that. For in due season, you will reap if you don’t give up.

-Greg Laurie

 

Being Salt and Light

Today’s Prayer

There is no part of life
you do not touch, O God,
infusing your rich fragrance— gritty and real—
getting in underneath the surface,
drawing out and lifting up winding love around
until defences are lowered, barriers broken down
and the power of your love reveals the beauty
you intended for all your children.
May our actions draw attention to you,
to the richness you bring to all life
and the abundance you share,
setting the scene for us to share too.
Help us to bring light
into all the darkness of life, spreading hope for a better world,
a world where justice is made real by your children living together
in harmony.
Help us to bring salt
into the blandness of life,
encouraging vitality and joy in living
in a world that dares to hope
for the future that you promise
where all your children will know themselves
loved and valued
and treasured,
created in your image,
bringing you glory forever.
Amen.
-Rev. Liz Crumlish, Church of Scotland
Today’s Scripture Reading

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”

Matthew 5:13-16, NIV

Today’s Reflective Reading

Being salt and light seems like a delicate balance. A balance between being and doing. A balance between drawing attention to God versus drawing attention to ourselves. And a balance between trying too hard versus not trying hard enough. It can be difficult to find that fruitful middle ground.

When we try too hard, for example, we can have a tendency to overpower people. After all, too much salt can destroy a perfectly good meal, and too much light can be blinding. They both must be applied in the right amounts. They both must realize their role in the process. When salt or light become the point, rather than something that accentuates or illuminates the point (Jesus), then they have become a hindrance rather than a help. Be honest, we have all experienced that before, either in ourselves or others. And it ends up driving people away from the kingdom rather than drawing them toward it.

The problem begins when salt loses its desire to just be salt, and instead wants to become the whole meal. Or when light loses its interest in just being light and wants to become the city it is meant to illuminate. When we start wanting to be seen or noticed, rather than simply wanting to accentuate or illuminate God, the whole process goes haywire. We get in the way of what God is trying to do, rather than enabling it. So, may we all, each and every one of us, only desire that people taste and see Jesus. For when they do, then and only then will they be able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

-Jim Branch

Preparing for Sunday: You are always with me, everything I have is yours.

Today’s Prayer

When all seems lost in our lives, restore our fortunes, O God.

When the brokenness of life threatens to overcome us,

find us and heal us, Holy One.

When the terrors of the night fill us with fear,

comfort us and lead us home. Amen.

-Abingdon Worship Annual 2016

Today’s Scripture Reading

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

Luke 15:29-31a, NIV

Today’s Reflective Reading

Meditate on the words of the Father to the faithful, but angry, older son from the parable of the prodigal son. Don’t his words ease all of the fear and insecurities that dominate our hearts and minds? Aren’t these the very words we need to be reminded of every day?

Do not be afraid, God is with you. No matter how big the tidal wave, dry the desert, or stormy the sky is, God is with you. Who else do you need?

Do not be afraid, every thing in this universe belongs to the Father, and he is eager to share it with us.  God is with us, God will provide for us.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need”, to put a different scriptural spin on it.

Here is the deeper truth, when we are secure and confident who we are and what we have in this life (not because of our own accomplishments or merits, but because of our standing with God), we can truly have God’s heart of compassion toward others. We do not become angry when we see people who “do not deserve it” receive radical grace, because we know that we too, live in this radical and undeserved grace that God shares with us.

-Ben